Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Mediterranean Madness Part VII, Sea Days

The Sea was like glass

Days five and six:

I won't spend too much time on the sea days.  This review is mostly about the ports.  But, I know some of you will be disappointed in this otherwise perfectly written review, if I don't at least mention the sea days. 

We were all so tired from those previous three days that we wanted to sleep late and have a casual morning.  We were really looking forward to an easy day.  In fact, it was very similar to a day off, if you will.   It was Monday, and we were ahead of the States by several hours, so I was able to catch a couple of the late Sunday football games that morning when I got up, which was a blessing for me.  For I woke up feeling sick—and not sea sick.  I felt like I caught a stomach bug, which disappointed my wife greatly.  She had plans for us.  But, I lay in bed for most of the morning and watched football.  Why is it the Cowboys only win when I am out of the country?  But I digress…

When I woke up sick, well, it changed how our day would play out.  I did go to breakfast with Sarah and Caitie; Seth was staying with his grandparents.  But we caught up to him pretty quickly thereafter and took him to the rock wall, only to discover that it was closed because the crew was washing the deck.  So, he jetted off to Adventure Ocean.  Man, it's nice to have kids who are old enough to check themselves in and out at their own discretion!  Around 10:30 the wall was dry so Seth made his attempt at climbing.  He didn't make it all the way, but he came close!
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And this may be why I was sick...          He did great for his first rock wall!

I was still feeling puny, so I went and executed my best horizontal meditation methods while Sarah and Caitie occupied themselves walking the shops on the ship and generally exploring the ship.  At 11:00 we had the Cruise Critic party in the Viking Lounge, so I drug myself out of bed and attended that party.  Caitie really wanted to attend that party because she wanted to spend some time with the ring leader of our Cruise Critic subculture, Staci Fecura.  Staci did a great job of organizing us from a random band of barbarians into a click of great friends and travel partners.  Unfortunately, there are no photos to prove we were there...

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Stromboli Island is an active volcano.

While enjoying those festivities, we noticed that Stromboli Island was just off the starboard bow, so we ran and grabbed Seth, who anxiously wanted to see a live volcano in action.  Stromboli Island is an active volcano, and occasionally you can see lava pouring out of it.  On this day it was quiet, but Seth still enjoyed seeing it.  While we were watching the island float past, Caitie tried her hand at the rock wall.  She's part mountain goat and climbed it in only a few seconds.  By this time the kids were hungry and I was nauseous, so Sarah took them to eat lunch and I returned to the room and retired to my bed.  I was very aggravated by this sickness.  The seas were glass, and every activity imaginable was happening.  But I was not happening.  The entire day I never actually got sick, I just felt like I was going to be at any minute…
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There goes the mountain goat...   Look at how smooth the Sea was!  A rare treat, indeed!

Anyway… sometime around 1:00 that afternoon the Captain announced that we were about to pass through the Strait of Messina, which is the very narrow passage between mainland Italy and the island of Sicily.  I drug myself out of bed and joined my group in the Viking Lounge to watch Sicily float past (and in case you were wondering, I do understand that we were the ones floating, not the island).  We were close enough to see individual cars and homes. 
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The Viking Lounge is a great place to sit for quiet contemplation.

We watched Sicily for about an hour, and then I returned to bed, Seth left for Adventure Ocean, and the girls went to watch the activities on deck four at the Centrum.  There was a group practicing the Thriller dance, which was apparently entertaining to watch.  Today was also a formal night, and we had the Crown and Anchor Reception in the Safari Lounge at 5:15, so Sarah returned to the cabin and gussied up.  I was almost feeling better, so I got dressed (like I had an option!) and we went to the party.  They were serving rum punch, blue margaritas, and champagne.  (Sarah really wanted me to mention the drink menu!)  I grabbed a flute and sipped on my champagne, and it actually helped me feel better, so I grabbed another one.  Or two… But that isn't important to the story.  Sarah wanted me to mention that on our cruise they had a ship's officer scavenger hunt and most of the ship's officers were at the party.  This is your windfall, if you want to take advantage of it, all of the officers were very happy to sign the form for you!
Chris and Micah joined us at the party.  Don't we look posh?

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Don't I look happy to be there!  Mike and George Anne were looking sharp, too.

After our formal meal, we attended one of the aerial shows in the Centrum that was worth watching.  I was still feeling a little off, and I ended up at the Centrum on deck Seven and leaned against the railing until the show started.  It was a clever show about Jack and the Beanstalk, and it was performed by the acrobats.  They swung from as high as deck ten and descended and climbed from the floor to the ceiling several times.  It was only 10 minutes long.  By this time the evening show was starting, and it featured a hypnotist.  If you've never seen a hypnotist show, you must work one into your schedule.  And don't worry; you won't be called up to the stage and bark like a chicken or cluck like a dog.  At least I don't think I did those things…  But I do have these unexplainable urges to rub every bald head that I see...  That show was fantastic, and I highly recommend it.

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The Jack and the Bean Stalk show was entertaining.  We were on deck 7 and had a great view. The second shot is looking down at deck 4.  And there were no nets.  If they fell, they fell 6 stories to the bottom.

Let me get out my soapbox for a moment if you will… Ahem…

I must mention how disappointed we were with the shows on the ship, overall.  Most ships have shows that are really good, and a few that are okay.  Serenade had most shows that were okay, and a few that were good.  We loved the hypnotist.  That was fun, and the Beatles tribute was fun, and the best show was the pianist Brooks Aehron.  He was a fantastic entertainer, and he was a very gifted musician.  The others were not very exciting, and we found them to be a little annoying.  Take, for example, the Flaming Gauchos (or whatever their name was).  They had a fun skill, swinging their bolos around and creating their own style of Stomp, but it got old after 10 minutes or so.  We once took a cruise that had a gaucho show that was absolutely fantastic.  Those guys had a fun routine and they used whips in their presentation, and they made us laugh when they kept hitting themselves (all part of the show).  But, these people lacked presence.  Okay, enough whining, right?  One does not go on a Mediterranean cruise for the shows.

Once the show was over, Sarah and I went to the Safari Lounge for a night cap and the kids went to their grandparent's room, so we had the evening to ourselves.  Too bad I was still a slight shade of pale, or we could have gone dancing or try a stab at karaoke, but we went to the room and called it a night.  This was the night the ship set her clocks forward one hour to match Turkey and Greece, so we lost an extra hour of sleep.
The kids preferred to be in this room.  They actually had room to roll over without rolling into someone else!

The next sea day I was feeling much better.  I was able to spend time with Sarah doing various things.  In truth, most of what I did was sit with her in the Viking Lounge and work on writing this review while it was still fresh on my mind.  To me, writing is fun, so I had a peaceful day with my keyboard.  Seth spent a lot of time in Adventure Ocean, and Caitie spent her day drawing and playing her electronic games, and had a go at the arcade.  The teen club was nonexistent, as only about 10 teens were on board, and none of them hung out there.  This is the one major drawback to cruising off season…the kids activities are limited.  And then we went to bed.  End of story.

BUT, my wife doesn't want me to rush through the sea days, so I will back up and give it to you blow by blow.  Since I woke with a new spring in my step, we went to breakfast and slowly eased into our morning.  We didn't involve ourselves with too many activities before lunch, and we chilled out in the Viking by doing nothing important until lunch time.

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Mike and George Anne prefer to eat in the Windjammer.

I'll take this time to tell you that I really don't like eating at the Windjammer, which is the buffet that is open all day long, well, almost all day.  I have paid good money for a good cruise, and I want my wife to be waited on and spoiled for a few days.  So, we eat every possible meal in the dining room.  That's the great part about cruising.  Everyone can do what they like without inconveniencing anyone else.  The kids liked the buffet, so they ate breakfast there a lot with Grandma and Pop.

As a matter of chance, we arrived at lunch at the same time as most of our other family members, and we shared a table and enjoyed spending time with the Bluto half of our troop.  After we ate, I wanted to attend the champagne art auction, which is something I do on every cruise.  Sarah and I both attended, and I bought two art pieces.  It's okay, I didn't spend much, and I had Sarah's approval before I did it!  I really love art, and the free champagne was a nice bonus.  The art auction only lasted an hour.  While Sarah and I attended the art auction, Caitie went to the international belly flop competition with the Bluto part of our gang.  Reports were that it was great fun!

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There was a lot of this going on, too!  The Blutos know how to enjoy a cruise!

And this!

While we were otherwise occupied, Seth continued to lavish in the wonderful world of Adventure Ocean.  After the activities were over the kids wanted a snack so Sarah took them to the Windjammer.  I wish I was young enough to still enjoy Caitie's idea of a snack!  (see above)  The only event we had planned as a group was to meet at the cinema and watch, The Impossible, which is an incredible movie.  The room was packed, and I mean standing room only.  We were fortunate to get there early enough to grab our seats (we sat in the back with Mike since he was on his scooter, where they have a few chairs up there for family of those with mobility issues).  If you haven't seen The Impossible, I highly recommend it.  The story is about an tourist family who are vacationing in Thailand when the tsunami hit, effectively washing them away from the beach and deep into the jungle.  The family was split up and had no idea if any family members survived.  It's a great movie about facing the insurmountable and choosing to survive.  And it's a true story, to boot!  But, this isn't a movie review, so let's get back to our business at hand.  After the show we had just enough time to change into our business casual clothes for dinner.

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We went to dinner, swung our napkins as the staff paraded around the dining room, a great time was had by all.  We had to get up early the next morning so we skipped the show and went to bed. Both the kids stayed with the grandparents again and met up with us the next morning before our tour.  Speaking of the next morning, let's move on to Turkey.  But first, random shots...

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Every day on a cruise ends with towel animals and Cruise Compass (schedule for the next day).  Of course, the Stateroom Attendant turns down your bed, so there is minimum stress in getting undressed and into dreamland. 

In case you have missed any of the previous days...
Part I Getting there

Part II Barcelona

Part III Barcelona Continued

Part IV France

Part V Livorno, Pisa, and Florence, Italy

Part VI Rome

Part VII Sea Day

Part VIII Turkey

Part IX Athens 

Part X Santorini 

Part XI Sea Day 

Part XII Italy: Positano, Sorento, Amalfi Coast, and Pompeii 

Part XIII Sea Day

Part XIV Back to Barcelona

Part XV The Journey Home and Final Thoughts

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