Sunny San Juan

These are some photos from my day in San Juan, Puerto Rico back in March that I rediscovered in the past few days. I forgot all about them, and was pleasantly surprised to see these.

I hope you enjoy the tropical photos!

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20130719-131852.jpg The walls of old San Juan

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If the weather where you are is anything like it it here in New York, stay out of the heat!
Spencer

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Photo of the Week: Tribal Day Sail in St. Thomas, USVI

The Photo of the Week is back on Saturdays, so to start it off today, I have some simple shots from the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Trimaran sail we took there with Tribal Day Sails. It was an excellent day out on the water, and one of the highlights of our spring cruise to the Eastern Caribbean.

Don’t worry, the little boat in the first photo is the dinghy we used to get to the island in the background. The boat (a Trimaran) is like a catamaran, but with one main hull, and two smaller outrigger hulls. I unfortunately did not get a good photo of the trimaran.

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One of the three large cruise ships docked in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas that day.

I hope you enjoyed the photos just as much as I enjoyed being there (that’s a hard one to accomplish)

-Spencer

Flashbacks from the Serenade, Part 2

As any cruiser knows, the food is the highlight of the ship!
Unfortunately, the food in the Main Dining Room was somewhat below what I expected, since we sailed on the Radiance of the Seas last year, same company, and very similar menus. The Main Dining room food on the Radiance was substantially better than the Serenade.

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The main dining room

Although the Radiance ranks higher for food in the Main Dining Room, the Serenade wins for the specialty restaurants! We went to both Chops Grille and Portofino. After those two dinners, Chops at the start of the cruise, and Portofino about halfway through, everyone at the table was stuffed to the gills, and quite happy about their meal!

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Chops Grille

At Chops on the first night of the cruise, we started out as the only table there, and another table wasn’t filled for 45 minutes. 3-4 tables were served that night! The waiters commented that “normally people don’t know about the specialty restaurants until the 3rd or 4th day!”

My Steak was perfect, and the sides that were brought or the table were excellent. All of the deserts were “oversized”, meaning my slice of Red Velvet Cake was about 8 inches tall! I couldnt finish half of it. I now regret taking a picture!

As for Portofino, besides an odd pesto Minestrone soup, dinner was great. The Mushroom Risotto and “Bistecca (steak) Fiorentina” we’re some of the best things I have ever eaten on a cruise!

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Portofino

I’m not into seafood, but this did look great, being the most popular item on the menu:

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Desert, ahhh, the best! I had the tiramisu, which was in a bowl made of chocolate. Royal Caribbean is doing a great job with their specialty restaurants!

Here is a photo of the sampler of deserts,

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Going back to the Man Dining Room, I still had a number of great dinners there. The Service was not a problem at all, in fact, Myla and Jason (our waitstaff), were some of the best we have ever had.

Look for more “Flashbacks from the Serenade” throughout the week.
Enjoy!
Spencer

A little bit late, but the highlights of Santorini for you all to see…

Good Evening from the Serenade of the Seas as we sail away from our final port of call, Salerno Italy.

The Internet has been down, but here is my post from two days ago, when the ship anchored in the protected harbor of Santorini Island in the Greek Isles. It was more about the beauty and scenery than any other day, not much history here. It’s a volcanic island that was originally round, but half the island collapsed into the water around the volcanic crater, which is still active today.

What is left is a caldera (almost a cliff) that gradually slopes downward to the Sea on the opposite side. The two largest cities are perched on the cliff, Fira (pronounced Fee-ra), and Oia (pronounced ee-ya). We began by tendering, taking a small boat to get to land because there are no cruise ship docks in Santorini, and then we took the cable car up the caldera. Once we were up in Fira, we had an hour to spare before we had to meet our tour guide, so we wandered around and picked up some souvenirs before it got too crowded. We were on the second run of the cable car for the day, but we knew that 5 ships would eventually be in.

To start the tour, we got a view of the most famous of the Blue Domed Churches, and continued on to Oia, where we looked around and got some great photos. A stop at a winery with great views, and a roadside stand selling Santorini’s specialties, such as real sun-dried tomatoes, pickled capers, grown in the volcanic rock of the island, and more!

For lunch, I had Souvlaki with the freshest Tatziki Sauce I have ever had!
Next up was a stop at a black sand beach, where the sand was made from volcanic rock, not clear crystals like most beaches.

Once we got back into Fira, I could barely recognize the area because 5 ships, 2 Royal Carribean, Holland America’s Noordam, a small European line called Etstur, and NCL’s Jade were all dumping passengers onto the island, and the cable cars were bringing them, about 10,000 passengers among those ships, up onto the same street at only 30 at a time. At 2:30, when we thought we would get back on the cable car, we got on line in the brutally hot sun and we were squeezed in like sardines because of the many rude people who can’t wait their turn in line like everyone else. They just have to push, shove, and work their way around the line. After 45 minutes we were so desperate for even the slightest breeze, but we made it onto the cable car and down to the tender to bring us back to the Serenade of the Seas.

Here are the highlights of my photos from Santorini because there is no way I could share all 211 of them!

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Freshly Sun Dried Tomatoes

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This is what happens when 5 ships dump passengers onto Cable Cars that bring them onto one small street!

I will put up a post about today in Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast of Italy, bright and early tomorrow morning!

Enjoy!
Spencer

The Sea is Calling…

And we’re answering it Royally on Royal Caribbean, but I still love Norwegian Cruise Line. (They have similarities, but distinct differences too!)

We are enjoying our second sea day onboard the Serenade, and as any past cruiser should know, our routine sounds pretty much like “Breakfast, Rest, Lunch, Snack, Second Snack, Dinner, and then we end another day stuffed to the gills. “Carpe Diem” as the Romans said!

Yesterday, we passed the island of Stromboli near Sicily, Italy. Stromboli is an active Volcanic Island with toxic gases coming out of the top as I type, just not harmful unless you are at the crater.

Here are some photos of Stromboli:

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The view from our balcony, taken from my iPad this afternoon:

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That’s all for today!
Spencer

A Day in Rome, and now, Two sea days…

Hello from the Serenade of the Seas once again!
We are wrapping up a day at sea after a great time in Rome!

I hope the last post wasn’t too confusing since I typed it on the day we were in Livorno, but published it yesterday due to Internet troubles. Sorry about the switching back and forth between current and past tense!

Yesterday we took a 9 hour tour to Rome which was incredible! We started the day with a drive from Civitavecchia into Rome. At first Rome was just like any city, lots of Hotels, Stores, Offices, and Pedestrians. As our guide Marco said, Rome is just like New York, but once you cross the ancient Brick City Wall, you are hit with 3,000 years of History. That’s what NY doesn’t have. A good portion of the buildings in Rome are older than the USA itself! Old Rome is like walking through a museum.

We started out with the Colosseum, which is actually a nickname for the Roman Amphitheater.
After the Romans adopted Christianity, they stopped the practice of watching people and animals fight to the death and the Colosseum was no longer used.
When a major earthquake occurred after the empire fell, the Catholic Church took much of the marble and bronze from the Colosseum, and other Roman landmarks such as the Panthenon, and used those materials to build St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

We visited Circus Maximus, which was the Roman’s favorite spot after the Colosseum’s time. It was the largest and most elaborate Chariot Racing Track in the World! Now after many years, I mean over 1,000 years, all that’s left is a large grass field, with Julius Caesar’s Palace on the opposite side on Palatine Hill. Of course, with each new emperor after Caesar, starting with his adopted son, they remodeled, or in some cases, built new palaces, all in the same area on or around Palatine Hill.

We visited the Roman Forum, filled with ruins of the greatest and most powerful empire to ever exist. After passing by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, we went to a nice restaurant where I had what may be the best pizza I’ve ever eaten!

Now, for what I had been looking forward to all day, the Vatican!

We started off in the Vatican museum, where even though the millennium-old statues and tapestries were the highlight, even the ceiling details made my jaw drop!

The Sistine Chapel was overwhelming as well, but I wasn’t able to soak in the masterpiece of the ceiling, painted by Michelangelo because of the disrespectful tourists who think its okay to take a flash photo in a holy place where electronics must be turned off!

Once we entered the Basilica itself, once again, I was hit by a wave of sights that I cannot even start to describe. All I can say is that it was incredibly beautiful, and taking photos is so difficult because they don’t even capture 1% of the magnificence of St. Peter’s Basilica. Before exiting the Basilica, we went down to the Grottoes, where many Popes, going back over 1,500 years, are buried. It was so peaceful down there, as it should be.

Now, it was time to go back to the ship, but first, how can you leave Rome without getting a gelato? That’s exactly what we did on our way back to the port!

Well, the day after tomorrow we will be arriving bright and early in Piraeus, Greece and spending the day in Athens! I’m looking forward to it, but also enjoying these relaxing sea days on the beautiful Serenade of the Seas!

Tonight is formal night and were eating at the Italian Restaurant, Portofino, soon to be renamed “Giovanni’s Table”.

Here are the long awaited photos, but first, I would like to thank everyone who has been following our trip so far! I truly appreciate it 🙂

Here is exterior and interior shots of the colosseum.

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Trevi Fountain

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St.Peter’s Basilica

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Roman Forum

Enjoy!
Spencer

Our Days in Cannes, France and Tuscany

I typed this up yesterday, and wanted to share it with you all, but we had some trouble with the Royal Caribbean Wireless Internet, so even though it’s a day late, here you go:

“Hello from Livorno, Italy. We just got back to the ship after a 9 and 1/2 hour tour highlighting the old city of Pisa, home of the Leaning Tower, the largest claim to fame for the city, and the beautifully countryside of Tuscany. Don’t worry. There are pictures at the end of the post, but because I only have limited Internet time on the ship, I can’t format them in as I usually do.

Now, before I talk about today, I would like to give the highlights of the trip since my last post. On Monday morning, before we got on the ship, we strolled around in a popular outdoor food market off of Las Ramblas, “Mercat St. Josep, La Boqueria” as the signs said, anyway. The abundance of locally grown and freshly picked, not processed, fruits and vegetables was incredible. As were the varieties of freshly caught fish and seafood from the Mediterranean.

Yesterday we tendered into Cannes, France, where a famous film festival takes place each year. We went to Midi Plage- which translates to Middle Beach. The water was a bit chilly, but that was okay since the temperature was almost 90 deg. (F)

Now for today. Our guide, Luca, picked us up just a bit after 8:00am, and we had no trouble eating in the dining room at 7:00. We let our waiter know that we had a tour at 8, and our breakfast was out by 7:10. I had blackberry pancakes, which I had never heard of before, and they were delicious and much fluffier (like a true pancake) than the ones you occasionally see on cruise ships.

Our first stop was the old city of Pisa, home to what is still standing in a town that was devastated by bombings in World War II. This includes the Bell Tower, more commonly known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, along with the Cathedral of Pisa, and the building that was once used to house the Catholic Pilgrims visiting the beautiful Cathedral.

My family and I climbed the tower which was very challenging when it comes to balance. Think about climbing stairs at up to a 15 degree tilt.

We visited an Italian Vineyard, and then drove through the Italian Countryside to an untouched Medieval Village whose name I cannot recall as we have seen so much! We had lunch at a restaurant where we were the only people who spoke English besides our guide who translated. My family and friends and I shared Bruschetta and a Caprese Salad. I had homemade Ravioli stuffed with Ricotta and Spinach with a Meat Sauce, and Tiramisu for dessert.

What a Wonderful Day in Tuscany!

Here are the long awaited photos:
Please comment to let me know about the photo sizes. I’m sorry I can’t display them at the largest possible size as I usually do. This is because of the slow onboard Internet.

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Goodbye for now! Photos of Rome (today) will come later!
Spencer