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cougaraz

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About cougaraz

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    Cool Cruiser

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    USA
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    Princess and Cunard
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call
    Alaska

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  1. Thursday 26 December, at anchor, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, USVI I will continue our story, hopefully outlining our comings and goings on the 23rd of December during this update. I should mention that thus far on the journey the weather has been quite gray and stormy. Since leaving New York we have had times of sunshine and temperatures have been mild, but the rule has generally been for overcast skies, intermitent rain, thunder and lightning. At times the rain has been quite heavy and the wind has grown to Force 7 a few times. Thankfully, despite that the seas have remained very modest and the ride has been very pleasant. Today in St. Thomas it has been a mix of sun, clouds and rain. It looks like we should some better weather the next few days. This morning by around 1030ish the conditions had improved enough that tenders did begin running ashore and the Captain did extend the departure of the last tender from shore by an hour. I am not at all surpised that a delay was necessary this morning as the conditions really were quite rough. Back to the 23rd. It does bear mentioning that the morning preferences of myself, Melissa and my mom all differ quite substatially. In decending order of 'morning person-ness' it is me, Melissa and mom. Unfortunately for Melissa she is married to me and there is a limit to how quiet a person can be in a tiny cabin in the morning. So on Monday, we were up early. Melissa went down to yoga, which was held on the dance floor in the Queens Room and I headed out on deck for a walk. I was lucky that the morning featured some mild conditions, I did wear a jacket, but was otherwise very comfortable. Melissa was joined by just a handful of others and she said it was a good session. We ate our breakfast in the dining room, which is generally my prefered option as it seems like such a luxury to sit down and have breakfast served to you on a white table cloth. The breakfast menu remains unchanged, that I could tell, from last year and I find it to offer a very good variety and a fair representation of a wide range of possible breakfast traditions. I started off with the Cunard Get Up and Go Signature Breakfast, which I suppose could also be described as a proper fry up and Melissa had poached eggs on toast with some English bacon. After breakfast we joined our dinner tablemates for morning trivia and were pleasantly surprised by the fact that we won, with a very modest score of 15! Our first lunch in the dining room proved to be excellent and we enjoyed a diverse menu. I like to sample several appetizers as this appears to be the easiest way to try many different flavors without having to commit to a huge plate of food. Thus, mackarel and the ham croquettes followed by the sausage roll. Mom had the melon salad and beef chow mein, which was really just noodles though an errant piece of beef might have found its way onto some of the servings that left the dining room. Melissa had the trout and we finished with the banofee pie (banana and coffee), marscapone mousse and the chocolate brownie offerings. Monday night was our first formal night and after all of us got into our best attire, we started in the Commodores Club for a cocktail before heading down to dinner. They are indeed serving canapes, though they are cold, not hot. They also have live piano music in the evening. The lead bartender from last year, Anna, is also back and keeping the bar on track with great drinks and service. Not suprisingly, the dress code was adhered to onboard and people were looking very festive. Tuxedoes are the rule for gentlemen on gala nights this trip and the women are formal, but the variation of styles and choices is much broader. The first formal dinner did not disappoint, but a detailed description is going to be unavailable as I didn't do a very good job of taking photos and can't precisely recall what everyone had. I did have the surf and turf and enjoyed it immensely. As is our custom, we have been sprinkling in a nice mix of napping, relaxing and ensuring that we get a good night's sleep on this trip. After all, we are on vacation and looking to ensure we return home well rested and refreshed.
  2. Thursday 26 December, at anchor in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, USVI Good morning on Boxing Day! I think it is fair to say that thus far this is trending to be the very worst "Live" review ever published. It is now the fourth day of our cruise and I am finally getting around to posting an update. Never fear, it has been positive rather than negative influences that have conspired against an earlier posting. We have been having an absolutely wonderful time onboard and it has seemed more challenging than usual to carve out 45 minutes to write a summary of the recent events. Hopefully, you are still keen to hear of our adventures and I will be able to more consistent moving forward. So, when last I left you we had finished a fantastic morning in New York and were making final preparations to depart for the ship. We had arranged for a driver and black SUV and he arrived on time at our hotel. Linking up took a few minutes as the area near Herald Square was quite busy on the last Sunday before Christmas around noon. Nonetheless, our driver, named Captain, was very efficient and was the first of our three drivers thus far on the trip to successfully load all six of the large suitcases into the rear luggage comparment without having to restort to putting one up front or laying down the backseat. This made the loading much more expedient and we were on our way in no time. At Melissa's request, he drove us across the Brooklyn Bridge to add a nice historical landmark to our journey to the pier. Traffic was light and it took less than 30 minutes to arrive at the Brooklyn Cruise terminal. We arrived around 1235 and there was very light traffic, no lines and quite frankly not a lot of people about. As we pulled up and popped the rear hatch, the longshoremen were already unloading the bags for the journey to our room. My mom has some minor mobility challenges so we opted to have wheelchair assistance to get onboard. It meant a short wait as there were a finite number of attendants to help those who required a wheelchair. Of course, being so close to the ship it seemed like it took a short eternity, but in reality we only waited about 25 minutes. Once her wheelchair arrived we were in constant motion: a quick document check, breeze through security, no line at checkin and we were headed for the ship. Melissa was, not unexpectedly, seduced by the hot cider and sugar cookies and almost left behind. The attendant who wheeled mom's chair was very gentle and conscientious and we were onboard in no time. However, we still had one bag beat us to our room. From departing the hotel to arrival at our room was less than 90 minutes. As is customary, we immediately headed up to the King's Court for lunch. No sooner had we started looking for a spot to sit than we ran into our tablemates from last year and again this year. The ship is huge but it gets small pretty quickly. Throughout the course of the cruise thus far we have run into several passenges and crew members we know from our previous voyages. Lunch was a delicious opening move and before long we headed back to our rooms. On arrival, we found all the remaning luggage had been delivered. We took some time to do a complete unpack, settle in and hang all of our Christmas decorations before taking a brief nap ahead of the safety drill. The drill was shorter than most we've been to and the Carinthia lounge seems to be a better than average muster location as it was not terribly packed with people. We viewed the sailaway and departure from New York from both Deck 7 and our balcony. In the end, the sheltered balcony proved to be a superior location due to its protection from the wind and cold. We had some great views and the ship slipped very easily into the night and open sea. Generally, a pre-dinner drink is something we enjoy and our first evening we ventured to the Commodore Club. The atmosphere is very relaxed and elegant with some nice piano music and a more spacious environment than the Golden Lion Pub. I still love the pub, but on this particular journey I think the Commodore Club suits our situation a little better. After our drinks we joined our tablemates for dinner. We are in the upper most level of the 3rd Deck portion of the dining room at the aft end. We have a long table for six and our waitress is Monika, assisted by Shinto. Thus far, they have been very efficient and pleasant, but there have been a few minor irregularities with the dinner service. I will try and highlight the food selections as I am able, but won't disect what everyone at the table ate. However, for me it was the potato soup, vegetable samosas and Vienna Style Schnitzel. The schnitzel was really the standout dish as it was crisp and fresh from the frying. For dinner I opted for the Bananas Foster and it was very nice. We accompanied our first meal with a Chilean Vigonier that was a perfect accompaniment. From just about every angle it was a great embarkation and first day onboard. Though the ship is not new, the overall level of her material condition, cleanliness and preservation are very high. The expected deformation at the major seems that flex as she plows through the North Atlantic can be seen, but the crew obviously invests substatial skill and effort in the maintenance of the ship. Our room is in excellent condition, is spotlessly clean, has great water pressure and delivers the "burn the dirt off" temperature option if so desired. The climate control is also excellent. I keep a digital thermometer over the air conditioning controls and the room has remained very comfortable. The previous control panel with the simple up and down buttons that moved a green bar indicator between red and blue is gone. In its place is a two knob control that allows the user to select 1 of 4 fan settings and then set the desired temperature along a range from cold to warm. My goal is to get some more posts up today that highlight our journey up to this point and catch you up with all we've done. At the moment we are at anchor, but the tenders are not running due to unsafe conditions. I was up early this morning and watched the first test runs and my immediate impression was that no one was going to have any fun in the boats.
  3. Good morning from Manhattan. It is still cold, right around freezing with some breeze and crystal clear blue skies. We were up early, before the sun to take advantage of the light crowds of tourists in the early morning. Last night we ate at Keens Steakhouse, which is conveniently located less than five minutes walk from our hotel. The dark colors and aged woods of the interior were warm and welcoming on a winter night. We had a reservation for 730 and arrived about 5 minutes early. We waited just a few minutes before being seated at a square table for four, set for three on the first floor. It was near the kitchen entrance, but they had a wooden screen and it proved to be no distraction during our meal. Our waitress was professional and efficient, but didn't really warm up until a little later in the evening. We started with a couple of cocktails, an Omar Bradley for me and a Sidecar for Melissa. We started by splitting a wedge salad with blue cheese dressing and bacon crumbles. For the main event, we all shared a porterhouse for two and a mutton chop with side hash browns and creamed spinach. As expected, the steak was divine, but the mutton chop was a great surprise. I think it came from a lamb just old enough to be called mutton because the flavor was extremely mild, not much gaminess at all, but it had great fat content which made it very rich. Melissa and I each enjoyed a glass of wine with the meat. When it came time to order dessert, I suggested sharing, but was thoroughly rebuked by both mom and Melissa. So, it was a butterscotch sundae for Melissa, carrot cake for mom and a slice of cheesecake for me. I had a cup of coffee and Melissa had some housemade eggnog. It was amazing, super rich and not too suite. As dining experiences go, it was hard to beat, amazing food, good service, great ambiance and fantastic family time. We got an early start this morning and headed down to Wall Street. With Melissa being an accountant and me being military seeing the New York Stock Exchange in person was pretty darn cool. To stand at the doorstep of the engine of commerce in America is a humbling thing. We were very fortunate because at 7AM there were only a small handful of folks around and so it was easy to take pictures and not have to fight crowds. We walked by some of the other famouse landmark buildings, like 14 Wall Street and then ducked into a Starbucks for a cup of joe and some respite from the cold. We ventured on past the bull statue, Trinity Church and then the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Then we turned north and walked by the 9/11 Memorial Pools and the FDNY Fire House 10. It was a moving place and the fact that it lies in the shadow of the new Freedom Tower speaks to American resilience and hope. We then cut through the Oculus which is a shopping area that joins several of the subway stations in an amazing modern building. Our last stop of the morning was St. Paul's chapel which is the oldest public building in continuous use in New York City. It was also a site for respite care of first responders and rescue crews after September 11th. The north tower pool is actually visible from the front steps of the church. We caught a cab back and I think we broke a record, we hit every light green going up Fifth! Now we are getting all our bags repacked for transit and will catch a car to the ship at noon. On out drive down this morning, we took the FDR and we could see the QM2 safely alongside the berth in Brooklyn.
  4. Thanks for the kind words. The show was spectacular as expected. It was the third time for Melissa and I, but mom's first. I was really impressed with how seemlessly and artfully the visual effects were integrated into the show. These days there is a tendency to add technology for the sake of adding technology with out regard for added value. However the LED and lightning techniques used really made it feel like the entire building was part of the stage. We had a very relaxing afternoon, some deli sandwiches for lunch (to save room for Keens Steakhouse tonight) then some napping and a visit to some local shopping highlights. However, the massive crowds meant much more browsing than buying. Nonetheless, being in the city at Christmas time has an electric feel to it that is hard to describe. The weather has been very kind; it is cold, but not bitter and dry which makes getting around much easier and less messy. Funny enough we just talked to our TA on the phone about some newly available promotions for our Princess cruise in the fall. She always jokes that she isn't sure whether or not Melissa and I are real. She has cruised with my mom dozens of times and booked us on at least 10 trips over close to 15 years, but circumstances have conspired such that we have never met in person. Still, she is amazing and we feel like she is a part of every great trip we take on a ship!
  5. It is Saturday morning in New York City and the day has started cold, but dry. Temperatures in mid-town Manhattan are in the mid 20s and the forecast is for a mix of clouds and sun today and highs in the mid 30s. Our arrival and check in at the Embassy Suites went very smoothly last night, but the front desk was quite busy when we arrived. We had requested adjoining or adjacent rooms when we booked months ago and confirmed the request when we got our pre-arrival email a few days ago. Alas, our rooms aren't even on the same floor! Not really a big deal, but a disappointing customer service effort. By the time we checked in, hunger was stalking us all pretty strongly. We wanted something nearby and a quick check of OpenTable showed availability at Stella 34, the Italian restaurant in the Herald Square Macy's. I had never been there, although Melissa had gone after hearing about it on QM2 last year. It was a quick walk and after a long plane ride it felt pretty good to be moving a bit. We waited just a few minutes for our table and were seated by the window with views of the square and the Empire State Building. The service was friendly and sufficient, but the food was amazing. Melissa had a pizza with ham, carmelized onions and shaved parmesan, Mom had risotto Carbonara style and I had rigatoni with lamb and middle eastern spices. All told it was outstanding food and genuinely hit the spot. Post dinner not much time was wasted in getting to bed. This morning's game plan is breakfast here at the hotel and then off to Radio City Musical Hall for the Christmas Spectacular featuring the world famous Rockettes.
  6. We had a super smooth cross country flight. Our flight attendant, Amy, was fantastic. I had the lasagna, Melissa had the Mexican salad and mom opted for the fruit and cheese plate. Honestly, the sheer mass of the cheese was crazy, it was enough for her and three others. On arrival in Newark we had a pretty smooth process. Our 6 bags were among the first dozen off the carousel! We met our driver with no problems and honestly traffic into the city hasn't been as bad as I would have thought for the Friday before Christmas. The wingviews were pretty great today going from the desert southwest to the snow covered midwest and then sunset as we came into land.
  7. I am writing this latest update from the American Airlines Admirals Club in Phoenix Sky Harbor. We were up early this morning for a quick walk around the neighborhood to make sure we get our steps in. Then, it was quick showers and coffee. We had a car booked for 730 and when I went to take out the trash to the curb at 655 the driver was already pulling up. We chatted and he was happy to wait until the scheduled time. Nonetheless, we were ready early and had the luggage loaded and were rolling by 730. It took less than an hour to go from Moon Valley to the airport, check our bags, clear security and be seated with a hot cup of coffee in the lounge. We are in the smaller Admirals Club in Phoenix and it is a popular destination this morning. There are bagels, pastries, oatmeal, cold cereal and fruit on offer to eat. Of course, water, coffee, juice and a small bar are available. We board for Newark in about 45 minutes. When we were booking this trip many months ago the best flight option for us into the New York area was into Newark. So, once we arrive we will take a car service into Manhattan. We don't have firm plans for dinner, but it will likely be low key and proximity will be a critical determinant.
  8. And we are off! Airport was smooth as silk. Not sure whether we really need 186 total pounds of luggage, not including carry ons, but we will have plenty of clothing options available.
  9. The start of the journey is finally here! Last day of work in 2019 is in the books, the car is packed, our loyal hound is all prepared to go stay with his caregiver (not sure who loves him more, us or them) and we will be headed to the airport soon. Looks like the weather should not be a travel factor for us in the next couple of days. This is a nice change from last year when I was fretting over the FAA website and the latest weather impacts on the east coast. Between now and sailing, I will try to post more frequent updates, but once we sail, I will plan on once per day.
  10. Hello again, it was almost exactly a year ago that I was starting the live updates from the last iteration of this adventure, but we had so much fun we are doing it again this year! About Us My name is Scott, I am 41 and my wife, Melissa, 42, and we live in Southern California. I am an active duty military officer and she is an accountant. 2019 has been another very busy year for us both, with LOTS of work travel, spanning a good chunk of the globe, along with a great Princess cruise to Alaska this past summer. This trip will feature a big change from last year, my mom, Judy, (age withheld out of respect), will be joining us. Mom is the most seasoned traveler of the group and an avid cruiser, but this will be her first time on Cunard. The Plan Packing is nearly complete, with just a few odds and ends to be sorted and carry-on bags to be finalized. One more full day of work on Wednesday and then a half day on Thursday for both of us. Thursday evening we will fly to Phoenix to rendezvous with mom before flying to New York on Friday. Saturday we have planned to see the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall and have dinner at our favorite New York steakhouse, Keens. Sunday morning will certainly see some light tourist adventures around the city, the weather looks like it will support our endeavors. Once again we are booked into a Britannia balcony room and my mom will be in a similar room nearby. We are very much looking forward to rejoining our dinner table companions from last year again in just a few nights for many more great stories of travel and adventure. We are looking forward to some beach time and warm sunshine, great food, meeting new friends and another amazing adventure.
  11. The Volcano is available on every ship, it is on the children's menu in the main dining room, but your waiter will be more than happy to bring it to those who are kids at heart.
  12. The UK does not have a direct equivalent to the Centers for Disease Control in the US, but recommend you consult the CDC and the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. Cruise critic is a great resource, but it is a poor choice for medical advice. Particularly when it comes to something as complex and controversial as the prophylactic medications for Malaria. This is a discussion best had between you and your doctor informed by experts in contagious disease.
  13. Sailed on the Grand Princess for 10 days in August and found the new wine list to be broad (multiple origins and varietals in almost every category) and deep (options at multiple price points and different expressions of the offered varietals). While we didn't get a chance to explore much of the list in just 10 days, I was familiar with a good portion of what was on offering and I find it hard to believe that one couldn't find multiple whites or reds in any given category to suit all but the most elite and expensive tastes. Overall, I am very pleased with the new wine list and look forward to my next Princess cruise to get an opportunity to explore new bottles and revisit some old favorites.
  14. I agree, I do not understand the continuing perpetuation that the menu has been reduced to three courses. In fact, I think the menu most nights actually supports more than five courses. One could easily have a cold appetizer, hot appetizer, soup, salad, entree, dessert and a cheese course. The change in menu headings has not done anything to limit the offerings, only imagination.
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