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About Croptop

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    Cool Cruiser

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    Waterloo, ON Canada
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    Cycling, Reading, Movies, Cruising
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  1. 26 January 2019 - Nawiliwili, Kauai Today was noticeably cooler than our prior port days. But it was still shorts and t-shirt weather so no complaints from me. I got off the ship and exited the port area and just started walking, figuring that I'd stop at the first beach I encountered and park it there. However, I ended up reaching the Anchor Cove Mall after about 5-7 mins of walking and discovered the Kauai Hop-on Hop-Off shuttle. I splurged the $25 to buy a pass and rode it to the Wailua River Marina where I ended up taking the Fern Grotto river cruise since my HOHO pass qualified me for a discounted fare ($22). You could do this exact same excursion through Princess for $90 so I figured I was quite a bit ahead (although I didn't go to the Opaekaa Falls so maybe that's the $40 difference). The river cruise was an interesting mix of watching the landscape go by and watching/listening to the Hawaiian singers and dancers that were performing on the boat as we sailed up to the Grotto. Once the river cruise was done, I popped to the other side of the parking lot and checked out the Botanical Garden. If you decide to go there it's $6 to get in but splurge the extra $0.50 and buy a bag of bird seed to feed to the birds in the gardens. Resist the urge to dump all that seed on the first batch of peacocks, roosters, and doves that you see; they're the well-fed, fat, spoiled ones that hang out just inside the gate and get all the food. Instead, just drop a pinch or two at your feet at well-spaced intervals and you'll have a parade of birds following you throughout the entire park like an avian honour guard. Massive fun if you're amused by that sort of thing. I am very amused by that sort of thing so I seriously considered spending another $0.50 and doing a second circuit. Then I jumped back on the next HOHO shuttle that showed up and rode it around the rest of the route back to the starting point. Other stops that I could have jumped off at (but didn't) included: Koa Wood Shop & Kapaia Stitchery (shopping) Rrid Hibiscus (more shopping) Kilohana Plantation (free rum tasting! & a railway tour of an old sugar plantation) Kauai Museum Kauai Beer Co. By the way, based on the running commentary of the shuttle drivers AND the riverboat captain/tour guide, I came up with a Kauai drinking game: every time the guide mentions the name of a movie or TV show that was filmed on Kauai, you take a drink. Make it a double every time Elvis' "Blue Hawaii" is mentioned. If you get on the first shuttle at 0900hrs, I promise that you'll be hammered before lunch -- assuming that you don't each lunch before, say 1030hrs. Went back to the ship and had a (very) late lunch -- which I'll make up for by having an early supper. Then I just hung out in the Sanctuary enjoying the last bit of time in Hawaii. Now we're starting the long trip back across to the mainland. Next stop: Ensenada where, if the various conversations I've overheard over the last week are true, the lineups at the Walmart pharmacy are going to be epic as people pickup cheap prescription drugs. Is that really a thing? It's currently Saturday (I know because I checked). I'm hoping to make it to at least Monday before the blankets have to come out in the Sanctuary but I'm not very hopeful.
  2. 25 January 2019 - Maui You know how I know when I'm having a good vacation? When I go to write out the date and realise that I haven't got a clue what day of the week it is. It's Friday, right? Anyway, today we're in Maui. Early this morning, the Emerald anchored off of the coast snuggled between the islands of Maui and Lanai. I gave it about an hour before heading down to get onto a tender and was rewarded with walking right onto a tender. Not sure where the crowds are. Tender ports are usually a madhouse for the first while as everyone fights to get off of the ship. Today, I had an "adventure" unlike any other I've ever had on a vacation. With no plans for the day, I just wandered around Lahaina for the morning seeing what I could see and enjoying the distinct lack of snow and slush on the ground. I don't need snorkels or fins or helicopter rides to make me happy. Just give me a path that doesn't require shoveling and isn't cold. But anyway, there I am, wandering around Lahaina minding my own business and not thinking about snow when a young woman pounces from the shadows of a shop I was ignoring and offers me some sort of sampler packet of something. I know, I know... I should have done the typical "no thanks", semi-polite smile and kept walking. Heck, with the earbuds I had in, I could have even pretended that I didn't hear her. But no. Not only did I make eye contact (mistake 1) and stop walking (mistake 2) and take out my earbuds (mistake 3) but I actually let her place the sampler packet in my hand and said what I thought was, "Thank you" but somehow must have sounded more like, "Hey ma'am. I'd like to spend my morning talking about skin care products!" The next thing I know, she's telling me she'll give me another sample that will either a) get rid of bags under the eyes, b) tighten up wrinkles around eyes, or c) eliminate dark circles from under eyes. I just have to tell her which one I want and then I can be on my way and if I like it, I should come back to, you know, buy stuff. Sensing that I can just pick one of the three options and then be on my way without being mean or rude, I meekly reply, "Uh... bags?" "Take off your sunglasses. Let me have a look." she commands. I comply. She recoils a bit and says, "I'll get you something for all three." Yup. There's my ego fully taken care of. Next thing I know, she's dragged me into the shop and has slapped some sort of creme onto the skin beneath my right eye ("Look up!" she demands) and is now holding a little handheld fan ("Look up!") about half a centimeter from my eye to... I don't know... dry the cream? All while maintaining a steady diatribe ("Look up!") of how I don't seem to take care of my skin very well ("Look up!"). Then she whips out a little mirror, holds it in front of my face and says, "There. See how much better your right side looks." But I don't look because I'm too busy looking up. I know that the mirror is just a trick to get me to look down at which point I'll be admonished again. But finally, I look. Now I'm not a stupid man. OK. Let me walk that back a bit. I don't THINK I'm a stupid man. But I'll be damned if I could see a difference. So I said, "Uh... maybe." Crap! Should have said "NO!" So then she asks, "Do you moisturise? If I were to show you a product that you need to apply once a week to get rid of those dark circles and wrinkles, would you use it." I sensed my out! "Uh... no." Pause. "Don't you care about your skin? Don't you want to take care of yourself?" "Uh... no." I start plotting my escape route. Defeated, she lowers the mirror and tells me, "Then you are not my customer." Checkmate. I got out of there fast and didn't look back. So that was my tale of how a 20-something woman in Maui crushed my spirit. Spent the rest of the day chilling in the Sanctuary and watching the whales frolic straight ahead of my lounger. Who needs to spend money on whale watching excursions when you can just watch 'em from the Sanctuary? With beverage service. For the record, I put on some sunscreen but I didn't moisturise. Apparently that makes me a terrible person.
  3. Muster drill was at 1515hrs on Embarkation day. There was a second muster drill for the late arrivals (and the passengers onvboard who skipped the first, main drill). Yes. That is correct. If you want a lobster tail to go with your steak in the Crown Grill, it's an extra $10. Interestingly, though, in the MDR, you can order a Ribeye and Lobster tail for $29 any night. So if you don't need the full Crown Grill experience, you can just pay $29 in the MDR instead of $39 in the Grill.
  4. Sorry to hear about your broken arm. Hope you have a great vacation nonetheless. The nausea wasn't horrible. At no point did I ever feel truly sick. Just a little bit queasy and sweaty and a reduced appetite. I didn't take anything for it and it did clear up after a few days. I guess once we're sailing back to L.A. I'll find out if it got better because the seas got smoother or because I got used to it.
  5. 24 January 2019 - Honolulu We arrived in Honolulu fairly early and were cleared to go ashore in short order. I hung out on the deck on top of the bridge to grab a few sunrise pictures and watch the throngs of passengers go ashore. And while the sunrise occurred as expected, the hordes of passengers disembarking didn't. I guess they were all too busy lining up in the buffet to bother rushing ashore. Maybe because we were in port until 2300 hrs today? Anyway, seeing my opportunity, I wandered ashore and started walking down Ala Moana Blvd absorbing the sights and sounds of Hawaii's biggest city whilst making my way to the Ala Moana Center. I'm not really a big shopper but I figured I'd take a look and I knew that I could pick up the Waikiki Trolley here to head out to Waikiki beach and on to Diamond Head. I spent a bit of time wandering around the mall just people watching, but I did stumble on to a Microsoft store so, being a tech dweeb, I had to take a look. Didn't buy anything though. Then I bought a ticket for the Waikiki Shuttle Green line (Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head Crater, Honolulu Zoo, Honolulu Aquarium, etc), rode the Pink line (fare is either $2/ride or included when you buy a ticket on one of the other coloured lines) over to a different mall where I got on the Green line and rode it to Waikiki beach. Spent quite a bit of time at the beach before jumping back on the trolley to ride it up to Diamond Head. Entrance in to Diamond Head proper is $1 if you're on foot and if you're going to wander around there, you definitely want to bring some water or other refreshments (although there is some available for sale there). Then it was back on the Green line to head back to downtown Honolulu. I could have transferred onto the Pink line to get to the Ala Moana Center which would have put me back within walking distance of the port but I was pretty tired so I opted to splurge on an Uber to go straight from the T Galleria (where the main Waikiki Trolley lines converge) back to the ship. Had a nice dinner in the main dining room and then just relaxed onboard for the evening (boring for most, I know but that's how I roll).
  6. Well just because it's you, Mike, here you go. As written out by one of the Crooners bar staff: As a non-drinker don't know what any of these brands are nor do I know if any of them are "good".
  7. I kept things low key at Hilo today. We crawled into port -- seriously; we were off of the coast of the big island shortly before 7 AM but didn't actually snug up to the pier until almost 9. I felt like I could have swum in faster but it gave me time to "sightsee" from the upper decks on the way in. Once Customs cleared the ship, the masses were let loose and went ashore. I opted to hang back for about a half an hour or so to really let the lines for shuttles and buses and excursions get well established before I opted to head ashore. The port lecture for Hilo kept warning people that nothing was really walkable from the port but I decided to try it anyway. Once you leave the port area, a right turn puts you on the road to downtown Hilo and the walk turned out to take about 45-50 minutes which is either "too far" or "not so bad" depending on your mobility and motivation. There's really not much to see on the walk in though so unless you like walking along a busy road, you might want to take a shuttle or a cab or an Uber. Since it's Wednesday, the Hilo Farmer's Market was in full swing by the time I reached the downtown area so I wandered through the market for a bit to check things out and then checked out the various shops in the area as well. Then I made the trek back to the port and then carried on up the road a bit more to a small beach just past the port where I spent a bit of time before heading back to the ship. Spent the remainder of the afternoon just relaxing on the (now quiet) ship. Weather-wise, the day was nice and hot (about 28 degrees C) with a mix of sun and clouds (but mostly sun). Just after 1600hrs local time, an alarm started sounding in the ship and shortly thereafter an announcement was made from the bridge reporting that they are experiencing some technical difficulties with some system or other and warning the crew that any and all fire doors could just close without warning so they should be cautious. It'll be interesting to see if they get this resolved prior to our departure time from Hilo.
  8. Your wish is my command: Captain: Steven Lewis Staff Captain: Giovanni Mollo Chief Engineer Officer: Timoth Jenkins Hotel General Manager: Danilo Portoso Customer Services Director: Nicolas Almanza Food & Beverage Director: Leon Sweanepoel Entertainment Director: Lisa Ball Cruise Director: Kaylee Ball Senior Doctor: Warren Thomas Pretorius Staff Engineer Officer: Antonello Leone Chief Electrical Officer: Ferdinando Milano Executive Housekeeper: Michael Collins Executive Chef: John Covery Maitre d'Hotel: Rui Pereira aaaannnndddd Jerry Mathers as... The Beaver. (Sorry. Couldn't resist. Although it's such an old reference that I doubt anyone will even get it.)
  9. Yes. The unlimited plans were offered in the personaliser for my cruise. I don't remember the exact pricing but it was slightly higher than the upgrade pricing that was offered onboard that I posted earlier.
  10. Weather-wise, I think we got pretty lucky and had temperatures between 15-18 degrees C (low- to mid-60s F) from day 1 and I was able to hang out in the Sanctuary from the very start. If it got a little too cool, the attendants provided some nice little fleece blankets to keep warm with.
  11. Apologies for the lack of updates. For some reason, I am finding it virtually impossible to get Cruise Critic to load in a timely manner on Emerald's internet connection. Only now as we're steaming in to Hilo and I'm able to connect my phone to the the cell network and create a hotspot am I able to load CC (man I miss being able to use Tapatalk). I had a bunch of stuff written for the sea days but it's all history now so I'm not sure it's worth posting. The temperatures have gotten steadily warmer and the seas steadily smoother over the last 4 days and my seat in the Sanctuary is looking more and more like a good idea. I will say that never in any of my prior cruises have I seen such large and consistent lineups for the buffet. It seems like as soon as a serving line opens, people are lined up and wanting to eat. I guess that's what happens when there are a bunch of sea days. While I know that everyone's food tastes are different, I'll just say that for me, the food has been ok. Not stellar; just ok. On the first formal night, I had dinner at the Crown Grill which is usually the highlight of every cruise I take. This time, though, it didn't seem quite as "special" for me as it normally is. The option to add a lobster tail (without paying an added fee) is gone, the asparagus spears where so small as to be blades of grass, and the serving size of the Black and Blue Onion soup seemed smaller than usual (but I could be mis-remembering). And the ribeye steak was just... ok. Maybe it was the last vestiges of the sea sickness talking. Or maybe I've just ordered the same thing at the Crown Grill so many times that I'm getting jaded. Don't get me wrong, as a whole, the meal was good. The service was attentive and prompt. But it just wasn't that truly special meal that I remember from prior cruises on other Princess ships. We're just pulling up to the pier in Hilo as I type this so it'll soon be time to go ashore and explore a bit. For now, I'm just hanging out in the Sanctuary where I'll wait to let the masses go ashore before I venture out. I've noted some of the questions asked of me in the posts above and will do my best to gather up answers and post them.
  12. 19 January 2019 - At Sea The seas overnight were rough but not horribly so. I did end up having to put the empty hangers on the floor to stop them from clanking together. And somewhere on the ship, something was banging with a rhythmic regularity that was faint but annoying. And, of course, I'm still on eastern time so once again it was wide awake at 0300hrs. I found Ant Man and the Wasp on one of the ship's channels and used it to zone out again. Temperature through the day was around 15 degrees C (61ish F). The Cruise Critic Meet & Greet was at 1000hrs up in Skywalkers. Turnout was pretty good. My thanks to Doris (@DMRick) who stepped in and organised things for us. We had a good representation from the ship's company present including the Captain, the Entertainment Director, the Customer Services Officer, the Food & Beverage Director, the Maitre d', and the Customer Relations Manager. We had a good question and answer session with the officers and a few general announcements were made before breaking up into various other activities. I skipped out of the M&G a bit early and went to park my butt in my chair in the Sanctuary for the morning and "read". The only thing I read was the insides of my eyelids but by lunch, I was well rested. Just after 1100hrs, a fog rolled in and surrounded the ship. Now I'm ex-Army but I know my maritime procedures and I know that with fog comes ship's horns so I quickly packed up and beat a hasty retreat from the Sanctuary. Sure enough, about 40 seconds after leaving, the first blast sounded. So much for a quiet afternoon. I figured I'd pop in to the Horizon Court for some lunch but the place was packed and an absolute zoo. One of the down sides to sea days, I suppose. I did a couple of laps looking for a place to park to no avail and finally gave up and wandered down the Botticelli dining room to see if I would have better luck there. Bingo! I was seated immediately at a cozy little table to myself and had some lunch. Now I have to confess that throughout the day, I've been struggling with some queasiness. The seas aren't that bad -- only about 3 to 4 metre swells -- and I've certainly been in worse but for some reason on this journey the motion is getting to me a bit more that I'd have expected. So the afternoon and evening was a quiet one spent in my cabin just laying down and watching movies. Hopefully I'll have my full sea legs tomorrow and will get a bit more active.
  13. 18 January -- Part II The afternoon was spent exploring the layout of the Emerald and figuring out where everything is. By then, it was time to head to the muster drill. My muster station is in Club Fusion, so I popped in there a little bit early and just read my book. Of course, that meant that I got to listen to the safety lecture (done to the tune of the Love Boat theme) over and over and over. And over. And... well you get it. I like old Love Boat reruns as much as the next guy but it's gonna be a while before I watch one again. After muster, I wandered back up to The Sanctuary to park myself in "my" chair and wait for us to slip and proceed. It was reasonably quiet -- other than the deck party that was firing up over in the MUTS area -- and I spent the time enjoying the last rays of the sun and reading some more. If there was any chance of my missing sailaway whilst being engrossed in my Grisham, the ship's horn eliminated it. Sweet jumping palomino! No one has ever mentioned that the ship's horn is mounted on a mast RIGHT ABOVE MY CHAIR IN THE SANCTUARY. There were 3 of us (plus 3 staff) in the Sanctuary when the first horn blow occurred and I'm pretty sure all of us came closer to soiling ourselves than we have since we were infants. Just about the time that we all managed to get our heart rates back down to the low 100s, the second blast kicked in. Yup. That Sanctuary is going to be an awesome place to hang out for the next two weeks. I just wish I was Elite so I could get free laundry. Went to dinner at 1800hrs with the rest of "the olds" and opted to share a table. No wait, no pager, plenty of butter on the table (as long as you consider 4 pats to be "plenty"). Just about all of us at the table ordered the prime rib (there were a couple of rebels but we had a stern word with them and have been assured that they'll toe the line next time). Part way through dinner, the ship's motion became just slightly noticeable. I'm sure it's going to be even more apparent up on the Aloha deck aft where I'm living.
  14. 18 January 2019 I usually get up at 0600hrs when I'm home and so, given the time difference, I was fully expecting to snap wide awake at 0300hrs. I was not disappointed. There's not a lot to do at 3 in the morning so I turned on the TV and tuned it to HBO in the hopes that some boring movie would lull me to sleep. I don't remember of the name of the movie that was just starting so it did it's job. I snoozed off and on until about 0700hrs and then just gave up and hopped into the shower to get ready for the day. Even at 0730hrs, the hotel restaurant was pretty busy, filled with people getting ready to head to the port to board the Emerald. I finished up breakfast and, since the skys were mostly sunny and clear, took a nice long walk around the marina. As someone who has always dreamed of living on a boat full time (not really an option in my neck of the woods in Canada), I spent a large amount of time just wandering around and admiring all the different boats on display. Favourite sighting: a medium-sized motor yacht simply named "Boat". Why waste time being all clever or creative? I desperately want to get 5 minutes aboard "Boat" just to see if the owner has stocked it completely with generic, no-name food products too. That would show a true dedication to the gag. Basically I just puttered around the hotel after that until, at 1100hrs, it was my turn to board the shuttle and make my way to the cruise port. The shuttle was quick and dropped us off right in front of the cruise terminal. Highly recommended. Especially since it's free. We arrived at the terminal just a few minutes after 11 and by 11:10, I was through the Priority check-in line and in the waiting area. At that point, they were already calling the Elites to board. They started calling Platinum boarding groups about 20 mins later and by 1140hrs I was aboard the Emerald. For those who are wondering, my cabin was ready for me when I got to it. I don't know if that's true for everyone. I'll have more later but I figured I'd post this now along with a screenshot of the Internet Upgrade packages that are offered for those of us with the 250 min loyalty package: The upgrade prices aren't spectacular and I opted for the extra 200 mins and will leave it at that. I had lunch in the Botticelli dining room (beef tenderloin which was alright but not quite as good as I remember Princess food being -- I hope this isn't an omen of things to come). Then I made some Crown Grill and SHARE reservations. Since I have a fairly generous amount of OBC, I decided to splurge and book a spot in the Sanctuary which I've never done before. Guess I'll find out over the next 15 days if I have wasted my OBC. Now I'll just ee the ship a bit before the muster drill at 1500hrs.
  15. When I travel to a new city, I sometimes like to find my way from the airport to my hotel via public transport and there were some instructions posted on the roll call for this cruise that claimed I could get from the airport to the hotel for about $2.50. I was going to give it a go but I was just too tired by the time I had collected my bag and was ready to leave the airport.
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