Thursday, June 29, 2006

Haven't had much to say about politics or other socially important issues of late, so I thought I'd mention a few things which I've noted recently.

Nice to see the Supreme Court show a bit of backbone, despite the packing of GOP faves. I'm sure those same Republican talking heads who spoke highly about the Justice's decision on the Texas redistricting, will now jump on them for not backing His Smugness on the Gitmo trials.

Do we really need to see Britney Spears all prego on the cover of a magazine? Of course, I felt the same way years ago about Demi Moore on showing all at Vanity Fair, so I'm probably in the minority.

Seems the Congress has snuck themselves another 'cost of living' raise, while denying again an increase in the Federal minimum wage. Meanwhile the Iraq War continues and the same Chicken Hawks get closer to an amendment banning flag burning. We'd all be much safer believe me, knowing you anarchists were finally put in your place!

Not sure if I'll be around for the November elections here in NY, but I'm probably going to vote for anybody who runs against Hillary in the Democratic primary. I'd like to see a 'real' Democrat stand up to her. Come the election, if I'm still eligible, I'll probably vote for HC just to ensure somebody with a Democratic label sitting in both NY seats.

I know any comments I make regarding Israel would just get me in trouble, so I'll only say that things seem to be getting worse there for all concerned.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Shots of the Unicorn Bar and the ice cream machine setup at the "adult" pool area of the Carnival Legend. Donna, Pete and I spent a number of hours in and out of the pool & hottub enjoying some relaxation time. This is also the vantage point from where Pete & I watched the initial hours of the search for the man who jumped overboard. Our stateroom was exactly one deck down from this point.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

This will only mean something to two people who read this blog. I had to explain it to one of them.

Yesterday, we were driving the Gowanis to pickup Donna's ex Michael, at LaGuardia Airport. I happened to look up at a bright red billboard and saw the following:

"I pooted!"

Nothing else on the sign.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The plane is part of the Coast Guard search for the man who jumped overboard. The sailing boat, privately owned we assume, also took part and sailed in the search for most of Saturday.

Thihs web pic showing the Legend leaving St. Thomas will give you an idea of from where the man jumped. His cabin was about mid-ships one deck over the lifeboats (which you'll see on either side of the mid-ship balcony cabins.

Our cabin was at the top deck, rear just one in from the right side as shown.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Shots from our pier in St. Thomas, including one of the U.S. Coast Guard craft which escorted us in and out.

Neither Donna or myself remember seeing these craft present on our past cruises, but the last time we were in St. Thomas our cabin was pier side so we might not have seen them.

I regret not taking my camera along to Megans Bay, since both the beach there and the journey back & forth were amazing. The beaches are on the other side of the island from downtown and the piers, so you have to travel through the hills which provide some beautiful, if sometimes nerve wracking photo ops.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

A couple of shots of Megans Bay I was able to find on the 'net. Believe me, this does not do the place justice. I easily compare Megans Bay to the beaches in the Bahamas any day.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Our Cruise, part 3

Donna and I have both been to St. Thomas several times in the past. The last time was while aboard the Celebrity Summit, the notorious cruise on which both us ended up with medical bills approaching a thousand dollars. Of the five ports the ship hit we were only able to get off on two, with St. Thomas (the last port) being the only one in which we spent several hours shopping and having lunch. As Donna’s knee was bothering her due to the incident in the tour bus the day before, she decided to spend the day relaxing aboard.

Pete, who had never been on a cruise, was excited at the prospect of heading to one of the local beaches. We had checked out several of the ‘shore excursions’ offered by Carnival, but most included shopping and site-seeing, neither of which interested either of us. The whole point was to spend several hours at a beach, relaxing and not being on the ship’s schedule. Also, the official tours started at around $39 per person with nothing included, except the admission to the beach.

Getting off the ship around 9:30am we found a number of open-air trucks with bench seats. The price chart listed Megan’s Bay, which we had been told was nice, at $10 per person so we decided to take our chances. It was the right choice!

Megan’s Bay is considered one of the most beautiful beaches on the island and it is obvious why. Sandy beaches, under palm trees with picnic tables and a small snack bar & gift shop. It costs $3 person to get in for the day and Pete sprung for another $6 a piece to get a couple of beach chairs. The water in St. Thomas is clear and warm, with small fish swimming right between your legs as you wade in. No jet skis are allowed in the area, and the only motorboats belong to area residents. Only small sail boats, paddle-boats and rafts are available for rental, so you can float and swim with little concern.

We remained for almost three hours, only suffering minor sunburn on our backs and feet. Real Men don’t ask each other to put sun screen on each other, after all!

Oddly it was only $8 each to return to the ship, and the drive back took you along the hills where Pete was able to take some nice photos. I hadn’t taken my camera along, so you’ll have to take my word for how beautiful things were, unless I can find some shots of Megan’s Bay on line. We got back to the ship in time to grab some burgers by the pool and take showers before heading out to dinner later.

The Legend pulled out early that evening and I was able to get some shots. After dinner, we had some drinks and spent a while in the casino. Pete, who was a favorite of the Casino Hostess by now, decided to stay while Donna & I headed back to relax, and get some room service.

The whole point of the cruise was relaxation so the two of us skipped most of the shows. The three we attended were quite good; being the typical stuff you’d see in a Las Vegas or resort show. If you’ve seen this type of thing you’ll know that they are filled with Broadway and movie musical numbers, generally with three or four ‘featured’ singers along with a dozen or so dancer/performers.

Thursday morning found us at the pier in Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. Friends had told us that the beaches here were even more beautiful than those in St. Thomas, but as the ship was only going to be in port until 2:00pm we felt that we’d skip those in favor of some last minute souvenir shopping. I’ve got a few pics of the shopping area, which I’ll eventually get around to posting here. Donna and Pete bought some t-shirts for the various kids back home, checked out a couple of the jewelry shops and then headed back for lunch.

While we had a lot of fun during the cruise, it was fairly uneventful, until Friday night/Saturday morning. I wrote about the man jumping overboard to his apparent death last week, so there isn’t much to add. I don’t want to end all this on a down note.

Again, cruising is In My Humble Opinion the best way to relax with little pressure once you get onboard. I’ve heard that some ‘all inclusive’ resorts are comparable, but I haven’t tried one yet so that remains to be seen.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Our Cruise, part2

Our first port of call was San Juan, P.R Which due to it taking about two and a half days to arrive there from NYC, we didn’t get in until after 2:00pm on Tuesday. To be honest, Carnival was conducting a survey of passengers to decide just what they would do with San Juan. If the port should be the second port, allowing passengers longer in the port, or to skip it make it the last port, where they would be there in the mornings.

The way things work now many of the museums and landmarks are getting ready to close by the time some tours arrive. If you want to do shopping, have dinner or visit some of the night spots which open early then the current 2:00pm -11:30pm stay works out fine.

As you’ll see when I finally get around to posting our pics, we took a tour of the Bacardi Distillery, skipping some of the other tourist spots. You certainly get in the right mood, since the folks from Casa Bacardi have open bar or frozen & iced rum drinks as you leave the SJ terminal. I think some folks didn’t make it past there!

With drinks in hand to boarded a mini-bus, which we soon discovered did not have a working air conditioner. Opening windows didn’t provide much relief, but the trip to the distillery was only about twenty minutes and out driver/guide Manual (“Call me Manny!”) was knowledgeable and amusing. I had no idea that Ricky Martin is about the only celebrity in P.R. At least it seemed from the way that Manny pointed out where Ricky stayed, worked out, eat and jogged when he was back on the island.

Naturally, the tour of Casa Bacardi began and ended with the bus pulling in front of the gift shop, which also included an outdoor refreshment stand. While you had to pay for such items as water, soda, chips, etc. you were able to have two more “free” rum drinks using the tickets you received upon boarding the bus. The tour itself was fairly interesting, beginning with a twenty minute film on the history of the Bacardi family (Did you know the bat was chosen as the symbol of the company because a coloney of fruit bats was discovered in the original warehouse the family purchased when they began their business? They were considered a sign of good luck.) and how they came to become one of the largest rum manufacturing companies in the world, and certainly the most famous. Following this you were able to see a replica of the original stills, smell casks filled with rum at various stages of manufacture plus others containing every type and brand the Bacardi’s sold.

The tour ended with all of us getting back on an open-air trolley to be returned to the gift shop. At this point the guys behind the bar had given up even asking for tickets and some folks (I admit to being guilty) helped themselves to several more freebies after hitting the gift shop. I now have two t-shirts, a ball cap and more than enough rum to keep me very happy after work or while at the grill on summer weekends.

Unfortunately, the trip back took a bit longer, going by way of Old San Juan and the A/C hadn’t been repaired. We were also a bit jarred when an automobile pulled ahead of us, causing Manny to brake sharply. Poor Donna hit her knee on the seat in front of her, which caused her some discomfort later. We eventually made it back to the ship, overheated and looking forward to a quick shower before dinner.

It was kind of cool watching us pull out of SJ at a bit after midnight, as you could see the city really lighting up and hear music coming from a number of clubs along the shore. I’d spent some time in P.R. previously, while in the Navy and had a chance to see some of the beautiful countryside. I’d recommend it for folks, but you might want to pick a cooler time of the year, since it was pretty hot & humid in late May.

I’ll get around to St. Thomas & probably Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands either later tonight or tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

See! I told you the Rove-Meister was going to walk away. Damn you all for slandering the man!

Man, the gang at Al Queda didn't take long to come up with a new #1 guy, did they? Anybody believe like I do that there really is no such person? Nobody had ever heard of him before this, so I think he is an invention that will 'sign' future statements from the group, but never make an appearance. Just spec on my part, of course.

I'll bet the AMA will be taking flack for coming out against its members taking part in torture or executions. Again just a guess.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Our cruise, Part 1

Perhaps the events of Saturday should have given us an idea that all things weren’t going to run smoothly. Of course, you never know in this type of situation.

We were going to set sail aboard the Carnival Legend on June 20th at 4:00pm. Donna and I, along with our friend Pete, had a balcony room confirmed but didn’t know which one it might be. Anyway, Pete’s son Peter gave us a ride to the terminal in Manhattan getting us there around 12:30. At some point during the trip Donna had taken her purse out of her carry-on bag. It was only after Peter had already taken off and we were in the terminal that she realized that the purse, with our Passports and boarding documents were still on the backseat. It’s at moments like that when I’m glad to have a cell phone.

Due to a motorcycle tour and several street festivals, changing the normal traffic patterns, what should have taken only about ten minutes took nearly a half hour. This was even with Pete & I crossing over to meet Peter at 44th St.

Once we had our documents it still took us until after 2:00pm to even begin the boarding process, since the ship had been delayed about two hours coming in that morning. When we finally got aboard we discovered our cabin was at the very stern of the ship on the top deck of those with cabins. You can imagine the view straight down to the propellers, which later would prove quite interesting. (I have some photos which I’ll be posting in a day or so, at least a couple showing the view.)

Pete had never been on a cruise before so he was delighted by the stateroom with its extended balcony. It was already set up with three chairs, a footrest (which doubles as a drink stand) and small table (usually found in the stateroom, but apparently moved outside). Over the eight days of the cruise we used them all quite a bit.

The first day of a cruise is always casual dress in the dining room, since many folks don’t get their luggage until later and you often have to wear whatever you had on when you boarded. If you’ve never cruised before let me tell you that it might pay to have a sweater or light jacket, since the A/C is cranked sometimes.

Pete discovered the casino the first night and soon became a favorite of the Casino Hostess. Within a few days she even sent along a bottle of wine to our table and on our last day gave him a Player’s Club ‘goodie bag’ of stuff. Donna and I have generally won and lost a few hundred dollars during each our cruises and never even saw the Casino Host, so I’m not going to guess how much Pete gambled.

It takes two and a half sailing days to get from New York to our first port, which in this case was San Juan, P.R. I’ll fill you in on our shore trips and the later part of the cruise next time out.

I've been pretty busy around here since getting back and wanted to at least begin telling you about the cruise. I hope to post some photos of the ship and the three of us tomorrow.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Sorry that I haven't had a chance to post pics or talk about our cruise. It's the beginning of the new fiscal year at the library, I'm still sending out resumes and other things have prevented me from sitting down to blog. I really will try to get to it, perhaps later tonight for a bit since I'm working.

On a political note. Can Bush's base be so easily deceived and kept in place by this last minute return to the gay marriage issue? I also hear some talk about the old tired 'flag burning ban', which never fails to stir things up. Have the last few years of Iraq, Katrina and illegal wiretapping really meant so little to these folks?

I've read the Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. ROLLING STONE piece on the 2004 election. It still angers me, but admit that the SALON critique by Farjad Manjoo (both pointed out by Mark Evanier) raises some good points, chiefly that we've all heard much of this before and Kennedy really adds nothing to the debate save his name recognition.