Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year

Happy New Year from Cruising Musings!

Image credit

May the coming year be filled with health and happiness for you and yours.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Hearty Breakfast Before You Sail

At Cocoa Beach's Sunrise Diner

If you're sailing from Port Canaveral, and have wisely decided to arrive a day or
Look for this sign!
two early to enjoy the Space Coast, you may need a recommendation for the best breakfast in the area.  The locals know all about this place, and have been patronizing it for years, and for good reason.

It's the Sunrise Diner, on the Cocoa Beach Causeway, otherwise known as State Road 520.  Everyone knows where it is.  Just ask the person at the desk of your hotel for directions.

The place bills itself as "the only true diner on Cocoa Beach," and that's exactly what it is:  an old fashioned diner.  There are booths and stools at the counter, diner style.  So, if you'r looking for fancy, look elsewhere.  If you'd enjoy a true old fashioned diner experience and are plenty hungry, walk right in.

The food is good, especially the breakfast fare, which is, in my opinion the best in the area.  They do Greek, Italian and American cooking, and lots of it. Here's an
online menu

Mimosas are a recent addition, by the way - just in case you need something to get you into the cruising spirit even before you head over to the port.

They also have a specials board.  It's a white board mounted on the rear wall, and changes periodically.  We were there a couple of days ago, when some of the board entries were Pumpkin Spice Pancakes, Kielbasa & Eggs, Beef Taco Omelette with Salsa and Guacamole, and Cinnamon Apple Caramel French Toast.

I'm not sure how many eggs they use in each omlette, but it seems like about a dozen.  My favorite, hands down, is the Greek Omelette.  (Hubby usually orders the Western.)  You get your choice of breads (toast, buiscuits, or pancakes) and potatoes (home fries or hash browns) or grits with it.  On a recent visit, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Tzatziki sauce now comes with the Greek Omelette.  Now, I no longer have to order it on the side.  Yum!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Final Voyage of HMHS Britannic

Britannic Sailed Towards Her Destiny 97 Years Ago Today

The RMS Britannic, sister ship to RMS Titanic, was to have been a grand ocean liner.

Instead of setting out on a grand inaugural transatlantic voyage, she underwent serious changes, including a name change to HMHS Britannic.  The grand ship went to war as a hospital ship.
HMHS Britannic, By Soerfm [CC-BY-SA-3.0],
via Wikimedia Commons
She made five voyages from Southampton to the Mediterranean theater, bringing back sick and wounded soldiers each time.

On November 12, 1916, she embarked on what was to have been  her sixth round trip.

But fate awaited her, nine days away, before she could pick up another load of soldiers.  There is still some debate as to whether it was a torpedo or a mine that ripped the hole in her side on November 21, 1916,  but it swiftly took her to the bottom.  Of the 1,066 souls aboard, all but 30 were saved.

She was the second of the three Olympic class ships to go down.   It's a shame HMHS Britannic never survived the war.  I'm sure she would have been every bit as much a beloved ocean liner as the sister that did survive. To learn a bit more about these two lesser known ships, click here:  Titanic's Sisters - Britannic and Olympic.

By the way, I noticed today that a new book about Britannic is in the works. It's titled The Unseen Britannic: The Ship in Rare Illustrations.  The mere fact that the author is Simon Mills (a maritime historian with a particular interest in the Olympic class ships) was enough to grab my interest.  You can sign up to be notified when the book becomes available.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald

The Shipwreck was on November 10, 1975

Thirty-eight years ago today, a famous freighter broke in two, and sank to the bottom of Lake Superior during a severe storm.  It was the Edmund Fitzgerald.  The event inspired a song that turned out to be one of Gordon Lightfoot's greatest hits. It still inspires memorials and mariners' ceremonies. Each year, on the anniversary of the famous shipwreck, the 29 mariners whose lives were lost are on the minds of many.

If you're unfamiliar with the story behind the song, you can visit  Shipwreck: The Edmund Fitzgerald  to learn about the ship and her tragic sinking, the storm that caused it, and even what happened to the ship's bell.

For those who answer the call of the sea, today is more than just a date in the annuls of nautical history.  It's a reminder that life on the seas, and indeed, even on inland waterways, is not always sunny skies and smooth sailing.  It's also a reminder of the preciousness of life.

Special Find for those who love to share maritime history with their children or grandchildren:  The story of the ship, and the retrieval of the bell is told for youngsters in The Edmund Fitzgerald - the Song of the Bell.  It's beautifully done, for ages 5 and up.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Super Typhoon Haiyan Assaults Philipines

Strongest Landfalling Storm on Record

Here, we call the hurricanes.  There, it's typhoons.  Whatever the name of the systems, this tropical system, Super Typhoon Haiyan, is a history maker, and not in a good way.  Here, the massive storm would be a high end category five.  (Cat 5 starts at 165 mph.)

visible satellite image courtesy NOAA, NASA
Haiyan, the strongest typhoon on record at the time of landfall has hit the Philippines, with sustained winds of 190 - 195 mph, and gusts as high as 230 mph.  The assault continues this morning.

There are massive power outages, homes and other buildings have been swamped by storm surge, and there is an unconfirmed report of an entire  hotel collapsing.  Those are just preliminary reports, since phone lines are down, making it impossible to reach many areas.

Preparations were extensive.  Nearly three quarters of a million people were evacuated. Let's hope the shelters stand up.  The military is on standby for the aftermath, which isn't going to be pretty.  There are ships, helicopters, and cargo planes ready to go.

Our prayers are with the people of the Philippines today.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Royal Caribbean's Snazzy Soda Dispensers

A Big Thumbs UP on This New Feature

Photo by CruiseReady, 2013
Royal Caribbean has installed new Coke dispensers on some of their ships.  The original announcement indicated that the intention was to eventually have them fleet wide, but I'm not sure where that stands at this point.  I had a chance to try them out recently on the Enchantment of the Seas, and they're a real plus for soda drinkers.  It was nice not to have to wait for a bar to open to grab some early morning carbonated caffeine.

Now cruisers who have purchased the unlimited fountain soda package can saunter up to one of the machines and fill their special cups at will.  Well, almost. There's a built in timer to limit you to one refill every fifteen minutes.  But that's plenty often enough.

The machines can only be activated with the special glass you get when you pay for the drink package.  So, whatever you do, don't lose it!
Photo by CruiseReady, 2013

Not only do you not have to wait in line at a bar to get a soda, but there are tons more selections available than there would be from behind the bar.  All of them are not immediately apparent.  

I felt a bit like a kid in a candy store when, upon selecting Diet Coke from among the initial 20 selections, I are presented with a range of different flavors from which to choose.  I tried a few of them, including plain, lime, cherry, vanilla, and raspberry.  I never got around to trying the orange flavor, though.  Next time, I guess.  

As for the special cups, they are newly designed, with easier to screw on and off tops.  They are chipped, not only for the 15 minute timer I mentioned earlier, but also with an expiration date, so they can't be used on a future cruise.  

Photo by CruiseReady, 2013
Here's a comparative photo, with an old coke cup on the left and one of the new ones on the right.  The new ones seem to hold just as much as, if not a little bit more than, the old ones.

You do still get a sticker on your Sea Pass card, so you can show it at dinner, or use it to get a glass of soda when you don't have your cup with you.  But the new serve yourself option sure is nice.

The only suggestion I would make if Royal Caribbean were to ask me would be to install another machine or two at other points around the ship.  There were several on deck nine, where the pool and Windjammer are, and one on deck six.  I would have liked to have seen them on one or two other decks, as well.

Monday, November 4, 2013

New Home Port for Caribbean Princess - Houston

Houston's Bayport Terminal Finally Gets a Cruise Ship

Although the terminal has been complete for about four years, it had not attracted a contract for a home based ship until now.

That is not to say no cruise ship had ever sailed from the facility.  In the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, which devastated Galveston Island, and severely damaged the cruise terminal there, Carnival's Conquest and  Ecstasy both sailed from Bayport for a couple of months.

Caribbean Princess,
Courtesy Todd Stewart
, via Wikipedia
However, tomorrow, Bayport Cruise Terminal's day will come at last.  Caribbean Princess will be sailing from the Pasadena, Texas, facility.

Her initial departure on November 5, 2013, is for a special four day Veteran's cruise.  After that, she'll sail a regular seven night Western Caribbean itinerary through April of 2014.

Other ships signed on to home port at Bayport in the future are the Emerald Princess, and the Norwegian Jewel.

Things are starting to look up for the cruise business in the Houston suburb.  Finally.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Miami to Get Ships with Lips

AIDAvita, AIDAmar to Homeport in South Florida

An erroneous press report announced that the AIDAvita and the AIDAmar would home port in Tampa for several months each in the near future.

Here is the correct information:  Tampa will NOT be the home port for the two German cruise ships.  MIAMI WILL.

Cruise Ships in Miami, By Marc Averette, via Wikimedia Commons
Tampa will, however receive several port of call visits from the ships, as will Key West, New Orleans, and Port Canaveral.    Other destinations that will see the smiling ships sail into their harbors during the time they are in the Americas include San Juan, Cozumel, Tortola, and Nassau.

All in all, they sound like some pretty interesting itineraries.

The AIDAvita is due to arrive in Miami on December 4 of 2014, after a transatlantic crossing, and visits to New York City and Port Canaveral.  She'll stay on 'this side of the pond' through late February of 2015.

The following December, the smile of the AIDAmar will call Miami home for a short winter season.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Nautical Christmas Ornaments

Decorate Your Holiday Tree Nautically

October is behind us and November is here.  That means Thanksgiving will be along in the blink of an eye, with Christmas close on its heels.  Now is a good time to think about choosing a few new ornaments for your tree, so you'll be all ready when decorating time rolls around.

If you have a flair for the nautical, or would like to, the Christmas holidays are a perfect time to have some sea loving fun with decorations!

There's a nice variety available at Amazon, from anchors to boats and ships to lighthouses and sea creatures.  Here are a few samples:

Just imagine a few of the ones above hanging on your tree!

These are meant especially for cruisers or sailors, and can be found at Zazzle:

One of the ones shown above just might make a fun stocking stuffer or your favorite sailing or cruising enthusiast.  They'll appreciate that you took the trouble to find something suited to their special interest.
More fun themes from Amazon.  Are you decorating a tree for a family with little girls, or even big ones?  For a decidedly feminine nautical touch, try mermaids and seashells, like the ones selected below:

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween, Fellow Cruisers

Halloween is Everywhere, Including the High Seas

photo © CruiseReady, 2013
All Hallows Eve is one of the times during the year that bring out the special decorations on cruise ships.

Here's a look at some Halloween decorations on a ship.  It's the giant grim reaper and his ghost friend that have been haunting the centrum of the Enchantment of the Seas this month.

For a perspective of just how big he is, notice the chair at the lower right of the photo.  That's not a toy or prop, it's some of the regular person sized seating.

Last month, I wrote a little bit about what it's like to spend Halloween at sea, in a post called Spookiness on the Seas.  If you choose to go cruising during October, and especially on the 31st, you just may be treated to quite a few sights that you wouldn't see in April or June, and not all are courtesy of the cruise line.  Some of the passengers tend to get into the spirit of the holiday, as well.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Ships With Lips Coming to Miami, Not Tampa

AIDAvita, AIDAmar to Home Port in MIAMI for a Season Each

NOTE:  This is a corrected report.  The original report, based on an announcement from the Port of Tampa, was in error.

Close on the heels of our sighting of AIDAluna on one of her visits to Port Canaveral**, we learned some surprising news about the 'ships with lips,' as we call them at our house.

AIDA Cruises has announced plans to move two of their own across the sea, to be based in Miami.

(It was originally reported in a Port of Tampa press release that the two ships would home port on Florida's west coast, at the Port of Tampa.  This release was, apparently, pre-approved by AIDA, who also overlooked the error.)

By Ostermade  [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The 1266 passenger AIDAvita will spend a cruise season sailing Western Caribben itineraries for several months at the end of next year. (Dec, 2014)

The following season, AIDAmar, with a normal capacity of 2680 pax, will be there.

Looks like they're expecting the first ship to prime the pump for the arrival of the larger ship in 2015.

** See post of 10/27

Monday, October 28, 2013

Veterans Day is November 11

Thank Someone for Their Service

Veterans Day Poster
Thank a Veteran Today Print by Incatneato 
A Gentle Reminder

Veterans Day in America is two weeks away.  Send someone a card, or mark your calendar to make a phone call.

Better yet, just do it today, because any day is a good day to express a little  gratitude.