San Juan

We are sitting at Barrachina, in the courtyard where pinacoladas were invented having one or more with Barbara along with lunch. 

Mike and I shared plantains stuffed with a Shrimp as an app (that is one of the two pictured we got below) and Barbara tried the grouper fingers.  


For lunch, Barbara got the seafood mofungo and Mike and I split (thankfully) the mofungo with skirt steak. All were very tasty!

Sailaway Surprise

I am writing this on Friday (4/21) while lounging on a deck chair in the promenade after a day just like the last three…breakfast, walking to jump start out much needed exercise program, lunch, reading (what some call napping) and then dressing for dinner. So relaxing not having emails and phone calls! Oh yeah and the drink program which was included in our cruise fare is nice too. We are trying cocktails I normally wouldn’t. The view from my chair is lovely, blue water as far as the eye can see, the lulling sound of waves against the ship and the ship’s wake…hmmm, maybe time for more napping!
But before I do, let’s recap sailaway and the big big surprise that will likely make this one of our most memorable cruises. 

As you saw in the “aboard” post, we made it aboard uneventfully and met George & Doug and Barbara for lunch in the main dining room. Most folks head to the buffet but since not folks have apparently never seen food before, “look Mildred, they have tomatoes” which leads to half of the folks standing still in shock and unable to move generally blocking those of us who don’t stop all life to gaze upon an olive from getting our food. So we instead go to the fancy dining room for a proper lunch. 
The four of us met Barbara five years ago when we all cruised on Gem from NYC to Quebec. We all enjoyed each other’s company and she and George have kept us connected through the Book of Face. When G&D issued their invitation to join them on this cruise, Barbara (who has issues with the sun) decided it was time to loose her island virginity and come along. After lunch we attended the mandatory muster drill (think airplane safety announcement but instead of learning how to fasten a seatbelt, you learn to put a foam blocky thing around your waist) and then headed to The Great Outdoors (large shady deck area on the back of the ship with a bar) where the cruise Critic group was having our first get to together. 
We were all sipping and waiting for the ship to cast off and head down the Hudson for what is one of the best sailaways (Venice is better and sailing under the Golden Gate is pretty incredible too) when there was suddenly a commotion over there, and when we looked, there were two people holding cutouts if Mike and my face on popsicle sticks-whatbin the world????
They lowered the masks and it was Peggy and Lowell! We first met them 9 years ago (this week) on my 50th birthday cruise from Athens to Istanbul via Egypt). We knew we were going to be friends when Peggy said that her kids say all her best stories (and she has some doozies) begin with, “I was having a glass of wine and….”


Since that first cruise we have sailed with them on Sun where they met D&G and afterwards gifted Doug with his very own monogrammed stool-more on that later. We have visited each other’s homes for weekends and we typically talk every Saturday during Happy Hour.  
Meeting folks like Peggy & Lowell (hereafter P&L) (and Carol & Burt -or is it Bert?and Sandy and MaryKay -and her man Joe and Donna and so many more) is one of the things I like best about cruising and about Cruise Critic. We have made lifelong friends literally around the world…and some of them even like us enough to surprise us by joining us for what was already going to be a fun cruise but is now gonna be epic!

Occulus. 

As part of the rebuilding at Ground Zero, a new transit terminal was required to connect the PATH trains coming from New Jersey to New York’s subway system. Rather than being completely underground and out of site like it was before the attack, a soaring almost cathedral like space has been created by Santiago Calatrava, a Spanish architect.  He is most famous for his bridges – Buenos Aires, Dallas among others and his buildings that move- Milwaukee Art Museum. The transit hub was supposed to also open but due to budget issues (i think I have read the current cost is $1b) this feature was cut and instead repaced with the skylight which will open. 

The building is beautiful from a distance but I’m concerned it may not hold up long term. It has some terrible details and is already showing signs of dirt.  

The interior is basically a shopping mall with large spaces for the thousands who move through it at rush hour to be able to move from one train line to another. 


Somber. 

The big plan for the day was to visit the 9/11 museum. During our last trip to New York for the Canadian cruise we visited the Memorial Fountains which had to be done via a time ticket and due to the construction all around, you had to enter the plaza through construction barriacades. The museum was one of the buldings under construction at that time. It is finished and the plaza is now completely open to the public.  They are as impressive as I remember. The museum is also. I don’t have many pictures, but the building is very well done and I think it will teach future generations about that awful day. For those of us who experienced it (even from afar-we were living in Key West at the time and Mike’s flight was one of the thousands canceled that day) it is less a museum and more of continuation of the memorial. 

The photo above is of the slurry wall which was built originally to hold back the Hudson River so the foundations of the original towers could be built.  After the attack, there were signifcant concerns it was going to fail and flood all of ground zero. Thankfully it didn’t.  The first stage of rebuilding was reinforcing it. 

Below are two of the columns that remained standing after the rest of the building collapsed are now on display.  Inthe background through the window you can see the newly opened and almost finished Freedom Tower. 

 

In the picture below you can see the outline of the north tower which one walks below and into to visit the historical exhibit-images, artifacts, etc. the column on display is one from where the plane entered the tower.   The last pictures are of the building’s exterior.



Disappointed. (But still excited!)

Norwegian Cruise Lines has introduced a new upgrade system to fill unsold staterooms.  Used to be that you got an email or made a call and they made an offer and you decided to accept or make a counter.  

Now they send out an email and accept “bids”.   We are an inside cabin which is fine but we always prefer a balcony but given the high price of this trip we elected to save some money.  When we were able to bid we offered $100 per person with little hope of “winning”.  However after others on our rollcall, who had bought in the last month for significantly less than we paid, won with their bid for $200 per person, so they’re in a balcony for $600 less per person than what we’ve paid. 

I’m perfectly happy with our room but it seems to me it would be advisable for Norwegian to look at the total price paid.  Of course if they factored in our Latitudes’ status (Norwegian’ loyalty program) in their     Evaluation of bids. 

Anyway, excited about boarding tomorrow and looking forward to a wonderful 11 days!

Easter Bonnets. 

After a fun (and tasty) brunch at Butter 

with delicious bloody marys we headed up 5th Avenue to see all the bonnets. 


Then Mike and I headed to Radio City and took the Stage Door tour.  The stage is amazing and we got to meet a rockette and have a picture with her, of course we elected to not pay $28 for it!


Mike and then headed back to the hotel to rest our barking dogs!

Wow!

Bette Midler in Hello Dolly! is amazing.  We all really enjoyed the entire show.   I had forgotten how much better seeing a show in one of the more intimate theaters is compared to the big houses where we typically see touring shows. 

Upgrade!

So our friend Sam is the grand guru of working credit cards for bonus points and a awhile back he mentioned that the Hyatt credit card comes with two free nights at any Hyatt property.  So Mike got the card, we met the spend requirements so we decided to use our two free nights at their signature property in New York, the Park Hyatt. Since we are staying three nights we thought we were going to have to move for one night to more reasonably priced accommodations but Hyatt ran a sale on purchasing points and we were able to use the ones we earned and bought some so that we had enough for a free night.  So for less than $250 bucks we are staying for three nights in a $1,175 room!  We CANNOT get used to this!!

Bathtub with a view (obstructed) of Central Park


Entry Hall with steamer truck with safe and drawers 


Desk 


Minibar with refrigerator drawer-don’t even ask how much the jar of gummy bears is!


Double vanity with tv in the mirror 


Ginormous shower with rainhead!


Requisite lobby flower arrangement for Claudia!