Saturday, March 29, 2014

Class Reunion Eastern Caribbean Cruise - All Aboard the Celebrity Summit

A walk on the beach - Isla Verde
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
Harry and I got up bright and early (7:30 a.m.) because there were children running and shouting in the hallway (thanks, kids...), got ourselves ready for the day, and went downstairs to join our classmates for the breakfast buffet. I then went for a walk on the beach, partly because I love the way the sand feels between my toes, the way the air smells so fresh by the water, the way the breeze cools my skin in the warm sun. And partly because walking on the beach reminds me of my mother's love for walking on the beach.

We had a gathering out by the pool to discuss plans for the day. You know what? It's hard to make a plan for the day when there are a lot of people involved who haven't preplanned their day. But that's okay, because this reunion wasn't about rushing around from one attraction to another. It was about being together and enjoying each other's company and conversation. And, already, the time and distance that had separated us had evaporated. We were looking forward to seeing the others on the ship!

The problem with hotels is that they have check-out times. Conveniently, those mini-van taxis park themselves right outside the front door of the hotel. Imagine that! And the fare to the cruise terminal is the same as the fare from the airport to the hotel, even though the distance is several miles more. Imagine that! If you hold your purse (which, naturally, on a trip like this, is going to be the size of a beach bag) in your lap, it doesn't count as baggage. But if you happen to throw it or your camera bag or whatever in the back, well, that'll be another dollar. Word of warning.

We arrived at the cruise ship terminal an hour ahead of time. We were thinking about checking our luggage there and going out to explore Old San Juan for a while; but, before we knew it, we had sailed (no pun intended) through the check-in non-lines, boarded the ship in record time, and were on our way to the lunch buffet. I was seriously impressed with the Celebrity Summit's efficient, fast, and early check-in process. My head was spinning. By the way, you'll have an opportunity to have your photo taken as you board the ship. Try to comb your hair and fix yourself up presentably, or you will look like a zombie with a stupid grin on your colorless, exhausted face. Word of warning. No, I didn't buy the picture.

No sooner had we piled our plates up with goodies and found a place to sit right by the entrance than the announcement came that our cabins were ready. Seriously?! I couldn't believe it.

Not all the greetings were this enthusiastic.
But close.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
Marsha and Kathi looking relaxed.
Love this photo!
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
We sat in the area right next to the entrance to the buffet line in order to call classmates over as they came in, and each person was greeted with enthusiasm, vigorous handshakes and/or hugs. It was heartwarming and exciting and emotional. We forgot all about getting off the ship as conversations led to meeting times, trips to the ice cream bar, walks on the deck, and unpacking in our rooms. Speaking of unpacking, our luggage arrived almost immediately. What?! Again, super impressed.

Bob & Harry on the veranda.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
We had reserved cabins in two categories: outside cabin with window, and concierge class veranda. Everyone in concierge class was super happy with the service, the room, and the balcony. We had a window cabin, and we were also super happy with the service. But the room smelled like mildew, which I cannot abide. It turned out to be the shower curtain, though it looked fine. A word to the service desk caused that to be swapped out promptly with a new one, and the room smelled great the next time we walked in. That was a relief. And so, if there's something you don't like about your room, don't just tell everybody else in the group about it. Pick up the phone and call the service desk. But some issues, they can't help you with. For instance, if you book three to a room, and one of you isn't a child, then you'd better check ahead of time to see what kind of room you've been assigned. Some ships have pull-down bunks. Others just have fold-out chairs. And there's a world of difference. Just ask the three ladies in our group who chose this option in order to afford the trip.

Bob, Karen, and Harry on deck.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
We shared a dinner table with Harry's brother, Bob (also a class alumnus), and Bob's wife, Karen. And here's what Harry and I had for dinner: I started with the Thai spring roll, followed by tangerine soup (cold...delicious...), then seared ahi salad. My prime rib was prepared perfectly medium rare and was served with mashed potatoes, green beans, and carrots. Harry enjoyed the shrimp louie appetizer, french onion soup, and amazing jerk chicken with mashed potatoes. Oh, no! What's that? It's the lifeboat drill! And we hadn't eaten dessert yet.

We were quickly ushered out of the dining room, our waiter assuring us that our table would be waiting for us after the drill (and it was). We made our way down to the promenade deck, where we found our station and paid a limited amount of attention (as did everyone else) to the ship's crew. There was the obligatory life jacket demonstration and brief instructions on what to do if it's truly an emergency. It was all very business-like and was over quickly. Kind of like the airline safety talk. We returned to the dining room for our desserts. I had “dulce de leche” custard, and Harry had crème brulée. The food, all of it, was most satisfactory. So far, so good.

Old San Juan at Night
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
As the ship pulled away about 8 p.m., we slipped past Castillo San Felipe del Morro (“El Morro”) and were soon out to sea, making promises to ourselves to visit the place upon our return. El Morro is very beautiful and romantic at night, the lights accenting the walls and reflecting on the water.

The Revue - excellent entertainment
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
After that night's show in the theater, which was a sample revue to tempt us to return night after night, we happened to stop at the piano bar with Electra (classmate) and Jason (her husband) on our way to turn in for the night. There, we were superbly entertained by pianist Jordan Peterson (website). Thank you, Jordan (Facebook), for bringing our day to such a delightful end!

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