Thursday, May 16, 2013

May 16, A daily blog live from New Orleans

We had a wonderful day today and an added perk of feeling really good as we have adjusted to the below sea level pressure!  So, our day started as we went to Starbucks and off for our City tour.  I will say it was not what I had expected.  We really only had one photo opp!  Regardless we had a good time!!
    This is a picture I took out of the window...this is the upper 9th ward where the flooding was the worst when the flood gates did not hold.  This looks like the same kind of house I lived in when we lived in New Orleans when I was 6 years old!

    I was happy that we were able to stop at a cemetery but wished it had been one of the older ones where they all did not look so much alike.  This cemetery runs 1 1/2 miles straight down each row.  over 100,000  people are buried here.

                         Whole families are buried here and after decomposition the remains are put in bags and stacked or arranged in the crypts.  Nobody can be buried below ground. due to flooding and the ground never drying out.  The crypts cannot be opened for one year and one day, if another family member dies before the time is up they are put in a temporary crypt.


                                                 The tour group!                                                  
     OMG!  Now these donuts were the good ones...can't spell the!  You can tell we enjoyed them...yum yum!

They have hidden all of the Aunt Jemima souvenirs !  Not politically correct?  So, does this deny that they did exist?

                                              And I thought he was a statue

                                                  I thought he was a statue too!

                        I'll dance but you have to pay I did!  lol!  He was mean and scary too!  lol!

                                                     Fun with Pat O'Brien!

                                                   You know... this guy cannot sing!    

                              Oh!  he sings all on  one note....a flat drives me crazy!

                                                One the street!

                                             Wait....I want to ride!  lol!

                                                  I almost stepped on this man!

              At the age of 19 he founded this city....I can't remember  his name?  lol!

                                  Happy Vacation and Billoxi here we come!

Today the Amsterdam arrives in San Diego!
This is the end of our 131 days of following the Amsterdam and Bill and Mary Ann! It has been a wonderful adventure following both of you!  The trip could not have ended in a better place since I am a native San Diegn!  Thank You Bill and Mary Ann and HAL and their ship the Amsterdam for the wonderful itinerary 
                               Hello San Diego, good-bye  Ms Amsterdam!
Postcards from Paradise!
 Final Day at Sea May 15, 2013 Wednesday

Well, here we are, sailing on the final day of our 130 day adventure. The weather started off very overcast, gray, cold, and windy. It's almost like saying, "Go home". We seem to be headed that way rather quickly, with the Captain doing 20 knots. Guess that is what it takes to get us on time to San Diego tomorrow morning.

Breakfast was good as usual, especially with the many waiters stopping by to say hi. On this shorter cruise, it has been nice to be recognized by the world cruise staff, even if they may have never waited on us for the entire time. These fellows are just friendly no matter what or where you may see them. In fact, it is the staff, as well as other aspects, that keeps us coming back to this line over and over.

Walking the promenade deck this morning was invigorating due to the chilly wind. We did see a few very large flying fish, a sealion who popped up to watch us pass, and a school of big fish, perhaps yellowfin tuna. If you pay attention, sometimes you get rewarded with these sightings. Later in the afternoon, we even saw a whale spouting not too far from the ship. That is a first for us on this particular trip.

We had a few jobs this morning, starting with attending the disembarkation briefing with CD Rick Barnes in the Queens Lounge. We assumed this meeting was strictly for the 600 of us leaving in San Diego, but the entire lounge was filled. So this must have been the one and only talk to be given on this 15 or 20 day cruise ending in Vancouver. Most of the talk was a rerun for us, including the expected jokes, like don't pack all your clothes, then put out your luggage tonight, or you will be wearing the shower curtain home.

What we did learn was how the automatic tips were distributed among the crew. Seventy percent of the $11.50 gratuity per person goes to the dining room and room stewards. The remaining thirty percent is split among the other departments onboard, mostly to the folks that we never see behind the scenes. Rick added that the company (HAL) does not take any percentage of the gratuities at all. Zero. Good info to know, we think. And of course, if we chose to give any addition tips to certain people, we are free to do so. He did make it clear that extra tips are not expected, but much appreciated. Any personal remarks written is something always welcomed by the staff members as well, as long as they are positive.

Shortly after the talk was given, we got the information delivered to our rooms. A packet contained our proper tags for marking the luggage. Black number one tags were added this time to put on the bags to be shipped via Fed Ex. Then we got red # 2 tags for our disembarkation time. We have requested a 9:30am disembark time, but that will depend on two things. First of all, all of the Canadians and other foreign nationalities will have to see the customs and immigrations officials onboard. Then, those of us who are American citizens will have to go through the check in the terminal building. No one will be allowed off the ship until every foreign guest clears immigrations. That was a problem a few years ago, when some sleepy folks decided not to go to the check. Eventually, they were called by room number and name, delaying the exiting of many unhappy guests who had early flights. Hope it goes better this time.

After stashing most of the remaining clothes in our closets in the already full bags, we filled out the questionnaire forms for this 15 day cruise. Our only negative comment concerned the lack of back-to-back amenities that the 40 of us should have received. We never did get an answer that these niceties have been discontinued, but the only gift we got was the complimentary Pinnacle Grill dinner. We all would not have gotten that if it wasn't for the help of Cynthia, the Guest Relations Manager. Neither would we have been invited to two cocktail parties with the Captain and his staff. The only other item we had to pursue was the free photo that was taken at the Mariner's Reception a few days ago. Most everyone had theirs delivered that evening, but us. Something has slipped through the cracks there, we guess. Five minutes after asking about it at the front desk, the photo was delivered to our room.

For the first time in 129 days, we decided to go to the La Fontaine Dining Room for lunch. We had spotted one of our favorite meals, meatballs and spaghetti, on the menu, so today would be perfect for an early lunch for a change. One of us had a lamb and cheese burger, different, but really good. The dessert menu was slow in arriving, so we found it in our best interests to pass on it. We needed to save room for the Pinnacle Grill meal tonight.

With the weather being so cool outside, we spent the rest of the afternoon watching a movie in our room. Strangely enough, it was a good one we have not seen yet. Later on, we walked the promenade deck, trying to get the little bit of sun that was peeking out from the clouds. This was the first time we have needed to wear jackets since we sailed around New Zealand.

We also checked out the last of the sales onboard to find that more of the 2013 world cruise clothing was 75% off. That was pretty hard to pass up, even though some of the items are for winter weather. The shop has filled their shelves with everything Alaska now.

Eight o'clock came quickly, and we headed for deck four and the Pinnacle Grill. Caesar salads, ribeye steaks, baked potatoes, and mushrooms certainly made our meal delightful, if not filling. We topped it off with a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce. Tomorrow's dinner will sure be far different from this excellent cuisine. And the best part, was that it was totally complimentary, thanks to the back-to-back perks.

Our six pieces of luggage had to be outside our room before midnight. No problem, they were locked, tied, tagged, and ready to go right after we finished dinner at 9:30pm. Tomorrow, we will have to load it up on a cart, and drag it through the customs and immigrations checkpoint in the terminal. At least we are not having to do this with 1300 other passengers, like in Ft. Lauderdale two weeks ago. If we heard correctly, 600 will be debarking, and 600 newbies will be joining.

Well, all good things come to an end. We can say that this 130 day cruise has been smooth sailing with great friends on a ship with a great staff. And the ports, well we can quote an anonymous saying that life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. We had many of these on this Grand Voyage for sure!

To be continued once we get home...........

Bill & Mary Ann
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