Latest addition

Here’s the latest addition to our household.

Koda is a Golden Doodle and seems to be settling in well. He’s a bundle of joy and energy and for sure will be keeping us on our toes.

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Random weekend photos

Top left: JMan our 10 year old pulled an April’s Fools on me this am by lacing my toothbrush with blue food dye! I can’t wait to hear what he gets up to in college. Probably will put my stories to shame.

Top right: Celebrating Passover….we were late this year, but better late than never.

Bottom left: JMan and I took a walk in the woods today. It was great to get back into the trees.

Bottom right: JMan taking a rest on the trail.

Big boat – Wrap up

All in all it was a great vacation. From tricking the kids, to meeting old friends, visiting new places, swimming with dolphins, eating ice cream at 10 pm, climbing a volcano and every thing in between. Most of all it was time spent with family and after all that’s the more important part.

Disembarking was painless enough, 5,000 people thought a pair of 6″ double doors…what could go wrong…but the doors belong to the port and not Royal Caribbean. Bit of a line, usual back and forth and customs, out on the street, which was not moving, cab, and off to our bed for the night.

Royal Caribbean does a great job of everything but fails a bit in the people moving business. The only other knock I’ll give them is one of our excursions was not completely up to par. Sapphire Beach on St. Thomas was a bit disappointing (see previous post for move info). It got hit hard in a hurricane last year and really the whole island has not bounced completely back. All the rest were great, less the people moving portion of course.

As this was our first cruise as a family and my first ever, no, motoring up Lough Ree with a ham sandwich and warm Coke does not count as cruising, l’d say it was a success on many levels and we will most likely come back again for more.

Coming off the ship I snapped the following. No rest for this crew, turn around time from last person off to first person on is less than 5 hours! That’s 5,000 plus off, get the ship squared away, provisions loaded, take on fuel and other essentials and 5,000 plus new cruisers come onboard. I’m tired just thinking about it.

Big boat – Day 7

Today was another vacation day sleep in, breakfast late and a bunch of shows. We started with Madagascar in the Aqua Theater. It was non stop fun aimed at younger kids but you can’t not tap your feet at the theme song.

After lunch GMan tried his hand on the Flowrider. After four rounds he was doing well.

After that we started packing as bags needed to be out and ready by 11pm. Then it was off to the Amber Theater for another show. Unfortunately we were last and ended up in the back row but the special effects were wonderful. Theater folk are so inventive when it come to set design. Necessity is most definitely the mother of all inventions. The whole stage at one point looked like a giant ocean scene with all manner of creatures swimming about, very well done.

Next up was a spot of shopping. The following will set you back 2 million! I was hoping for a black pair but they were out of stock….

Then is was parade time on the main promenade. This time we got good seats and saw the entire show. All I can say is the crew never stops.

After the parade we took in a family friendly comedy show….and yes it was very funny and family friendly. Then it was off to the lip sink face off. Again, a fun filled show with lots of energy.

11:30 or so we finish packing and off to bed.

Big boat – Day 6

Today was back to vacation mode, lie in and breakfast with Jess while the kids watch tv. Below is our location, heading and speed at 11:30am.

Next up some shuffle board on the back desk.

After lunch we took in the All Access boat tour.

First up was one of the ships 16 galleys. I figured all the food was centrally cooked, which is some what correct. The main galley preps, prepares and distributes soups, salads and pastries to all restaurants. It also cooks everything on menu of the Silk Restaurant. It’s big, nosy and spotless. It runs around the clock and every surface gets wiped down once per day….that includes all walls and the ceiling.

In the pastry area the head chief will mock up what a desert should look like and then the assistants will made a few thousand!

In the salad area an order for Tomato and Mozzarella salad was under way. For the 1st serving of tonight’s dinner they will make 1,400 salads. If they need more for late eaters or folks that order two or three, they will start making more….in real time. With 5,000 guests and over 2,000 staff that’s a lot of people to feed.

Next was engineer. Imaging Star Trek with more button, switches, knobs and screens. Two people at all times work four hour shifts.

Not only can they monitor everything on the ship, but they actually have cameras inside the Azipods. Thats the propulsion system which move the ship. No more direct driveshaft to propeller, the Azipods are electric motors mounted to the underside of the ship. The 6 main diesel motors are essentially producing electricity. If you want more specs on the ship go here. The below is a photo of the Azipods the last time it was in dry dock. As a matter of interest the three propeller (gold part) cost over 12 million US dollars. Hate to see the price tag on the whole ship.

The architect in me had to take a photo of a table top that had technical drawings of the ship as part of the top. The first one is looking the length of the table and the second is a close up of Decks 5, 6 and 7.

After that it was off to the Wheelhouse. It’s a massive space with very little in it bar the main console and two small ones on either end. Unfortunately, with all the natural light it was hard to get a good photo. The following is only a small portion of the main console.

By the way there’s no wheel, well…it’s got a small one which is hardly ever used. The ship is fly by wire with a joy stick and three buttons. According to our guide the most important item is the cup holder which is for all the coffee they consume. The below is JMan and our guide as he was explaining one of the side consoles used during docking. There’s a mirrored copy on the side of the ship.

Our guide explained that the ship is mostly under auto pilot when under way, but docking and leaving port is always manual. Once the ship gets to a certain point a local pilot will come onboard and explain how to navigate safely to the dock. The rule is simply, they can talk all they want but not touch anything.

Next was the laundry. The laundry master gave us some numbers and I can’t really remember, but you can guess that 7,000 people will go through a fair very sheets, towels and assorted linens in a day. All the work is done by 26 people! 10 to 12 hour days are normal with 8 to 10 for days when the ship is in port as many people will leave the ship.

First image is a washing machine that can handle 150lbs. It’s not the biggest. The second image is a fully automated multi station machine thats used to wash bed linens and towels. At the start the items are loaded off a conveyor belt, the machine does its thing and at the other end out comes clear items. They get loaded into hoppers that sent up to the next level in an automated elevator to the drying machines. The drying machine are fed by hand. 2 people pull from the hoppers and 2 more feed the machine. The sheets are dried, folded and sorted by size. Another person at the end stack everything on rolling racks and off they go.

Here’s an interesting fact. All hand rails in the guest spaces are disinfected every 30 minutes and every 15 to 20 minutes in the crew only areas. They also have more Purell dispenser than most hospitals I visited and they have there own Wash your hand song. A simple cold bug can ground the whole works and if an infection gets bad enough you will be confined to your suite or worse yet part of the ship or some times the entire ship is quarantined. The good news is the Allure of the Sea has 50 bars…..its a Mick’s dream.

Now back to the tour; the laundry is hot work and I simply cannot imagine 10 to 12 hours per day of it, so I’m thankful for what I/we have.

After lunch at Johnny Rockets which is just like sitting at the one in the Burlington Mall Jess and I headed to the zip line. It’s not that long, but long enough to get your heart rate up!

First 2 shoes are Jess getting suited up and in motion and the second 2 are your truly. The lad helping us was from Sheffield England and mentioned that he loves Galway, however he was never in Sean’s Bar in my home town. He said he’ll visit next time he’s in the Green Sod.

Tonight was another formal night but we were all beat and still full from lunch, so a light snack in the Wind Gammer and back to our suite. Tonight we were greeted by a hanging monkey.

Big boat – Day 5

Today was St. Kitts. Last time we (well Jess and I) were here was 1999 on our honeymoon. The people have not changed, still friendly and helpful, quick with smile and a wave.

GMan and I did the Mount Liamuiga volcano hike. 6 mile up and down, which starts at 700 feet and goes up to a bit over 2000.

Once again the cattle mart mentally was evident when disembarking. Apparently another ship showed up right at the wrong time (for us that is) and we did the hurry up and wait. As you can see below the pier is quite narrow so dropping lines off the other ship would be very hazardous to anyone below.

We got sorted into our groups and off we headed. Once there the entire group was split into three, with 16 or so in each. We chose the second group off, the so called not so active but in 1/2 decent shape group. Within 15 minutes we passed a few people from group one that should have gone with group three, or possibly waited for the helicopter. I spotted flip-flops on one…not exactly hiking wear…even for the most mellow walk in the woods.

The about was about 1/2 way up. It was hand and foot for a bit and it was also raining, which provided much needed relief, but made everything really slick. Basically 3/4 the hike was the below, thick tropical forest with a ribbon of well trodden dirt running through it.

Our guide Paul, typically leads group one but, and these are his words, “the boss man wanted one of the young dreds to lead today” so he was #2. Paul has me by about 10 years and normally does the hike twice per day and he pace is very fast. I knew it was a race to the top as he took off like a hare at Wonderland. Occasionally he glance over his shoulder and access the line of hikers.

He has a great spirit about him and told all manner stories and interesting information on what you can eat and make with things found in a rain forest. Did I mention he normally climbs this mountain twice per day……..in cut off rain boots, or as we’d say across the pond, Wellington Boots! Now I’m no hiking expert but I do know my way up and down a few trails, and I did send my youth on a farm in wellies (that’s short for Wellington Boot incase you missed the connection). They may be very waterproof but offer zero ankle support and make your feet sweat like the dickens. So why is a lad that hikes for a living in cut off wellies? I don’t have the answer, nor did I ask, but I’m sure you can figure it out, or come up with a list of reasons. Whatever the case I did tip well as he’s a wonderful guide.

By the way, the above photo was on the way down and it’s a snip from a video where Paul swung like Tarzan from the vines in background. He was just as engaging and animated as he was when I first met him.

There were six rest breaks on the way up and none on the way down, well….Paul paused long enough on the way down to see the last hiker and them took off like a blue ass fly who just spotted an open jam jar. The up hill breaks got shorted in time as the climbing got harder. 30 minutes for the first, down to 8 minutes on the last.

The above is also at the top. The mountain in the distance is the other side of the volcanic rim, we were are on one side looking at the other.

Few minutes later and it getting a little clearer. Finally at the top the below is what you see. Simple spectacular and a little scary as all that’s between you and a very long drop is a few feet of dirt.

The following images are from right before and right at (our) summit. You can continue on another 3000 feet if you like, but our hike ended here. Good job as my legs were jello and we still needed to go down.

After a quick break…you guessed it, Paul said “Ya man….time to head down“. I fell in line right after Paul and GMan behind me. I reckon if I stick with him I could follow his line….you know that twice a day thing can only help. I’ll admin it’s was work to keep the pace, but we motored on at a good clip.

We passed some interesting trees and the below “tent tree” as Paul called it was a really neat one. Since we were well ahead of the pack he said “go on down man and I take your picture“.

Here’s another cool tree we spotted.

At the bottom we had lunch….the first crew down had set up the buffet line. Here’s the order, drop your walking stick in the pile, put your hand out and someone poured water on them so you could wast off the mountain, in the first of 4 tubber-wear containers you got two pieces of white bread that conveniently always had cheese on one. Next was the deli meat, either turkey of ham, then tomatoes and finally lettuce. At the end of the truck trail gate buffet was the lemonade, take a glass, fill her up and chow down. One could also buy a Carid beer for $2 but you already know my opinion on this subject. However, if you missed it see yesterdays post. Let me tell you after that hike it was a good sandwich. Mind you we snacked among the way but we all know what that meal at bottom tastes like.

All in all it was a great hike and perhaps some day we’ll make it back and do the addition 3K.

On the way back to our ship I spotted a boat yard….well more a boat field. Instead of traditional boat stands all they did was dig a trench for the keel and rudder and sit the hull on some tiers with every thing from the waterline down in ground. Some were secured down with straps and stakes driven into the ground. Basically it looked with a field that is growing many types of boats.

Back in port I snapped the following of our ship (right) and the one that made us wait this am. Our neighbors boat looks bigger but I found out later that it’s not even close. Kinda like a Honda Civic with a huge rear spoiler….all fluff, but no go.

And one more for good measure.

Big boat – Day 4

Captains log, Star date 20183210800 – Land spotted off the port side. Hopefully it’s St. Thomas, otherwise I’m in big trouble!

This am was truly a vacation one. Jess went for a Spa treatment and the boy stayed horizontal.

St. Thomas harbor.

After breakfast GMan and I walked around and took a few photos of the ship.

Looking down in the mid ship elevator shaft. I can’t imagine the set of drawings for the ship and I can’t imagine the man and woman hours required for maintenance and cleaning. They simply never stop cleaning it. BTW, the ship is spotless. Next image is looking down in Central Park. Complete with many different species of trees, shrubs and plants.

GMan and I in Central Park. Very cool green walls.

Today excursion was snorkeling at Sapphire Beach. Jess and since hung out while the kids snorkeled. All the hurricanes have taken a serious toll on the island. Lots of building in ruins and debris all over the place. But first here’s a decent shot of our ship.

After a rather dumpy ride up over the biggest hill on the island we arrived at our destination. Here’s the gang in the water at the beach.

Here’s a few shots of what’s left of the pavilion down at the beach. The rest of the building look intact, but all manner of stuff is everywhere. Not sure any of the wiring, plumbing or structural would pass on the mainland. It’s old school chewing gum and twisty tie maintenance. Just enjoy to get her going.

Above: looking down to the harbor. Our cruise ships is on the far right. Below: The old hospital has seen better days.

I tried the local brew…Carib. Honestly, the Coke next to it was better. Carib is a bad cross between Harp and Bud Light. Neither is on my must drink list and together is out of the question. However, beer is beer and this one was free….well included in the excursion price…..which really wasn’t worth it, but I can only hope some of the money gets back to the island as clearly they need it.

Below: After you consume a few beers you’ll need to deposit then. Here’s some island English directions.

Above: Looking up in the aft elevator shaft. The bright rectangles are the bottom of the elevators.

Before: This little piggy was waiting for us after dinner.

Big boat – Day 3

Today we did a little of everything and cruised all day. So we saw a bunch of this.

Some time between breakfast mid morning snack we checked out the sea water swimming pool. Let’s just say it was very refreshing to get into. Well, parts of me considering it very refreshing. Soon after it was the hot tub to warm up. The weather was very nice, mid eighties, but very windy. Some time later there was a parade on the main promenade. The below is the crowd dispersing afterwards. No photos of the parade but if was every Disney movie character for the last 10 years or so. If you live under a rock and don’t know them, go watch the movies and you’ll get the drift…..no pun intended considering our current….ha, did it again location.

This place is a little like the Burlington Mall on that fir tree holiday. Except a lot warmer, people are wearing beach wear and lots of them are carrying drinks and many are 1/2 tanked, some fully cocked. At the end there was a confetti shower, just for good measure. For a few minutes I was expecting to see the little robots from the Fifth Element coming out and clean up the mess…as this ship is the closest thing to Fhloston Paradise as I’ll ever get.

In order of what we did here’s a few more shots from today.

JMan and I took in some horse back riding, but the horses only went around in a circles, and I kept hearing carnival music…..weird.

I found a little slice of heaven in the middle of a huge pond. Thumbs up care of Jess.

Making it look good was never this easy.

The boys found the arcade and GMan appears to be going all gangster, or perhaps all Hollywood.

The boys on the walking/running track that I said I was going to use every day. However, eating ice cream is much easier and requires far less effort. Besides, the track is a tad plain….and the ice cream comes in many flavors.

Jess shot this on off the port side, or was it starboard, or aft…should be easy enough to figure out. Here’s a few clues. 5 pm heading to St. Thomas from Nassau Bahamas.

Jess relaxes while the kids are…well somewhere else.

Tonight we ordered room service and ate on our balcony. A good day was had by all. Tomorrow is St. Thomas and some real beach time.

Big boat – Day 2

We pulled into Nassau Bahamas this am around 7. Apparently those lads with the oars are doing a mighty job. Hope the pay is good!

The above image was day break over the harbor. Shortly after that it was breakfast then off to the cattle mart. Well, human mart. I’ll say one thing for Disney, they know how to move bodies. These guys could learn a thing or two from Walt.

Today’s excursion was swimming with Dolphins on the other side of the island. Jess booked the whole trip and given my dislike of water I opted out of swimming with Dolphins for waist deep water and Dolphin patting. Never happened! Instead it was propulsion by Dolphin noses while laying flat on your stomach.

I’ll admit it was a fun, but a little weird and since I had a life vest on I figured even if I died of shock they’d find my lifeless body floating. However, after 6 months of no gym I’d make some good chum for the sea life. Photos coming on this adventure after we sell our first born to pay for them.

After that it was off to the beach.

Nothing like a Palm Tree for some shade.

Family shot before before we got back on board.

We were the only game in town this am. Since then 3 more ships arrived. Ours is the big one at the end, Allure of the sea.

Covered roof.

Here’s a better shot of our tub. Well, at least part of the rear end and port side. Those life boats hanging off the side hold 370 easy m …that is. The Allure has 18….so if all goes well 6,660 souls will be saved! Where are you now Jimmy with your 18 run-a-about and Evinrude outboard. Like I said, this thing is huge.

After a much needed coffee then nap (did you notice the order) it was time to eat. Basically you can eat all day long if you like. After that I tested out the shower. I’m admit its far better than “on demand” or flipping the switch on the immersion and waiting two hours for a twenty minutes shower.

Tonight is Captains night. Which really means all the guys dress like James Bond and the gals like Grace Kelly. I’m happy to say the Quinn/Miller household is doing a wonderful job of lowering that standard. Not that we are showing up in ripped jeans and tee shirts, but we refused to pay Jet Blue for the extra suit case of “so called” good cloths. Besides, collar shirt and pants will do according to ship staff. We got this on covered.

GMan beats into a man sized meal. Speaking of meals….all the food so far is really good and the wait staff are wonderful.

After dinner the above was waiting for us in our room. The below is a view from the 15 floor down into the Aqua Theatre. I always get a little nervous when I see blue light but figured I’d never get caught behind the wheel of this ship!

Big boat – Day 1

To say this boat is big is an understatement….it’s huge. The boys were completely surprised and really excited when they found out we were going on a cruise.

Backing up for a bit. We went to breakfast with an old friend from back up North. It was great catching up with AP after all these years.

The above is the view from our room in port.

Pulling out of Fort Lauderdale. All the folks on shore wave as we passed by. Below is last beach we’ll see till tomorrow am….Nassau Bahamas.

Your happy tour guides at dinner.