About Geoff Edwards

Geoff Edwards

Geoff Edwards is a veteran radio and television broadcaster. He has an Emmy for best talk show host, and an Emmy nomination for best Game Show Host. Besides hosting network game shows, he has appeared as an actor in numerous television shows and movies. In radio, he was top rated in Los Angeles on both KMPC and KFI.

With all of this, Geoff never lost his thirst for travel. He has been cruising since 1969 and has twice cruised around the world. From Morocco, to the Marshall Islands, and even to Branson, Geoff 's wit adds a special flavor to his travel commentary. Michael, Geoff's wife, travels with him and records all on film.

Today, Geoff writes for several national magazines, currently broadcasts a weekly travel report to Monterey's KION morning show, and does on "location" special travel broadcasts for CRN, the Cable Radio Network.


Latest Posts by Geoff Edwards

Sibling Serenity Canal

May 17, 2012 by  

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My brother says that I have a mad Magellanic need to circumnavigate the world. He is right and I’ve done that twice. Well close to twice, except for that reef off Egypt. “Going All The Way”, an EBook tells that story.

I have been cruising for many years and have been through the Panama Canal more times than I can remember. I write about those trips.

He is a former editor of Cosmopolitan, Parenting, and a contributor to American Photographer, Smithsonian Magazine, and countless other publications. He is the author of several books, and a truly top writer. But, he has yet to set foot on a cruise ship, and the Canal is, in his mind, but a ditch. It’s time to make that right.

We are going together from Los Angeles to New York City on Crystal Cruises newly refurbished Serenity.

We’ll travel together for 17 days in a lovely cabin with a balcony. It’s dubbed a Penthouse Suite. This is, in cruise parlance, a luxury ship.

Truthfully, although we are good friends, we have never spent that long a time together. Certainly, not in “confined” quarters.

Herewith an inside look:

We boarded Crystal Serenity using Crystal’s entirely new boarding procedure. Upon entering the boarding area, hand luggage goes through the scanner and then it’s off to the ship. Once aboard, all the rest is taken care of; seapass, ID photo, and you are set. Quick, easy, and so superior to the mass mess that many other ship lines have to offer.

We have a cabin on Penthouse Deck. Serenity has just recently been through a $25,000,000 rejuvenation, and our cabin reflects money well spent.

A lovely update; not flashy; not overstated, but just warmly lovely. The entire ship is reminiscent of being in a classic French mansion. At least I think it is. I’ve never really been in one.

But as beautiful as Serenity is, the typical cruise problems still pop up. For instance on one page, Reflections, the ship’s daily news of events, etc., says that one needs a reservation for Nobu’s Sushi Bar. On another page it says “first come first served”. And we were set for a table for six at 6:30, the first dining seating. The time 6:30 is on the Crystal website. We were presented with a table for two at the second seating. No real problem, we went to the dining office and got changed to a table for six at 6:00. At last after all these years of cruising I am now accepting that all things may not be as preplanned. I now sleep better.

Last night was the welcome aboard show. I never attend this show on cruise ships…..mostly they are kind of boring. “Hi, are you all having fun???” And on from there.

Last night was different. It was wonderful. As you walked into the theater, there was a female dancer on stage stretching, another looking at a notebook. This went on until actual showtime. At that point, a couple of guys with backpacks came from the audience. Then another, and then it turned into “A Chorus Line”. Amazing dancers and singers. Really amazing. Then the Cruise Director took over.

Our cruise director is Gary Hunter. He is one of the best ventriloquists alive. I met Gary years (and years) ago and we became acquaintances. He has gone from performer on cruise ships to a Cruise Director for Crystal. Of course both of us have grown a bit older. His hair is completely white, but he can still read a book without moving his lips.

After his very energetic talk about the ship and activities, the chorus did a piece from Grand Hotel. Again, top Broadway fare. When the lights went up, the live band played Sing, Sing, Sing, a Benny Goodman piece that featured, at one time, Gene Krupa. It was the first drum solo I learned when I started playing. The drummer in this band was one of the best I’ve heard. I hated him.

Owen and I headed off to the cabin. He read a book in Italian…..I put in my earplugs, put on my eye cover, and off to sleep.

Day One Crystal Serenity Canal

We are at sea and heading for Cabo San Lucas. It is grey and a bit gloomy but I promised Owen that we’d get sun by 2 PM.

We are seven years apart which at younger ages is a big gap. When I was 17 and driving my car in my junior year in High School, he was 10 and we had little in common. We are much closer these days, but are still not the same model.

Both of us head to bed around ten or so at night. I put on the eye-shade and ear plugs. He puts on his cabin reading light (which could illuminate a dark street), and starts to read. Usually he is asleep before me, comfortable in the knowledge that a book is on his lap should he need it. No problem, of course, finding it, the light is still on. Sometime in the night he wakes and extinguishes the light and then himself.

In the morning he wakes at six and goes to the gym, then for a walk and then coffee. I wake at 8:30, sip the coffee he brings to the cabin, and then we both go to breakfast at the Lido. I have no plans to see the gym on this cruise.

We spent our first day checking out Serenity, getting our internet set, and our credit cards registered. At guest services, there is no line marked out by cloth strips. You go there and somehow you’re next. Very nice people behind the counter.

Tonight was formal; we were in dark suits. We headed to table 92 to have dinner and meet our table mates. It was the Captain’s Gala Welcome Aboard Dinner. I had checked out #92 earlier in the day and went right to it. Hmmm, it said #81. Ninety two was against a wall and empty. We sat and then a dining elf told us that this had been #92 at lunch, and our table was actually closer to the lovely view. It was also empty. Our table mates were still at the Captain’s Formal Reception.

Soon they appeared. Two very nice couples; one from Florida and one from Seattle.

They are World Cruisers who have extended through NYC to Iceland, Greenland, and then the Mediterranean. It is so interesting to see how the conversation goes back and forth. They were fascinated by Owen’s Gentleman’s Quarterly writings and experiences. There is a professor on board who lectures on Alfred Hitchcock and he is a favorite of the couples. Owen used to work for George Lucas and has some inside stuff on Hitchcock. Believe me when I tell you they really paid attention to his musings. No one seemed particularly interested in the fact that I played tennis with Clint Eastwood.

Our waiters are excellent. Antoneo from Goa is taking care of my garlic allergy. After I ordered stuffed baby quail, he nodded affirmatively. After a bit, he came back; the chef had told him there was a bit of garlic in the stuffing. I had a very tasty Halibut. On other ships I have asked to avoid garlic, but this the first time it’s really been paid attention to. And, then surprise, surprise, the man on my left also had the same allergy.

Showtime again. Tonight it was Movie Music.

GREAT!! The talent is unbelievably good. All the dancers sing as is usual, however the best dancer didn’t seem to be that into vocalizing. You know how singers in a chorus open their mouths fairly wide to get the best sound. Well this guy didn’t open his mouth very wide and sometimes didn’t seem to try. I found out why. He was born and raised in Siberia. He was a leading dancer in the Academic State Ensemble of the Red Army, then joined the Academic State Folk Dance Company, then got into jazz and hip-hop choreography.

OK, so now here he is and he’s learning English, and trying hard to replace Boris with Dolly when he sings “hello”.

Tara Khaler and John Ellis, the lead singers, are simply the best I’ve seen and heard. Brett Bullock, Crystal’s executive Producer has outdone himself. He has no equal in the cruise entertainment business.

Time for bed and guess what, I miss my wife Michael. Of course because I love her, I miss her, but I can’t find my eye shade. She can always find everything.

Cruises: Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam

March 7, 2012 by  

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We are starting a trip from Fort Lauderdale into the Eastern Caribbean on the Nieuw Amsterdam. This is the newest of Holland America’s ships. We’ll join 2,106 other passengers.

We live in Los Angeles; the ship sails from Fort Lauderdale. For some reason, ubiquitous connections don’t exist.. Miami, no problem, but Fort Lauderdale? You’re sure you want to go there?? Actually, Virgin America makes it easy, but still to be sure to make the ship’s sailing, better plan for an overnight hotel stay.

Our Virgin America crew was friendly, although they only came down the aisle once with complimentary soft drinks plus booze to buy. Not that we had any spare change. $25 per bag, $8.00 to watch a movie. Food to order prices are displayed on the TV. Just press “eat”. No button on the screen says “Can I just have a peanut?”

“Never mind.”, as my Grandmother used to say.

On the plus side, the seat back screen received Dish Network and the ubiquitous moving flight map.

Make no mistake, there is a lot new on the Nieuw Amsterdam, but the cool thing about Holland America is, no matter how new things are, the ship always feels familiar. The bar you liked previously is still there in the same place. The lounge where they serve the goodies at night is a bit bigger, but still looks the same and it’s right where you left it.

Newish?

The flowers; at $10,000 weekly are gorgeous and sprinkled copiously around the ship.

And never mind the Art Auction, just let me take home what’s on the walls.

One noticeable change, prompted I’m sure by the tragic Concordia crash, is the addition to the Lifeboat drill.

“You are required to attend this drill. If you do not, you will not be allowed to sail with us.”

That means if your name doesn’t show up at roll call, believe me, they will seek you out. Don’t think this is an empty threat. Across the pier a passenger on the Westerdam who did not attend their drill was bid goodbye and left on the dock.

I think my idea is simpler. Each attendant at the drill gets a red ticket. No tickee, no eatee.

By the way, there are no muster stations on Nieuw Amsterdam, it’s direct to the lifeboats.

I always look up at the bottom of the boat we at our station are standing under. Then I look around at the group assigned to that boat.

Hard to believe we’ll all fit.

Our first meal on board was in the Manhattan Dining Room. This is a bit more colorful than previous HAL experience, but the red is cheerful.

The only downside, the color screens around the dining area.

They reminded me of a look inside something I don’t want to talk about.

Accompanying an awesome menu is a wait-staff offering attentive and friendly service. I had Cobia with lobster dumplings.

It was perfectly cooked; seared and crispy on the outside, soft and a touch mushy inside. It may have been the best fish I’ve had in a cruise ship dining room.

Nieuw Amsterdam is Chef oriented and their chefs value their reputation. Not to worry.

Nieuw Amsterdam First Day At Sea

We slept past sunrise

(way past) so ordered our breakfast from room service. There was hardly a wait until the knock on the door. Croissants, coffee, and bran muffins on the sun swept balcony with HAL’s private Bahamian island in view made for a lingering morning.

We finally emerged and grabbed lunch at the Terrace Grill.

One of us (guess who) had a lamb burger. New one person poll shows lamb beats cow. Along with traditional treats, the grill also served salmon burgers.

It is interesting that on this big a ship, small improvements pop up.

Checkout the tear off daily schedule with 50 things to do,

and not cups, but coffee mugs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On deck, the music was harmonious not raucous. I loved the stealthy sounds that came from the Kettle Drum.

The pool area is also set up for those under 50 to enjoy.

Dinner was in Italian themed Canaletto. It was a bit tricky finding Canaletto. Basically it’s part of the Lido. It is separated by an adjacent space, but has no entry door.  The food was definitely worth the search. I had an incredible Penne Alla Vodka.

You must try this.

Suddenly, as we were getting ready to order dessert, a large green wisp appeared. Lemoncello cotton candy!

Before:

After:

Do not miss Canaletto.

Nieuw Amsterdam A Day At Sea

Most of the day we sailed along the south side of Cuba.

“The Culinary Arts Center program, presented by Food & Wine magazine, is a groundbreaking program that integrates guests’ love for fine food and wine with an unique and entertaining experience.”

Michael checked out “Three Chefs Demo” and also attended Caribbean Heat.

The Culinary Arts Center Program takes place in a large (200 plus seating) room with a stage, state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen, plus multiple large screens providing close ups of the food preparation.

The classes I attended were only a sampling as there were sometimes three a day hosted by the chefs of the different dining rooms and Laurie, The Party Planner. Provided free of charge they lasted approximately one hour each.

Recipe cards were passed out and at times samples were available for tasting.

Fortunately, the recipes were in cups and ounces vs. grams and pints, except the hugely popular traditional Dutch “Bread Pudding” dessert recipe. But immediately upon arriving home, trusty “Google” at hand, I was able to translate and cook this dish with my granddaughters. I told their mother, with 19 egg yolks, it was healthy. The kids each had three helpings; their dad, two. I, on the other hand, had it every day for lunch aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam.

On the second day of the cruise over 100 guests and I sat comfortably, while at least 4 large screens around the room showed close ups of the 3 chefs-Danny, Jason and Kim as they prepared their signature dishes from their restaurants: Canaletto, Tamarind and the Pinnacle Grill. Laurie, the party planner, acted as moderator while the chefs bantered entertainingly with each other. They must have been as much chosen for their personalities as their cooking skills!

The recipes revolved around 3 main courses: Veal Milanese from Canaletto; Penang Red Curry Coconut Chicken from Tamarind; and Filet Mignon and Shrimp, or famously “Land and Sea” from the Pinnacle Grill.

While 23 different ingredients already measured and chopped for the Curry and Veal dishes make the cooking look easy, someone has got to measure and chop behind the scenes.

That afternoon, I went back for more and watched as Kim, from the Pinnacle Grill, amazed us with Cubano Grilled Pork with Picadillo Olive Salsa.

It seems there is a magic number of over 23 ingredients or more that goes into making each demonstration entertaining, beautiful, delicious, and challenging.

“Best Ever Fish Tacos” cooking class:

Again, at least 25 ingredients necessary, but a smaller audience this time enabling us, with Laurie, the Party Planner, to gather around the cooking surface/work table, and ask questions during the process.

It is fun to see the demonstration unfold as if you are all in your own kitchen. Nothing is written in stone, and if there isn’t an ingredient available, it is either improvised or a substitution is supplied, and great tips learned!

I took a picture of the huge, five pound, bag of Crushed Chili Pepper flakes for Geoff to drool over; he likes it hotter than hot!

Only 2 teaspoons are required for the recipe, however! The ship has a lot of mouths to feed!

Caribbean Heat, “Sofrito Mashed Potatoes” cooking class:

The least amount of ingredients, only 15, but then it is mashed potatoes Since it includes vegetables of red and green bell peppers, sautéed with tomato sauce and cream, technically you don’t need another dish. Only two pans to clean, and looked delicious. I actually would try this at home!

Later, as the sun set, and the skies grayed,

Cuba receded, and we dressed for dinner.

Tonight’s dinner for us was in the Pinnacle Grill, a very upper end restaurant.

The lobster bisque had a slightly unfamiliar taste. It was laced gently with aged cognac.

No wonder it’s smiling.

Crab cakes were wonderful, but I’d hesitate to recommend the Chef’s favorite; lobster mac and cheese.

Each night when we get back to the cabin there is a towel animal displayed. They don’t have the ingenuity of the Carnival creatures; actually they are a bit lame.

But I loved this one.

I named him Ralph.

Georgetown Cayman Islands

This is a familiar stop for us. The US dollar in the Cayman Islands is worth 80 cents. Bargains are scarce. That being said, Nieuw Amsterdam offers tons of shore excursions.

We actually slept through the morning. Nothing lost. We read, wrote, emailed etc. A hint; wireless on all ships is slower than on shore, but leave your cabin door ajar and the speed nearly doubles.

The Pinnacle grill opened its doors to us once again; tonight was the Special Chef’s Dinner. Our seven course meal started with champagne dusted with a touch of Grand Marnier. This apparently smooths the inside of the glass. Something good then happens. I have no idea what, but no guessing that it was effervescent. A nice way to start the evening. And it didn’t count as a course. Those were next.

This is a dinner will take about three hours. When the Chef’s dinner concept began it was eleven courses. As the chefs began to have trouble fitting through the kitchen doors, it dropped to eight. The difficulty in getting Jenny Craig at sea dropped it to seven.

And then it started:

Check out the plates…..$250 each.

Lord knows what the napkin rings go for. I’m surprised the maître de doesn’t pat your pockets on the way out.

Here’s the menu, kind of:

Each course had its own assigned wine.

When we waddled back to our cabin, we both avoided the mirrors.

Nieuw Mahogany Bay

Until Carnival and Jerry Hynds came along to develop it, Mahogany Bay was but a house or two on a bay. Two years and $62,000,000 later it is a cluster of shops, restaurants,

and just a chair lift away,

beachfront.

$12.00 will get you back and forth as many times as you want.

Keeping an eye on all was a German cruise ship.

The stores are lovely, but prices are fixed. A pair of rubber flip flops ran over $50. Michael, shopping for bracelet charms, found the ones on board Nieuw Amsterdam less expensive and much the same or better quality.

What, the Pinnacle Grill again? Yup, but tonight it was New York, New York. The menu was that of one of New York’s most famous restaurants, Le Cirque. Believe me at $25.00 it’s cheaper than the Big Apple. It was incredible and you don’t have to take a taxi to get there.

Nieuw Costa Maya, Mexico

Costa Maya is on the Yucatan Península. What does Yucatan mean in Spanish? Well, nothing. When the Spanish conquistadors asked, “What is the name of this place?”, they of course spoke in Spanish. (Duh; which also means nothing.) The Mayans answered “uhuuthaan”. Which translated means “Listen to the strange way they are speaking.”

A bit ago I was on a ship heading for Costa Maya, Mexico. The windy weather forced an itinerary change. Even this trip the wind delayed our departure.

Oh, and it poured rain. We’ll try again another time. Never mind.

Dinner at Tamarind was a combination of Chinese and Japanese cuisine. I started with a Sushi Rainbow roll

followed by a SPICY chicken curry dish. Tamarind is $15.00.

Save room for dessert. In fact save a whole house. The Chocolate Extravaganza took up the whole pool area.

Micheal’s favorite apples on a stick.

Nieuw Last Day at Sea

The Costa Maya weather is still with us as we sail back to Fort Lauderdale. The ship’s store is having sales and the cruise director is holding his debarkation talk. He is particularly concerned that passengers leave clothes out to wear in the morning. You can’t believe, he says, how many show up at the main desk in their pajamas. Then the request to look to the right and look to the left. Now think about the fact that one in three doesn’t wear pajamas.

Once again I hit the Lido for breakfast. I am sure I will never see such an array of Eggs Benedict anywhere else.

This cruise was mesmerizing. The only way I could keep track of the days was to press the elevator button.

Illusions on the Magic Cruiser & A Whole Lot More…

November 23, 2011 by  

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My colleagues know that I am not a ship show enthusiast, but last night’s poles apart performance is better than any show I’ve seen on any ship. It’s called “Illusions”.

The photo is taken moments after a puff of smoke and an entire helicopter appeared. The old “saw the woman in half” was kind of basic, but then the bottom half of the woman walked around the stage. Nothing I write will begin to illuminate the magic of what happened on that stage last night.

A hint; the doors to the theater open at 10 PM. To get a good seat be at the door at 9:45. There will be a short line.

The doors open, and in you go for that good seat, but, what to do for the half hour until Showtime. If you have an eReader, take it with you to pass the time. It works.

Not an illusion in any sense, but strangely mesmerizing to me is what I call the tub dump. The yellow tub fills and then about every minute it dumps!

I love the whole idea of this, and it just keeps on keepin’ on.

The whole water area is a kid’s haven. Carnival for years has had a wonderful children’s program but this takes the top award.

 

Adults have the spa.

Never mind a Jacuzzi, the effervescent pool works just fine, thank you.

Ok, children are all around, music playing, people dancing, water splashing, so where to hide? Look for this sign.

This may be the coolest warm spot on the ship.

Just think while you are unwinding, others are working hard to generate the power

for the bubbles in the tub.

Want water and some company. Dangle your feet.

Or stand in a pool.

Or if you really want to get soaked.

Also there’s Texas hold em, and then there’s Texas touch them

As you may guess, a ride down the big slide may well leave you dizzy and not sure which way to go. No hay problemo…just read.

Last night I had dinner in Cucina del Capitano.

This is a lovely restaurant with some great Italian food, plus some of “Grandma’s Recipes”. Our server was from Romania and smiled as she eased me through avoiding garlic. (weird allergy). I would pick what I wanted and she’d go to the chef and check. She then would come back with suggestions. Back to the chef. Suggestions narrowing down. Hooray for salmon and buttered pasta.

The Italian wine was in lovely bottles,

but poured from a barrel.

I think it’s important to have a fair amount of wine so you’ll be prepared when the staff sings and dances to “That’s Amore”.

But no pictures please.

We now leave Progreso for Cozumel. The question on many passengers minds is did the thruster that pushes us away from the dock get fixed. We report, you decide.

Night, night.

Cozumel Mexico Via Cruise: Lamb Chops, Ahi Tartare, Chocolate…

November 20, 2011 by  

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Ahhh, the Prime Steakhouse. How do you want your meat cooked? The chefs are exact.

You say rare, and they do it rare.

The atmosphere is quite intimate, but the lighting is not photogenic.

I started with ahi tartare, then Lamb Chops, and THEN chocolate.

A morning pull of the drapes and we are in Cozumel.

Seven ships are in port today, and those only the ones I can see.

Figure from 15 to 20 thousand passengers hitting the shops. For most wants, the pier stores will provide. If you go into town, the merchants will be more persuasive and may get on your nerves. Most tourists think with the amount of people buying, negotiating will be a wasted effort. Not so. Remember, at the moment you are the customer; the merchant wants an on the spot sale like now. Bargain!

I have no idea how many VW taxis are in Cozumel, there must be hundreds, but this is must more fun.

On Magic, inspection is an every day duty.

 

By the way, talking about inspection this ship got 100% perfect before we sailed.

Not all left the ship for town. The splash area still dumped water on one and all.

There is a lookout stationed at the bottom of the slides. He radios when the slider splashes down to let the top sentry know the next can get in the tube.

Deck service is prompt and the Carnival marketing team has come up with a unique drink container.

Some caught up on the news and weather on the big screen which features movies at night. One thing I’ve noticed is a number of people paste or hang things on their cabin door. It’s kind of fun to see what’s along the hall, nevertheless, I wonder if its not so much a want for decoration, but a way of location where they live.

I’ve tried hard to find something to whine about on Magic. It’s the sovereign duty of a travel writer to tell about the bad as well as the good. I finally did.

At the beginning of each cruise, Carnival provides tooth paste, body wash, deodorant, etc. all are samples of retail products. On Magic there are about 8 or 9 different items. Included is a small plastic envelope of Q-tips; not a retail sample. They are not full size and “Q” is probably too far along in the alphabet to properly describe them.

When they were used up, I asked my room steward Ovi for a replacement envelope.

“I can’t give them to you. You have to buy them at the store.”

OK, I tried that and couldn’t find any Q-Tips.

As we docked in Cozumel, I asked Ovi again, making it clear, that I really wanted them and he should get them for me.

“You get them first day and no more.” Ovi emphasized.

I went off a bit and doubted that Carnival was so frugal that they couldn’t part with another envelope of 6 mini-tips.

Ovi, scowling, pulled out his phone.

“I’ll have to make a call.”

When I returned to my cleaned cabin there was a tray of goods,

but no Q-tips.

Oh no, here I had been overly stern with Ovi, and it was a miscommunication. I found him, apologized profusely, and explained to him what I meant. I gestured showing cotton at two ends connected by a skinny thingy.

“Yes”, Ovi said, “Q-tips. They won’t let me have any.”

OK, I mean, with the amount Carnival buys, those must cost a few pennies. But factor this in.

A Margarita on the rocks costs $10.06. But, of course, that includes salt.

Finally I got a chance to get to the Punchliner comedy club. It was the early show, open to all, including children. Out came John Wesley Austin and blew me away.

Charming, funny, kids and parents and me laughing. Except for the woman next to me. Not even a smile. She probably thought it was supposed to be the art auction.

The Carnival Magic is an amazing ship. Next is the Destiny, amazing plus. When you compare cruise prices, and what you get for your money, there is an easy choice. Carnival Magic.

 

Fun in Galveston Texas, Especially When You Arrive on Carnival’s New Ship MAGIC

November 20, 2011 by  

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There are two incentives to make this trip. Galveston Texas is a fascinating small city, and Carnival’s new ship, Magic soon starts sailing from there with me aboard.

I booked air to Houston on Southwest. This is the first time for me on this ubiquitous airline, and I’ll be happy to take it again. Here’s a hint if you fly Southwest: for ten bucks you can be first to board in section “A” and you can also check in online 12 hours before “the others”. Be sure to check www.seatguru.com to see the best place to plunk.

The flight to Houston was smooth, on time, and goodies were distributed, and two bags; no charge.

The drive to Galveston is about 45 minutes, with lots of Texas space, some taken up by the Space Center. (sorry). Then Galveston. As I approached, I couldn’t help but notice the out lying homes build on pylons to escape flooding waters from hurricanes.

After the big storm in the late eighteen hundreds, the worst natural disaster in history, an immense seawall was erected

and Galveston also raised the level of the ocean facing part of the island. Yup, raised it. But, Ike came a few years ago and frustrated by all this, Ike’s water was forced into the bay, and, yes, the lower part of Galveston got very damp.

The salt water killed the roots of most of the island’s Oak trees, but hey this is Galveston. The wood from removed dead oaks has been made into lovely bowls, and some of the still standing dead remains, cut to about 6 feet tall have been beautifully carved.

Galveston has mansions built over a hundred years ago….

and more recent less sedate homes.

I stayed at Hotel Galvez which is across the road from the beach and just hit the century mark.

 

It is rumored to be haunted, especially on the 5th floor. My room was on the fifth floor. I was, of course, not concerned, but late at night I heard a barely audible moaning. It was a woman’s voice. My pulse doubled and I thought “Wow, it’s true”. Then I remembered the huge wedding party in the hotel earlier. Oh well.

There are many things to see and do in Galveston. My favorite, especially for families, was the Schlitterbahn Waterpark. Slides,

And, you can ride the waves…..

and river raft.

When you sail Carnival from Galveston, be sure and spend a couple of days in this great community. Be sure to eat at Rudy and Pacos. www.rudyandpacos.com.

The Magic is in town! The new ship holds 3690 passengers. A full cruise, but we plan to experience Gala night, which is when half of Texas gets to explore the ship, eat, and overnight. The booze was free for all. Late at night some staggered down the passageways putting their card keys into slot after slot.

“What was our cabin number?”

“I told you to write it down.”

“Are you sure this is our deck?”

“I’m not feeling well.”

Talking about keys in the slot, when I entered my cabin.

 

I couldn’t get my lights on. I pushed button after button. Frustrated, I pushed a button with a little green light on it really hard. It went into the wall. The green light went out, but no other light turned on. Wait, what’s this slot? Ahh, slide your key into it and lights on! Whee ha. Take your key when you leave and lights off. Brilliant energy saver. (Just thinking, is brilliant the right word, I mean the lights go out. Perhaps clever?)

I’m eating with the press group in the Northern Lights restaurant. Unlike most Carnival ahipa, although bright and flashy,  the slightly weird and Joe Farcus are gone.

 

Taking That Cruise: Carnival Magic Experience

November 18, 2011 by  

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The Carnival Magic is full. A bit over 3,700 passengers fill this ship. Think about this; if only half the passengers bring two bags, that is 5550 hunks of luggage.

It seems the new Carnival Magic has an eatery every ten feet. There’s pizza,

Mongolian Wok,

a deli, and on and on. The Southern Lights and the Northern Lights are the main dining rooms.

Last night we had a lovely server from Serbia. I ordered Minestrone, Alligator Fritters (don’t ask), and Chile Rellenos. First came the fritters, then the Rellenos. But where’s the soup? When Alexi brought my main course, I asked about the soup. She blanched, then blushed, and apologized profusely.

“All is cool.” I said, “Just bring it now and I’ll have it with the Rellenos.”

Heading for the kitchen, she apologized again, and again, and again. I finished the Rellenos. No soup. More wine was poured, more bread came, no soup.

To tell the truth, I was now stuffed; not even room for dessert.

Here’s the soup! She apologized again, and again, and again.

Now what to do? Obviously I had to eat the soup or she’d think I was sulking or angry with her. Every spoonful a major effort. I won’t be able to slurp another bowl of Minestrone for months. The good news is Alexi and I are now friends

Oh, and the alligator fritters were great.

.

I can’t wait for my next meal.

Magic is scheduled to leave Galveston, spend two days at sea, next Costa Maya, then Cozumel, a day at sea, and home we go. Make “is” was. Apparently, we’ve got a thruster not thrusting. A thruster is a small jet that helps the ship cuddle carefully to the dock. A woman thought thruster was a dance step.

So instead of Costa Maya, we’re in Progreso on the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula for two days. Divers will work on the thruster. We’re next to the Carnival Elation.

The small town of Progreso is being invaded by 6000 people.

 

 

According to the table talk last night, the Progreso beach massage is a big draw.

Many will bus to Merida, a lovely town famous for its colonial architecture. While in Merida I came across this painting.

It, I am sure, depicts the discovery of ethanol.

Some lucky ones will head to Chichen-Itza, the extraordinary Mayan ruins depicted in the Mel Gibson movie. The ruins are close enough for a 7 hour tour. The price, an inexpensive $69.95.

Meanwhile, on board, a unique spot to eat and have a beer is the new Red Rock Café.

Many brands of beer are featured,

but if you want a tall one, Carnival’s Red Rock is goooooood.The café also serves conch fritters, shrimp things, and other goodies. Magic will have Jamaica as part of its new itinerary, so the spicy sauces are from Jamaica.

They are hot, mon. I don’t remember finding these in our grocery store. If you like yours hot with flavor, take home the one featuring “Jamaican peppers”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gunfight at Mexican Shopping Centre: Now What?

November 2, 2011 by  

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Hundreds of people cowered for about two hours inside a shopping mall in this resort town Saturday while security forces traded sporadic gunfire with armed men in the parking lot and then searched stores for suspects.

No one was injured in the gun battle, and arrests were made, but hey, a shopping center?

Mexican tourist authorities have been yammering for weeks about how safe “tourist cities” are, and Cabo has never been a dangerous area. But hey, a shopping center.

What do the cruise lines do now? Mexican Riviera cruises are already feeling the Mexican malaise. Even now they no longer go to Mazatlan, and are getting nervous about Acapulco. (I will no longer get off the ship in Acapulco).

Or maybe they’ll feel safe knowing tourists are protected by the Mexican military.

Buena Suerte! 

Carnival Splendor Sails Again

February 28, 2011 by  

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It was unexpected, and as it turns out, unprecedented. One of Splendor’s diesel generators caught fire and within seconds the heat melted the above wiring thought safe, behind heavy insulation. All electrical power . . .  gone. Ship motionless. 3,299 passengers and 1,167 crew members without air conditioning, hot food. A diesel generator catching fire was the last thing any sailor would expect.

A special committee has been formed to try to find out how something like this could happen, and how to make sure it never happens again. The committee has air conditioning.

Major repairs were done in SFO. Parts had to be manufactured. A 218,000 lb. generator, two 106,000 alternators, came by plane. Added to that, believe it or not, 110 MILES of electrical cable was installed. More than enough to get a green car to your job and back.

Workers were at it 24 hours a day for three months, trying to get Splendor back in service.

Well, she’s back. Splendor sails roundtrip to the Mexican Riviera visiting Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas. Oops, for the moment let’s make that two days in Cabo and none in Mazatlan. Just after Splendor left for the Riviera, a shooting occurred in the Gold Zone shopping district.

Although no tourist was involved, the Gold Zone is a magnet for tourists. Great beaches, first-class hotels, good restaurants, and everyone speaks English. Jewelry shops are omnipresent. I had a lovely ring made there, but have second thoughts about going again. Nevertheless, the spectacular bargains in silver have my wife thinking about getting  a flack vest for our next trip.

Will Carnival decide to visit Mazatlan again? No se.

But visit or not there is nothing like a Carnival ship.

Splendor is aptly named.

Prior to her sailing, I had a dinner in one of her “standard” restaurants. Raves from the table. For most it was the best pasta carbonarra ever ingested. I had roast duck breast . . . unsurpassed. And the soup on any Carnival ship gets a top slurp award. Not to mention the hot lava chocolate fudge cake!

Even if Splendor just roamed around at sea, you would be getting the best value afloat. Just think how much you’ll save so you’ll be able to frolic at Senor Frogs.

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