Vista Public Spaces…continued

I forgot to mention earlier that I needed to break my tour of Vista up into different posts because there are so many photos. I got all the rest into this post, but it may take a few minutes to load, so read slowly.

BTW: There are no public areas on decks 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11. Those are all staterooms, and there are even some more staterooms on the forward area of deck 12. And, of course, due to silly superstition, there is no Deck 13.

Deck 12–eating and swimming—all in one place

Deck 12 is basically broken up into three parts—those staterooms that are forward, the swimming pool area midships and three food choices in the aft section. I am not going to say much about the pool. Not only did we not use it on this cruise, but no one really did until the last two days or so; it was just too cold or rainy. But I did get some pictures of the pool and the surrounding area.

Headed back on the starboard side from the pool, you walk right into the Waves Grille. On the opposite side is the brand new (not on any other Oceania ship) Aquamar Cafe. We loved both spaces, but on our last sea day, we noticed something that may be a problem in both places. That last day, when we finally got into warmer temps, we suddenly realized that both venues are open to the outside with no way to air-condition them adequately. We had lunch (a lot of times) at the Aquamar, and that day, it was hot and humid—no AC. After lunch that day, we wandered over to the grille—same problem. When we were in colder weather, they had heaters in the ceilings that kept everyone toasty. But when it got hot and humid, there are no fans or AC that can keep up with the fact that the place is wide open to the outside air. In the Caribbean, this may be a BIG problem.

And finally, the Terrace Cafe or, as it is well known…the buffet. It was a very nice buffet. Well-designed, with really nice tables, and it included an outdoor area that was really only used on the last two days of the cruise because it was cold out there. We wish there had been more tables that would fit the seven of us (there were only two), but sometimes there were only six, and there were a few more of those.

Deck 14–Eat it on 14

One of our favorite places on the ship was on Deck 14, where Kathleen and I had breakfast almost every day—Baristas. The incredible Massimo presided over a wonderful coffee bar, and within two days, he got to know our coffee order and where we were sitting. It’s a really nice space, and I know I took photos of it, but darned if I can find them. If I dig them up, I promise to post them.

But I do have photos of other spaces on Deck four, including both of the specialty restaurants located on the aft end of the deck. We ate in both Polor and in Toscana, and the decor and wrap-around windows made both rooms a joy to visit.

Just in front of Toscana was a truly beautiful and much larger-than-expected library. They had some really great. books, tons of games and very nice places to sit. I spent a little bit of time there because they had some great books on travel photography.

At the front end of the ship were a variety of smaller rooms and the really wonderfully large Horizons Lounge. You find this type of forward-facing lounge on most ships, but this one had a lot more real estate for a smaller ship like Vista. It was a good place for cocktails, especially when entering or leaving a port, but our last night in NYC it was a madhouse because the Captain was nice enough to buy everyone complimentary cocktails while we sailed down the Hudson. The place was JAMMED! So it can get crowded. It can also be loud and conversation-stifling because starting at 5:45, the ship’s band made dance music (very few people danced—never saw more than six or eight couples), and if you weren’t seated all the way on the other side of the lounge, it again became impossible to hear anyone who wasn’t whispering in your ear.

On your way into Horizons from the stairs or elevator, you pass a number of small rooms housing the Culinary Center (took a cooking class here), the Smoking Lounge (one of the nicest places on the ship???), the Lync Digital classroom/meeting room (you could go there to take a class or for internet help and they also used it for meetings) and the Artists Loft (where you could take an art class).

Deck 15–Lost it on 15

I’m just going to run through these from bow to stern. Upfront, the spa is the star. Didn’t use it or the gym or the Aquamar Spa pool, steam rooms or hot tubs…but I did take their pictures so you would know what is available.

Also, on Deck 15 aft, there is a one-tenth-of-a-mile running/walk track (I spent a lot of time here), a shuffleboard on the starboard side and a bocce court on the port side. My one complaint about this deck was that they closed it too often for winds. If you are going to have a deck, you have to keep closing due to wind, but some kind of wind barrier up. My guess is that on the sea days (when I needed it for exercise) it was closed four out of five days.

Deck 16–A little more activity

Deck 16 only exists on the front of the ship. It is another outdoor activity space that gets closed when the weather is windy. You can find pickleball, miniature golf, a golf-simulator and cornhole.

Whew! That does it. The grand tour of a grand ship. Hope you enjoyed it. It’s funny that this one took longer to organize than any other post. So many great places. Vista is a classy, new ship. When I do my final review tomorrow, I will mention the few things we really did not like about her.

You can find tranquility, you can find party, you can find new friends. I’m a cruise convert.  —Guy Fieri

 

 

Let’s look at Vista: Decks 5 & 6

We are home, and I am sitting in our living room after a very late flight, a good ride home with Century Car Service of Seattle and a fairly decent night of sleep. So, as promised, I am bringing you (between taking a walk, helping Kathleen with loads of laundry and sorting through our mail) my virtual tour of Vista with my comments on the different parts of the ship.

Going up! Let’s start on Deck 5

Unlike any ship we have ever been on before, Vista started with public decks on deck five (there is the infirmary on four). Most ships start at two, three or at least four, but Vista starts on five. And only about half of deck five, is open to passengers. Starting from the very front, there’s the Vista Lounge, Vista’s main showroom. I would love to say that I saw a bunch of shows there, but sadly I didn’t. If you want to read about the shows, make sure and check out my buddy Mike’s review in a few weeks. He saw them all. I saw one—a hilarious comedian—Cory Kahaney. We had seen her on an old show called Last Comic Standing and truly enjoyed her, so I joined Mike and Cathy at the show.

BTW: The reason I don’t attend shows is not because we don’t like shows. It used to be (on Celebrity) that we stopped going to shows because we had seen them all after so many cruises on the same line. We stopped going because, in case you can’t tell from the description on my photos, I get up REALLY early to take photos and to write posts REALLY early, like 4:30 a.m. (See what I give up for you my readers 🤪) So, by the time it rolls around to show time (usually 9:15 or 9:30), I am out of it. Cory’s performance was hilarious, and I really wanted to go back when she did her second show a few days later; I was wiped out and had to skip it. I should also say that I did attend some of the lectures by our two excellent enrichment speakers held in this lounge.

The Vista Lounge is a nice theater, but it needs more height. If you are at all of a diminutive stature (short 😁) then you will be moving your head from side to side to see anyone on the stage. Part of this is due to Vista’s size. On most cruise ships, the theater is much larger, but on Vista, they don’t need the large number of seats that a 6,000-passenger ship needs. There is nothing that can be done about it, but this is just a heads-up. Here are some pics. For all of these shots, feel free to look at them on your phone. Nothing artsy here. Don’t forget; if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping.

Shops and Customer Service

Also, on Deck 5, you will find the Oceania Shops and a reception desk, a concierge desk and a Destinations desk (shore excursions) midships. Not being a big shopper, we walked through these once, just for me to get photos. And I only had to visit the reception desk once. And I almost forgot, these shops and desks are placed all around the grand staircase in the Atrium, where there is a beautiful glass sculpture. Here are some pics.

Two specialty restaurants

I am going to review the dinners we had at these two restaurants in an upcoming post on food. But I did want to show them to you. Vista has four such restaurants, and deck four has Red Ginger (Asian food) and a new restaurant to the Oceania fleet—Ember. (We heard it referred to as this shipboard version of Applebees.) Either way, here are some pics.

Going to Deck Six—climb the stairs–the elevators suck

Before I go on to Deck Six, I want to take a moment to talk about the elevators. There aren’t enough, the ones they have aren’t big enough, and many of the people on them are beyond rude.

First, let me say that other than walking on with carry-on luggage at embarkation, I NEVER take an elevator on a cruise. But Kathleen does, and she encountered so many problems she reminded me that I had to mention them.

First, there are only two elevator banks on Vista. One aft (nearest our stateroom) with two full-size elevators and the other at midships with four elevators. Of those four, two are full-size elevators, and two are small, oddly shaped glass elevators that hold fewer people. Just about every day, at times when people would be moving around (usually meals or before shows), those elevators were slammed. Going to lunch in the Aquamar Cafe on Deck 12, I would leave her at deck nine and climb the stairs. Many, MANY times, I would climb the stairs to deck 12 and have to stand and wait for 5-10 minutes for her to arrive. It was even worse at the dinner or cocktail hour. It got REALLY horrible when one of the elevators would go down. This is ridiculous on a six-month-old ship. By now, they should have fixed any problems and they can’t chalk it up to the ship being old.

At disembarkation, I had to carry my carry-on and my 35lb computer/camera down a flight of stairs because one of the aft elevators was out…during disembarkation—when people are trying to get down to get off—are you kidding me? Every floor had at least six to eight people waiting to get on an elevator. And many of these people were elderly or handicapped.

Deck 6—you got here—let’s eat and drink.

Deck 5 had started at the bow and went back to the Atrium. Deck six starts at the Atrium and goes to the stern. Basically, decks five and six are one deck. This is because the theater on deck five needs more space above the theater, and when you enter the Great Dining Room (GDR) at the stern, you walk down into the room. That gives the GDR some very nice high ceilings.

Starting from the Atrium, you have the Oceania Club (people who have sailed with Oceania before) and future cruise sales. This sits right above the Atrium. If you are interested in purchasing a future cruise, please keep in mind that there are only two reps selling them (they give you GREAT incentives for booking on board), and that means a lot of waiting. They also have limited hours because they have so much paperwork, so be cognizant of that when you are planning your time. Sea days are the worst—big lines.

Moving aft, you run into Martinis, a very nice lounge—especially early in the morning—this is where I did most of my writing and photo processing between 4:30 and 7:00 a.m. We only went there for drinks once or twice because of the live music they play that makes conversation almost impossible. Otherwise, it is a very nice lounge. Here are some pics.

Further on beyond Martinis is a long hallway with a beautiful floor that runs on the outside of the casino. We are not casino people, so the only time we walked through was when I was taking photos. I did walk by a few times when it was open, and since the wall between the hallway and the casino is glass, I could tell that things were hopping and people seemed to be really enjoying themselves.

Further down that hallway, you walk into the Grand Lounge, which is really just a long, wide room leading to the Grand Dining Room, where they serve you drinks prior to dinner. It is also where the wonderful classical string quartet plays every night. We had cocktails here a few times (which were great), but this, too, was not a place where we could converse. The quartet were excellent musicians, and the people who were there to hear them deserved to be able to hear them and not us talking, so we continued to search for a place where we could have a nice cocktail and talk.

On the other side of the ship from the Grand Lounge, in a much smaller space (with a VERY low ceiling, as my brother found out), is the Founder’s Bar. This was the place for truly special cocktails. The kind that cost a bunch but are often smoky (with real smoke). But this one didn’t work for us because there were only tables for two. It’s a kind of an out-of-the-way bar, and their main job is providing the cocktails for the Grand Lounge.

And lastly, at the stern is the aforementioned Grand Dining Room. This room is drop-dead beautiful. It is everything I like in a dining room, lots of space but divided into smaller spaces. It reminded me of a nice restaurant instead of a banquet hall. My only quibble with the design was that the only two tables we ever had dinner at were in the corners with no windows. When I go on a cruise, I want to see the ocean. More about this in my final round-up but I will say that this dining room is beautiful. Here’s my final set of pics for this page.

 

Disembarkation…Warnings, Thunder, Lightning & More

I am waiting at the airport and thought I would do two things. I want to drop you a photo of one of the most magnificent sunsets I have ever seen (taken last night at sea off Florida from the 14th deck).

Disembarkation

We did all the usual stuff: Put our luggage out the night before, kept clothes and carryons to get off with, had breakfast in Baristas, told Massimo goodbye, packed up and got out of our stateroom by 8:00.

Disembarkation from the ship was a little delayed. The first people were not allowed off until 7:45, so please take that as a warning if you think you will just be able to walk off to catch an early flight. We got off with the first group.

From that point on, we split into two groups. Mike and Cathy were driving home to Wellington (just 40 miles or so north), and I needed a ride to the Avis office to get a rental car for the day. Mike, Cathy and I were some of the first to exit under a covered awning and then into an air-conditioned room warehouse-like room where all the luggage was located. We got their luggage (Kathleen, Jamie and Steve would get ours when they got off), and we were on our way. Their driver met us right outside the building, and we didn’t get too wet getting in.

I talked them (and their driver) into taking me the two miles (as the crow flies) but nine miles (as the car drives), which was awesome of them. We had a heck of a time finding it because our driver was only letting his phone show written directions and not a map. We came very close to hitting a median barrier head on. It was about as scared as I have been while driving in a while. But we did finally get there.

People had warned me about this particular Avis office. That they would not start their shuttle to the port until 9:00 am (when you have to be off the ship) or that they would not have cars ready when you got there, no matter when you reserved them. I was hoping this would not be the case with me, but alas, it was. I was the first customer in the door at 8:00 a.m. when they opened. The lady at the desk said that they were cleaning my car and that I would have to wait. We had reserved a Chevy Suburban because there were five of us with all our luggage, and when I came in, I had seen a white Suburban about a block away in their parking lot.

Did I forget to mention that when we got up this morning on the ship, there was a light rain, and it was 85 degrees? And that as soon as we left the ship, the heavens opened up and literally dumped water. Thunder, lightning and the equivalent of a firehose of water. So, getting from Mike and Cathy’s ride to the Avis counter left me soaked to the skin.

Inside the agency, I was told to have a seat. There were four chairs and room for about eight other people to stand, and by the time I left (25 minutes later) the place was full. Not sure what was going to happen when their 9:15 shuttle arrived.

In the meantime, while waiting, I was watching the white Suburban out the window. No one was cleaning it, or anywhere near it, so I kind of assumed it was not my car. Wrong again. After seeing it sitting there with nothing being done to it, my name was called, and I was told that it was my car. Since it was still POURING, I asked if they could possibly pull it up to the office for me so I didn’t have to get the two bags I had with me (and myself) totally soaked. I was told (by the three people working there—doing nothing) that I should just walk the block…which I did, getting myself and my bags thoroughly soaked. I mean, I looked like a wet dog who had been walking in Seattle rain for at least an hour.

And when I got to the car, I could not figure out how to open it. I got the front door open but not the rear cargo area. I knew it was on my key fob, but I couldn’t see through the water on my glasses which little icon it was—I finally got it figured out and got into the car to try and figure out the car’s systems. It was at this point that I wished I had paid better attention in high school Spanish because all the controls on the cars were programmed in Spanish, and I was darned if I could figure out how to change them back to English. In the meantime, 9:00 am had rolled around, so I needed to get back to pick up Kathleen, Jocelyn, Steve and Jamie at the ship. So I had to use my phone to navigate, and I was back in front of the cruise port within about 20 minutes…just as they were walking off. They jumped in the car, and we were off.

Off to where? Originally, we had wanted to do a Miami tour because all of us were leaving in the late afternoon. But at the last minute, Steve and Jamie’s flight got moved way up (it’s 3:30, and they are already in the air), but ours didn’t. That’s why I rented a car. I also found a Miami driving tour app that did a nice 1.5-hour tour of Miami with narration and GPS. It worked fairly well, but it still needs improvement. When we were done with the tour, it was time to drop Jamie and Steve at the Fort Lauderdale airport. Once we had them off to airplane land, we headed into downtown Fort Lauderdale to grab lunch. We found a great Mexican place downtown—El CaminoGive it a try if you are downtown, but remember, the portions are enormous.

And that led us back to where we are now, Fort Lauderdale airport at 4:30 p.m., waiting for our 5:40 p.m. Alaska Air flight. We will get back tonight around 9:00 PST (which will be midnight based on when we got up), and then we have about an hour ride home. Whew. I am tired just thinking about the six-hour flight coming up. Thank goodness we are in First Class. And thank goodness we are heading home. See you tomorrow with a ship tour in photos, provided I get out of bed. Otherwise, it might be Monday.

Oh, and we have all decided it was basically a great cruise and a great trip, no matter how many rental car snafus there were🤣 .

Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.  —Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

 

 

Charleston: Bad Bread On My Great Sandwich

Let me explain the headline here. Imagine my day yesterday was a sandwich with moldy bread but a great piece of BBQ brisket in the middle. That was my day in Charleston.

When I finished writing up yesterday’s post to finalize NYC, I headed upstairs, and while Kathleen was in the shower, I heard what I believed to be the pilot boat outside our verandah. So I grabbed my camera and went out to shoot photos. What I saw might have been a harbinger of what our day would be like—two tugboats—actually pushing and pulling the ship. In all our years of cruising, I have never seen the wind so bad that it took two tugboats (one pushing, one pulling) and the ship’s thrusters to get us on the dock. Added to that bad wind was driving rain. And I was going to go out and walk in that as soon as we docked.

Here was our plan at that point. I had rented a mini-van from Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Their office was 1.9 miles from the cruise terminal. I was going to take a walk with my camera on a beautiful sunny day, get the car, and then come back and pick everyone else up for a day of planned activities. Then, at the end of the day, I would drop everyone off, return the car and walk back to the ship.

Problem one: It was not a beautiful, sunny day. The rain was coming down sideways, and the wind was at (according to the ship’s info on our TV) 34 knots. But I had a job to do, and I was going to do it. So I grabbed the big golf umbrella that Oceania puts in every stateroom, and I headed out to go get the car. The walk was not pleasant. The umbrella reversed itself in the wind about every 10 steps until I got away from the port, where I was better protected from the wind. By the time I got less than 500 yards from the ship, I was pretty much soaked from the waist down. The spray from cars going by hitting big puddles didn’t help either. But I mustered on. And after a long, wet, dreary slog, I got to the car rental place. Except the sign at right is what I found.

I had made the rental car reservation with Enterprise in February when Mike and I were planning excursions. We each took some ports, and I had taken Charleston because we had been here before and loved the city. In all the time since April 28th, when the sign in the window states that this office closed…permanently, you would have thought that Enterprise would have bothered to let me know this pretty important fact? Did they? NO! In fact, they had sent me an e-mail reminder about my rental two days prior showing this address. In fact, if you go online to Enterprise right now, you can still book a car at this address. WTH???

To say I was upset with Enterprise at this point was probably one of the biggest understatments of this century. I was screaming, cursing, soaking wet, standing in front of a closed store. So I call the number on the sign. I was put on hold by their automated system for five minutes and then told that their voicemail was full and hung up on. Did this three times before I finally decided to call their 800 number, which put me in touch with another Enterprise agency about a 20-minute drive away from where I was. Notice I said drive.

At this point, I have to give this Enterprise agency (they are a franchise) full credit. Their manager jumped in and sent an Uber for me, got me to her store, had the car I had reserved ready and waiting and had me on my way back (a 30-minute drive) to the ship in no time. By now, it has been almost two hours since I set out, and I am just getting back to pick up the rest of the gang—minus Kathleen, who had caught Jocelyn’s cold—and get started on our day.

Our original plan had been for me to drive the group downtown, where we would grab a horse-drawn surrey and take the tour around the older parts of the city and the waterfront. Not only had we lost the time to do this, but the horse-drawn surreys were covered to protect people from the sun, but those covers would do nothing to stop us from getting soaked by the wind-driven, sideways-falling rain. So we bagged that idea, and I drove the group around the old section of town that Kathleen and I had visited in 2016.

Our plan for the day continued with an early lunch at Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ. When I was here in 2016 to teach a workshop, I met James Roller, a great guy who owns and runs a website called DestinationBBQ.com. He is something of an authority on the vinegar-based BBQ that is all around this state. I asked him then what BBQ place was the best in Charleston, and he said, “Hands down, it’s Rodney Scott Whole Hog BBQ.” So I went and tried it, and he was right! I mean, this place has a James Beard award for BBQ. That has to say something. And I love going to eat someplace that someone tells me is the best, and it is. So, when I came back with friends to Charleston, I had to take them there. If you go, and you eat meat, you should go there too.

We had the MOST amazing lunch. To me, this lunch was the best thing I ate on the entire trip. Or at least it tied with our meal in Toscana (on the ship) for the best meal. It was so good I have to describe it to you. I ordered the two-meat combo, and the two meats I chose were the “whole hog” and the brisket. Each order comes with two sides and a slab of cornbread. I got the collared greens and the onion rings. Topped that off with a local IPA, and I was in HOG HEAVEN! The meat was melt-in-your-mouth, and the sides were perfect. If you are ever in Charleston, this should be your one must-eat place…unless you happen to be a vegan.

Our next stop was a drive out of town to the Magnolia Plantation. We had booked three different 45-minute tours there in advance. The first started at 1:00 p.m., and we arrived right on time. The first tour is entitled Slavery to Freedom. We met up with our guide for this tour, the wonderful Vanessa (who had recently moved here from Seattle), and she shared with us the life of slaves on the Magnolia Plantation from the mid-1600s through the present day. I am ashamed I did not get a photo of Melissa, but my buddy Mike did, and I will let you know when his review comes online in about three weeks or so. That way, you can see what she (and the other guides I forgot to take photos of) look like. Her tour was definitely the best of the day as she did a presentation, and then we toured four historical slave/free man quarters. See my photos below.

From there, it was on to our tour of the plantation house. The photo of the outside of the house is here because we weren’t allowed to take photos inside. Our tour guide was Millie, and again, you will have to wait for Mike’s review to see what she looks like. (BTW: I will post the link when Mike’s review is done, so you if follow me, you will get it when it is ready.) It was a very nice tour, and Millie (a retired teacher) was an excellent guide. The house is very nice.

Our last tour started just outside the house when we boarded a tram and were taken on a tour of the grounds to see how they farmed rice in the 1850s when the plantation was in full production. It was a nice tour, but since the driver who did the tour was two cars in front of us, I never got his name. This tour was just “fine,” and we all decided that if we were to do the tours again, we would skip this one. It’s just not enough to see beyond some swamp and some far-away baby alligators.

At this point, our plan was that I would drive the rest of the crowd back to either downtown or the ship, and then I would go and return the car and walk back. Well, you know I couldn’t walk back. This presented another problem. We were 28 minutes from the ship, the rental car return was 25 minutes from the ship, and I needed to have the car back by 5:00. We left the plantation at 3:55. YIKES! Not only that, but if I got the car back by 5:00, they would give me a ride back to the ship. After that time, they would be closed, and I would be on my own. Needless to say, it was one of the longest, most stressful drives of my life. I did get the group back to the ship, knowing full well that I was going to have to turn around and go back out to the rental agency. And as we drove to the ship, we just happened to notice that the road I had to drive back out on was SLAMMED WITH TRAFFIC! I was not in a good place. The ship wasn’t sailing until 6:30, but I was beginning to doubt I would be able to get back in time. I was sure I would never get back to the rental agency by 5:00, so I would be on my own to find an Uber to bring me back to the ship. While waiting at a light on the way back, I checked, and the nearest Uber could not even get to the agency to pick me up for 45 minutes, and the ride would cost (surge pricing at rush hour) $64.

But thanks to the Apple Maps app that routed me around all the traffic on some back country roads that made me think I was lost the entire time, I made it to the agency at 4:58. They had their van going out with the incredible Linda driving it, so she took me back to the ship. And she even found a way to get me back on board by 5:45. She is my Charleston hero. I was sure I was going to have to call my friend who lives in nearby Mount Pleasant and get him to let me spend the night and then fly to Miami today. Thank goodness that didn’t happen.

So now you can see why I said yesterday was like a moldy bread sandwich with great filler in between. Our lunch and tour were excellent, but getting there and getting back were not.

With all of this going on, I did manage to get some pics so here they are. Don’t forget; if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…

That about covers one of the MOST STRESSFUL DAYS of travel I have ever not had the pleasure to experience. Loved the lunch, liked the plantation, and I will NEVER rent from Enterprise Rental Cars again. The idea that they never told me that location closed or that they are still showing it open on their website is just WRONG!

Just a quick note about the rest of this review of our Oceania Vista cruise. We are on our last full day today. We are at sea, headed to Miami (where it is predicted to be raining and 99 degrees—how fun) tomorrow to disembark. After we tell Mike and Cathy goodbye (they live in South Florida, so they just need a car ride to get home) we will execute a plan to get the rest of us to the Fort Lauderdale airport at different times. I will also be renting a car there (but thankfully from Avis—and you can believe I checked on it) and driving. Steve and Jamie to catch their 2:51 flight back to Orange County, and then Kathleen, Jocelyn and I will grab lunch before we return the car and get on our 5:40 p.m. Alaska Air flight to Seattle.

My plan is to finish the review at home, where I will do a quick post on disembarkation (probably tomorrow at the airport) and then, sometime in the next few days, do a major post (with photos) about the public rooms on Vista followed up by my last post summing up and reviewing the cruise itself with a comparison with Viking Ocean. I hope you will stick around for the last couple of posts.

Charleston is one of the best built, handsomest, and most agreeable cities that I have ever seen. —Marquise de Lafayette

 

 

Day 2 in NYC: I Need More Power! And better feet.

Pre-dawn photos

Our second day in New York City started early for me (Like, when is that a surprise?) with a two-hour photo walk. But that walk got interrupted before it even began…twice. First, as I was leaving the ship, I looked at my phone (that I use to track my travels, navigate by GPS, call Kathleen if I need to, etc.) and found that it had not charged overnight even though it had been plugged in. Damn! So I walked back upstairs and plugged in. I knew I could get it up to around 40% in under 30 minutes, and that would be enough. Half an hour later, I was on my way.

This time, I got off the ship and through security before I thought, “You should check your camera batteries as well.” (I always have two on me. One in the camera and one in a pouch on my camera strap.) The one in the camera was at about 25%, but the one on my strap was…dead. So, back through security, back on the ship, up 4 floors to grab my third battery, which thankfully was fully charged. Finally, I was on my way. Whew! That was frustrating.

My original intention had been to re-walk the High Line, but since I had done that the day before and also five years ago, I decided to go out and shoot some light—Times Square. On the way, I thought how ridiculous it is that I would NEVER walk in the dark for that distance in Seattle. I would never have felt safe. But here I was in the Big Apple, and I felt totally secure. Working people were everywhere, a friendly cop on most corners and strangely enough, walking three miles around Manhattan, I did not see a single person high on fentanyl, asking for money or doing anything but getting on with their day. What a difference a few years makes. Seattle wishes it was as safe as NYC.

At any rate, I had a fun walk around the Times Square/Broadway area and these are the photos I brought back (and of course they have captions). Don’t forget; if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…

Midday trek

Back to the ship, and after a quick breakfast, and five of us were off in an Uber to explore NYC. Jocelyn was still getting over her cold, and Kathleen felt like it was coming on, so they elected to stay on board. We were first headed to Zabars on the Upper West Side. If you have never heard of Zabars, just imagine the most well-stocked grocery store you have ever been to, where you can get ANYTHING, and it is all crammed into two 7-11s…with an entire kitchen shop on top of it. That’s Zabars. Here are three quick shots to show you what I mean.

All the sections of the store were as well-stocked, with as many choices as the cheese section. Add an upstairs cooking supply store, and for people like me who love to cook, it was magic. We stuck around there, but I knew I wasn’t going to buy anything because I didn’t want to have to lug it around the rest of the day. I am ashamed to say that every product I saw in the kitchen supply shot that I really wanted, I took a photo of with my phone and will be ordering those from Amazon when we get back home. I love to support small businesses but Zabars looked like they will survive (they have for a very long time).

I got done looking long before the rest of the gang, so I went outside to find a mailbox to drop some postcards I had written. Yes, I still write postcards. And then I planted myself in front of the store and did some street photography until everyone else had made their purchases. Here’s a quick gallery of photos from that session of waiting about 15 minutes. Don’t forget; if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…

I forgot to mention that this midday foray into Manhattan had totally broken one of my absolute travel laws—never go anywhere unplanned. For me, the worst thing to be when traveling is just wandering around and going, “What do you want to do now?” Just typing those words bothers me. I know. I should just be spontaneous. But more arguments and ruined vacation days have come from those seven words than I want to remember. But there we were outside of Zabars, asking ourselves where we wanted to go. So we checked the map and found out we were just north of the entrance to Central Park, and since no one in our group except me had ever walked through the park, we decided to head that way.

Once we were in the park, the next question was where to go. I had never been to the Belvedere Castle, so we headed off to find that. Hopefully, it would make a good photo-op. It did. After exploring the castle and the views from the castle, we spoke with a park guide who suggested a great walk down the rest of the park to Columbus Circle. I was all up for this, but that’s because I am the walker in the group. The rest of the group decided that what they wanted most in NYC was a pastrami sandwich at a deli. So they headed off to find one on Lexington Avenue, and I headed south into the park on the route the guide had suggested to shoot more photos. Here’s what I got in the park. Don’t forget; if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping.

After I took the second Belvedere Castle shot, the battery in my camera died, and I had to switch to my partially charged backup. Talk about worried. I knew I had a long way to go to get back to a charger. So I walked through the rest of the park, making sure my camera was only turned on to take a composed shot that I liked. For me, this was sheer torture. I like taking pics of everything (that’s why my batteries keep running out) and then sorting them out later. I probably discard 80% of the photos I take. But on this walk, I only took the ones I absolutely HAD TO HAVE. And this situation put me on another search. I was in Manhattan. There must be a camera store nearby where I could buy a new Nikon battery. Hopefully, they will have one fully charged and ready to go. So I popped out Google Maps on my phone and Googled nearby Nikon stores. I about fell on my face when I saw I was only 1.9 miles from the midtown home of B&H Photo.

For those of you who are not nutso, serious photographers like me, B&H is our Mecca. They are the ultimate camera store. They are only in NYC, but half the serious photographers in the USA buy from them. I had considered going there earlier, but I would have been the only one interested, and it would have been way too tempting for me. They literally have everything! Of course, as it turns out, they don’t have everything. They don’t sell fully charged Nikon batteries. Damn! (But that was OK. I got to spend about an hour browsing B&H and didn’t spend a cent.) Did I mention that B&H was at 34th and 9th? Because now I was way past Pier 88—so off I went to get back to the ship and to rest my feet. My total miles walked on this day in the Square, The Park and B&H was 14.2. To say my feet and legs were mad at me is a huge understatement.

The walk back was uneventful. I didn’t have any more photo opportunities because, by now, my camera battery was totally dead.

Sailing away from Manhattan

My plan (since I had shot our sail-in to NYC) was just to take a few photos as the ship was sailing back down the Hudson to the sea. But when I went up on deck and found that there was almost perfect light focused on the city, I had to stay and take more than a few photos. It was a good thing I had completely charged one of my camera batteries as soon as I had gotten back to the ship. Because, in that 45-minute trip from Pier 88 to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, I shot almost 300 photos. Everywhere I looked, there was perfect light on something else. I hope you agree. And don’t worry. I culled them down to a few of the best. And these you really shouldn’t look at on a tiny phone screen. Don’t forget; if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping.

Other than an evening meal at Ember (another of Vista’s specialty restaurants–That I will review soon along with the other three and all the food), that was about it for this day. It’s a good thing because my feet could not take standing anymore. I was thrilled that yesterday was a sea day, and I didn’t have any place to go except an onboard culinary class—more about that tomorrow. Today, we are in Charleston, South Carolina, and I look forward to a short walk to pick up a rental car, a covered surrey ride around downtown, some of the world’s best Carolina BBQ at Rodney Scott’s and a tour of the Magnolia Plantation. With a 90% chance of rain…this should be fun.

“I get out of the taxi, and it’s probably the only city which in reality looks better than on the postcards, New York.”   — Milos Forman

 

Whew! NYC wore me out…but it was GREAT!

So much to tell you. I hope I get this done before I have to go upstairs to do laundry (If I’m not the first person there on a sea day, I will never get it done.)

So, to go back what is now three days, there will be no report on Martha’s Vineyard. After a fairly bumpy ride on Saturday night, the Captain made the decision that the seas were too rough and the swells too high to use the tenders safely, so we skipped the Vineyard and floated around out at sea for most of a day. But that worked out as early Monday morning, we sailed under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge into New York Harbor. We got incredibly lucky with the weather for both of our days in NYC. From the sail-in until the sail-away, we had either sunny or partly cloudy skies. Temps in the 50s and 60s, so I was loving it.

Day 1—we sail in

My day started at 4:45 a.m. when I headed up to the Horizons lounge at the front of the ship to watch the city get closer. Then, around 5:45, we sailed under the aforementioned VN Bridge, past Lady Liberty and all the way up the Hudson to Pier 88. We arrived at around 8:00 a.m., and the captain made what I thought was a miracle turn into our berth… I came back in from shooting photos to warm up. Even though the temps weren’t that bad, the wind on the deck made it feel a whole lot colder. But I got some great pics, and here they are. Don’t forget; if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…

Day 1–The Whitney and a High Line walk back

After a quick breakfast, the entire group (minus one who was still not fully recovered) set out to the Whitney Museum of American Art. We had pre-purchased tickets to see their collection. We had planned this because we were on the East Side of Manhattan, and the gigantic Columbus Day parade was on the West Side. We would head that way tomorrow. The main reason I wanted to go to The Whitney was that they have the largest collection of paintings by my favorite American artist, Edward Hopper. Sadly, not a lot of them are displayed (BOOH!). But we still enjoyed our two-hour visit. Then we walked across the street to see The Little Island up close and personal.

The Little Island. Taken from the outdoor viewing area of The Whitney Museum

The Little Island is one of the newest parts of the waterfront. It is entirely man-made and very reminiscent of the Gaudi architecture in Barcelona. The entire island sits on what looks like flowers coming out of the water, but once on the island, you would never know it. We walked all over the island. There’s an amphitheater, food stands and some incredible views up and down the Hudson. You will see them in a few minutes when I get to the midday slide show.

After our visit to the Little Island, we grabbed a quick bite of pizza in front of the Whitney, and Kathleen, Mike and Cathy took an Uber back to the ship while Steve and Jamie did a little shopping, and I set off to walk back to the ship via the High Line. If you are not familiar with the High Line, it is an elevated platform that runs from just outside the doors of the Whitney up Manhattan’s west side to just about where Vista was berthed. It used to be an old elevated railway but is now a beautiful pedestrian walkway.

I had previously walked the High Line on our last trip to NYC in 2018, but that was before sunrise when it was empty. This time was midday, and it was jam-packed with people out for a holiday (Columbus Day—which is still celebrated in NYC) stroll. As I walked north towards the ship, I shot a bunch of pics…and here they are. You know the drill. Don’t forget; if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…

Our evening—sorry, no pics

After I got back and gave my legs a rest, we all met up at 4:15 to go to dinner at Kellari Taverna. Kathleen and I had eaten there on our honeymoon in 1999. We loved it then, but not so much now. Their menu had gone from traditional Greek to pretty much seafood, and we had all come with dreams of a great Greek feast. The only truly Greek dish on their menu was mousaka, but it was a vegan dish (are you kidding me???). They did have a tasty octopus that I liked and a nice Greek salad. At least their baklava was excellent.

Almost forgot to explain why we were going to dinner so early—we had tickets to a Broadway show! Come on, you can’t come to NYC without seeing a Broadway show. When we booked the cruise, one of the highlights was this overnight stay in New York. But one big problem—most Broadway shows are dark on Monday nights, and we were there…on Monday night. But thankfully, a few still run, and we were lucky enough to snag tickets to Six. If you have not heard of Six, it is the story of the six wives of Henry the Eighth. I know, sounds boring, right? But what a high-powered, amazing musical that turned out to be all about feminine empowerment. Each of the wives sang in the style of two of our current pop stars—for instance, Catherine of Aragon sang in the style of Beyonce and Shakira. And she and the rest of the Six could sing. Grab the cast album from your favorite streaming site and have a listen—an uplifting and energizing show. It is on a national tour currently, so if you get a chance, go see it. You won’t be sorry—we weren’t. By the time we were done with Six, we were exhausted, and it was back to the ship and bed. I needed to be up for Day 2’s predawn photo walk. More about that in my next post.

“I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York’s skyline.”    —Ayn Rand

 

Please Stay Tuned…NYC got in the way

Taken very early today as we sailed by.

Good morning, all! Just a quick note: your favorite travel blogger will return in a few days. I usually write in the mornings before dawn, but today, I took this photo (and a lot of others) as we sailed into NYC. We will be here until late tomorrow night, so I will be using tomorrow morning for a long walk on the Highline before the sun comes up. Thankfully, we have a sea day after we leave here so that I can catch up. Until then…stand by.

Portland Surprised Me

It’s 5:00 a.m. on Sunday, and it has been a very long and bumpy night. We have been skirting the edge of Hurricane Phillipe since we left Portland yesterday afternoon, rocking and rolling like Elvis in his prime. We are still moving a lot, but not as much as last night. Walking down to Martinis, where I write in the mornings, I didn’t see any damage, but they do have fans out to dry carpets…which is interesting. The only thing we personally had happen in the night was the tongs falling off our ice bucket. It made a lot of noise, but that was about it. Happily, our stop today (Martha’s Vineyard) is supposed to be sunny and in the 60s. We shall see.

The Portland Observatory

Yesterday was the exact opposite weather-wise, as you can see from the photo above. So when we awakened in Portland, Maine, I looked out and thought that since our excursion had been canceled, maybe I would just stay in. It wasn’t really raining at that point, just a lot of wet fog. But after breakfast, I decided that as long as it wasn’t raining, I should go out and walk, if not for photos, at least for exercise. So I did. Kathleen decided to stay on board. Jocelyn had checked in that she was going to spend the day in her stateroom, and the other four were already off on a walk around the old port. So I was on my own. That’s OK, as I tend to walk much faster than anyone else because they like to stop and browse windows, but I like to search for photo subjects. When I had finished the day, I was truly surprised at what I had found, from some street photography pics to a few churches (I could not get inside to see the stained glass) to a wonderful tower—the Portland Observatory.  There, they let me pay them $8 to climb 104 steps and take pictures from the top. There were docents on every level doing a great job of telling the history of the Observatory and greater Portland. I took the photo at the start of this post from the top of the Observatory.

So here are my best pics of the day. If you had told me I would be getting this many that I liked on this walk, I would have said you were nuts. Don’t forget; if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…