Sailing onward to destination Bermuda – West End

image image

We’re on a three-week cruise celebrating our 50th anniversary, along with the Caribbean Princess Cruise Line!

Our journey so far, after a delayed start from Houston due to severe weather, took us to Port Everglades in Florida (See my first post in this series.)

Trying to make up for lost time, the Caribbean Princess sailed away during the wee hours of the morning on Thursday, April 21, leaving Port Everglades in our wake and headed for the next port destination, West End – Bermuda.

Just call us lazy because for the past few days we have requested breakfast delivered to our room to enjoy as we watched a little news on TV, and kept current on the ship’s course. We decided to take our paperbacks out to the deck chairs for some contemplation and relaxation. We have settled into our lazy days, gourmet meals and live entertainment every evening.

Tonight will be our first formal evening, so we made sure that we had our party clothes ready to go to the Coral Dining Room on this always-fun occasion. The dinner was a culinary delight, unfortunately, I felt ill a while later and stayed in my room the remainder of the night. These things do happen and it’s a good idea to pack Imodium for such occasions. The next day is Friday and I thought it best to take it easy and do some reading on the balcony, which is really an awesome alternative! The weather is in the 70’s, mild and pleasant. The views of the Atlantic are spectacular in its deep, aqua-blue sereneness.

The Caribbean Princess is back on schedule. Today we would prepare for our arrival in West End Saturday morning April 23 around 7 a.m., by watching a presentation on Bermuda. The island offers glass-bottom boat rides, an aquarium, museum, zoo and several golf courses, plus lots of beaches and water adventures! We were planning a tour on our own and take a boat ride from West End to Hamilton, then take a bus back to the port area, or vice versa, with our friends Don and Margie.

This island is quite spectacular! As we near our destination, from our ship we can see the British Royal Navy WWII staging area in our sights. The weather is perfectly pleasant and in the 70’s.image

West End, Bermuda, is a bustling place full of tourists, buses and traffic. Buses have the right of way here, where every possible post boasts a sign that says, “Give way to buses!” I wonder what’s the rush, as buses fly by.image

Once in town, we walked the streets and found shopping malls, churches and restaurants. The history here is British, so traffic drives on the left, which makes American’s uneasy to say the least. There are narrow, winding streets, so our bus ride was pretty much like a fast ride at DisneyWorld. I could see pedestrians hopping out of our path as we barreled through, barely missing bus stops!

The City Hall and Arts Building caught our attention with its pristine white exterior and clock tower — very British!

Our walking tour led us to a church with beautiful stained-glass windows and tall steeple. The Anglican Church of Bermuda, Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, was consecrated in 1911. Beautiful!image

Walking around West End was exhausting on sloping streets, and often the walkway would lead to steps down to the next street level.

We decided to stop for a beer and snack at a restaurant with outside tables – Bone Fish Bar & Grill. Here was the best place to do some people watching, and enjoy our cold drinks during the heat of the day, which was still only in the 80’s.image

image

Our boat ride across the bay by water taxi was uneventful, although the scenery was well worth the effort.image

We left West End, Bermuda, thinking that for a tropical island, this one’s climate was not too hot to enjoy the surroundings — I give it an A+. I would like to return for a longer visit one of these days…

The Caribbean Princess would now set its course for Liverpool, England. Yes, that means we won’t see land for about a week on this trans-Atlantic voyage.

(You are reading the second post in a series depicting my travels on the Caribbean Princess ship for three weeks from Bayport Cruise Terminal in Houston, Texas, to Ft. Lauderdale, Bermuda, Liverpool, Wales, Hamburg, Le Havre/Paris and South Hampton/London in the spring of 2016.)

image image image image image image image image image  image image image image image image

Advertisements

Weathering the unexpected on a three-week cruise!

jel_1523r_01Being flexible and packing lots of patience is the key!

imageimage

Storm closes the Houston Ship Channel

Storm closes the Houston Ship Channel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our three-week 50th anniversary celebration cruise would take us to Fort Lauderdale FL, West End Bermuda, Liverpool England, Holyhead Wales, Hamburg Germany, Le Havre/Paris and ending in South Hampton/London.

Elated and excited, our hopes and expectations are very high, as we maneuver through embarkation on the Caribbean Princess on April 17, 2016. Coincidentally, the Caribbean Princess is also celebrating its 50th anniversary!

It was 12:30 on a Sunday afternoon. Our good friend Tom dropped us off at the Bayport Cruise Terminal, since paying to park for three weeks was not an option for us. We checked our bags; checked in with passports; got our Cruise Cards, and boarded the ship.

As usual, they require that you stop for your first onboard photo, before you take off on your own to discover the ship. We had three weeks ahead of us on this gorgeous vessel, where we planned to relax, be entertained and served gourmet meals every day. We also knew that we had several excursions already booked (online) and we were very excited for each one!

Little did we know that our ship would not set sail until more than 24 hours later! More about that saga in due time…

Our bags arrived in our balcony cabin in no time at all. A Happy Anniversary poster on our door, along with balloons, greeted our arrival! “Princess Patter, your daily guide to life at sea” awaited us as well. In this newspaper, you can find any and all information you need for each hour of the day or night. Such as how to dress, where to eat, movies and times, stage shows, how to connect to the ships Wi-Fi, the names of your captain and other VIP crew members. This wealth of information made life onboard a little easier.

We decided to get lunch in the Horizon Court Buffet before doing our self-guided tour of the ship. One thing we found out quickly is that it’s a huge ship! It’s sad to think that this would be the very last time the Caribbean Princess would depart from the Bayport Cruise Terminal, as the terminal is set to close in the very near future. It seems that the Houston Ship Channel is extremely busy, and the possibility of problems arising any minute that would interfere with cruise ships’ schedules is enough to deter them.

After lunch we started our tour and discovered that on deck 15 Midship, Movies under the Stars was showing a Billy Joel concert, followed by a Bon Jovi Concert and an Elton Jon Concert. The cruise staff was preparing for the bon voyage party. 

Our departure time from port was scheduled for 4 p.m. The entire east Texas coast and vicinity was under a severe weather watch and we learned from Captain Bommarco that 65 passengers had missed their flights from Dallas, and we would wait until 8 p.m. for them to arrive and board. (Later, he adjusted that timeline to 1 a.m. due to the weather, high winds and rough seas.)

At 5:15 p.m. that day, which is our scheduled dinner time, we met up with our friends Don and Margie and two other dining couples who would be regulars at our table each evening in the Coral Dining Room. Surprise! We enjoyed a wonderful anniversary celebration surprise – cake, song and a glass of wine! The wait staff at our table was always attentive and friendly, making us feel very special.

My husband bought a Wi-Fi package. Yay!

Since the weather was bad, we decided to watch a movie in our cabin and await our 1:00 a.m. departure time, according to the captain. The waves lulled me to sleep that night.

We couldn’t believe we were still docked at the Bayport Cruise Terminal when we awoke the next morning. The delay was due to tremendous storms over the entire Houston/Galveston area, with high winds, flooding and tornado warnings, forcing the ship channel to close. Thankfully, we were safe onboard our ship at port during the tremendous storms.

Finally, about 2:30 on Monday afternoon, April 18, the Houston Port Authority reopened the ship channel, and we’re finally on our way across the Gulf of Mexico toward our first port, Fort Lauderdale. Now we understand why the cruise lines are not happy with the Houston Ship Channel.

The Amazing Spiderman movie was scheduled for the outside Movie under the Stars that afternoon, but I’m pretty sure that the weather prevented folks from enjoying it. There are plenty of other things to do inside where it’s dry. With so many activities going on at any given hour, there’s something for everyone!

After breakfast at the buffet, we explored the ship further, had lunch, explored some more, then dinner and the day was almost gone. After dinner we made our first visit to the Grand Casino, which could not open until the ship was in international waters. In fact, none of the onboard shops could open until then either! The Gulf of Mexico is very rough now and the ship has picked up speed, causing it to rock and roll along.

My husband bought a coffee card! Yay!

We are celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary, so you won’t find us going to the clubs and bars at night often. There are usually very good movies showing on the ship or on TV in our room, and we generally chose this option, after going to catch a stage show in the Princess Theater. The point is that you make your own schedule at your own pace. That’s the best thing about cruises!

By Tuesday morning we had sailed out of the storm, and we awoke to a beautiful sunrise! Pink skies and calmer waters! This day would be laid back, enjoying the meals, the entertainment and the casino.

That night we cozied up for Theater under the Stars and watched the movie “Concussion.” We decided to skip our dinner group and opted for burgers and fries with beer, while watching the movie. It’s a great way to spend the evening, watching the sunset and the first star of the night. I made a wish, of course!

Due to the nearly 24-hour departure delay out of the Houston Ship Channel, our schedule was really off. We arrived in Port Everglades/Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday in the afternoon, not that morning as was previously planned. All shore excursions had been cancelled and could not be rescheduled, however, refunds were issued. Therefore, we did not go ashore at Port Everglades, but we did get a good look at the port area and surroundings from deck. There were lots of yachts and sailing vessels of all sizes and enormous, elaborate homes by the water. Our plans to tour South Beach, Miami, would have to wait until another time.

Fort Lauderdale is known as the Yachting Capital of the World. The fort was constructed in 1838 and the city was incorporated in 1911. There was a population of more than 165,000 in 2010. The area has been occupied by natives as far back as 4,000 years! It’s famous for its weather, beaches (7 miles), the Everglades, the inter-coastal waterway and cuisine, and it’s located only 20 miles from Miami’s South Beach.

We had made dinner reservations in the Crown Grill for Wednesday evening, where we met up with Don and Margie. The filet mignon was perfect! Sometime during the morning hours, after 2:00 a.m., we left Fort Lauderdale, Port Everglades, and headed for West End (Bermuda).

I’ll pick up my story here in my next blog, as I write about our adventures from port to port in the spring of 2016 during a three-week 50th anniversary cruise. Until then…

image

image

Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, FL

image

Movies under the Stars

image

 

Hit the jackpot!

View from the boardwalk

View from the boardwalk

We didn’t exactly hit the jackpot playing slots, but I think we came pretty close finding this new jewel in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

The Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino Resort is conveniently located only two and a half hours from Houston, and makes a superb mini-vacation spot for all of us in east Texas.

We ventured here on invitation to join friends who were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary and wanted to share their excitement with us.

View of the grounds

View of the grounds

We were not disappointed! From the front entry with free valet parking to the beautifully appointed guest rooms overlooking the pool and lazy river, with the lake beyond, we were very impressed by the overall atmosphere. Our view was spectacular from the 19th floor, which offered a balcony for further viewing enjoyment.

View of the beach

View of the beach

With so many restaurant choices for dinner, we ended up at our familiar Saltgrass Steakhouse. Other choices were Landry’s Seafood House, Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse, Lillie’s Asian Cuisine, Cadillac Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar, Grotto Italian Restaurant or the Blue Martini overlooking the lake. And let’s not forget about the The Buffett, which every casino goer loves.

We visited Claim Jumper for breakfast, which is located near the elevators and nearby Starbucks, where we enjoyed a casual meal and conversation with our friends.

Cadillac Bar beachside

Cadillac Bar beachside

For sunning and swimming, the pool and lazy river looked enticing and so inviting, offering cabanas and daybeds. We found a beach with volleyball area and a boardwalk by the marina. Coming soon, visitors can book a tee time for golfing.

Room with a view

Room with a view

There are eight or more shops on the premises, meeting and planning rooms, a barber shop, spa and salon for ultimate relaxation and destressing.  The full service spa salon and boutique features treatments and popular products, sauna, whirlpool and steam room.

Shows and entertainment are presented in the Grand Ballroom and the H2O Pool and Bar. Speaking of bars, we found Cadillac Tequila Bar, Blue Martini, Rush lounge and Party Pit, Ice Bar and Bar 46, and there could be more! Oh, and the casino is huge, with every slot and table game imaginable.

RV parking is available, and interested parties are provided contact information for bus tours on line at http://www.goldennugget.com/lakecharles/, where rates and accommodations can also be found.

All in all, the Golden Nugget Casino Resort on Lake Charles is my number one resort choice within easy driving distance to Houston. Tilman Fertitta, the owner who calls himself the world’s richest restauranteur, has created an easily accessible mecca for vacationers who want restaurant choices, sunning, water and golfing activities, gambling and entertainment all in one neat package. Can’t wait to visit again soon!

Golden Nugget

H2001_thumbLazyRiver01_thumbLazyRiver02_thumb

Friends, food, shopping — a great combination!

Shopping after lunch at the Spring Antique Gallery!

Shopping after lunch at the Spring Antique Gallery!

Here is how two friends and I became “The Three Foodies!”

I’ve been friends with Arceli, a native of the Philippines, for several years, as she is also my hair stylist at Mills Branch Salon and Spa, which she owns. I met Shalni, a native of Sri Lanka, under different circumstances, when she owned her dry cleaning business near me. The three of us have become “The Three Foodies” for the love of food and of native culture.

Both of these ladies are strong, smart business women, and I admire their personal sense of style; but most of all I love their spirit! We often get together on Arceli’s day off to explore new and exciting foods, and we like to throw in some shopping along the way! Whether it’s antiquing in the Spring area of Houston, in Livingston or the outlet mall on Rt. 290 — we shop like we mean it! Sometimes we find treasures or bargains we can’t live without. Sometimes we just look and celebrate with the other ones who found their perfect something!

It all started one day when we decided that we should plan a day to go try a restaurant featuring Indian food, with Shalni as our guide. Although there are other fine Indian restaurants in Houston proper, for our first outing Shalni took us to  the Bombay Sizzler in nearby Spring, TX. The menu consisted of a wide variety of Indian dishes, which were served buffet style. We tried everything, including a couple of kinds of curry! The meal was complete with a mango lassi! So good!

On our way home, we happened to be passing by The Antique Gallery of Houston in Spring, so I mentioned that it would be a good way to spend the afternoon. We were there at least two or three hours but only made it through approximately half of the gallery! Next time we plan to search the other half!

Our next outing will be to find some local food of the Philippines!

The Three Foodies discover Bombay Sizzler!

The Three Foodies discover Bombay Sizzler!

Enjoying the Mango Lassi!

Enjoying the Mango Lassi!

Remembering Hurricane Katrina

Angel Tree

Angel Tree

Today is the 8th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. More than 1800 people died as the storm ravaged the Gulf Coast in 2005.
One year ago, my husband and I took a road trip along the Gulf Coast, heading from Houston to New Orleans to Biloxi, and on to Mobile.
As we drove along the coast, we couldn’t help but notice all the damaged property still evident in the New Orleans area, and all the empty lots where houses once stood overlooking the Mississippi shore.
It was in Bay St. Louis where we spotted many extraordinary wood carvings in the medians and along the coast.
When we stopped to eat lunch at 200 North Beach Restaurant at Bay St. Louis, we asked owner Ann Tidwell about the tree that stood just a few feet from the restaurant. The tree’s branches had been carved to look like angels.
She explained that the tree once stood in the yard next door, and that it had saved the lives of two people and a dog. They had held onto the tree for many hours as the storm and high waters raged.
It is certain that a story such as this one about the horror of the hurricane accompanies all the wood carvings that we saw along our drive.
We were told by Tidwell that chainsaw carvers “from the north” came to the area after the storm to make beautiful memories from the storm, by creating carvings of the old trees.
By the way, this restaurant has an excellent menu, and we enjoyed our lunch sitting outside overlooking Bay St. Louis. Hope to return someday!
Built in 1905, the 200 North Beach Restaurant in Bay St. Louis, MS.

Built in 1905, the 200 North Beach Restaurant in Bay St. Louis, MS.

Remnants of Hurricane Katrina have been captured by art along the Gulf Coast in the form of wood carvings. This Angel Tree stands across from the 200 North Beach Restaurant as a haunting reminder of the 2005 storm.

Remnants of Hurricane Katrina have been captured by art along the Gulf Coast in the form of wood carvings. This Angel Tree stands across from the 200 North Beach Restaurant as a haunting reminder of the 2005 storm.