Saturday, October 10, 2009

New York, New York!! Sept. 23-24

We checked into our closet…oops, I mean our room…at the New Yorker Hotel. We had booked a room with a queen bed and this room (closet) had a double bed. We had several suitcases and no where to put them. I phoned the front desk and asked if there was any chance of changing rooms and the guy said “we’ve already upgraded you.” You have? From what? There are smaller rooms than this? Oh well…

We walked about 8 blocks to Times Square to see what was going on. A nice walk…

We decided to see a movie (The Hangover) and plan a full day for tomorrow.

The concierge recommended a river cruise so we booked that for the afternoon. Two hours on the Hudson River seeing the New York sights sounded good. We took a taxi to Pier 83.

This lady cracked me up. Her posture is worth a 1000 words. “I hate this job!” Every few minutes she would start her spiel… “Buy your refillable cup before you get on the boat. Why pay $4 for one drink when you can buy the mug and get all the refills you want for $7. That’s all the Coke you can drink for $7.”

That gray monstrosity behind us is an air craft carrier which is a now a museum. Look at the size of that thing!

This is what the cruise boats look like. I think some of them have been around for a few years!

The Empire State Building, which since the destruction of the World Trade Center towers, is once again the tallest building in New York.

Pier 62 at Chelsea Piers…these warehouses are where Law and Order is filmed. It’s a great controlled environment where they can create any set they need.

Jersey City across the river from New York. They have very distinctive accents in Joisey!

Manhattan with the lower highrises. The height of the buildings is restricted by the strength of the bedrock in this area.

This gap between the buildings above the small round building is where the World Trade Center building No. 1 stood. There were 7 buildings comprising the World Trade Center. Other than the twin towers, only one other building (No. 7) came down that day. The first plane flew about 10 stories above it and many people were injured when windows blew in. No loss of life occurred in this building and everyone was evacuated. The building came down around 5 p.m.

The Colgate clock in Jersey dates back to 1924 and is a reminder of the factories that once dominated the waterfront. The clock is 50 feet in diameter and its minute hand is 25 feet long! The Colgate plant was started 1806 and became a landmark of Jersey City. The company left Jersey City in 1985 and the buildings were torn down but the clock remains.

Ellis Island which was the main entry point for immigrants entering the United States from 1892 until 1954.

The Statue of Liberty was built in 1886 and given to the people of the United States by the people of France to represent the friendship established during the American Revolution. The statue is 151 feet tall, but with the pedestal and foundation is 305 feet tall. The torch is plated in 24 carat gold. Crazy!

Manhattan skyline…

The Watchtower, a corporation used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses in New York since 1909.

The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States. When it was completed in 1883, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world and the first bridge to connect to Long Island.

The Manhattan Bridge, looking back towards the Brooklyn Bridge, was opened for traffic in 1909. The upper level has four vehicle lanes, and the lower level has three lanes of traffic, four subway tracks, a walkway and a bikeway.

The United Nations building…the United Nations was in session when we were there and the security in the city was crazy.

The Queensboro Bridge, known as the 59th Street Bridge, was also completed in 1909. Well known from Paul Simon’s song “59th Street Bridge (Feelin’ Groovy).”

A Long Island landmark…the neon Pepsi sign around since 1938.

Two gaps where the twin towers were…construction has begun on two new buildings. They have about four floors completed.

This pier is the last remnant of anything Titanic in New York. This is where the ship would have docked.

The two smaller black buildings in the middle are replicas of the twin towers, although only one-third of the height.

Heading back to the pier…I am still amazed by the size of the air craft carrier, Intrepid.

The tour was a great way to spend a lovely afternoon. It was 27 degrees. We walked backed to the hotel which took about 30 minutes. Jim wasn’t impressed with the whole “walk back to the hotel” idea but did eventually enjoy it! I was trying to spend as little time as possible in our “closet.”

We got tickets to see South Pacific. I love the music from the show as Dad often played it when we were growing up. “Gonna Wash that Man Right Outta My Hair” and “Some Enchanted Evening” bring great memories. We got in line for a taxi outside the hotel at about 7:15 p.m. and it quickly became obvious that this was going to be a problem. Thank heavens for the doorman! He was in the street trying to wave taxis down. It was almost 7:40 before we got a taxi and the theatre was 30 blocks away. This was looking like a close call! The taxi driver drove like crazy and dropped us off “somewhere in front of the theatre.” The entrance was under construction and wasn't obvious. Jim asked a couple who pointed to the huge South Pacific sign. Oh yeah! We grabbed our tickets at the box office and jumped in our seats. No washroom calls…the music started…that was a bit close!

Great theatre…it’s small and the seats are built in a half circle and raised so there are no heads in front of you. Loved it! After the show walked by the Metropolitan Opera right next door.

And a purdy fountain…

There was a bunch of pedicabs on the street and it seemed like a fun way to go back to the hotel. The guy was a bit hesitant at first as it is a long ride, but business was obviously slow, so off we went. Similar ride to this one…

What a great way to see the sights! Here is the David Letterman Show…

Our driver stopped at a red light and took our picture. Holy cow! How fast was this guy pedalling? Look at our hair!

Mmmmm….M and M’s!

I hadn’t seen anything about this show. That might have been nice to see too.

New York Police Department right in Times Square…

Lots of buzz about the new Leno show…hope he makes a go of it!

And our ride came to an end. Only took the guy about 20 minutes…they’re in good shape!

The next day we made it into the Halifax airport with only a small delay for bad weather…it’s been our story this trip! What does any good Canadian girl do when she gets home?

Sissy and Trevor met us at the airport and magically got us and our luggage into their car. Sissy brought me flowers…puffy heart.

The leaves are changing…another week or so and they’ll be spectacular. Summer is definitely gone.

Here endeth another blog! We are planning the Panama Canal in January, so until then…

Friday, October 9, 2009

Wahhhh! Our Last Day...

Wow…the last day of the cruise. It has gone by so fast and has been such a great time. They are celebrating “Returning to America” today and have the atrium decorated with balloons and both the US and Canadian flag. Yay Canada!

We have played bingo on and off during the cruise, but today is the last day and the jackpot of $4,500 is going to go. They have moved it from Club Fusion into the Princess Theatre for the final game. We've never seen that before! They must be expecting a lot of people.

The cruise director changed after the British Isles portion and we love Neil, the new director. He is British and his sense of humour is great. He really makes an effort to be out with the passengers and the little old ladies love him! He has a routine before he starts the bingo game that the players get involved in.

In bingo, if you stand up and shout Bingo and you don’t have it, they make you go up front and do the chicken dance. Twice during the cruise, Neil has called a wrong number and the passengers have shouted “Chicken Dance!” He is so good natured…you can hear him mutter at the end of the dance. “This is the second time this cruise I’ve had to do this.” Ahhh...the things that amuse you on a cruise!

Look at how calm the seas are today. Where were these seas on our St. John’s day?

This is Rizza our cabin steward for the cruise. What a sweet lady! She got on board the day we did for the start of a ten-month contract. She has been doing this since 1994 when her son was 3 years old. It is so sad how much of their family’s lives they miss, but sacrifice it for a better life. Her son is in university studying physical therapy. Rizza has put her brothers and sisters through university as well. As she says “My father loves me very much.”

And here is Roque, our favourite bartender. He provided us with amazing service. He noticed that I would eat the cherry that came with the drink but leave the lime, so the amount of cherries kept increasing! He described the Caribbean cruise that the Crown will be doing starting in November in such glowing terms that we decided to book it, even though we always said we wouldn’t do a Caribbean cruise. It’s also on the Crown Princess, so we should see him again in January.

Here I am with my favourite drink…a Sea Breeze (with lots of cherries!).

The end of a great cruise. We’re in New York for two days before we head home…

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Halifax! Sept. 21

Halifax?? Nope, this wasn’t planned. I was getting a manicure and telling the girl how we had missed St. John’s on our last cruise. The words were no sooner out of my mouth, when the things started sliding around on her desk. The shutter doors were sliding and stuff fell off the window sill. She said “Hmmm…we’re turning.” Then we heard the “bing bong” signalling that the captain was about to make an announcement. I started laughing because I knew what was coming. Yup! Another storm…not going to make it to St. John’s. Instead…we are heading for Halifax.

I think the captain didn’t dare miss another port. There had been a lot of complainers and back seat drivers saying we had missed ports for no reason. He wasn’t taking any chances! So Halifax it is!

We woke up to see this schooner sailing by the ship with a load of tourists on board. We gawked at them, and they gawked at us!

We got off the ship and headed into the terminal facility. It was sort of strange to be tourists in a city so close to home.

They built this beautiful facility a few years ago to take advantage of the huge revenue generated by cruise ships coming into the port. You can see the top of our ship, Crown Princess, over the building.

The facility is only open on days when cruise ships are in port. It opens an hour before the ship arrives and closes when it leaves. It is the nicest facility we have seen for cruise ships in any port we have been in. Lots of shopping and it was busy.

As we headed out for a walk along the boardwalk, we stopped to read about Pier 21. It opened in 1928 and processed over one million immigrants changing the cultural make-up of Canada. It closed in 1971.

I quickly got into tourist mode and starting snapping pictures of anything as I would in a new port. The Harbour Hopper actually goes into the water. That would be kind of fun!

This is a statue of Samuel Cunard who was born in Halifax in 1787. He was the pioneer of ocean ship navigation which forever altered commerce and communication between the Old and New Worlds. His name is carried on today in the famous Cunard Line of shipping and cruising.

The boardwalk where they hold a buskers festival each year. You can see one of the crew members in the striped shirt playing tourist. Everyone was so glad to get off the ship after so many sea days. It was a gorgeous sunny day and everyone was in a great mood!

Halifax has been a significant port since it was founded in 1749. Dartmouth, directly across from it, was founded in 1750 and is closely connected to Halifax by car, boat and ferry.

The schooner we saw sailing by the ship in the morning waiting for more tourists.

When in Rome…there were several of these dolphins along the boardwalk. I think each has been sponsored by a company or group.

A monument which has been set up to remember the deportation of the Acadians. L’Acadie had been established by France in 1604. In 1713 it was handed over to England and became Nova Scotia. The remaining Acadians were viewed as a threat and in 1755, over 10,000 men, women and children were deported to France and England. Over half of these people died at sea or through disease. Others escaped deportation, but by 1765 only 1600 survivors remained in Nova Scotia and most of their land was occupied by other settlers. Many Acadians never set eyes on Acadie again. They moved to Quebec and Louisiana bringing with them their roots and customs.

Beautiful part of the marina…look at that sky!

Yikes!! Are those leaves changing colours? It doesn’t seem possible!

So nice to see the Canadian flag!

In memory of merchant seamen…I always think of Dad when I see one of these monuments and can never pass up a photo opportunity.

Here we are at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. I have always wanted to visit the Titanic exhibition here, so this was a perfect chance.

Remembering Hurricane Juan which roared through Halifax in September 2003. The city’s cherished Public Gardens, which were officially opened in 1867, were heavily damaged and many centuries-old trees were uprooted. The Gardens were closed for several months for clean up.

A sign showing all the tropical storms that have occurred in the past few months…I think we hit most of them on the ship!

From 1906 until 1967, this lens was used in the Sambro Island lighthouse. Built in 1758, it is the oldest lighthouse in Canada and the oldest surviving lighthouse in both North and South America.

Sure…say hello to Merlin and be ignored!

Merlin is pretty, but Merlin ain’t talking!

Crikey…the day we see waves like this washing over the deck, I might rethink the whole cruising idea!

Remembering Canada at war…

I had forgotten about the Halifax Explosion in my excitement about seeing the Titanic exhibition.

On December 6, 1917, a Norwegian ship, the Imo, was heading out of the Halifax harbour when it struck the Mont Blanc, a French munitions ship. The resulting explosion was heard over 200 miles away and 2000 people were killed in Halifax. All buildings covering two square kilometres were completely obliterated. As if this wasn’t enough, it triggered a tidal wave and was followed the next day by a blizzard which dropped 40 cm of snow.

A clock which stopped at the time of the explosion 9:06 a.m.

The wreckage…those who survived thought it was the end of the world.

On to the Titanic exhibition…

An exact scale replica which took 6 months to build. I can’t believe it only took that long!

Some artifacts of the White Star Line…

A replica of a deck chair from the Titanic. People often tipped extra to get one in a prime location.

First class information…a family ticket was $1197 with a single ticket costing $138.

Second class…family ticket $190 with a single ticket costing $63.

Third class…family ticket at $104 and a single ticket at $36.

The grand staircase…

An artist’s concept of what it would have looked like in the sinking.

After this exhibition, we were on disaster overload, so we headed out. We passed this old scuba suit on the way. Can you image how much all this weighed? The boots and helmet were enormous!

We wandered up Prince Street to an Irish pub. Might as well keep up the tradition! I have taken quite a liking to cider!

Hey! A Nunavut license plate. I have never seen one before.

St. Paul’s Church which would have been nice to explore if we had more time. Built in 1759, it is the oldest Protestant place of worship in Canada.

Here is a Holland America ship leaving the port. They were kind enough to give up their larger berth to us arriving unexpectedly.

It was the last formal night on the ship and we were celebrating our 18th anniversary. We went for dinner at Sabatini’s, the Italian specialty restaurant.

While we were there they called a Code Alpha which is a medical alert. It was serious for them to broadcast it over the ship. Next thing this helicopter did a fly by. Not sure if it was related but it came by twice.

There is always something going on. The day before they called for a blood donor as a lady was in critical condition and needed a transfusion. That was sort of sad because if we had made it to St. John’s, she would have been in a hospital rather than on the ship.

Our anniversary treat…

A picture with Cintia, our favourite crew member. We met her on the first day of the cruise in the International CafĂ© where she works most mornings. She is from Brazil and the warmest, friendliest person ever. We got to know her as the cruise went on and we chatted most days. She works at Sabatini’s in the evenings. We traded email addresses. Maybe someday we’ll get to Brazil!

So our surprise visit to Halifax was a treat and a wonderful day! One more sea day and we are in New York. It has been the most wonderful cruise…