Archive for November 2016

NOLA!   Leave a comment

When your cruise ends in New Orleans, what are you to do but spend the day in this wonderful city?

DH and I had been to New Orleans a few years ago for Mardi Gras.  I was excited to see the “regular” New Orleans, freed from the craziness Mardi Gras brings. My agenda was simple…I wanted good food and good music during my less than 24 hours in the city.

Once we got out of the cruise ship terminal (an ordeal like we have never experienced!) our cab swiftly dropped us at the Hotel Monteleone.  We are more “corporate” hotel people, but opted for the Monteleone because it’s a New Orleans institution with its Carousel Bar. And, hey, it was only one night.  If we didn’t like it, no big deal.  I had requested early check-in and they were able to accommodate me. Yay! We dumped our luggage (which nearly engulfed our small room) and set out.  (To note, we wouldn’t stay here again. The location was great, but that meant that our Royal-facing room was very noisy at night; the din defeating our white noise machine. I would opt for a more modern hotel next time with thicker walks and larger rooms!)

The weather was overcast and comfortable in the 70’s. Every local we spoke with was very happy at the reprieve from the heat!

Our wandering eventually lead us to Drago’s. We had attempted to dine here during our last visit but struck out when they were closed for Mardi Gras.  I am not generally a fan of oysters but like grilled oysters, so I was dying to try theirs. 

We were quickly seated and ordered a dozen of their famous char-broiled oysters. The menu is huge so we asked the waiter for suggestions taking into consideration that we were in NOLA just for the day. He sang the praises of the shrimp and grits, so I went with that. DH ordered a hearty bowl of gumbo for his main. 

The oysters arrived and were a thing of beauty to behold. 

One bite and we were both transported to Heaven! Oh so succulent with an amazing depth of flavor! By far the best oysters I have ever had. YUM!

Then came my shrimp and grits. Wow! To die for! The sauce they were in was a little spicy and perfectly balanced. The grits (which I generally am not fond of unless they are drowning in cheese) were delicious, seasoned with a hint of rosemary and paired beautifully with the sauce.

DH swooped into his gumbo too quickly for me to snap a pic, but he too was making happy eating sounds as he savored every bite. We were both amazed at the layers of flavor everything had. DH has vowed to figure out how to make gumbo himself  (and if anyone can, it’s he).

After this enormous (and scrumptious) lunch, we continued walking around.  We ended up on Bourbon street.  The first thing we noticed is that it smelled the same as during Mardi Gras. Not as strong mind you, but there is definitely a layer of old booze (amongst other things) permeating the air. Each time we would venture back to Bourbon during the day, it would pick up steam as more shops and bars opened and more people leaked onto the street. Music began to drift from open doorways, until by the evening it was a symphony of sound.

Ultimately we liked the vibe on Royal (one block over) more. During the day there were several musicians playing, and the atmosphere was relaxed and mellow.

After much walking we decided on another round of oysters, this time at Royal House. Theirs are char-grilled and we remembered them fondly from our last visit.

These were not nearly as good as those at Drago’s, and honestly not even as good as our last visit. There was no “grill” flavor evident and half of my oysters were over-cooked and chewy (DH said his were cooked perfectly, but agreed about the lack of flavor). Oh well. It should be noted that I ate more oysters that day than I had ever eaten in my life!

After hitting the hotel to grab a sweater, we made a futile attempt to get into the Carousel Bar. Seriously. We tried three different times starting at around two o’clock. It just got more and more packed each time. By the early evening it was seven deep around the bar and we gave up.  As we left the hotel, a wedding parade was sauntering by. That was so cool!

Back to Bourbon, we hit Tropical Isle hoping for some zydeco music. We didn’t find it there, but did find their signature hand grenade (how much alcohol is in those things?!) and listened to the very average band they had playing there. 

We did find some zydeco at Krazy Korner and blues at Fat Katz. Eventually we landed on Royal and at the Touché bar. Much quieter than Bourbon and Fat Tire on tap. Nice! An anti-Trump parade went by as we sat there. Having been on a cruise ship for the last several days, I had known of course about the outcome of the election, but not that demonstrations were happening across the country.

The next morning we thought to go to breakfast at Cafe Beignet, but they were very busy (and pricey!) so we went back to the hotel.  After walking nearly 12 miles the day before, I went for one last indulgent New Orleans meal, the Creole Benedict. Again, just crazy good, with the typical English muffin replaced by a crayfish risotto! Wow! (And at $16 not a bad price.)

So our one day in New Orleans comes to a close. I am so glad that we took the time to visit instead of flying straight home which is our norm. I got exactly what I was looking for out of our short visit; great food and good music. Until next time!

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Cozumel Day!   Leave a comment

Or should I say Pancho’s Backyard day? We’ve been to Cozumel before and were looking for something simple. Just days before the cruise, friends mentioned Pancho’s Backyard as having the best margaritas, oh, and food too. 😉

So we ventured out. Aside from being twice as far from the ship as we thought (not a huge deal, but wouldn’t have worn flips), it was relatively easy to find.  You just had to get past the sea of people trying to lure you into their stores with offers of “free” gifts!

Well, Pancho’s does have excellent margaritas!  Made with fresh lime and a healthy pour of tequila they were great!

So good in fact that I asked what type of tequila they use…not that I will probably be able to find it in the states, but you just never know!

We settled on the guacamole (hand made tortilla chips!), the shrimp quesadillas and the chicken chimichangas. Fabulous!

I don’t normally do dessert, but had to save room for the sopapillas. Yum, yum, yum!

Despite four ships in port, this was a quiet destination with a great atmosphere and friendly staff. So glad for the recommendation!

Posted November 9, 2016 by cubechick in Norwegian Dawn 2016

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Grand Cayman…   Leave a comment

Unfortunately became a t-shirt and magnet stop for us! The excursion we had booked through the ship was cancelled abruptly the evening before we arrived supposedly due to high winds. Ironically we were offered alternative tours that also involved the stingrays or snorkeling, but not both.

We were in port with one other ship, the Celebrity Reflection, that we have a cruise booked on in 2018!

It was disappointing to have our excursion cancelled, but we always have plan B. We walked around the port area and poked around the several shops there.  Tip! We found a waterside restaurant that had a tiny beach with lounge chairs for $5 and stairs leading into the water. We saw a few people snorkeling there, along with a bunch of tarpon gliding back and forth by the stairs! Clearly they are fed regularly! We weren’t set up for this, but wished we had known about it.

After grabbing the aforementioned t-shirt and fridge magnet, and taking a nice picture of the Dawn,

we made our way back to the port and found the Green Parrot (unfortunately no relation to the Key West favorite).

It is always nice to have a local beer. This one was good…similar to Corona and apparently a Guy Harvey beer!

After some spicy Jerk chicken quesadillas, we went back on board. Soon the last tenders went back to shore and we were sailing away.

Shortly after sailaway we attended the Platinum Latitudes party. Typically this party is for Silver, Gold and Platinum guests, but with over 500 Platinum guests on board, we got our own party. Fan favorites, Patti and Jose played a couple of songs, then Alain the HD played the video of the Dawn dry dock and took questions.  

Dinner was Los Lobos.  Still good a second time, but too much food! The empanada starters were delicious but huge! They easily could have been a main course.  Yum though!

Posted November 9, 2016 by cubechick in Norwegian Dawn 2016

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Jamaica, Mon!   Leave a comment

If you know anything about cruising the Caribbean, you will know that Jamaica is not considered a great destination. There is a lot of poverty and as a result, a lot of crime.  Many passengers opt to remain on boatd.Therefore we were focused on cruise ship excursions until the Margaritaville beach was mentioned on our Cruise Critic roll call.  

We were docked at the main pier which meant Margaritaville is a 5 minute walk, most of which is in the secure port area. The short walk on the street is littered with police. It is a very safe walk.  

The use of the beach is actually free. They just ask that you purchase your food and drink from the restaurant. Lounge chair rental is $12 each and an umbrella  $15.  There is a large tree though that provides ample shade if you are near it.

The snorkeling is lousy but it is the perfect place to whIle away a few hours.  

The food and drink were pricey (it is Margaritaville after all) but the four hours we spent there were cheaper than an all-inclusive package at Bamboo beach that we considered through the cruise line (for the same duration). The staff was friendly making this a very enjoyable day.


We continue to be blessed with great weather this trip! We did have strong winds last night, but despite a nearly constant threat of rain, our time on the islands have been remarkably dry!

Posted November 7, 2016 by cubechick in Norwegian Dawn 2016

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A B C   Leave a comment

This post will mostly be about Bonaire.  We have been to Aruba and Curacao before and didn’t anything at either island except walk around  

For Bonaire we booked a snorkel excursion through Woodwind.  They are the top rated tour company on Bonaire through Trip Advisor.  Booking was easily accomplished via email and payment was due the day of the excursion.  We booked a four hour tour. There was confusion by several people who for some reason thought it was a three hour tour. They were allowed to cancel on the spot, and did so (although why they did is beyond me).  The weather was excellent; the snorkeling some of the best we’ve experienced.  

Woodwind has an excellent and professional crew that made the experience even that much better.  They also provided drinks the entire day, snacks after the first round of snorkeling, and an Asian-style hot chicken and pasta dish after the second. That was completely unexpected!

After snorkeling we took advantage of the late departure  (10:00 pm) and went on shore for a couple of beverages at a pier side bar.  A really great day.

In Curacao we just walked around.  The last time we were here the floating bridge had been out of service for repairs, so I was excited to walk across it.

We also just walked around Aruba.  There are plenty of shops, restaurants, and casinos to keep you occupied  (and provide very welcome air-conditioning). The big excitement here was seeing more iguanas (we found iguanas on each of the ABC’s).

Sea day tomorrow!

Posted November 5, 2016 by cubechick in Norwegian Dawn 2016

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San Juan Day    Leave a comment

For the first time we are visiting San Juan during the day.  On previous cruises, we have sailed from New York in the winter and arrived in the late afternoon.  Which is fine, but doesn’t leave time for daylight activities.  So we were very excited to book an excursion to El Yunque Rainforest.  

We booked the tour through Norwegian and it couldn’t have been better!  A small bus, a great guide  (Alejandro), and enough time at each stop for plenty of pics and even a short hike.  The excursion was just over 4 hours.  About perfect!

After a short delay we were sailing away.  Great day in Puerto Rico!

Posted November 1, 2016 by cubechick in Norwegian Dawn 2016

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Three Glorious Sea Days    Leave a comment

Yep, we were at sea for three days on our way to Puerto Rico.  Luckily, the weather generally improved each day!

For the first time ever I had a pedicure at sea.  What a great experience!  With the chair situated to look out at the ocean, it was a very relaxing experience!

We spread our lunches to three different restaurants over the three days.  The only “miss” was at Moderno when DH had dry salmon served on the same lobster bisque he had as a starter! O’Sheehans and the Venetian however were both very good.  

Dinners were Cagney’s, where my steak was perfectly cooked for the first time in ages, and the new Los Lobos.  The latter was delicious! They do need to figure out the table side guacamole though.  One guy making huge portions caused quite the bottleneck.  They are also quite stingy with the tortillas.  The carne asada literally came with two four-inch tortillas.  Of course asking for more wasn’t a problem, but it would be better to have more to begin with!

The Cruise Critic meet and greet was held on the second sea day.  The turnout was enormous! Easily 150 people attended.  As usual, the Captain, Hotel Director, and assorted officers were in attendance.

The first question asked was why on earth the Patriots game wasn’t on (Hello! The ship sailed from Boston!) and what the heck was up with the art in the Venetian restaurant.  The HD Alain said he gets complaints every cruise which he passes on to corporate.  The “art” is really and truly hideous!

It is really the only real misstep made with the renovations!

Posted November 1, 2016 by cubechick in Norwegian Dawn 2016

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