ballroom dance

view from my officeThe Eclipse was only due to arrive in San Juan around 3 PM so that meant the morning was full of potential on-board activities. The time zone changed to Atlantic time, an hour ahead of Eastern Standard. I really intended to sleep a bit longer anyway, but no luck. We have had our sliding door onto to the verandah open each night so we get lots of fresh air so I wake to the sound of the sea. I took my laptop out onto my “office with a view” and caught up on writing till the coffee arrived at 7 am.

salsa class in SkyloungeI am actually quite impressed with the wireless internet access on this ship compared to my experience on previous cruise ships. They must have some very powerful routers on board as the wireless access in really good even in the cabin and on the verandah.  Hopefully on my next cruises coming up on the Sapphire Princess and the Queen Mary II, they will have improved the strength of their wireless signals too.

my on-board office - nice!Sunday morning early - the first full day on board and I was so eager to find out about the Celebrity Life Activities that I woke up before sunrise. It was 6 am and the Eclipse was moving swiftly but smoothly on her way to San Juan, Puerto Rico.  I was writing my travelblogue from the spacious balcony of our cabin, seated in a comfortable chair with a strong breeze whipping up my hair, and listening to the sound of the water rushing by against the hull of the ship. It seems that my internal clock wakes me at 6 regardless of the time zone.

We had ordered room service breakfast for later this morning – coffee for me, tea for Pat, and some fruit. As well I thought I would try out their plain yogurt. The tray arrived on time. The yogurt however was a no-fat variety and had that slimy texture that comes from thickeners. That’s why at home I love the thick Greek style yogurt that has no additives. Crossed this brand of yogurt off my list for the rest of this trip. But the sliced pineapple was sweet and delicious. And the coffee was hot.

Remy and Philippe teach cha chaToday was my first opportunity to check out the Celebrity Activity Lets Dance Program. The dancers who perform in the shows teach these lessons. The first one listed was a waltz lesson with Vitaliy and Anna.  It was held in the stunning Sky Lounge at the front of the ship on deck 14. There is a medium sized circular dance floor there. It’s a marble floor – so not great for the legs but certainly a nice space. The problem is that it does not come with dance partners!

Maybe twenty-six people showed up for the lesson. I was curious to see what they would cover in the time allowed. They demonstrated a basic box and a turning box, a hesitation step forward and sideways, and a promenade step.  At the end they played one waltz for people to practice what they had learned and I sat and watched.  It was fascinating to see the difference in what people had picked up and how they moved in time to the music – or not.

Shortly after that the next class was scheduled in the Foyer on deck 3, which also has a marble floor.  This class was cha cha cha with Philippe and Remy. About the same number of people crowded onto the floor.

Remy, who is English, said that they would be teaching International style cha cha cha and indeed they taught the basic step, the New York step and an underarm turn. I decided I could lead those steps so I partnered with Pat to practice.I am not a very good leader though as I have not developed that aspect of my dancing and in fact, my main objective these days is to be able to follow anyone on the dance floor easily.

the mind is determined but the body- not so strongAfter a couple of weeks of working out to dance music in my gym, and a planned dance lesson that had to be canceled because of the downtown crowds for Game 7, I finally walked back into the ballroom for a dance lesson. This is the first time I have been back since October 3rd, two days before my stenosed spine decided to finally compress my sciatic nerve so severely that I felt like I was one of the baddies in an episode of 24 with high voltage shocks going down my right leg. So its been 8 and a half months with no dancing - almost as bad as physical torture for an addict like me.

But now I have mentally switched from thinking rehabilitation to thinking "GI Jane training" and though I am not working on weapon or  demolition skills, nor for that matter getting exhausted, water-logged, starving, or resisting torture, I do  have a multi-faceted program that keeps me plenty busy.

why am I smiling you may askThe nutritional plan-low carb eating seems to be working despite the fact that I have occasionally - well quite a few times actually  - been busted eating fries and breads. And then of course there is wine. But still I have managed to drop half the 15 pounds I gained during my 5  month forced couch-potato existence.

Right now I try to get to the gym or walk for a cardio workout at least 4 to 5 days a week.  Cale, my usually Satanic trainer has been relatively cherub-like as he gradually eased me back into a weight training and general fitness regime after the surgery. But he is now starting to channel Viggo Mortensen's Master Chief role as my workouts with him are getting more intense.

It is working because I am managing to hold core exercises like bridges that I thought I would never  have the strength to do again. So when I hear "10 seconds more" and I think "can't do it", I just breathe and think of my muscles getting longer and stronger - and I hear "done!" Whew.

Wendy and her hostsHoney makes sure Chris is picture-perfectAfter a busy day and the very satisfying but filling lobster lunch at the Fish House Grill in Bar Harbor I felt as if I would not want to eat again for a year. 

But we were asked to gather for group pictures before dinner, so there I was at dinner time with the gang in the lobby, watching Wendy try to marshal her staff for the pictures of the hosts for this cruise.

Wendy was trying to get everyone together while Honey was adjusting Chris's cummerbund and Bruce was giving  advice in the background.

Imogen and I took advantage of the moment to get a photo too.

view from Cadillac MountainBar Harbor, Maine - day three of the Autumn Escape East Coast ballroom dancing cruise.



Our stop in Bar Harbor was memorable for two things- the tour of Acadia National Park with stunning views out over  Frenchman Bay; and the buttery, lobster lunch that left us messy and smelling of shellfish but smiling in total gastronomic happiness.

 

The Queen Mary 2 dropped anchor out in the bay beyond the sandbar from which Bar Harbor gets it's name,  and we were tendered into the port. Bar Harbor is known for being "cottage country" for the ultra rich and famous in the mid-19th century. Although the cottages were in fact palatial mansions. Most were destroyed by a massive fire in 1947. Now it is a summer resort dominated by  inns, motels and bed and breakfasts, with a tiny permanent population of around 4800 people.



There is a very picturesque harbor with a tourist centre advertising the wide range of water-activities available.  Some of these  activities include whale watching aboard jet powered Australian designed catamarans that take you 20 miles south of Bar Harbor where the larger whales feed. They often see harbor  porpoises, sharks, seals, pods of pilot whales, dolphins and often humpbacks, Minkes and finback whales. You  can sign up for a lobster fishing and seal watching boat tour or even head into  Acadia national park and take a rock climbing course.

yup- we 're tempted by the fresh baked aromaHowever my organized roomie, Carol had booked us on Oli's Trolley Sightseeing tour, a one hour sightseeing ride that includes a 15 minute stop at the summit of Cadillac Mountain, and a stop at Thunder Hole. It was a good choice.

love those blueberry muffinsWe disembarked from the tender and made our way up to the landing. As we rounded the corner of the building we were entranced by the fragrant scent of freshly baking, and there in the window we saw a tray of freshly  made blueberry muffins. 

 We promptly turned round and headed into the bakery/cafe where I  bought a delicious blueberry muffin and Carol acquired blueberry scones. Great marketing technique. They say olfactory stimuli are among the most powerful sensory inputs and it certainly worked on us.

Approaching Brooklyn Terminal on the Queen Mary 2Autumn in New York - Eight days and nights in the city that never sleeps

Sunday

 I love New York - just like it says on the T-shirts they hawk everywhere around Times Square.  Well perhaps I should qualify that statement by saying that I love spending a week or so in New York in the early fall, seeing theatre, trying out fine restaurants and dancing.  Last year I was here at approximately the same time (New York New York ) and saw some outstanding shows including A Steady Rain with Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig, and Burn the Floor, which so blew me away that I saw it again, and then again for the show at the Vogue in Vancouver.

Me and a Boston DUKWFortunately my friend Carol is a great organizer because left to me, I would probably not see much of the various ports at which we call. Remember for me its the journey!  But thanks to Carol we had a  itinerary planned for this first destination in Boston.

We decided to have an early breakfast in the King's Court buffet, where we met  up with Dorothy and Bruce, and enjoyed a good chat. I was scheduled to have a lesson with Honey at 9:30 so I headed down to G32 where we worked on styling and following. Its those arm movements that get me every time. I think I have to just get less self-conscious and just let my arms move naturally.

Carol and another DUKWAfter the lesson I found Carol waiting in the cabin and we headed ashore. We had booked a Boston Duck Tour and needed to get to the Tour start center at the Prudential Building.We got there a little early and wandered through the shopping center before returning to wait for our tour.

apporaching the Queens Room dance floorAs our dance pro Robert kept emphasizing to get  me moving across the floor, " it's not the destination, it's the journey" - and although he was referring to dance movement, it sums up perfectly my attitude  about my newly acquired passion for cruising. 

Of course it is interesting to visit new places, but honestly, the reason why I  have taken these recent cruises to Asia, the South Pacific, the west and east coasts of N. America, and the Caribbean, is not for the destinations, but for the opportunity to ballroom dance each night along the journey.

That's why I absolutely love the two Cunard liners I have experienced so far, the Queen Victoria and The Queen Mary 2, and why I can't wait to sail on the new Queen Elizabeth, next year. They have the magnificent Queens Room dance floors. The QM2 ballroom is described as the largest ballroom with the largest dance floor at sea, measuring 7.5  by 13 metres or roughly 25 feet wide and 43 feet long (1,075 sq. feet). Although the floor is smaller than one would wish for on land, it is certainly the nicest dance floor I have seen on a ship and several times around the periphery doing a quickstep or Viennese waltz can leave me breathless.

The Autumn Escape itineraryINDEX to Autumn East Coast Dance Cruise New York to Quebec on QM2

This is a nine night cruise out of Brooklyn, along the US East Coast calling at Newport, Boston, Bar Harbor, up to Halifax, and then along the St. Lawrence River to Quebec City before returning to Brooklyn. Our group will enjoy ballroom dancing each night with dance workshops on sea days - meeting up with old friends and making new ones. As well this is a  tour through the culinary offerings aboard the Queen Mary 2 on this voyage - although obviously reflecting my food favorites.

(Each story posts to the home page in reverse chronological order. The link to each story will appear in the index as it is posted until the travelblogue is complete at which timeit will be reordered so that it may be read in the correct time sequence.)



PART ONE

Iconic New  York Harbor sceneI am sitting in the Air Canada lounge at YVR waiting to board the direct Vancouver- Newark flight. It is a very convenient flight for New York travel . Seven days a week it leaves around 2 from Vancouver and gets in to Newark, New Jersey, 5 hours later at around 10 PM New York time. Then the return flight leaves early - I believe around 7 AM, takes about 6 hours and gets in to Vancouver around 10 AM so I have all day to  get my groceries, do my laundry and generally settle in at home.



Since I changed my newspaper subscription from paper to digital I somehow don't spend much time reading the newspapers any more - and I don't check out the horoscope. Pity because maybe I would have been prepared for the "little" glitches that keep popping up. Like Hurricane Earl terrorizing the East Coast of the US - along which I will hopefully be cruising tomorrow.

Like a water leak happening from the penthouse suite down through many floors and possibly into my son's apartment where I  am planning to sleep tonight - on an aero bed on the floor!

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