This is my first time aboard a Celebrity Cruise Ship, and the first cruise I have taken in recent years that has not been with my favorite ballroom dance group, Dancers at Sea. My cruises in the past three years have been on the Princess and Cunard lines, with one New Year Cruise in the Caribbean on Costa.
As this is my first cruise on Celebrity and each cruise line has its own unique flavour, I an really curious to see how Celebrity compares with my previous experiences. As a food writer and foodie, the culinary aspects of the cruise are really important to me. And of course, I am also especially interested in the aspect of dance opportunities on the Celebrity fleet. As well, on the dance cruises I am usually more interested in dancing myself than seeing the dancers and singers in the shows, so this time, I will have the time to get to see each of the shows on board too. So on-board food and wine experiences, music and dance, and the production shows are the aspects to which I will pay particular attention on this cruise.
620 8th Avenue,
New York, NY
Ph: (212) 354-2195 or Reserve Online
This was my first day in Manhattan on this trip, having arrived really late the previous evening. I met my son to get a number of shopping tasks done. On our way from my hotel we passed Inakaya, and decided to stop in for lunch. The place was full but there was room at the sushi bar.
I liked the design of the restaurant. It is open with high ceilings and an unusually wide and comfortable sushi bar. As you can the chef has to use a paddle to hand dishes or a bottle of sake across to the patron.
Since this restaurant's specialty is Robata, Japanese barbecue, we had to try one of their Robata dishes so we chose to share one of their specials for the day: the US Kobe Beef duo featuring sirloin and tenderloin on skewers. The meat was incredibly tender and the dish came with grilled vegetables.
Introducing my 2012 New York Travelblogue... Dining and Theatre in my second favorite city...after Vancouver of course.
I usually choose to travel to New York in the fall or the spring, occasionally the summer. When leaving Vancouver in the winter, my choice of winter destinations would involve warmth, sunshine , beaches or ... a dance cruise. But this year a family event drew me to Manhattan in January, and here I am in a city that today, despite the sunshine, is drier but far colder than home .
We had booked a transfer from The Intercontinental Resort to the cruise ship pier with the Princess Cruises representative at the hotel. There were advantages to doing this. Firstly, although the recommendation for normal check-in time is after 2 Pm for speedier processing, our transfer was scheduled for 11 am and we could check in as early as 11:30 am. That gave us lots of time to get settled and still have the afternoon to explore the market and pier-side area of Papeete.
It also meant that apart from having our suitcases ready for pick up by 9 am, we could forget about lugging bags and things in taxis. Check-in was very quick.
We took advantage of being on board early to visit the Lotus Spa on the 10th floor next to the gym. We both booked massages. I booked one for the 31st, thinking that after four days of dancing my body would really need it. I also booked a pedicure thinking that I could get purple polish to match the dress I was going to wear on New Year’s Eve.
The first word in French Polynesia is - French. So how did I so badly ignore that very important fact. If I had been planning to travel to France i would have packed my travel adaptors and brushed up on my French but somehow, it escaped me that the electrical outlets in Tahiti would be based on European not North American standards. Naturally none of my plugs fitted so to recharge my laptop battery I had to get an adaptor. The friendly Francophone guest services man came up with one - but when I plugged it in my poor little laptop was buzzing - literally. I hope I am not frying its poor little insides. Anyway next day I bought a better adaptor and the buzzing stopped.
The Air Canada flight from London to Vancouver departs Heathrow around 10 in the morning. Disembarking in Southampton from the Queen Victoria after the Ballroom Dance Cruise around the British Isles, I knew that there would be no way to catch that flight, so I had elected to stay overnight at the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel near the airport and travel back to Canada the following day.
A friend, Nancy, who was traveling back to the US also had a flight the day after the cruise, so we decided to take a Thames River Dinner Showboat Cruise.
Several of us had booked a van to drive us from Southampton to London. After dropping the others off at the Heathrow terminals, the driver took us to our hotel. We had to wait quite a while to check in which was a bit annoying but we had arrived before the official check-in time so we could not really complain.
It is summer in British Columbia and in Vancouver we have been enjoying one of the hottest weeks on record. Perhaps enjoying is not the best choice of word. Temperatures soar and instead of grumbling about rain, there are warnings everywhere about how to "survive the heat". It is really quite amusing as other parts of the world regularly experience weather far hotter and more humid than we are seeing.
Anyway, by sheer coincidence, this happened to be the weekend that our group of friends who have traveled together on several explorations of the regions of Italy (Tuscany, Le Marche, Umbria, Sicily to name a few), decided to have another BC reunion with lots of food and wine (see A Taste of the South Okanagan). Two couples in our group have homes on the island less than 5 minutes drive from each other, and the plan was that the rest of us would stay at one or the other place so we could easily convene for our various outings.
Two of us from downtown Vancouver had planned to leave around 5 to catch the 7:30 ferry from Horseshoe Bay, but our plans changed suddenly when we read that the Critical Mass cyclists would be obstructing the downtown streets just as we were heading over to the North Shore. We decided to err on the side of caution and leave an hour early and possibly have an early supper in Horseshoe Bay.
After 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.
Bar 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.
However 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.
We 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.
Of several terrific meals I enjoyed on this annual visit to New York I must say that our dinner at Paradou stands out and the main reason is the sinfully delicious Carte de Foie Gras creations that we shared for appetizers.
I had selected Paradou for dinner after our matinee musical, Billy Elliott, partly because it was located in the Meatpacking District, an area that I had not visited on my previous trips to New York. As we approached the restaurant, I wondered about my choice because at first glance it seemed to be just a small storefront-type establishment with a bar and a few tables. But we followed the waiter through a narrow corridor and emerged in a delightful and spacious enclosed courtyard.