Saturday, October 26, 2013

Brilliance Cruise - Continued

Hi Again - it is a cold day in our last port, Portland, Maine, and we have been here at least 3 times before, so we are currently sitting in the Concierge Lounge where we have a good phone and internet signal. We are waiting for it to warm up a bit so we can go out for a long walk. In the meantime, I will tell you about the port experiences we have been having. Portland was our first stop last week and the day was nicer. Here is a picture of the city:
We mostly walked all over, admiring the old buildings. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow lived here, so his house has been preserved and there is a museum nearby. The waterfront, where our ship is docked, has nice shops and restaurants. When we were here in our RV 2 summers ago, Boomer friends Gloria and Charlie Goss were with us and we all took a ferry to Peaks Island and walked all around it - then had a picnic lunch. It was MUCH warmer then! We also bought cheap lobster, and taught them how to cook and eat it. We had lobster on this ship when we ate at the Captain's Table and it was overcooked and tough. Boo Hoo. Bar Harbor was the other Maine port. Last week everyone was disappointed because the main attraction nearby is Acadia National Park, and it was closed. We took the tender into town and walked all over, admiring the HUGE and stately old hoimes, many of which have now been turned into Bed and Breakfast places. Here are a couple of them along the beach front.
There is also interesting architecture all through the town, an example being this place:
The town itself has lots of cute little shops selling goods for tourists because they get lots of visitors here, not just from cruise ships.
Last week we had this picture taken to show how the trees were changing colors:
You can see that it was warmer because we are in shirts. This picture was taken in Bar Harbor yesterday with the twins, Lisa and Marcia - the ship is anchored behind us:
You can tell it is much colder by the way we are dressed. Our ship is the last one making this run this season. After a little shopping with the twins, Elaine and I went to the library to do internet and then met them later at Geddy's for lunch.
We all had good food and local microbrews, but Lisa was especially keen on having lobster. Elaine is a very experienced seafood eater and she taught Lisa how to break the lobster apart and get all the meat out:
Lisa enjoyed it, despite the look on her face! For dinner, the twins joined us at Giovanni's, the very excellent Italian restaurant on the ship. We had scallops as a starter and a soup loaded with seafood for Elaine, as well as jumbo shrimp for her entree and I had lamb chops. I always request that they go to the neighboring restaurant (Chops) for some of their delicious forest mushroom soup. Everything was delicious and we had plenty of wine too, supplied by the ship as one of our amenities. Here we are sharing a special night (our 5th wedding anniversary) with special friends:
The first Canadian port was Saint John, New Brunswick. The first week we did a very long walk over to the reversing falls. We have been here before and actually, they are no big deal because it is just when the river reverses because of very high tides, and you have to be there at the exact right time. But we needed a destination, so we walked over along the very pleasant harborwalk. Here is the reversing falls area:
On of the nicer tourist areas is called Market Square and nearby is the Barbour Store Museum. This is an old store that was actually moved about 80 miles on a barge to this site and restored. It is well done, interesting, and free.
Outside the store there are so benches with some really cute carved figures, so we posed with them:
Our second visit to Saint John, we walked around a different area downtown. It was much colder but no threat of rain. It was so cold that we were surprised that flowers were still abundant in the planted beds:
One of the fun places to visit was the City Market, where there were many colorful fish drawings hanging over the stalls, and lots of nice handmade creations by the local people.
Saint John is a very historic city, and there are lots of architecturally interesting brick buildings which could be seen on our walk. These were built after a large majority of the wooden buildings were destroyed by a huge fire in the 1800's.
There were many brick and stone churches with prominent spires which could be easily seen from our ship. Here is the Stone Church:
Many people from America who were loyal to England moved up to Saint John after the Revolution. Some of their houses are still around and on display and they call them Loyalist Houses. The last port was Hallifax, Nova Scotia. This is a delightful city we have enjoyed before and lots of the interesting things to see are within walking distance of the cruise port. We did the Harbour Walk, which is very well done and has many lovely sculptures, restaurants, shops, and sights scattered along its length.
This cute little tugboat was moored along the walk:
The second cruise week in Hallifax we walked over to the extensive public gardens. I'm sure they are amazing in Spring and summer, because they were pretty good even now, despite the cold weather. This is the bandstand there:
The lake in the public gardens was bigger than we expected and quite nicely landscaped along the shore:
It wasn't far to The Citadel, a big fort shaped like a star which is high on a hill overlooking the city.
I had my picture taken with the guard:
There are also many elegant, old brick buildings in Hallifax too:
St. Paul's church is one of the oldest in Canada and has a beautiful pipe organ, as well:
Now for a few more miscellaneous pictures from the ship. This is the staff captain and his wife, from Croatia, who hosted us the second week at the Captain's Table:
This is the very elegant dessert that was served:
This is a picture of some of the beautiful and delicious sushi rolls which we ordered at Izumi, the Japanese Restaurant here on the ship. This is one of our favorite places to eat!
Tomorrow we arrive back in Boston and fly back to San Diego where we will stay with Darran & Marielle again for a day or 2. Then we will drive back to Park Sierra to reconnect with old friends who have returned to the park. Our next adventure starts Nov. 13 when we fly to Barcelona to board the Serenade of the Seas for a series of 3 cruises - the Mediterranean, a transtalantic, and a Caribbean.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Boston & Brilliance of the Seas Cruises

Oct. 25 Hello Blog Readers. This is the first opportunity we have had to update you, due to lack of time on the cruise ship, and also limited internet opportunities since we were in Canada a lot of the time. So updating you will be a long post, with lots of pictures, possibly done in several increments. Before I begin telling you about our doings, I will share with you that today is the 5th anniversary of our wedding, which was held at our RV clubhouse in California. Tonight we will be celebrating in one of the specialty restaurants on the Brilliance of the Seas. Our good cruise friends, Marcia Albritton and Lisa Romine, will be joining us. They are identical twins, and Pinnacle members, so everyone calls them "The Twinacles". Next post I will have a picture for you. The last update was after our first day in Boston when we were escorted around by Nancy & Bob Colbert, and had a great day. The next few days we were on our own but managed to see and do a lot because we bought a 7-day pass on the subway, which they call the T. Our first use of it was to go from the airport to our room, which we had secured on Here is a picture of Elaine enjoying it.
The first day we were on our own, we took the T to Boston Commons, which now is a huge park with grass, trees, statues, etc. But it used to be used as a gathering place and training ground for militia troops. The day we were there they had a display of globes, all of which had been decorated differently by artists, to urge eco-friendly causes, and behaviors which help with recycling, global warming prevention, etc.
We noticed guides near the information booth, waiting for their tour groups to gather. They were dressed in period costumes from the 17th century, such as this guy:
These tours usually cost between $20 and $60 dollars. We had found a site called, which offers free walking tours and all you do is tip the guide at the end. So we met our guide, Brian, who was not dressed up, but who gave a very informative and entertaining tour nonetheless. There were about 15 people in our group and the tour lasted 2 1/2 hours. Right near the gathering spot we had a great view of the Massachusetts State House, the dome of which was originally covered in copper sheeting produced by Paul Revere's foundry, but today has a beautiful shiny gold plating, costing millions.
One of the places we went was to the Granary Burial Grounds, a cemetery where the Boston Masssacre victims are buried, as well as other early important patriots such as Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Peter Fanueil, Paul Revere, and the parents of Benjamin Franklin. Here is our guide, Brian, at the grave of Samuel Adams:
He gave us so much history on this tour, it was hard to keep up with him because he was talking so fast! Here is the church which is right between the Granary Burial Ground and the Boston Commons:
Brian took us into the Omni Parker Hotel, one of the oldest hotels, which has a gorgeous wood interior:
Lots of history has tken place there, including fairly recent events concerning John F. Kennedy. He used to eat there often and this was the place where he asked Jacqueline to marry him in the dining room:
The tour ended at Fanueil Hall, which has shops on the bottom floor and some interesting looking halls and displays on the upper floors, BUT they were closed due to the government shutdown.
Damn Congress. We explored the Quincy Market nearby, but it was lunch time and it was packed with people. As we had been following Brian, we noticed brightly painted pianos, with attached benches, all over the city. It seems these were an art project, and they have been painted by artists with different themes and scattered all over so people can play them in public places.
Several times we passed people playing them who were really good pianists. It reminded us of our visit to Bratislava where they had painted cows all over the place. The next day we met our tour guide at the Bell In Hand Tavern, which wasn't far from Fanueil Hall and located near the old waterfront, where there were many picturesque old buildings, taverns and restaurants.
Our tour guide today was Beth, a retired university professor from New York who retired to Boston with her husband. There were 4 people in our tour group, plus Beth:
Once again we had an excellent tour, with so much history and fun experiences. This tour was called a Food Tour Through Little Italy, one of the oldest parts of the city which is heavily Italian now, and where many really good restaurants, stores, delicatessens, etc. are located.
One of our first stops was at an Italian market and deli where Mike, the owner, explained some of the food and gave us lots of samples. Then we visited the bakery next door, where we saw many beautiful creations such as these:
We bought a cream filled phyllo dough creation with an Italian name that I can't remember now and they boxed it up for us to enjoy later. Another Italian market had authentic Italian goods for sale
After a bit more prowling around, we stopped at Ernesto's Pizza, where we had a huge slice of pizza and it was hard to choose because they had so many unusual and delicious-sounding choices.
We then visited several more shops, delis, and markets where Beth explained the food items and made suggestions. When our tour ended after 2 hours, we were not far from Paul Revere's house, so we decided to visit. It is the oldest surviving house in Boston, and that is miraculous because it is made of wood.
Some of the furniture is also original to the Revere family. There were costumed interpreters, one of whom did a good job of explaining the process necessary to fire a musket. My goodness, what a lot of steps they had to do, while being shot at too! Both days after our tours were over, we used our T passes and explored other areas. In looking for the Mapparium, we ended up at the public library which was a huge old building made out of marble and with a huge and beautiful courtyard, large reading and study rooms, and even carved lions:
It was very impressive. One of the fun things we did was take a free tour of the Sam Adams Brewery, the oldest one in the USA.
While waiting for the tour, we looked through their little museum area, and they had some of their more whimsical labels on display, such as this one:
The tour involved seeing and tasting some of the toasted grains and hops, then an explanation of the tanks and filtering:
It ended when we all were herded into a big room with tables where we were given a glass to keep, and tasted 3 of the beers they produce.
This was when we discovered that we really like one of their seasonal beers: Oktoberfest. Try it if you get a chance. Sunday, Oct. 13, we took the T to the Black Falcon Cruise terminal and boarded the Brilliance of the Seas. We were on this ship last Fall when we took a transatlantic from Copenhagen, which stopped 2 days in Iceland, and ended in New Jersey. Our first room was the usual inside room (cheapest), on the 3rd deck, and it looked like this:
This is the largest inside room we have ever had, but it was under the dining room so we had noise at various times. On the second day of the cruise, we learned that we were the "high cruisers", which means we had the most points of anyone on the cruise. So they gave us flowers and champagne at the Welcome Back party:
We also saw Julie Sherrington, the Guest Services Manager who remembered us from last Fall. She asked us if we wanted to be upgraded to a suite, since one was available, and we jumped on this opportunity. Wow - it was an Owners Suite. Here are some pictures of it:
And of course, Elaine took advantage of the jacuzzi tub:
The next night, formal night, we were invited to have dinner at the Captain's Table hosted by Dean Bailey, the Hotel Director, and Julie. Here we are with Julie at the dinner
The food and wine were delicious, of course, although Julie ended up having an emergency appendectomy a few days later, so hopefully this dinner didn't cause that! Usually when one of the cruise friends has a suite, there is a big party. We were on this ship with not one person we knew. Luckily, there was a fun and active group of women aboard called the Getaway Girls. One of them is a travel agent and she arranges trips where these women travel together without their husbands because they are all old friends. They now are from all over the country and have been doing these trips for 15 years. We got to be part of this group when we met them in the Conceirge Lounge. So to celebrate our suite, they all came over for a party, which was really fun. Some of them came again a few days later too.
And some of the Getaway Girls were with us when we were invited to the Captain's Quarters for a party for Suite guests:
From left we have Elaine, Heidi, the Captain (Steig), Marie, Sue & Mary. Now that I have reached the part of this update where we start discussing port stops, I am going to run out of time. So I will post this part and do the ports in the next one.