Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Continuing on in San Juan!

We were on our tour, and had decided that we didn't want to be dropped off at the fort since it was too near the time when it closed.  So we got back on the tour bus and ended up at one of the squares and then walked around a bit before dinner.

We had dinner at one of the restaurants with the outside courtyards....very pretty!

Mofongo - it was pretty good!

The Reflection at night, looks really nice!

And it had started by now to drizzle just a we went back on board.  We were back on board in time to see the 10:30 show, which was an Illusionist show. Kyle Knight and Mistie. If you like Magic, or Illusionist shows, this one was really good! We thought so anyway!

I'm not really one who watches that type of show to try to figure out the HOW they do all of the tricks. I of course wonder how they do it, but I don't try to break the magic of it all. I find it pretty amazing that someone can be so talented to be that quick with their hands or do whatever it all is!

And, for one of the tricks, my son, Alex got to go onstage as his assistant! That was pretty cool! Just disregard the bad picture of the illusionist! No flash so it blurred his face!

After the show, the kids went to the teen club - boy this day went on forever didn't it? And Keith and I went to the Martini Bar. It was really crowded, but we got a drink and sat for a bit.

And a couple of pictures as we left San Juan...

All in all, our San Juan day turned out pretty well. I still would have liked to have visited one of the forts - mostly because I know the kids, mainly Alex would have liked it. Megan, well, probably not as much. I'm a planner, and I don't really like to not have a plan going into a port. Even one that I've been to before. While we saved a lot of money by not doing the food tour or the Segway tour, I still would like to do a Segway tour on one of our future visits! I thought the $10/person was a decent value for what we got to see. But I regret the time we wasted waiting around for the van to be filled. For that reason, I wouldn't do something like that again. 

Next up, our day in St Thomas!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

An afternoon in San Juan! - Monday, November 17th

Today we would be docking in San Juan....this was a port day where we didn't really have a plan. I tried, I really did! Keith and I have been to Puerto Rico a couple of times and I really love it there. We'd been there on cruise stop before and that time went to the fort and did a food tour. Both enjoyable! Then Keith and I did a land vacation and really got to see more of what the island had to offer. We really would have loved to have taken the kids to the rain forest, or the beach, but our port times were just so inconvenient in my opinion - 3:30 - 10:00. Not beach time, can't really get to the rain forest in the day time. 

We tried to arrange a private food tour in advance and thought we had something set up, and for one reason or another it just never materialized. So we decided we wanted to do the Segway Tour. Turns out that had to be booked directly with the ship, and by the time we decided to do it, it was sold out in advance. We tried booking on board, again - we decided to just wing it. We were going to go to the fort and get dinner. Did we?

Well, first we had a full morning and early afternoon on the ship!

Megan just loved the Hideaway! It's a bit of a dark picture, but you get the idea of how the chairs were shaped!

 After breakfast, we went to Hosea's demo! I don't really have much in the way of pictures, so here he is!

Hosea's demo was a very different style than Tiffany's. He didn't really talk much about what he was doing as he prepared the meal, which I believe was again a fish dish. But he did a Q & A as he cooked, instead of waiting until the end. He was very laid back and he talked about his new restaurant and like Tiffany, he talked about his experience on Top Chef and cooking techniques. At the end, he brought up a couple of audience members to taste his dish. 

Afterwards we probably had lunch and then went to get our stuff together to get ready to head out as we neared San Juan.

Once we got off the ship, for some reason, our plans changed and we decided to take one of the taxi "Old San Juan tours" for $10 person. We thought maybe then we could get off at one of the forts and also see a bit more of the town than just walking up to the fort. The only problem with this was that they waited until the entire van was full, so we sat there for probably 30 or more minutes until we got started. 

Our driver was pretty informative and took us by some government buildings. We stopped at one of the buildings, which I really wish I remember what it was now! 

There was a nice view there and we had some time for some pictures.

Next he drove us around and just sort of narrated what we were seeing and the history of the town. Told us some areas we may or may not want to visit after his tour and we drove by San Cristobal. Then we went to Fort El Morro. 

Again here we had some time to get out - but not at the actual fort, by the cemetery. 

At this point, we could have been left off at the fort, which was our original plan, but it was so close to the closing time, which was 6:00pm, that it just no longer made sense. So we got back in the van and continued on with our tour. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Top Chef at Sea - our first Demo!

The first of the no charge Top Chef events was Sunday afternoon. It was a cooking demo done by Tiffany. Keith, myself and the kids all were looking forward to attending. Keith and I have watched every season of Top Chef so we were pretty familiar with all of the chefs, but as we soon found out, some of the passengers on board were true Top Chef groupies! Yet at the same time, some of the passengers honestly weren't aware that there were even any Top Chef activities going on at all. And I think that's really as it should be. This wasn't a specially chartered cruise, so there was nothing overly intrusive for those who just wanted nothing to do with anything "chefy". Everything was totally by choice and there were no disruptions in the daily activities, at least that I was aware of!

So, as we were waiting for our first demo, up on the big screen was the loop of the Top Chef Season 14 that was playing on the TVs in our stateroom. So, just in case we had missed we go! 

The stage was set and we were ready for some cooking!

Right on time, our Cruise Director, Josh (I hope that's the right name) came out and introduced Tiffany. 

Tiffany came out and was incredibly personable. As the week went by and we watched each demo, each of the chefs had their own style of doing the demo - which was nice. Tiffany cooked and sort of narrated her cooking as she went. She told us what she was doing as she made her dish. Very much like a cooking show. She made a fish dish.

And then as her dish was finishing up, and plated, she fielded quite a few questions from the audience. Everything ranging from cooking tips, to questions about her time on Top Chef to what she's doing now, her favorite foods to eat and to cook. You name it. She was really great. 

At the end several audience members were able to go up and taste her food. 

I thought the whole demo was done very well. There were some great tips shared on cooking and the Q & A at the end was really great! 

So far, the Top Chef experience was a hit with our family! 

I'm not really sure what we did the rest of the afternoon. I think the kids went back to the cabin and Keith and I sat out on the deck and read. It was formal night and we decided to "go formal" and eat in the Main Dining Room again.

So we went back to the cabin to get ready and immediately noticed that the slamming and crashing noise continued. This again prompted the debate of what was causing the noise. We had really been all over the ship during the day and didn't hear any noises, the ship wasn't really rocking too much, although for the first time in 5 cruises Alex was feeling somewhat sea sick and that was unusual for him. Keith and Megan continued with their theories that it was noise from above or below and Alex and I were sure it was the ship itself making noise because we were sailing fast and the waves were a bit high. 

In any event, it was Formal Night and we all had to get ready! 

A little help with his tie

When the constant noise finally wouldn't let up, and more so, the constant, discussion of what it was kept going...I finally called guest services. I honestly wasn't calling to complain so much as to settle the argument of what the noise was! While I was somewhat annoyed at the fact that it was LOUD and going on for more than 12 hours now and given that we weren't in our cabin for most of the day it didn't matter, I was now starting to wonder if it would continue all night long! So - I called and spoke to a very nice rep who's name escapes me at this moment. She was very apologetic, and told me she was going to get to the bottom of this and call me right back. She called back about 10 minutes later and told me she spoke to someone - I can't remember who, and was told that yes, in fact it was definitely the noise the ship makes when the seas are a bit rough and the ship is moving a bit fast - for example, when they are traveling to the destinations. It is the ship hitting the waves. They offered to move us to another cabin, and I declined because where could they move us? We didn't want a standard cabin. And my hope was that once we got to San Juan, we'd slow down going to the other islands and the noise would stop. She said she would check back in and she did more than once to see how the noise level was. She wanted to make note of it to "make improvements for future guests". Which I thought was a bit odd - had no one else ever noticed this before??

Anyway - we left for dinner, which was very good...

We really enjoy the Select Dining and though the service in the dining room was great. 

After dinner, Megan and I went to the Captain's Gala Toast & Center Stage Show. Alex went to the teen club, and Keith went back to the cabin. 

Sorry for the blurry pictures! I really liked the Captain's overall personality. Not that I met him in person, but the image he presented was great! He was seen about the ship and there was just something in his voice when he made his daily announcements that I really liked!

A little bit from the show -

Another great day on the Reflection! Tomorrow we head to San Juan!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sunday at Sea!

I always love sleeping on a cruise. The beds are usually super comfortable and I love the slight rocking of the ship. We had this great cabin, which Megan reminded me to mention that I forgot to say had a doorbell even! And of course, she had to ring it every time we came back to the cabin, even if she was sure we were all standing outside the door! But yes, it was pretty cool to have a doorbell! 

But sometime during the night I woke up to a slamming sound. Maybe it was a crashing sound...At first I thought maybe it was the cabin above us moving something around. But boy, it would have had to have been them rearranging their entire cabin! It just went on and on and on! It would stop and start. Being the middle of the night, I sort of drifted in and out of sleep. When we got up the next day, the four of us mentioned hearing the noise. Keith was convinced it was the theater moving that doesn't make sense since that is 2 decks below us. The kids figured it was the equipment in the front of the ship or the ship itself hitting the ocean. Sort of like when you're in a speedboat and you hit a wake. Yup, that's exactly what it sounded like. Only we were on a cruise ship. Imagine that sound on a cruise ship! So, no big deal, we left and went to breakfast.

It was a pretty windy morning, and the sea was slightly choppy. We all found something to eat in the Oceanview Cafe. We generally liked the buffet for the meals we had there. Usually breakfast and lunch. The overall opinion was that of all our cruises, they had the best "ship pizza"! 

After breakfast we went outside for a bit and found a few chairs and relaxed a bit...yes, just an exhausting morning!!

It was about time for the Top Chef Meet & Greet and also the Galley Tour. The kids went to the Teen club I think and Keith and I went to the Opus Restaurant for our Top Chef Meet and Greet.

The ship does have these ship map displays by the elevators so that you can find your way around. They're not the most detailed, but they get you where you need to go!

We probably wouldn't have done the Galley Tour if it wasn't right after the Meet and Greet. Keith and I had done one a few years ago on the Eclipse, and while it was really fascinating on that ship, it's sort of a been there seen it type of tour. Keith is also a chef himself. Which is a main reason we chose this cruise. And while he was really fascinated with the first Galley Tour we did, spending his outside cruise time walking through a ship kitchen, when he spends every day in a kitchen was a bit anti-climatic for him at this point. 

However, the Head Chef and several of the Chef's from the ship were introduced and they do an amazing job on this ship.

And then the four Top Chefs came out and each gave a VERY brief introduction. 

The chefs on our cruise were:

Tiffany Derry - Season 7
Hosea Rosenberg - Winner Season 5
Casey Thompson - Season 3
Shirley Chung - Finalist Season 11

Also, one other Top Chef note - Season 11 was on a continuous loop on one of the channels on board the ship. I believe it's on every sailing, constantly. It would have been nice if all of the seasons that the Top Chefs on board were played because for those sailing who were not as familiar with the show, they only really saw Shirley since it was her season playing. The other chefs remarked about this a few times. Also, just watching tv, by about day 3, even not watching too much tv, you'd turn the tv on and there would be the same episode on...again! Some variety would have been great!

So after their introductions, we moved on to the Galley Tour - as each group was called the Head Chef would take some Q & A's from those waiting to be called. Pretty much anything relating to food operations on the ship. 

Our group was called for our tour. We got to tour the "upper" kitchen. Every dining room has its own kitchen. I mentioned that we did a Galley tour on the Eclipse and we also did a cooking class when we sailed on that ship and got to cook in the Murano kitchen room at that time. Now we were in the upper kitchen of the Opus dining room. And every one has been incredibly spotless. For the number of dishes that go through those kitchens it is simply amazing how clean they are! That is what strikes me the most. That and how organized they are - although if they weren't so organized, they couldn't get the food out!

This is one of the boards that shows every dish and how it's prepared. This way the waitstaff will know what is in each dish and how it should look.

They even had the special dishes listed for the "Top Chef" night in the Main Dining Room listed

Overall the tour was interesting, but it was no where near as in depth as the tour we had on the Eclipse. I don't know if it was because we were in the upper kitchen, or if it was because they had so many people on the tour, or if they've just changed the tour itself. Here we just really had a quick walk through. But it was still very interesting and if you've never seen a professional kitchen, especially one of this scale - do it! 

After this we had a short bit of time to spend outside in the sun before the first Top Chef cooking demo! It was tough to balance the fun in the sun with the Top Chef activities! Inside or outside??? The tough decisions of vacations....

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

And we're sailing!

After checking out our cabin, it was about time for the muster drill. Our station was in the theater, which was nice. So off we went. The drill was pretty complete, and to the point. 

Afterwards it was time to find a spot for sail away. We decided to head on up to the lawn area. It was a beautiful day in Miami and the sail away was just lovely!

Once we were underway, we took care of making our dinner reservations for the week at the Specialty restaurants and then did a bit of a mini-tour of the ship. If we would have boarded earlier in the day, we would have done a "tour" tour of the ship. You know, gone to the spa and done their tour, gone to the teen club and signed in the kids, gotten an overview of the ship. But by now, when we went up to the teen club, they were already closed until later in the evening. This was really the drawback of the later boarding time. By the time we got on, got to our cabins and did the muster drill - our day was already almost over. 

Just some pictures as we walked around...

The Fun Factory for the younger kids....

And on the other side of the ship, the X-Club for the teens

The Hideaway - a place to just relax, in strange shaped chairs!

The library

The ship does have some very unique artwork, and there's a book in each room that explains each piece and where it's located.

And then you have the really huge wine selection in the Main Dining Room!

Back up on the Lawn, you have these really big chairs

I'm pretty sure for dinner that night we ate in the Main Dining Room. We had the Celebrity Select Dining. Our dinner was good, our server was good as well. But to be honest, I can't remember anything as standing out about the meal. We've found that the food in the Main Dining Room of Celebrity has been very good in the past, and this lived up to our expectations. 

After dinner the kids went to the teen club and Keith and I went to the show. It was a "beat box/juggler". We actually enjoyed it, and that's saying quite a bit as Keith is really not one for shows! It was just a bit different and that's a nice change of pace.

Afterwards we stopped at the Molecular Bar. 

I have a really blurry picture of the drink I got, which I hate to even post, but here goes...just because it's got the liquid nitrogen thing going on!

All in all we had a great first day on the Reflection! It looked like it was going to be a great week!