Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bonus photo!

A Rare Find

I hope I don't sound like a broken record...

So we haven’t done much snorkeling on this itinerary....we just haven’t been that inspired and it’s been very windy which isn’t great for snorkeling. We have gone swimming a few times and it’s been lovely.

Yesterday we were at Great Stirrup Cay which is the NCL private island. We decided that it was time to try out our new snorkeling gear. So we packed up and took the tender over to the island.

When we got there we walked to the quieter of the two beaches. We found out that we had to wear a life vest which was a super bummer and it chaffed Larrance’s nipples. My nipples were safe because I was wearing a swimsuit top....Larrance goes *gasp* topless. He has no shame.

So the snorkeling was okay. The reef around the island has taken a lot of damage so we were just test driving our gear and enjoying the water. When what do I see but a medium sized very exotic fish just hanging out next to a rock. I swim over to it and realize that it’s a Lion Fish. Now, Lion Fish aren’t supposed to be in the Caribbean so I thought I was wrong until I check out our World Book. According to the World Book, the Lion Fish recently has moved into the Caribbean waters from the Indo-Pacific. Most likely they were dumped there by someone with tank who didn’t want it anymore. ANYWAY, there it was just hanging out in all of it’s spiney glory. As you may know, they can deliver quite a painful sting so we kept our distance. Enjoy the photos.....

We swam around some more and saw a rather large welk shell. Larrance dove down to take a look. The dive was deeper than he thought and his ear plug went way into his ear.

Finally, we saw a Southern Sting Ray. The ray was swimming on the bottom but the weird thing was that a fish (a spotted goat fish) was hanging out right on top of it. As the ray swam through the water, it would disturb the sand and as it did the goat fish would dart forward now and then to eat something....little fish I assume. It was great to watch.

We were in the water about 40 minutes or so. Our gear was great. The masks were clear, comfortable and they didn’t leave those awful mask marks. It was a very wavy day and we didn’t get any water in our new snorkels. Yay!

Today is New Year’s Eve. We have a show tonight. Then there’s the ringing of the New Year complete with fireworks (courtesy of the Atlantis) and then a crew party. Should be lots o’ fun....

Next cruise is a one day “cruise to nowhere” around the NY harbor. We’re doing a late show that night. Then my mom & Ray are onboard for our first 10 day carribbean cruise!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Surprises


It’s been a bit since my last entry. I have to say that this itinerary has been a real let down after Europe. But it’s also been a let down in terms of weather, we’ve only been swimming twice. It’s been super windy and fairly chilly. Now, I know that I have nothing to complain about on the weather front what with the conditions in the rest of the country but I’m complaining anyway so there.

I had worse holiday blues this year than previous contracts. Or at least it felt worse. I missed being with my family and was worried that the holidays were going to be very depressing. Maybe it was my low expectations but Christmas was great....

The cast exchanged Secret Santa names about 6 weeks ago. I had Rance. He’s very hard to buy for but he gave me a detailed list and I mostly stuck to that. I got him a timex watch w/ a velcro band, a workout book, a six pack of Mug root beer and a reindeer tongue lollipop. I think he loved the lollipop best. Basically it was a plastic drum shaped reindeer head with a candy lollipop shaped like a deer’s tongue that you push out to suck on. So Rance got to french kiss a reindeer for Christmas....and that was actually on his list.

We had a bit of a surprise on this last cruise. We popped into the dance show one night and we looked over to see an older couple. I felt like I recognized the man. As I stared I realized that he’d been a student of mine at the Schoodic Arts Festival - I knew him. So we chatted with him and his wife and later in the cruise we had dinner with them. It kind of felt like we had family onboard even though we didn’ was nice to have dinner with someone not from the ship. No offense to any of my shipmates but having dinner with a “land person” gave me a sense of normalcy that I’d been lacking.

I had a funny feeling today. At the end of our season at ImprovAcadia, I frequently feel tired and not very creatively ambitious. I might do a bit of knitting or even drawing but I kind of go fallow. I know that I’m still doing shows and yes, they require creativity but not on the scale of my summer schedule. So I’ve been waiting to feel like I have a surplus o’ creativity. Today I started to get the feeling that the fallow period is coming to an end - I am filled with nitrogen!

We’re about to change itineraries which I’m really looking forward to. We have one more week of the Bahamas and then we go to four 10 day Caribbean cruises. We have a great itinerary - NYC, 2 sea days, St. Thomas, Barbados, Antigua, St. Maarten, Tortola, and 2 sea days. There should be lots of good snorkeling on all of those islands. I’ve never been to St. Maarten and I’ve only been to St. Thomas once.
I hope to get over to St. John’s and see the National Park. Larrance and I bought new masks and snorkels this year. Our masks are super fancy - they have glass that goes around the side so we have better peripheral vision. I need to try it out!

Check out my flickr site - I put up more photos.

Yeah. Uh-huh. Bieeeeee!


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bahamas & Dangerous Breakfasts


Well, we’re on our third Bahamas cruise. Our itinerary is as follows: NYC (home port), Sea Day, Port Canaveral, Great Stirrup Cay, Nassau (New Providence Island), Freeport (Grand Bahamas) and then a Sea Day and back to NYC.

We’ve had three port days in NYC and they’ve all been great. It’s really lovely to be in NYC during the Christmas season. Everything is decked out in holiday decorations and the teeming city is even more teeming. We’ve mostly just wandered on our New York days. The first day we walked around Mid-Manhattan (the ship ports at 48th & 12th) and went to Whole Foods. The next time we walked to Time Square, then to Bryant Park, then 30 Rock, then the Public Library and back. We’ve been sampling various pizza places and doing a bit of shopping but mostly it’s just been about walking around the city. This last NYC they wouldn’t let us off the ship until 12:30 (we ported at 9:15am) so we just took a short jaunt to find some of our secret santa presents. Then back....

Tomorrow a few of us are headed to Islands of Adventure which is near Disney World. Normally on Port Canaveral day, we run errands and get some internet time. I’ve been using that day to post lots of photos to the blog. Port Canaveral is a very useful stop and we’re looking forward to going to Cocoa Beach.

The next day we port at Nassau. The town of Nassau is a fairly large city (250,000) and it has a nice shopping and restaurant district. You can also walk along the ocean front. I must say that everything is super expensive in Nassau. There’s a famous Greek restaurant on Bay Street, run by a Greek!, and we stopped there for some Gyros and a beer and it cost us $50. We weren’t ripped off - the food was delicious - but Nassau is pricey.

Paradise island is attached by a bridge to New Providence and the Atlantis Casino/hotel/shopping mall/ nature center/man made beach/aquarium is located on Paradise. We went there last week to look at the free part of the aquarium. It’s really amazing - they have two HUGE Manta Rays, a nurse shark, a sting ray and lots of fish - and that’s just the free part. To see the rest of the aquarium cost 30 buck so I’m not sure we’ll pop for that. There is a water park on Paradise Island and from what I understand there’s a water slide that goes through the shark tank. Obviously you’re enclosed in a tube....or at least I hope so.

We went to Cabbage beach on Paradise. It’s a public beach and it’s really very nice. It’s on the exposed Atlantic side so there’s some big waves but the beach is long and large. We enjoyed our first dip in the ocean and got pushed around a bit by the big waves.

Freeport is not such a great port. I’m sure the island it lovely but we’re only there until 1pm. We get there at 7am and I just can’t see getting up early to go to the beach. Also it’s hard to get a cab to take you anywhere but the “ship approved” shopping/beach stop. I’ve never experienced this before but the dispatcher will only get you a cab to this one area. They tell you it’s downtown Freeport but it’s a duty free shopping area and casino. Boo. And it’s a 20 minute/$5 cab double boo.

We’ve been enjoying a slower pace on this part of our contract. A little more sleep, spending less money and drinking less coffee.

The passenger profiles have changed a lot. In Europe, the passengers were pretty polite, fairly reserved and calm. Porting out of NYC, the passengers are still nice but they’re not as polite, far from reserved and you have to watch your fingers in the buffet. I must say that they make for great audiences - very responsive, and since they’re mostly from NYC, super hip to what we’re doing. We’ve really seen the difference in our improv shows - they’re so educated that they’re with us from the first game. It’s nice.

Still, breakfast on these cruises is a horror show. You come up to the Garden Cafe and they’re swarming like a pack of killer bees or pirana. They hover and they stare until they decide to swoop in and take everything. If you’re too slow, they buzz around you and nibble at your elbow. They eat massive amounts of everything. Lunch is the same as breakfast. I haven’t even set foot in the Chocolate buffet.

We’re getting ready for Christmas on the ship. The cast did a Secret Santa drawing. I’ve already completed my Secret Santa present. Larrance did half of his yesterday. Tomorrow Larrance is going to ship some packages to my family. So we’re almost if we could just ship ourselves home.


Monday, December 8, 2008


Okay so the link to my photos isn't a clickable link. So....copy and paste into browser window and go see photos. I'll post more next time. I have like 653 and I've posted about 40.




I've had to use Flickr to post my photos. Here's the link:

You might have to join Flickr but it's easy! So do it and look at my photos...


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Cappuccino, Cappuccino, Croissant......

We just finished our transatlantic crossing and are enjoying the first day of our new Bahamas run.

What happened in our final days in Europe and on the crossing? Well, I’ll tell you.

Our itinerary was as follows:
Sea day
Malaga, Spain
Sea day
Sea day
Sea day
Sea day
Sea day
Sea day

Our final day in Barcelona, Rance, Deanna, Larrance and I decided to go and see Anton Gaudi’s La Pederera and Park Güell. They were both amazing. La Pederera is an apartment building that’s still inhabited, the roof of which is dotted with several sculptures. The whole building if filled with Monet-like murals, organic sculptures and accents (hand rails and such), and two courtyards. On the top floor, there’s a museum all about Gaudi’s works.

In the museum, I saw a film about one of his buildings Casa Batallo. We didn’t see it this time...I look forward to seeing it when we come back next year!

After we finished at La Pederera, we had to stop for coffee and a repast. We picked a local place and had spanish omelette and cappuccino's. Very good. Deanna went to a place next to the place we went and came back with some quiche and a really good looking Chocolate croissant. She let me try it and we ended up getting our own. It was so different from the croissants in France. It was heavier with richer was very good. Very good. It gave us the necessary fuel to tackle Park Güell.

We took the local subway (Metro) system to a stop near the Park. The subways in Barcelona are pretty great. Instead of being several cars with doors in between, they are joined by smaller connector cars. So you can look from the back all the way to the front and as the train travels through all the twists and turns you can just watch the train move. Also there’s a map of the train over the door and as you come to the stop it lights up....AND there’s a camera that shows you the train as it pulls was very easy to navigate their train system.

The walk to Park Güell was long but well worth it. Park Güell was a commissioned work for a textiles baron who wanted to have Gaudi design a community for his workers. Ultimately, the community didn’t work out but the Park still exists today. The Park is enormous and filled with sculptural bridges, a plaza, and several buildings. The front entrance to the Park is based on Greek Temples and features lots of mosaics which are inspired by sea creatures and other natural items. The park is filled with outdoor merchants and tons of live music.

Our favorite act was a combo of a living statue mixed with one part Carlos Gardel and one part Edith Piaf. It was a man and a woman. They were standing up on a bench - he had a guitar and was in a suit and a fedora, she was in a red coat and heels and cloche type hat. They would be frozen until money was put down then he would play guitar and she would dance and sing in French. We were enchanted by them.

The next day we were in Villefranche again so we decided to take the bus to Nice. The bus ride was easy and quick. We wandered Nice with Rance and Deanna. We had a day with no particular agenda and yet we managed to see the Old section of town, the open air flea market, several churches and plazas. We also drank cappuccinos, ate baguettes on the beach and crepes outside the bus station. It was a great day!

As always, Florence was a big day. Rance, Deanna and we decided to go to the Uffizi to see everything. We got to Florence after about an hour and half train ride. We knew we had to....stop for coffee...what am I going to do in the US? We found this great place that had leather seated chairs, marble tables and great coffee. We enjoyed the food and headed off to the Uffizi. We go there and once again we didn’t have to wait in line or even deal with any big groups. The museum was busy but by no mean crowded. Larrance and I bought a “Official guide to the Uffizi” and it was well worth it. It gave us lots of great info about what we were seeing. Rance and Deanna also had a list from a passenger’s son who’s an art student about the 15 works to make sure you see. So we headed in and started looking at was really exciting to see a lot of the works that I’ve studied in various classes. My favorite room was the Botticelli room - in there we saw the Birth of Venus, Primavera and one I can’t remember the name’s the portrait of a young florentine man. We also saw Carravaggio’s Medusa which was impressive. At some point we all hit our limit and we were ready to go, that is not an easy museum to get out of. I thought we were at the end and it turned out there were like 12 more galleries. Then we had to make it through the five room gift shop....ayiyiyiyiyiyi.

After the Uffizi, we had about 2 hours left in Florence. So we decided to go to a restaurant and really enjoy some Tuscan food and, of course, wine. We found a great place just behind the Uffizi and we feasted on Riboletto (a robust veggie soup), gnocchi, pasta, tomatoes and mozzarella, pesto and chianti. We way over-ordered - frankly the soup alone would have been enough for lunch - but undaunted we endeavored to eat everything. We didn’t manage but we made a respectable dent. After lunch, we had to get back to the train. I managed to make a quick stop to get a small Fig gelato - it was mercifully less than my gelato in Rome- onlys 2 euro and it was light and very delicious.

The next day, in Rome, we traveled with the entire cast plus one of the Youth Counselors, Kim. We got to Rome and headed to the Colosseum. They were shooting a movie at the Colosseum which was interesting to see. We had a good time trying to guess what the movie was and realizing that extras are really the same everywhere.

We decided to purchase a guided tour of the Colosseum and I was so glad we did. Our tour guide, Philomena, was very knowledgeable and her political views were on the left. Our tour started outside and I was worried we might have to wait in line but once again no line! We got in right away which was in part thanks to the tour. Once we were inside Philomena explained what we were seeing. Did you know that there was an elaborate set of elevators beneath the Coliseum arena? You did? Oh. Well, I didn’t. Yeah. After our tour was over, we split into two groups.

Mike, Larrance and I went off on our own to walk by the Forum and get some lunch. The rest of them finished the tour on the Palatine Hill. I saved it for next time.

Rome is super overwhelming and kind of confusing. Because it’s an old city it’s so far from a grid that it’s very easy to get lost. You’re always running into Piazza’s and little side streets that are not on the map...well, not on our map. So we found the Forum easily and it’s surrounded by other amazing archeological thing that I was struck by was how everything is built on the same spot over and over again. So you have a church which has obviously been built on an old “pagan” site.

Side note: Philomena told us that many of the sculptures that are in the Vatican and other sites in Rome were actually statues that were taken from the Coliseum and re-appropriated. They’ve been working to get these statues back. For example, there was a statue of a minor god who’s head was found on a statue in the Vatican and his body was found in a plaza somewhere. They reunited the head and body and the statue lived happily ever after.

We got lost several times in our efforts to find Nazionale street. It’s a big street but the path from the Forum to it were, uh, unclear. When we found it, we found a cash machine which was great because we were out of money and I was starving. I was so hungry that I was close to getting hangry. Not good. After we got money, we found a great pizzeria and had some incredible pizza and a beer. Yeah! I have no idea what I ordered, this happened to me a lot, but I got pizza with whole mushrooms and some kind of soft mellow cheese and parsley. We sat on the street and watched people walking by. We saw what was, I think, the smallest bus ever. Seriously it was a bus shaped van but it wasn’t a van. Maybe it was a Ban or a Vus...

Then we made our way back to the Train station to catch the 3:09. Which put us back in the port of Civitavecchia at about 4:40pm. So we had another coffee and pastry and did a bit of shopping...Apparently, it was lucky we got the 3:09 train because our cast mates took the 4:09 and barely got back in time. Civitavecchia is a beautiful port city and was hopping at sunset.

Next morning we woke up on the island of Corsica in the town of Ajaccio (Ah-jax-see-o). Ajaccio is a small sea side town with lots of boulangeries, pastisseries and an open air market. Larrance and I wandered the town on our own after COFFEEEEEEEEE.

We had caffe lattes across from the open air market. We watched the people and the passengers (almost like people!) walk by. We enjoyed our coffee and seeing the locals greet one another. Larrance managed to have a small chat with the owner of the coffee shop. After that we purchased some mushroom quiches and chocolate croissants from the boulangerie next door. We did not get far before we were eating our quiches.....they were amazing....I mean I have had quiche before but nothing like this. It was rich without being overwhelming and it was savory and flakey and buttery and mushroomy. AAHHHH, so good. We saved our croissants for later and made our way to the beach. The beach was on the other side of town which as it turns out was not far at all. We walked there and touched the Med on the French Rivera.

From there we tried to see the Museum (works that Napoleon stole during his exploits that his Uncle brought to Corsica), but it was closed for the season. At that point, I realized that we were standing in a French Bar Harbor. Closed for the season....yeah.

I did manage to find a French knitting store (they call it Tricoter!) and I bought some bamboo yarn. Yay!

We had a show that night so we wandered back to the ship early. I have to say that I really enjoyed performing for the Euro crowds. We only did one Stardust show (sketch show) because there wasn’t usually more than 1,000 English speakers onboard but they all loved the shows. I think that our shows are fairly unique for Europe. The audience absolutely loved the improv shows. The repo cruise was even better for us because there were more Americans/Brits/Canadians onboard. So our shows were well attended and well received.

We had a sea day which was a much needed rest.

Our final port before the actual crossing was Malaga, Spain. Wow. Malaga is great. It’s like a more relaxed Barcelona. It’s the birth place of Picasso so there’s a small but very nice Picasso museum there. There’s also the ruins of a Roman theater and some other ruins. Not to mention lots of shopping, restaurants, street performers and music.

Mike was signing off in Malaga so he could go home and visit his girlfriend. So our first order of business was to help him find the train station so he could catch the train to the airport. The train station was a bit further than we thought but we got to have a nice walk through the more local part of town. The train station itself was huge - part train station, part mall, part cafe. Mike had to find a locker so Larrance and I sat down and had coffee and croissants. How did I not gain like 20 pounds with all of this coffee and croissant action? Walking, walking, walking. We walked everywhere. After Mike dropped off his luggage we made our way back to the downtown area.

Malaga is filled with marble plazas, old buildings, lots of people and fountains. We walked around and found the Roman Theater. It was very well preserved and apparently still in use. While we were there, a group of children in costume were brought on to the stage and seemed to be preparing for a performance. Also there was a giant papier mache octopus over the trees next to the Roman theater...why? I don’t know but I loved it!

At that point, we parted company with Mike who made his way back to the train station. Larrance and I found the Picasso museum. In addition to the permanent Picasso exhibits there was a temporary Max Ernst exhibit. Both exhibits were great....

In the Picasso exhibit, they had a lot of his ceramics and his sculptural work. I saw some of his ceramics in Paris and while this might sound awful, I wasn’t impressed. I love his paintings and his sculpture but I thought his ceramics were so-so. I know, strike me dead! Maybe it’s because I grew up with a Potter/Sculptor for a Mom or I am a real jerk. You decide. Anyway, the ceramics in the Malaga museum were far more graceful and interesting. The vases, anyway, He had a bunch of platters and plates and I still thought those were “ehhh.” Jerk!

The Max Ernst was exhibit was really exciting. They had some of his sculptures, painting and lots of his illustrations done for publications. I’ve only seen a little of Ernst’s work before and I always liked them but I guess I had no idea of the breadth of his career.

After the museum, we were hungry. We knew that we wanted to eat some tapas and we knew that we wanted to eat in a “local” place. How does one find a local place? Get off the main drag, wander until you’re not sure where you are and look at the menus. Is there english on the menu? If so, no good. Keep going. We found a great place in what appeared to be an alley but we couldn’t get a table. We waited for like 10 minutes but no one was leaving and it appeared that 3 tables were just getting started. Reluctantly, we left and made our way back to one of town squares. Then we spotted an empty street passing several restaurants with english menus. We turned the corner and at the end of the street next to a building under construction we found it. You could just feel it - it pulled you. Walked to it and listened to the people sitting outside. No English. The menu was incomprehensible. Inside it was even better, piles of food being taken out, an open kitchen with a very busy chef and families and couples enjoying tapas. We took a seat at the bar and puzzled over the menu.

Now, we had limited euros and knowledge of Spanish. We were in the perfect situation for a real gustatory adventure. The waiter approached and we both realized at the same time that we were going to communicate using pointing, my broken Spanish and he bringing things and showing them to us. We wanted wine but he was of our first choice out so he showed us what he thought we should drink - we said okay. We stared at the menu and the chalkboard and I guessed at what things were. We tried to order things but they were out of things (maybe?) so we ordered Atun embollceido, Tomate and Pescado Bruschcheta.

While we waited we drank our red wine and we enjoyed the completely delicious olives. I’d seen them going out to the tables and I was trying to find them on the menu and I couldn’t find them. So then I was trying to figure out how I would ask for them...I knew we had to have them. Well, they were complimentary. Yay! They were lemony, garlicky and meaty all at once. They were perfect with the wine. Then we got our tuna which was in a lemon-olive-oil-onion mixture. Tomate turned out to be a huge plate of roughly sliced tomatoes in olive oil and salt n’ pepper. I am not a big fan of tomatoes on their own but I manned up and ate a bunch of them. I mean - we ordered it so I had to eat it.
Our final course was a fish skewer...we thought it was going to be a fish brushcetta but brushchetta in Spain means skewer...or does it? I’ll never know. I do know that our skewer was grilled and dressed with lemon juice and very good. It had salmon, squid, shrimp and more tuna (?). All in all it was a great way to end our last day in Europe.

I’m really going to miss being in such exciting ports but I’m sure we’ll save some money in the Bahamas.

The crossing was super fun. Larrance was involved in the “Bowling with the Stars” competition - he came in first place in the semi-finals but was defeated by another team and Neptune (God of the Sea) in the finals. Larrance thought he was just going to bowl for fun but he ended up with a partner who was super competitive and way too serious for his own good. But I think that Larrance had fun bowling......

The crossing started the next day with a very rough and rocky sea day. For the first time ever, I experienced sea sickness. I woke up feeling poorly - headache and generally blah. While I was in the bathroom and away from the window, I felt my stomach flip and kind of....quiver. I brushed it off and head to breakfast. We decided to sit outside where I could watch the horizon. Like and idiot I had a really weird assortment of food for breakfast but everything was making me feel kind of weird. I sat there and thought this is bad. Then I went to the office which is in the back middle of the ship - really rocky - I felt even worse. I went to our room and decided to get in bed. I was feeling worse by the minute. So Larrance, who was fine, offered to go to the Med Center and get me an Anti-emetic. He came back , I opened the package and instead of chewing it (suggested) I swallowed it. I sat there for about one second and then got up rid of breakfast. I felt better after, but wasted. I chewed one of the pills and passed out for about 2 hours. When I woke I felt completely spent but not was so awful.

The next rough day I was worried I’d get sick but I didn’t....not at all. Weird, huh?
I blame my one day sea sickness on withdrawal from European coffee and pastry.
Don’t tell me I’m wrong, just send pastry and cappuccinos!

Another phenomenon of the crossing was that it was super social. Passengers really got to know us because we did extra improv shows and workshops. So we couldn’t go anywhere without them stopping us to chat which was really nice....we met some really nice and interesting people and since we were crossing and not in port it was great to chat with them for a bit to a long bit.

Our first day in New York was short but lovely - in this order - we ate pizza, went shopping, went to Whole Foods and then back to the ship. Next week, we’ll have a bigger NYC adventure.

Whew. Big entry.
More photos to come on Monday!


P.S. Post some comments so we know you're reading!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Lunch in Lucca

Lunch in Lucca
Originally uploaded by shepardjennifer34
Larrance and I at our lunch in Lucca, Italy. Beth, our Producer, took us to a wonderful lunch in a little Italian place. It was delicious.

French Lips in Villefranche

I have a whole series of photos with Mike and Larrance making their "French" face. This photo is actually in France with the lips!

Barcelona - Constitution Plaza

Larrance looking super handsome on Plaza de Constitution in Barcelona.

Origami in Barcelona

We wandered around Barcelona on our first day there. We walked a long way that day and in our wanderings we found these windows filled with origami bugs. Weird and great.

Approaching Pisa

Approching Pisa
Originally uploaded by shepardjennifer34
This was our first view of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Larrance and our tapas in Malaga

This is the first a few photos I will post today...

When we were in Malaga, Spain, we got a little off the beaten path and found a great tapas place. No one spoke english and we had a great time finding out what exactly we'd ordered....


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.