Showing posts with label Celebrity Silhouette. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Celebrity Silhouette. Show all posts

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Cruising: Going Behind the Scenes “By Invitation Only”

Several times last fall upon returning to our cabin during those long, lazy days at sea (a favorite feature of repositioning cruises) we would find a small envelope in the holder at our door.

“You are invited. . .”  began the note tucked inside it.

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Savoring one of those 'days at sea'

Those unexpected invitations were how we found ourselves among randomly convened small groups of fellow passengers at some on-board event or some ‘behind the scenes’ place.

A regular part of these gatherings were the speculations about why we had been invited. There was never an apparent common denominator: some guests were long-time loyal cruisers, some were on their first voyage, others were staying in suites, some celebrating special occasions and many were like us, simply cruise enthusiasts with several cruises in our travel history.

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The normally off-limits heli-pad cocktail party
One of the most interesting of those events was a Sail Away Cocktail Party held on the normally-off-limits heli-pad at the bow of the ship.  The event, lasting about an hour, was held just before we sailed from Lahaina, Maui for the South Pacific, as that forward location would have been far too windy once the ship began moving.

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The heli-pad as seen from the bridge

Another invitation took us to the bridge for a quick tour with an even smaller group of fellow passengers.  Invitations, passports and handbags were checked before we stepped past the security door into the bridge.
The photo of the heli-pad above, I took from the bridge and the photos of the bridge below, I took from the heli-pad.

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The bridge and officers in it as seen from the heli-pad many stories below it

While on the bridge, we were allowed to take photos of and ask questions about this high-tech computerized center.  (The old ship’s wheels of yore now serve as wall displays (this one in a Maui hotel) and the new version comes with a cushioned driver’s seat.

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Navigational tools have changed

Our visit was brief but not rushed – and there was  time for a photo with the ship’s Master (captain). As we exited the bridge, another small group was waiting to enter.

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The TravelnWrite Scout and Scribe post with our ship's Master

[One interesting thing about cruising -- and the above photo illustrates it well -- are the steps taken to prevent the spread of germs, particularly Norovirus, (should there be any lurking on the ship).  At all gatherings – cocktail parties, meet the officer parties, or  tours like this – guests and crew were discouraged from shaking hands or making any body contact  – you’ll notice we all were abiding by those rules.]

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My place setting at the Captain's Table

We told you in earlier posts about dining at The Captain’s Table, which is also a ‘by invitation only’ event.  Again, each time we’ve been fortunate enough to be invited, we’ve  found a mix of travel and cruise enthusiasts – all most interesting conversationalists – but who shared no other ‘common denominator’ to which the invitation could be linked.  (Thank goodness, I remembered Miss Manner’s rule: eat from the outside – what a set of flatware!)

SilhouettePt12012 251Just like airlines, cruise lines have customer loyalty programs. On Celebrity, the line we’ve sailed most often in recent years, it is called “Captain’s Club”.

The more cruises you take on the same cruise line the more ‘rewards’ you receive. . .like invitations to afternoon cocktail parties for returning guests. There you sip champagne, nibble appetizers and mingle with the ship’s officers with entertainment provided.

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Celebrity's Captain's Club offered entertainment at the afternoon cocktail party

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These events are also ‘by invitation only’ and on most cruise lines, the invitations to such events begin with your second voyage.

These festive gatherings also draw hundreds of returning guests.

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Solstice-class ship's theatre

The ‘by invitation only’ events often include behind-the-scenes tours that take guests back stage to see the behind the scenes workings in the enormously large  theatre or through the galley to see the precision movements required of the kitchen staff who serves thousands three times (and more) during the day.

SilhouettePt12012 225That’s it for today’s tale.  Photos used in this post were taken on three recent Celebrity cruises.

If you have cruised have you also received those unexpected invitations? If so, where did they take you?

We are heading out:  It won’t be long before we are off to Greece for another adventure going ‘where the winds blow us’ and – if the techno gods and travel gods synchronize -- we will begin reporting from Greece soon.  Hope you’ll come along with us.

If you are a first-time visitor: Welcome! Come back soon! Receive posts regularly in your inbox by adding your email in the box to the right.  You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram at TravelnWrite.

And, as always thanks for the time you spend with us. We wish you safe and satisfying travels~
Linking up:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Travelers Sandbox
Travel Photo Discovery – Mondays

Monday, September 9, 2013

Travel Tip Tuesday: Armchair Travel ~ Conducting Novel Research

Because our days were so uncharacteristically lovely in the Pacific Northwest this summer, we’ve been uncharacteristically content to travel by ‘armchair’. 

books 001This mode of travel has taken us to far-away places and provided some novel (pun, intended) research for our upcoming fall trip which will take us to a part of the world we’ve never been before. 

Regulars here know that our travel compass had to fight the strong magnetic pull of Europe in order to get us headed off to Oceania, or, as it is also known, the South Pacific.

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The Solstice's path across the Atlantic Ocean
We’ll be aboard the Celebrity Solstice for 19 nights as we travel from Honolulu, Hawaii to Sydney, Australia. It will be our second voyage on this Solstice-class ship that carries some 2,850 passengers and 1,253 crew members. 

Our first took us across the Atlantic Ocean so it is only fitting that the Solstice introduce us to the Pacific as well.

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Waikiki - Honolulu, Hawaii
So we’ve been busy researching with some fun ‘reads’ including:

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“The Bat” a murder mystery by Oslo-based writer Jo Nesbo, whose character Inspector Harry Hole (no joke) has traveled to Sydney to investigate a murder. This book, purchased from Costco, tipped us off to an area of town – a restaurant, in particular that we want to visit while there.

“The Moon and the Sixpence,” a novel by W. Somerset Maugham, sparked by the life of Paul Gauguin.

“Best South Sea Stories,” a collection of South Seas fare from the likes of James Mitchener,  Jack London, and Herman Melville.

“The Descendants” by Kaui Hart Hemmings, set in Hawaii (a movie of the same name based on this book starred George Clooney.)

books 002And a few true stories always add to the research:

“Six Months in the Sandwich Islands,” by Isabella L. Bird, written in 1875!

“The Cruise of the Snark,  A Pacific Voyage” by Jack London, about his own journey across the Pacific, first published in 1911.

“Blue Latitudes – Boldly going where Captain Cook has gone before,”  by writer Tony Horwitz, published 2002.

We can’t get enough ‘novel research’. How about you?  What destinations have novels led you to – or what have novels taught you about destination? What was your favorite armchair trip this summer?

See you back here later this week; we do appreciate the time you spend with TravelnWrite!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

That autumn day in Dubrovnik. . .

“Those who seek paradise
        should come to Dubrovnik. . .”

said George Bernard Shaw, who is also credited with labeling this city as being “the pearl of the Adriatic”.

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We would heartily agree with Shaw on both counts and we’ve just scratched the city’s surface! 

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But, thanks to the wonders of cruising, we’ve visited this town ---on the other side of the world -- twice in the last decade; our most recent visit a day trip last fall. As with most day-trippers, on each visit we headed directly to the old Walled City:

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And much like our first visit, we went straight to the stairway that led to the top of the wall (this time, however, there was a ticket booth and entry fee). The wall at 4 – 6 meters wide and 2 kilometer (1.24 mile) long envelops the old city in a continuing protective embrace that has lasted through the decades.

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But the wall wasn’t enough to protect the old town from the destruction caused by a late 20th Century conflict -- a part of the seven-month siege that began in Oct. 1991 after Croatia and Slovenia  (once a part of Yugoslavia) – declared their independence.  One of the worst battles resulted in 19 deaths and 60 injuries.

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More than 56% of the buildings were damaged during the conflict and there were some 650 artillery hits within the old walled city. On our first visit here the new roofs were  a striking contrast to the old; this last visit, thanks to weather and time, the new roofs had become less visible.

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The views, the history and the beauty from atop  that old wall will forever be stored among our special travel memories:

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Have you been to Dubrovnik? What is your special memory of this ‘pearl’?

That’s it for this week’s Travel Photo Thursday. Check out Budget Travelers Sandbox for more armchair travels. We appreciate the time you spend with us and hope to see you again. . .real soon!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Found! The best pizza in Napoli. . .

Napoli, (aka Naples on this side of ‘The Pond’) is the birthplace of pizza.

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For that reason, we told ourselves prior to last fall’s cruise, that we would eat pizza there during our few hours in this ‘love-it or hate-it’ Italian town on Italy’s western coast.  (The photo above of Mt. Vesuvius was taken during our Celebrity Silhouette’s early morning approach to the harbor.)

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We’d braved the morning’s rain and set out, umbrellas unfurled, to explore the dizzying, congested streets, and by noon had worked up a pizza-sized appetite. We were far off the main road on one of our direction-less wanders off-the-beaten-tourist-path, when we happened upon this place:

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It was one of a trillion or so similar Pizzaria’s that line the sidewalks of this ages-old city.  What made this place stand out for us, was the crush of customers inside. Tiny tables within elbow’s reach of each other were filled. We were tucked into one of the last remaining in a snug corner of Ristorante e Pizzeria da Attilio* .

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While most dishes were prepared in an industrial looking kitchen in the back, the pizzas were prepared by a culinary artist (as I prefer to think of him) just  inside the front door.

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And since every artist needs an admirer or two, I headed to his gallery to watch him prepare our pizza.

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Dough was stretched, toppings in place and he turned the creation over to his assistant whose job it was to cook our pizza in his incredibly hot oven. And within minutes. . .

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. . . Mama Mia!  Our pizza was served; the best pizza we have ever eaten, perhaps the ‘best in Napoli’! Or was it?

 That afternoon, back at the ship and resting up from that pizza, we headed to the pool and hot tub.

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That’s where we struck up a conversation with a couple who told us they had just eaten ‘the best pizza in Napoli’ for lunch and described a place no where near where we had eaten.  They said they knew they had eaten ‘the best pizza in Napoli” because that is what travel guru Rick Steves had said of the pizzeria located on one of his guidebook’s ‘on-the-beaten-tourist-path walks’. . .

Hmmm. . .I wonder who did eat 'the best' pizza in Napoli that day?

Are you one who ‘goes by the guidebook’?  If so, what guidebooks do you use? Or do you allow yourself the opportunity to make discoveries on your own?

SilhouettePt12012 039That’s it for this week’s Travel Photo Thursday – head over to Budget Travelers Sandbox for more photos today and stop by here this weekend when we will have more tales and tips for you.

*If you get to Napoli, try Da Attilio Pizzeria, Via Pignasecca, 17,  - we think you’ll like it!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sunday Morning In Ravenna, Italy

Our footsteps echoed across the cobbled streets as we strolled through the town on that early Sunday morning  ~

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~ just the two of us touring Ravenna, Italy  on our introductory visit.  You know the kind. Strolling with no real destination in mind just content to be together, surrounded by such history and beauty.

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As the late autumn sun rose higher in the sky, the streets began filling with people – travelers and locals alike – in this capital city of the Province of Ravenna in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region.

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Ravenna is an inland city connected to the Adriatic Sea by the Candiano Canal (pictured above). It was one of the last ‘ports of call for the Celebrity Silhouette; the ship we’d sailed from Rome through the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas last October.  A steady stream of buses transported cruisers  like us from the ship to the city on a route that followed the canal.

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From 402 – 476 Ravenna was  the seat of the Western Roman Empire. . .then the capital of the Ostrogothic kingdom. . . that gave way to the Byzantine Empire. . .and then the Kingdom of the Lombards. And the list continues. . .

SilhouettePt22012 327For those of us who love reading and writing as much as travel one of it is notable  attractions is the resting place of Italian poet and philosopher, Dante Alighieri, author of “The Inferno” (the city is mentioned in Canto V).  

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What we will likely remember the longest though about our visit to this city steeped in history was the stop at the Basilica of Saint Vitale, which is considered one of the most representative examples of Byzantine architecture in the world today.

(By this point in the trip we had seen a number of mighty impressive cathedrals but this one was simply jaw-dropping both for its size and its décor.)

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So many mosaics cover the walls, floors and ceilings that it would take weeks of repeated visits to absorb the story each tells; their various themes from the Hebrew Bible or what Christians call the Old Testament.  Some mosaics highlight Emperor Justinian I with his court and his Empress Theodora with her attendants.

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The mosaics were commissioned by Archbishop Maximian 546/556 A.D.

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The church had been closed earlier in the morning for services but when the doors opened, camera-snapping visitors filled its every nook . Yet there still remained a collective hush not unlike those moments before a church service starts as we absorbed the grand interior. If felt almost as if we, too, were attending a service.  Maybe we had been ~ each of us in his or her own way?

That’s it for this Travel Photo Thursday. Head over to Budget Travelers Sandbox for more photos. And we send our best wishes to all of you who are celebrating Easter this weekend!

And If You Go:

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Hours and entry fees for the Basilica can be found at:

Ravenna  annually hosts the  Ravenna Festival – one of Italy’s premier classical music gatherings. Opera performances are held at the city’s Teatro Alighieri and concerts take place at the Palazzo Mauro de André as well as other locations like the Basilica of San Vitale.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Searching for Catania Sicily’s “Pescheria”

While dozens of our fellow cruise passengers opted to head out for Taormina and Mt. Etna, we set out on foot in Catania, Sicily with one ‘must-see' destination in mind.

No, not Catania’s Cathedral, pictured below, although it was quite wonderful. We were seeking its famed “Pescheria” (Fish Market) . . .

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“It is near the Cathedral,” advised both guide books and internet sites we’d studied before our trip. The Cathedral, rebuilt after a 1669 earthquake, was an easy walk of about 20 minutes from the port where we’d disembarked our ship, the Celebrity Silhouette.

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Our ‘sources’ sent us the right direction because from that plaza in front of the Cathedral, we had an overview of the sweeping market and the crush of shoppers who filled the square below us.

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We’d read that this Marcat del Pesche, Fish Market, was probably as old as the city itself.  Much of the fish sold here, we learned, comes  from Italy’s  largest fishing port, Mazara del Vallo, in southwestern Sicily.

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While smaller fishing Sicilian ports also contribute to the seafood selection, for example, anchovies from Sciacca and swordfish from Favignana.

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Big Fish ~ Small fish ~ Everywhere fish. We’ve never seen so many varieties and types of seafood for sale in a single place. 

And this poor guy. . .(sorry, I can’t resist) . . . really lost his head over the market.

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The Fish Market has grown over the decades, with its tasty tentacles spreading out from this square along streets lined with vendors selling fruits and vegetables, dairy and meat products.

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It seemed more a gallery of edible art than street market as we squeezed and turned our way through the crush of shoppers. . .

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Can you tell we love European street markets? Like early morning magnets they draw us to their sights, sounds and smells.  Much like Brigadoon, they appear for a few hours and then are gone each day. 

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We returned to the Pescheria in the early afternoon and this is how that once busy square looked.

If You Go:

Map picture

Since the 18th Century, Catania has been the second largest city in Sicily and the 10th largest in Italy. It was destroyed by a catastrophic earthquake in 1168 and then again in 1693. It’s also suffered from some of Mt. Etna’s eruptions.

The Pescheria is reportedly the second-largest market in Catania. The largest is found in the Piazza Carlo Alberto – which we didn’t make it to on this trip.

The Pescheria is off Piazza Duomo near the cathdral, between Via Garibaldi and Via Pacini. It extends along Via Gemelli Zappala and other surrounding streets.  It is closed afternoons and on Sundays.

That's it for this Travel Photo Thursday, so head over to Budget Travelers Sandbox for more photos! And if you are looking for some luxury, come back this weekend and we'll show you one place to find it.


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