Cabins on Symphony of the Seas

Symphony of the Seas

Most cruise ships have interior, oceanview, and balcony staterooms as well as suites. There’s often some variety in amount of people a room accommodates, and a bit of variance in shape or size due to the location of some of the rooms. Suites often come in small, medium, and large varieties. Symphony of the Seas goes well beyond the usual choices, especially when it comes to suites and interior cabins – some of which aren’t closed in by 4 walls the way interior cabins are expected to be. Like on most cruise ships, there are accessible cabins, which are generally larger than the square footage given for standard cabins of that designation.

grand suite

Suites

Suites on Symphony of the Seas come in three Royal Suite Classes – Sea, Sky, and Star. Sea is the lowest suite class with the least amenities, and is the classification for the Junior Suites, their smallest suites. Sky class is the standard suite classification used for the majority of the types of available suites. Star class is for the highest level premium suites like the Ultimate Family Suite and AquaTheater Suites. Some suites have one or more separate bedrooms. All suite level rooms have bathrooms with bathtubs. Some suites have more than one bathroom.

Exclusive suite class services

Sea –dinner at Coastal Kitchen (exclusive suite only restaurant), bathrobes, luxury pillow top mattress, luxury bathroom amenities

Sky – concierge service, all day access to Coastal Kitchen, specialty bottled water on arrival, complimentary internet, priority boarding & departure

Star – exclusive access to Royal Genie (concierge service), all day access to coastal kitchen, complimentary specialty restaurants, complimentary beverage package, complimentary gratuities, complimentary internet, priority boarding & departure

Types of Suites

royal loft suite

Royal Loft Suite – The largest suite on the ship. Two level suite with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, dining and living room areas, and private jacuzzi on the balcony. 1524 sq ft, with a 843 sq ft balcony, sleeps 6.

4 bedroom villa

Villa Suite – 1142 sq ft, balcony 476 sq ft, 4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, up to 14 guests. Veranda with private jacuzzi. Sleeps the most people of any cabin on the ship.

ultimate family suite

Ultimate Family Suite – top level two story suite with slide, jacuzzi, air hockey, ping pong, cinema & video game room, 1134 sq ft, balcony 212 sq ft, up to 8 guests. Most colorful suite and most family fun.

Star Loft Suite – Two deck high stateroom with master bedroom and 2 bathrooms, living and dining areas. 722 sq ft, balcony 410, sleeps 4

AquaTheater suite

AquaTheater Suites are available with one or two bedrooms. These are star class with the 2 bedroom suites ranging from 673 – 823 sq ft, with balconies of 610 – 772 sq ft. They sleep up to 8 guests. Besides the 2 bedrooms, they have 2 bathrooms, living room & dining areas, and the wraparound balcony has views of both the ocean and the AquaTheater.

The one-bedroom AquaTheater suites have 1 bathroom, are 604 – 606 sq ft with balconies from 589-631 square feet and sleep up to 4 guests.

owner’s suite

Owner’s Suite – 556 sq ft, balcony 243 sq ft with living room and bedroom areas, 1 bathroom with tub and 2 sinks.

grand suite

Grand Suite comes in 1 or 2 bedroom options.  2 bedroom – 580 sq ft, balcony 238 sq ft up to 8 guests, 2 bathrooms, marble entry, living room area. 1 bedroom – 371 sq feet balcony 105 sq ft, double sink in bathroom, up to 4 guests

crown loft suite

Crown Loft Suite – 2 level urban contemporary style loft suite 545 sq ft, balcony 114 sq ft up to 4 guests, living and dining areas and bathroom on main level, master suite with bathroom with tub on upper level.

junior suite

Junior Suite – glorified balcony room, 284 square feet with 80 sq foot balcony sleeps up to 5.

balcony cabin

Staterooms

Staterooms come as balcony, ocean view, or interior. These cabins all have one bathroom with a shower. Rooms with balconies in the central park and boardwalk areas are on the interior side of the ship, but their balconies are open air because those portions of the ship are open to the outside, Accessible cabins are larger than the square footage listed.

Balcony Staterooms

ocean view balcony

Ocean view balcony cabins come standard or with large balcony. Rooms are  182 sq ft, large balcony is 80 sq ft and standard balcony is 50-52 sq ft. These rooms are located on the outsides of the ship with balconies overlooking the sea. Up to 4 guests.

central park balconies

Central Park View – the balcony overlooks the central park area of the ship, which is open to the sky. 182 sq ft, balcony 52 sq ft

boardwalk balconies

Boardwalk View – although on the interior of the ship, the boardwalk area is open to the sky and at the stern of the ship beyond the AquaTheater. Cabins in this area may be noisy, especially during AquaTheater performances. 182 sq ft, balcony 52 sq ft

Ocean View Staterooms

ocean view

Ocean view staterooms are located on the exterior of the ship and have windows with views of the sea.

Ultra spacious ocean view 271 sq ft up to 6 guests

Ocean View 179 sq ft, up to 4 guests

promenade view interior

Interior Staterooms

There are numerous interior cabin choices on Symphony of the Seas, some with views.

Spacious interior – 260 sq ft, up to 6 guests, bunkroom area, one bathroom. No window, but it is an extra-large cabin.

Central park view interior – 199 sq ft, up to 4 guests, window with view of central park

windows with a view of the Royal Promenade

Promenade View Interior – 194 sq ft, up to 4 guests, bowed windows overlooking the promenade.

interior cabin with virtual balcony

Interior with virtual balcony – 172 sq ft, max 2 guests, no actual window, but real time views of the ocean and destinations on a nearly floor to ceiling high definition screen could make it feel as if there is one.

interior cabin

Interior – 149 sq ft, up to 4 guests, good for cruisers on a budget or day sleepers who want a room without any natural light.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2022
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Celebrity Constellation

Celebrity Constellation in Aruba

Leaving Tampa, it becomes obvious why the ships sailing from that port are of the older, smaller variety. Initially the ship sailed backwards until it came to a wide enough spot in the channel for it to turn around – barely, and the Constellation is not large for a modern cruise ship. It’s a long way from the port to open water through narrow winding channels – and under a bridge that the Constellation barely cleared. Anything taller would not fit under that bridge, nor would a longer ship be able to make that tight turnaround.

metal art above the pool deck

On a ship that holds 2170 of passengers, Constellation set sail with around 700 – and about 900 crew. On this early January 2022 sailing the low number was not all due to covid, though with omicron waging war on the world some of the over 1200 passengers originally booked for this cruise likely did choose to cancel or were required to due to a positive covid test. As for the rest of them, with thousands of flights getting cancelled daily due to storms and lack of flight crews because they were all out sick with covid, quite a lot of people simply couldn’t get to the port. We got lucky in that our scheduled flight was nonstop and went out just an hour and a half late. With that same flight cancelled both the previous and next days, we were very lucky it flew on the day we needed it to.

view nook behind elevators

Constellation had quite a few similarities to Infinity, the one Celebrity ship we have previously sailed on, as they are sister ships of the Millennium class. The layout was slightly different in some areas. For some reason the Constellation felt smaller than Infinity, although it is actually slightly bigger.

stairway art

Like every other ship we’ve ever been on, Constellation had some odd art choices. It had some nice art too. The front stairway had fake plants as the centerpiece on the landing between decks, but not pretty flowers. Mainly weeds, with a lot of levels having dandelions in various stages of budding or blooming. The middle stairway had really odd sculptures, probably ceramic. Mostly they just looked like somebody glazed a big blob of clay, but one had human legs with shoes on the feet sticking out of the middle of a twisted mass. The back stairway had sculptures that each looked as if it were made either by or for a small child, other than the 2 lowest decks which just had jars of marbles. There were also quite a few much larger odd sculptures around the ship, but also some nice things like metal art old sailing ships and dolphins.

it kind of resembles a giant covid virus

Considering we’re in a pandemic, the weirdest art of all was a statue that looked something like a gigantic covid virus with a few bites taken out of it.

What time is it?

Normally there are clocks about the ship, usually at every stairway landing set to ship’s time. On this ship, all the clocks were covered and just said isn’t it time, which was very odd. One can only speculate if some of them didn’t work, or if they just didn’t want to bother to have to change them when the ship sailed from one time zone to another.

solarium pool

One of the best things on this ship is the solarium, which has a pool similar to that which you pay extra for in thermal suites on some lines, but people can use free here. They do have a thermal suite called the Persian Garden, but with just a group ceramic bench, sauna, and steam rooms, it’s nowhere near worth the price they want to use it. Especially since on this cruise even after people paid for the Persian Garden they couldn’t even use it whenever they wanted to. Appointments were required for each use in order to keep the number of people in it at one time low due to covid. The spa had a variety of rooms and treatments available, for a price of course.

main dining room

Dining for most passengers occurs mostly in the main dining room or buffet, but there are a few specialty restaurants where reservations can be booked for an additional cost. Some cabins come with access to smaller dining rooms only open to people booked in those particular cabins. Aqua class has Blu, a healthier eating restaurant. Luminae has an upscale menu for suite guests only. Aqua class also gets to use the thermal suite for free. Suite guests have exclusive access to Michaels Club, which caters to their needs as well as providing bar services.

Cafe el Bacio coffee bar

Shops onboard are mainly luxury items like jewelry, clothing, expensive liquor, and perfume, but they did have a logo shop, some less expensive clothing, and a few sundries. They had some big ship models, but did not have any ship model Christmas tree ornaments, something I like to collect from all the ships I sail on if they have any.

the animated petite chef barbecues a steak on your plate

Premium restaurants on the Constellation are the Italian themed Tuscan Grille, Sushi on Five, and La Petite Chef at Qsine. When we were on the Infinity, Qsine served quite a variety of very imaginative dishes. Though the venue is still called Qsine, the menu now is very limited and the creativity is in the serving, as each dish appears to be made on your plate by a tiny cartoon chef. Besides the dining rooms and buffet, limited menu free food is available at the poolside grill, coffee bar, and cafés in the spa and solarium. The coffee bar and cafés have some items free and some for a fee.

pool deck

Other than pools, hot tubs, a movie screen, and lounging in deck chairs there’s not a lot of free do-it-yourself entertainment, but there is a daily schedule of activities as well as lectures and shows. They have dance classes, and in the evenings dancing at a bar. There’s also a library and various places around the ship where people can sit and read or watch the scenery go by. Mostly bits of furniture in hallways or on the outskirts of bars, but there’s a little nook near the atrium with a bunch of chairs next to windows that is just a semi-hidden sitting area not attached to anything else. There’s also deck chairs outside in a bunch of places other than the main pool deck. And perhaps in an attempt to keep people from spreading towels over all the deck chairs to reserve them for themselves, folded towels are set out on a lot of them, ready and waiting for anyone who comes by to use.

movie screen on the top back deck

Do-it –yourself entertainment that is not free comes in the form of internet, a casino, and a lot of bars. Outside the Mast bar sat above the pool deck, with the pool bar on the pool deck, and the Sunset Bar at the back of the ship behind the buffet. Inside it has the ever-popular Martini and Crush bars centrally located by the grand staircase, the Rondezvous Lounge, which had live music and a dance floor, Cellar Masters wine bar, and bars in the Casino and Reflections Lounge for when those venues are open. It also had Cafe el Bacio coffee bar and gelateria.

a giant glass ceiling sculpture reminded me of either snakes or kelp

With more of the boarding process than ever taken care of online before arriving at the dock, boarding itself goes pretty quickly. Around a month or two before sailing the schedule opens up for people to register and choose a boarding time, with of course the earliest times going to whomever gets that done first other than suite and high loyalty status people who are offered an earlier time than the rest. Lines are set up outside by time slot rather than people waiting inside the port building like they did pre-covid. When the line clears and there’s nobody else waiting at a given time slot then people from the next one will be let through even if it’s not quite their time yet. They did limit how many people they let into the building at a time, so once inside the lines were short and moved quickly, unlike the much longer ones outside. If you aren’t there too far ahead of your assigned time slot the wait isn’t bad, but if you have a late slot and arrive too early it could take quite awhile to make it to the door.

Reflections Lounge

The much-hated muster drill has been replaced by a couple videos to watch in the app and going down on your own to your muster station to get your card scanned. It’s quick and easy. Just takes a few minutes. Hopefully they will continue with the new do-it-yourself muster program even after covid, but I guess that remains to be seen. Easy as it is, there’s always those few people who can’t be bothered to do it so they have to keep making announcements and even call them by name at departure time to get those cards scanned so the ship can set sail.

small cabin with a big balcony

Our cabin was a bit on the small side for a balcony cabin having just room enough for a small sofa rather than a full sized one like some have, but then again I’ve been in balcony cabins on some ships that had no room for a sofa at all so definitely not the smallest one we’ve had. As far as the balcony goes, this one was the biggest at about 2.5 times the usual size. There was just one small row of cabins on each side of deck 6 with these oversized balconies so we were lucky to get one. It’s an older ship and the cabin just had 2 outlets, no USB ports. There were also 2 foreign outlets and they sell plug adaptors in one of the shops so a person could gain a couple extra that way. I brought one that had 3 plugs and a clock with 2 USB ports so for the space of one plug I gained 2 more plug-ins besides the one with the clock plus the 2 USB ports, which made enough for us.

top deck track

The outside promenade deck does not go all the way around. The ship has a tiny topdeck track, which is really just a wide red line painted around the deck above the pool area. One side of that passes over as well as through a smoking area so it’s not really suitable for exercise with that as well as wind, weather, and exposure to the elements. There is a pretty nice gym, but with masks required in there it’s not so easy to exercise. I don’t particularly like treadmills to begin with, and with a mask on I could not run nearly as far or fast as normal. The ship’s internet was not good. After the first few days it was so slow most of the things I needed wouldn’t even open, including my business email. Internet at sea is always notoriously slow, and now that a lot of the ships are going with all-inclusive fares there are more people on it than ever, making it slower yet.

Grand Foyer

At the time the media liked to make a big deal about Covid on cruise ships, ignoring the main population of anywhere. On our ship for example out of over 700 passengers and over 900 crew about halfway through the week there were just 5 cases – none of them badly ill. Two crew and 3 passengers. The crew are tested regularly, and as is usual for crew cases they were asymptomatic. All 5 were put into isolation. That’s less than half a percent of the population onboard, so far better than most anywhere on land. By the end of the cruise it was closer to 1%, so still very few cases. On the ships you know everyone (except very small children, of which there were only 2 on this ship) has been vaccinated and tested, whereas on land they are not. The captain made announcements regularly with updates on medical issues. At the beginning of the cruise it was one of the crew airlifted for appendicitis, later the very few covid cases onboard. There was an area of the ship closed off to all other passengers reserved for isolating people who tested positive from everyone else so they were moved from their original cabins to that area.

SHIP STATS

The Constellation was built in 2002, the last of the Millennium Class. Ship’s registry is in Malta. It has 11 decks with a passenger capacity of 2170, and international crew of up to 999 officers and crew members. Gross tonnage is 90,940, length 965 feet, beam 105.6 feet. The average speed is 24 knots. The ship has 219 inside cabins and 822 outside cabins with balcony or window.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2022
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Dhow Boat Ride in Khasab, Oman

view of the Lirica from the dhow

Our cruise from Italy to Dubai on the MSC Lirica had several port stops in Oman, one of them at Khasab. Due to pre-cruise research where everybody on all the websites I could find about cruising to Oman said there was nothing to do in Khasab and recommended booking an excursion, we booked a Dhow boat tour through the ship that included fishing and snorkeling. I like to snorkel and John likes to fish and we both like boats so this excursion seemed perfect for us.

dhow in the Musandam Fjords

Dhow boat tours are a very popular thing to do in Khasab. They sail through the fjords of the Musandam Peninsula, which is where the town of Khasab is located. Whether just taking a scenic tour through the fjords, or one that includes fishing, dolphin spotting, snorkeling, or all three, it’s a fun way to spend a day. Many of the dhows used for these tours are made of wood in an authentic looking style resembling historic boats of that area.

snorkel stop on a dhow cruise

We booked pre-cruise, so it was cheaper than booking on the ship. As it turned out we could have gotten it for less by booking last minute after getting off the ship, but we didn’t know beforehand that this tour or anything else would be available there. People who booked their dhow boat ride last minute at the port had pretty much the same tour as those who had booked through the ship, but on a different boat.

dhow boats at the dock

There were lots of the dhow boats, most similar in appearance so even those who booked through the ship did not all sail on the same boat. Everyone on ours spoke either English or Italian so speakers of other languages went on other boats. At the port there were tours available inside the port building, and even lower priced tours available outside.

at the start of the tour some people walk through the line of boats to their assigned dhow while others settle in after arriving at the right one

Cruise ship excursions often don’t measure up to expectations, or don’t turn out as described, but this one was one of the better excursions we’ve ever done. It was one of the highlights of the entire cruise. From the ship we were led down the road to a row of waiting dhows. Similar to boarding a gondola from a crowded stand in Venice, people walk from one boat to the next until arriving at their assigned craft.

row of dhows at the dock

We had just 11 passengers on our boat, though it could have held more. Which meant everyone had lots of space. Most spoke English, but there were a few Italians. There was also a girl from the ship’s shore excursions department. She said she was from Iran, but she also spoke both English and Italian. She wore shorts and no headscarf, and a regular western style 1-piece bathing suit with a skirt. Most of the women from the ship had long pants or skirts rather than shorts as we had been told to dress conservatively, though at the snorkel stop not everyone with 2-piece bathing suits put t-shirts over them as was recommended since Oman is an Islamic country.

relaxing on deck

The boat had a fairly open deck with a raised edge all the way around. One side sat higher than the other so the deck sloped down toward the low side. It also sloped up at both the bow and stern ends. The deck had Persian carpets covering most of it, and cushions all around the edges for people to sit on.

one of the crew sets up for fishing

The center console near the engine pipe had room for coffee and tea service as well as a platter of fruit and one of dates. They also handed out water at the beginning to anyone who wanted it and soda after we finished snorkeling. The boat had one small restroom, just barely big enough for a small person to change clothes in. Everyone who wanted to snorkel had their swimming suits on under their clothes at the start and most of them just put their clothes back on over their wet suit on the way back. I was one of very few who changed out of their wet things in the tiny bathroom.

double deck dhow

We started our tour by cruising out of the harbor and made a stop for fishing early on. Now and then a different style dhow boat with an upper story and less authentic look went by. There were tour options that just cruised around without the snorkel or fishing stops so perhaps they used that style boat. Ours was made of wood like the traditional boats would have been, but some double decker ones were not.

fishing Oman style

Nobody caught anything at our first stop so we headed into a fjord to try a different fishing hole. Fishing on this tour was done with line wrapped around a little plastic donut thing rather than using a fishing rod. Besides bait and a hook there was a little weight on the end of the line so it would sink when held over the water and allowing the line to spool out. Nobody caught anything at our second fishing stop either so we went to a place where the 2 guys who made up the boat crew said dolphins like to hang out.

dolphins

I spotted the biggest dolphin I have ever seen in my life, but did not have my camera out. It popped out of the water 3 times before disappearing into the depths not to be seen again. Most of the people on our boat missed seeing it. The crew turned the boat around and went back to where the dolphin had been, but the big guy must have swam off because he never showed himself again. Instead we found a pod of about 5 small dolphins, of which the total of all of them probably wouldn’t equal the size of the first one. These popped playfully in and out of the water, sometimes just one, but sometimes all, or one followed by another and then another. The hung out by our boat for awhile so everyone had a chance to see the smaller dolphins.

island at the snorkel stop

Next the boat cruised to into a small inlet that looked like someone either lived on the beach or had set up a pretty elaborate camp there. It appeared like they might drop anchor, but then they seemed to change their minds and instead headed over to an island where a number of other dhow boats were already anchored up with swimmers and snorkelers in the water. Some people wandered around the tiny island, having gone up a stairway from the sea.

dhows anchored up at the snorkel site

Apparently the fish there like bananas. At our snorkel stop some came up to our boat to nibble on banana bits the crew threw into the water for them. Bananas on a boat are considered bad luck for fishing and we did not catch any fish. Maybe we should have used bananas for bait since the fish had no interest in the bait we used.

snorkel self portrait

The crew put a ladder down one side of the boat and people donned their snorkel gear and went in. The deeper water near the boat was pretty murky, but shallow water by the island was clear and had enough structure to support sea life.

spiny sea urchins

There was more life under the water than on the barren rocky desert hills surrounding it. That area had a few small corals, lots of spiny sea urchins, some clams, a giant sea slug, and all sorts of fish.

sergeant majors

We saw lots of the small striped sergeant major fish you see snorkeling in warm waters pretty much anywhere, various bigger fish, and a few smaller ones.

blue fish

There were some pretty blue fish that liked to hang around the anchor, unless any people came nearby. They were a bit shy and swam off quickly when anyone came near. The sergeant majors seem to have no fear of people. You can swim right through a school of them, but the others all tried to make themselves scarce when anyone came around.

lots of fish at the snorkel site

On the way back we made one more short fishing stop with no luck. There were still bananas on the boat, which were not used for bait. This was a great excursion, which made Khasab one of my favorite ports of the entire trip. It was quite relaxing sitting on the pillows on the deck and watching the scenery go by, and I’m always happy for a chance to go snorkeling.

bow of the dhow

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Watersports on Symphony of the Seas

Symphony of the Seas in St. Maarten

There’s lots to do on Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas. Just watersports alone have quite a variety of activities to choose from.

aqua theater show

The biggest water feature on Symphony of the Seas isn’t actually a sport for the passengers, but rather a show. At the back of the ship a hidden pool surrounded by towering structures creates the venue for a watershow performed several nights during the voyage to give more people a chance to attend since there isn’t seating enough for all the guests to see the show at once.

one of the ship’s pools

In more traditional water activities, the ship has several pools and numerous hot tubs. The pools are out in the open, but even on the pool deck the hot tubs are a bit sheltered with a shade cover. There’s additional hot tubs in the covered adults only solarium area. In addition to standard pools there’s also a beach pool with a gradually sloping edge much like where a beach enters the water. Some of the deck chairs surrounding this pool sit in the shallow water along the pool’s edge.

splash park for small children

For the little ones, there’s a splash park with kid-sized water features and small slides.

hot tub

The ship has 3 waterslides. The blue and yellow slides wind down about 3 decks worth of space together, the main difference between the two in that the yellow one is lighter inside the slide tube while the blue one has portions of total darkness. The third green slide sends people spinning around a bowl-shaped area before going down the last bit of slide.

bowl slide and beach pool

There are also two flowriders onboard. Some flowrider sessions are for boogie boarding, with instructions provided for beginners on both how to use it and how to wipeout without getting injured should a wipeout happen. Some sessions use surfboards instead, of which some are for advanced surfers only.

flow rider

Barbara and I tried the boogie boarding. I’d done it once before on a prior Royal Caribbean cruise, but it’s been awhile so I listened to the first timer instructions and assumed I’d probably wipe out, but never did. Barbara had actually never done it before, but performed like a pro never wiping out even when she tried to. Unlike one of the guys there at the same time we were who did not follow instructions and wiped out multiple times each turn. Barbara even went up on her knees, but due to an old knee injury I can’t do that because my knee can’t handle it. At the end of the cruise they have a flow show on the flowrider, which is a lot of fun to watch, but we were busy doing other things and didn’t make it to the flow show on Symphony.

the big purple slides snaking down the back of the ship are not waterslides

Before sailing on Symphony of the Seas I had always thought the 10-deck slides at the back of the ship were waterslides, but they are actually dry slides where you go down on a mat. Those 10 decks go by pretty fast and even without water the slides are fun.

2 of the ship’s 3 waterslides

Since our cruise on Symphony of the Seas was in the Caribbean, it was nice to have a variety of ways to enjoy water while onboard.

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Gluten Free Orange Cinnamon Rolls

gluten free orange cinnamon roll

Dough

1 packet quick rise yeast

½ cup warm water

Zest of one orange (you need a second orange for the filling & frosting)

½ cup orange juice (preferably fresh squeezed, but you can fill in with other orange juice if you don’t have enough)

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 egg

2 tablespoons melted butter

2 ¼ cups 1-1 gluten free flour (I used Namaste perfect flour blend)

2 teaspoons baking powder

Filling

3 tablespoons melted butter

½ tablespoon orange juice

1 teaspoon orange zest

2 teaspoons cinnamon

¼ cup granulated sugar

Glaze

1 ½ tablespoons orange juice

Remaining zest not used in filling

1 ½ cups powdered sugar

fresh from the oven

Directions

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in sugar and let sit 1 minute. Add orange zest, orange juice, remaining sugar, salt, egg, melted butter, baking powder, and 1 cup flour. Beat with mixer on low until well blended, add the rest of the flour and beat until thoroughly mixed. Move dough to greased bowl and use rubber spatula to carefully make dough into a ball without squishing or compressing it. Dough will be sticky. Roll it over so the other side gets a bit of butter on it too. 

Turn dough out onto floured parchment paper and sprinkle some flour on top. Use a rolling pin to carefully roll it into a rectangle without putting any more pressure on dough than necessary or squishing it any flatter than the final thickness. Keep it at least ¼ inch thick.

Mix melted butter for filling with orange juice and zest. Spread evenly over dough. Mix sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle over the butter. Roll into cinnamon roll shape by rolling dough up across the long side, using the parchment paper to carefully roll it up a bit, then peel the paper back before rolling then next bit.

Grease the bottom of a 13 x 9 inch baking dish or line with parchment paper. Use a piece of thread to cut the dough into 1-inch pieces by placing middle of a length of thread under the dough and then crossing the two ends over the top and pulling them away from each other until the thread passes completely through the dough. That is how to neatly and evenly cut bread dough without squishing or smashing it. Shake or brush any excess flour off each roll before placing it in the pan. Cover it with a dish towel and let it rise in a warm place for about an hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake until golden brown, about 30-35 minutes

Beat all glaze ingredients together in small bowl. Add more powdered sugar or orange juice as necessary to reach desired consistency. Spread over hot rolls.

frosted and ready to eat

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The Ever-Changing Itinerary

Celebrity Constellation

In spite of omicron flaring up, our January cruise on Celebrity Constellation out of Tampa did sail. Itineraries are pretty fluid these days. When we first booked the cruise it went to Key West, Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, and Grand Cayman. Later we got a notice saying it was only going to the 3 ABC ports with an overnight in Curacao. The last notification before sailing dropped the overnight and added a stop in Costa Maya. Of course once you get on a ship there is no guarantee these days if it will actually stop at all the scheduled ports or even sail the full length of the cruise as some ships have been denied entry and others turned back due to covid. Not that there was ever a guarantee the ship would make every port as weather or emergencies among passengers or crew have sometimes cancelled port stops long before covid ever existed.

pool deck on the Constellation

Much as the news likes to make cruising sound unsafe and full of sickness, since passengers are generally required to be vaccinated and tested before boarding and crew are all vaccinated and tested regularly in some areas you are probably more likely to run into somebody with covid at the local grocery store. The cases onboard are usually mild or asymptomatic and most likely among the crew since they are tested on a regular basis whether they show any symptoms or not.

near the end of the cruise our steward made a different towel animal each day

We were very lucky in getting to our cruise on the Constellation. At the time flights were getting cancelled frequently, in fact the same flight as ours from Seattle to Tampa was cancelled both the day before and the day after our flight, so we were extremely lucky that ours was just an hour and a half late. People could count themselves lucky if their flight flew at all between cancellations for de-icing planes not keeping up to the number of planes needing de-icing and cancellations due to not enough crew to man the flight because they were all out sick with covid.

empty buffet tables were plentiful

Not everyone made it though. The ship left Tampa with just 700 passengers onboard – and over 900 crew. They expected more than 1200 passengers that sailing, and the ship can carry over 2000. Some likely cancelled in advance for fear of covid, some for a positive pre-cruise covid test, and the rest couldn’t get a flight that actually flew. Our backup plan was to fly to Orlando if we couldn’t get to Tampa and hope to score a rental car as those are scarce these days as well. Or uber it if we had to. Luckily our scheduled flight got us there and we didn’t have to worry about alternatives.

Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas (internet photo)

On day 5 of our 11-day cruise on Celebrity Constellation, we got word that our 7-day cruise on Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas, which we were to board the day after the Celebrity cruise ended, had been cancelled. We went down to the future cruise desk thinking that they would be happy to make some sort of a deal to keep people who were already there onboard for the next cruise since a lot of other passengers would not likely show up, but the best deal they came up with was the internet price from their own website, which was nearly double the price anyone could go online and book at Vacations To Go. I guess they would rather the rooms sit empty and make nothing on them than give somebody who was already there a good deal and make something. Which seems pretty stupid because besides making nothing on the room, that’s less tips the crew makes and less money spent onboard for other things so they lost all around.

cactus fences are popular in Bonaire to keep out feral donkeys

When we originally booked the two cruises, other than starting and ending in Tampa, neither went to any of the same places and both had one port we’d never been to. Bonaire on the Celebrity one, and I can’t remember where on Royal because it got cut from the itinerary before I printed out the schedule. The final itinerary for that one was Cozumel Mexico, Roatan Honduras, Belize City Belize, and Costa Maya Mexico. All places we have been and Costa Maya would have been a repeat from the Celebrity Cruise, but I was really looking forward to the totally awesome sounding zipline course we had booked an excursion to in Roatan. You can’t count on a cruise these days until it sails, or a port until you actually get there and make it off the ship.

flamingos at the cruise port in Costa Maya

Vacations have to be flexible these days, as the itinerary can change even in the middle of it, by a lot more than just a missed port as is always a possibility on a cruise.

grand foyer on the Constellation

We had a hotel booked in Tampa for what was supposed to be the one night between the two cruises. We’d picked one with guest laundry so we could wash all our clothes between cruises since neither ship had one. The plans for that day had been laundry and covid tests for the next cruise. As it turned out they had free covid tests on the dock for any disembarking guests from the Constellation who wanted one. Assuming those gave you some sort of proof of the results, if the next cruise hadn’t been cancelled we’d have just done the test there before we left the dock instead of the online thing, though we had packed the tests you buy from the cruiseline with plans to take them at the hotel.

roller coaster at Busch Gardens

With the second cruise cancelled neither of those things was necessary. We still spent the night at the hotel because our new flight home wasn’t until the next morning. After checking in we spent the day at Busch Gardens, which was just across the street.

flowers at Busch Gardens

We took covid tests after we got home and were both negative. Covid hadn’t really been much of a problem during our sailing on the Constellation. There weren’t any cases until about halfway through, then it was just 5 people who were sent to isolation. By the end it was close to 1%, which is probably far less than in the general population, especially since a lot of the cases on ships are asymptomatic crew who would never even know they had it if they weren’t required to be tested on a regular basis, which of course the general population on land is not so a lot of people don’t even know they have it.

at sea view from our balcony on the Constellation

Our options for the cancelled cruise were either a 100% refund or a 125% credit toward a future cruise. We took the credit and booked a cruise for next fall on Royal’s new ship Wonder of the Seas, due to launch in March and take over from Symphony of the Seas as the world’s largest cruise ship. Fingers crossed that one sails – preferably half full or less like the last 2 I’ve taken. It’s really nice when there’s not nearly the amount of people a ship holds so you can always get a deck chair, theater seat, or table at the buffet. Not to mention no lines or crowds anywhere onboard.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2022
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Yu Garden in Shanghai, China

temple building in the garden area at Yu Garden

Not far from each other, and fairly close to the Bund on Huaihui Road, sit Yu Garden and Yuyuan Garden. The bus tour map of Shanghai that we had showed Yu Garden and our other tourist map that showed the subway stations showed Yuyuan Garden. Google Maps showed both. The ship’s explore on your own lecturer on the Holland America Westerdam mentioned Yuyuan Garden in his talk on sights to see in Shanghai, but the description he gave of it actually fit Yu Garden.

funny sign at Yuyuan Garden – people letting their kids pee on the plants must be an issue there

We found Yuyuan Garden first since that was the one we were looking for from the talk on the ship. It turned out to be a small park with a couple pathways through some greenery rather than the 5-acre garden with lots of markets and old-style architecture we expected, though we did pass through some local markets in old Chinese style buildings on the way there. Yuyuan Garden had lots of plants and some funny signs about not peeing on the plants. In China they don’t use diapers and have a tendency to just let little kids pee whenever and wherever they are when they need to go. (Such as in a garbage can at a restaurant right at their table while everyone else was eating – yes, we saw someone let their little boy do that even though there was a restroom nearby.)

one of the old-style buildings in Shanghai

After finding Yuyuan Garden and consulting the map we headed back in the direction we had come from toward Yu Garden. Along the way we passed through an area of beautiful buildings in old Chinese style.

Shanghai is full of scooters

There were lots of scooters near those shops. There are scooters all over in Shanghai, and some of the drivers pay no attention to any sort of traffic laws or rules. They ride with or against the traffic among the cars, and through the crosswalks while they are full of people. These are mostly electric scooters and often at night they ride with no lights so their batteries will last longer. Sometimes parked scooters take up the whole sidewalk so people have to walk in the street.

shops at Yu Garden

After walking down the road through those buildings for a bit we found what would be called China Town if we weren’t already in China. The place that looked like China Town was the markets of Yu Garden, on the grounds of what was once quite a large temple complex. There was foot traffic only between the buildings there so no cars or crazy scooter drivers to contend with.

Chinese Food

The market is made up of all sorts of old temple buildings and it is free to walk through the market area unless of course if you buy anything. All sorts of things are for sale there with a variety of food, souvenirs, clothes, toys, shoes, art, jewelry, and more.

jewelry makers at work

A little restaurant had one guy making potato noodles and another making walnut cakes right in the front window. A jewelry store had several jewelry makers out front busy at their craft. Most of the stores just had merchandise and salespeople.

bridge and coy pond

A sort of central area had a large coy pond, which also had swans swimming around on it. Pathways across the pond were quite a popular attraction, and the fish would swarm to the surface if anyone fed them anything.

swans

The pathways over the pond are the star of the free area of Yu Garden. The pond is full of coy of varying sizes and if anyone feeds them they are literally on top of each other and often sticking their heads out of the water trying to get the food. Some of them are huge. We also saw three white geese swimming around one section of the pond.

doorway in the garden area of Yu Garden

Yu Garden does actually have a garden, but you have to pay extra to walk through it. There are more stone pathways, rockeries, water features, and buildings than plants and not really any open green space, but it is nice to walk through and has a lot to see.

window on one of the buildings in the garden area

The buildings in the garden area are smaller than the ones in the free area, and none of them are shops. They had intricate detailing in the architecture as well as in the carvings, statues, or other artwork. The pathways there are smaller too.

sidewalk in Yu Garden

Even one of the pathways had decorative artwork.

one of the bridges in the garden area

A few of the pathways are the original uneven stone, worn slick and smooth from centuries of feet passing over them. Most of the pathways are not quite that old, therefore more even and easier to walk on. Some even appear quite new. Some passed through a pond as raised bridges.

these fish want food

Fish in the garden pond swarmed to anyone with food just like the fish out in the market area pond did.

there weren’t a lot of flowers at Yu Garden, but it had some

The garden area had bridges between buildings and some crossing between pathways. We found a flower garden near one of the bridges on the pathway to a small temple.

little temple in the garden

This little temple was open to look into, but not to go inside.

rockery garden

A lot of the original pathways are blocked off to keep them preserved in their current state, including all those running through a rockery. You can view these areas, but not walk through them. 

pond between shops in the free area at Yu Garden

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2022
Posted in China, Holland America, Port Cities, Westerdam | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Symphony of the Seas

Symphony of the Seas in Saint Thomas

Finally a cruise that didn’t get cancelled. Things aren’t quite back to normal in a covid world, but ships are sailing again. Cruising isn’t quite the same, but there are ships on the sea. I took a week-long Caribbean cruise with my sisters on Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas. Pre-boarding has expanded from the regular registration that was always required to include proof of vaccination (for some cruises) and a pre-boarding covid test. Things onboard aren’t quite back to normal either. Some of it is good, like being on a ship that holds over 6000 passengers, but had less than 3000. And that there were no covid cases onboard during our October sailing.

2 of the ships 3 waterslides

While that still means a lot of people on board, it’s a big ship and nothing ever felt crowded and hardly anything had much of a line. Masks were required in all indoor spaces. Which is good to prevent spreading disease, but when you’re often going from inside to outside and back it’s pretty easy to forget to put the mask on or take it off. The ship had individually packaged masks available for anybody who needed one – or who forgot to take one with them when they left their room.

the 3 mask-ateers

Going with the theme, even though it’s standard to take masks off for photos, we had quite a few with them on. Being as there were 3 of us wandering about the ship in masks the 3 mask-ateers seemed like a good nickname for the group. Since none of us are all that photogenic and the mask hides a photo-ruining expression they were helpful in getting photos where we all look OK. Like the times when you start out with a genuine smile, but by the time they get around to clicking the camera it’s gone to a forced expression and the mask hides that. All the photographers used the same 4 poses and it wasn’t until the very last one we finally found someone who would allow other poses besides facing forward, group hug, hands on hips or facing toward or away from each other. We got really tired of those same poses over and over again. Sometimes we traded places. Here I’m in the middle, which as the middle sister I often was. The dining room photos were a bit different being seated, but they always came by while we were having salad and then took them pretty quickly, often while somebody was still running their tongue around their teeth inside their mouth trying to make sure there wasn’t any lettuce hanging out between teeth, which really makes for a really bad photo so most of those didn’t turn out well.

giant bubble decor by elevators

Currently the largest cruise ship in the world, Symphony of the Seas is 1188 feet long and 255.5 feet wide with a passenger capacity of 6680 guests in 2759 staterooms, and 2200 crew. It has 18 decks, 16 of which are open to passengers. This ship is so large the cruise line has the public areas divided up into 7 neighborhoods – Central Park, Boardwalk, Royal Promenade, Pool and Sports Zone, Vitality Spa and Fitness Center, Entertainment Place, and Youth Zone. It has 9 complimentary eateries and 10 premium restaurants or food shops that have an extra cost.

balcony cabins above the Boardwalk area

Rooms come with more options than other ships can even imagine. There’s quite a variety of suites, some of which have balconies that wrap around from outside to inside the ship with great views of the water show and boardwalk area on the inside and the ocean on the outside. There’s a 2-story high family suite with a slide from the upper level to the lower, and some other 2-level loft suites as well. Balcony and window rooms have greater than normal variety too since some come with views of Central Park, the Royal Promenade, or the Boardwalk from what would otherwise be inside cabins as well as the standard ocean view staterooms with windows or balconies facing the sea. There are some interior cabins without windows or balconies, but even some of those come with virtual ocean views.

solarium

Like many cruise ships, it has a theater and a comedy club, but those aren’t the only places to find shows. The ice area and water stage also put on some fantastic performances. You can find the normal things to do like exercise classes, trivia and other contests from the entertainment staff, casino, pools and hot tubs, arcades, and games like shuffleboard or ping pong.

kid’s splash area & waterslide

Additionally this ship has so much more. It has 10-deck dry slides, 3 waterslides, a zip line, mini golf, rock climbing walls, flow riders, laser tag, a carousel, and for the little ones a splash zone with kid-sized waterslide. For adults there’s the solarium, a covered area with hot tubs, deck chairs, a bar, and no kids.

track on the promenade deck

It also has the best outside promenade deck ever.  Not only does it go all the way around the ship, but it is actually set up to be a walking and running track. There’s some deck chairs at the back where people can sit and watch the wake go by, and a couple duck-outs with games. One had shuffleboard and cornhole, the other a ping-pong table. The surface of the promenade deck has two lanes like a track, one for walkers and the other for runners. If you start at the marked starting line it has markings along the way that tell you how far you’ve gone, and signs that give distances for amounts of laps. There are also encouraging signs hanging above and some other signs along the way, some for information and others for entertainment.

Symphony of the Seas Christmas tree ornament ship model

The gift shop had the one thing I always look for – a ship model Christmas tree ornament. They weren’t in boxes or blister packs like they usually are. These were loose and a bit hard to find as they were in a bin blending in with key chains that had the exact same little ship, but with a key chain attached to one end instead of a little gold string on the top. It’s bigger than the average ship model ornament and as a key chain would take up a lot of purse or pocket space. For a Christmas tree ornament the size is fine. Rather fitting that it is the biggest of my ship model ornaments since it is the biggest ship, though the size of the models compared to one another doesn’t come anywhere close to reflecting the true size differences between the actual ships.

the Rising Tide bar elevates up poles from the Royal Promenade to Central Park

Of course there are bars, 23 of them actually, though some are not accessible to everyone being located in a pay-extra restaurant or special lounge for suite guests or those with high loyalty status. Most of them are for everyone though, and not all are ordinary bars. The Rising Tide Bar is part elevator, sometimes sitting in the Royal Promenade, and other times rising several decks higher into Central Park. The Bionic Bar has 2 robot bar tenders who can make drinks from their menu or people can customize.

Central Park on a cruise ship

Central Park has pathways through gardens with actual live plants. It has tables and benches among the gardens and shops, eateries, and a bar at the edges. It’s open to the sky many decks up. Staterooms with balconies occupy the walls rising from both sides of the garden, resembling apartments in a city.

Royal Promenade

The Royal Promenade somewhat resembles a street passing through a city with shops, bars, and eateries along the sides, and residences in the form of staterooms with windows above the shops.

entrance to the Ultimate Abyss 10-deck slides

Enter the Boardwalk to a real working carousel, available for rides at no extra cost during the hours it is open. The boardwalk area is open to the sky with balcony staterooms rising many decks above. The water show theater sits at the back, which also has movie screens. Rock climbing walls are located on either side rising up the walls just forward of the aqua theater. Bars, eateries, shops, and an arcade sit along either side. The ultimate abyss slide exits near the aqua theater, the entrance is 10 decks up.

piano stairs

Some of the fun things on the ship aren’t on the map – you just have to find them, like the piano stairs. They’re near the elevators by the buffet between decks 15 & 16. Although each stair is not actually a piano key, they are made to look as such. They have motion sensors that play a tune when anybody walks on them. If you are the only person on the stairway you can make the song play faster or slower by going faster or slower yourself, but if there is more than one person on the stairs it just plays at normal speed.

cruise ships sometimes have some really weird art

The ship had artwork on the stairways. Some quite nice, but a lot of it very odd. The most interesting was the one above the piano stairs, which had 3 frames with little chef guys that would draw different things and then erase them and start over. The rest of the art wasn’t active like that bit, just hanging there like normal art. The oddest one looked like a painting of a decorated egg behind a statue of legs with their clothing down like they were sitting on a toilet. It reminded me of naked toilet man, a painting in an elevator on Carnival Splendor. Kind of makes me wonder who chooses cruise ship art and what they were thinking when they chose it.

mini golf

The crew is very attentive and the food on our cruise was quite good. They can cater to special diets, but for dining room meals they require pre-ordering for breakfast and lunch as well as dinner. Gluten free food can be found at the buffet, some for the asking and some ready to go.

Barbara on the flowrider

We saw 3 of the shows on this ship, the water show, main ice show, and one theater show and all were very good. We really enjoyed our time on the Symphony of the Seas. There’s so much to do on the ship it’s hard to fit it all in.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2022
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Freedom Trail Revisited

Boston Freedom Trail

On my first trip to Boston as a cruise embarkation port, I spent a couple nights there pre-cruise. That trip I sailed with a couple aunts and an uncle. We stayed at a hotel near the subway and used it as our main mode of transportation. At that time the USS Constitution, which is normally near the end of the Freedom Trail, was undergoing repairs and not available for tours so we didn’t cross the bridge leading to it. There was a nice area on the riverside with a walkway and benches and things where we hung out a bit before walking back to Boston Commons at the other end of the trail where we had started out.

Old South Meeting House

I had an opportunity to visit Boston again on a trip with my husband as the airport we flew into on a trip with the final destination in Vermont. This was my first time out of our home state of Washington since the pandemic started. Though this trip was not for a cruise, it was supposed to include a day-trip cruise on a lake in Vermont  – which like so many other cruises got cancelled. This time due to a death in the captain’s family. We did take a harbor cruise on a sailboat in Boston though and spent some time one day in New Hampshire doing about the smallest sort of cruising possible – paddling around a lake in one-person kayaks.

subway station at Boston Common

This trip we were nearest to the blue subway line which did not go directly to Boston Commons as the one near the first hotel had. It did however have a station that crossed one that did so we were able to change trains and get there easily enough. The Freedom Trail starts at Boston Commons. The red and green subway lines stop there so if you start out on a different color find a station where you can switch to either of those.

Most of Boston’s Freedom Trail is marked by a brick line in the sidewalk

There’s a brick line in the pavement just uphill from the subway station. That line indicates the Freedom Trail. From there it goes either direction. Facing uphill if you go to the left it leads to some government buildings where that end of the Freedom Trail starts (or ends if you began at the other end). If you go to the right it leads to everything else along the Freedom Trail.

Boston alley

Much of the freedom trail was the same as on my first visit, though there were bits of it that had detours or where the road had been worked on since my last visit that no longer had the original brick. Not that the whole thing had the original brick on my first visit, there’s just a few more patches that don’t now.

John poses with a statue at the Green Dragon Tavern

The last time I walked the Freedom Trail I wore Sketchers shoes, this time my Sketchers boots. Sort of a coincidence, but not entirely since a good portion of my shoes are Sketchers as that is the brand where I most often find comfortable shoes that fit well. The boots are great airplane shoes too since besides being soft and comfortable, they’re slip-ons so no tying or other sort of fastening involved which makes getting them off and on quick and easy – quite handy for boarding if shoe removal is required at the security check.

Granary Burying Ground

We took the time to explore a few things along the trail that I just walked by last time. The first was Granary Burial Ground, the graveyard where Paul Revere is buried. There are large monuments to some other people there, and a lot of tall skinny gravestones. Some still stand up straight, but a lot of them have gone wonky over all the years. Some are still readable, some not. We never did find a marker for Paul Revere, but assumed it was the one surrounded by a tour group with a guide yakking on and on so nobody else could get near it. There were a few signs around the cemetery, one of which mentioned a family that had lost several children under 2. The oldest was 18 months and the youngest 3 days. Quite sad indeed. We did see some living residents of the cemetery in the form of squirrels.

Faneuil Hall

Other places we walked through that I had not gone inside on the first visit were Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall. Quincy Market had a variety of little shops inside. Faneuil hall turned out to be full of food places, but we’d had breakfast at the hotel and weren’t hungry for lunch yet so we didn’t stop anywhere.

Unicorn Unicyclist

In front of Quincy Market there was a busker doing a unicycle show. He had a regular sized unicycle and a 12-foot tall one with a fake unicorn on the top. He called himself the unicorn unicyclist. He was part showman and part comedian and put on a pretty good show which included jumping the small unicycle over a child and juggling bowling pins followed by dangerous objects from atop the large one.

Paul Revere’s house

We walked past a couple places I’d gone inside last time, Paul Revere’s house and the Old North Church. Last time the road out front of Paul Revere’s house was full of dips and bumps, but this time it was flat and smooth.

cobblestone road by Paul Revere’s house

It still had cobblestones rather than having been paved over. They looked different, but whether that was because they weren’t the same stones or just because they were now arranged in nice neat flat rows instead of all over the place on uneven ground I don’t know.

Old North Church

The Old North Church is still hard to get a decent photo of because it has trees blocking one side and buildings the other. The steeple rises high enough above the surroundings that it can be photoed from a cemetery at the top of the hill next to it. There’s a building blocking the view of the rest of it from there though so you can’t get photos of anything but the steeple.

dog tag memorial at the Old North Church

There was a dog-tag military memorial outside of the church that had not been there on my first visit. This is the church of one if by land, two if by sea fame from The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

wonky gravestones at Copp’s Burying Ground

The cemetery above the Old North Church, called Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, had more of the skinny gravestones like the ones at the Granary Burying Ground near Boston Common. It also had a sign saying bodies had been moved and the stones were not in their original location, though that must have all happened long enough ago for some of them to go wonky as they weren’t all standing straight up.

Boston skinny house

Across the street from the gate to the cemetery a very skinny house sat sandwiched between larger buildings. Built in the mid 1800’s, the skinny house is just over 10 feet wide at its widest point and just over 6 feet at its narrowest. At 1166 square feet over its 4 stories, it’s more spacious inside than it appears. It even has a small backyard at the far end of the skinny alley that leads to the front door, and a rooftop deck with a view of the harbor. It recently sold for over a million dollars.

rickety temporary bridge on the Freedom Trail

This trip it was the Charlestown Bridge undergoing construction rather than the Constitution. There was a detour to the other side of the road there, and the whole side of the street where we went down to the waterfront area last time was fenced off and inaccessible. We followed the new painted red line to the detour across the bridge. It went over a rickety temporary bridge, then on to the Naval Shipyard that is home to the Constitution.

little locks in Boston – Charles River Locks

Crossing over the temporary bridge we had a view of some small locks. I didn’t know Boston had locks. There was nothing going through them either on our way over the bridge or on our way back. No big ships could go through as the 3 slips were small and smaller and it didn’t look like the height difference between the water on one side of the locks or the other was much over a few feet. So not nearly as impressive as the locks in the Panama Canal, or even the Ballard Locks, but it still would have been more interesting had there been any boats going through.

USS Constitution

Touring the Constitution (AKA Old Ironsides even though it is made of wood) we found it mostly as space to hold cannons. The upper deck was full of them, as was the one below. Other than the captain’s quarters and some very small rooms the only sign people lived onboard was many hammocks bunched together at the bow.

the whole ship is pretty much full of cannons

There’s also a visitor’s center and a museum nearby. It’s free to go inside the visitor’s center and to tour the ship, though you do have to pass through security to access the area. They need to see ID and run all your belongings through a scanner. The nearby Constitution Museum was not behind the security screen, but did have a fee to enter, or at least a sign that said suggested fee or something along that line so we didn’t investigate further.

Freedom Trail Map

The Freedom Trail runs for nearly 2.5 miles and has 16 historical sites along the way. These sites are Boston Common, Massachusetts State House, Park Street Church, Granary Burying Ground, King’s Chapel and King’s Chapel Burying Ground, Boston Latin School (site of Benjamin Franklin statue), Old Corner Bookstore, Old South Meeting House, Old State House, Boston Massacre Site, Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere House, Old North Church, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, USS Constitution, and Bunker Hill Monument.

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Khasab, Oman Cruise Port

MSC Lirica in Khasab

KHASAB, OMAN

The city of Khasab is located on northern Oman’s Musandam Peninsula which juts out between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman in the Strait of Hormunz next to United Arab Emirates. This small city has many foreign residents and vacation homes for Omanis living on the mainland. Ferries and a highway give easy access to UAE tourists visiting Khasab. It has a hot desert climate with average rainfall just over 7 inches, falling mostly from December to March.

building in Khasab

Oman is a traditional Islamic country so shoulders and knees should be kept covered in respect to the residents while visiting there. Arabic is the official language, but many other languages are spoken and a lot of the people there know English.

lone tree on a hill above Khasab

The city was originally built by the Portuguese in the 17th century as a supply point to obtain water and dates for their naval ships sailing through the strait. The town is protected from floods by three large dams. Khasab has some resorts and hotels and is a popular weekend spot for people from the UAE as well as a vacation place for mainland Omanis. It is also well situated for trade with UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.

dhow boat tours are very popular in Khasab

Currency is the Omani Rial. It takes about $2.60 USD to equal one rial. There is a substantial population of Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, like in mainland Oman, who work in a variety of jobs including restaurants, grocery stores, supermarkets, and as tour operators.

port building in front of the ship

KHASAB CRUISE PORT

MSC Lirica docked at Khasab harbor, about 3k from the city center. Shuttle busses were available for a nominal fee for an all-day ticket. For people who don’t mind walking it’s an easy walk into town. We were given port entry cards as we disembarked the ship, which are given to cruise ship passengers in lieu of a visa which would otherwise be required for people from some countries, though nobody ever asked to see those cards at any of the three ports we visited in Oman.

shopping booths by the ship

There’s a tour desk in the port building where passengers can book last minute tours. An amphibious vehicle was parked near the ship waiting to fill up with tourists booking there. They could also book a ride on a traditional dhow boat.

road to town

More options of things to do could be had just outside the port building where people with signs offered independent tours. The van/taxi city tours went to a mosque, a couple forts, and some shopping, all places that those who don’t mind a bit of a hike could walk to if they had enough time. There were also boat tours, including the dhow boats, for a bit less than the price inside the building, which cost less than booking through the ship. Some of the outside people were willing to bargain a bit on the price.

canal through Khasab

Along the road into town, not far from the port, there were shops advertising various tours so people could likely also book something to do there. The road splits before reaching the main part of town with the main road going left into town. The right fork leads to the other side of a canal in an area that is mainly residential, but there is a fort and a superstore on that side of the canal.

Khasab Fort

THINGS TO DO IN KHASAB

Visit the Portuguese built Khasab fort (castle) with museum and tunnels, sail in a wooden dhow boat for dolphin watching, fishing, or snorkeling, go diving, see the fjords, or visit Telegraph Island. There’s also beaches and parks. Book a 4×4 mountain safari, paragliding or parasailing. Or just go into town and have a look around. There are a few cafes and small shops, but no bars – it’s a dry town.

dolphins in the Musandam fjords seen from a dhow boat

Excursions offered from our ship in Khasab included a scenic dhow boat tour with swimming stop, a dhow boat tour with fishing and snorkeling stops (and they also had a dolphin watching stop, though that wasn’t listed in the excursion details). Other excursions included a city tour and visit to Bukha, a town an hour away on the boarder to UAE, and a safari 4×4 drive to Jebel Harim, or the mountain of women with scenic stops along the way.

view of the Lirica from the walk into town

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2022

 

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