Thursday, February 8, 2018

When & Where 8 Feb 18

Day five, Santo Tomás de Castilla, Guatemala. Temperature approximately 82ºF, slight chance of rain in the mountains.

The port was built in 1976, which is nestled in the Amatique Bay, and today it is among the busiest in Central America. Although the pier itself does not offer a lot in activities, the nearby area is full of unique experiences. You'll find a Spanish fort located 5 minutes away, where you'll discover wonderful architecture and have the chance to learn about explorers and pirates.

One of the most popular local attractions are waterfalls which are said to rival Hawaii and Dominica. You'll not only admire the waterfalls, but you can also bathe in the waters and climb the rock formations. For the adventurous, head to the Eco Farm, a 500 acre nature preserve, home to many plant and bird species. Enjoy a hike in lush, tropical surroundings.

The most special outing of all is a visit to a local school. This gives you a chance to meet and experience the people here and gain an understanding of the country and its inhabitants. Many visitors will tell you this part of their trip was the most rewarding.

Settlement dates back to the 19th century by Belgian pioneers. Another important historical site is to visit the "Tikal", the largest of the Mayan Ruins. It is impressive and continues to reveal treasures from the Mayan Culture as archaeologists explore it. Recently named a UNESCO World Heritage site, Quirigua offers pieces from Mesoamerica.

I personally didn't get off the ship this day, however it was fun to watch the trucks at the port continuously bring loads of dirt to ship, which later found out the dirt has Nickel in it to be mined.

Until next time,

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

When & Where 7 Feb 18

Day four, Mahogany Bay, Honduras. The ship's clocks were set back 1hour due to going into a different time-zone.

One of the largest of the Honduras Bay Islands, Roatán. Spanning just 37 miles in length, the island lies next to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the largest in the Caribbean Sea and the second-largest in the world after the Great Barrier Reef.

Roatán attracts divers from all around the world but also visitors
who are simply looking for some rest and relaxation. While Christopher Columbus landed on the island in the 16th century, it wasn't until three centuries later that the island was given a break from territorial conflicts.

Today, the island is owned by American fruit companies and prospers from its agricultural endeavors. Plenty of recreational activities are available in Roatán.

Learn to sportfish from locals or take a semi-submarine tour in the Bay Island Underwater Museum. Head to the Blue Harbor Tropical Arboretum and wander through lush tropical gardens housing tropical fruit trees, heliconia gardens, and an indoor waterfall.

Next, embark on a journey through Carabola Gardens, where a nature walk takes you through the native environment of monkeys and parrots. Head to the Black Pearl Golf Course to soak up the paradise sun and perfext your game at the island's only gold course.

 Roatán offers some of the best snorkeling in the world. Board a catamaran and explore the reef and its exotic and tropical marine life.  Roatán still keeps the Garifuna traditions alive. Be sure to watch the Garifuna Dancers perform their culturally important dance called Punta.

So from eco-tours, diving, snorkeling, caves, botanical gardens, beaches, a cloud forest, and other incredible photo opportunities. This is a great place for very unique experiences, regardless of your age or activity level. There are also dozens of friendly iguanas, tarpons, monkeys, and lobster.

With the beautiful beaches comes fascinating Maritime history. In the mid-17th century, there were approximately 5,000 French, English, and Dutch pirates living on the Bay Islands. Henry Morgan, Blackbeard, and John Coxen (the namesake for Coxen Hole) just to name a few.

Until next time,

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

When & Where 6 Feb 18

Day three is a 'Sea' day. This means that from the last port to the next, the ship is literally at sea between the two ports.

The weather was 80ºF, and partly cloudy. Such an awesome day to enjoy some rays by the pool. The schedule was pretty busy with things to learn at the next port, however, when one enjoys the sun, it's hard to stay inside.

I did go to the Grand Opening Art auction and bid on a Charles Schultz piece for a very good price. Sure, there were many other great pieces to buy, however, I just don't have the money to buy such high priced items, so the one piece was good enough for me.

There was a $5,000 jackpot bingo going on, however, since having been on other cruises, it's great to hold off hoping for a higher jackpot!

 I do enjoy just walking around the promenade deck and watch the waves splash against the ship. It's just so relaxing to listen to and watch.

Then the awesome view from the back of the ship to see where we have been. Hard to believe that we're out in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.

Not much really happened other than some beverages on the ship, so...

Until next time,

Monday, February 5, 2018

When & Where 5 Feb 18

Day two has a stop in Key West, Florida, arriving around 11am, with a temperature of 74ºF, and partly cloudy. Our port was actually on an active Military base, so transportation was limited via shuttles. I chose to remain on board, as I knew we would be coming back to Key West the following week. I was able to venture around the outside the ship a bit more, and watch as our ship came dock at the Naval Station.

Key West is almost 130 miles southwest of Miami. Known for its popularity with cruisers, the area also has an important naval station and vacation destination for thousands of visitors every year. The island's tropical Savannah type climate offers pleasant conditions, with year-round temperatures hovering around 80ºF with frequent thunderstorms.

Ernest Hemingway called Key West his home in the early 20th century. Now, visitors can take a look at where the famous writers kicked up his shoes with a trip to 1301 Whitehead Street. Another famous writer, Tennessee Williams, made Key West his hoe around the same time period, but unfortunately the home is privately owned and cannot be viewed by the public.

A trip to Old Town offers plenty of sites and activities. One can tour the shops and visit museums at Mallory Square, wander the famous commercial district on Duval Street, and take a trip back in time with a stroll through the neighborhood in the Truman Annex.

From there, you then make your way to the corner of Whitehead and South streets to what was thought to be the southernmost point in the contiguous 48 states. For an environmental experience, one can stop at the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, or take a relaxing drive to take in the picturesque surroundings on the Overseas Highway. If you're stuck on the ship, and there is another in port, be sure to watch them turn as it's very fascinating!

Some things to see: Southernmost Point, Key West Aquarium, Shipwreck Museum, Key West Lighthouse, Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, Ernest Hemingway House, Harry S. Truman Little White House, Audubon House and Tropical Garden, Key West Museum of Art & History, Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, and Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

Until next time,

Sunday, February 4, 2018

When & Where 4 Feb 18

Day One on a cruise is always the most busiest and stressful. Once you get to the port terminal, you have to check in to get your key-card which is the key to your room, and is used for everything from purchasing beverages, duty-free items, to embarking/disembarking the ship.

Weather in Tampa was around 76ºF, with some afternoon showers. Once I did get on board, I immediately went to my room to drop off my luggage, unpack, and get acquainted with my room attendants.

Room was set up for two people, so I had them put the beds together for me, which was very nice of them to do. As busy as they were, they did it very fast.

Once you get settle in, it's good to take a look at the "When & Where" pamphlet they have in each room to highlight the different daily activities for each day. Everyone gets a new 'When & Where' each night for the following day.

This pamphlet gives you times for the Dining room, bars, different events happening around the ship, and where they are happening along with which floor to go to.

There are times for the Excursion office (for those who haven't booked any shore activities prior to the cruise), Windows digital workshops, Spa raffle drawing, Park West art auction, Future Cruise consultants, Port Shopping Ambassador, Trivia meet-up, Single & Solo mingle, Friends of Bill W meet-up, LGBT meet-up, Mass (for those who choose to visit), Casino times, Bingo times, Main Stage entertainment times, and the most important, the Mandatory passenger Emergency Muster Drill.

This drill is where everyone must gather on the Promenade deck with their key-card, to get checked-in, and shown where to meet in case of an in-cruise emergency. Each key-card has their designated muster drill meeting point location which coincides with a life-boat. (luckily, we didn't have to worry too much, but it's good to know the emergency stuff)

Once the Captain and Cruise Director make their required safety announcements, then it was time to do some venturing around the ship and see what the ms Rotterdam had to offer.

I was somewhat towards the front of the ship, so first thing I ventured into was the Main Stage (right). It was located on decks 4&5. As I was walking up the steps, I did pass one bar which I noticed, however some Art (left) was placed in the open area, so I didn't really take notice at first. (little did I know that this was going to be my favorite spot on the ship)

After finding where the main stage was, I then wanted to venture and see where the pools were, so I started walking up to the 8th floor where the Lido deck was, and where the Lido pool was located.

The Lido pool had two Jacuzzi's, and a pool for everyone to enjoy. As you can see in the picture to the left, it does have a glass roof, which does open later if at a port, or slightly open if there isn't too much wind from sailing (right)

It was great to see some people enjoying themselves before the clouds rolled in and started to rain upon our departure, but many people tried to enjoy as much as they could by walking around and partaking in the departure beverages on the Sea View bar/pool area on the back of the ship.

As much as I would have liked to have been back there, I kind of had a sense it was going to rain, so I remained inside and continued touring the ship to see what it had to offer. There was one stairway that had all kinds of plaques and awards for the ms Rotterdam. It was very impressive as many of them were plaques from cities the ship first docked at after it was commissioned. These awards and plaques were two floors, and I noticed that this wasn't a very frequented part of the ship as the railings were very smooth, & shiny as if they were just installed. (Some of the other railings in the major stairwells were a bit more rough)

I did enjoy seeing the very large 3-story clock that was near the concierge desk. The clocks were set with times all around the world. I never heard it chime, so not sure if there was a chime....I'm sure if it did, it was turned off as it was directly in front of the front desk.

Continuing my tour, I was able to find the main dining room, one of the elite restaurants on board, the buffet area, and the 'Crows Nest' where I frequented on the ms Eurodam quite often.

The Crows Nest is where I sat and watched our departure from port as it had begun to rain, and shortly after we departed (4pm), it was time for dinner at 5:15pm.

I can't remember what I ate the first night, however I did meet a mother and son from New York, a gentleman who called himself the "Bead-man", and an elderly woman who I later found out was 93 years old traveling by herself. She and I happened to have run into each other several times, she was a joy to talk with.

Dining was a 'smart casual' affair, however it still takes a while for all services to be completed. Since I was at an 'Open Seating', that meant I sat with others who have open seating, and we aren't given our menus until everyone sits at the table.

Once everyone has been seated, then we are given the evenings menu, then the waiters come around and ask the ladies what they would like to eat first, followed by the men. Once they leave, a Wine Steward will come over and ask everyone if they would like any wine, or other drinks, then the appetizers come, followed by soup and/or salad, then the main entrée, and of course, the dessert.

Simple conversations such as introductions, where you live, what you do, why you're on the trip etc. Over-all, dinner is done within 2.5hrs. After dinner, then everyone goes their own way.

Since this was February 4th, Super-Bowl LII was being aired on a big screen in the Main Stage. Many guests were a bit upset, however others were actually thrilled. I tried to stay away from the game, as I was recording it, but I did catch the Half-time show and watched the great finish after the half-time.

Such a busy day, getting to know the ship, meeting a few people, and wondering around takes a toll on you, so after the game, I went back to my room to rest, and see what the next day in Key West, FL was going to be like.

So with that, there is day One of my 21-day cruise.

So until next time,


Saturday, January 20, 2018

HAL Rotterdam

I'm looking forward to my awesome 21-day cruise in the Caribbean.

Rotterdam is a medium ship, carrying 1404 passengers and 600 crew, and sails from Rotterdam, Netherlands and Tampa, Florida.
  • Crew to Passenger Ratio: 2.34
  • Built: Dec 1997
  • Refurbished: 8 yrs ago
  • Number of Decks: 10
  • Total Cabins: 702
  • Cabin Categories: 67
Day 1 Tampa, Florida 
Day 2 Key West, Florida  
Day 3 At Sea
Day 7 At Sea
Day 10 At Sea
Day 11 At Sea
Day 16 At Sea
Day 19 At Sea
Day 21 At Sea

Friday, January 19, 2018

Corps news and Announcements

Corps news and announcements: 19-01-2018 12:02
by: Drum Corps International

In This Edition …

• Jersey Surf reveals 2018 show title
• Heat Wave sets sights on inaugural trip to the DCI World Championships
• Latest looks inside audition camps

• Plus much more!

7th Regiment
7th Regiment added an audition camp for brass and percussion, January 19-21 in West Haven, Connecticut. Color guard auditions will be held on the 21st.

Blue Devils B
Blue Devils B’s educational audition clinic will take place January 19-21 in Concord, California.

Blue Knights
Meal prep volunteers are still needed across the three days of Blue Knights’ rehearsal camp January 19-21 in Englewood, Colorado. Those interested may sign up to help for one, two, or all three days.

The Bluecoats have an immediate opening for one lead trumpet player.

The Cadets
Cadets’ percussion caption head Tom Aungst is looking for one more snare drummer to fill the line this year.

Carolina Crown
Check out this gallery of more than 150 photos from Carolina Crown’s January audition camp weekend.

Gold’s first brass experience camp of 2018 will be held January 27-28 at Valhalla High School in El Cajon, California.

Guardians has open spots for prospective corps members in all sections.

Heat Wave
Heat Wave will be heading to Michigan City, Indiana and Indianapolis this summer to attend the Open Class DCI World Championships for the very first time. “We are excited to enter the next phase of our growth plan,” executive director Jon Otero said.

Impulse will host camps for prospective color guard members January 21, February 25, and March 11 in California, followed by auditions April 28 and 29.

Jersey Surf
Jersey Surf revealed the title of its 2018 production, “[mondo mondrian],” which will be based on the cubist primary colors of 20th Century abstractionist Piet Mondrian.

Legends has immediate openings for trumpets, mellophones, and color guard performers.

Louisiana Stars
From the looks of these photos from Louisiana Stars’ January audition camp, the corps is on the way to enjoying a banner season.

Madison Scouts
Meet the four drum majors who will lead the Madison Scouts during the corps’ 2018 summer season.

Mandarins’ corps director JW Koester and program director Ike Jackson discuss the highlights of the corps’ January callback audition camp in this recently-posted video.

Music City
More than 150 brass musicians and percussionists braved the abnormally cold Tennessee weather January 12-14 to attend Music City’s latest audition and rehearsal camp. Check out this video of the corps’ horn line.

Oregon Crusaders
Oregon Crusaders announced that some new names have been added to the corps’ color guard team, including choreographer Tim Coady and five other staff members.

Pacific Crest
Because of the great weather in southern California, Pacific Crest rehearsed outside under the lights during the corps’ January rehearsal camp.

Phantom Regiment
Due to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Phantom Regiment had the opportunity to host a four-day callback audition camp this past weekend. Don’t miss this gigantic gallery of photos recapping the action.

What does a corps strongly associated with the Emerald Isle eat for a treat at its January audition and rehearsal camp?

Two New Jersey natives, Katie Beasley and Grace Robertson, have been named Raiders’ 2018 drum majors.

River City Rhythm
Three of the newest River City Rhythm staff appointments include Ben Harloff as brass supervisor, Jeffrey Crowell as percussion ensemble specialist, and Brian Veith as brass co-caption head.

Santa Clara Vanguard
Santa Clara Vanguard announced the date of its annual organization-wide birthday celebration. Join the corps for brunch on Saturday, March 17 in Santa Clara, California, to see special sneak-peek performances by Vanguard and the Vanguard Cadets.

Seattle Cascades
Next month’s rehearsal camp for Seattle Cascades has been changed to the weekend of February 23-25 to avoid a conflict with a music educators’ event. This camp is only for brass and percussion, with color guard starting up in April.

Shadow announced the 16 members of the corps’ 2018 percussion staff.

Southwind wrapped up its January rehearsal camp weekend with a show-and-tell performance giving each section of the corps the opportunity to step into the spotlight.

Drum major Emily Dawson spills the beans about the corps’ upcoming season in this debut episode of “Inside Spartans.”

Spirit of Atlanta
Get an inside look at Spirit of Atlanta in this video captured during the corps’ January callback audition camp.

Watchmen announced the members of its 2018 administrative staff, led by executive director David Becker.