Joined April 2016
  • Day11

    At sea, south west of Grand Inagua

    March 2, North Atlantic Ocean ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    On a visit back to our Cabin to fetch we found an unexpected gift from the organisers: a poster featuring each celebrity guest on the trip. As evening fell we headed to the aft end of Deck 5 for our picture with Kate Mulgrew; she had been in panels or photograph sessions with her fellow Voyager cast almost continuously since the 11:00 Voyager panel, and had not long started on the 2,000 or so photos guests were to have with just her, which were due to continue well into the late evening. It was pretty clear the brutal schedule had left her a little tired, but she was none the less very pleasant.

    We cut through the casino enroute to the evening’s Star Trek Rat Pack show, and after well over a decade of the smoking ban it was strange to be in an enclosed public space where smoking was going on. The rat pack show comprised Casey Biggs, Jeffery Combes, Vaughn Armstrong, Ethan Philips and Max Grodénchik performing classic show tunes with lyrics rewritten by Max. Its a fun show, with Casey, Vaugh and Ethan breaking out their guitar, harmonica and saxophone are various points - but its the words that seemed to be the real crowd pleaser for the Star Trek audience.

    We closed out the day by heading to the atrium above Studio B to get a look at the costumes for the night’s theme of Captain Proton. There were some amazing “Satan’s Robots”, Chaoticas and Captain Protons; Kimberly asked for a picture of a passing Guinan. There were even some clever ‘mash up’ costumes, like a half-proton, half-Han Solo; I guess jetpacks are no substitute for a good blaster at your side. Between the exploring the substantial 15 deck ship, and the dense schedule of events we were pretty tired, so we said goodnight to Kim and all headed back to outstate rooms.
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  • Day11

    At sea north of Moa, Cuba

    March 2, North Atlantic Ocean ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    By 13:00 we made had made another tough decision: to attend the Discovery panel, rather than Gate’s McFadden’s choreography session. At the panel Ethan Peck, Anson Mount, Wilson Cruz, Mary Chieffo and Kenneth Mitchel discussed the continuing voyages of the United Starship Discovery. They were all full of praise for Sonequa Martin-Green who plays Burnham and for the quality of the sets, which it seems are much more complete and immersive than on previous series.

    From Discovery, at Dan’s request we headed to the diversity panel, hosted by Gaaaays in Space; the discussion with Wilson Cruz, Johnathan Del Arco and Robb Pearlman had a particular focus on queer representation in Star Trek. The Gaaaays in Space representation in the audience was strong and the whole session had a strong sense of gay/queer identity; Dan admitted to feeling a little out of place at times, then guiltily wondering if this is how gay friends feel almost all of the time in a world that is often heteronormative. From the panel, we headed to The Second Coming, a play starring Denise Crosby and John Delancy; it was a fun play but much shorter than the 1 hour running time that was billed.

    We were feeling hungry by this time and headed to the dining room for dinner; we were seated with Kimberly, a passenger from Charleston (the one in South Carolina, not the one in Cornwall). Kim had studied at the London School of Economics, and Dan was amazed to find someone who leaned in rather than glazed over at the mention of the grey economy - in fact it turned out it had played a major role in her dissertation at LSE. Kim and Alex were kindred spirits in their mutual love of board games. The food was good and we all chatted away for some time, before agreeing to go to the evening show together.
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  • Day11

    At sea north of Cuba

    March 2, North Atlantic Ocean ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

    Our course overnight took us south-south-east from Miami, by the morning we had turned to follow Cuba’s northern coast which remained just below the horizon as we progressed toward our first destination. Three of our four port calls (other than Miami) were in a relatively small patch of the north eastern Caribbean, spanning just 370Km, but the first of these was around 1,500Km from Miami; in consequence our first full day of cruising was spent at sea, completing one of the two long legs entailed by that itinerary.

    First thing with the sun still sitting low to the cloudy horizon, Dan headed up to deck 12 to use the jogging track, only to find it closed due to high winds. After a brief exploration, he returned to the cabin with coffees, so not an entirely wasted trip. After breakfast with a couple of US Navy Veterans in the dining room we ran into the first major discord of the trip - which event to go to. We decided to divide: Alex went to ‘the Well’ podcast (because it had Brent Spiner) and Dan to Dr Erin McDonald’s Astronomy 101 through Star Trek session.

    Directly afterwards we met back up in the main theatre, where the Voyager panel in which Kate Mulgrew, Garant Wang, Jeri Ryan, Tim Russ, Roxanne Dawson and Ethan Philips discussing their time recording Star Trek Voyager, was just getting started. It’s rare to see so much of the cast assembled, but a special effort had been made for the 25th anniversary of the programme’s premier. Following the Voyager session we skipped the T-Shirt assimilation party to make our first trip to the Windjammer Cafe to grab some lunch before we got into the busy afternoon and evening schedule.
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  • Day10

    MV Explorer of the Seas, Off Miami

    March 1, North Atlantic Ocean ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

    The cruise kicked off with a launch party on the pool deck; each of the celebrity guests introduced themselves. The ship was scheduled to sail away during the party, but was a little late departing. The agenda for the cruise was packed with so many cool events, in addition to the standard experiences of a large cruise ship, you couldn’t possibly do them all, so when the ship did get underway in the early evening we were already immersed in Star Trek activities.

    Our first evening’s activities included queuing up to get into the gift shop for limited edition cruise merch, getting our photograph taken with Vaughn Armstrong (the actor who has played more characters in Star Trek than any other other), Jeri Ryan (7 of 9) and John Delancie (Q). We had our first dinner in the main dining room and were pleasantly surprised to find that a vegan menu is provided - it even has that rarest of things to find on a vegan menu: choices from more than one option.

    We followed dinner by seeing Anson Mount (Captain Pike) and Marina Sertis (Commander Deanna Troi) give a beautiful performance of Love Letters: a drama charting the tumultuous, life-long and mostly long-distance relationship between two friends and lovers through their correspondence. As host of the cruise, which falls in Voyager’s 25th anniversary year, Kate Mulgrew gave the ‘key note’ show the first evening in which she discusses her books and losing her parents. The dress theme for the evening was Starfleet pyjama party - Dan wore a Starfleet Academy t-shirt and weather, with shorts; other costumes included the Toy Story alien onesies, an awesome voyage home Spock and every kind of star trek dressing gown.
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  • Day10

    Port of Miami

    March 1 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    When we arrived at the pier the dockside was all bustle and confusion, with luggage piled everywhere and ragged lines of tourists were stretched out everywhere with no immediately apparent purpose to them. The still and imposing shapes of the row of cruise ships in the port stood in contrast to the maelstrom of people on the quayside. More interesting though was the array of amazing t-shirt slogans, luggage and props making Star Trek in-jokes, leaving no doubt about whether we were int he right place.

    The lines to board were long, and to be honest seemed unnecessary (as there was no use of any virtual queue system) but a mere couple of hours after arriving at the port we were closing the gang plank to board Explorer of the Seas. As we started to look around the lower few decks to find our cabin we were delighted by the various bits of theming - Qua’ plagh (the Klingon pub), Quark’s Casino and pictures of Jean Luc Picard in a napoleonic naval uniform on the walls. Soon we had added to this by placing our custom sign on our stateroom door; it showed our names and the compartment number for our stateroom which I had worked out by looking at deck plans and applying the TNG tech manual.

    The numbers in the sign are 14 because its the 14th deck counting from the top (ventral) most deck; 5 because it is in a long section (as opposed to a saucer, neck or nacelle), another 5 because it is in the 5th of 9 equally sized sections along the length of the vessel (starting at the bow) and 18 because it is the 18th compartment in the section (which I counted as even to port side, odd to starboard).
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  • Day10

    Beacon Hotel, Miami South Beach

    March 1 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 14 °C

    We we woke before dawn to a much quieter hotel. We took advantage of our ocean view room by watching the sunrise over the beach before getting up to date with Picard (a necessary precaution as we’re confident nowhere on the planet could be more dangerous in terms of encountering plot spoilers). We packed and watched a little of the running event going on on Ocean Drive that morning, before heading out for coffee.

    South beach is known for the Cuban-style espresso coffee, popularised by the large community of Cuban emigres that settled in the area following Fidel Castro’s rise to power. We headed to a small Cuban cafe near the hotel. Entering was like stepping back in time; the most striking anachronism (to a British person) was the wooden rack of branded cigarette packets prominently displayed behind the counter, followed closely by the old mechanical cash register. The cuban-style coffee did not disappoint; it was strong, but relatively delicate for an espresso coffee.

    Ere long, we were back at the hotel waiting on the porch for a taxi as patrons of the hotel restaurant ate breakfast and birds played on the parasols. The taxi ride As we he gentleman driving pointed out landmarks as we went, indicating homes of celebrities and the sites of events in the city’s history. A sea plane swooped low over the bridge as we were crossing from South Beach to downtown Miami.
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  • Day9


    February 29 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 18 °C

    Due to a series of mess-ups with the taxi company, between collecting our baggage and waiting for our taxi we were hanging around the station for about two hours. It took about 40minutes to reach Miami’s South Beach, passing first through slightly ramshackle looking suburbs and then the imposing skyline of Miami’s down town. Finally we crossed the bridge to south beach, which is across the water from Miami’s cruise port

    We had booked a night at the Beacon hotel, one of the art deco style hotels South Beach is known for. The hotel’s name is illuminated in neon and a live Jazz set was being performed on the porch. The room was fairly spacious and well appointed, but still felt small after our suite at Disney, leaving us a little apprehensive as to how we would do in the smaller cruise ship state room. Quickly though we were heading out to walk along ocean drive and see more of the art deco architecture it is know for.

    Ocean Drive on a Saturday night is a loud party scene; live jazz and loud, bass-y DJ sets blare from various bars merging with the growl of Americian muscle cars crawling along in the traffic. Each venue’s music is distinct only as you pass directly by, blending into the bewildering cacophony of sound. The tourists out to see the buildings were juxtaposed oddly against bar patrons in their club/dance attire.

    Back in the room the noise from our ocean facing window was considerable, so we watched an episode of Picard until we felt sleepy enough that the noise no longer mattered (and as a bonus we were now only one episode behind).
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  • Day9

    The Silver Meteor

    February 29 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    There were a few complications with checkout, and a mixup between the wait staff at the restaurant had delayed our departure, so we were running fairly late by the time we arrived at the Kissimmee Amtrak railway station. Fortunately although we were technically past the posted deadline, we were allowed to check-in our luggage (which we weren’t allowed to carry on ourselves). The station is very unlike those in Europe, with no raised platform - just a concrete pathway with some shelters and an office beside the tracks.

    Train departures are a bit more of an all hands on deck affair on the US national railway, with only two departures in each direction per day. Well before the train arrived, the platform staff directed the dozen or so passengers joining the train to a point on the platform which the train crew had let them know had seats available, tickets were inspected as passengers boarded and we were told which seat number to take. Although not significantly bigger than a British train, climbing up from ground rather than platform level made it seem quite imposing and strange.

    The train was rolling almost before we had found our seats, leaving at 13:30 (4mins late); despite the fact that its one of only 4 trains a day it was dispatched quicker than most British trains which have hundreds of passengers getting on an off in a relatively disorganised throng. The train runs all the way from Boston, and takes more than 24 hours to complete its journey, in consequence the seating is spacious with lots of legroom for the benefit of those sleeping onboard (there also sleeping berths in other cars). There was a buffet car onboard, but with small chance of a decent vegan offering, we had used the last of our Disney dining plan credits to get some hummus and vegetable boxes from the marketplace fridges at Art of Animation.

    From Kissimmee, the track runs south as far as the town of Sebring, where it turns to the south east passing through huge areas of Florida’s famous orange groves towards the Atalntic coast. From West Palm Beach the track turns again, this time due south to complete the journey to Miami through the essentially continuous conurbation that follows this part of the coast. The service arrived nearly an hour early, pulling into the Miami station just as the sun was settling low to the westward horizon.
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  • Day9

    Topelino’s Terrace

    February 29 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 10 °C

    On our last morning in Disney, Dan finally got out or a brief run around hourglass lake. Obviously that was a stupid idea, because you always have less time than you think on your last morning anywhere. We left our luggage with the hotel and headed out for our breakfast.

    We had decided to finish our time at Disney with breakfast at the new Topelino’s Terrace restaurant, on the top level of the recently completed Rivera resort. The restaurant has large picture windows and a terrace; being high up and on the Eastern edge of Disney World, it offers views of many of the major landmarks. To the south can be seen our hotel (Art of Animation) and Caribbean Beach; to the south west Hollywood Studios’ tower of terror is clearly visible; west south west the Animal Kingdom tree of life and expedition Everest can be seen. Looking further north the Swan & Dolphin and yact/beach club resorts can be seen; directly to the north west Epcot’s world showcase and most of future world can be seen (although Space Ship Earth is obscured by the opposite wing of Rivierra).

    The meal is a beautify themed breakfast with Mickey, Mini, Donald and Daisy who are each practicing different forms of art in the Riviera. It begins with a bowl of pastries, the bowl is designed to look like a paint pot, with breadsticks shaped to look like paintbrushes sticking out from the top (sadly the pastries are not plants). The vegan breakfast is a wild mushroom scramble (which is more like an omelette in appearance) with a tasty vegan sausage, potatoes and a house bend of fruit juices.

    Mickey provided a great finish: he spotted Baymax on Alex’s t-shirt and performed the robot’s trademark ‘blahlalala’ fist bump. A final ‘flight’ back to Art on the Skyliner to collect our luggage marked the final end of our time in Disney.
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  • Day8

    Magic Kingdom

    February 28 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 11 °C

    The timing of our journey meant we were on the Skyliner at sunset, which was very pretty. We stopped off at the room to drop off our bag and then headed to Magic Kingdom by Disney bus. We chatted to a gentleman who was headed to the Villains after hours party that was going on that evening.

    We had only a couple of hours before the park closed, but we managed to get through a decent crop of attractions, including several we hadn’t gotten around to this trip. We rode the Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover, and got a rare look at Space Mountain with the lights on (as it was temporarily stopped for a fault). We took a picture with the Tron light cycles lit up for night.

    As fireworks time came around we headed to the newly reopened Splash Mountain, which we were able to get on almost right away, we even managed to see quite a lot of the fireworks from the ride. We followed that up with Jungle Cruise (on which we had particularly good skipper) and Pirates of the Caribbean.

    To finish out the night we had a rushed dinner of plant based sloppy joes and strawberry/lemonade slashies that gave us brain freeze at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe (sadly Ray himself was not in, as his show is on temporary hiatus). We chose Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin as our last ride and slipped in at a few minutes to park close.

    We made our way out slowly, and caught a distant glimpse of some of the special Villains after hours entertainment (which we might have considered grabbing tickets for if we weren’t so tired). We decided it looked cool enough that we would probably want to do it on a future trip. As a final little surprise, we were directed into an area that is (technically) backstage to exit the park, bypassing mainstream USA through a staging area for parades.
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