Joined April 2016 Message
  • Day17

    Time flies, as do we.

    March 8, 2020, North Atlantic Ocean ⋅ 🌙 6 °C

    The modern, twin engine A330-300 we boarded for the flight home stood in contrast to the 60’s icon that had brought us to the US, nicely rounding out the eclectic range of vehicles and vessels that had carried us on this trip. As we seated ourselves and talked about the highlights of the trip the typical sense of unreality that comes with the end of a holiday began to descend. The days of the trip had blurred by, full of so many moments delightful and precious: days well lived.

    The final gift of our Florida trip was great view of Downtown Miami, the cruise terminal and South Beach from the plane. Of the several cruise ships that were in dock when we disembarked only Virgin Voyage’s sole ship, Scarlet Lady remained alongside; a second had not long got under way and was standing out into the straight of Florida.

    Explorer of the Seas had already departed on her next voyage; that ship and her history had become the care of another crew, to them and their posterity will we commit our future. They will continue the voyages we have begun and journey to all the undiscovered countries, boldly going where no man - where no one - has gone before. Far above, our pilot found the course through the rapidly darkening sky: second star to the right, and straight on til morning.
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  • Day17

    Miami (again)

    March 8, 2020 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    When we woke on the 8th Explorer had resumed her place in the long row of cruise ships in Miami’s cruise terminal on Dodge island. We headed up to the cafe to sip coffee and listen to waiting cruisers discuss various minutiae of Trek. The disembarkation was really quite confusing, with barely intelligible PA announcements calling people to disembark by decks; we left at the call of ‘all remaining passengers’ unsure of whether we had missed some previous call that should have hastened us down the gangplank.

    On the quayside throngs of Star Trek cruisers queued for their various coaches and taxis, mixed in with the incoming 80s Cruisers. Among them the delightful Max Grodénchik, of Rocketeer and Deeps Space Nine fame queued for a taxi with his family. A relatively short coach trip found us at Miami International airport, wandering the massive horse-shoe shaped terminal building, Trek fan spotting, sipping coffee and eating Impossible Whoppers. The hours before bag check seemed all the longer coming on the heels of such a packed fortnight.

    Once we were through security the building layout put a spoke in our plans to meet up with Kimberly hatched earlier at the cruise port, the airport having been remodelled so that her gate was not reachable from ours. Kimberly very kindly went through security two extra times to join us for a few last games of flux against the backdrop of mighty A380s preparing for trips across the wide Atlantic. All too soon, it was time for a hug farewell at the gate, we were sorry to part ways.
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  • Day16

    The Home Straights

    March 7, 2020, North Atlantic Ocean ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    Explorer departed Freeport making a fraction of her usual speed so as not to arrive too early in Miami, which was now a relatively paltry 170Km away across the North-West Providence channel, and then the Straights of Florida. The three of us paid a visit to the Next cruise lounge and dallied with the temptation to book next year’s cruise then and there - fortunately Alex was there to act as the voice of good sense. At dinner, we shared a table with a couple from the bay area in California with whom we chatted about Star Trek the Animated series; the husband was charmingly apologetic for merely liking Star Trek, rather than loving it like his wife.

    Our first show of the evening was Garet Wang’s ‘Forever Ensign’ stand-up comedy; it was strange to see him making fart and knob jokes but to his credit they were really funny. Many of the other celebrity guests were in the front rows; Denise Crosby briefly reprised her role as chief of security to deal with a heckler. Heading over to the main theatre, Marina Sertis introduced ‘inside the actor’s studio with Brent Spiner’. Brent opened with some stories, then the bulk of the show consisted of Brent interviewing William Shatner. The interview didn’t always flow as one might hope; when Mr Shatner brought that up Brent quipped quite accurately (and more than a little cuttingly) that ‘its not the questions that are the problem’.

    After the show we scrambled back to the cabin to put our luggage out by 23:00 as we had been instructed, before rounding out the last night with another game of Fluxx in the library. The designers of the Star Trek Fluxx games were onboard and we did search about for them, following a lead to that they might be in the Cafe on the promenade. The Fluxx inventors were nowhere to be seen, but we did find the Entertainment Cruise Productions team already well advanced in changing the decor ready for their next voyage: the 80s Cruise underscoring that our voyage was over.
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  • Day16

    Freeport, Grand Bahama

    March 7, 2020 on the Bahamas ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    Although there were a smattering of souvenir shops adjacent to the wharf, it was much more like landing in the industrial docks at Newport or Harwich, than the piers in the picturesque down-towns of isla San Juan or Charlotte Amile. Rough concrete and chainlink fencing dominated the view in most directions, some of the nearer docking berths occupied by cargo ships whilst the only other passenger ship in sight was about 2 kilometres up the harbour at the shipyard, apparently undergoing some sort of maintenance. We ran into Kimberly in the port and wandered around the shops for 30minutes or so discussing the conch shortage, why the Bahamas had so much Jamaica themed merchandise and mulling the possibility of buying some extra luggage.

    This was probably the port where booking an excursion had been most necessary, there being nothing of note accessible by foot from the wharf. On the other hand, the day’s overcast weather and limited time wasn’t really conducive to a relaxing day in the Bahamas so taking the time to chill with no commitments suited us.

    We reboarded the ship well before the ‘Back From the Dead’ panel which was scheduled to go on whilst we were still in port. Right at the opening Jordan Hoffman (host of many of the sessions) dropped a massive spoiler for those that hadn’t seen the latest Picard episode yet, causing the only (well deserved) ‘boo’s of the trip. In the talk Denise Crosby, Garet Wang and Wilson Cruz disused their returns from the dead; the most memorable moment was a question from an Irish solider who asked a question about Wilson’s portrayal of PTSD.
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  • Day16

    The Northern Caribbean

    March 7, 2020, North Atlantic Ocean ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    A little before 09:00 Dan headed up on deck for a run, the Bahamas could be seen just peaking over the horizon and a brisk cross wind swept the unsheltered areas. Dan ran about 3Km worth of laps and then returned to the cabin with coffee where we planed to watch the 10:00 talk (behind the episode ‘Through the Valley of the Shadows’ with the cast of Discovery) but unfortunately it wasn’t being streamed.

    Our first successful activity of the day was the 11:00 autograph session with Chase Masterson. She seemed pleased when Dan asked her to sign one of her audio plays (the sleeve from his copy of ‘Doctor Who: The Shadow Heart’) and hinted that she might be appearing in more soon.

    It was a little after noon when we headed to deck 11 for lunch; by this point Explorer was in Freeport awaiting permission for people to go ashore. During our leisurely lunch in the Windjammer John De Lancy passed by our table, followed later by Ethan Philips and Jeffery Combes walking together, so we were glad take our time, work on our journal and people watch. This was the only port where we hadn’t booked an excursion, so we were in no rush to go on shore and it was after 14:00 when we finally walked down the gangplank.
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  • Day15

    Q’s Costume Party

    March 6, 2020, North Atlantic Ocean ⋅ 🌙 24 °C

    The evening dress theme for the second sea day was Q’s Costume Party - “only your best and most impressive costume” and it did not disappoint. Before the show we had gotten into our outfits so we could head straight to the party: Alex wore her Sally dress, Dan wore his operations uniform again and Kimberly wore a Star Fleet Academy, Red Squadron sweater. As cool as those are they were lacklustre compared to many of the efforts on show.

    Walking along the promenade we encountered an amazing Borg and Quora from Tron Legacy/Uprising. Suddenly the ship was populated with Andorians and Cardassians; a Klingon and a Telarite sat at the bar in Qagh plah, the ‘Klingon’ pub on the promenade.
    When we reached the main dinning room, the hub of the party, we found a Cylon Centurion from Battlestar Galactica, the mutated form of Geordi La Forge from ‘Identity Crisis’, a whole gaggle of yeoman Janice Rands and a drag Deanna Troi.

    We went to the mid level of the dining room to people watch the dancing crowd. Up there, we ran into (as far as we know) the only other Welsh passenger (a gentleman from Bridgend (Pen Y Bont) who by a massive coincidence was wearing basically the same uniform as Dan (except he had made himself a Commander, whilst Dan was wearing Lt. Commander’s bars). We drifted off to Q Bar, where karaoke was in progress; Kimberly finished out the night by dueting “Can’t Fight this feeling” with another passenger.
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  • Day15

    Explorer of the Seas, Pool Deck

    March 6, 2020, North Atlantic Ocean ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    We were very firmly in the latter part of the Star Trek convention which is also a cruise and so far had stuck almost entirely to convention-type activities, so we decided drag ourselves out of the stateroom and spend some time on the pool deck. Dan tried the ‘flow rider’ surf experience for a few minutes before it closed, then onto the pool (which we were surprised to find was salt water). Finally we spent some time in the hot tub (although sadly the bubbles weren’t working) where we chatted with a frequent cruiser, until we had to excuse ourselves for a 18:15 dinner appointment with Kimberly.

    Dan had two mains at dinner, so we arrived slightly late for the 20:00 “Name that tune, ask Siri edition” in the schooner bar - which was a little frustrating because our 3 person team (the Transatlantic Alliance) scored 100% on all the questions we were present for. When it came to mark the quizzes we swapped our answer sheet with a couple of borg (a sentence I never thought I would say) - Dan was super pleased with himself when he successfully set the whole bar beating out the rhythm of ‘we will Rock you’ when it was time to mark that one. Our efforts put us in the top 5 but missing out on the win to a team that got 100% including the two songs we missed.

    We stopped by our cabin and found another gift from the organises: luggage tags shaped like the EMH’s autonomous emitter, before heading to the night’s show: a live reading of the script for Devil in the Dark. The classic episode starred Gates McFadden as Captain Kirk, Ethan Peck as Mr. Spock and Denise Crosby as Doctor McCoy; it was directed and narrated by Roxanne Dawson. Dan was quite excited to see an actress portray Kirk… the production was a bit more light hearted than expected, Gates did a terrific version of William Shatner’s trademark pause, Robert Picardo did some great 4th wall breaking Improv and Ethan Phillips was delightful as the Horta.
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  • Day15

    MV Explorer of the Seas

    March 6, 2020, North Atlantic Ocean ⋅ 🌙 24 °C

    The ship was heading back West towards Miami on its second long leg at sea. Dan started our second sea day with a run - the first time the running track had been open whilst at see in the voyage so far. By this stage of the trip we had figured out that some sessions were being streamed on the in-room TVs, so we watched William Shatner’s second show over the coffee Dan collected on the way back from running. We headed out around 11:00 for “The Many Face of…” where Casey Biggs, Vaughn Armstrong and Steve Rankin performed songs and told stories in the main dining room, including how Casey adlibbed Damar's dying words.

    We spent the next 90minutes or so on the ‘Search for Spock’ scavenger hunt all around the ship; once we got the hang of it the clues were falling into place at a steady pace. We also stopped off in the museum at the foreword end of deck 5; we thought there might be an item in there, but its (perhaps unsurprisingly) harder to get Dan out of a room full of cool Star Trek stuff than getting him into one. Everything went pretty smoothly until we had just one Spock left to find - we were sure it was in the Casino, and we even asked a dealer questions about card games to make sure we had properly understood the cryptic clue but it took about half an hour to physically find it. The hunt was great fun, although it might have been better on the first sea day (as a way of getting to know the ship) and it would have been really nice if the hardest to find Spock wasn’t in the room full of smokers.

    The scavenger hunt complete, we went to get our photograph taken with Robert Picardo, he was very pleasant (Dan pitched him the idea of putting on the Tempest on the next cruise). At lunch there was were finally some good vegetable available, and shortly after we tucked in Max Grodenchnick and his family sat down at the next table. We finished out the rest of the afternoon watching more Voyager on the in-room TV.
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  • Day14

    At Sea, off Puerto Rico

    March 5, 2020, Caribbean Sea ⋅ 🌙 25 °C

    After dinner Alex and Dan attended Max tonight with Chase Masterson; it isn’t what you would call a polished performance but Max and Chase have great rapport with their audience. It was mostly a light hearted show, but when they performed a number they used to perform with the late Aron Eisenberg Max was visible moved.

    We met Kim again for Nevermore: an evening with Edgar Alan Poe; its a very energetically performed one man play staring Jeffery Combes, lit throughout in a way which imbues it with the texture of a sepia photograph. Combes reads Tell Tale Heart and (I think) To Hellen whilst in character as Poe, broken up by scripted interludes of raving at Poe’s contemporaries to the audience and speaking to figures from his life who are supposedly watching from the stalls. Poe becomes drunk and unhinged throughout the performance, it reaches its crescendo with a performance of The Raven which passes through tormented and manic, before descending into the haunted, despairing state where the show concludes.

    After taking part in Jeffery’s well deserved standing ovation, we passed through the main Promenade where the Gorn’s Galactic Gala was going on; an amazing array Starfleet dress uniforms were on display, making Dan’s best duty uniform which he had put on earlier look a bit shabby by contrast. We grabbed drinks and then headed to the library to play a game of Star Trek Fluxx with Kimberly until it was time for the screening of Star Trek: Picard.

    Alex decided to turn in, but Dan couldn’t resist seeing a star trek episode premier with a huge group of fans. The episode was shown with an intro and epilogue from Jonathan Del Arco (recorded before he left the ship in the US Virgin islands) and finished to the thunderous applause of a thousand or so sleepy Star Trek fans.
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  • Day14

    Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas

    March 5, 2020 on the U.S. Virgin Islands ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    We ran into Kim on the quayside and made arrangements to meet up for the next show, but after swimming for the first time in years and on the back of a not entirely satisfying breakfast it was high time to return to Explorer to refuel in the Windjammer cafe. After food, we headed back to the state room for a shower and to watch some Voyager (which was showing round the clock on the TV). We headed back on shore for half an hour or so towards the end of the ship’s time in port; mostly the shops in the harbour sold diamonds, but there was a neat shop that sold textiles made from bamboo fibre and was playing No Doubt was on the stereo - much more Dan’s kind of place.

    Dan decided to head up on deck for sail away time, which was just ahead of William Shatner’s show (he had joined the ship in St Thomas); from deck 12 there was a great view of the bay, and Star Trek II was showing on the pool screen. Time to go to Shatner’s show rolled around with no sign of the ship moving off, Dan met back up with Alex and found seats on the upper level, Kim walked in on the lower level but we caught her attention with a wave and she joined us. William Shatner’s style is… unique, this particular show seemed to be almost entirely unstructured - the memorable moment (perhaps not for the best reasons) was when a member of the audience asked Mr. Shatner to have lunch with her mum (which he declined to do).

    As we left the show we walked along the outer deck to avoid the crowds; the Virgin Islands were still visible, but falling quickly astern and we paused to watch the seabirds fishing in the ship’s bow wave on the way to the dining room. For the first time we were seated near a port hole and the birds could still be seen outside as the sky darkened, but our attention was soon captured by the vegan creme brule on the menu and a conversation about the economies of Caribbean islands.
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