We’d sailed past Cape Hatteras just before dawn, and the weather system wrecking the southern states was pretty much blowing itself out. The stabilizers had been deployed once we left the port of Miami, and being so low in the ship, I was enjoying a smooth ride. Awakening at 8:15, I was in the Waves Restaurant before it closed at 9, seated solo initially, but then joined by Thuy and Jon, my co-explorers for our second day in the Azores.
Over a plate of fruit and a Spanish omelet, I learned that Thuy still does real estate in Austin, while Jon is retired. They expressed their exasperation at my choosing Florida over Texas when I relocated 4 years ago, but they understood when I clarified my reasons. They also were very familiar with St Mary’s Cathedral, across the large green in from the Texas State Capitol. I talked them into joining me at the slot pull as viewers, not participants, to get to know more passengers.
Because I would be running around New York City all day tomorrow, I figured I better jump my exercise schedule and do my stretches. Up to the gym, I got a mat and some wall space, and spent 40 minutes pushing and pulling my joints around. The skies were beginning to clear, so I got a couple laps around the power walking tracks before it was time to head to the casino.
A slot pull is a community affair. Each participant puts in $15, and then each member gets 5 “pulls” at the $3 slot machine. All winnings are rolled over, and Kevin kept drawing a name from a fishbowl as we worked through the 42 of us. I was about midway through the queue, at which point we had been up by $100, but I didn’t contribute by “winning”. By a quarter past noon, we were done, with the group up by $315 - $7.50 each or half our ante. Kevin said he’d get us our winnings over the next day, and reminded us that we’d could participate again on Thursday.
A group of us decided to head down to the Panorama Dining Room for sit-down lunch, while the rest headed up to the buffet. Filling a table of 8, we all chatted over lobster bisque and tuna melts served with French fries and a small salad. While I skipped the sweets, the ice cream and brownies received high praise.
Checking the schedule, there was an Excursion talk on New York City in the Broadway Theater at 2, so I decided to see what they were offering as far as tours of my native city and former home. Several Broadway shows, bus tours of the Village and SoHo, an escorted trip to the Battery and the World Trade Center Memorial were highlighted. Questions were asked about MOMA and the Met, Harlem and the Statue of Liberty. With eleven hours to explore (starting at 7am!) there were lots of options.
My neighbors in the theater asked what I thought, and then what I’d be doing. Mid April was always a favorite time for me to walk in Central Park as the trees and bushes would be blooming, particularly Azalea Walk near the Plaza Hotel. When I explained my week-long trip in the fall of 2016, armed with a list of 23 cathedrals in the physical city of New York (mainly in Manhattan and Brooklyn) and my goal to photograph them all, I could recommend both a midtown walking tour including St Patrick’s and a jaunt to the Upper West Side and Columbia University to visit St John the Divine.
After the talk, I went to the Excursion desk to see what regulations might be in place in the morning for my anticipated day of riding the subway and walking the streets of New York to see 4 to 6 of the 7 cathedrals I’d missed, to add to the 21 I already had. Yes, I’d found 5 more since 2016. I learned that if I was off the ship before 8, I wouldn’t have to queue up behind the groups disembarking for tours. I promised myself to be up early, grab a quick bite at the buffet and be off by 7:45.
Thinking of the buffet, I realized that I hadn’t had a banana this morning, and to avoid leg cramps, I’d better go grab one or two. Climbing up to Deck 15, I was able to get 2 which I then climbed down 10 flights to put in my room. Ron was refilling my minibar (part of my drinks package) when I brought the second banana in. Learning that I needed one daily, he took that as service he’d perform. As long as I was in my cabin, I changed for dinner.
Heading out and up to the Promenade, I began wandering in and out of shops, grabbed a red wine spritzer at the Theater Bar, drooled over the chocolatier displays. Fortunately, I need nothing in the deluxe market, and besides, it would just be more to carry all over Europe. I returned to the Theater Lounge and sat with a vodka soda to journal a bit, as well as acknowledge a few #CruiseCritics folks who identified me a “#Cathedral Ken” when they stopped by for a chat.
The sun was edging to the horizon off to the west, about where the DelMarVa peninsula sits. Martini time rolled around, so I climbed the Swaroviski staircase to 7 and headed to the TV Studio Bar across from the Brass Anchor. Two flavored martinis, mango kumquat and raspberry passionfruit, and a basil-lemon gimlet were the samples of the evening, and the crowd seemed to enjoy the opportunity to try something different. Eventually I moved away from the bar to a chair, with a glass of a premium Oregon pinot noir to relax before dinner.
When I was doing my planning, I decided I wanted to attend both of the two different Cirque de Soliel shows, so I purchased a pair of upgraded dinner packages. Tonight would be my first at Butcher’s Cut, midship overlooking the Galleria. Reserved for 8pm, I arrived a minute or two early, and was led to a table for two. While I’d hoped to be matched with another single or added to a pair at a four-top, it looked like a solo dinner for me. Seated on a banquette in the corner, I perused the menu and wine list, and chose the petite filet preceded by the foie gras, and a St Emilion for my wine. The goose liver was sublime and the beef tender and tasty. My waiter suggested a light chocolate mousse for dessert, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was fresh and delicious. I checked the brandy selections, and ordered a Chabanneau XO which was new to me. It was delightful and I promised myself to return another evening.
I had a half hour before the next show at the Broadway Theater, and I figured I’d go see if I could snag a seat. “Paz” was being presented, and the “ticket takers” scanning cards seemed to feel I’d not need to worry and to find a seat. Sitting with my snifter, I settled in off to the port side about half way down to the front and watched the crowd dribble in. We were about half occupied when the MC walked out in a flamenco suit, and we were treated to a rousing hour of Spanish entertainment. Slipping out the sides, I was in my cabin quickly. Camera downloaded, blog uploaded, batteries all plugged in to charge and lights out!