Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Celebrity Eclipse - Transatlantic Broadway and Boardwalks - Day 11 NYC > Bermuda

Tue Nov 8th (day 11) leaving NYC

As we prepared to pull away from Pier 88  last night there was some good news and bad news in Captain Mikael's departure announcement as he explained the route to Bermuda. Firstly its going to get a lot warmer as we head south now (so that's good - yay). Now I suppose you could argue that its also bleeding obvious but all is not that simple when Bermuda is on the schedule. Let me explain.

There seems to be some rather odd theories running around the ship when it comes to our next stop (the word "if" always seems preface Bermuda) and it doesn't really have much to do with the Bermuda triangle. It would seem over the years that cruise liners often drop Kings Wharf from the schedule at the last minute.

So you can feel a "but" coming on when the Captain begins his report and in this case it was noticeable that everyone was listening that little bit harder. But it's just the usual we will  have to pass through a little bit of a swell tonight and all's well, we will be seeing beautiful Bermuda baby!

celebrity eclipse

Now to be fair its probably about 1am by the time we hit this "little" swell and most people are tucked up in bed after NY or watching the election. I gave it about 10 minutes before boredom set in.

A bit of a rollercoaster of a nights sleep then but its quite amazing how it just becomes the norm. I'm typing this on a quite warm (for us Brits) sun deck watching the front and back pitch up and down like a see-saw whilst the horizon at the side is 100% sea one minute then all sky the next. The sea looks angry but the sky is white clouds with a nice hot sun breaking through every now and again to warm our tired New York feet.

celebrity eclipse tuscan grille
Salmon Cataplana
 Dinner tonight (its chic night) was in Qsine again - whilst the idea is ok'ish one criticism I would make is that some of the portions are just way to large especially given the richness of some of the dishes. Its easy to find yourself even after ordering the recommended amount ( 5 or 6 dishes) quite full before your half way through as there's no consistency to the size of each of the dishes. 

Souffle and Soup
 Tonight we had the Lobster Escargot (again), followed by a selection of souffles/ soups presented rather like a chemistry experiment, a Portugese salmon dish "cataplana" cooked and served in a copper shell, filet mignon and a "Persian" chicken kebab.(these last two dishes are full size mains rather than the usual tapas scale and following the very rich souffles are a bit too much).

Persian Kebab

Friday, 25 November 2016

Celebrity Eclipse - Transatlantic Broadway and Boardwalks - Day 10 - NYC day 2

Mon Nov 7th (day 10)  NYC

San Remo, Central Park, New York, Fall, Manhattan
San Remo Building - W74th Street & Central Park West
A wonderful cloudless morning in NY and we are out nice and early for a walk to and through Central Park. Like Boston, the fall colours are still stunning in Manhattan - vibrant reds and glowing oranges all tucked away in the midst of the concrete jungle. New York is as eternally busy as ever so its nice to get into the park where once again Marathon runners from yesterday are comparing their sores and showing off their medals.

Dan, Manhattan, New York, NY, Central Park, Fall

It's a long time since we were last here; I can remember being exhausted and walking hardly any distance at all it was so hot & we were very tired after a full day. Jet lag when flying into New York always seems worse than anywhere else as you don't want to waste a moment when you arrive in such a vibrant capital - so you naturally end up extending the day for ever (apologies to Patrick Stewart for falling asleep in what I'm sure was a fantastic play). Arriving by ship into these cities is just so wonderful -  an unforgettable way of arriving and no jet lag.

Jackie, Jack, Jacqueline, 72nd street, Manhattan, NY, New York, Subway

Jackie, Jack, Jacqueline, 72nd street, Manhattan, NY, New York, Subway

Next we head into the murky depths of the subway, boarding at 72nd St across from Strawberry Fields and ride downtown as far as Fulton Street. From here it is a good spot to appreciate the mix of the old mid rise architecture contrasting with the new high rise skyscrapers.

Pop into a Potbelly for a beef flatbread & soup to keep our energy up then head directly east to the newly developed dock areas and views of Brooklyn Bridge from Pier 16. I do like these areas to the east of the financial district, they're doing a good job of retaining the look of old Manhattan. There are some lovely old ships and floating lighthouses in permanent residence here set up as new floating museums.

Wavertree Liverpool, the world’s last remaining wrought-iron sailing ship, built 1885 Southampton UK
From here we head south through Wall Street and after dragging Jack away from Tiffany & Co. we walk past the Wall St. Stock Exchange and down to Battery Park and Castle Clinton to take in the view of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty across the Hudson. We climbed up inside the Statue of Liberty's spiral staircase last time we were here. Very claustrophobic, with two intertwining staircases that take you up or down.

From here its a short walk towards the new 'One World Trade Center' building. Theirs a great little architectural trick in its design so that when standing at its base it appears to be a giant needle pointing to the heavens (yes I paid attention when watching Michael Portillos visit). The original Twin Towers are now remembered by reflecting pools on their footprint.

We take another subway (why does one of the richest cities in the world have the grottiest subway) north past Washington Square and into Chelsea and climb up to the new Hi Line Park. This is the old freight train route which was in the style of Chicago's L train system in that its elevated a few storeys  above ground level. 

When it was decommissioned somebody had the bright idea of turning it into another green area, its a calm & pleasant stroll in the middle of Manhattan madness; we walk its entire length which brings us back out on the Hudson side of Manhattan. The time has really slipped away and before we know it its 3.30pm and time to be heading back; eager for a shower to remove the grubbiness of the city. New York will always seem like a city with two faces, the richness and power of the buildings contrasting with its dirty and unkempt streets (and at times crumbling away sidewalks).

Before we reboard thes just time to take a closer look at the aircraft carrier Intrepid which is berthed on the next pier to us. Now a floating Museum it opened in 1982 at Pier 86 after Zachary Fisher and his brother Larry, prominent New York real estate developers, and philanthropist/journalist Micheal Stern saved her from the breakers yard in 1978. Its a pity that recently they have chosen to put the 'Enterprise'  space shuttle (takes its name from Star Trek yet ironically is the shuttle that never went into space) in a rather ugly hangar on the rear end  as it just looks like an ugly carbuncle sticking out of its landing strip.

Dusk sail away from New York is even more magical than our arrival; a perfect cloudless golden  sunset bathing the glass city in an orange glow before darkness takes over  and the same buildings are alight in neon.

Celebrity Eclipse with Manhattan skyline backdrop

Statton Island Ferry glides between us & Lady Liberty
Dinner in the MDR is possibly the best yet with a wonderful ceviche of tuna for Dan followed by a warming tomato and chick pea soup followed by marinated beef flank steak which is perfectly cooked. Jackie has scallops crudo and the baked trout with almonds. All superb.

The show tonight is a tribute to Broadway which is very well done. Just the singers and the big band - no silly costumes and no horrible backing tape. The rendition of Judas' opening song 'Heaven on their minds', from Jesus Christ Superstar is absolutely spot on delivered with as much anger and passion than I have seen on a West End stage - get this lad off the ship and into the west end.

Click for day 11 

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Celebrity Eclipse - Transatlantic Broadway and Boardwalks - Day 9 - NYC day 1

Sun Nov 6th (day 9)  > New York(Day 1)

Sailing down the East Coast for 300 miles we should arrive in New York mid afternoon. As you can probably tell, when arriving by ship into Manhattan the most important thing is glamour - and lets face it you don't get any better than a shower cap in the sun - just hoping Gemma wasn't too frightened when she arrived with breakfast. We are up early this morning so to be fair there's still quite a few hours to go before we even enter the Hudson River; its sunny though we climb up  to pass the time on the  top decks.

Its another lovely sunny day and we lie out on sunbeds, blankets at the ready should the wind pick up. Its beautifully clear and by l0am in the distant horizon the cityscape of NY city can be seen on the horizon. It's still a long way off though. Around noon the pilot jumps on board; we are due to pass under the Verrazano suspension Bridge at  1:30pm and should be at the pier for 3.30pm. Hopefully the NY Marathon will have finished by then as it started this morning.
There's an unmistakable air of excitement as we get nearer and nearer to the city; guests and staff from Sommeliers to Pool Butlers/Dancers & Waiters all mingle together on the top decks as we look for a glimpse of the great lady. 

She obliges, gleaming green and gold in the sun as we slowly slide past and enter the Hudson river our horn deafeningly blaring at the orange Statton Island Ferry that glides past us. "They look no different than when I used to ride them years ago" says a lovely American Lady we have been chatting to "They're still as  grubby and rusty as they were then".

Its exhilarating to arrive into New York this way, especially after having traveled across the Atlantic to make that journey.  As we turn into the Hudson a NY gale hits the top deck but in no way does it diminish the atmosphere - you could throw hailstones and lightning at the ship and nobody would want to miss this moment.

Two tugs come along side gently nudging our sides to help with the tight turns this huge ship will have to make to enter the pier and maneuver around the 90 degree right angle as it is. As we arrive the NCL 'Breakaway' backs out looking like a block of flats at sea - we will be sailing on the identical sister ship 'Getaway' through the Baltic to St Petersburg in a few months - I'm suddenly feeling very spoilt by Celebrity. We dock alongside the USS Intrepid with one of the remaining BA Concordes sat next to it. 

Check those corners

The huge advantage of this port is it's literally a few blocks walk from the ship to Times Square and we soak up the atmosphere in the square and check out whats showing tonight before heading down 5th to get that great view of the Chrysler building (which obliges by lighting up just as we arrive), then we break our necks looking at the Empire State Building before finally taking in the cathedral magnificence of Grand Central station.

Times Square
Times Square
 Grand Central with the Chrysler Building towering above.
The Chrysler Building
All of the barriers have now been removed from this mornings  Marathon, however there are plenty of people parading the streets in the warm wrap cloaks and showing off well earned medals. In fact there are so many people wandering around with a medal around there neck I'm slowly coming to the conclusion someone is making a quick buck selling copies down a side street off 5th somewhere. "Pretend you ran the marathon - yours for 10 dollars(plus tax) - it's this weekends new fashion."

We thought we had left all the daily time changes behind us but unfortunately the clocks went back again between Boston and NY not for time zones but because summertime in the US ended; so it's dark pretty quickly and as we leave the Grand Central the last of the evening light has completely disappeared.

Grand Central

The Eclipse will remain docked here for one night and stay until tomorrow evening. The pier is manned for the entire time so your free to come and go all day and all night  Chatting to our stewards as we arrive back to change for dinner they are both excited to be heading out into the city tonight as they had not been before.

We swap sides tonight when we enter the MDR just for a change (such rebels). At the table next to us is a Scottish couple who have clearly sat at the same table most of the cruise and have a good relationship with the waiter for this section. The waiter is a young Estonian man  who has obviously decided to smarten up his appearance ready for New York. In a lovely Scottish accent that adds a little humour to the situation "Och No...Zoran - what on earth have you done to your hair" - It turns out he handed the cleaner the hair clippers.

 Click for day 10

Monday, 21 November 2016

Celebrity Eclipse - Transatlantic Broadway and Boardwalks - Day 8 arrive Boston

Sat Nov 5th (day 8) Boston

Its almost halfway through the cruise and at 5.00am we slide gracefully into Black Falcon Pier; the first land we have seen since leaving Southampton all those days ago. After breakfast on the balcony courtesy of Gemma we dress and set off  to go through immigration. Its a long queue that snakes through the MDR but I have to say its not the horror story we had read about. The line's very well organised & keeps moving and the Border staff (of which there are at least 8) are polite and efficient.

Sue (& her husband Colin, from Exeter, via CC forum) organised  a private company  Trailblazers for a historical tour of Boston, Cambridge for Harvard, Lexington and Concord. The company's run by a husband and wife team - Martin and Joan McEntee, who meet us at the port & load us into two comfortable six seat vans. If all history lessons could be conducted in this fashion everyone's knowledge of the world would probably be improved tenfold. Now I must point out any historical errors in this blog are entirely mine though ;)

We spend some time in Harvard. Of particular interest to our small group of Trans Atlantic travellers is the Widener Library. A Harvard graduate Harry Widener was from his youth an accomplished collector and  bibliophile. Inside is one of the best examples of the few remaining Guttenburg  Bibles - though poor Harry was never to set eyes on it.  His grandfather was to surprise him with it when his ship docked in New York - unfortunately the ship was the Titanic and Harry was lost with it.

Joan (our driver) is very personable and easy to listen to - Martins enthusiasm for the subject brings everything to life as between them we get the low down on the American Revolution against the British and the development of Boston as a city - Joan has lots of extra info and historic pics and maps ready on an Ipad to help illustrate all she is describing.  Very helpful in showing how much of this city is built on reclaimed land.

After Harvard we spend some time looking around areas of Boston and checking out some of the beautiful New England Architecture. To say its now the start of November we have been very lucky in that the fall colours are still beautiful due to the milder weather. To fully appreciate this we are driven out to Mt Auburn Cemetery that has a great overview of the city.

View of the city from Mt Auburn Cemetery
Concord and Lexington are looking beautiful in the late fall colours. Two fabulous looking towns I could quite happily move out to tomorrow.

Martin explains the history of what happened here at Lexington common with such flair you feel you can see it happening in front of you. On April 19, 1775, local militiamen emerged from Buckman Tavern adjacent to the common and formed two rows on the common to face arriving British troops, sent out to seize weapons. The militiamen suffered the first casualties of the American Revolution when the two sides exchanged fire. Very hard to imagine now, from the calm & pleasant surroundings.

As we drive from Lexington to Concord Joan pulls in to 'Alcott's - Orchard House'  the home of Louisa May Alcott and the place where 'Little Women' was both penned and based.

Alcott - Orchard House
At Concord we walk out through the 'Minute Man National Historical Park' to the North Bridge where the first day of battle in the War of Independence took place. The current wooden bridge is a replica of the one that stood in 1775 on the day of the battle.

Old North Bridge - Concord
We decide on a seafood lunch: Martin and Joan know just the spot and drive us all to Jasper Whites 'Summer Shack' in Cambridge which is  heaven on earth being your traditional New England seafood restaurant - not too fancy but gorgeous seafood. We enjoy spicy meat chowder with some tasty fresh soda bread and huge lobster rolls with sauv blanc most excellent.

Jasper White at Summer Shack
As we return back to Boston Joan drives us around the Italian side of the city showing us the areas that have not yet been over commercialized. We finish at the Old North Church  on Salem Street where Paul Reveres "One if by land, and two if by sea" lantern signals to the militia was sent from.

Inside the church at regular intervals a volunteer recites the tale of how the war began. As we sit in the pews listening it now really means so much more now that we have visited all of these towns and sites. A perfect way to conclude the day. We have both loved Boston and (even though we have been before) we have seen far more of it and the surrounding area in one day than we did in a few days on our own. And as for the history - this is the perfect way to envelope yourself in it. Well done to Trailblazers

We arrive back at the Eclipse in good time for the sail away. Heading directly South we will arrive in New York tomorrow afternoon. 

Dinner tonight is in Murano which is the French restaurant onboard ship. After the amuse bouche of Asparagus soup with a parmesan foam Jack chooses the Anjou Pear and Roquefort cheese encased in pastry followed by Turbot with a fennel puree and citrus sauce. Dan has the Diver Scallops Wellington followed by Murano Lobster which is flambeed table side. Its all beautiful, the ambience and service is spot on. After a cheese course we have Flambe strawberries & crepe with a balsamic pinot noir reduction and a grand marnier souffle that is as light as air. Perfection.

Diver Scallops Wellington
Turbot with a fennel puree and citrus sauce
Cooking Murano Lobster

Click for day 9