Southern Caribbean, Part 1: On Board the Eclipse
We recently returned from a cruise to the southern Caribbean. It was really a vacation for relaxing, so we didn’t blog during the cruise. Actually, since there were 8 ports in 9 days there was little time to do any blogging. But we had a good time, visited a number of ports we had not seen before and came away with good memories & fun pictures. So I decided to preserve some of the photos on line before I forget what they are.
We sailed on on the Eclipse, a Celebrity ship. It is pretty huge (about 3000 passengers). They handle the crowds quite well: we never had difficulty finding two deck chairs together or finding a seat in the buffet (called the “Oceanside Café” here). We had previously sailed on the Equinox, an almost identical Celebrity ship, which we liked a lot. But since then we have sailed twice on the Prinsendam, which carries only a little more than a fourth as many passengers, and as a result we were much more aware of – and annoyed by – the large numbers of passengers. Still, the cruise was quite enjoyable.
The elaborate evening meals in the main dining room (the “Moonlight Sonata,” if you can believe that) were generally very good, although the food in the buffet was inconsistent (not as consistently good as we remembered from the Equinox). We were seated at at night at a large table for ten with an interesting international group: couples from England, Wales, Scotland & Norway. But the table was oblong instead of round & the dining room was very noisy so it was difficult to have a general conversation. The Eclipse is equipped with a gigantic atrium extending through about 10 decks. Glass walled elevators line two sides of the atrium with a grand staircase on the opposite side. There was musical entertainment there every night before dinner, usually either Ray Brown, Jr., adopted son of Ella Fitzgerald & jazz bassist Ray Brown, or their very good dance band, and you could watch from the overlooks on all of the decks above.
We had a balcony on this cruise, which was a nice place to sit & read or enjoy the scenery (mostly water). Unfortunately we were on the starboard side of the ship & the setting sun was usually on the port side, so we didn’t see many of those beautiful Caribbean sunsets. The Eclipse has a lovely wood paneled library that is open to the atrium (although there is no librarian & a terrible selection of books). On the deck right above the library is the main outside pool deck, where passengers occupy hundreds of deck chairs and there is a stage in front of the atrium windows where, among other things, there are Zumba dance/exercise classes. Dancers above, intellectuals below! Come to think of it, that pretty fairly reflects the priorities on this ship.
The top deck (deck 15!) has two items that are unique to Eclipse & its sister ships of Celebrity’s Solstice class. The first is a lawn of real grass, where guests play bocce & there are sometimes small concerts. I understand it is very difficult to maintain, which is what one would expect.
The other unique item – and to our minds the best thing on the ship – was the Hot Glass Show put on by the Corning Glass Museum. They have built an open air glass blowing studio into the top of the ship next to the lawn. Fire safety restrictions forbid any open flames, so there are no acetylene torches or gas-fired ovens like you would normally find in a glass studio. Instead, they developed an electric oven just for these ships. They even built into these ovens a camera at the back (covered by thick heatproof glass) that show on a video screen what is going on inside.
We found the glassmaking process endlessly fascinating & attended as often as we could. During each 2 hour show each of the three glass artists – Aaron, Jamie & Ryan – would make one glass item, each of which was unique. As an example, here are some pictures of Aaron making a large striped glass bowl. The next day he made a top for it with a stopper and a seahorse sculpture. The glass starts out as a small softball-sized hunk on the end of a blowpipe. All the decorating is done while it is small, then it is slowly inflated using breath through the pipe and centrifugal force from twirling the pipe. It is then transferred to a solid pipe and the top is fashioned from the spot where the original pipe was connected. Finally it is put into the annealing oven to cool down over about 12 hours. While working the glass it must be kept at a temperature well above 1000 degrees since it will begin to crack at that temperature, so the reheating oven is maintained at more than 2000 degrees & the annealing oven begins at 900 degrees. Hot work! When cooled the glass is often a very different color than when put into the annealing oven.
The next day Aaron made a top for the bowl. First he made a curved plug, measured to fit just inside the bowl’s opening, which he covered with a flat white top similar to the base that would sit on top of the bowl. Then he added a glass sculpture of a seahorse that he had made in the meantime. The items made at the glass show are not sold, but many are given away to lucky passengers (sadly, not us) in raffles during many of the shows. At the end of the cruise there was a charity auction of the 7 best pieces. Aaron’s seahorse bowl was purchased for more than $400, about what most of these pieces brought, and we were assured by the glass artists that in a gallery they would have cost 2 or 3 times as much.
Here are some pictures of passengers watching the show (including Mary). It is located on the top deck right next to the lawn. The glass making is more difficult because of the swaying of the ship & the cross winds. To combat the latter there are glass partitions, higher on the ends than in front of the audience, and higher glass walls along the edge of the ship. Sometimes things don’t go smoothly. We saw Ryan making an elaborate glass fish sculpture, which fell off the pole in the oven when it was almost done (sorry, no pictures of that). Aaron quickly used a pipe to push it out of the oven so that it wouldn’t contaminate the oven, and it dropped to the deck breaking off several pieces. We were aghast, but Ryan calmly added a little hot glass to another pole which she used to pick up the sculpture, then set about redoing the parts that had broken. You would be hard-pressed to discern in the final product that it had been broken.
OK, enough about the ship. On to the ports, the main point of taking a cruise.
I am trying to figure out what exactly you were relaxing “from”. Aren’t you both retired????? Just sayin’. Actually- am happy that you have these opportunities to get away and enjoy life while you can. Unfortunately, my brain is happy to go on a cruise, but my stomach is cranky that it has to go along. So, I am not a great cruise person. Enjoy your sailing! pk
April 30, 2014 at 11:53 am
Mary, really enjoyed your cruise blog…especially the hand blown glass, we still think fondly of all our “table mates” on the Prinsedam. We leave for Ireland , and Baltic cruise, and end up in Great Britain, London etc etc. 33days!!!! Enjoy your continuing travels! Sandi and Al Campbell
April 30, 2014 at 12:11 pm
Good to hear from you Sandi. Glad you enjoyed the blog, although it is really me (Rick) who did it rather than Mary. Sounds like a great cruise, I am sure you will enjoy it. We are going in July on a 35 day cruise in the same general direction, from Boston to Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Amsterdam, Scotland & back to Boston. We are looking forward to it, even though it will be cold.
On Wed, Apr 30, 2014 at 12:11 PM, BADER JOURNAL wrote:
April 30, 2014 at 12:17 pm
Thanks for blogging again even after the cruise. We haven’t done much cruising in the Caribbean. We did visit Aruba and Curaçao on our recent Prinsendam cruise around South America. Sounds like you are going on the Veendam and doing the Voyage of the Vikings cruise. We did that one in 2012 and thoroughly enjoyed it. You are going to have a great time. Looking forward to your postings from that cruise also. But suspect that you will have to do some catch up when you get home. We missed 4 ports of call due to weather and the inability to tender. We also missed our cruise through Prince Christiansund. But were lucky to do it on the return trip. So it is a good thing you are going both ways.
May 1, 2014 at 12:32 am
Good to hear from you Sharon. I saw pictures from your visits there in Ada’s email updates & her picture book. Those were the first two islands on this cruise and will be in the second installment here. We are really looking forward to the Vikings cruise & are keeping our fingers crossed about the weather. I’m sure you are right about catching up on that one; you can’t miss a port experience to write the blog!
On Thu, May 1, 2014 at 12:32 AM, BADER JOURNAL wrote:
May 1, 2014 at 9:41 am
Glass. Water. Food. Books. Yeah!
April 30, 2014 at 1:31 pm