Monday, 16 March 2015

New Orleans & Caribbean 2015 - Part III

One thing we had planned, since we were in NOLA for Mardi Gras season, if not the day, was to take in a few parades. In the interest of full disclosure, I am uncomfortable standing for long periods of time, and I don't think my parents would enjoy it too much either. But, you can buy tickets to sit in a viewing stand, with seats and access to port-a-potties, so you can be comfortable and watch the parades. We bought tickets for Hermes, Krewe d'Etat and I can't remember the last one, to be honest. It was cold, the parades were late, so we didn't make it to the last one. We were still there over four and a half hours, so I think we did fine.

We made lots of "Stand Buddies". Everyone was very friendly. The only thing we found was you have to be careful when they are throwing things. Heavy beads can leave quite a bruise on your forehead.

We would definitely want to do this again, although, we would bring warmer clothes and hope for better weather.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

New Orleans & Caribbean 2015 - Part II

After lunch, we decided to go for a stroll on Frenchmen St. There are several interesting-looking music venues on Frenchmen, and next time we are in NOLA, we plan to stay on the side of the French Quarter closer to, so we can do a more in-depth exploration.

We found this lovely looking courtyard venue called Rare Form at the bottom of Frenchmen. It had apparently only been open a few weeks. It boasted live music (although we were there far too early for that) and a fountain with goldfish.

After our refreshing beverage stop, we checked out the Mint, which has a historical display, some jazz history exhibits, and a couple of photography exhibits. It is free to enter and look around.

We decided to do a splurge dinner this evening, so we headed over to Muriel's on Jackson Square. The food here is excellent, and not exorbitantly priced for what you get. The service is also quietly impressive. We really enjoyed this.

Afterwards, it was time for our ghost tour. This had been touted to us as something of a haunted pub crawl, in that it started at a bar, took a break at a bar in the middle, and finished at a bar. It was not quite as advertised. The bar we met at was closed for a private party. There was no bar in the middle. We did, however, finish at a bar.

The chandelier in the haunted bordello
We did go into a reputedly haunted bordello, with a chandelier which flickered madly when the guide spoke. We then went around the French Quarter to several of the traditional ghost tour venues, including the LaLaurie mansion and the Ursuline Convent.

The haunted bar courtyard

We finished at a rather pleasant "haunted bar" which seemed to have taken the opportunity to turn its place on the ghost tour as a money-making opportunity. It even had shooters themed to its ghost story on the menu. It had a nice atmosphere, but there are cheaper drinks to be had in the Quarter.

Your Humble Narrator in Jackson Square
The next day was Thursday, when my parents joined us. They were staying at the Roosevelt Hilton. There room was very luxurious. The bathroom was almost the same size as the bedroom.

Once they were settled, we had lunch at the lounge in their hotel, and then set off for a leisurely stroll to the bottom of Jackson Square, where we planned to grab a carriage tour. The tour was fun, and allowed my parents to relax and sight-see before we headed for dinner at El Gato Negro (our second meal there this trip. Did I also mention our multiple visits to our favourite New Orleans restaurant: Pierre Maspero's?).

Big Shot - Our Carriage's Noble Steed

Ceviche at El Gato Negro - Perfection

The next day, we took a stroll to Riverwalk, and stopped at Time Out. They have cool go cups. We talked our waiter out of moving to Canada. Not because we wouldn't want him here, but because I really don't think people from warmer climates should be subjected to ours.

We wandered around the mall for a little while, but didn't really do any shopping. We did get a view of the cruise terminal, where we would be the next day. After that, we headed over to Bourbon to see what mischief we could get into.

Yes, we shamelessly begged for beads with the rest of the crowds, but we didn't flash anyone. Actually, we didn't see anyone doing that. Maybe that's just a television thing.

A vist was paid by one of the marching bands which would appear in Hermes(?) later that night. Apparently, they were deployed to collect the marshals, who had been drinking in the Quarter all day. At least that's what we heard.

And, with this festively decorated balcony, I will leave you. We will continue with the parades next, and our cruise to the Caribbean on the Serenade of the Seas.

Friday, 13 March 2015

New Orleans & Caribbean 2015 - Part I

New Orleans at Mardi Gras time! What could be better? Not too much, I am sure. New Orleans has been one of my favourite places since I was a mere slip of a girl, so when I had a milestone birthday recently, I knew where we had to go. This time, my parents joined us for most of the trip.

The World's Greatest Husband™ and I stayed in the French Quarter at the Holiday Inn Chateau Lemoyne -- a very nice hotel, with friendly staff, and a good location. Ours was a king bed room with a shared balcony.

Our balcony
Among the fine amenities of the pool is a lounge with live music, and a heated outdoor pool. The former was nice, but I am sad to report that it wasn't really warm enough to use the latter, although we did see a few hardy souls in there during our stay.

The pool in the courtyard
We love live music in New Orleans, so we try to get to at least a few venues during our visits. This time we didn't get to as many as on some other trips, but it was a short stay, and we had some other evening activities as well.

Maison Bourbon - Live Jazz
Day 2, we went walking. All over. We went down by the river, and then out along Magazine.

Your Humble Narrator by the Mississippi

TWGH™ next to the Mississippi

Along Magazine

St Charles 

Beats Sneakers

The Streetcar arrives
We took the streetcar back to the French Quarter and had lunch. We went to Pat O'Brien's, but we had an unpleasant experience there. We ordered Bloody Mary's, and when the bill arrived, they had charged us for the glasses. We have bought glasses from Pat O'Brien's before, but only upon request. We were also informed that we would have to pay the bill, and then give the glasses to the bartender and she would refund our charge. She did not refund the taxes which I am sure were included in the bill. What a scam! We are never going back there.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Freedom of the Seas 2014

As usual, when we sail out of Port Canaveral, we try to stay at the Radisson. I guess loyalty pays off, because they upgraded us to King Jacuzzi suite, with a separate living/kitchen area and a jacuzzi in the bedroom. It was quite luxurious.

We enjoyed ourselves at the pool, and had our traditional dinner at the awesome Thai/sushi place across the street.

The next morning, of course, we were off to the Freedom of the Seas. This was the third time we had done this ship, and it was before this year's refurbishment, so there wasn't a lot that was new. It was bitter sweet saying good-bye to the Crypt, though. I have already posted pictures of the Crypt, so this time, I will just focus on new things.

New this time, we tried Chops Grill: the up-charge steak house. The food was wonderful and the service was fantastic.

The Caesar Salad - "Caviar upon request"
Bacon Appetizer
Crusted Seared Tuna

We definitely felt it was worth the extra money to go there.

We tried the Premium Drink Package this time. It's very easy to get your money's worth if you are a wine drinker. The only problem we had was the frequent unavailability of the better wines available with the package.

Our first port of call was Jamaica, and this was the first time we had gone to Falmouth instead of Ocho Rios. The port area has a lot of shopping, several stands where you can get drinks, a Margaritaville, and this place:

which had nice jerk and bammy -- which we learned we enjoy last summer.

On Grand Cayman we just did a bit of a wander around. 

The Bar formerly known as Hammerhead's

Our last port of call was Cozumel. Again, we just left the ship and wandered in the port area for a while. 

While in Cozumel, we stopped for some some local beverages.

I don't always drink beer...

On debarkation day, we did the excursion to Kennedy Space Centre. We loved this.