Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Star Trek cruise - day 2

Not enough sleep, but it was worth it to be part of Nana Visitor's meditation class that morning.  She is lovely and sweet, and the class was a really good reminder to "be present", something I worked on for the rest of the cruise.  There was so much to think about and plan for each day, but I wanted to focus on the person in front of me, to fully absorb what they were saying (or singing).  It helped a lot, thank you Nana!

Also helpful was learning how to pronounce her name, with the accent on the second syllable.

John signed up for the Shipyards Vessel Building competition to be held toward the end of the voyage, but we never came up with a good set of materials to use.  Or any time to work on it.  Maybe next time.

Armin Shimerman held a class on rhetoric and Shakespeare, and a trend started of us being way surprised at the information, talent, and entertainment that every actor brought to the cruise.  Who knew this could be such an interesting topic?  I'm ready to sign up for his class (he's actually a professor at USC these days).  We learned so much in that hour, stuff that is applicable to real life, and he could have gone on talking for another couple hours and we would have stayed to listen.

We missed the Klingon vegetable karving demo on the pool deck.  Apparently the chef carves fruit as well, very nice:

A brief stop to listen to Karl Urban talk with host Jordan next to the Borg cube:

On to the next highlight (everything was so good!) - John de Lancie's Scopes Monkey Trial reading, based on the real text from the trial about teaching evolution in Tennessee in 1925.  Robert Picardo acted the part of William Jennings Bryan:

Ethan Phillips read (and even kind of looks like) H. L. Mencken:

Casey Biggs as a lawyer and John de Lancie reading the part of Clarence Darrow (also notable, a cruise guest dressed as Colonel Sanders did an amazing job as the judge reading scripture):

A bit of background on John de Lancie's interest in the subject and some of the words in the trial:

And since I'm going down a rabbit hole this morning, here's another link in case you want to come with me:

John de Lancie stayed on stage to answer questions and provide more details about the trial and his interest in it.  More learning on a fascinating day on the ship!

I think we must have grabbed a little food in the next few minutes, good thing there's a lunch buffet.

Next up, a Q&A with Jordan, Robert Picardo, and Ethan Phillips.  They talked about Voyager, how they have been friends for a long time, and how the snowstorm in New York almost made them miss the start of the first week's cruise.

And happily, someone asked for a song.  Robert obliged with a rendition of this (and if you open only one of my links in this series of posts, this is the one I most highly recommend):

Pool deck party!  We wore our new cruise garb and hung out with a bunch of "red shirts" - it's a wonder everyone survived:

Wait, no time to linger, bring the drinks to 13 Forward to listen in on astronaut Rick Searfoss's talk about the human side of space exploration.  It was neat to think that he was the one person on the ship who actually has BEEN TO SPACE, and he showed fun slides and described some of his experiences.

I didn't get a good photo of him, but this is a view of the lovely space in 13 Forward where the more intimate talks were given:

Including!  A cooking demo with Nana!  Since we were already in the room after Rick finished, we slid on down to the front row for our first up-close experience.  It was totally worth it.

Our favorite cruise emcee, JT, along with Nana and the chef.  All 3 have a great sense of comedic timing, and plus they can cook (well, JT can serve at least).  Loved it!

Nana didn't have a copy of the recipes that had been handed out, so I offered mine and she borrowed it.  And gave it back later!  Should I have asked her to autograph it?

The front of the room got samples of the crab with avocado relish, wow that was good.  The other 2 items went to other parts of the room, so I'll just have to make them myself to try them:

We dropped back in our room to get dressed for Captain Sulu's Soiree - formal uniforms that Kip decided we should have.  This is my kind of dress-up.

I had kind of been stalking this guy who looks a whole lot like James Doohan when he came to RPI back when I was in college.  He was gracious enough to pose with us, thank you!

Oh wow, I just realized I have photos from back then (approximately 1987-88):

The actual ship's captain (I think?) and Tall Spock.  The band Information Society calls him Vegas Spock.  And he can dance really well.  I think this isn't his first Star Trek event:

A quick walk outside on the way back to the theater:

The main show featured Denise Crosby and Rene Auberjonois doing an "overdub" (like Pancake Theater at the Alamo Drafthouse) where they showed an episode of The Original Series.  Instead of the original sound, Denise and Rene did they own version, kind of an improv that included a lot of humor, sound effects, and overacting.  It was a quirky episode to begin with - The Way to Eden with space hippies, singing, and Spock playing a harp.  Ideally it would have been more polished and less ad lib, but it certainly was fun to watch.

Artist J.K. Woodward with his painting of a Klingon warbird - that he created in front of an audience while chatting about Star Trek.  Very cool:

On any other cruise we (or certainly at least Kip) would have entered the poker tournament for a chance to sit at the final table with Jeffrey Combs.  But there just wasn't enough time!

One more amazing show to finish off the night - The Rat Pack!  It was late in the evening but highly recommended, and I loved it so much I went back for the encore several nights later.  Max Grodenchik has rewritten a bunch of well-known songs to make them Star Trek related.  Casey Biggs and Vaughn Armstrong have excellent voices, Jeffrey Combs is such a ham plus plays guitar well, Ethan Phillips played along with his sax, and Armin Shimerman seemed amused that they had included him but was game to try singing now and then.

One of my favorites: "Soft Tribble, warm Tribble, little ball of fur, happy Tribble, sleepy tribble, purr, purr, purr"

Others - "Everyone Knows It's Xindi", "Hey Mr. Sulu", "I Left My Quark with Captain Sisko" and "On the Trekkie Deckie" - and I really wish I could remember all of them.  Maybe a little notebook and a pen next time.

A nice little compilation (short clips of a few songs) from their show in 2015:

Ooh, I found it!  My favorite song, a mashup with a neat ending, filmed on the first week of the cruise this year:

OK, now it's late again!  Good thing we're docking at Roatan tomorrow and there's nothing scheduled until later in the afternoon.

Live long and prosper:

Monday, January 22, 2018

Star Trek cruise - day 1

OMG!  How to even start?  We just got back from one of the most amazing vacations.  Maybe it's because I'm a bit (at least a bit) of a nerd and a Star Trek fan from way back in college.  Maybe because THE George Takei was the honorary captain, so exciting to meet him!  Maybe because we love cruising.  Maybe because I've never been so close to real-life celebrities, with a chance of running into a TV/movie star anytime we walked down a hallway.  Maybe because all of those folks are talented, not just as actors, but in other ways, and are willing to share and interact with us.  Maybe because all our fellow cruisers were like-minded and super nice.  Every day, all day, it was a week of "can I just stay in this alternate reality for the rest of my life?"

So, one confession is that the only Star Trek I've really ever known was The Original Series.  Spock, Kirk, Bones, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu (George!), Chekov.  We watched the reboot movies and it took me awhile to forgive JJ Abrams for blowing up the timeline, but I can mostly watch those movies now and appreciate the excellent cast and storylines.

We had some catching up to do.  Over the last several months we used Netflix (DVD's and streaming) and the DVR to find and watch as much of the other series as possible.  Kip suggested focusing on the most highly rated episodes, a good idea since we couldn't possibly see everything.  I'm quite taken with Voyager, Kip appreciates the story arcs of Deep Space Nine, and we found some redeeming episodes of Enterprise.  No Discovery yet - more to watch in the coming months.

That helped a lot to get to know the actors coming on the cruise, and especially to understand many of the references that would have gone over our heads otherwise.  It still took until after the cruise to realize what the word "DISCO" meant on Jonathan Frakes' hat (and other T-shirts).  Hint - it's the show we haven't seen yet.

The other awesome thing is that Kip's friend Rodney and his wife Siobhan joined us!  They are also Star Trek fans, plus fun travel companions.  It's always great to cruise with friends.  So! - there is another Star Trek cruise next January, in case this sounds like something you would enjoy:

Before all that craziness even started, a brief note about our motel in Fort Lauderdale.  We stayed at the Rodeway Inn near the airport, and it was unique enough to warrant a mention.  The courtyard was fun to walk around in.  Giant chairs are great:

As are these things (what are they called, anyway?):

Ready to go on a cruise!

A lovely courtyard full of greenery:

The gift shop at the motel is eclectic and full of interesting items:

Waffle House for breakfast!  That's usually the highlight of any day, but somehow other things topped it this time.

We piled into a Lyft van for the ride down to Miami, and Siobhan captured this fun photo:

By the way, we took a bunch of Lyft's in that area and it was so easy to get around.  Big fan now.

We squeezed in a visit to the Fox in a Box escape room before boarding.  This turned out to be good use of our time, as we boarded the ship after the rush and it was super easy getting on.

Even better, Rodney and Siobhan are excellent at escape rooms.  We were an effective team, and we managed our first escape room win ever (for me, John and Kip)!  We successfully robbed a bank!  This day was getting better and better.  And we hadn't even boarded the ship yet.

Fox in the Box was great, highly recommend them.  They even made a cute little video for us:

OK, let's get to the Star Trek part of the program!

On the way up the gangplank - the lighting wasn't quite what we expected, but we decided that you have to look at our mugs enough as it is, so here's a photo of the ship with our silhouettes in front of it:

The friendly staff was dressed for the occasion:

It's real, we're actually here!

Waiting on the pool deck for the launch party - this guy has a good seat (an inflatable captain's chair):

Hello Levar!  We also had a great view of the celebrities waiting their turn for introductions:

Gates McFadden describing her tap dancing classes:

Robert O'Reilly who played Klingon Chancellor Gowron and who hosted an awesome Pub Krawl:

Rene Auberjonois, Odo on Deep Space Nine, and one of many of these actors who I'd like to watch in other roles because they seem very talented:

Armin Shimerman!  We knew him from Buffy and as a Ferengi, now we also know him as a Shakespeare professor and excellent addition to the Rat Pack singing group (more on those later):

Ethan Phillips from Voyager, super funny comedian:

I didn't see enough Connor Trinneer on the cruise, happily he's one of many returning next year:

Robert Picardo, one of my favorites from Voyager, and one of the busier actors on the cruise:

I didn't even get a picture of George Takei (besides in the background behind Levar), I was too focused on listening to him speak when he was on stage.  Hello George!

And there were several more actors introduced, I think about 20 in total.  What a great group!  I'm impressed they all stayed for 2 cruises back-to-back.

Hey, Jean-Luc Picard made it too!  Thank you, kind sir, for letting me get a photo with you.

I started gradually switching from my normal Team Vignette "V" sign (previous picture) to a "Live Long and Prosper" salute; it took a while to get more natural.  Welcome to the cruise, yay!

We didn't have much time those first couple days to wander the ship, but we did check out the game room briefly.  Dave, how about this for a Borg Rubik's Cube!

There were tons of great costumes on display every day, I wish I could have gotten photos of all of them.  I couldn't resist stopping this guy and he didn't seem to mind:

We had just enough time for the sit-down dinner, which wasn't the case every night.  There was so much to do in the evenings and even without eating there was no way to fit everything in.  Double (and occasionally triple) booking of various events made it hard to pick which ones to attend.  And all of it was awesome.

The special show the first night was a reading by Levar Burton, a children's book he wrote plus an adult story.  Then Rene A. and Nana Visitor took turns reading short stories, making us (and each other) laugh.  I was enthralled.

Other goings on - artist J.K. Woodward talked about his Star Trek paintings (he did a live demonstration another night) and the rest of the crew got introductions - including author Robb Pearlman, astronaut Rick Searfoss, and one of our favorite astronomers Phil Plait.  Later in the evening we listened to Karl Urban talk and answer questions and I was again starstruck (it happened a lot that week).

Some of the souvenirs from the trip - even the napkins were branded:

We tried our hand at the first trivia night, not really expecting much, but it was fun to listen to Max Grodenchik along with host Jordan Hoffman:

Umm, yeah, we love Star Trek, but no one will ever mistake us for Super Fans with photographic memories.  We ended up doing OK, each of us pulling out at least one answer to help our group score.  Mostly I was happy to at least understand what all the questions were referring to.  Not your normal cruise trivia!

Group photo!

A better look at the T-shirts we're wearing (team name = Evil Beards), because the theme for the night was "Mirror, Mirror":

Phew, that was quite a start to our journey!  Another big day tomorrow!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

New Year's "race"

A while back we decided to try something new - a timed race, with a relay option.  It was on New Year's Eve (into New Year's Day if you wanted the longer 24-hour version) and seemed like fun.  Something John could join us in for a laid-back group effort on a flat course.  We opted for the 12-hour event, that sounded doable.

Well, we were all still feeling under the weather, coughing and without a whole lot of energy to go around.  The only requirement was that each teammate had to do at least one lap.  1.065 miles.  OK, we're pretty sure we can all do that.  Let's at least go and see what it's all about.

The race was held at Crissy Field on the north end of San Francisco.  Quite a nice location, plenty of space to set up a little area next to the aid station, and an interesting loop with good views.

Getting ready to get started:

Sure, I'll take the first lap.  The guys seemed to think I might want to run the furthest so I should go first.  There's a big difference between "want" and "consider prudent", but OK.

Easy enough!  You're up, Kip:

Kip was the fast one of our group:

John is still under "no running" orders with his resurfaced hip, so he's been doing a lot of walking lately.  He took the camera with him for a loop to document the course.  Here's the side along the street, heading toward the Sports Basement:

It was great looking over at the bridge throughout the day, a nice shot across the pond:

The turn on the far end, with a slight uphill that provided a little walk break opportunity:

Another shot of the pond, and this turned out to be on the higher end of the tide.  It was neat tracking the exit of the water to the bay and the drop of the pond water level over the next few hours.

A well-marked course:

Coming back toward the start/finish, with San Francisco on the skyline:

The little path cutting back to aid station, with the Palace of Fine Arts over on the right:

My turn again, heading out across the timing mat.  We were allowed to turn around and run the other direction whenever we wanted, so we all tried a counter-clockwise lap, but we agreed we liked clockwise better (especially since it was way easier to see each person coming so the next one could jump up to take the timing band from them).

Kip brought chairs and blankets, exactly what we needed for hanging around and watching the festivities:

Another nice view of the bridge:

Well, we're still going, no stopping after 1 lap for any of us.  I think we all enjoyed the easy pace, the breaks, and the chance to leisurely peruse the aid station fare.  I've never eaten multiple bagel pieces during a race before.  And the Noosa yogurt samples were amazing.

A few more photos from the course, on a nice cloudy (but not too cold or windy) day.  Quite pleasant.

The backstretch, where lots of other people strolled by and tried to figure out what was going on.

The timing mat, where we missed recording a couple of our laps, oops.  We were handing off a timing chip on an ankle strap but mostly not actually putting it on our ankles since we were switching off every lap.  We'd usually bend over to swipe the chip over the mat but apparently missed twice.  Oh well, everything about this was just for fun, we certainly weren't here to set any records!

But we were here for some naps, apparently  :)  Yes, John can definitely sleep here:

No matter how I try, I haven't figured out how to center the camera AND put on a good selfie face, yikes:

Every hour that we were still there was an accomplishment.  Kip and I kept switching off every mile, and John walked a mile once an hour.  Finally Kip decided that 10 miles was enough for him, after the big 50+ mile effort the prior weekend.  I went for 16 laps since that would result in an extra mile for 17 miles total.  John spelled me for one more break toward the end, thanks John!

We finally got our "group photo" that I wanted for this blog post, yay!

During my last couple laps, the sun briefly came out and lit up the bridge.  Nice!

And - good enough!

We lasted way longer than we expected, almost breaking the 7-hour mark!  Our team total (including the 2 laps that didn't get officially counted) was 35 miles.  Good enough for 2nd place in the 12-hour relay category.  Out of 2 teams, of course.

OK, we might have to do that again sometime when we're all feeling well.  Running as a relay was quite interesting and different, between the breaks and the opportunity for faster running (or not), staying warm in between moving, and having lots of other runners around to watch.  Fun event, glad we tried it out.

Happy New Year!