Tuesday, April 21, 2020

STTC (part 2 of 2)

The voyage continues!  Three more days of Star Trek immersion, before being teleported back to reality.  Or more of an altered reality.  Maybe we'll get that spore drive working soon so we can return to our original universe.

Anyway, I'm happily doing more photo perusal and remembering our Luckiest Cruise Ever back at the beginning of March.  On day 5 we docked at St. Thomas, and John and I went for a hike into the hills.

On the way up we found the Texas Embassy:

I love a faraway view of our ship (with plenty of time to get back to it):

Who's boat is this boat?  And why is it at the top of a mountain?  So many questions.

Getting to see another part of St. Thomas.  Go solar!

Back to the ship, where the Star Trek fun continued.  James Mackinnon and his wife (I think?) demonstrated how they transform Mary Chieffo into the Klingon L'Rell.

Mary also demonstrated how she has to try really hard sometimes not to laugh and mess things up during this process - that seems like it could be a challenge!

Such patience with this process, on the part of all three of them.  Then L'Rell got dressed for her photo session in full costume and makeup.  Super cool.

Science Jeopardy!  This version pitted two actual scientists (Erin MacDonald and Dr. Noor) with a Vulcan (Tim Russ/Tuvok), made more interesting because Erin was coming straight from the whiskey tasting session.  Timing was either bad, or good if you consider the comedy that ensued.  Dr. Noor racked up a bunch of points, being the only sober scientist on the panel, and then goodnaturedly bet it all on a late Daily Double (with plenty of audience urging) and got it wrong (on purpose?  you decide).  The win could have gone to any of them at that point, and I don't actually remember who won because it doesn't matter.

(Photo courtesy of Entertainment Cruise Productions)

Lots of fun, especially with JT playing the host and not taking any guff from anyone because as he said "the judges just don't care".  One of my favorite questions of the game:

We finally had a couple minutes to pop into the museum, which was a wonderful and varied collection of artifacts from all different shows.  Fun items from Picard that made me smile (we thoroughly enjoyed this most recent of the Star Trek iterations):

I assume this is the actual painting from the Picard set, super awesome to see it in person:

A Delta Flyer model, in honor of Voyager, love it:

Captain Kirk is now on board!  He did a couple sessions of storytelling and question answering, and he's got a great personality so it's always fun listening to him interact with the fans:

(Photo courtesy of Entertainment Cruise Productions)

The highlight of the night was the "Visit to Original Trek" which seems to get bigger and bolder every year.  "Devil in the Dark", or the pizza monster episode, was an excellent choice, also the casting across the board.  You can't beat Gates as an overacting Kirk, and for this year we had Ethan Peck playing a less-than-serious version of Spock (he's got some improv chops), plus Ethan Phillips doing his best Horta impression, well, I wish this existed on film so I could share it for real.

(Photo courtesy of Entertainment Cruise Productions)

There was some dressing up that evening for Gorn's Intergalactic Gala, including some people who took it quite literally, impressive!

OMG, a highly realistic Orville crossover, can you tell how happy it made me to run into her?  She was so sweet to talk with too.

John and I went to catch a bit of Tim Russ's band before the screening of the next Picard episode, but we were so enthralled by the music and the rhythms that we decided to stay for the whole set.  I've wanted to hear him play for a couple years now and it was totally worth the wait.  Thank you Tim Russ and crew!

After one of many (most) nights of not-nearly-as-much-sleep-as-normal, I joined in with Robb Pearlman's "Body by Starfleet" workout.  A hilarious concept that includes exercises such as tribble twists, Vulcan side planks, and I can't remember what we're doing here but it was a fun thing to do to start the day:

(Photo courtesy of Entertainment Cruise Productions)

Spock vs. Q!  This was a hypothetical conversation (well, obviously, but even more hypothetical than normal) between Mr. Spock and Q that was performed originally many years ago by Leonard Nimoy and John de Lancie.  They discussed the human race from "outsider" points of view and had a debate about whether we are worth saving, if I remember right.  Still relevant after all these years.  And now we have Ethan Peck so ably filling in for Leonard Nimoy, awesome!

Anson Mount did another live taping of "The Well" podcast and his guest this time was Kenneth Mitchell.  Kenneth talked about ALS which has changed all aspects of his life in the past year, his landscape architecture history, and all kinds of in-depth subjects.  Kudos to him for being so open and honest (he is so brave!), and major props again to Anson for being such a good interviewer and listener.

I'm always sad that I can't see everything, as many events overlap and it's always a case of picking and choosing.  The one thing I most wish I had gone to see was Gorn's Gong Show and talent contest.  This one really deserved a video that could be shared with the world, from what I heard.  I'm including my favorite photo from an ECP photographer - the front of Roxann Dawson's shirt says, "Trust me, I'm an engineer", and the sleeve is similar to a version from my alma mater RPI:

(Photo courtesy of Entertainment Cruise Productions)

The evening performer was Edgar Allan Poe, or at least Jeffrey Combs doing a remarkable impersonation.  I believe this is more than just something he compiled for the cruise, that he does this in a professional act.  It wasn't always easy to follow the long, rambling sentences, but the spirit of the words and Poe's descent into madness were quite something to watch.  Thank you sir for this incredible performance!

(Photo courtesy of Entertainment Cruise Productions)

And then there was JT, always coming up with something fun for costume night!

Just a T-Rex lumbering down the Promenade, another normal evening:

Q's costume contest is always fun to watch but difficult to get photos of.  There were some crazy-amazing and creative costumes!  I wandered around afterward and snapped a few random shots:

An alien and a Pokemon:

How do some of these even fit in people's luggage?

One final day!  Hey, we had an extra day this year so this was all even more special.

Dr. Mohamed Noor started doing morning "office hours" at breakfast, which was such an incredibly generous thing to do.  He seems to genuinely enjoy interacting with people who are interested in talking about genetics and evolution, especially as it relates to science fiction.  Once we heard his first talk and started to see where he was coming from (and relearning the science behind it), we were super excited to hear more.  He is patient and friendly and super fun to boot.

Thank you Dr. Noor!

Anson, Kenneth, and Ethan got together to talk about one of the episodes of Discovery, where Kenneth got to play another awesome role (which I didn't even recognize him in when we first saw it).  Always wonderful to hear from the actors about some behind-the-scenes details:

Robert Picardo put together an auction to benefit the Planetary Society, with the highlight being this poster signed by most of the actors on the cruise:

No wait!  An unexpected even bigger highlight was that Ethan Peck was wearing the same T-shirt from our San Juan shore excursion (stickers and all), and he announced that he was auctioning it off right then and there, signed by him and Robert.  Well, if you're going to auction off the shirt on your back, I guess you have to take it off first.  Yep, definitely the highlight for me!

Ethan is simply awesome, I hope he comes back on another Star Trek cruise!

One last evening performance, a conversation between William Shatner and Brent Spiner, and this turned out to be the perfect combination and a fine way to end the voyage.  These two are so quick, interactive and great at poking fun, full of stories, and superbly funny together.

(Photo courtesy of Entertainment Cruise Productions)

I had just a bit of time to travel the hallways and see some of the door decorations - there's never enough time for everything, but not for lack of trying!  Here are a few of my favorites.

Googly eyes are the best:

This is notable because they are actual electronics components including integrated circuits, possibly some older-era ones?  Very clever to label them as Borg Research:

One of our favorite "Easter Eggs" from Star Trek: Picard!


By the power of de Lancie!  This phrase comes from a story that Garrett Wang told in his standup routine, and I suppose you probably had to be there...

Women scientist and astronaut Legos, nice!

And finally, this was down the hall from our room, my favorite tardigrade and something to wave to every time I walked by:

So long Mr. Tardigrade, hope to see you again next year!

Live Long and Prosper, everyone.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Star Trek The Cruise IV (my favorite week of the year)

Wow, this is plenty surreal, writing about this amazing experience that was ridiculously close to not even happening, except we didn't know that at the time.  We love the Star Trek cruise so much and it is one of the highlights of every year.  Approaching this one (the first week of March, so long ago it seems) I was most concerned about not getting sick so they would let us on the ship.

They screened everyone and didn't allow anyone on board if they had been to China or northern Italy in the prior 2 weeks.  We (John and I, Kip, and our friends Siobhan and Rodney) all made it on board, along with all the Star Trek actors, scientists and artists.  The week at sea was spent in blissful ignorance of what was to come after we disembarked, our one big dream vacation, with extra hand sanitizer and plenty of "washy washy!".  Happily, as far as I'm aware, no one on the ship had the virus and once we were all together we were probably safer in this isolated floating community than anywhere else.

It pleases me to go back through the photos and think fondly of this time.  I'll try not to go on endlessly about it but I do tend to gush about Kate Mulgrew and so many other amazing people.  This truly is a special experience that we were lucky (SO LUCKY) to get to have this year.

Our photo with the cast of Voyager, what a wonderful and lovely group of people!  No doubt my favorite Star Trek series, at least so far (I haven't caught up on all things Star Trek since finding out about this cruise from George Takei several years ago).  I did watch all 7 seasons of Voyager this past year and enjoyed it immensely.  Thank you all!

Backing up just a bit to the beginning of this year's journey when we met up with Kip at the Fort Lauderdale airport, hi Kip!

We're getting on the ship at last, mission accomplished and everything else is frosting on the Star Trek cake - and hi Rodney and Siobhan!

Posing as a Voyager action figure:

I think this is a standard Royal Caribbean sign (maybe?), but I'm not sure I've ever noticed the last item on the list before:

Practicing a bit of hygiene, not quite up to the current social distancing standard but at least no one was shaking hands on the ship:

At the launch party, I was so excited to see Kate Mulgrew standing right in front of us!  In fact, a friend of ours in California somehow found this photo on Twitter and sent it to John.  Yes, I was about overcome with joy to be there:

Mr. Anson Mount, aka Captain Pike on the current Discovery show, and a most excellent captain:

Sweet, sweet Wilson Cruz, so happy he could make it on board this year:

Jonathan Del Arco (Hugh on earlier shows and now on Star Trek: Picard), totally fun dude:

Speaking of totally fun - Garrett Wang rocks!  So excited that he's coming back next year, he's super funny and friendly:

There were many more awesome folks on stage that afternoon but I should probably move on...

Our room was near the library so we walked through a few times a day.  One set of shelves had been filled with Star Trek books and I was brought back many years to some of these titles.  Way back when, I read a bunch of these in high school.  I was an Original Series fan, for sure.

Kate Mulgrew spent an evening on stage, telling stories and more importantly answering questions.  One of her great strengths is talking with individual audience members, having a brief but real conversation, and connecting with all of us.  I so appreciate her doing this and loved every minute of it.  Thank you Kate!

(Photo courtesy of Entertainment Cruise Productions)

Anson Mount hosts a podcast called The Well and I've enjoyed listening to it while running.  For the first time he did a couple live recordings, and he couldn't have picked a better guest than Brent Spiner.  Brent can tell a story, and Anson can ask the best questions and really listen to the answers.  Watching this was captivating.

The Voyager cast did a panel and showed how much they genuinely love each other.  Such fun to listen to their stories!

In line for our Voyager cast photo (the one at the top of this post), having a good time even when we're waiting for something:

I was so excited for our other celebrity picture, one with just Kate Mulgrew, that we even dressed up for it.  Kate sat for long hours to pose with everyone, thank you so much!

From there I scurried down to catch most of Nana's cooking show, one of my favorite things every year (especially with host JT playing assistant and the ship chefs helping as well).  Yes, the answer usually is "make it your own" and "more alcohol".

The Rat Pack was back!  I will listen to them anytime, anywhere, and as many times as they want to sing and play.  So creative and fun.

(Photo courtesy of Entertainment Cruise Productions)

The theme of the second evening was Captain Proton (a particularly fun few episodes of Voyager) so we got to see some very creative costumes:

On day 3 we stopped at Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, and we had booked a shore excursion that involved "shopping with Nana" - should be fun!  Not as much fun were the rides on the tenders (or maybe more fun, if you're John), since there was a lot of wind and waves and the little boat splashed around quite a bit.  These are solid lifeboats, good to know if we ever needed to ride on one in a real situation.

First stop was a chocolate store, most excellent (and yummy):

We also got to see a cigar making shop, not something we pop into just every day:

After some rum tasting (and purchasing) and a visit to the local mall, we ventured back onto a tender and were soon back on board the larger and much more stable ship.  We did get to chat a bit with Nana, who was super gracious even though it appeared as though she was a bit less than thrilled about the tender rides herself.

Game Show Night!  Always one of the highlights.  So many of these people are great at improv and comedy and you never know what will happen.  Especially with Marina Sirtis around.

(Photo courtesy of Entertainment Cruise Productions)

I caught the end of the Enterprise Blues Band set to close out the evening, more wonderful music and entertainment:

On day 4 we docked at San Juan, Puerto Rico, one of my favorite places in the Caribbean.  Kip and I went on a "mofongo and mojitos" tour with Robert Picardo and Ethan Peck and had an excellent time.  We got really lucky because the tour guides (without realizing this would be a problem) divided the group in parts and we ended up with Robert and Ethan for the day.  I think ECP tried to make things right for the folks who didn't get to experience the "celebrity" part of the celebrity shore excursion and hopefully that won't happen again.

Meanwhile, we got a long walking tour of downtown and even a fun shot of the two stars posing with a "local":

Ethan in particular was so friendly, even coming over to talk with me and Kip personally and to thank us for wearing "DISCO" shirts (the show he was on).  Very impressed with him and his willingness to fully embrace every aspect of this cruise experience.

A bit of local fauna putting on a show along the city wall:

Learning some of the city history and remembering our time here prepping for and running the Great Urban Race championship:

Here's an interesting tree - it apparently blew over during the recent hurricane, but it was such an icon that the people worked to replant it, stabilize it while it rerooted, and now it looks great again:

The food part of our tour, with plantains to mash and sauce and chicken to add (and a mojito to drink):

We didn't realize we'd need to work for our lunch, fun!

That was quite an afternoon, super cool:

But wait, it's not over yet!  We found an escape room in San Juan, invited fellow Star Trek fans to join us, and managed to fly through some interesting puzzles to escape from the prison cell, awesome!

Thank you San Juan, that was great!

In the evening, John de Lancie staged The Dover Trial, a recent take on evolution similar to the Scopes Monkey Trial readings he has done before, but with the twist that this took place within our lifetimes.  It is strange to realize that there are parts of the population that aren't on board with the scientific method and the resulting discoveries.

Kate Mulgrew was the narrator (yay!), joined by many talented actors and ship's guests to tell this interesting story:

(Photo courtesy of Entertainment Cruise Productions)

And finally, the theme of the night was "Heroes and Villains", so what could be more perfect than JT dressed as Dorothy, accompanied by Star Trek versions of The Wizard of Oz characters?

Kip made an excellent choice - Westley from The Princess Bride.  Villain?  Or hero?  As you wish!

Sparring with another hero and/or villain:

This mask freaked me out every time I turned around and caught sight of mini Janeway:

Dr. Horrible!  Another excellent hero and/or villain and a superb costume:

OK Westley, now you're taking it too far...

That's enough fun for half a cruise!  Stay tuned for the remaining days of our Super Lucky Journey.