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Thursday, 15 June 2006
South Hampton, UK
Today we arrived in South Hampton, UK. Last night was a bit sad as we said goodbye to our table mates. We have had such a good time being totally silly. We will miss them as all but one goes off on their own adventures. One other will return when we come back to South Hampton.

Many passengers got off in South Hampton and apparently we will pick up quite a few new passengers in South Hampton for the Mediterranean part of the cruise; many are Asian. The city is small, but very friendly towards Americans. Everyone is looking forward to the UKs appearance in the World Cup tonight. We got nice pictures of memorial for the Titanic crew members at the Holy Rood church and a lovely picture of St. Michaels church, originally constructed in the 11th Century. The city still has some of the remain walls that originally protected the site. We found the people in South Hampton very friendly and most helpful. Cunard provides a free shuttle bus into town so we did not have to even exchange dollars for pounds.

We did find a camera shop that carried a card reader for our camera so we can now download our pictures even though I left the USB cord home.

South Hampton began in 70AD as the port of Clausentum but languished at the fall of the Roman Empire. Eventually it was reestablished as first Hamwic and then became Hamtun. Hamtun was built on the banks of the River Itchen but was moved to the banks of the Test River when the River Itchen began clogging with silt. The port is best known for the initial departure point for the Mayflower. The South Hampton harbor is now fed by both the Test and Itchen rivers, allowing for a deep harbor due to two different tidal tables.

Posted By P.Brown at 5:57 AM
Tuesday, 13 June 2006
Busy on the Queen Mary2, but Why?
When I try to put into words what has kept us so busy, it's impossible and yet we do find ourselves quite busy. Each morning I walk my 3 miles around the deck after a leisurely small breakfast and coffee in our room. We don't make it sometimes until noon!

We eat a late lunch usually in the Lions Pub. The rest of the afternoon is spent walking about, the casino, a short nap and then preparing for dinner. We certainly enjoy the dinners even though they tend to be about 2 hour affairs. It is a great time to relax and chat with our table mates.

We have a running joke at dinner since on the first night we asked our young man what he ordered for the entrée. With a serious face he replied he was having the roasted lion. He then requested Ketchup and I asked if he was having blood with his lion. YUCK! So each time a loin meat is offered we now refer to it as the roasted lion. After dinner there are several activities such as shows, dancing, nightclubs, music or the casino to entertain. Each night on the Eastern crossing we lose a precious hour but look forward to gaining them all back on the Western crossing. This certainly helps in slowly adjusting to the time difference.

We are quite pleased to see the drink prices quite reasonable in all the bars on the ship. Though it is a bit irritating that unlike other ships, you cannot get cash from the pursers office. The only place to get cash is the casino which charges 3% for all transactions. Apparently this is the policy on all Carnival owned ships now. Seems to me it would bite them in the butt because it inhibits the casino players. If it was a widely known policy, many people could save the 3% by carrying their own cash. The shops on Queen Mary2 tend to be the upper class shops where "average" Americans would not normally shop. Guess thats another "upper class" part of the ship.

All lectures are replayed on TV and include such things as the history of the Cunard ships. The Queen Mary2 also contains the only onboard planetarium where several shows about the universe are shown each day. We found it all very general science and pretty difficult to truly understand.

Posted By P.Brown at 9:09 AM
Monday, 12 June 2006
Continued Adventures on Queen Mary2
Our cabin is much smaller than we expected, mainly because Cunard includes deck space in calculated when providing cabin sizes. So what we thought would be quite roomy (276 sq. ft.) is really quite small; and our "balcony" is a hull balcony, meaning that it's enclosed with two window sized openings. Closet space and hangers are plentiful but at the expense of drawer space.

It might seem strange, but the last couple of days have been quite a whirlwind of activity to the point that I find it difficult to find time to write our experiences.

Leaving New York Harbor was a lovely experience. Fortunately it was sunny and about 70 degrees. Besides the opportunity to view the Statue of Liberty (always a heart warming and majestic sight) we were treated to a informational lecture about New York Harbor, pointing out many of the sights and learning the history over the decks' loud speakers. We also passed the latest and largest ship joining the Princess fleet, the Crown Princess which will now usurp the Queen Mary2's position as the largest cruise ship. As we passed, Queen Mary2 blew her whistles in salute. The Crown Princess will begin its maiden voyage soon but only contained crew members as it entered New York Harbor. How exciting it was to see both ships meet just before the Brooklyn bridge with the Crown Princess passing under first as it enters NY and the Queen Mary2 proceeding under to the east on our way to South Hampton.

We decided to try late dining for the first time and have found that we are quite happy with the arrangement other than we find it difficult to make the evening shows. We did attend one (Rock the Opera) last night but left after about 30 minutes. Everyone else seemed to enjoy it but I really detest most female operatic voices and so it was not really enjoyable to us.

Our table assignment was only a table of four (we requested a large table since we enjoy the interaction with a good number of people, but due to our switch in dining times it wasnt available). Two ladies traveling as friends were our dinner mates. However, next to our table of four was another table of four with only one young man assigned for this part of the trip to South Hampton. So we quickly asked him to become part of our little group. The second night the ladies at our table had met two men not happy with their table assignment and so they were also invited to join us. What a group we make! Edie is married but enjoys traveling more than her husband and so is traveling with her school teacher friend, Debbie, who is single. They are disembarking in South Hampton and then going traveling throughout Europe for 5 weeks before returning to the ship and traveling back to New York. Our young man (about 25) is crossing on the ship and his parents and sisters will join him for the Mediterranean part of the cruise. Roland lived and worked in the US and has now retired and is moving back to Europe. Ben is traveling to Switzerland to get divorced and then will return to the ship for the West Bound crossing.

I think our table waiters (both very attentive) have a bit of trouble understand our frivolity but seem quite entertained. We see that both the waiters and the Wine Stewarts work extremely hard. The menu choices are less than what we've found on previous ships but the food is presented very well and is excellent. Evening desserts tend not to be a decadent as on other ships we've traveled and are quite European however there are plenty of nice desserts in the buffet area in Kings Court.

On the third evening our dinning companions all decide to meet at the nightclub G2. We end up having such a spectacular time that before we know it, its 4:00 am! We make our way up to the buffet and find only cold cereal and some bread we snitched off a food cart and finally fall into bed at 5:00 am. I must say we "old people" aren't use to being up when the sun rises!

Many of the main areas on the ship are very spacious. We particularly enjoy the Golden Lion which has much of an English pub atmosphere and serves pub style lunches such as Fish & Chips, Cottage Pie and Steak Pie. All are excellent and not to be missed. We also really enjoy the quiet atmosphere of the Commodore Club. Both are also WiFi Hotspots.

We do find the ship layout rather confusing. Several of the stairwells don't go through all the way from top to bottom and the center elevators only go to floors 2, 7 and 9. So we are constantly lost. The Queen Mary2 is the steadiest ship we have ever traveled. Many times if you are not near a window you don't even realize it is moving. The weather has been cool (50 degrees) and overcast today with bouts of light showers.

The one thing so far that I forgot to pack is the USB cord to connect my camera to the computer so no pictures will be available until we either find a USB cord or download the pictures to the ship's CD. Unfortunately the CD's can only be written to one time so we will have to wait until the camera capacity is full (296 pictures!).
Posted By P.Brown at 11:01 AM
Sunday, 11 June 2006
Off to Europe on Queen Mary2
On June 8, 2006 we flew from Kansas City to New York City on Midwest Airlines to begin our next adventure. We like Midwest Airlines because of their comfortable seats and space for each passenger. Because we want a hassle free transportation experience we also arranged for a NYC car service, Carmel Car Service, to pick us up, deliver us to the hotel, return the next day and take us to the cruise terminal and then make the reverse trips to the hotel and then the airport when we returned.

Our instructions from Carmel were that they would monitor our flight and arrival but that we should also call once we retrieved our baggage at which point they would tell us where to meet the car. We did exactly as instructed and were told our car would arrive in 5 to 7 minutes. Fifteen minutes later we called again and were again told 5 to 7 minutes. Yet another fifteen minutes passed and once again we called only to hear the same response. Each time we called, from a cell phone, we were put on hold no less than 3 to 5 minutes, then had to explain who we were, our reservation number, where we were, what we were wearing and the lack of the car. While on hold we listened to Carmel Car Service extol their services and promptness via a commercial which played over and over. Finally after approximately 50 minutes, my husband saw the car pass us and chased down the driver. The driver told us hed only received the call to pick us up 5 minutes before. He also did not have our destination (provided fully in the reservation) nor was he able to locate it without trouble.

The following day we called customer service 3 times before they finally returned our call 3 hours later. By then, we merely cancelled our upcoming reservations and chose a car service provided by the hotel. Customer service tried to convince us that their delay was due to a small amount of rain that fell at least 1 hour before we landed. It would seem to me that a reliable car service would make whatever arrangements necessary for delays caused by frequent weather occurrences such as small amounts of rain. So much for reservations and car services, at least Carmel Car Service; needless to say, we do not recommend Carmel. We stayed at Beekman Towers, a boutique type hotel. Its an older hotel with small beds but was clean and the hotel staff was very accommodating and friendly.

The morning of June 9th we spent taking in some quick sites in NYC. We walked up to Rockefeller Center, passing both Trump Tower and St. Patricks cathedral. We also visited the UN building and saw the famous Waldorf Astoria.

Later in the early afternoon we began in embarkation process for Cunards Queen Mary 2 which is owned by Carnival Cruises. The lines were fairly long but the process went well and within about 30 minutes we were aboard the Queen Mary2.

Posted By P.Brown at 6:56 AM
Sunday, 4 June 2006
Brazil Picture Gallery
In December 2005 we wrote about our cruise from Florida to Brazil.

We finally go around to getting up a picture gallery of the trip.

For cat lovers, we also provide our Cat Gallery.
Posted By P.Brown at 9:36 PM
Friday, 2 June 2006
Carnival Bungles the PR Again
Cruise ships have not had things going their way in the marketing and public relations field recently. These same type of stories seem to happen over and over and yet most of the companies don't seem to "get" what they need to recover from a nightmare cruise and the damage it can do to their future bottom line.

The Daily Mail runs yet another story of a sick ship, this time Carnival's, Sea Princess, from the Princess Cruise line fleet. Over 200 passengers were infected with what is thought to have been the Norwalk Virus, a highly contagious virus that tends to spread rapidly in close spaces with many people such as cruise ships, airplanes and conventions.

Passengers were upset when the ship skipped a port, returned to the debarkation port 24 hours early, only offering passengers a 30% refund and a £150 per person voucher towards a future cruise with Princess. The problem with less than a full refund is that cruises can't really be divided up. You can't purchase a 1/3 of a cruise nor does the refund really replace what one has missed by getting less than what passengers bargained for, on top of getting sick.

As the passengers report, many were locked up in their cabins either from being segregated because of their illness or because they were trying to prevent catching the spreading illness. One passenger commented
"The ship became under-staffed. It was obvious crew members were sick. Our cabin steward was sick, the nurse admitted she was sick."

"It was quite obvious that they just couldn't cope with the situation at all and that's what forced them to make the decision to come back early."

Most troubling is the report that the ship's previous outing had resulted in the Norwalk Virus outbreak and yet no one boarding this itinenary was told about the previous problems. Instead it sounds like the Captain acted like it really was not big deal.
"The captain then told everyone. He said 'We tried to disinfect the ship in Southampton and obviously we didn't do a good enough job'. He said that over the Tannoy to all the passengers."

This shows the problem is directly related to previous conditions on the cruise ship. Cruise management failed to ensure the ship was disinfected sufficiently and took a bet when they loaded more passengers. Why did they do this? A simple answer: Money. Well, whoever made the bet lost it and it's time to pay the passengers with 100% refunds rather than ask them to be on the losing end of your management's decision.

I've had the same type of situation happen to me when catching a respritory virus on a ship that clearly was going around many passengers and crew members. I actually saw crew members being treated and was told by the doctor that a number had approximately the same compliants as myself. I also talked to a number of passengers who had been or were ill. In our case the hotel manager became irate when we suggested that approximately 1/3rd of the cruise passengers were ill with this respritory virus. He didn't make any attempt to compensate anyone (which wasn't our purpose, we felt he should know so that he could put extra disinfecting crews in place.)If the man had merely thanked us and taken action, we would have walked away satisfied. Instead he made some enemies amongst his own passengers!

A cruise is often a lovely but expensive vacation. For some it might even be a once in a lifetime vacation. Owners of these cruise lines (Such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean) cannot ask their paying passengers to put up with drunk captains, murders, missing persons, rapes, and sicknesses spreading throughout the ship and just chalk it up. The cruise lines have to be willing to protect their passengers by better investigation of their personnel, taking action immediately when something happens and even from time to time coughing up refunds when poor decisions effect their passengers. If this doesn't happen, the cruise industry will be in for a big slide.
Posted By P.Brown at 6:50 PM
Monday, 29 May 2006
Another Cruise Ship Passenger Overboard
Apparently this incident on Carnival's ship,Legend was a suicide and at least won't end in another mystery.
Passengers said they were told a father of a young child had argued with his wife in his cabin before jumping over a balcony.

A C-130 plane crew assisted with the search but after 12 hours the Coast Guard sent the ship back to New York, it's scheduled debarkation port

Posted By P.Brown at 9:46 AM
Wednesday, 17 May 2006
Another Missing Person for RCCL
Daniel Dipiero, of Augusto, Ohio, was reported missing around 11 a.m. Monday from the Mariner of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, according to Fox News on Tuesday, May 16, 2006.

One has to really wonder what is going on with passengers disappearing off cruise ships - or is it that we are just finally hearing about it. First we have George Smith disappearing from a Royal Caribben ship on his honeymoon, then a 15 year old girl provided alcohol from a Carnival ship and now Daniel Dipiero.

There's no question that Cruise lines better get this problem under control or their offers for dream vacations are going to be totally ignored as people realize that disppearing people are nightmares, not dreams.

In August 2005, Clint Van Zandt, former FBI Profiler told MSNBC
"The International Council of Cruise Lines told me that in the last year alone at least a dozen people have disappeared from cruise ships, most of whom remain unaccounted for."

That's just plain scary!

In 2005 MSNBC also reported the following mysterious disappearances
Virginian Amy Lynn Bradley was 23-years-old when she vanished from the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Rhapsody of the Seas in March 1998

22-year-old James Scavone who disappeared from a Carnival cruise ship in the Caribbean on July 5, 1999, exactly six years to the day before George Smith's disappearance.

An elderly couple disappeared from another Carnival Cruise ship, the Destiny, while enroute to Aruba in May 2005.

Annette Mizener disappeared from the Carnival Cruise ship Pride on December 4th, 2004 while enroute to Mexico with her daughter and parents.

If that's not enough missing people from cruise ships, Scared Monkeys reports on Jill Begora, a 59 year old Canadian, was reported missing from Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas in December 2005.

ABC reports on Merrian Carver, age 40, who disappeared on her Alaskan cruise in August 2004.
Posted By P.Brown at 8:41 AM
Tuesday, 9 May 2006
Carnival Cruiseline Deletes Aruba
From Amigo on Monday, May 8, 2006:
Carnival takes Aruba off their list of destinations

ARUBA  Cruise Company Carnival takes Aruba off her 7-day South Caribbean journeys. Curacao or Bonaire will not replace Aruba. Barbados is the most southern destination of the popular Carnival in the Caribbean.

Carnival Cruise Lines starts a new 7-day cruise with 5 destinations in January 2007. The ship Destiny that leaves from San Juan Puerto Rico currently stops in St. Lucia, Antigua, Dominica, Barbados and  back to the north  St. Thomas. Up till now, after leaving Puerto Rico, the ship calls on 4 islands, St. Thomas, Dominica, Barbados and Aruba.

Spokesperson Vance Gulliksen says that the decision to take Aruba off the list of destinations is to save on fuel costs, because the ABC-islands are quiet a bit more to the south and also because after five years, Carnival wants to renew this route. By not calling on Aruba, we can add two extra destinations and save on fuel.

Reasons of fuel savings or political fallout from the way the case of missing Alabama teen, Natalee Holloway was/was not"investigated" make no difference. The bottom line is that Aruba is about ready to see their "one happy little island's" economy take a landslide of mamoth proportions. And, this is not a decision that a cruise company would make lightly or overturn rapidly.

If Aruba was in big demand as a destination by passengers, the cruise ships would not delete them from the list, because if thats where people want to go, they would find a cruise company going there. One only has to look at places like Carnival's ship, Distiny has been running 4 intinaries to Aruba, one starting and ending in Aruba. Each ship carries approximately 2600 passengers. So this change will have a dramatic effect on the number of Americans visiting Aruba by cruise ship.

Seems as though the "one little happy island" is going to have to find a new way to boost their one little happy economy, of which tourism representing 70%. I guess that means more porn and drugs.

Posted By P.Brown at 10:35 AM
Thursday, 13 April 2006
Rebecca Middleton Murdered in Bermuda
Tonight for the first time we learned about
the case of Rebecca Middleton
, raped, tortured and murdered in Bermuda in 1996. Unfortunately, it has some eery reminders of the case of the missing American teen visiting Aruba, Natalee Holloway.

While the answers Becky parents finally received are totally heart breaking, ten years later, they did receive some answers. Answers which told them the guilty simply got away with murder.

Becky was staying with a friend on July 3, 1996. The girls went out with some boys the parents met, one of the boys was a son of a police chief. The girls ended up in a hotel room with boys, drinking. The girls attempted to get a taxi to pick them up, but when the cab didn't show up after a 30 minute wait; they fatefully each accepted a ride from boys on bikes rather than call Becky's friend's father since they were wanting to hide that they had been drinking.

Bermuda, like Aruba, has been a well known drug trafficking area. Like Aruba, Bermuda has "visiting" judges, judges from other areas that come to the island to ajudicate cases.

"The bungled investigation and prosecution were a slap in the face to the victim's family, which could do nothing but watch the travesty of justice unfold. One suspect walked free and another received a 5-year prison sentence for conspiracy to murder after the fact."
In Becky's case, her body was found early in the investigation. The murderers had placed her body on a road, hoping a car would run over it and her death would be considered an automobile accident.

"Her body was found on a quiet road at Ferry Reach in the early hours of July 3, and a 17-year-old Bermudian, Justis Raham Smith, has since been charged with her murder. Another man, 21-year-old Jamaican Kirk Orlando Mundy, has been charged as an accessory."

Yet, no one was ever charged with Becky's murder.
"Nobody was ever convicted of Becky's murder, though two men were arrested for it. One man was sentenced to five years imprisonment after pleading guilty to being an accessory after the fact. The Supreme Court dismissed charges against the other ruling there was insufficient evidence against him. The Privy Council later said that decision was 'astonishing.'"
And, as we see in the Natalee Holloway case, the character of the victim was assassnated as the criminal investigation began.
"During the Serious Crimes Commission, an investigation in into serious crimes in Bermuda--brought because of international furor over Becky's murder and the botched investigation--officials stated, under oath, that the only evidence that existed when charging decisions were made was the statement of Kirk Orlando Mundy that sex was consensual and 'the other guy did it'--certainly not an unusual claim for murder-rapists. Reliance upon Mundy's statement not only cast dispersion on Becky's character, but led to the collapse of the case."
Yet in a review of the case in March 2006 the reviewer stated:
"Becky's body was the best evidence of what happened to the child as she was raped, tortured, sodomized, and murdered, advocate LeYoni Junos, former director of Bermuda's Amnesty International, told an inquiry that investigated the appalling decisions that, one after another, led to both men who were charged escaping murder prosecution."
Indeed, it was previously claimed that there was no evidence showing the sex committed on Becky was not consensual. Yet as the reviewer found, someone beaten and stabbed probably hasn't consented to sex. The prosecution then gave immunity to the murder whose DNA later proved he indeed was involved with murdering Becky.
"In fact, the way the judicial system handled the investigation of the murder of Rebecca Middleton, Dr. Michael Baden said in 2005, was a travesty. 'It was unconscionable,' he said, '&a blot on the criminal justice system of Bermuda's tragedy and an outrage.'"

"Famed criminalist Dr. Henry Lee, who also testified in the trial, recommended more than a year ago that all evidence be retested using current trace examination and DNA techniques. The precedent for this was set last year in Bermuda by investigation activities in another murder trial--18 years after the killing. This evidence retesting resulted in DNA findings that brought about a conviction. That murder apparently was priority enough to require that evidence be re-evaluated, and a decision was made that 18 years was not too late."
Other Sources regarding Rebecca Middleton:
Carribeean Net News October 2003

Caribbean Net News August 2005

Bermuda - Infighting

CBC News Canada

Rebecca Middleton deserves justice.
Posted By P.Brown at 8:51 PM
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