MSC Divina - Hosting the Second
"Cruise To The Edge"

Background

Cruiser: David Presley, age 57. I've been on a bunch of other cruises: the Norwegian Pearl on a 14-day Panama Canal Transit in October 2013; the MSC Poesia on the inaugural "Cruise To The Edge" in March 2013; the Norwegian Epic on a 14-day Transatlantic Crossing in October 2012; the Sapphire Princess for a trip to Alaska in June 2007; Holland America's Zuiderdam on a 7-day Eastern Caribbean route in May, 2005; Premier's Seabreeze on a 7-day Western Caribbean route in February 2000; the Big Red Boat on a short jaunt over to Nassau in October 1999; the Dawn Princess on a 7-day Southern Caribbean route in November 1998; Carnival’s Jubilee on the 7-day Pacific coast swing in April 1997; Carnival’s Ecstasy on a 3-night New Year’s Bahamas cruise in December 1995; the Big Red Boat again in August 1994 (in conjunction with a Walt Disney World vacation); and a 4-night Bahamas cruise as a High School Graduation present back in May 1974.  

My journey eastward began early-evening on Sunday, April 6 - when I was picked-up by Prime Time Shuttle for the ride to LAX; an uneventful (but rather turbulent) redeye aboard Virgin America landed on time at 5:45am... whereupon I just hung around FLL until about 10 - when it was time to catch a GO! Shuttle down to the Port of Miami - and beginning the second "Cruise To The Edge".

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Monday, April 7, 2014 - Embarkation & Sailaway

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Our ship for the 2014 Cruise To The Edge:
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After a relatively quick & painless check-in and boarding I made way to Cabin 8171 to drop-off my carry-ons, then headed topside for a quick bite of lunch (having eaten nothing since departing LAX the previous night). By the time I finished, Heavy Mellow was playing in the Fifth Level Atrium area - and upon returning to my cabin my checked bag had arrived. Started to unpack but quickly decided that an afternoon recharge nap was in order (upon waking I got everything put-away then went back up topside just in time for SAGA to kick-off the 5:30-6:45 sailaway party.

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One scheduling disappointment (the first of many over the voyage) happened when passengers holding blue laminates needed to go to the Pantheon Theatre for Steve Hackett's 6:45-8:00 show (thereby missing our departure from Miami). Hopefully, my pix (above) help them with what they missed during that time.

I missed the 7:30-8:45 Black & White Lounge performance by The Pineapple Thief - so I could have dinner - but did make it to the Pool Stage for the 9:15-10:30 show by Lifesigns (featuring my long-time facebook friend John Young). They were amazing... truly one of the unexpected highlights of the trip!

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Spawned from nightly gatherings around a grand piano on last year's inaugural voyage, this voyage saw a formal "After Hours Electric Prog Jam" tried-out - where musicians (such as myself) pre-planned & rehearsed songs to be performed nightly. The original planning had it starting 30min after the last professional act of the day finished... however, once aboard, we were told it would shutdown at 3am sharp - which necessitated starting by 11 every night. Which meant missing most-to-all of the evening acts if you'd committed to play in the thing. Scheduling SNAFU supreme!

Therefore, on this first night, I skipped the 10:15-11:30 Pantheon Theatre show by PFM; the conflicting (yet another problem - too much stuff overlapping or scheduled simultaneously) 10:15-11:45 Black & White Lounge show by Stick Men; and the 10:45-11:30 Golden Jazz Bar show by Strawbs.- so I could open the first night with a rendition of ELP's 'Fanfare For The Common Man' (which I won't share publicly, as I was beset by synth sound issues through most of the performance). I stayed until just before the 3am conclusion - at which time I returned to my cabin & have no recollection of falling asleep. I was exhausted.

 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - A Day at Sea

Nice thing about interior cabins is that they stay dark 24/7... meaning I was able to sleep quite soundly til about 9:30. Shortly after waking I wandered topside for a bite of breakfast at "The Trough"; afterwards, I returned to my cabin to freshen-up then attend the 11:00-12:00 presentation by Armando Gallo in the Golden Jazz Bar. Mr. Gallo is a Photographer-Journalist spearheading development of an interactive book/app for the iPad based upon his book "Genesis I Know What I Like". It looked amazing - I will be one of the first to buy it once it's become available!

Once finished, I headed back up to the Pool Stage for the 12:00-1:00 performance by Presto Ballet (featuring another long-time facebook friend Kerry Shacklett) - but, in an eeiry sense of déjà vu (from the prior year) found it to be indefinitely delayed by inclement weather (not so much rain but very high winds endangering the structural integrity of the stage itself). I returned to my cabin after hearing the show was canceled - but, in yet another communication snafu (a common complaint for the entire sailing), it was actually only posponed for about an hour. Bummer... REALLY wanted to hear & photograph them outdoors! :(

I briefly toyed with showing-up at the 1:00-3:00 Black Crab Meet 'n Greet with SAGA, Queensryche, Moon Safari, PFM, Pamela Moore, IOEarth & Soft Machine - or the 1:15-2:15 Black & White Lounge show by Lifesigns - or the 1:30-2:30 show by Patrick Moraz at the Pool Stage (which I assumed, correctly, had been either delayed or canceled on account of weather)... but, instead, queued-up for the 2:15-3:30 Pantheon Theatre performance by Renaissance (one of the main reasons I wanted to be on this sailing).

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Upon exiting the theatre we discovered that it was storming outside; soon thereafter we got the not-so-unexpected news that we would be skipping our planned stop in Roatan, Honduras - instead sailing to Cozumel, where we would spend two days (interestingly, an overnight there allowed something I'd never previously seen on a cruise ship: the option of taking a shore excursion to Chichen Itza... normally not doable because the ship would've departed before passengers could return). This worked for me :)

After a late bite of lunch I caught the very tail-end of the Prog Rock Orchestra's 3:45-4:45 gig in the Golden Jazz Bar - then made way for the planned 5:15-6:00 Pat Moraz Storyteller in the Black & White... but after technical problems found it still not going some 40min after the planned start I left and went back to the Golden for the 6:30-7:30 show by Three Friends (performing the music of Gentle Giant). It was spectacular (although the room was too small them) - another high-point of the week!

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Afterwards, in full Pirate regalia (it was the theme of the night) I joined my friends MaryAnn & Hamish for an actual dinner in the dining room!

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After our leisurely meal (which included a shockingly well-prepared - at least by cruise ship dining room standards I've become accustomed-to - lobster in drawn butter entree), we attended the 9:15-10:00 Renaissance Storyteller in the Atrium. I then made the decision to skip the 10:30pm Pantheon Theatre performance by YES (as I'd scored Orchestra Pit seats just prior to departing on Cruise To The Edge for their final 2014 US tour show here in LA) so I could attend the Eddie Jobson & John Wetton UK Storyteller also held in the Atrium (highlighted by another acoustic performance of 'Rendezvous 602').

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After popping-down to LaLuna to kick-off Night #2 of the After Hours Jam (with ELP's 'Pirates' - re-emphasizing the theme of the night - but where I was again beset with synth problems), I did manage to catch most of the 11:15-12:30 IOEarth show at the Pool Stage (my favorite 'surprise' band from last year's sailing).

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Afterwards, I returned to LaLuna for the conclusion of the After Hours Jam - which was followed-up by a very late night session around a nearby grand piano (think I got to be just after 5am this night). Here's my friend Toby carrying the acoustic musical torch with some Genesis - and Nad Sylvan (singer for Steve Hackett) trying-out the CTTE commemorative guitar...

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - Cozumel, Mexico

With the very late beddy-bye I slept til just after 11... after quickly getting dressed I grabbed my cameras and went topside for the 11:30 start of the Sound of Contact show at the Pool Stage (noting that we were now docked at the Punta Lagosta Pier in downtown San Miguel).

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And, yes - while I'm quite sure he's sick of the comparisons - Simon Collins both looks & sounds like his Dad from thirty years ago. It's rather startling.

At this point I had to get some food in me... so after visiting the Trough for a bite of lunch - followed by a quick trip to the cabin to freshen-up a little more thoroughly - I returned to the Pool Stage area for the 4:30-5:45 show by Three Friends.

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Should've worn sunscreen for this one since, afterwards, I saw that I was a nice lobstery red color! :/ From there I went to the Black & White and waited for the scheduled Eddie Jobson Master Class - only to hear almost an hour later that it cancelled (nice of the CTTE staff to not bother telling the 40-50 people who had gathered).

Missed the 8:00-9:30 Tangerine Dream performance at the Pool Stage (can't remember why as I write this... maybe for a sit down dinner?). I did go to LaLuna to hear the opening number of tonight's jam - but because I wasn't scheduled to play, it was my only visit there this evening (so, of course, I later find-out that members of Yes & Steve Hackett both attended & performed - exact same tale as last year! lol).

then first third of 10:30-12:00 Prog Rock Orchestra in Golden Jazz Bar before heading aft to catch Presto Ballet's gig in the Black & White.

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With great seats - and a desire to see/hear them - we stayed-put for the 11:00-12:15 show by Electric Asturias. Another great prog band - hailing from Japan!

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With a morning of planned shopping then another late night of music I called it fairly early on this night.

   
 

Thursday, April 10, 2014 - Cozumel, Mexico

After a relatively light breakfast, I debarked the Divina with my friends MaryAnn & Jean for a few hours-worth of shopping / eating / drinking. First stop (for the ladies) was the exceptional Sergio's Silver (where Jean was able to match a piece she'd been trying to find for, literally, years); then we walked to Covi Liquors (best prices on the island for premium tequilas - in large part because it's out of the tourist zone); then back towards the waterfront to Havana Bob's (purely for looking, as I'm not legally permitted to either buy or smoke any of their products lol); and finally the adjacent Wet Wendy's (for large & tasty margaritas plus some Mexican food for the ladies). It was fun when the members of IOEarth appeared not long after us, and convinced management to play one of their CDs while there. It was also an uncharacteristically quiet day in downtown San Miguel - can't remember ever seeing it so quiet. It was nice :)

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We wandered the town for awhile - causing me to miss the 2:00-4:00 Black & White Lounge Meet 'n Greet with Pat Moraz, Electric Asturias, Stick Men, UK, Strawbs, Sound of Contact, Renaissance, and Lifesigns. I did have time to grab a quick shower, change, then make the 4:30-6:00 PINK Laminate performance by Steve Hackett in the Pantheon Theatre (joined for this final show by John Wetton on 'Firth of Fifth' and a finale jam of 'All Along The Watchtower' with John Wetton & Chris Squire... it was magical!).

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Upon exiting the Pantheon Theatre I made haste up to the Pool Stage - where PFM had already begun their 6:00-7:15 Cozumel Sailaway set (and, yes, the sunset was even more lovely than in the photos).

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Looking-back at the schedule, for some reason I missed both the 8:30-9:45 Renaissance Pool Stage performance (which I later heard was not stellar) & the 8:45-10:00 Strawbs gig in the Black & White... I also surrendered my PINK laminate for the 10:30-12:00 Marillion show in the Pantheon Theatre (a trade so I could see the BLUE Laminate UK show tomorrow, as I missed their first one) - because I was opening tonight's After Hours Jam with 'Tarkus' in its entirety (unlike the first two snafus, this one came-off not that bad... you can find YouTube links here and here). Made this one another very late night... eventually crashing about 4am.

 

Friday, April 11, 2014 - A Last Day at Sea

There was a 10:30-12:30 Meet & Greet in the Black Crab with Steve Hackett, Renaissance, The Pineapple Thief, and Scale the Summit... but, as seemed the pattern for me on this cruise, I skipped it in favor of sleeping-in and then having a leisurely breakfast.

I did catch a little of the 11:00-12:00 Marillion Storyteller (at the Pool Stage - although since I know so very little about the band didn't really understand either the questions or answers... or even who was giving the answers) but skipped the similar YES Storyteller session scheduled directly thereafter. I did venture down to the Pantheon Theatre for the (scheduled) 1:00-2:30 show by Sound of Contact - but it was delayed well over an hour because crew forgot to advance their clocks by an hour last night before going to bed... ahem... that screw-up cascaded throughout schedules for the remainder of the day. Their show eventually ran from about 2:15-3:30 (and rather than repeat my rather lengthy set of photos from SoC's Pool Stage set I'll simply include where "Uncle Steve" lended a hand towards the end).

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The BLUE Laminate UK show was consequently delayed from the planned 4:00-5:15 run to roughly 4:45-6:00 (causing me to miss my last opportunity to see Strawbs in the Golden Jazz Bar from 5:00-6:00) - and there are no photos to display as photography was expressly forbidden (with VERY zealous security personnel roaming the theatre forcing people attempting to violate the rule to surrender their cameras... not sure why the band is so militant). Afterwards I swapped-back laminates (so my new friend from Minnesota could make his BLUE Laminate Marillion show that evening).

Also saw my last opportunity to catch Pat Moraz (from 7:00-815 in the Black & White) and Tangerine Dream (from 7:30-8:45 in the Pantheon Theatre) both fritter-away so I could quickly grab dinner, pack, then go do one last song in the 8:00-12:00 final After Hours Jam. From there I attended a twice-rescheduled Zealot's Lounge get-together with Eddie Jobson... gotta say it was really cool getting to know him a bit one-on-one... and upon conclusion we all headed back-down to LaLuna for the After Hours Jam After Party - which continued well past 4am (after some final solo grand piano work I adjourned then so I could get about 90min of shut-eye before an absurdly early wake-up to be one of the first to debark the Divina). During this time I really enjoyed chatting (for nearly an hour) with Geoff Downes' current and Keith Emerson's former keyboard tech Will Alexander (hoping he'll keep in touch, but as he's yet to approve my facebook friend request I'm dubious).

 

Saturday, April 12, 2014 - Debarkation & Return Home to Los Angeles

Yes, after not even two hours of sleep the alarm jolted me quickly awake. I had allowed just enough time to dress, brush my teeth, then get down to the Piazza del Doge - where I was in the first (6:15am) group scheduled to debark. Unlike last year's getting-off-the-ship mayhem, this self-assisted walk-off couldn't have been easier - finding my posterior comfortably seated in the FLL shuttle bus by about 7:30 (with no worries that we didn't leave for nearly an hour, as my flight didn't depart until noon).

Anyway, once back at FLL I hung-out with my friend Mark (whose flight didn't depart til 6 - so he had a LOOOOOONG day ahead of him!) until about 11. Then, after an uncharacteristically easy traverse through TSA had uneventful Southwest flights connecting through LAS into BUR... landing at 4:30pm local time... with my daughter picking-me-up for the 15min ride back to my house. The second Cruise To The Edge was now history... as I type this, I'm once again eagerly awaiting the next onel!

   
 

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