Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas - Hosting the Fourth
"Cruise To The Edge"

Background

Cruiser: David Presley, age 60. I've been on a bunch of other cruises: the Golden Princess on a 14-day voyage around the tip of South America in February 2015; the MSC Divina on the second "Cruise To The Edge" in April 2014; 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.    

After opting to sit-out the 2015 iteration, I returned to the premiere progressive rock cruise in 2017 - this time aboard Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas - sailing out of Port Tampa Bay on February 7. As with the three prior cruises, YES was our host band.

My journey eastward began late morning on Saturday, February 4 - my daughter took me to PDX where I boarded Southwest for a flight to St. Louis... where I connected to my final flight to Tampa that arrived at 9:15pm. Rented a car from Alamo, then drove about an hour north to the palatial Motel 6 in Spring Hill (across the street from the famed Weeki Wachee Springs). By Motel 6 standards it was actually pretty nice - obviously an old school motor inn that they'd purchased & lightly renovated. At any rate, I was hungry (my body was three hours behind local time), so after checking-in I tried to find some local food... but everything seemed to close at 11, so I had to backtrack about ten miles to get some grub. Crashed just a bit after midnight.

 

Sunday, February 5, 2017 - The Pre-Pre-Cruise Party On The Ranch

You might be wondering why I arrived in Tampa (our departure port) yet spent the night in Spring Hill. Simple: fellow-cruisers Bill & Devora Goldman were hosting an all-day cookout & music festival at their ranch - which made for a great, relaxed way to spend some quality time visiting with friends I've made on the past cruises, as well as listening to a sample of the Late Night Live passenger-performed songs that were to be performed during the cruise. And other non prog stuff too :)

BTW, I used to be a Floridian - just a scant seven years earlier - so you'd think I'd remember that despite warm days it still gets cool (COLD!) at night. Nope. At least I brought a sweatshirt, but it was no match with only a shortsleeve tee underneath. After about an hour trying to warm by the big, open fire I gave up - heading back to the motel at about 10pm.

 

Monday, February 6, 2017 - Tampa & The Pre-Cruise Party at Ferg's Live

I had toyed with visiting Weeki Wachee State Park for a few hours this morning - largely for nostalgia, as the parentals brought my brother & I there a couple of times on family vacation when we were very young - but instead opted to just chill in the room until I needed to be out (11am). It was a leisurely drive back down to Tampa (with one other senior moment to be had - traveling toll roads with almost no coinage... they were automated, and I came within just a nickel of having to dryve through the last one without paying); upon arrival, also for nostalgia I grabbed a fried chicken lunch at Church's (there are none anywhere near me in the Pacific Northwest), then was able to do a slightly early check-in at the nearby Rodeway Inn near Ybor City - after which I got a fitful nap before cleaning-up and heading over for the 5pm start of the official Pre-Cruise Party at Ferg's Live.

As I was set to play two songs this evening I went pretty easy on beer consumption (only two over the course of the entire evening) - and while they had full food service as well I had eaten like such a pig at the ranch the day before that I opted to skip any eats. Maybe nerves had a little to do with the loss of appetite too? The music began just after nightfall - starting off with John Wesley (of Porcupine Tree) then the music of John Lodge (of Moody Blues fame). Both played about 35-45min sets.

The night before the cruise everyone gathered at Ferg's Live in Downtown Tampa
Leading-off was John Wesley (from Porcupine Tree)...
...followed by John Lodge (of The Moody Blues)

Then it was time for yours truly to help kick-off the passenger-performed Late Night Live - in honor of the passing of both Keith Emerson & Greg Lake in the prior year we opened with 'Hoedown' (with Tim Palsson on bass & David Roth on drums), followed by 'Knife Edge' (with Ken Slater on bass, Mark DeGregory on drums, and Ed Mulhall on vocals). This format is both exhilarating & terrifying - you just get up and play with people you've never previously performed-with, on tunes you've only rehearsed on your own. And, in the case of the keyboardists, on equipment you've never played using patches (sounds) you haven't heard until you step onto the stage. Recipe for disaster, right? Surprisingly not... yeah, there are occasional (minor) train-wrecks, but some of the stuff is shockingly good. To that end, both of our songs were well received - but I was completely dismayed. The monitoring - as was problematic in past years - was non-existant this evening... I couldn't hear anything that my fingers were doing, and without that feedback ended-up just ad-libbing a bunch of stuff. Thankfully, with the drums and very loud bass nearby at least I knew I was on the beat... but, still... prog just isn't something that even the pros can carry-off if they can't hear themselves. Ahem.

Tim Palsson (bass), David Roth (drums), David Presley (keys) performing ELP's Hoedown at Ferg's Live

Turns-out the area - in downtown Tampa, near the port - has an 11pm music curfew during the week (WTF?!? lol) - so several songs friends were to play ended-up getting cut (to their dismay... which, sadly, set the tone for the entire cruise to follow). With the party quickly breaking-up, I volunteered to take Toby Krawitz and Jim & Cheryl Reynolds back to their hotel - where the four of us stayed-up until about 1:30 just shooting the breeze in the lobby. With a busy day ahead of us we finally acted sensibly & called it an evening - I decided to hit a Checker's Drive-In on the way back to the motel (remember, I hadn't eaten anything since early afternoon), polishing-it-off back at the room before turning-in.

 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017 - Embarkation & Sailaway

Since I wake too damned early on my own, I had some time to kill in my room before checking-out at about 9:45 - then driving a few miles to a well-stocked wine store to purchase two bottles (Royal Caribbean allows each passenger to bring-aboard two free of charge). From there I dropped my rent car at the Alamo satellite location on Kennedy Blvd (as were Rob Rutz & his family), then we all rode Alamo's shuttle bus to Cruise Terminal 3 at the Port of Tampa Bay to begin queuing-up and waiting to get aboard the ship. Along with about a thousand other folk lol...

Waiting to board Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas (late Tue morning) at Cruise Terminal 3 of the Port of Tampa Bay
My Blue-Group Lanyard

Considering the number of people it really didn't take THAT long to get checked-in and receive my lanyard (this cruise I was part of the Blue group - theatre shows have reserved seating for the main acts... in this case YES, Steve Hackett and Kansas... but as the theatre can only accommodate about half the passengers we're divided-up into two groups) - I was able to get aboard ship just after noon (we were each given a welcome-aboard glass of champagne), but as our cabins weren't ready until 1pm I headed topside for a bite of lunch with Joel & Carolyn Simches and several others. But, right at the top of the hour, the chime was heard and we all scurried to our respective rooms.

Ocean View Cabin #3590 aboard Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas
Ocean View Cabin #3590 aboard Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas

I lucked-out this cruise: I tend to book the cheapest interior cabin available (since I pay for two despite traveling as one) - but several months earlier the promoter contacted me and asked if I wished to upgrade to an ocean view cabin for no additional charge. Can you say, "Duh!"? lol Not only was Cabin #3590 really nice, it was wonderfully convenient to the most central bank of elevators aboard ship. Better to be lucky than good, I suppose!

Before departing I got a kick out of Steve Hackett & his wife sitting at the table next to mine during the mandatory Muster Drill. Then, I did a Facebook Live stream of Mike Portnoy & friends playing during sailaway - which lasted well over an hour (I forgot that due to the shape of Tampa Bay it takes a good while to get out of cell range) and resulted in very sore hands/arms from holding the phone still for that long! Not too long after that, it was time to see our host band - YES - performing for those of us with Blue lanyards...

The YES Blue Show on Cruise To The Edge 2017
Geoff Downes & Jon Davison - the YES Blue Show on Cruise To The Edge 2017
Geoff Downes - the YES Blue Show on Cruise To The Edge 2017
Alan White - the YES Blue Show on Cruise To The Edge 2017
Billy Sherwood - the YES Blue Show on Cruise To The Edge 2017
The YES Blue Show on Cruise To The Edge 2017
Geoff Downes & Jon Davison - the YES Blue Show on Cruise To The Edge 2017
The YES Blue Show on Cruise To The Edge 2017
Steve Howe - the YES Blue Show on Cruise To The Edge 2017

After the show I grabbed a quick bite to eat "at the trough", then caught a few songs by the Dave Kerzner Band (on the Pool Stage) before having to go aft to (again) kick-off the Late Night Live festivities. Which, by the way, saddened me - because just after midnight Dave et al were paying a special musical tribute to Greg Lake... my own obligations forced me to miss it :(

The Dave Kerzner Band on the Pool Stage

But, as it was, we did a nice version of ELP's 'Fanfare for the Common Man' - though, yet again, we couldn't hear ourselves (prompting Mark DeGregory - on drums - to say afterwards, "you know, if we keep doing this eventually I'm going to be able to hear your keyboards!").

One thing I vowed this time was to not kill myself by staying-up until dawn every night - to that end, I retired to my cabin just a little before 3am... with the Late Night Live folks still going strong!

 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017 - A Day At Sea

What a difference five-or-so hours of sleep makes - felt great as I began our first day at sea (definitely a new & different feeling while aboard a Cruise To The Edge)! After a bite of breakfast I went forward to the theatre to catch the Q&A with Kansas... along with several songs performed acoustically.

RCL Brilliance of the Seas

Not long thereafter, I headed aft to the Colony Club for a really wonderful performance by District 97 (for me, one of my Top 3 from the entire trip)! Definitely a fan of this band!!

District 97 in the Brilliance of the Seas Colony Club
District 97 in the Brilliance of the Seas Colony Club
District 97 in the Brilliance of the Seas Colony Club
District 97 in the Brilliance of the Seas Colony Club
District 97 in the Brilliance of the Seas Colony Club
District 97 in the Brilliance of the Seas Colony Club
District 97 in the Brilliance of the Seas Colony Club
District 97 in the Brilliance of the Seas Colony Club
District 97 in the Brilliance of the Seas Colony Club
Dennis Mahon sitting-in with District 97 to perform King Crimson's
Dennis Mahon sitting-in with District 97 to perform King Crimson's

Particularly poignant was their cover of King Crimson's 'Starless' - originally, John Wetton was to have performed it with them... but he passed after a long fight with cancer just one week prior to sailing. Standing-in for him was John's long-time friend and my fellow passenger/musician Dennis Mahon. A really special memory from this cruise.

As soon as District 97's show ended I quickly headed forward to the theatre for the Steve Hackett Band's Blue show - which, as I expected, was also in my own Top 3 for the cruise. When I see that Hackett is going to be aboard my attendance is pretty much a given..

The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
Mr. Hackett - The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
Rob Townsend, soloing with The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
Gary O'Toole, dapper drummer with The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
Gary O'Toole & Nick Beggs - The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
Nick Beggs - The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
Nick Beggs (pounding-out his frustrations?) with The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
Nick Beggs (pounding-out his frustrations?) with The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
Nick Beggs (pounding-out his frustrations?) with The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
Nad Sylvan, fronting The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
Roger King & Nad Sylvan - The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
Roger King & Nad Sylvan - The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
Roger King & Nad Sylvan - The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
Nad Sylvan, fronting The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
Steve Hackett - The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
Steve Hackett - The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
Gary O'Toole - The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
Rob Townsend & Roger King - The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
Rob Townsend - The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
Nick Beggs - The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
Nick Beggs - The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
Nick Beggs - The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
Steve Hackett - The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
Steve Hackett - The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
Roger King, Nad Sylvan & Steve Hackett - The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
Roger King, Nad Sylvan & Steve Hackett - The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
Roger King, Nad Sylvan & Steve Hackett - The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
Roger King, Nad Sylvan & Steve Hackett - The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
Roger King, Nad Sylvan & Steve Hackett - The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show
The Steve Hackett Band Blue Show

After grabbing a quick (VERY late) lunch at the trough, I went topside to see Bad Dreams on the Pool Stage - the first Latin American (Argentina) prog band to triumph outside the continent. They did NOT disappoint!

Bad Dreams on the Pool Stage
Bad Dreams on the Pool Stage
Bad Dreams on the Pool Stage
Bad Dreams on the Pool Stage
Bad Dreams on the Pool Stage
Bad Dreams on the Pool Stage
Bad Dreams on the Pool Stage
Bad Dreams on the Pool Stage
Bad Dreams on the Pool Stage
Bad Dreams on the Pool Stage
Bad Dreams on the Pool Stage
Bad Dreams on the Pool Stage
Bad Dreams on the Pool Stage
Steve Rothery (of Marillion) - sitting-in with Bad Dreams
Steve Rothery (of Marillion) - sitting-in with Bad Dreams
Steve Rothery (of Marillion) - sitting-in with Bad Dreams
Steve Rothery (of Marillion) - sitting-in with Bad Dreams

Not long thereafter it was time to go hear Patrick Moraz playing solo piano in The Centrum. As a lifelong pianist I was wowed. And then some. Yeah, he's THAT good!

Patrick Moraz in The Centrum
Patrick Moraz in The Centrum
Patrick Moraz in The Centrum
Patrick Moraz in The Centrum
Patrick Moraz in The Centrum
Patrick Moraz in The Centrum
Patrick Moraz in The Centrum

Still blown away, I quickly headed aft to the Colony Club - where The Fringe had just begun their evening performance (hopefully this gives you a flavor of this cruise - scheduling is bam-bam-bam, one right after the other)...

The Fringe in the Colony Club
The Fringe in the Colony Club

After concluding their set it was just a short time until Frost took the stage - glad I got a chance to hear them, but certainly wasn't wowed. Different strokes, I s'pose.

Frost, performing in The Colony Club
Frost, performing in The Colony Club

At that point I wandered-up for a very late dinner at "the trough" - then came back down to hear a couple hours-worth of passenger songs at Late Night Live (I wasn't slated to perform again until last song on the last night). And, as with the night before, I called it around 3... some continue to say you can sleep when you're dead, but there's only so much abuse I can inflict on my 60 year old body... which does not rebound nearly as well as did my 20 year old self!

 

Thursday, February 9, 2017 - Cozumel, Mexico

Welcome to Cozumel! Having been here more times than I can recall my plan was really simple: take my time getting off the ship (to avoid crowds), going ashore for a margarita & nachos mainly to glom-onto some free WiFi (as Royal Caribbean's rates are absurdly expensive). But, before debarking I spent not quite 90min practicing my final song to be played Friday night - to honor Keith Emerson's memory we wanted to do the live version of 'Take A Pebble' from the late '70s that segue'd into the entire First Movement of his Piano Concerto. In short, it's damned difficult - and after playing it pretty much daily for the prior couple of months this was the longest I'd gone without. With a few rough spots already creeping-in I was glad to have gotten the time (along with some really wonderful comments from crew and a few passengers who wandered-by).

At any rate, from the International Pie, Señor Frog's seemed to fit the bill quite nicely... though I will say that their internet was spotty at best (took nearly an hour to send a simple email to my daughter and read a couple of facebook posts). From there I wandered to a nice shaded area in the shopping area to enjoy a Cuban cigar - before getting back aboard ship. The crew laughed - saying I was a jaded about visiting here as them! lol

Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas - docked in Cozumel, Mexico
Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas - docked in Cozumel, Mexico
Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas - docked in Cozumel, Mexico

Generally, bands aren't scheduled while in port - to allow those wanting to do shore excursions to not miss anything - so it was still a couple of hours until I was able to hear Spock's Beard on the Pool Stage. Believe it or not, I'd never seen them live - it was really a treat (esp catching Ryo Okumoto on keyboards)...

Spock's Beard on the Pool Stage
Spock's Beard on the Pool Stage
Spock's Beard on the Pool Stage
Spock's Beard on the Pool Stage
Spock's Beard on the Pool Stage
Spock's Beard on the Pool Stage
Spock's Beard on the Pool Stage
Spock's Beard on the Pool Stage
Spock's Beard on the Pool Stage
Spock's Beard on the Pool Stage
Spock's Beard on the Pool Stage
Spock's Beard on the Pool Stage
Spock's Beard on the Pool Stage
Spock's Beard on the Pool Stage
Spock's Beard on the Pool Stage
Spock's Beard on the Pool Stage
Spock's Beard on the Pool Stage

Not long thereafter it was time for the Neal Morse Band to take the Pool Stage - playing as we motored away from Cozumel. Their set was really well received by fervent fans... but, for me, I was kind of lukewarm... again, different strokes - that's why they have a wide variety of bands aboard every sailing. Not every single one will enthrall every single passenger.

The Neal Morse Beard on the Pool Stage
The Neal Morse Beard on the Pool Stage
The Neal Morse Beard on the Pool Stage
The Neal Morse Beard on the Pool Stage
The Neal Morse Beard on the Pool Stage
The Neal Morse Beard on the Pool Stage
The Neal Morse Beard on the Pool Stage
The Neal Morse Beard on the Pool Stage
The Neal Morse Beard on the Pool Stage
The Neal Morse Beard on the Pool Stage
The Neal Morse Beard on the Pool Stage
The Neal Morse Beard on the Pool Stage

One thing I did really enjoy during their set was the spectacular sunset... when the clouds permit, sunsets at sea are pretty much always special :)

Sunsets at sea are always special... especially with live prog rock playing in background!
Sunsets at sea are always special... especially with live prog rock playing in background!

After dinner it was back down to The Colony Club to hear IO Earth - the only band other than (host band) YES to have been on all of the Cruise To The Edge sailings (I arrived a little late - which found me very far from the stage - the lack of photos wasn't due to lack of interest on my part... just poor seating).

IOEarth in The Colony Club

One band I promised myself that I'd sample - despite being completely disinterested after listening to a good bit of their stuff on YouTube prior to sailing - was Haken. Great musicians, but - much as I feel about Dream Theatre (a band I desperately WANT to like but just can't seem to) - they're just not my cup 'o tea. I left after about three songs.

Haken on the Pool Stage

Looking for something else happening, I walked down to The Centrum to catch most of the set by Alex Machacek - another top-notch, and wholly-unexpected surprise!

IOEarth Q&A in The Centrum

Then, to finish-off the evening I went back-down to The Colony Club for another round of Late Night Live - while the prior night saw (IMO) several train wrecks, this evening's songs went-off really quite well. I even stayed-up until almost 4 (indicative of the quality of music this night). That said, I've made no mention of playing solo piano in the After-After festivities that developed from the very first cruise. Just didn't want to stay up THAT late, making this the first cruise where I played absolutely no solo piano.

 

Friday, February 10, 2017 - A Final Day At Sea

The last full day of the cruise came far too quickly - started off with a tasty breakfast, then went to the theatre just as the YES Q&A was getting underway. No great revelations here - then again, there was nothing else happening aboard ship at that point, so...

The YES Q&A in The Theatre

After a sampling of his work at Ferg's Live before sailing, I enjoyed all of John Lodge's set on the Pool Stage.

John Lodge on the Pool Stage
John Lodge on the Pool Stage
John Lodge on the Pool Stage
John Lodge on the Pool Stage
John Lodge on the Pool Stage
John Lodge on the Pool Stage
John Lodge on the Pool Stage
John Lodge on the Pool Stage
John Lodge on the Pool Stage
John Lodge on the Pool Stage
John Lodge on the Pool Stage
John Lodge on the Pool Stage
John Lodge on the Pool Stage

Coming back inside, I was happy to find Electric Asturias (from Japan) just starting their set in The Centrum. It'd been a few years since I last heard them, and was happy for their return :)

Electric Asturias in The Centrum
Electric Asturias in The Centrum
Electric Asturias in The Centrum
Electric Asturias in The Centrum

Decided to stick-around after they concluded - since next in The Centrum was a Q&A with Focus. Even got a chance just before it got underway to chat briefly with Thijs van Leer (a real honor indeed)!

Focus Q&A in The Centrum

From there I was off to the Theatre - for the final reserved-seat performance of the 2017 Cruise To The Edge: the Kansas Blue Show. First time I'd seen them since the '80s - with only two of the original members I was, frankly, stunned with how accurately they reproduced their original sound! This show rounded-out my Top 3 :)

The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show
The Kansas Blue Show

Coming-out of this last biggie so juiced I just as quickly became crestfallen - after discovering that the end time for the final round of Late Night Live was very early. Early enough to scuttle the last half-dozen songs to be performed... including our Emerson tribute. On the one hand, I'm happy I was (finally) able to learn a piece I long considered above my ability to play; but, on the flipside, I was really disappointed that no one would get to hear it (and playing it on a future cruise wouldn't mean nearly as much, as this was specifically to honor the man that had died within the previous twelve months). Whatever... with this realization I went up to the 'trough' one last time for a late dinner (where I had a chance for a quick chat with Dave Manion, keyboardist for Kansas - who I swear I think I knew back in the very late '70s / early '80s... just can't figure out where) - then got an unexpectedly early night's sleep (as I had no real desire to go hear Mike Portnoy's concluding show pool side). For me, Cruise To The Edge 2017 ended with something of a whimper.

 

Saturday, February 11, 2017 - Debarkation & Return Home

As with every cruise, you wake to lights and racket from outside as the ship is now docked and stuff is being quickly offloaded. I had one last breakfast at the "trough", then returned to my cabin for my carry-on - then debarkation. Had a bit of a fright - I could easily have carried both bags off by myself, but thought I'd lazy it and let the porters do the big one for me on the prior night. Well, I get to my baggage station and it's not there - I get help from one of the nearby agents, and after about 20min she found it - completely across the baggage hall in a different section. Idiots. Moral to that story is to just do it all for myself next time!

Customs & Immigration was a piece of cake - lines weren't even too bad - after which I boarded one of the buses heading to the airport. Arrived in plenty of time to make my 12:45pm departure on Southwest - this time connecting through Las Vegas, where I (unfortunately) had an almost four-hour layover (and I don't gamble). Thank heaven for my iPad and free WiFi! In any event, we got back underway at 6:35pm, which found me landing on-time at PDX just before 9pm local time - and with Jordan unavailable, I just took a taxi home (arriving right at 10pm). Slept like a baby after the long day of travel.

Will I be back for CTTE 2018? Absolutely! Though with the Saturday cruise departure I don't think the Party on the Ranch is doable (as I've already allocated my limited number of vacation days elsewhere). But these are too much fun to miss - and with the deaths of several musicians near-and-dear to my heart I also realize there's not going to be too many more of these left - for any of us! And the memories... well, as they saying goes, they're pretty much priceless!

Cruise To The Edge 2017

   
 

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