Thursday July 19th There`s not a lot to report for today which is a “Day at Sea” and sadly our last night aboard the “Magic” for this cruise. I granted myself had a bit of a lie in this morning [8.00 am] and my DW told me that it had been thundering and lightening during most of the night although I was oblivious to this! The day was mainly spent dodging the drizzle that came and went on the open decks, and for a bit of respite from the inclement weather I attended a towel folding demo. given by one of the Stateroom Hosts in Rockin Bar D. We practiced the techniques during the demo. and we were all given a drawing which gave step by step instructions of the art, so watch out if any of you are our house guests in future! The rest of the day was spent touring the ship, doing some last minute shopping and packing our cases which had to be left outside our stateroom by 10.30 pm this evening. It was while we were doing this that there came another knock on the door. This time it was another crew member bearing a gift….a plate of cookies this time, and I`m still none the wiser as to who sent them! Dinner tonight was in Animator`s Palate and it was Gabi`s birthday which we, along with several servers celebrated with a cake and a round of “Happy Birthday to You etc.etc”. It was also the night when the servers and stateroom host were given their envelopes which contained their tips for taking such good care of us throughout the cruise. This time DCL had included the tips on our account and we were still given the tear off strips of paper and envelopes which we presented to all concerned for that personal touch. This is a good idea IMHO as it saves the hassle of having to sort this issue out at Guest Services which used to be the normal method. We actually came away from the restaurant with another birthday cake as it was Tim`s birthday in a couple of days time and we had decided to celebrate the occasion like we did on a previous cruise. Tim was again taken by surprise that we had remembered his birthday and was delighted to receive our cards although we told him that he couldn`t open them until the appointed day. At one stage we felt a huge “thud”, and as Sessions is at the bow of the ship, it was obvious that we had hit something big and we all looked at one another with apprehension written in our eyes. I only hope that it was just some driftwood and not a large marine creature but I will sadly never know what caused it. Sessions stayed open way past its regular closing time this evening as Tim extended his stint to entertain us all, so it was after 1.00 am before we finally returned to our staterooms after bidding Tim and the bar staff “Au revoir”, telling them that [in the words of Arnie] “We`ll be back”! Our final towel animal was awaiting us. Friday July 20th Several of the crew members and officers had told us throughout the cruise that we should make the effort to be on deck for the return into New York in order to see the illuminated Manhatten skyline and Statue of Liberty as we were due to dock shortly after 5.30 am. On this basis, I was on deck 10 with my camera at 4.30 am, having had only 2 or 3 hours sleep! I was amazed at how many other early risers were already on deck to take in the view but sadly it was quite windy and [darn it] raining! Not wanting to miss the spectacle though, I donned a towel over my head [as did several others] and walked around deck 10 like a boxer who was about to enter the ring! I was rewarded with a truly great view of New York although the wind prevented me taking many decent photos as it was hard to steady the camera for the long exposures necessary, and there were not many surfaces onto which to rest the camera while taking the shots. Nevertheless some did come out ok, and at least I have the memories in my head anyhow. Breakfast was at Animator`s Palate from an a la carte menu, served by our servers who had been with us for the duration of the cruise. One poignant moment occurred when several folks on a nearby table began a rendition of “When You Wish Upon a Star” which was a real tearjerker at the time! After hugs and kisses to and from our dining partners and servers, our party left the ship at around 9.00 am, and we were among the last to leave. Our luggage was waiting for us in the arrivals hall and I commandeered a porter to give us assistance. This was a great move because the porter was able to take us through Customs & Immigration without us having to stand in line. He took us to where the taxi stand was located where we waited for well over one hour before our number was called for a cab. [On arrival at the stand we were given a numbered ticket.] Before we left I took one last shop of the "Magic" which was awaiting its next batch of lucky passengers who were bound for the Caribbean. We made the short journey back to Le Parker Meridien Hotel where we were reunited with our luggage that we had left when we last checked out before the cruise. This time we were given a room on the 27th floor of the hotel which gave us a much nicer view of Central Park, the upper floors being accessed by a separate “warp speed” elevator! On meeting up in the lobby we were joined by Dani`s boyfriend [Cooper] who was in New York for a few days visiting his brother who lives there. Cooper and his Dad had just returned from Spain where Cooper had been to a music college for a while. The hotel houses what is reputed to be the best hamburger outlet in New York and it sure is a strange set up. The burger diner is in the hotels` foyer but hidden behind curtains and is very small, hence the long lines that form outside at busy periods. Once inside you are greeted with a fairly “shabby” set up, with only a few tables and graffiti on all of the walls and you place your order at a small counter where a “Cash only” sign is displayed in big letters! We gave it a try for lunch on this occasion and we were very lucky to find a table for all 6 of us. The burger was fine to me, although Doug did say that they were nothing special so the hotel has done a great job with the hype! Lunch over, and much to my DW and Michelle`s dismay , we then caught the subway heading to Greenwich Village where we were to meet up with Coopers Dad. It was still raining but luckily the hotel provided us with umbrellas which we gladly accepted. At one stage we sheltered from the rain at a diner for a coffee along with a sandwich for my DW as she doesn`t “do” burgers! Doug took us to an amazing store called REI which is located in an old printing works and some of the machinery and other artefacts are still in situe as a feature. Here I bought a lightweight rainproof jacket which was on sale and Michelle also splashed out and purchased a raincoat, the first one that she had ever owned! The store is an attraction in itself and sells everything you could possibly need for any outdoor pursuit, canoes, bicycles, walking boots and other such goods were in abundance. We then met up with Coopers Dad and his sister and we went for a walk through NOHO and Greenwich Village. I got along well with Coopers Dad who had spent quite some time in the 60`s when he was in a band, and he pointed out several of the clubs where they had played as we walked along the streets of Greenwich Vliiage. He had booked a table at a very nice restaurant called Bilagio where we all enjoyed an Italian dinner, before we bade our farewell to Cooper and his Dad and made our way back to the hotel via a cab at around 8.00 am totally exhausted after what had been a very long day for me.