Posts Tagged ‘cruise’

Traveling Got Me Thinking

Social media is a great thing.  We can reach out to people across town or across the world.  It’s an interesting avenue for information and the catalysts for much misinformation.

It’s true, Ray and I are fortunate enough to travel — some for his work and some just for fun.  And, it seems that much of our yearly travel is done toward the last part of the year and people think we travel all the time.  How do I know that?  I read it on Facebook. 🙂

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The first week of December, we took Tammy, my sister to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and it was fantastic.  If you ever get a chance to go, you have to do it.  We has mostly sunny skies all week with highs in the 80s.

This trip came just two months after I spent almost two weeks combined in San Francisco, California, and Anchorage, Alaska, tagging along with Ray on conferences he was attending.

I know some of my friends may never get to go on exotic vacations or even fun getaways and that’s a bummer.  Life is too short not to get to do exciting things.

My sister, who’s a server at a local restaurant, stuck to a budget to afford the trip.  And, contrary to misconceptions, I don’t get rich from my job as a morning meteorologist!

The secret to our traveling is an interest-free credit card for a year, so we’d buy our trips and pay on them for a year!

But, that’s not the point of this blog.  That was to clarify that while we travel a lot, we also live on budget like the next man and woman.

Last December, Tammy and Gretel went on an eastern Caribbean cruise with us.

It was amazing.  Both trips, the cruise and trip to Puerto Vallarta, were all inclusive (alcohol with the Mexican trip).  We ate and drank all that we wanted and definitely more than we should.

And, we took along $200 for additional tipping.  While it’s not required, what’s a few dollars for your server that keeps your table clean, the bartender filling your drinks, and the maid that makes your room spotless every day?

Here’s what I learned on those trips.  On the cruises, these hard-working people sign on to work these ships every day of the ten-month contract — every day!  (Now, I’m just speaking of this one cruise line that we were on and the employees we talked to.)

Ten months of being away from their families to earn whatever pay they make and to watch us — appearing like we have no worries in the world — eat and drink (and waste) like gluttonous fools.

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While in Mexico, we learned that the servers and bartenders work six twelve-hour days each week.  They come into work in the morning and take a break in the afternoon and then come back to work in the evening for a few more hours.

Honestly, I cannot image that.  I go into work and when my one shift is over, I’m ready to go home to relax and spend the rest of the day with my family.  During severe weather, I obviously have to work extra and go back in on my own time.

Again, I have friends that work multiple jobs and still can’t make ends meet and they can feel the pain I’m describing with the men and women who work on the cruise ships and resorts we visit.

In a perfect world, I wish we could all go on vacations and never have to struggle financially.

While that is a fantasy, I’ll strive to feel less guilty when I get to do these things and make sure that I tip generously when I’m at an all-inclusive resort or on a cruise ship to say an extra “thank you”.

And, when at home, I’ll continue making donations to local charities and do fundraisers to help others.

Reaching out to other and never taking anything for granted isn’t just for the holidays.  It’s my year-long goal.

Anthony

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Fortunate In 2014 & Looking Forward To 2015

Happy Holidays, my friends, it’s my favorite time of the year.  I love the sights and sounds, the music, and the fact that I get to catch up with my dear friends.

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I hope 2014 was a great year for you, but more importantly, I hope 2015 is even better.  May you be blessed with good health, good fortunes, love, and happiness!

It was a fun year for us.  I’ll get to that, but first let me update you on our lives.

I’m nearing the end of my two-year contract as the morning meteorologist for the CBS affiliate here in the Quad Cities.  While I love what I do, I’m not sure how much longer I want to get up at 1 a.m. for work five days a week.

Ray is still the Planning and Economic Development Director for the city of Moline.  He’s been there nine years and loves what he does.  But, were both eyeing his semi-retirement and Gretel’s high school graduation in five years to move to a warmer climate.

Yes, Gretel is now an eighth grader and a teenager!  She wants to be a movie director when she grows up.

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My sister, Tammy, is still living in the Quad Cities.  She’s been here for three years and while she’s happy, I can definitely see her return to Tennessee to be closer to her two granddaughters one day.

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It’s been almost three years since we lost Miss ABBA and we still don’t have a dog.  However, I hope that changes in the next year or two — if we travel less.  We did quite a bit of traveling this year.

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We got away to Las Vegas for a few days this summer and saw Olivia Newton-John and Shania Twain in concert.

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While there, we also saw two Cirque du Soleil shows, “The Beatles LOVE” and “Michael Jackson ONE”.  Both were simply amazing with the theatrics, the acrobatics, and, of course, the fantastic music.  I’d highly recommend seeing one of these shows when you’re in Vegas.

Other concerts we enjoyed this year were Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan in Clinton, Iowa

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Cher and Cyndi Lauper in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull in Chicago, Illinois

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We also saw my favorite ’80s band, Erasure, in Chicago, the next night!

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We spent a few days in Branson, Missouri, on a summer vacation trip for Gretel and her friends, Zoe, in June, and I accompanied Ray on a conference to beautiful Ottawa, Ontario, the capital of Canada, in September.  I got to sight see while he worked.

Ottawa

And, then in October, we went on the big vacation to celebrate my 50th birthday!

Yes, the big 5-0!  I’ve always wanted to go to Tel Aviv, Israel, and when we were booking the trip, it took us through Paris to sit at the airport for a few hours.  We thought, “why not stay a few days since we’re already going to be there?”  So, we cut Tel Aviv to four nights and stayed in Paris three nights.

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For my birthday, Ray bought a package deal that included a Seine River dinner cruise, a visit to the Eiffel Tower (the view from the top at night was incredible), and a cabaret show at the world-renowned “Moulin Rouge”.  Since we were on Paris time, I actally turned 50 sipping champagne as the show girls (and boys) performed at the “Moulin Rouge”!

Paris was incredible, but Tel Aviv, on the Mediterranean Sea, was so beautiful and the religious history surrounding the city was mind-blowing.

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Old Jaffa, just miles away, is more than 4,000 years old.

And, we had a yard sale this summer and started saving change and a few dollars to go on a holiday cruise to the eastern Caribbean in early December with Tammy and Gretel.

Eastern Caribbean

Needless to say, we didn’t buy many presents for each other this Christmas.  The trip was the present.

It been an enjoyable year and we’re definitely looking forward to see what 2015 brings!

As you start to take down the holiday decorations and winter sets in, I hope that you’re looking to the new year for bright new adventures, good health, and much happiness.

“May hope and faith conquer fear and hate” in 2015.

Anthony

 

 

 

 

Our Pre-Christmas Caribbean Cruise

Happy New Year’s Eve to you.  I’m so ready for 2012 to end and I’m excited about the new adventures that lie ahead for me and for all of my friends in 2013.  It’s also hard to believe that one of the biggest adventures of my life ended one week ago today and I’m just now posting a blog and photos about it.  Yes, I’m talking about our western Caribbean per-Christmas cruise.

After booking the cruise in May 2012, it finally arrived seven months later with us heading off to Chicago December 18th to start our journey.  In Chicago, we met up with Ray’s sister, Cindy, and his aunt and uncle, Virginia & Joe, for an evening of conversation, Mexican food, and margaritas.

 

Last Wednesday, Uncle Joe dropped us off at Midway and Betty (Mom) flew in from Cleveland to fly down to New Orleans on the same flight with us.  While sitting at the airport, Gretel entertained herself by drawing each of us on her Kindle.  This is me.

Anthony Art by Gretel

As we arrived in New Orleans Wednesday (12/19), you were bracing for a blizzard back home and we headed out to the French Quarter with temperatures in the 70s for tasty sandwiches at a funky little place called Jimmy J’s Cafe.  We then walked down Bourbon Street, along the Mississippi River, and to the Christmas display at Harrah’s casino.  That evening we also met a dear college friend of mine, Crystal, and her husband, Ants, for beignets at Cafe Du Monde.

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While shopping in New Orleans, Gretel bought herself a hoodie sweatshirt and a mask and Ray bought an old man hat (don’t tell him I said this) as a souvenir.

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On the afternoon of Thursday, December 20th, we were ready to leave New Orleans after having a yummy muffuletta for lunch and set sail from the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico to the western Caribbean Sea to Cozumel, Mexico, on Saturday, and then turn around to return back to New Orleans on Christmas Eve.

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Within minutes of leaving the Port of New Orleans, we were on one of the top decks of the ship for Gretel to act out “King of the World” from “Titanic”.

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And, then it happened.  No, Gretel wasn’t hurt!  As we were walking on the deck, the wind caught Ray’s hat and off into the air it went.  As it dropped toward the back of the ship, it appeared that we lucked out and it would land on the deck below.  As I started off toward the stairs to retrieve it, it hit the rail and became one more piece of matter to decompose in the Mississippi River.  We sadly watched it disappear at 20 miles-per-hour.

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This picture was taken moments later.  Without a hat, Ray still managed a smile.  In all honesty, as ugly as I thought it was, I was sorry that Ray lost his hat!

We were at sea all day Friday and the one thing that blew us all away was how the water changed from murky and muddy on the Mississippi to crystal clear, blue water at 6,000+ feet deep in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.

One thing that was very obvious about going on a cruise is that you never go hungry.  You can get pizza, ice cream, and room service 24 hours a day and there were breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night buffets, along with formal dining each night.

While it was nice to sample many things, one thing that saddened me about the cruise was not so much the amount of gluttony that took place, but the amount of food that people took or ordered and wasted.  This just blew my mind.  People wasting food has always been a pet peeve of mine and I tried not to let it bother me, but it was hard to ignore.  Don’t get me wrong.  I ate plenty on the cruise, but I never wasted anything and I ate everything on my plate.

Here are some of my favorites:  alligator, lobster, sushi, Caribbean jerk chicken, Wisconsin cheese stuffed tomatoes, cold mango soup, warm chocolate cake, cherries jubilee, and bitter/sweet bread pudding, and Tiramisu.

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On Friday night, it was the Captain’s Dinner.  That was the one night that it was highly recommended that you really dress up.  And, I think that my cruise mates and I pulled it by looking stunning and dashing.

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On Saturday, we arrived in Cozumel, Mexico, for our seven hours on land.  While there, we shopped and went to a beach.

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This was the view as we left Cozumel and our Mexican sunset.

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After that, we were back on the ship and we spent much of Sunday at the pool and I even went down the big slide into the saltwater pool with Gretel.

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And, Gretel and I tried to be very Gaga on the cruise.

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And, Miss ABBA got to “enjoy” the ocean, too. 🙂

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We didn’t have any trouble going through customs getting off the ship Christmas Eve morning and both flights and the three-hour drive home was uneventful, i.e. no delays.

This first two shots are of our plane descending into Chicago through the clouds.  While both are cool shots, it looks a little freaky.

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Overall, we all had a good time.  One thing that we didn’t account for was pairing two women, Tammy and Betty, in the same room.  Both have lived alone for many years and they didn’t exactly room together perfectly and butted heads a few times.  It reached a climax Sunday morning.  After a heart-to-heart talk with each one of them, the rest of the cruise and the vacation went off without a hitch.

Tammy and Gretel both experienced seasickness the second day of the trip, but after a Dramamine, they were okay.  Gretel was also fighting off a cold she caught from her mother before the trip.

Another thing that caught us by surprise on the cruise is that Gretel did not want to participate in any of the Camp Carnival events geared toward kids on board.  So, while they had many things to do, she wanted to hang around the adults, which prevented the grown-ups from checking out the clubs and casino each night.  However, Tammy did do some nighttime activities on her own and Betty hit the casino several times.  Ray and I did stop by the casino and we ended up losing only about $8, but we got to play for a bit.

Overall, we all had a good time on the cruise.  However, if I do another cruise or a major vacation, it will be just me and Ray.  We travel well together and you’re not trying to please everyone and play peacemaker.

A final note about the cruise is something that I found very disheartening.  While the cruise was reasonably priced, I found out that the reason is that Carnival pays their employees very little money (maybe as little as $74/month) and they rely heavily on tips.  They work for almost eight months straight and then get two months off to go back to their home country.  In addition to working seven days a week and months on end, they work multiple shifts in a 24-hour period.

So, my plea to anyone taking a cruise, please make sure you tip your servers and stewards very well before you leave the ship.

I’ll be posting all of the cruise pictures on my Facebook page tomorrow.

Anthony