Archive for October 2010

Come Sail Away

October 28, 2010

OK, one thing I’ve learned is that catching up from taking a week off work does not leave one much time to create a blog post about the week you took off.  That being said, here’s a summary of our cruise celebrating our 15th anniversary.

Ah, nothing like starting a vacation in the airport security line at 6am.

Arriving at the ship

After getting on the ship, we immediately had the first of many, many meals.

Gotta love the rows of carved fruit products.

K getting the spa tour, where they try to sell you many products that will "get rid of toxins" through your skin. Riiiight.

Our emergency drill rally point was located in the theater.  Not sure why it was held there, since I’m pretty sure if the boat were going down, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to cram 1000 screaming people into a theater before getting them to their life rafts.  But what do I know.

After the drill, it was time to head out.

On the way out to sea, we had to pass under the Sunshine Skyway bridge

At little too close for comfort.

Yup, that’s two feet of clearance.

The next morning (and every morning) we figured we’d better combat the 126,423 calories we were going to consume on this trip by doing some walking.

We ended up walking around the largest deck three times every morning, which totaled approximately 1.1 miles each morning. Hey, it was better than nothing.

Sunday was a day at sea, which meant we spent 50% of the day eating and 50% of the day lounging.

And you can't lounge around without a cabana girl to bring you drinks.

Of course, this can be tiring on the cabana girl. Napping to ocean sounds always helps.

Sunday was formal night at dinner. I call this picture "Man who is too cheap to pay $20 for one picture taken by the cruise line"

Monday was spent at port in Cozumel.  Most of our time was spent in the tourist-trap shops along the main street.  I love a town where you can have a Cartier shop right next to a guy selling $1 shell necklaces.

I guess this sign was phonetically correct if you were speaking with a Spanish accent.

I guess these two women in this next video had a little too much “fun” in Cozumel, since we had to wait for them to show up before pulling out of port.  Of course they had to endure the slings and arrows from several hundred of their fellow passengers who were watching them from the balconies.

Pulling out of Cozumel, we watched the harbor master guide our 18 gazillion ton ship with a small video game joystick.

I was fascinated by two things in this video.  First was the eddy whirlpools created by the ship as it pulled out.  Second was the small boat that pulled alongside so the harbor master could jump off our ship.  Glad he didn’t slip.

Tuesday was, without a doubt, our favorite day.  We were docked at the small town of Costa Maya, Mexico.  There’s not a lot in Costa Maya.  In fact, it’s really just a poor fishing town whose economy is propped up by the cruise industry.  But several industrious folks have opened private beach  resorts that cater to the cruise crowd.  I read some glowing reviews and signed up to spend the day at one of these beach resorts.

At first, I wasn’t sure I had made a good decision.

This was the "motor coach" that picked us up at the port.

Complete with rickety access stairs, with one broken railing.

The ride to the resort was, shall we say, interesting.  It was only a couple of miles away from the port.  But the last 2/3rds of the trip was on unpaved, several pot-holed roads.

But at least there was plenty to see and hear along the way.

Like the Tequila Museum.

And random dogs on the side of the road.

At least the music was good.

Or not.

But even amidst the random shacks and general squalor, it was good to know that we were never too far from civilization.

Yes, in the middle of nowhere Mexico. And even with Internet access.

So, we finally get to the beach resort.  By now we were a little concerned about our choice.

Until we saw this…

It was like our own little slice of Gilligan’s island.  But this version had satellite TV, fresh salsa and guacamole, handmade tortillas and tacos, and a wait staff that never let your drink run dry.

While you were sitting in your own private thatch-roof cabana.

Not bad at all.

Some of the native flora ...

... and fauna.

Snack time

A little walk down the beach

And a little lunch

Followed by a little nap

This was my favorite quote from K:

In case you couldn’t understand her, she said “Did you hear that? That was my standard of living going up.”

During the afternoon, my phone buzzed to remind me of a weekly meeting I was missing. Of course, I had to get a juxtapositional photo. Not to gloat or anything when I got back home. Not at all.

Our only bad view, sanitized for your protection

Wow, I need a palette cleanser after that last pic. Here's a much better one ... another shot of our private little oasis.

Overall, not a bad way to spend the day.

But all good things must come to an end.  While I think K might have been willing for us to quit our jobs and move to this beach permanently, we figured Nana might not appreciate that phone call.

“Hello, Nana?  It’s K.  We’ve decided to stay down here.  You can look after the kids for another, what, 13 years until they go off to college, OK?”

Heading back to the boat, K figured we needed at least one shot of me.

Another beautiful sunset

K working a knitting project on the balcony

I love these inserts they place (and replace every day) in the ship's elevator floors. Since you completely lose track of time, they have to remind you what day it is.

That night's dinner was lobster and shrimp. This is my second helping of both.

So we bade farewell to Mexico and headed for Tampa.  Of course that meant another entire day at sea on Wednesday.

Oh darn.

Wednesday morning, K just couldn’t sit still any longer and decided to get a little active.

She obviously missed the memo on the whole “do nothing involving physical exertion on the cruise” thing.

So she decided to strap on a helmet and harness and do this ...

She says the view was pretty good from 15 stories above the water.

After all that activity, it was obviously time to eat (again).  That night we celebrated our 15th anniversary at dinner.  Ironically, K forgot something completely “by accident” (or so she claims)…

After dinner we were serenaded by our wait staff.  Of course, this completely reminded me of the scene in A Christmas Story where the family goes out to Christmas dinner and is sung to by the wait staff.

The hardest working man in show business, our waiter, Bryan from the Philipines.

By Thursday morning, we had arrived back in Tampa.  We were assigned to disembark at 9:45, so we had another morning to take it easy a little.

And take advantage of one last breakfast buffet.


Last view of our ship

And the first view of our luggage before hitting customs.

Since we had a later flight out of Tampa, we took advantage of a great little company who set up shop right inside the door of the port.  They store your luggage for the day, provide discount tickets to local attractions, and discount travel to the airport.

Done and done.

So we parked our luggage and headed right next door to the Florida Aquarium.

I swear this turtle was mugging for the camera

Don't know if this is Flotsam or Jetsam

K, an Environmental Science major, was a little too excited about the Wetlands exhibit (when did we stop calling these swamps?)

She was also very excited to see this type of duck. I simply call every duck a Mallard.

Marine biologists around the world weep when people yell "Nemo! I found him!"

K gets up close and personal with an 800 lb Goliath Grouper

After a long day, we finally did make it home.  It was pretty late, but we were very glad to get this reception.

But they didn't make it home awake.

Overall, a wonder way to celebrate 15 years.




October 16, 2010

Well, as of next Thursday the 21st, K and I will be married 15 years. And while I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, I’m smart enough to know that I needed to do something special for our anniversary this year. So as I speak (type), we’re in the airport, headed to Tampa. From there, we’re going to get on a tiny little boat with several thousand of our closest friends.

And thanks to the magic of television, we’re now in the ship, waiting to depart. But don’t expect a slew of updates until next Thursday. I may know when to splurge on K. But paying international roaming rates to update a blog is just crazy.

So since I might not be able to post this week, I’ll leave you with my favorite quote from the FAQ sheet given to us when we got on the ship:

Q: What happens if I hang clothes on the fire sprinkler system?
A: The tip of the glass will break and the system will be activated, resulting in a spray of water, covering your entire room and all its contents.

Bon Voyage!

On our balcony, waiting to depart.

Columbus Day

October 13, 2010

OK, I’ve been neglecting the blog the past week.  Blame it on my preparations for our upcoming 5 day trip without the kids (more on that later).

On Monday, both the kids and I had the day off (sadly, K did not), so I was looking for a way to work off some of their excess energy spend some quality time with them.  I decided to run them out to a local farm that has a Fall Festival with lots of animal petting, apple eating, and bouncy house bouncing.

J and a baby donkey. Everybody say "Awwww"

This is as close as A would get to the pony.

Obviously I’ve watched too many Veggie Tales.

This goat is either pregnant or really needs P90X

This gibbon cracked us up, especially for the qualities it shared with A.

Since the kids get dropped off at school, I thought this might be the only chance to get their picture in a school bus.

Slides are always a hit

Look ma, no hands!

J exhibits his love of cleanliness by insisting that all the straw be removed from his feet before sliding.

And if you remember the incident at Disney world four years ago, you’ll understand why I say “Yea, no broken legs!” after every time he comes down a slide.

It's not a successful outing until J has a sweaty head.

After leaving the festival, I promised the kids McDonalds for lunch.  I plugged “McDonalds” into the GPS, and followed the directions straight to a vacant lot.

“You have arrived at your destination.”

Oh really?

Seems this McDonalds must have been the ONLY ONE IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD not to make money, so they tore it down.

But have no fear. Another one was only 0.1423 miles away.

Nana Vana

October 4, 2010

I always told myself I would never own a minivan.

I guess, technically, I still don’t.

But Nana does.

This bad boy is now in our garage.

The kids’ reaction when Nana and I got home from the car dealer.  I guess the ever-picky J had some worries that the new van wouldn’t live up to his strict olfactory requirements: