Jan 2019 – Back to Back Cruising

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Paradise Island – Overnight Nassau

 

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Carnival Victory docked at Key West, FL

 

My family and I just came returned from a “Back to Back” or B2B cruise. You might ask, what’s that? Well, it’s where you take at least two cruises back to back. For example, we cruised 4-7 Jan 2019 on the Carnival Victory out of Miami to Overnight Nassau. Then we stayed on the same ship, same cabins (you have to ask for this!), and cruised 7-11 Jan 2019 on the Carnival Victory to Key West and Cozumel. Because we had the same room, there was no need to pack our suitcases. In between cruises, we had a leisurely day eating breakfast, waiting for all to exit ship, and then we got priority “boarding” for our second cruise. We only had to exit to show our passports to customs, re-board and receive our new sign and sail cards. The process was easy.  Note: Each cruise is separate so you do need to settle each cruise account separately.

So, we talked about B2B cruises and if we would do this again. Let me share the pros and cons with you while it’s fresh in my mind:

Pros:

  • The transition between cruises was nice. Knowing in advance what is going to happen will help facilitate the transfer. Carnival sent us a letter on the last night of the first cruise explaining the process in detail.
  • We were treated like special guests because we did the B2B cruises. On the 2nd cruise, we found a bottle of champagne in our rooms with a note from the Maitre D.
  • The staff also left us a nice basket of fruit in each room with a $50 off spa certificate.
  • We were offered complimentary drinks in between the cruises, to include alcoholic drinks!
  • The photographer took a group photo of all the B2B cruisers. That photo was free to each cabin.
  • Our cruise price was an early saver so not only did we got a great price, we got a $50 credit for our cabin for each cruise. Then we got a discount on port fees as well for both cruises (this discount was provided to all cruisers).  My Mom got casino room rates and $50 casino cash for each cruise! The casino cash does not need to be used in the casino. If we did one 7 night cruise, we would only get the on board credit and casino cash once! So it’s double the fun if you do B2B!
  • The Fun Times cruise planner provided different entertainment options which was nice. That’s may be because we chose two different cruise locations.

Cons:

  • Be prepared to entertain yourselves while the cruise line gets all those required to exit the ship, off the ship. The letter from Carnival did not give us a feel for how long the exit process would take. We were told to meet at 9:30 am in the dinning room, and everyone that is required to exit is normally off the ship by 10 am. While the exiting process was ongoing, since we were in Miami, we were able to use our cellular service, but some of our group ran out of charge on their devices. Not many thought to bring an additional charger. Also, the 4G cellular service was unable to download new Netflix shows. Be prepared to entertain yourselves with conversation, mobile phone, a good book, or drafting blog posts!
  • B2B cruising for us felt like we went on 2 cruises. The mix of the people were totally different between the 2 cruises. The first cruise had a great balance for our age group, but the 2nd cruise had a higher mix of college aged people looking to “let go” on their vacation.
  • The first cruise was 3 nights and the second cruise 4 nights. The menu in the main dinning room was exactly the same for at least 2 of the nights making you feel like, “…didn’t we already have this?
  • We added one additional person to the second cruise which was great, but we ended up with different waiters that were not as attentive making our experience not as good as the first cruise.

So are B2B cruises a great alternative?  Yes, they can be!  B2B cruises provide twice the fun and twice the credits!  Yes, we plan to do it again!

 

Between The Dashes!

May 2018 – Southern Caribbean Cruise on Carnival Cruise Line

This was the first time Al and I went on a cruise, just the two of us, leaving from Port Canaveral going to Aruba, Curacao, and Grand Turk on the Carnival Sunshine.  During this cruise, we experienced a lot of firsts which I’m excited to share!

  • Cruise Director:  Al and I weren’t aware how important the cruise director is on a cruise.  Ours was awesome!  Our Cruise director was Mikey, and he made you feel like you wanted to be wherever he was on the ship because you knew you were going to have fun!  Now I know what it means to say Carnival’s “Fun Ships”!  Mikey selected Al to participate in a dance contest and Al actually won!  Mikey started our day with fun and had events all day long if you were up to it!  Here’s a pic of Mikey with Al and I.

 

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Alaskan Cruise – Inner Passage – Princess Cruises, May 2017

Source:  Princess Cruises

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, but I need to share my Alaskan Cruise with you!  In May 2017, the Family and I went on a 7 Day Alaskan Cruise, Inner Passage. We decided on Princess Cruises because this cruise line has been the # 1 cruise line for Alaskan cruises over the past 10 years by Travel Weekly!

Alaskan cruises are generally May thru September, with May being the cheapest.  Our schedule allowed us to cruise in May, so we decided on the 13-20 May 2017 cruise out of Seattle, Washington (https://www.princess.com/learn/cruise-destinations/alaska-cruises/roundtrip/seattle/index.jsp). Based on our past cruise experience, we book our flights to arrive a day prior to the cruise to avoid any mishaps that flight delays or cancellations may cause.  Unfortunately, our flight departure times were changed, and we had only two options, depart extremely early or evening.  We decided to go with the evening flights which did not allow much time for sightseeing.  Following was our cruise itinerary:

Day 1 – Depart Seattle, WA

Day 2 – At Sea

Day 3 – Juneau, Alaska

Day 4 – Skagway, Alaska

Day 5 – Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

Day 6 – Ketchikan, Alaska

Day 7 – Victoria, British Columbia

Day 8 – Arrive Seattle, WA

We cruised the Inner Passage on the Ruby Princess which has a guest capacity of 3080 persons (or 1542 guest cabins), a crew size of 1200, a total of 19 decks and was recently refurbished in December 2015.  The cabins were 220 sq. ft. as compared to Carnival (230 sq. ft.) and Royal Caribbean (164 sq. ft.).  The service was awesome, the food phenomenal, and the ship very relaxing. I think the cruise prices were comparable to other cruise lines, but Princess is a leader in this location!

Source:  Princess Cruises – Ruby Princess

In addition, Princess had enrichment programs on board to add to the overall Alaskan experience such as visits/presentations by:

  • The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race champion Libby Riddles
  • A Lumberjack
  • Sled Dogs/Puppies
  • Gold Rush Klondike Festival
  • Fresh Alaska seafood throughout the cruise as well as cooking your own catch
  • National Park Rangers and naturalists
  • Alaska storytellers and authors

When we arrived in Junea, we did a dog sled excursion.  It was one of our most memorable experiences!

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Empty Sled and Dogs

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Sled Dogs Aligned and Ready To Go!

Before coming on the Alaskan cruise, I did a lot of research to determine what to pack.  Everything I read talked about dressing in layers.  We decided to leave our winter coats home, but bring sweaters, jackets, heavy socks, winter gloves & hats, and rain attire.  Overall, the weather was mild and varied between the 50-60°F.  There were many comments about the lack of rain during our visit because there is generally lots of rain in May.  What I was not prepared for was the Glacier Bay National Park!  I was raised in Chicago, so I was familiar with cold weather.  However, it was literally freezing in Glacier Bay!  The Ruby Princess ships’ log says the temp was 46.4°F, but it felt much colder than that!  The layers, gloves, hats, etc. did not allow me to get warm!  I could feel the cold to my bones!  I have never felt a cold like I did when viewing the glaciers!  Following are a some facts and a couple of pics:

  • In 1750, Glacier Bay was a massive single glacier but due to higher average temperatures and lower average snowfall amounts over the last several centuries it has been transformed into what is now a 65 miles (105 km) fjord with many smaller glaciers.¹² (see notes below)
  • There are 1045 glaciers identified in Glacier Bay National Park.
  • There are more than 50 named glaciers in the park including Grand Pacific (2 miles wide by 35 miles long), Johns Hopkins (1 mile wide by 12.5 miles long), Margerie (1 mile wide by 21 miles long), and Lamplugh (.75 miles wide by 16 miles long).
  • 7 of the glaciers in Glacier Bay National Park are tidewater glaciers.

Glacier Bay National Park – Margerie Glacier (1 mile wide, 21 miles long, and 350 ft high of which 100 ft is under water) – View From Our Balcony!

Zoomed picture of Margerie Glacier.   The ship is not allowed to get too close to the glacier just in case some of the glacier falls away and creates high waves!

Lessons Learned:

1. Choosing a cruise line – Most cruise lines do Alaskan Cruises so do your homework and decide on your priorities.  If excursions are your priority, then the cruise price can be cheaper leaving you more money for off ship activities. If the cruise ship is your destination, then make sure you pick a cruise line that offers on board activities that you enjoy!

2. Type of cruise and locations – There are a variety of Alaskan cruises.  Options include cruise only, land and sea cruise, Glaciers cruise, Tracy Arm Fjord cruise, etc. Departure locations vary as well to include Seattle (WA), Vancouver (British Columbia), and Alaska.

2. Transport between pier and airport – Most cruise lines provide transportation for a fee.   We used the cruise line bus transportation and there were some draw backs.  The “Greyhound” type bus waited until it reached capacity which took an unusually long period of time.  Also, the airport drop off location was an extremely long way from the airport check in.  The only thing that saved us was my Mom needed a wheel chair, and we accidentally stated our flight departure was soon.

3. Pre-cruise activities – Before purchasing your flight, consider doing some pre-cruise excursions or venture out on your own.  If the cruise departure location is a place you’ve never been, this is an opportunity to do some sightseeing!

4. Post – cruise activities – This is another opportunity for sightseeing or visiting family.

Between The Dashes

Notes:

  1. “Climate Change”. National Park Service. 2016-01-15. Archived from the original on 2015-11-19. Retrieved 2016-01-15.“History and Culture”. National Park Service. 2016-01-15. Archived from the original on 2015-12-19. Retrieved 2016-01-15.

July 2017 – Western Caribbean Cruise On Carnival Cruiseline

In July 2017, we decided to go on a cruise with our daughter who lives in Chicago. When other family members heard about it, the number of attendees grew.  As the cruise drew near, some dropped out, but in the end, there were a total of 8 of us across 4 cabins.

We picked a 4 day Western Caribbean cruise going to Key West and Cozumel, roundtrip from Miami, FL on the Carnival Victory.  The cruise was amazing! The ship was renovated in 2015, and the ship and cabins were roomy and well decorated.  There were lots of activities on board starting with the Sail away party.  I never noticed this activity on previous Carnival cruises, but it’s so worth going!  On the top deck, the combination of the cruise director, cruise staff, a DJ, cruisers, line dancing, and lots of food and drink make for an awesome start to any cruise!

Some of the other activities included Karaoke which is a must for any cruiser that loves music!  Carnival went all out for this activity!  I have a video of my sister singing “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugar Hill Gang.  This was the song in the day!  She had the entire audience clapping, shouting, dancing and singing with her!  Now, when I look for cruises, my husband always asks, “Is there karaoke?”  He doesn’t want to go if it’s not on the itinerary.

The other question he asks, “Is there a Guy’s Burger Joint?”  These burgers need to be on your bucket list!  The first time we learned of these burgers, we had them daily for lunch!  They are amazing!!  Make sure to check the dining options before you book because this burger joint is not on all Carnival ships yet.

We did one excursion in Key West.  We needed an activity for all ages so we did the trolley tour.  Of course, we had to try the conch fritters!  Oh la la!!

Now I must mention the casino.  It doesn’t really matter if you are going to win or not, you have to go through the casino to get to the restaurants, pools, etc.  As you walk thru the casino, the slot machines and the table games are calling your name.  The casino is saying, “You can win big money with me!”  The waitresses are offering free drinks (especially if you are a “repeat offender”), and there is an oldies but goodies band playing your favorite melodies.  So, you gotta stop and spend some time!  There is even a dance floor in the casino!

The food on the ship is very good.  My daughter doesn’t think it’s as good as Princess Cruises, but it’s hard to beat fresh seafood on an Alaskan Cruise.  There are so many onboard activities, and Carnival is all about having fun!

Cruises are really a value, especially if you can take advantage of the off season.  We had so much fun, and there’s hardly any planning involved.  Another plus for booking cruises.  We plan to do an annual family cruise.

I’m interested in your family traditions for vacations.  Feel free to leave a comment!

Between The Dashes

27 Oct 2016 – Miami Auto Museum At The Dezer collection

This auto museum was the bomb!!  There are so many one of a kind cars, motorcycles, bicycles and so much more!  I’m finally getting the time to share.  Feel free to comment and let me know if you enjoyed this post!

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Flintstones Movie, 1994

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Flintstones Movie, 1994

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Jun 2016 Western Caribbean Cruise – Oasis of the Seas

The girls (Mom, Daughter and I) cruised 4-11 Jun 2016 to Haiti, Jamaica and Cozumel, Mexico.   This was our first cruise.   Lessons learned:

1.  Don’t start your cruise on your travel day.  We discovered that even with insurance, if your flight is delayed or anything happens that makes you miss your ship, the best the insurance can do is fly you to the next port.  This will shorten your cruise, and in our case by 2 days.  I don’t know what other compensations are available, but the cruise ship waits for no one!  So this time we flew a day early, spent the night in a hotel that provided travel to the port as well as pick you up when you return.   You have a choice of going directly to the airport or do more excursions before boarding your plane.

2.  Remember to pack sundries because they cost lots of money while on the cruise.  Examples of things to bring are:

  • Sea bands or motion sickness meds
  • Over the counter meds for tummy issues, colds, pain, etc
  • Your favorite snacks unless you know you can get them on the cruise.  Examples includes nuts, chips or your favorite treat.
  • Sunscreen, insect repellant

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13-14 May 2016 – Food That Tastes So Good!

We celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary by visiting the Shenandoah area.  Besides seeing the sites, one of the other treats was the fabulous food we tasted along the way.  Below are some of the highlights:

 

Joe’s Steakhouse In Front Royal, VA

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Scallops Beurre Blanc – pan seared sea scallops with shallot, mushrooms and tomato in a beurre blanc sauce

 

 

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Stuffed Haddock with crab and cream cheese, finished with a light tomato-basil cream sauce, brown rice and mixed veggies

 

Claire’s At The Depot in Warrenton, VA

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Mediterranean Lamb Chops on a Bed of CousCous – the chops were cooked with fresh herbs grown in their own garden!

 

 

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Claire’s At The Depot Herb Garden

 

 

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Southern Shrimp Salad – Yummy!

 

 

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Aunt Beatty’s Decadent Chocolate Cake – for the chocolate lovers!

 

21 May 2016 – Shenandoah, VA

My husband and I haven’t done a weekend getaway in a while so we decided to go someplace we’ve been talking about for at least 10 years – Luray Caverns!  Following are just a few treasures.  If you love nature, the caverns should definitely be on your bucket list!

Some history:  Cold air rushing out of a limestone sinkhole atop a big hill west of Luray, Virginia, blew out a candle held by Andrew Campbell, the town tinsmith, on the morning of August 13, 1878. So began the discovery of Luray Caverns.

Campbell, three other men, and his 13-year-old nephew, Quint, were exploring the area, looking for a cave. With the help of local photographer Benton Stebbins, the men dug away loose rocks for four hours before, candle in hand, Campbell and Quint slid down a rope into the cave. They could scarcely believe what they saw. The party had discovered the largest series of caverns in the East, an eerie world of stalactites and stalagmites seen by the light of a candle.

Luray Caverns, Luray, VA – in this section of the caverns, the water collected provides a mirror image of the structure above!

 

 


 


 

Debra & Al Saletta Luray Caverns 13 May 2016

 

Not only did we visit the caverns but we checked out some local attractions.  Following are pics from our visit to the Meems Bottom Covered Bridge in Mount Jackson, VA.  First, a little history:

One of the best-known covered bridges is the 204-foot single-span Burr arch truss known as Meem’s Bottom Covered Bridge in Mount Jackson. The Meem’s Bottom Bridge was constructed in 1892-93 from materials cut and quarried nearby for the massive arch supports and stone abutments, which extended 10 feet below the riverbed.  It was deeded to the Highway Department in the 1930’s in return for assuming its maintenance.  This long span over the North Fork of the river carried traffic for more than 80 years before being burned by vandals on Halloween 1976.  After salvaging the original timbers, the bridge was reconstructed and eventually undergirded with steel beams and concrete piers. The bridge was reopened to traffic in 1979 and is still in operation to date.  One of the many stops along the Wilderness Trail in Shenandoah County! (Source:  http://www.virginia.org/listings/OutdoorsAndSports/HistoricMeemsBottomCoveredBridge/)

 

 

 

 

We also toured the Route 11 Kettle Chip factory.   If you like potato chips, you’ve got to try these!

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Route 11 Potato Chips, 11 Edwards Way, Mount Jackson, VA  22842 540-477-9664

14 May 2016 – Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park

I’ve always wanted to travel on Skyline Drive, and today Al and I got the opportunity.  The total distance is 109 miles which runs the entire length of the Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.  The nearest city to our entrance was Front Royal, VA.  We started at the North entrance at SR 340 and drove about 50 miles to the first exit at SR 211 in Thornton Gap.

It was a beautiful day for the ride – no rain, just blue skies.  The combination of different trees and foliage made the drive colorful and awesome.  Nature is truly amazing!!

Since Al qualified, we were able to avoid the entrance fee of $20 a private vehicle.  We paid $10 for a lifetime membership for all National Parks.  In fact, as long as one person in the car has a lifetime membership, everyone in the car can enter the national park free of charge!

 

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A portion of the Skyline Drive Map, located at http://www.sherpaguide.com

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17-20 Mar 2016 – Miami, FL

 

Welcome to Miami!

 

Trump National Doral, Miami, FL

My oldest daughter invited me to the 2015 AT&T Awards Summit in Miami, FL. She was one of the top VIPs recognized by AT&T for her sales record in 2015.  Imagine spending 4 days and 3 nights at the Trump National Doral and being treated like royalty with an all expense paid trip (flights, hotel, food, activities, and free gifts!).  The gifts consisted of iPads, designer Michael Kohrs purses with matching wallets, kitchen items (dinnerware setting for 4), pots and pans, expresso machines), camping gear, mountain bikes, tablets, cameras, wine storage coolers, jewelry, designer watches and sunglasses.  I could go on and on.  The gifts were just awesome!  I need to be clear that we only got one gift each but my awesome daughter gave me her ticket so I was able to get TWO gifts!

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