Tag Archives: Entertainment

A day in Belize City, Belize (NCL 7-day cruise, Day 4)

IMG_6398Our second country and second port of call, Belize City was another enjoyable place to visit. Unexpectedly, when we got off the ship, we were anchored in the middle of the ocean (we later found out the Belizeans are trying to avoid dredging by limiting the number and size of boats that come to shore), but it only added to the tropical beauty of it all when we returned to enjoy a drink on the top deck, overlooking the coastline and the gorgeous Caribbean Sea. It’s as blue and beautiful as it seems in photographs.

Originally we had booked an excursion to visit Altun Ha Mayan Ruins & Bacab Jungle Park. Due to overbooking (so they said), our tour was (yet again) canceled, but I still wanted to see the ruins, so we re-booked just the ruins (without any extras). It ended up working out better, because we were still able to come back to the pier, have lunch, and then re-board the ship and get some pool time without all the extra bodies (because everyone else was still out on their own tours). The ruins were small, but the tour provided just the right amount of time to explore on our own, not too long where we got done early and were bored, not too short where we had to rush. It was the Goldilocks of Mayan ruins. Another win for tropical cruise vacationing. From here it was on to Mexico.

Favorite moment: Standing at the top of the ceremonial bloodletting temple (the tallest one we could climb) and looking out over the site and the jungle beyond. I can only imagine what it must have looked like thousands of years ago when the Mayans lived there.

IMG_6388

On top of the ceremonial temple at Altun Ha.

If you’re planning your own cruise, check out my 12 tips to cruise stress-free post.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel, vacation

12 tips to cruise stress-free

Kevin and I just got home from our first cruise together (and his first cruise ever, shocking, I know). While this was my 3rd cruise overall, it was the longest I’ve ever taken, and my first time on Norwegian Cruise Line. My first was a 4-day Bahamian cruise on Royal Caribbean for my friend Karen’s 30th, and while that trip was a blast simply because of the company (how could you not have a great time with 4 of your friends, especially when all of you are wearing shirts with the birthday girl’s face on them?), I definitely thought NCL was a better choice than my RC experience. I’m not sure what Norwegian cruise ships are like for 4-day trips, but if the shorter trips are anything like the 7-day was, I highly recommend NCL for all your cruising needs. And I’m not even being paid to write this review (although, Norwegian, if you’re reading this, I’ll take payment in the form of a free cruise, thanks).

honduras view

View from the top: Roatan, Honduras. You can see our ship off to the right, in port.

I would choose Norwegian over any other for the food alone. We only ate at the buffet for breakfast and lunch (when we weren’t eating lunch in port), which was still good as far as buffet food goes. We ate dinner exclusively at the two complimentary restaurants on board, Versailles and Aqua, both of which required resort casual attire, had a nice ambiance, and featured a nightly changing selection of delicious appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Compared to the dining room included on my RC cruise, the atmosphere and food itself was of a higher quality.

The entertainment was also very enjoyable, and there seemed to be plenty of options for everyone on board. But this isn’t a post about how awesome Norwegian Cruise Line is (although it was for us). This is simply a compilation of all my tips on how to cruise, and do it in a way that will save you time, money, and aggravation. In no particular order, here are 12 tips to cruising stress-free:

1. Make sure your room isn’t directly under a high-traffic public space (like a dining room). I didn’t consider this one ahead of time, and we ended up a floor directly below the main buffet room. Which was convenient when we wanted to eat breakfast, but the early risers scraping chairs across the floor while we were trying to sleep in was definitely annoying. There’s always going to be some noise you can’t control while you’re trying to sleep, but this is at least one variable you can research and try to correct.

2. Book excursions & make dinner reservations before you leave for your trip. Most cruise lines will have at least one main dining room with complimentary dinner, and you want to make sure you claim the time slot you want, otherwise you’ll get stuck with a shitty dinner time or worse, there won’t be any more available reservations & you’ll have to eat dinner at the buffet. Which I guess is cool if you’d rather eat food that isn’t as fancy or delicious. It’s also a good idea to book excursions ahead as well to save yourself the hassle of standing in line once on board the ship. This also ensures the excursions you want don’t book up before you get a chance to sign up. Keep in mind this doesn’t guarantee they will happen (we had 3 of our pre-paid excursions canceled & had to re-book once on board), so keep a few backups in mind as well.

3. Book the Ultimate (unlimited) Beverage Package. We got lucky that NCL was running a promo when we booked that gave us the option of booking UBP free (although Kevin is still convinced it was factored into our fees somehow and was never truly free). But if you plan on drinking anything other than juice or water (and this even applies to soda), you’ll want to consider adding this to your booking. It may seem like a lot of money per person per day, but those drinks add up fast on their own. You’ll be glad you did when you’re going up to the bar every half hour for “just one more” delicious drink of the day; I wouldn’t want to see our drink bill if we were paying out of pocket, I might faint.

4. If you get motion sickness, keep a pair of Sea Bands on or nearby at all times. These things saved my life. Not literally, but they definitely made my cruise enjoyable, without the drowsy side effects of medicine.

5. Pack clothing for all occasions. At the risk of over-packing, make sure you have a variety of outfits & footwear. Obviously bathing suits are a must. Beach/pool towels are unnecessary (and will just take up valuable luggage space), as the ship provides them. Bring a few nice outfits for dinner, and a sweatshirt for those cool, windy nights on the top deck. If you plan on doing water excursions, like snorkeling or dolphin encounters, bring a rash guard and board shorts to throw on over your bathing suit. I also recommend water shoes or Teva sandals (or something similar) for these as well. If you plan on hiking or doing tours with a lot of walking, bring sneakers & socks. Bring a small backpack or beach bag for any excursions off the ship. You’ll need a place to stow towels, water, cameras, change of dry clothes, and anything else you might want on shore.

6. Take bottled water with you when you board. You will need plenty of it in each port and on your excursions, and cruise lines allow you to bring your own on with you when you check in. You may feel like a nerd walking in with a case of water, but you’ll be glad you saved yourself the money later. I spent $3 on a case from Walgreens & we drank all 24 over the course of the week. Times that by roughly $2-$5 a bottle you’ll end up paying if you wait & buy as you go, and that’s a lot of dough you’ll save for more important things. Like souvenirs.

7. Bring a waterproof camera or phone for excursions you’ll get wet on. Whether you splurge on an expensive waterproof phone case or buy a $20 disposable water camera, make sure you have some way to capture memories on water excursions. If you want to go above and beyond with your photography, I recommend a Go Pro (especially for things like ziplining & cave tubing).

8. Bring reading material. Whether it’s a few books or magazines, or the novel-length instruction manual for the new gadget you just bought, bring something to occupy the downtime you will have at the pool, on the beach, if it rains, etc.

9. Make sure you have plenty of small bills. While it’s not always necessary to have the local country’s currency (most countries accept USD), it is a good idea to have $1s, $5s and $10s, and not just a stack of bigger bills. Even having a wad of $20s can be inconvenient, because if you plan on doing shore excursions, or need taxi rides, or plan on ordering food/beverages off the ship, you’ll want smaller bills to tip the drivers, tour guides and waiters who provide you their services.

10. If you have a full day at sea, get up early enough to snag a lounge chair by the pool. We had two full days at sea, and wanted nothing more than to lay by the pool, soak up the sun and some fruity drinks and relax. Cruise ships ask guests not to reserve pool chairs for more than an hour (as a courtesy to other guests), but no one follows this rule, which ends up screwing over good people like us who try to play by the rules. The first sea day, we barely found chairs that were together, and they were off on the side, away from the pool and near the basketball court (not the ideal deck location for sunbathing). So on our last day on board, our second sea day, we got up a little earlier and dropped our things off before heading to breakfast. This way, we were able to get a good spot on the top deck above the pool and away from the chaos, but still close enough to feel apart of the action and take a dip when it got too hot. We also only left our things unattended for about an hour while we ate breakfast and went back to our room to freshen up, so we were still able to “follow the rules” and be courteous to the other guests. Nothing more annoying than trying to find a place to lay out only to have them all covered with towels that no one ever comes to claim. People can be quite selfish, so keep this in mind and find a happy medium when it comes to claiming your chairs.

11. Whatever your budget, add an extra $100-$200 per person. When you book your cruise, the cruise line will let you know (at the end of all your paperwork, in very small print) that there will be a daily service fee per person charged to your account once on board. This helps take care of the housekeeping and waitstaff that will take care of you once on board, so I’m totally fine with it. However, it isn’t paid up front, so be prepared to provide a credit card for these fees as well as any other on-board charges that you may find yourself spending. All ship purchases that aren’t included (like souvenirs, extra drinks, taxes, etc.) will be charged to this card, so make sure you budget for this when saving for your trip. It’s also customary to leave an additional tip for your cabin steward (as you have the same person the whole trip who makes up your room and provides daily ship info and leaves you fun towel animals), but this can be given directly to that individual, and in cash.

12. Be prepared to gain 5-10 lbs. With the amount of food and drink you will consume (and it’s all so delicious, you will want to try it all), it’s not uncommon to gain extra weight while on a cruise. Unless you are one of those super health-conscious people who makes use of the ship’s fitness center, don’t worry about the few pounds you’ll walk off the ship with. If you’re really that concerned about it, try to cut back on the extras you usually eat or drink before you go, as well as when you return home again. As well, take the stairs on the ship as often as possible, and only use the elevators when absolutely necessary, such as boarding and disembarking (with all your luggage). Once your body recovers from the overload of food and drink that it’s not used to and goes back to it’s normal diet, you should be fine.

Whether you’ve been on a cruise before or if this is your first time, these tips will all help when booking and planning, and when it comes time to actually set sail, you’ll be cruising stress-free and at ease.

ship pano

4 Comments

Filed under Travel, vacation

It’s sort of incredibly depressing being a full-blown adult (at least as far as Halloween’s concerned)

Being a “real teacher” now, with all the real responsibilities that go with it, is pretty fantastic. But it’s also slightly depressing and incredibly stressful. I wouldn’t mind so much any other time of year except for now, being a 1/4 of the way through the school year, in the thick of it, and being smack dab in the middle of my favorite month of the year. And barely having the time to plan a fabulous Halloween party, or attend all the haunted houses in my general vicinity, or find the perfect ensemble for Kevin and my Beetlejuice/Lydia costume (and also being too brain-fried to know if I even just worded that correctly. Kevin and my? Kevin and mine? Kevin’s and my? I don’t even care anymore).

Even though our house is finally decked out in all its creepiness (and the neighbors probably think we are psychos, which we might just be), and even though we have already attended several haunted attractions, and even though we have done the annual corn maze & pumpkin picking, I still feel like this holiday, my holiday, the best time of the year, is slipping out of my grasp. And fast. We’re already 15 days into October? Um, excuse me, when did that even happen? I wish I could just press the pause button on this month until I have a chance to catch up on all the things I wait 11 months out of the year for. Ugh.

Since I’m basically too busy/exhausted/apathetic to write anymore, I can say with 98% certainty that I won’t be publishing any sort of horror movie marathon list this year. So for those of you who have any interest, please refer to years’ past here, here and here.

And for those of you who don’t care, don’t like scary movies or are just too lazy to click an external link, here are some pictures of our “murder house” for you to delight your senses with. Happy Haunting. photo 3

photo 2

2 Comments

Filed under Entertainment, Humor, Opinion

Sometimes everything just goes wrong

You know how things can be sometimes. No matter how hard you pray for something good to happen or no matter how hard you will things to be different, they are just plain crappy. It doesn’t matter how much time and effort you put into planning something, either: sometimes everything just goes wrong.

So this weekend, my boyfriend and I were supposed to go on a fishing trip with my mom and stepdad. We left after work on Friday and drove the 4 hours to the east coast of Florida, pulling in late and exhausted just around midnight. Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico is great, and it’s awesome how close we live to the water, but we wanted a change of scenery, and the chance to catch some different species of fish, so we planned an overnight trip to West Palm Beach for some dolphin fishing (the fish, not flipper, calm down). Getting up at 5:45 a.m. is only possible when you have the adrenaline and excitement of a big day ahead of you, so dragging our butts out of bed yesterday was no big deal. Driving the 20 minutes to the dock and dropping the boat in was also no big deal; we’ve done this before, right? Right. Bill had checked and double-checked the marine forecast the whole week, making sure our day wasn’t going to be too rough (and also making sure it was worth the 4-hour drive). The Sea People claimed it was going to be 10-15 knots, with 2-3 foot seas. Shouldn’t be a bad day, right? Wrong.

Those Sea People are down-right lying assholes. Once we got out past the inlet (which had about 12 foot seas from where I was standing), we thought things would calm down. Probably, y’know, because the marine forecast only called for 2-3 foot seas. Well those bastards were wrong. It did not calm down. It made being on the boat uncomfortable, and it made even the attempt at casting, let alone reeling anything in, basically impossible. I don’t think any of us wanted to give up (after all, we made that long drive and planned this whole trip and all), but it was clear it just wasn’t going to happen. So we turned around and headed back for the dock. But not, of course, before I puked all over the side of the boat into the angry sea.

Everyone knows I get car sick or motion sickness if there’s too much going on (like say, going on any type of spinning amusement park ride or being on a boat that’s being tossed around like a cork in a wave pool). So it’s not really surprising that my stomach felt like it was upside-down inside of me the whole ride out and back. But usually when I get like that, I can control it and at least keep my breakfast down. Not this time. When it’s going to come up, it’s going to come up whether you like it or not. Thankfully I was able to spew it all over the side of the boat into the water and not fall over board in the process (my mom was not happy with this; she was afraid I’d fall in and wanted me to puke in a bucket, but who wants to puke in a bucket for everyone to see and smell when you can just let it go into the deep blue sea? sorry mom). Although I’m not thrilled I puked (especially since that means I’m now on the scoreboard with Kevin for who’s puked since we’ve been dating- but it’s 3:1 and I’m still ahead so it’s fine), I did feel a little better after the fact. So it’s probably for the best. And we all made it safely back to shore (where we checked the marine forecast again and those bastards were STILL CALLING FOR 2-3 FOOT SEAS THE JERKS). Being alive and back on land was really the end goal, so all in all, it was okay. We didn’t get to fish, and I barfed, but we got in safe, so none of us were mad (just disappointed and bitter towards those lying Sea People).

We loaded up the car and decided just to hit the road and come back home to salvage the weekend (because at this point, it was only like, 8:30 a.m., and we really had no reason to hang out in West Palm). We got about 20-30 minutes in to our 4-hour drive home when the engine started smoking and we had to pull off the road. At first we thought we were just out of coolant, and that’s why the engine had overheated. So we used all the water we had, got back on the highway until we found a gas station and bought some. Problem solved, right? Clearly you should know where this is going by now.

Turns out the radiator was leaking and we needed a new one. We drove to the local Chevy dealership but they told us they wouldn’t be able to even look at the car until Monday. MONDAY. Yeah, because we can just sit around in some random Florida town for two days waiting for the car to be fixed. No thank you.

We had passed a sign on our way to the dealer that said “radiator repair” so we drove back that way to inquire, where we encountered yet another asshole to add to our shit list. While he rambled on about god knows what, we got in touch with NAPA, who told us they had a radiator for us. Finally, someone competent who could actually help us. We bought the part and struggled to find a body shop that was either a) open past noon or b) open at all. Apparently no one in the town we were stranded in liked to work on Saturdays. Assholes. Just when it looked like Bill was going to have to change it himself (and probably die of heat exhaustion in the process), we FINALLY found a shop that was open that would do it for us. They got it done in under two hours and we were (finally, actually) on our way back home. After all that, I am grateful it wasn’t any worse, but I’m still bitter towards the Sea People for steering us in the wrong direction in the first place. You know who you are, Sea People, and don’t think you are getting off so easy.

My friend Nicole sent me a book for my birthday called “Dear Asshole.” It’s filled with tear-out letters to send to all the assholes in your life, yet there isn’t one for Sea People. So I’d like to add my own (and hopefully the publishers will revise the book and release a second addition with my personal letter included, although probably not because they don’t even know who I am). Anyway, here it is:

Dear Asshole Marine Forecast Sea People,

You are liars. You continuously broadcast incorrect marine forecasts to innocent boaters and drive them (literally) into danger. We could have been killed out there (highly unlikely, but still possible). It’s your fault we were even in that situation in the first place, because if you had done your jobs correctly and told us what the seas would ACTUALLY be like that day, we never would have risked it. It’s your fault we drove all the way out there and didn’t get to fish and it’s your fault I barfed everywhere. It’s probably not your fault our radiator crapped out, but I’m going to blame you anyway because you’re an easy target and I hate you. Please stop being terrible at your jobs so people like me and my family can actually know what we’re driving our boat into.

Sincerely,

The girl who barfed

Leave a comment

Filed under Entertainment, Humor

Woe is me: a day in the life of Felix the cat

I had my 7th graders start a creative writing assignment today about the life of their pet, from the animal’s point of view. As an example, I wrote one from Felix the cat’s perspective.

I often wonder what my cat is thinking when she does certain things. Her behavior continues to baffle me, but if I had to guess, this is what must be going through her mind on a daily basis:

6:58 a.m. My food bowl is empty. I’m going to die in this place. There is no hope for me anymore. Goodbye sweet world. Meow.

7:21 a.m. That Julia girl finally put more Meow Mix in my bowl. I crept into her bedroom while she slept and stared a hole into the side of her head until she finally woke up and fed me. I’m saved. At least until the bowl is empty again.

7:45 a.m. She’s left me again, mumbling something about “work” on her way out the door. Not sure what this “work” business is, but I don’t like it. I’d rather she just stay home with me all day and pet me to my heart’s content. Or at least until she pets me the wrong way, in which case I’ll be forced to bite her and run away.

8:36 a.m. I’ve noticed that Julia just cleaned my litter box. I’m not sure what to make of all this empty space inside the box, so I think I’ll just poop on the floor instead.

9:01 a.m. I’m ready for a nap but there’s no suitable place for me to lay. I think I will just curl up inside this tiny box that is two sizes too small.

5:01 p.m. My eight-hour nap was great but I’m not feeling too well. I think I swallowed some of my fur while I was bathing earlier. I feel the urge to throw up, but I’m not sure where I should do it. I don’t want to upset Julia. I think I will throw up in her shoes; she will appreciate that.

6:03 p.m. Julia has come home from “work.” She wasn’t happy with the gift I left in her shoes; I don’t understand how I have failed her.

10:35 p.m. Julia has abandoned me and gone to bed. There are a few kibbles gone from my food bowl since she last filled it so I’m going to have to stare at her while she’s sleeping and meow all night until she gets up and fills it again. I think I will die before she wakes.

7 Comments

Filed under Entertainment, Humor