Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Shore Excursions, TRAVEL

Getting to the Isle of Capri

Welcome to the Port of Naples

TRAVEL THERE: THE HURRY UP AND WAIT CONTINUES

While cruises provide many wonderful memories, there is also a lot of mundane rigamarole in between those memorable moments.  This is especially true on big ships like the Celebrity Edge.  You can’t just leave your room, grab a quick bite and start your tour.  That’s one of the reasons I prefer river cruising.  In an hour you can get up, have breakfast and be on your way.  On this particular morning we’d been going since 6 AM and hours later we were just now leaving our elegant boat.  It just takes time to process all these people.

Heading Ashore for Another Boat Ride

Our shore excursion group trotted off the boat and across a parking lot to a ferry pier.  Our guide was a jolly sort, but at this point we had no way to know we’d happened upon the best guide for the trip Paolo of Aloschi Brothers .  In fact, he was the best guide I ever had.  I’d like to hire him for the rest of my travels for the rest of my life – but we didn’t know that then.

As we entered the area for boarding the ferry, Bill revealed he didn’t have his Dramamine.  He said he didn’t realize we were going on a boat ride.  Hadn’t we sat there in Montreal’s airport bar and discussed just that thing.  Hadn’t he been the one who listed off all the forms of transportation we’d be taking for the tour?  Not much we could do at this juncture.

Bill is highly susceptible to seasickness and it has ruined many a shore excursion for him.  If I were him, I would have the Dramamine with me every second I was on a cruise, but Bill believes on traveling light and only carrying what you are absolutely going to need.  That he didn’t have Dramamine was somehow became my fault, though he didn’t say that outright.  I was sorry for him, but a little ticked at the same time.

I had another responsibility, too.  As soon as we hit shore, my 4G network international phone plan kicked in and all the Instagram post notifications for the day were dinging at me.  A part of me was grateful for the technology allowing me to do my job on the other side of the world, but the other part wished Instagram was a little more cooperative.  Having to post from my phone at the given time, rather than automatically as the other social channels allow, bugs me when I am at home in my office.  To interrupt my vacation for it really chafed.

All Aboard the Jet Foil

Boarding the jet foil which would ferry us to Capri, our companions went up to the top deck, but Bill felt he’d do better at fighting seasickness downstairs.  He sat down, closed his eyes and focused on not being sick. I’m not sure what I expected of the watercraft.  It had sounded quite exciting in the brochures, but was really just a ferry.  It was fast, but stuck under the deck, I couldn’t tell much about the journey.

Bill was successful in his battle against seasickness, but few others were.  About halfway through the 90 minute ride, the vomiting began all around us.  I noticed the greatest number of passengers with us below were Asians and they all seemed to be sick, to a man, so much so that the crew ran out of the ability to keep up with it.  I’ve never been so glad to get off a boat.I was near to becoming sick myself and it had nothing to do with seasickness.

Finally, we were on the Island of Capri.  Certainly things were about to get better, weren’t they?  Come back next week and find out.

Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

Our First Celebrity Shore Excursion

Shore Excursion Ahead

TRAVEL THERE: THE HURRY UP AND WAIT OF IT ALL

Six AM comes early, but when you have a ten and a half hour shore excursion planned, that’s when you have to get up.  We had breakfast at the buffet and I thought we were right on schedule, up until the time Bill decided to hit the buffet one more time.  While he ate his French Toast, I fretted a bit – unnecessarily I might add, because Bill and I were the first of our group to show up at the meeting point for shore excursions.  Deborah and Viktoriya were right behind us, but no Bagleys?

Where Were the Bagleys?

The way things were set up on Celebrity Edge, there were multiple groups going on the same shore excursions.  So, a representative of your small group had to go to a table at the front of the room with all of your tickets to be put in a shore excursion group together.  We couldn’t just go and say, “There will be six of us.”  You had to have the tickets in hand.

If I were fretful at the breakfast table as Bill enjoyed his French Toast, then it would be fair to say, I was having a panic attack now.  You’re always worried about people who aren’t where they are supposed to be, but then there’s also a level of irritation, too.

When we all signed up for this shore excursion online, the Bagleys ended up being scheduled for the same tour, but a different time.  We’d kept badgering away at our various travel agents to get on the same tour time and something had eventually worked, because the week before we left, we were all assigned the same time.  Now all that work had been jeopardized.  The staff was announcing, repeatedly, that spots were disappearing and we might not all get in the same excursion group.

Jim and Melanie huffed and puffed into the room ten minutes late.  Bill grabbed their tickets and hurried down to the shore excursion table.  The problem was a fairly normal one for cruises.  Something was lost.  The cabins do have a lot of storage, but it’s drawers over there and a closet here and a cabinet over there.  You unpack between activities and it is easy to forget where something is.  The something lost in this situation was Melanie’s meds, so it wasn’t like she could just wear another outfit or go around without a particular color of lipstick.  She had to have the meds.

Everything’s OK

Bill came back with the colorful stickers which designated all of us to the same shore excursion group.  Hooray, Bill!  Again, all my worry had been for naught.  When am I ever going to learn that!

The hurry up and wait syndrome had been repeated.  We’d hurried to make their deadlines and now we were stuck sitting in a theater, waiting for a signal to start our fun.

The Cruise Director showed up and began to engage the restless crowd.  He started with that annoying game which looks for the loudest group saying good morning.  Why do people do that?  We go through it at church some Sundays and I want to punch someone.  On this particular morning I was full of spit and vinegar, so I roused our group to make as much noise as we could.  Had there been a prize we would have won.  The Cruise Director was somewhat taken aback.  He said he’d never quite heard anyone as loud as us.

Soon we were on our way to the gangplank, but the hurry up and wait continued.  Come back next week and let’s go to the Isle of Capri.

Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

The Celebrity Edge Cyprus Restaurant

On Board the Edge

TRAVEL THERE: BEST RESTAURANT ON BOARD

The presence of multiple dining opportunities you don’t have to pay extra for was nice and seems to be the going trend on cruises, but I still like traditional cruise dining, where you are assigned to a table and a time for the duration.  We’ve tried the specialty dining you have to pay for and found it to be much ado (and expense) about nothing.  The Celebrity selection of complimentary (as if anything were actually complimentary on a cruise) restaurants was nice and the staff was wonderful, but it just wasn’t the same as having your own table and your own waiter for the duration.

The Menus

In each restaurant the menu is divided up into three sections.  The first selection of meals are specific to that particular restaurant.  As far as I was concerned, they could have done away with the other two sections and expanded this one.  During our first visit to a restaurant, we’d select our favorites from this specialty menu, but when you returned to that restaurant, the menu had not changed.  You’d already had your favorite choice and the others might be items you have no interest in.  So for me, this was a fail.

The second section is Celebrity Classics – meals Celebrity serves across their fleet.  The third section featured dishes specific to the Edge, but available to all the restaurants.  I still would have preferred to have an extended choice in the specialty section.  If they wanted to offer options, then the Celebrity Classics would have fit the bill.  The other choices were unnecessary, in my opinion.

Cyprus – Greek Seafood

We loved the Cyprus Restaurant.  Greek food is a favorite with us, as is seafood, so how could we lose.  Well, a bow renewal bride-to-be can be having a well-served case of pre-wedding jitters, but we’ve already covered that.

Our whole crew had dinner together this evening.  We figured out how our wine programs were going to work and made our way through the menus.  I chose the moussaka as an appetizer.  It’s usually an entree choice, but the Cyprus version is a very small serving, so it would not do as entree.  This is perhaps the best dish I had on board.

For an entree I had sea bass and it was delicious.  The dessert was another disappointment.  We discovered the buffet had amazing desserts, but the restaurant desserts were disappointing, every single time.  By the end of the cruise, we were having all our desserts in the buffet.  This particular meal had some kind of fuzzy chocolate thing with blueberries.  Downright weird.

We were very impressed with the way the Wine by the Bottle program worked, even if we were a little disappointed in the wine selection.  You could have as many bottles going as you wanted and they were available to you wherever you were on the ship.  We never tried to access them in a bar, but it worked well at whatever restaurant we landed in.  The Bagleys paid extra to get the premium wine choices and I couldn’t tell that their choices were any better than our standard program had.

After dinner we all went our separate ways.  Bill wanted to see what the entertainment was like.  The highlight show that evening was a tribute to Whitney Houston.  We’d just watched a documentary on Whitney Houston and while she was certainly a musical virtuoso, I walked away from it disappointed in the life she lived.  Unfortunately, the artist covering Whitney’s songs didn’t deserve much praise for her singing either.  She was a pretty good singer, but not good enough to attempt Whitney’s signature songs.

From there we checked out a performance in Eden.  It was a couple doing gentle covers of Beatle love ballads.  They weren’t too bad, but it was late and the music put us to sleep.  Time to call this one a day!  We arrive in Naples next week, so don’t miss it!

Accommodations, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Falling Through the Cracks

Aboard Celebrity

TRAVEL THERE: AN UNCOORDINATED EVENT COORDINATOR

Among the craziness of my first few hours on board the Celebrity Edge was a telephone chat with their Event Coordinator.  She insisted she only needed about five minutes to meet me and confirm things for my vow renewal ceremony.  That seemed fairly inadequate to me, but I thought just maybe they were that coordinated.

Bridal Hysteria

Well, to begin with, Ranee Tin wasn’t where she was supposed to be at the appointed time.  I gave it a few minutes and then let a crew member know.  The whole meeting was only supposed to last a few minutes, according to her, and my friends were waiting on me in the restaurant.

When she showed up, she had some pieces of paper and a demeanor that said she didn’t have a clue about what was going on or what was supposed to happen at my vow renewal.  To be fair, my hysteria had been mounting before I ever got on board.

For months the planning had gone swimmingly.  The descriptions of hair appointments was rather confusing, but the ladies in the Celebrity Wedding department were swell.  I was a little freaked out that nothing could be confirmed until 10 days before I sailed, but I bought into their assurances.  The Edge was a new ship and nothing was routine about events, yet.

It was still so outside of the norm 10 days before the cruise that absolutely nothing was confirmed.  The afternoon before I left I got an email that almost sent me into convulsions.  The letter wanted me to fax them a signed form and I didn’t have a fax machine.  The letter also said without the form there would be no ceremony.  After a few minutes of complete freak out, I read back through the email which contained the letter and discovered I could actually email them the signed form, but by then I’d already had several heart attacks.

It was only at that point that I discovered when and where my ceremony would be.  It was scheduled at a location that hadn’t even been mentioned throughout the entire eight months we’d been planning the event.  At that point is was too late to fret.  The die was cast.  They still couldn’t tell me what time our salon appointments would be.

Just Long Enough to Freak Me Out

Were I to have it all to do over again, I’d fork at $275 for a “Test the Waters” package that gave you

  • Pre-inspection arrangements
  • Site inspection with wedding coordinator – Total time: 90 minutes onboard
  • 30-minute tour of the wedding and reception locations
  • 30 minute consultation regarding wedding props, site photography, set-up, and any additional questions
  • 30-minute open buffet lunch

As it was, a very casual event coordinator tried to convince me in just a few moment that she had everything under control.  It wasn’t long enough.  She was asking all kinds of questions that were already answered on the pieces of paper she’d given to me.  Her biggest concern seemed to be what would happen if they couldn’t get blue ribbon for the bouquets.  I was more worried about the logistics of the whole thing.

I was in tears and trembling when she was through with me.  I’d only just managed to get the salon appointment times out of her.  About the only thing she did that gave me a warm fuzzy was a promise to iron my gown for the ceremony.  One small worry resolved, about 15 new worries to confound me.

Everyone was waiting on me for dinner, so I made a bee-line to the Cyprus restaurant.  come back next week and I’ll let you know how good that was.

 

Accommodations, ART, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

Embarkation Events

The gangs all here!

TRAVEL THERE: GETTING SETTLED ON CELEBRITY EDGE

Over a year of planning came to fruition.  We sailed through customs almost too quickly to believe, thanks to the Celebrity App.  Viktoriya was there to greet us.  We threw our luggage in our stateroom and started enjoying our cruise.

Embarkation Luncheon

With all my cruising, it was actually only a few years ago learned about embarkation buffets, but I’ve developed a love hate relationship with them.  My first, on Norwegian, was memorable.  We boarded too late for the Viking buffet.  Then on the Royal Carribean cruise in 2017, the buffet was so bad, I felt like I was supposed to finish up all left over of the previous cruisers.

I expected more from Celebrity and they almost rose to the occasion.  Concierge Class passengers on the Celebrity Edge are treated to a special luncheon in the Cosmopolitan Dining Room.  I confess it wasn’t exactly a culinary triumph.  I had Chicken Paillard, but the Home Chef version I’d made myself was better.  It was served with French Fries. French Fries?!? Then the chocolate something for dessert was unremarkable.

Melanie was glad to be there!

Deborah, Viktoriya, Bill and I took our seats around the table and had just begun to order our meals, when to our utter delight I received a text letting us know Jim and Melanie had arrived at the dock.  They weren’t expected for hours yet, but they’d decided to skip their morning excursion and join us on the ship instead.

I was so happy I was almost in tears as I sat at the table and observed the people who had paid so much and come so far to help me celebrate my special occasion.

A Whirlwind of Activity

The next few hours were insane, which means choosing to forego a tour of Rome had been a good idea.  We did some reconnaissance around the ship, went to our rooms to unpack, did battle with the reservations people, had a lifeboat drill, checked out the sail away and generally tried to get plugged into everything so we could leave early in the morning on our first shore excursion.

The unpacking proved to be fairly pleasant.  There was room to stow away all our belongings, even if my gown for the ceremony did take up an unreasonable amount of the room.  Surprisingly, we had all kinds of gifts waiting for us in our cabin – flowers, wine and tapas from Rick Eberst, the Dallas-area sales rep for Celebrity, and chocolate-covered strawberries from our travel agency, CTC Travel.

There was a problem with a special meal the Bagleys and Viktoriya had booked.  The evening of the meal had been changed for weather issues.  They’d also been put on separate dining times by the ship’s crew and that just wasn’t right.  Viktoriya nearly went ballistic on them, but Jim managed to calm her down and eventually everything worked out.

I imagined Concierge Class would include a concierge somewhere on our own levels who was available 24/7.  Au Contrare!  He had very limited hours and you needed a degree in spelunking to find his “office,” which was actually just a room of desks which were shared by several services.  We had dinner reservations for the first night, but I had hoped to make reservations for the rest of the trip with our concierge – obviously it didn’t happen.  My only other interaction with the concierge was daily phone calls to give us the weather, which might or might not be accurate, and to inform us of the hour (yes, hour) our concierge would be available to us up in that little room.  None of his times of availability ever coincided with a time I was able to utilize.

I communicated with someone named Ranee Tin, the event coordinator.  She wanted to meet me before dinner to discuss the arrangements for the ceremony.  I should have known to worry when she acted as if it was no big thing.

The Sail Away was a non-event.  Other cruise lines make a bigger deal of it and quite frankly, Civitavecchia is a pretty boring port.  Somewhere along the way we visited the Art Gallery.  It was the only visit I would make on this cruise, which is odd for me, because I usually attend several art events when cruising.  It just wasn’t that sort of cruise for me, but Jim and Melanie almost lived down there and came home with several pieces of art.

Bill slept through most of this.  Eventually, I returned to the room and got dressed for our 8:30 dinner reservations.  Come back next week and we’ll have dinner in the Cyprus Restaurant.

 

Accommodations, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

Lazy Layover & Lucky Seats

Loving the Legroom

TRAVEL THERE: THE USUAL TRAVEL RIGAMAROLE

So, we made it to Montreal with our carry-ons in our personal possession.  Our other luggage was checked through and there was a three hour lay-over, so that seemed long enough to make the transfer.  Our tromp through customs went well and soon we were in the terminal for our next flight.

Killing Some Time

After making sure we knew where our gate was, it was time to find the bar.  We found one near by and it was adequate, but the weather was dreary and the view depressing.  Fortunately the waitress was great, so killing a couple of hours was not painful.

Deb and I were giddy with excitement and ready to discuss every detail of the coming cruise ad nauseum.  Bill played along, but not with much enthusiasm.  I quizzed him to see if he actually knew where we were going.  It seemed he had a pretty good grasp of the itinerary, but time would prove some of the more pertinent the information had not really sunk in.

First we enjoyed a round of drinks and Deborah said something clever, like ‘that tasted just like time for another one.”  We opted for some snacks to go along with the second round.  Then suddenly it was past time we should be at the gate.  We took a quick glance at the boards to make sure the gate had not changed and made a run for it.

WOW, What Seats!

I have a natural distrust for the internet.  It comes from spending most of my days on it and suffering the slings and arrows of constant digital disappointment.  I’d been the one to select our seats on the Air Canada website and I thought they would be right at the front of the coach cabin, where I’d observed others all spread out in comfort.  However, I refused to believe it would be that good until we were on board.

It was that good.  The meal was OK, too.  The dessert was a disappointment, but that’s how it goes with airline food.  They picked up our trays and I asked Bill to request a second glass of wine for me.  However, I fell asleep before it was delivered and the next thing I knew, several hours had passed and it was time to head to the potty.  That went smoothly and I was soon back asleep.  Because of the position of our seats, I didn’t even have to bother anyone.

Hello Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport!

Our arrival in Rome was blissfully uneventful.  Celebrity Cruise Lines deserves kudos for the way they handle things.  From the moment we exited customs cheerful Celebrity employees with signs made sure we got to our meeting point.  The wait for our bus was perhaps longer than I wanted, but not too bad.  The drive to the port of Civitavecchia seemed interminable.

Then Viktoriya made it to the ship before us and started sending text messages.  She’d been so busy before the cruise she’d barely paid attention to all the pre-trip chatter, hence she was blown away when she boarded.  It was so exciting for me to know she was genuinely happy to be a part of it all.

We were not far behind her and soon we were all hugging and giggly.  Embarkation lunch is up next.  Join me next week!

DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Load ‘Em Up, Head ‘Em Out

Bill and Deb with the nearly checked carry-on

TRAVEL THERE: ON OUR WAY TO ROME

It was time.  We threw our luggage in the car and picked up Deborah with her bags.  We left our car at Park and Fly, rode their bus to the terminal and went through security.  By 9:50 AM we were at our gate for our 11:45 flight to Montreal.  The Anniversary Cruise was really going to happen.

Small Drama at the Gate

I’d never flown Air Canada, so I started off with a clean slate, but it didn’t stay clean for very long.  I sat at the gate with my bestie, while Bill did his usual ramble around the terminal.  I had the new carry-on bags next to me and for a few moments I didn’t have a worry in the world.

Then an airline employee strolled down to where we were sitting and informed me I would have to check one of my carry-ons.  I went into an immediate panic.  The only thing in the carry-ons were our clothes for the vow renewal ceremony.  I knew, should my luggage get lost, I could buy a couple of sundresses and get by, but I couldn’t replace my gown or Bill’s tuxedo.  This whole trip was for the ceremony and I wasn’t going to allow it to be ruined by lost baggage.

I have no idea why this woman picked me out of all the people at the gate.  One carry-on was slightly larger than the other, but the bigger one was regulation and the other even smaller.  Maybe, because it was purple.  Maybe, because I just looked too happy for the surly employee to tolerate.  Darn, I hated to have my travel day ruined so early into the trip.

I decided I was not going to argue with this lady.  I was going to delegate it to Bill.  I told her the bag she indicated was my husband’s and she’d need to talk to him about it.  She made some snarky comment and waddled back to her position behind the counter.  I worked a few more crossword puzzles and waited for Bill to return.

When he strolled up, I pulled him aside and informed him of the situation.  I warned him I would go into full melt-down mode if that lady took away my bag.  I reminded him we had a layover in Montreal, so that was fertile ground for a lost bag.  Later in the trip I would know just how true that statement was, but for now, I was just speculating.

Bill went and talked to the lady.  He fit the bag into that metal contraption that is supposed to identify over-large bags.  The lady should have apologized for upsetting me, but instead she threatened Bill with the flight crew, warning him they would take the bag away when it did not fit.  What was this lady’s problem?

Quick Lunch and a Flight

We needed to grab a meal before we flew.  Deb and Bill opted for Chikfila, but I chose to spend my travel calories on a soft pretzel.  I love them dearly and doing battle with the mean lady had worked up and appetite.

The flight was uneventful.  It was a small commuter aircraft, but the carry-on in question fit up in the overhead bin, just like it was supposed to do.  The whole luggage bit was just unnecessary drama, thank you very much.

Next stop Montreal!  Rome here we come!

 

Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Pulling It All Together

grayscale photography of travel case with milk churns on trailer
Photo by Huie Dinwiddie on Pexels.com

TRAVEL THERE: ALMOST READY TO GO

I confess, I hate packing.  I wish I could be one of those people who toss a few things in my bag and be done with it, but I’m not.  I see them trotting off the gangplank with only their backpack and carry-on to deal with and I think about how carefree it seems, but that’s just not me.  Dressing up is all part of the fun and you can’t really dress up out of a back pack.  This time I also had a formal gown, tuxedo and various other ceremony items to deal with.  I took a deep breath and started the process.

The Luggage Question

I must not travel enough, because it seems every time I travel they’ve changed all the rules.  I’m still wondering what happened to two pieces of checked luggage and no weight restrictions.  At least we weren’t flying on Spirit with it’s 40 pound checked luggage restriction, but I was limited to one checked bag and what seemed a pretty small carry on.

We had traveled enough in recent years to destroy some of our luggage.  Our carry-ons were in pitiful shape and the large hard-sized case had sprouted a crack.  My sweet neighbor offered to loan us some bags, but in the end, we decided to go ahead and buy our own.

Thankfully, Tuesday Morning had a luggage sale.  Bill decided my old red bag was good enough for him, but we’d still need one large bag and those carry-ons.  We mucked about in the back of the store with a copy of Air Canada‘s Luggage Allowances, measuring bags and lamenting prices for quite a while, before arriving at the checkout counter with three purple bags.

Next there was a dust up about loading the car.  Deb would be riding to the airport with us, so I wanted to be sure there was going to be room for all of us and our luggage in the car.  I suggested a trial run and it did not go well.  Bill was satisfied everything was going to be OK, just a little bit before I was through with all the fretting I needed to do.  That turned into another argument.

What to Wear

Deciding what to wear was really no trouble at all.  While I don’t travel enough to keep up with the ever-changing luggage policies, I do travel often enough to know which of my clothes work best for traveling.  Knits for the plane, sundresses for shore excursions and a selection of dress-up clothes for evening.  Once I gathered up all the accouterments for these outfits, I was ready to go.

We’d had some rough times getting ready for this trip, but in the days just before travel things smoothed out.  It seemed as if we would at least stay married long enough to renew our vows.  I can say this with some humor now, but it wasn’t very funny at the time.  Mr. Bill indicated his willingness to cooperate by being packed a whole day in advance.  Our bags were all under 50 pounds.

It was time to head to the airport.  I can’t wait for us to go together.  Come back next week and we’ll hit the road, the air and the sea.

Accommodations, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Let’s Drink to It

person holding a wine glasses
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

TRAVEL THERE: ON BOARD BEVERAGE PACKAGES

Hi there!  I hope your holiday were wonderful.  We were discussing wi-fi packages on the Celebrity Edge before the break and now we are moving on to beverages.

Whining About Wine Packages

My husband and I are not big drinkers.  We enjoy wine and beer, particularly with dinner, and we think a Tex-Mex meal is incomplete without a margarita, but that’s about it. Here’s our problem. Paying for drinks individually on a cruise ship can get very pricey, but trying to drink enough to justify a beverage plan can turn the whole trip into a bacchanal.

Even though we are not big drinkers, a nice dinner without wine is pretty sad.  Unfortunately, wine seems to be the biggest challenge on a cruise ship.  They’ve got great deals if you drink cocktails, but bottles of wine are a different story.  At home, we’ve learned which bargain wines suit us and the tab for each bottle hovers between $8-12.  Out and about, we drink wine by the glass and each glass is about the same price as a bottle at home, but the quality ends up being a step above our usual bargains.  Bottles of wine on a cruise are very, very much more than we’d buy at home or at a restaurant and you might get a glass for $15 or so, but the chances of getting something good for that price are iffy.  Hence our love for river cruising!

I looked at the beverage options for Celeberity Cruises online and we discussed them for days.  I finally had to ask for help.  They had something called Wine by the Bottle, which let you have a package price for bottles, but they didn’t have a wine list there and the pricing was confusing.  We got on the phone with a Celebrity rep and they cleared it up.  The price of the package was based on how many bottle  you wanted, but you’d have to wait until you were on the boat to choose the actual bottles. Still, we opted to go with that.

Theoretically, the bottles were supposed to follow you around to the various restaurants and bars. If you wanted a glass from a bottle you opened somewhere else on the boat, you just told them your name and the last place you drank from the bottle. Or you could just order a new bottle from the Wine by the Bottle wine list. It actually worked quite well. In fact, we assumed we’d just have to have one bottle going at a time, but once on board we discovered Bill could get his red and I could get my white and we’d make them last over a couple of days.

No Soda Package

When cruising I usually get a soda package.  I may not be a big alcohol drinker, but I need my caffeine and I don’t drink coffee.  On board, water, tea, coffee and several juices are always available to you.  You have to find a buffet or snack bar, but those are usually spread all over the place.  Sodas they treat like liquid gold.  Each rather small glass costs more than a Big Gulp back home and you also get hit with a gratuity every time.

The soda package makes that more affordable.  You pay one price per day for all the sodas you want to drink, but there’s one catch for me.  I am a devoted Diet Dr Pepper drinker and that’s just not available on a cruise.  While I will drink other sodas in a bind, they have to be diet and my least favorite is Diet Coke.  Celebrity proudly serves Coke products.  Coke Zero is OK, but no one could tell me whether that was available at all.  What’s more the soda comes out of a fountain machine and so far I have not found anyone on a cruise ship that can actually get it mixed right.

Bottom line, when I get the soda package, I pay a hefty price to get unlimited soda refills, but the soda is never the flavor I prefer to drink.  I come home with a cool thermal tumbler, but how many of those do you need.  This time I decided to go caffeine-less.  If I started having caffeine withdrawal, I reasoned, I could drink iced-tea.  As it turned out I was fine.

So with everything having to do with the cruise and the vow ceremony squared away, it was time to start packing.

Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Life Without Internet is No Life at All

selective focus photography of person holding turned on smartphone
Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

TRAVEL THERE:   ON BOARD INTERNET PACKAGES

Perhaps I’ve said it before, but I’ll mention it again.  This was probably our last big ship cruise.  River cruising spoiled us:  free wi-fi onboard, wine and beer included with meals, shore excursions included, docking inside a destination and a whole lot less people to deal with.  When we first started cruising, we liked having our room, the meals and the entertainment included, but it didn’t take us long to figure out that was a long haul from all-inclulsive.  We don’t like to get nasty a la carte surprises at the end of a trip.  On the Anniversary Cruise, here’s what we did about the internet.

Gotta Have My Social Media

For most people, having access to social media is about relationship.  I enjoy that aspect of it, but it’s also my job.  People pay me to post to their channels on a regular basis.  With the wonders of technology I can plan the posts, create the content and schedule the items to post long before they are needed.  In fact, for most of my clients I have weeks of posts all lined up.  Once all that is done, most items post automatically.  I don’t even have to think about them.  Most, but not all.  Our friends at Instagram require posting from a smartphone.  I still hate whoever came up with that.

To fulfill my obligations, I needed to be able to post to Instagram, from my phone, on a daily basis, throughout the trip.  Wi-fi on board a cruise ship costs an arm and a leg, and this was true on Celebrity Edge too, but that’s only part of the problem.  It’s also outrageously unreliable.  That may be OK for checking your email and posting your vacation pictures, but it won’t do for business.  We’d learned that on our cruise in 2018.  I hadn’t added social media to the services I offered yet, but the market blew up and Bill needed to do some trading on board.  We were on the brink of financial ruin if he couldn’t make the trades and he was only barely able to make it happen.  Imagine someone asking you how you lost all your money and you having to tell them you went on a cruise!

So, I was looking for Plan B.  Instead of depending on the ship for my internet connection, I’d rely on my cellphone provider.  That way I’d also have phone service, texting, GPS and all the rest.  The only caveat was that it would not work when we were out to sea.  Since there was only one day at sea, I knew my clients would forgive me one Instagram post on one day – if the rest of it worked and it almost always does.

So, we didn’t get a wi-fi plan, but we did use Verizon’s International Plan.  Warning, once you turn on the International Plan, you have it for life.  If your phone figures out you are out of the country it turns on the International Plan.   So if you don’t want it, keep that airplane mode on.

The Celebrity App

As to texting on board, the only people I wanted to contact when I was at sea would be the friends I had with me and thankfully, we didn’t need wi-fi.  Celebrity has an app for that.  The Celebrity app was one of our favorite things on this cruise.  We probably used it more before the cruise than we did during, but we loved it.  It’s all well and good to have a website and we used Celebrity’s extensively in planning, but once we downloaded the app we spent hours on the app.  We’d whip out our phones for ceremony planning, to remind us what was happening on what day, to discuss dinner options, to show other people what we were planning and all kinds of things.  On board, it allowed to stay in touch with our friends without them having to be in their rooms or hooked up to wi-fi.  The one drawback was that there were no notifications.  We just had to check our phones occasionally to see if anyone had tried to chat with us, but it all worked.

To tell the truth, if money were no object (but money is always an object) I would have gotten both wi-fi and the International phone plan.  Personally and professionally, my life is online.  I wished for my laptop.  I wanted to post more pictures every day, but we were always on the go when we were docked and I don’t do much posting on the fly.  We’d sail away about the time I got back on board and I didn’t have time to sort through all my pictures and post the ones I wanted.  Usually that early morning and end of the day posting is part of the fun, but since my internet was tied to the port, it didn’t get done.

Next week is Christmas and then we have New Years.  Let’s talk about another a la carte provision – beverages – after the holidays!