Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

Starving in Paradise

The view from our room

TRAVEL THERE: CAN I PLEASE EAT?

There was no Indian restaurant on the beach.  It was a beach bar named Indigo.  We found our way back to the reception area and got directions to the nearest place to get food at that moment in time, which was the Indigo.

Finally Food 

The Indigo Beach Bar and Grill is an open-aired restaurant, right on the beach.  Initially the charm of it was lost on me, because I was starving.  We were seated and handed some menus.  Speed was not of the essence to them, but my blood sugar had hit rock bottom.

They wanted a drink order.  I remembered all drinks were included, which brought a smile.  I ordered a margarita on the rocks with salt.  The waiter wandered off, so we could peruse the menu.  The margarita returned and it wasn’t exactly as I imagined it would be.  There would be no cigars, because it wasn’t even close.  Scratch margaritas off my drink list.  We gave them our food order – hamburgers.  The waiter wandered off and I realized if I didn’t get some food soon I was going to start chewing on the palm-frond roof. 

I gazed around the restaurant, thinking I might spy some crackers or a basket of bread, but to my relief there was buffet of sorts.  It was a salad bar and had a few other edibles.  The salad wasn’t all that fresh, but it would have to do.  FOOD!

It wasn’t all that long until the burgers arrived.  I inhaled that as quickly as I had the salad.  I was ready to figure out where we were and what we were supposed to be doing.  As the calories from lunch began to connect with my brain, I decided to check into the Club Med Punta Cana app and see if I could figure out what was going on.  After all, the welcome crew had told me there would be an orientation tour at 3.  I just had to find out where that would be.

Then Everything Changes

This is about the time it started raining.  Said orientation tour was not on the app. Bill has his quirks.  I have mine.   One of mine reared its ugly head.  I obsessively need to know my way around and I want to know what’s happening.  Bill is much more laid back about that sort of thing than me, willing to wander about aimlessly, not wondering if he’s missing the best activity or not.

After 24 years, Bill and I are getting better at this traveling stuff.  I had allowed him to play computer games on the sofa, even though I was starving and he followed me around the grounds to get my bearings, even though I was behaving like a chicken with my head cut off.  Isn’t marriage wonderful?

We’re about to take ourselves on an improptu, self-led tour of the grounds. Come back next week and join us as we get our bearings for the coming days.

Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

Our Punta Cana Pals

TRAVEL THERE: ARRIVING IN PUNTA CANA

Punta Cana is one of those open air airports.  It was lovely on the day we arrived, but I couldn’t help but wonder how miserable it might be if it was storming.  You disembark onto the tarmac and ride a bus for such a short bit that you wonder why they bothered.  Then you leave the bus and enter the palm-frond-covered terminal.

Happy to be There

Most everything in Punta Cana is palm-frond-covered, but the picture you see was not taken at the airport.  That’s Club Med’s lobby and it was taken several days later.  We did not arrive quite so happy and carefree, but we were happy to be on the ground again.

I was starving, because I had used up all the calories from my morning cookie a long time ago.  I was also not too happy about the fact that somewhere during my sojourn with Spirit Airlines I had managed to get gum on the divided skirt I planned to wear several times during my Punta Cana stay.  I had enjoyed better traveling experiences.

We shuffled along in the terminal, following the rest of the people from our plane.  We waited for our luggage and then something odd happened.  Remember those fees Bill doesn’t like to pay.  Well, he’s not fond of tipping either, so I was surprised to discover that somehow we’d inherited a porter to push the luggage cart we’d wrangled on our own. That’s not our usual MO, but I’m not complaining.

Our porter ushered us through customs and hooked us up with a taxi.  Most taxis in Punta Cana are white vans, not the yellow vehicles that usually come to mind.  A short ride later and we were at Club Med.

Welcoming Ritual

They do things nicely at Club Med.  We were helped from our vehicle and ushered over to a sofa.  A smiling young lady offered us a cool cloth with which to wipe our face and hands.  An inviting fruit drink waited on a nearby table.  Our luggage was unloaded.  We were ushered to a comfortable sofa to enjoy our beverage.  I realized I could get used to this relaxation thing.

While we sipped our fruit drink, a dark-skinned gentleman with a sing-song voice chatted us up.  He pointed one way to tell us about Samantha, Banana or Sama-something where we would have dinner.  He pointed another way to tell us about Hispanola, which was closed.  And then it sounded as if he was telling us there was an Indian restaurant on the beach where we could get snacks.

Snacks sounded good, but then a fresh-looking young lady came to show us our room – La Nina 662.  Rain was in the forecast, but while it didn’t look as if that was possible, heavy humidity whispered that it wasn’t only possible, but probable.  Our guide across the property was an Israeli, but her family lives in Canada.  She’s an intern.  We’d soon figure out that there were a lot of interns from all over the world.

Getting Settled In

Our Canadian/Israeli friend had no sooner shown us to our room, than a bellman arrived with our luggage.  This was one of those situations in which a vacation can go awry.  Damn the luggage, I was starving, but Bill wanted to rest a little.  I’ve learned to let him settle in his way and there is no telling what that will be.  Sometimes he’s ready to go exploring, but not this time, when I would have loved to find the first viable source of food and feed my face.

As he laid on the sofa playing his favorite game on his tablet, I used the time to get unpacked.  That’s usually the first thing I want to do, but this time all I could think about was how hungry I was.  Once everything was unpacked and organized in our room, I looked out the window and decided on a change of clothes before heading out.  I wanted to get out of the gummed skirt and in the humid heat, even the short-sleeved top I was wearing felt like too much.

Bill was still playing his game, but I could wait no longer.  I convinced him it was time to go find that Indian restaurant on the beach.  Off we went!  We tipped our sunhats to our friends at CTC Travel who had given us this great trip.  Come back next week and let’s have snacks on the Beach.

Accommodations, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Museums, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Nawlins

TRAVEL BUG TALES: THE CHATEAU HOTEL AND THE FRENCH QUARTER

It’s 1974.  I’m about to start my second year of college, Nixon just resigned and we’re in the French Quarter.  Come along and join the fun.

The Chateau Hotel

As I’ve told you before, Holiday Inn tended to be our usual accommodations, but for New Orleans we stayed right in the French Quarter at The Chateau Hotel I’m happy to report that you can stay there today if you want to.  I confess I was thrilled, just by the mere fact that it wasn’t our usual roadside motel.  It was an honest to goodness hotel right in the middle of everything.

I remember entering our room and walking right to the windows to look out at the French Quarter.  It was exhilarating to see something besides a freeway.  Our first night in town we had to grab a quick bite and get back to the hotel in time for my parents to see the infamous news conference featuring Richard Nixon’s resignation.

In addition to being right in the middle of the French Quarter, The Chateau Hotel also had an amazing courtyard where breakfast was served each morning.  Those morning meals are among my favorite memories of the trip.  I am devoted to al fresco dining and for all I know, this is where my passion for it originated.

The French Quarter

Once breakfast was over, Mom had our itinerary all planned out.  We set out on foot to see the sights.  The tour started at Jackson Square to visit St. Louis Cathedral and the Cabildo.  Beignets at Cafe du Monde were de rigueur, but I’ll be honest with you, I’ve had better.

I can’t remember all the places Mom dragged us to over the next few days, but I can tell you that we ate dinner at Brennan’s, another treat you can still enjoy.  Supposedly, according to tradition, breakfast is the meal you are really supposed to eat at Brennan’s, but for my mom, having dinner there was just the bomb.  Dad had to put on a suit and tie.  Mom and Aunt Edie wore maxi-skirts, all the rage at the time.  There is no pictorial record of what Susan and I wore, but I do remember the meal.

I chose Chicken Madeira as my entree.  I was very impressed with myself, because it had a wine sauce.  Being a Baptist, my mom didn’t cook with wine, so at the time I didn’t realize the alcohol always cooked out.  I thought I was being a bit naughty.  Mom and Dad were afraid I wouldn’t like it and to tell the truth, I wasn’t all that crazy about it, but there was no way I was going to admit it.

For dessert, I had their famous pecan pie.  I’ll confess something else.  I’d take my little sister’s pecan pie over their’s any day of the week, but at the time, she wasn’t baking any pies.  Still, I remember being under-impressed.  Brennan’s hadn’t been a big hit with me.

With my dessert, I had coffee and I’d never had coffee before.  I’d been away at school and could have had coffee with every meal, even though my parents had never offered me any.  I just wasn’t interested.  At Brennan’s the waiter convinced me I couldn’t leave their restaurant without having some of their famous chicory coffee.  So, my first taste of coffee was a baptism by bitterness.  I still don’t drink coffee.

So that was my family vacation to New Orleans.  I’ve been several times since.  My favorite New Orleans cuisine is a toss up between a big ole bowl of BBQ Shrimp or a Muffalatta sandwich from a storefront my friend Michael took me to.  I know I’d rather eat BBQ Shrimp than anything Brennan’s has on the menu.  And speaking of Brennan’s, if you have to choose between Brennan’s and Commander’s Palace, I’d vote for Commander’s Palace.  New Orleans really is a culinary treat, but I wouldn’t have known it from that 1974 visit.

The next page in my scrapbook says I am Biloxi Bound, so I hope you’ll join me next week for a little Gulf Shore fun.

Accommodations, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Libraries, Museums, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Evangeline in Louisiana

TRAVEL BUG TALES: CRAWDADS AND ACADIANS

“This is the forest primeval,” is the beginning phrase of Longfellow’s poem, Evangeline It’s a fictional story of love lost and then found too late.  It’s also about political injustice, because French settlers of Canada, called Acadians, were deported by the British, just for being Catholics.  In the story, Evangeline is among the deportees who were sent to Louisiana – hence Evangeline Parish.  Let’s go visit.

Traveling Evangeline Country

Though I can’t remember all the logistics between Dallas and Evangeline Country, I do remember being sick and tired of riding in the back seat on a sticky August afternoon.  We had Aunt Edie with us, which was fun, but I’m guessing we hit the road around 4 AM.  By late afternoon I’m sure I was second guessing my decision to go on this family vacation.

We piled out of the car at a Mardi Gras museum, but I’m not sure where it was.  They were very proud of the fact that they’d been doing Mardi Gras a lot longer than New Orleans.  The museum was full of beautiful costumes, but the best part was the air conditioning!  There was also a lot of material about Acadian history.  They were very interested in visitors understanding that while outsiders may think the terms Cajun and Creole are interchangeable, Cajuns and Creoles don’t.  Cajuns descended from the Acadians.  Creoles are descended from the French mixing with various other races, especially around New Orleans.  Creoles probably thought Cajuns were hicks, while Cajuns claimed a purer racial lineage, which was much more important back in the 70’s than it is today.

Ça C’est Bon

Regardless of their racial heritage, Cajuns know how to eat.  That evening we ate the local cuisine.  Mom had done her research and we had dinner at what was supposed to be THE place to eat crawfish.  I keep thinking the name of it was Anderson’s, but don’t hold me to that.

Wherever it was, it was a great, big barn-like place.  The menu offered crawfish this, crawfish that and crawfish whatever else.  I was a little squeamish about sucking heads, but the rest of it sounded pretty good to me.  I’m sure I got some sort of combo plate so I could try it more than one way.  I’m also pretty sure that everyone else chose more traditional seafood choices, like fried shrimp and then sampled my entrees.  I’ve always been a little more food adventurous than the rest of my family.

We probably spent the night at a Holiday Inn.  That’s where we usually stayed.  The next day we moved on to New Orleans.

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Forty Pounds?

brown leather duffel bag
Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

TRAVEL THERE: A $120 LESSON FROM SPIRIT AIRLINES

So, on a Monday morning in May, I woke up with the knowledge that I was going to Club Med Punta Cana at the end of the week – the trip we had won from CTC Travel.  I had no idea whatsoever of what I was taking with me.

The Resort Life

I am the Museum Girl, not the Resort Girl.  I know what to take on cruises.  I’m great at packing for a road trip.  However, I didn’t know what to take to a resort, because that hadn’t been my life up to that point.

So I imagined a really casual five-day cruise without any ports of call and no dressing for dinner.  My wardrobe began to form in my head.  Swimsuits, sundresses and shorts.  I scratched my head a little more and tried to dream up every eventuality.  Maybe I’d need jeans?  What about some slacks?  I stood around in my closet gathering up things I might need.  Something to sleep in, lingerie, sandals, sneakers.  The items began to pile up.  In the end I took a lot more than I needed, because I just didn’t know.

The Baggage Thing

So, if you travel at all, you know what Spirit is famous for – no frills, but a fee for everything.  I looked online for all of Spirit’s baggage fees and thought I was pretty clever.  I was sure we’d be able to get by without the additional cost of carry-ons, because I’d managed to fit us into one suitcase for five days for our cruise.  Of course, since we drove to Galveston, the weight didn’t matter, but I was certain I could fit everything into two suitcases – and I did.

We weighed the suitcases with our handy dandy suitcase scale and put the them next to the door.  The alarm would be going off at 3:30 AM the next morning, because our flight was at the ungodly hour of 6 AM.

The Other Baggage Thing

We parked our car at Park & Fly, like we always do, and were delivered to our terminal.  As we stood near the Spirit Airlines acclimating ourselves to their procedures, a very nice lady came up to us and offered to help.  She was happy to see the confirmations proving we had checked in online.  Then she grabbed a bag and set it on their scale.  I didn’t have a worry in the world.  Both bags were under 50 pounds – the magic airline weight limit.  Or at least that had been the magic airline weight limit the last time I had flown on a real airline.

I should have worried.  The weight of our bags brought a frown to our friendly helper’s face, but it was nothing compared to the one on my husband’s face.  We were going to have to pay an additional $30 per bag each way.  $120!!  The weight limit for Spirit Airlines is 40 pounds!

My stomach dropped to somewhere near my shoes.  We’ve had vacations ruined for less than $120 in unexpected fees.  Bill is no fan of traveling and he hates fees – they’re like paying interest, only much more careless. I waited for my dressing down, but it never came.  We’d both been looking at the Spirit website for days.  I’d emailed him a reminder of the permitted size of his personal item.  We’d both weighed the suitcases.  He wasn’t happy, but I wasn’t in trouble.

We finished getting our boarding passes and got in line to begrudgingly pay our first round of $60 baggage fees.  (BTW, CTC was in no way responsible for our frustration at the gate.  They didn’t book our air and I didn’t ask them about luggage fees!)  There was a wait by the gate and then we climbed on board Spirit Airlines.  Come fly with us next week.

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, International, Museums, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

The Big Travel Questions

TRAVEL TALK: HOW LONG CAN WE STAY AND HOW MUCH CAN WE SPEND?

My poor husband!  The minute we get home from a trip, I’m already thinking ahead to the next one.  I’m trying to figure out just how quickly I can get him out of town again, how long he will let us stay and how much money I can get away with spending.  So, learning that I’d just won a five day trip to a Club Med resort from CTC, my favorite travel agency, I really only had one question.  When can we go?

Which Club Med?

Sandra Rubio, my travel agent, had another question for me.  Which Club Med do you want to go to?  While there are Club Meds all over the world, our prize was limited to Club Meds in the North American hemisphere, so that made it a little easier.  Sandra talked through the choices with me and I narrowed it down to two – Sandpiper Bay in Florida and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

Well, really I wanted Punta Cana, because I’d never been to the DR, but my husband was hoping our nieces and nephews might want to come along and for them Florida was more realistic.  That would have been really fun, but when, after a flurry of phone calls and emails we realized it would be just my hubby and me, that not only decided the where, but the when.  If it was going to be a romantic getaway, then it made sense to go for our anniversary.  We had to wait several days for our preferred dates to be approved, but once they were, we were set to go in May.

Let the Research Begin

Once I’ve pegged down a date, a destination and have an idea of the budget, travel planning really begins for me in earnest, but this trip was very, very different.  I am the Museum Girl.  Punta Cana is not exactly a hot bed of museums.  Punta Cana doesn’t even have one museum.  I couldn’t figure out what I was going to do with myself.

I went to the Club Med website.  It had lists and lists of activities, but they were very active activities, like water sports, golfing, archery and tennis.  That’s not exactly my cup of tea – and yes, I know I’m weird.  There were also amazing pictures of beaches and swimming pools.  That’s not exactly my cup of tea, either.  Yes, I know that makes me even weirder, but it began to dawn on me that I’d just signed up for five days of relaxation and I really don’t know how to do that.

And Then There was Airfare

While everything about our five days in Punta Cana were covered, the airfare was up to us.  We really didn’t think that was such a big deal until we tried to book our flight.  The first big surprise was the number of dollar signs.  I mean the Dominican Republic is just right there on the other side of Cuba.  Why did it cost such a fortune to get there?

The next big surprise was the big, huge price gap between Spirit Air and every other airlines in the world.  It was such a substantial amount that we never actually considered one of the other airlines, but we were a little stuck, because we didn’t think we were Spirit Airlines’ target customers.

It took us a little while to wrap our minds around it, but we booked our airfare to Punta Cana on Spirit.  And then the great wait began without a single museum to research.  Friends who were aware of our upcoming trip would ask if we were ready to travel .  I would smile, shrug and say something pleasant like, “Of course,” “Can’t wait,” or “Sure,” but I wasn’t so sure I was ready for five days of uninterrupted relaxation.

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Return to the Fairmont

TRAVEL THERE: READY TO GO HOME

This is the scene that welcomed me to the Heliopolis Fairmont over two weeks before.  The lobby hadn’t changed, but we weren’t quite as happy with our rooms.  Yes, that’s plural.  We were in three different rooms before the stay was over.

Hello Mr. Sadek

The Fairmont staff was eager to welcome us back, but before the next few days were over, I bet they were glad to see us go.  “Is there anything we can do to make your stay more pleasant, Mr. Sadek?”  The question was a mistake.  Bill asked for a view of the pool and they gave it to him, but it should have come with a disclaimer.

We were exhausted.  Day after day had been one adventure after another.  We felt as if we’d walked a million miles since we’d last been in Cairo.  The bellman ushered us to our room and along with our luggage.  Bill went to the toilet and I laid on the bed.  I had a bit of a headache, but laying down didn’t seem to help.  A part of me said, “That’s because of the loud music you’re hearing.”

I got up off the bed and looked out the window.  We had a view of the pool alright – a view of the pool and the huge party they were having around it!  elegantly clad Egyptians stood in congenial groups around the pool.  Food and beverage stations were spread throughout the crowd.  And there was music – loud music.  Music so loud that you would have thought that the band was in the room with us.

Bill emerged from the bathroom and I asked him if the noise was bothering him.  In fact it was and a peek out the window confirmed it had only begun.   It was just about sunset and the party was just warming up.

Hello Again Mr. Sadek

Bill confirmed via the phone that the party wasn’t about to wrap up anytime soon.  He may have said a few other things, but since it was in Arabic I can’t tell you what it was.  Maybe this has something to do with why I haven’t learned the language.  Sometimes ignorance is bliss.  Bill can have an hour long conversation with one of the family members and I get about a 10 second summary.  I also don’t have to know exactly what he says to people when he’s unhappy and Mr. Bill was unhappy.

Bill decided to handle the situation in person and went down to the lobby.  He returned with a bellman who moved us to a room overlooking the other pool.  The noise situation had been unfortunate, but the new room seemed fine.  I didn’t have as much unpacking to do as usual, since we only had one day left, but I set about getting us moved in for this stay.

The next day was one of our favorite touring days and I will tell you about that next week, but first let me tell you about our next night at the Fairmont.

Hello Once Again Mr. Sadek

We had a busy day of sight-seeing and saying farewell to family on our final day in Cairo.  We returned to the room well-fed by Bill’s sister and filthy with the dust of Cairo.  We both took showers and got ready to make it an early night.  We needed to be up around 4 AM.

Bill watched a little TV and I puttered around the room, packing everything except the clothes we would wear, a few toiletries and what we had on our back.  When I finished, Bill switched off the TV and fired up his phone.  Checking Facebook and watching a few videos is a nightly ritual with him.  It was just about 9:45 when I pulled out my book intending to read myself to sleep – which I didn’t anticipate would  take very long.  Just about the time I got comfy, our room was invaded by loud Egyptian music.

A paper tent next to the bed reminded me that it was the evening of the hotel’s Arabian Feast and guess where it was?  At the pool right below our window.  This was not a good thing.

Bill got on the phone again.  This time he was not speaking in Arabic, but I can’t repeat what he said and keep my G rating with WordPress, but basically, he wanted to know what a guest had to do to get some sleep in that hotel.  It’s the first time we’ve ever had to explain what we were going to do in a hotel room.

This time they did not want Mr. Sadek in the lobby.  A committee of management figures and a bellhop reported to the room.  They wanted to move us to a suite, but all those available overlooked the Arabic Feast now going full steam out at the secondary pool.  Bill said he didn’t want a suite.  All he wanted to do was sleep.  So they offered another room, a larger one this time, but that wasn’t good enough for Bill.

He’d just watched me painstakingly set out everything for a quick departure in the morning.  He didn’t want to have to pack up all the incidentals, move them all and then reorganize things once again.  After a bit of negotiating, they offered to let us keep our stuff in this room and just move ourselves over to the other room.

So we all paraded (Bill and I in our pajamas) from a room on one floor to a room on another floor which faced the street.  Bill had been livid, but maintained the presence of mind to bring that beloved bottle of bourbon with him.  Thanks again Shady.

We had a nightcap, which settled us down enough to sleep.  What a way to spend your last night in Egypt.  Next week I’ll recap our final day in the city, but this is one story that all needed to be on one page!

Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Alex to Cairo with Detours

Farewell to the incongruities of Alex. McDonald’s Delivery Bikes at the Montazza

TRAVEL THERE: ROADSIDE DETRACTIONS

Our time in Egypt is coming to an end.  We are on our way back to Cairo from Alexandria.  We had a couple of detours, but made it in time to get on the boat for a family celebration.  Come along for the ride.

Alex to Cairo

After our visit to the archaeological sites in Carmous, we’d planned to take in another important historical contribution to Egypt’s culture.  The early introduction of Christianity to Egypt had an interesting by-product.  Egyptians eagerly embraced monotheism and added their own particular brand of devotion – monasticism.   Egyptian monastic aesthetes  led the the way in creating places for men and women to withdraw from the world and serve Jesus Christ.

That was the plan, but then there were the Good Friday massacres.  In response to these horrific bombings, the Roman Catholic pope was going to make a visit to Egypt – unprecedented in modern times.   This was good news for Christianity in Egypt, but it had some side effects.  One of them was the closing of the monasteries to outside visitors in the days leading up to the visit.

In true Egyptian fashion, we had to arrive at the gate of the monastery to find out they were closed, but it was a nice detour.  We got off the main road to travel through some rural areas and small towns on the way to the monastery.  It was the Muslim holy day and it was great to see all the white clad men in their caftans and turbans walking to their place of worship.  I rode along thinking about the juxtaposition of these two forms of worship.  Then we got to the gate and discovered what had seemed like such a tranquil setting was actually hiding the age old conflict between Christian and Muslim.

Our Potty Stop

So, we’d enjoyed the restroom facilities near Pompey’s Pillar.  I assumed I’d be able to visit the restroom again at the monastery, but we were turned away at the gate.  Religious differences aside, I needed a toilet.  Besides the obvious issue, I had another problem.  Women are supposed to wear long sleeves at the monastery and if they are wearing a skirt, it should be long and there should be no bare legs or feet.  In other words I was about to burn up.

Izzat didn’t seem real happy about finding a restroom for us to visit, but as always he assured us he would take care of our needs.  Did you ever see the movie Deliverance?  Well there was no river with wooded shores when we stopped at a roadside convenience store, but I could have sworn I heard the soundtrack playing – just not on the banjo.

I made short work of my wardrobe adjustments and potty stop.  Then I high-tailed it back to the car.  I think Bill and Izzat got some snacks, but I wasn’t going to waste any time.  Izzat was a perfect driver, but he was awful at finding restrooms.  I don’t think that was from a lack of trying, but a scarcity of facilities.  We’d had difficulty with this at both ends of the trip to Alexandria.

Cairo is up next and you’ll love The Pharaoh Cruise.  See you next week

Accommodations, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

While I Was Sleeping

TRAVEL HERE: VOOM DID NOT ZOOM

My first day at sea was ending, but Bill was unfortunately just getting started.  Not the best way to spend a cruise.

The Trading Day

Many people think that folks who trade stocks are sitting at their computers all day long, buying and selling, and there are traders who do that, but that’s not Bill.  He only makes a few trades a day, if any, at very specific times, mostly at the opening of the market.  What he does the rest of the day is research, testing systems and writing code.  In fact it’s what he does when the markets are closed that is the most important.

At the end of the day, when he knows whether it’s been a good day or a bad day, then Bill has to get ready for the next morning.  His systems will tell him whether there are any potential trades coming up, but he has to decide to whether to execute them or not.  He also has to be sure there is plenty of money in the accounts to make his purchases and he has to be very careful about his orders.  A careless click on the computer or the wrong wording in the order could cost him thousands.

Trading on the Boat

So, as I changed into my pajamas, Bill was firing up the computer to get ready for his morning trades.  Even sitting at his desk at home, this can take hours, according to what’s happening in the market.  On this particular Monday, the market had been taking a nosedive since the Friday before and Bill had both of his hands tied behind his back.  All he had was a laptop and a bad internet connection.  Usually he has multiple computers streaming information onto two huge screens and a rocket-face internet connection which he pays a premium for.

While our cabin was plenty big for sleeping, relaxing, grooming and changing clothes, it did not offer Bill  a perfect work space.  There was a desk-like area for putting on make-up, but it was not ideal for his purposes.  He was hyper-aware that he was just a few feet away from his sleeping wife, so he was trying to keep his movements and noises to a minimum.  He also had very poor internet connection and was suffering from the speed of the computer and the small screen.

Electricity everywhere and not a plug to plug into!

Somewhere in the wee hours of the morning he decided he might have more luck with all of it out in the public areas.  He’d find a comfy chair somewhere near an electrical outlet, prop his laptop on his lap and finish up his work.  What he found was that comfy chairs were easy to come by, but electrical outlets were not.  He tried a little bit of everything, but as soon as he would find something that might work, one of the other twelve people wandering around the ship after the bars closed would come sit next to him and do something distracting – like argue with their girlfriend or clip their toenails or listen to music so loudly that even though they were using headphones, Bill could hear it.

Eventually, he was able to discern there were no trades that had to made in the morning, but that was only half the battle.  He needed desperately to do some more research, but it just wasn’t going to happen.  He crawled in bed for an hour or two, but no sleep was to be had.

Come back next week for our day at sea.

 

 

Accommodations, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Shopping, TRAVEL

No Vavoom in VOOM

TRAVEL THERE: GETTING CONNECTED

Royal Caribbean calls their internet service VOOM and it comes in two flavors – with and without streaming.  We call it FAIL in either flavor.

First Impressions Matter

After a disappointing Embarkation Buffet and Sail Away, we were getting worried about out cruise, but the boat was nice, our cabin was fine and we liked our cabin attendant.  All was not lost – yet.  We’d made a stab at having fun.  Now it was time to get down to business.  As I shared a few weeks ago, even though he’d tried to offload his business for the few days we’d be gone, it hadn’t worked and Bill was going to have to keep an eye on the market.  For that we’d need internet, so we made our way to Deck 5 to do a little business.

Literature I had read suggested there would be an internet cafe somewhere on the boat with free wi-fi.  There wasn’t.  Perhaps some of the ships have it, but not Vision of the Seas.  There were a few computers you could log onto and there was some limited internet access, but if you wanted to check your email forget about it.  Doing what Bill wanted to do would have been impossible.

Chasing VOOM

We went to the Customer Service Desk and they said we could just log-in and get internet ourselves or we could see the Internet Desk.  Since there were two different packages and he wasn’t sure which one he wanted, he went to the Internet Desk.  He also only wanted internet on two of the four days, not the balance of the cruise.

There was no attendant at the Internet Desk, so we cooled our wheels until they came back.  When she appeared, Bill really challenged her scripts.  Everybody is supposed to want internet for the whole cruise and she didn’t know what to think of Bill.  In the end, she also told him how to sign up online, because if she signed him up on his phone,he’d have to log out of the phone and then log back in on the laptop.  See when you sign up for internet you only get it for one person on one device – and they mean it.

So we dutifully went down to the room.  I finally started unpacking and Bill sat down to log in.  Soon I was unpacked and Bill was headed back out of the room, because what had sounded so reasonable at the Internet Desk didn’t work on the laptop in the room.  I stayed behind to finish unpacking and to start getting ready for the evening.

When he got back I could tell things did not go well.  The VOOM lady had offered to give him a refund when he told her how much trouble he was having.  I bet that was an interesting conversation.  She quickly got the message that a refund wasn’t going to cut the mustard and soon he was working his way up the food chain to find someone on board who could get him online.  They’d finally gotten him operational, but barely.  He was one unhappy cruiser.

Obviously, things were not going well on this cruise – and guess what!  The disappointments had only just begun.  Come back next week and we’ll go investigate a few other shortfalls.