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.

 

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!

ART, Cruising, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Getting the Little Details Right

Vow Pages at the Ceremony

TRAVEL THERE: THE FINISHING TOUCHES

Have you ever watched a TV show called Four Weddings?  It’s a game show where four brides are pitted against one another to win a fabulous honeymoon.  If you’ve never watched it, don’t bother.  It’s pretty snarky.  I know, because we did watch it for a while.  Most of what I got out of it was the things I absolutely didn’t want to have in my vow renewal ceremony on the Celebrity Edge.

Group Participation

There are many things I didn’t want in my ceremony.  I didn’t want any of those rituals like unity candles, sand ceremonies, jumping over the broom or crushing the wine glass.  I love traditions, but I think it is a little weird to take things out of their context and plop them in willy nilly.  What I did want was a ceremony that focused on our commitment to God in our marriage and our relationship with our friends.

Both of those purposes were served by having our friends participate in the ceremony.  Together, Bill and I chose meaningful Bible verses for our friends to read on the big day: my favorite verse from Psalms, his favorite from Ecclesiastes and the traditional love chapter from 1 Corinthians.  There were many other verses we love, so it would have been easy to find another one, but I had something special up my sleeve for my best friend.

Beautiful Music

When I met my bestie, she was going to SMU for a degree in opera.  What a voice!  One of my great joys in life is going to church with her and hearing her sing all the wonderful old hymns.  I had no intention of letting it go to waste, but I did want what she sang to be something special and unique.  I wanted to somehow pay homage to her beautiful voice, our friendship and the 25 years of marriage Bill and I have have shared.

At our wedding reception, the song for the First Dance was Celiene Dion’s “When I Fall in Love.”  It was a big hit at the time and was probably the First Dance at most of the wedding receptions that year.  I thought revisiting the song would be a nice touch for the vow renewal, but the lyrics just didn’t fit.  Yes, we fell in love all those years ago, but the song for our ceremony should celebrate the fact that we’ve traveled beyond falling in love.  Together we’d endured the storms of life and nurtured a love that truly was forever.

First, I made sure that Deb would, in fact, be willing to sing and that “When I Fall in Love” was a song she would tackle.  Since she’s classically trained, her voice is not geared for some pop music.  Dear friend that she is, she agreed to take on the task, but there were still those lyrics.  Well, I’m not a writer and a published poet for nothing.  I wrote my own lyrics, but I’m no lyricist, so I wasn’t sure whether they would fit or not.  Bless Deb’s heart, she made it work.

The Final Touch

Whether it is a TV show or a live wedding, I hate the part where a groom digs through his pockets for a wrinkled piece of paper or the bride whips notecards out of her dellecotage.I wanted something more substantial, more of a keepsake.  What’s more, I didn’t just want it for the vows.  I wanted it for my bestie, so she’d have the words I’d written in front of her.  I wanted it for the Scripture the other attendants would be reading.

A lady at my church is a calligraphy artist, Lettering by Lydia, and she agreed to pen the pages for me.  When we had that conversation, Deb had not yet confirmed the lyrics would work and Bill and I were still debating the actual words of our vows.  So, along with the deadline Celebrity Cruises had tick, tick, ticking away, now I had Lydia desperately wanting me to give her the words so she could get her work done.  No pressure, right?

When Lydia agreed to pen the lyrics, verses and vows we talked about various types of papers, but In the end I chose 12X12 scrapbooking pages.  The content was penned onto a white lacy page.  Then I adhered the lacy page to dark blue papers to match the dresses of our attendants.  Finally, I decorated the pages with small paper flowers, pearl-ized ornaments and rhinestones.  They were pretty, if I do say so myself!

Just a few more plans and I can start packing!

 

Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Fashion Choices for the Big Day

Best Man Shopping

TRAVEL THERE: GETTING THE RIGHT LOOK

In the final weeks before the Anniversary Cruise, while Bill and I were still “discussing”what the service would be, I had a lot of other work to do concerning the ceremony.  Here’s what was going on.

Everyone Else’s Ceremony Garb

After I found my dress, a few weekends later we went shopping again and found Deb’s Like we did with mine, we found a downright dirty bargain!  We sent a picture of her dress and mine to the rest of the ladies and asked them to find something blue to wear on the big day.  I was trying to be a low maintenance bride.

I also told Jim that Bill would be wearing a tux.  In fact, Bill still fit into the tux he wore to the wedding 25 years ago.  I told Jim he could wear anything that he wanted to, as long as it was dark, because I knew he wasn’t big on suits.  This picture was from one of his shopping trips.  I loved it, but he ended up with a black suit.

That resolved the ceremony wardrobe issues, but there were still  things to do.

The Hair Thing

I was somewhat nervous about my hair.  I’d left it long for a year, even though I was ready to go short again, so I could have a fabulous updo.  I was anxious about a stranger on the Celebrity Edge having a go at my hair for such an important event.  I chatted about it with Loree every time I went in for my regular appointment.  At first, I thought I wanted something with braids.  She was all for adding fake braids, but no, I wanted to use my own hair.  That’s why I’d grown it.

Then I found my dress, which was very old Hollywood, and the braids were out.  So Deb and I went to Sam Moon’s where I bought a pair of gorgeous hair ornaments, not sure which would do the job.  Loree sent me to Pinterest to find my do, but I confess I am Pinterest-challenged and I don’t speak hair very well.  Loree said my choices were all over the place and she couldn’t get a read on what I actually wanted. Still she gave it a go based on what we’d discussed.

The result was gorgeous, as you can see.  It would do, but I still had not captured it exactly, which is why I wanted a trial run.  Loree is marvelous with cut and color.  I won’t let anyone else touch it, but I hadn’t been able to communicate what I wanted.  I needed to find more supporting material.

I bought a hair magazine and picked out a do or two.  I had the Pinterest old Hollywood dos on my phone.  I found pictures of what I definitely didn’t want it to look like, just to be clear.  I took along both hair ornaments and several other pictures including this one, hoping the stranger might get what I couldn’t communicate to Loree.  I just hoped I wouldn’t end up with a very expensive mess on my head.  

Deb and I in our dresses

The Dress Alteration

When I bought my dress, I filled it up a little more than I wanted to, but the only real problem was a little tightness right across the top of my thighs and support hose seemed to do the trick.  However, like any bride-to-be, I wanted to lose a little weight for the pictures.  I went on a diet and I did a lot more than lose a little weight at the top of my thighs.  I went down by at least a dress size and in some areas it was more than that.

After I had bought my dress, I tested the local alterations lady with a bunch of things I needed to have fixed.  She did an amazing job on some difficult work, so I asked her about altering my dress.  “Bring it X number of days before the ceremony,” she said.  I went home and marked off the requested days on my calendar, using my departure date, rather than my ceremony date as the target.  I added in a few extra days, for good measure.

On the appointed day I went to the shop and the tailor had a melt down.  She had formal gowns she was working on all over her shop, but she acted as if my wedding dress was some sacred cow she could not touch.  Hadn’t I asked her specifically if she did wedding gowns on my previous visit?  After some cajoling, she allowed me to try on the dress and show it to her.

Then she said it looked fine already.  I grabbed up the inches of extra fabric in the bodice and said, “I don’t think so.” I explained that I also wanted to bustle the dress after the ceremony and needed the appropriate hooks.  She showed me the loop on the inside of the dress.  Why didn’t this lady want my money?

In the end, I had more luck with the tailor than I seemed to be having with my husband over the vows.  She charged me at least twice what I thought it should be, but it was too late to go looking for someone else.

There were other arrangements I needed to make.  We’ll talk about those next time.

Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Hair & Make-up for the Big Day

TRAVEL THERE: LOOKING GOOD FOR MY SHIPBOARD VOW RENEWAL CEREMONY

We all have our priorities and I confess, one of mine is how I look.  I know I don’t have super-model good looks, but like to make the best of what I have, especially for special occasions and a Shipboard 25th Anniversary Vow Renewal on the Mediterranean Sea is a pretty special occasion.  All it takes is money.

My Girls

There were a lot of things I was excited about when it came to my cruise, but one I was particularly excited about was spending days on end with my girls.  Deb, Melanie and Viktoriya are so dear to me.  Most of all I was looking forward to spending salon time with them on the day of our ceremony and I was right to do so.  It was some of the best moments of the whole cruise.

Make-up was easy.  BAM $75 per person.  Yep, that’s expensive for a little mascara and blush, but you’re paying for the experience, right?  Believe me, it was worth every penny.  We looked marvelous and we had a blast getting that way.

My Hair

Hair was not so easy, primarily because my hair was its own problem, all by itself.  I’d decided to grow it out a few years before.  By the time I booked the cruise, I was firmly convinced long hair was not for me, because my hair is somewhere on the cusp between wavy and curly, which, when it’s long, translates to frizzy with the least provocation  Still, I really, really wanted to have an updo for my vow ceremony, so I fought my hair one more year just for that moment.

To complicate matters, Celebrity has all these different categories of things:  Upstyle, Blow Dry & Style, Shampoo & Style and Bride’s Day Hair.  What’s more, each of these choices was divided into categories based on length and there was no guide to let you exactly where each category began and ended.  My hair was down past my shoulders, but that was nothing compared to someone with waist length hair.  Was I paying the same thing as them or did I qualify as medium?

Then there was another problem.  I would get my hair cut and colored the day before I left, but by the day of the ceremony I’d be wishing for clean hair. However, I was informed I should not wash my hair within the 24 hours before they were to give me my updo.  Since 24 hours before my hair appointment I would be on a 10.5 hour tour of Capri and Pompei, I would have had to wash my hair on Embarkation Day.  Washing my hair on Embarkation Day potentially meant frizzy hair for our first night’s dinner AND the 10.5 hour shore excursion.  Did I mention I was vain?  I opted for dirty hair for my ceremony – don’t tell anyone.

Still that didn’t answer whether I wanted an Upstyle or Bride’s Day Hair.  It would make sense that I wanted the Bride’s Day Hair, which was $35 more than a mere Upstyle, but no one anywhere could tell me exactly what I got for my extra $35 – plus, that would mean the mandatory 18% service charge would also be more.  They got their extra $35 and I still don’t know what for.  In the big picture, $35 was nothing, but it still eats at me that I paid extra for virtually nothing the others didn’t get with their more economical Upstyle.  Live and learn!

Like everything on board a ship, there are always more ways to spend your money.  Sure that fare includes a place to stay, lots of food to eat and a lot of entertainment, but even though all of this is covered, they still find so many ways to stick their hands in your pockets.  Let’s talk about that next week.

Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

The Big Ceremony

TRAVEL THERE: PLANNING A VOW RENEWAL ON CELEBRITY EDGE

Another important bit of our planning involved the 25th Anniversary Vow Renewal.  For me, this was one of the more frustrating parts of the cruise preparation.  As you may know I am a bit of a perfectionist and perfectionists like to know what is going to happen.  Good luck with that if you want to have a ceremony on a cruise line.

Very Nice Ladies

My travel agent at CTC kept nudging me to get my vow renewal ceremony reserved, so I did that back in October, eight months previous to our June sailing date.  Celebrity has several kinds of ceremony packages, of all sorts: onshore, on board, engagements, weddings and vow renewals.  With a vow renewal there are two basic packages, True Love Knot and Aisle to Isle.  The primary difference between the two was that the True Love Knot is performed by the Captain.  For a couple of hundred dollars less, you get the Cruise Director.

Since even in October, long before I booked the shore excursions, I could tell we were going to spend a whole lot of money, I knew the husband-groom would be a lot happier if I settled for Aisle to Isle Package.  I tried getting online and doing my registration, but like many times I was online with Celebrity, it was not exactly a smooth process.  Sandra, my travel agent, had sent me a contact phone number and when the website was not cooperating, I decided to go ahead and call.

No one could be nicer than the wedding consultants at Celebrity.  They were almost more excited than me about my ceremony and they were willing to bend over backwards to see that I got what I wanted.  Unfortunately, as I will explain later, this sense of cooperation did not extend to my shipboard ceremony contact, but that’s another story for another day.

A Taste of the Future

Let me warn you of this.  When you plan a shipboard ceremony, absolutely nothing will be written in stone.  They treat you like a queen and they are nice as they can be, but I wanted to know when and where my ceremony would be.  The closest they could get to an answer was that it would be on the one day we were at sea, but that was about it.

Let me warn you of another thing, at least about Celebrity, they really, really, really want you to have your ceremony in the middle of the afternoon in an empty dining room.  Now this is not something they tell you when you first call up, but the on board staff made it abundantly clear that I was not business as usual.

The Progression of the Ceremony

Remember my stateroom with the obstructed views.  Well, I had specifically chosen that cabin with my ceremony in mind.  I envisioned my ceremony in the beautiful gardens of Eden with a view of the sea spread before us.  I would get Eden and I would get the sea, but not in any way as I anticipated.

The Edge was a brand new ship, not even completed when I was making my ceremony reservations, and apparently I was the very first person who requested Eden as a venue.  The nice ladies registered my request, but let me know there were no guarantees.

So then, a few months later I was talking to the Celebrity sales rep at a CTC party.  He agreed Eden would be beautiful, but he was all about the Rooftop Garden.  Still, I stuck with Eden until the obstructed views incident, then I moved my first choice to the Rooftop Garden.

And that’s how things remained until a few weeks before the cruise.  According to the website I would get confirmation of my wedding venue and time 10 days before my cruise, only that never happened, even though I made several attempts to get verification.  I admit, I was getting frantic.  I had all the pertinent information on the Celebrity Weddings website and you can rest assured that I had printed it all out, just in case, but no one was making me feel any better.

Finally, the day before we left, I got some really awful email threatening that my ceremony could be cancelled if I didn’t confirm the information.  Now somewhere in the email it mentioned that you could confirm the information via email, but the very official looking letter that was attached mentioned nothing of the sort.  You either had to do it online or send a fax.  Well, I don’t have a fax machine and online, not surprisingly, was not working.

Since I don’t have a fax machine I went online and had a very hysterical 15 minutes trying to make the confirmation thing work – it never did.  I confess, I wrote a very snarky email to the nice ladies and I also complained about the fact that I was leaving town the next day and I knew neither the time or location of my ceremony.

But fighting for my venue was just part of the fun.  Come back next week and we’ll talk hair and make-up.

Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

The Promise of Palma

Palma de Mallorca
Planning for Palma

TRAVEL THERE: PLANNING THE FINAL ACTIVITY

Palma de Mallorca – a soupcon of Spain before heading home.  The main thing I knew about Mallorca was that it had pearls.  Would I love some?  Of course!  Was I actually going to buy any?  Probably not!  So what do you do on Mallorca?

What I Wanted

Since I didn’t have any idea of what Mallorca was really all about, I was eager to find out what Celebrity Cruise Lines offered.  Then I read about a flamenco performance.  I adore flamenco.  The guitar, the castanets, the mournful voices, the gorgeous frilled dresses.  I’ve read all the books that tell me there is no way I will truly understand flamenco or bullfighting, but that’s OK, because even with my very limited knowledge of this art of dance, I find it fascinating.

There were a couple of other options that sounded interesting – a Tapas Walking Tasting Tour, a botanical garden tour and a castle tour.  The castle tour sounded amazing.  They would have costumed actors living out the castle’s days of glory.  There would be some sort of equestrian demonstration and a shopping opportunity for native crafts.  The excursion would be topped off with a feast.  Now that’s a shore excursion.

What I Considered

Though the castle tour sounded great, it was also pricey.  The Naples and Florence tours had already taken a chunk out of my budget – not to mention the vow renewal ceremony.  Another top tier shore excursion might get me in hot water.  Besides, it was a castle thing, which reeked of a historical, museum-type experience.  My friends might not be as excited about that as I would be and their pocketbooks might also be straining.

A garden was always a good thing in my book.  They rank very high in my interests.  With both Deb and Bill I’ve visited a whole bunch of them.  A little research told me that while it was a garden, I’d seen many, many gardens which were superior. In fact, we’d be visiting the Boboli on this trip and it would for sure put this garden to shame.  No, the garden wasn’t the right choice.

The Tapas Tour sounded pretty good, but this was a cruise and we’d have more food staring us down than we’d be able to consume. And walking?  Would everyone be totally walked out by this juncture in the trip.

What I Booked

When I reasoned out the Flamenco show was the very best thing, I realized just how happy that had made me.  There had really been no competition.  While I always want to do a little of everything, flamenco was much to be preferred over everything else – and besides, dance was one of Deb’s very favorite things and she would love to see it.

So we booked the Flamenco Show, but it didn’t stay booked.  Someone somewhere in Celebrity Cruise world decided to cancel this shore excursion.  I tried to find out why, thinking perhaps it might be worth booking our own excursion, but a little research told me the flamenco show had gone the way of all tourist traps and Celebrity was probably saving me from myself.

None of my reservations about the garden or the castle had changed, so that left the Tapas Tour.  Food, wine, walking…what could go wrong?  We booked the walking tour.

While booking, I went ahead and signed up for a tour/transfer in our Debarkation city, Barcelona – another city like Rome that I was dying to see – Las Ramblas, the Cathedral, so many wonderful memories to make.  However, like a tour of Rome it was a pipe dream.  We cancelled Rome because the schedule was just too tight and in the end we had to cancel the Barcelona tour also and for the same reason.  With an international flight leaving at two, we’d have to be to the airport before twelve and that was too soon to be on the tour.

Seven ports of call, seven shore excursions.  Two cancelled, two changed.  Now I was running out of things to plan.  come back next week and we’ll talk about the vow renewal ceremony.