Attractions, DFW Metroplex, Gardens, Real Estate Photographry, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

The Pandemic Blues

TRAVEL THERE: 2020 – A TRAVEL YEAR GONE AWRY

A Day at the Dallas Arboretum with timed entry and social distancing

When I got home from our great trip in Arizona, I actually had a year full of travel planned. In May I would travel to New York with my best friend and watch her son accept a diploma for his MFA from Pratt at Radio City Music Hall. I have another friend there I wanted to catch up with and we had lots of museums we hoped to see. Bestie and I were also planning to go to Ohio in August for her 50th High School Reunion. We were hoping to make it a road trip and squeeze in a few sights we hadn’t been able to see the last time we headed that way. Bill and I had plans to visit California to visit family and friends there, because we’d been offered one of those deals that you can’t resist. It didn’t happen.

What Did Happen

My husband and I have been very fortunate during this pandemic. Our health has been excellent and while we have mourned with many friends over their losses, no one in our inner circle of closest friends and family were lost or even suffered greatly from Covid. Sometimes they were inconvenienced by quarantine. Some because of exposure with no diagnosis, some with a positive test but no symptoms and a few who did experience mild symptoms.

Bill was more conscientious about following the protocols than I was. During the first days of the pandemic, I was locked down. He wouldn’t let me out of the house unless he was with me to be sure I followed every suggestion he gleaned from his intensive research. The real estate community was in a panic, so he was out every day, shooting listing photos, videos and drone shots, but he took elaborate measure with himself and our equipment. I wasn’t even allowed to help him unload the car, because everything, including him, had to be sanitized.

On another Arboretum visit Bestie Deborah visits with a faux gardener, another timed, masked and social distanced event.

My bestie kept me sane. We’d take walks, watch TV together or just do some scrapbooking, anything to give me a feeling of normalcy, while Bill monitored our plans to be sure we weren’t participating in any restricted activities, like shopping or eating out. Our first “normal” activity was church, but there wasn’t anything normal about it – no hugs and our seating had been rearranged so that we were properly social distanced, but it was better than watching it on TV.

Like everyone else, we watched the waves of infection. Some people used the downtime for travel, but Bill was having none of that. In our house, he felt as if he could maintain some kind of control over our circumstances. He had no hope of that in a plane or on the road. For awhile, I maintained hope that we might be able to take the trip out to California. I even planned out a road trip itinerary. Unfortunately, I ran into roadblocks. The Navajo nation closed themselves down, which took out most of my road trip plans. It also became apparent that if we were going to travel, California was the worst place to go, because they were virtually shut down. I planned that trip two different ways and didn’t get to use either itinerary.

Our day trip to the Fort Worth Stockyards via the Grapevine Railrooad

Then things got worse in almost every way possible. The whole election mess was a real downer and as Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled around, so did a greater number of Covid cases. I entertained myself with planning a holiday road trip, even made all the reservations, but that didn’t work out either. So I settled for a staycation, complete with local museums, a carriage ride through a well-decorated neighborhood and a day trip train excursion. More about that later.

What’s Coming Up!

I did enjoy a few short excursions during the year, so I will share a few of those with you before moving on to 2021. Then I’ll tell you about an idea I dreamed up on vacation and executed in the early days of 2021, which has little to do with travel, but a lot to do with scrapbooking, my other passion.

Being a senior citizen, I’ve gotten my first vaccination and have the second one scheduled next week, but that’s not going to make the pandemic restrictions go away immediately. So, there’s a trip I’ve never shared here – it happened before I started blogging – and I am going to pass it along here. However, it’s a bit of a departure from my usual blog. It’s a play I wrote based on a very difficult trip Bill and I took in the early days of our marriage, inspired in part by Greater Tuna. I’ll share it with you serial style and you should get a big kick form it. The travel frustrations I’ve shared here before can’t hold a candle to that trip. So stay tuned. Even though I haven’t traveled anywhere since February 2020, I have adventures to share.

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Museums, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

What Now Scottdale?

TRAVEL THERE: SIGHTSEEING BY THE SEAT OF OUR PANTS

Bill was loving the pace of this vacation.  We focused on one big thing for each day and then stuffed a few things around the edges.  I’ll admit we were having a great time, but now we had a full day with no primary event to build around.  What would we do with ourselves on our last day in Scottsdale?

Museum Girl vs. Adventure Boy

Were Museum Girl in charge of the world, I’d start each day at the entrance of a museum, historical home or palace about 10 minutes before opening.  For variety, I would visit gardens.  How long I spent there would depend on where I was.  It took all day to visit the Chicago Institute of Art and I would have been happy to go back the next morning and give it another shot.  My visits to the Dallas Arboretum last 2 or 3 hours, but I go frequently. Bestie and I can hit multiple venues in one day, going from bright and early to evening openings.

Adventure Guy likes to wake up slow.  He doesn’t mind sharing my cultural venues, but he likes to mix it up with golf games, shopping and perhaps a boat ride – stopping for coffee and ice cream when it suits him.  He saw everything he was interested in seeing at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in about an hour. He really doesn’t want to plan out a whole day.  He just likes to ramble from one thing to the next and take naps from time to time.

Adventure Guy sometimes acknowledges this laid back approach to travel requires more research and planning on Museum Girl’s part than he even wants to know about, but he prefers to luxuriate in the fantasy that it all just comes together magically.  I’ve endeavored to make him interested in my more structured approach to travel, but after 26 years I know one thing – if Adventure Guy ain’t happy, Museum Girl is going to be miserable.  So, I’m in charge of seeing that everything goes the way he wants it to.

While I like some structure to my travel days, I learned one very important fact on the Anniversary Cruise. Seven days of 10.5 hour shore excursions do not make for a pleasant trip.  We’re trying to find some sort of balance between our two styles, because my style could be called Death by Vacation and his Loosing While Snoozing.

Fashion Square Art

Our Slow Start

I try to sleep in on vacation, but it just doesn’t work.  I’m doing good if I’m not bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 5 AM.  On this particular morning I woke up and tried to get my thoughts organized.  We’d hit all the must-dos and had really enjoyed ourselves, but in researching for this casual approach to our vacation, I had found a whole lot of other things that I wished we could do, including some repeats, like Taliesin and the Desert Botanical Garden.  I prepared myself to present the potential activities in the most unbiased way I could, but I was really hoping for a peek at the Musical Instrument Museum.

Though I was up early, we didn’t walk out of our room until 11.  We headed over to Nellie Cashman’s Monday Club Cafe for what we thought was going to be Sunday Brunch, but come to find out, said brunch had been replaced by a fairly expensive breakfast buffet.  We had a $75 gift certificate we needed to use, but who would have guessed it all went to breakfast.

Of all the things I offered up to see, Bill opted to start at Fashion Square.  To be fair, I wanted him to see it.  Mom and I had visited when we came through in 2003 and it had been a great experience – upscale people-watching in a beautiful shopping mall.  I’ll be kind and say it just wasn’t what it used to be.  It’s still a gorgeous place, but all upscale people go somewhere else and the downscale people weren’t there either.  The caliber of stores had nose-dived since my visit, also.

That behind us, we decided to walk a little bit and come to find out, the travel god were with us – or at least with me!  Come back next week and we’ll visit the Waterfront Wine & Art Festival.

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

Vacation Club Intro

TRAVEL THERE: SAYING NO AND MEANING IT

Our extraordinary bargain came with a caveat.  We had to give them a couple of hours for a vacation club introduction.  It was the first time for a “vacation club.”  Other similar experiences were offered as a time share.  We’ve been through some elbow twisting in our travel adventures and we hoped we weren’t in for another.

Starting at Mickey D’s

To fuel up before the sales pitch ordeal, we opted for McDonald’s.  It was just around the corner and we grabbed several meals/snacks from there.

On this particular morning I had the obstacle of 10K runners and the policemen directing traffic had no sympathy for an out-of-towner.  While I’m trying to negotiate the runners, police, roads and parking lots, I had Bill frantically texting me to be sure I got pepper to go with his order.   I may have cussed a couple of times.  

Checking Things Out

After breakfast we had a little time before our vacation club appointment.  We headed over to the pool and entertainment areas to see what they offered.  We’re not really resort people.  Flying across the world to hang out by a pool, play golf and enjoy the spa is really not our kind of vacation.  We understand why people with kids would do it, because Lord knows they need a break, but we go to an area to see it and one resort looks pretty much like another.  Besides, while a lot is included, it’s not all-inclusive.  A golf game here, a spa appointment there and a few drinks by the pool and you can be spending some serious dough.

As resorts go, the Westin is a nice one.  We checked out all the pools, the golf course and various entertainment venues where games and classes are offered.  When we reported for our appointment, we were anxious to get it behind us.  In fact, we were early.  They sent us to some lounge area with a fireplace to wait our turn.  Anxiety was building.

The Dreaded Appointment

All in all, it wasn’t so bad.  They introduced us to our guy and took us to his office.  He chatted us up a bit to get our measure and then took us to view the available floor plans.  They have something they call the Two-Bedroom Lockoff Villa, which is really two One-Bedroom Villas, which can be used separately or in tandem.  Our room for the stay was a One-Bedroom Villa with a kitchenette, about 530 square feet.  Were we to actually invest in the property, we would want the One-Bedroom Premium Villa with a full kitchen and about 870 square feet. 

Then there was the pitch, which we softly but firmly tossed back.  We explained I was a devoted cruiser and that the timing wasn’t right for us to invest (not that it would ever be the right time), even if we were interested.  Our guy happily turned us over to the closer.  She was ready to wheel and deal, but Bill said if we were to buy-in, it would be with cash, not financing.  That took the wind out of her sails and her sales.  They wanted to sell it to us like a car – so many dollars a month for the rest of our lives.

Then we were released.  We’d lived through yet another timeshare vacation club sales pitch without signing on the dotted line.  I must say this.  Were we actually good candidates for this product, a two career family with four kids, three dogs, two cats and some extended family, I would think this was a deal.  They showed us some magic we could pull off with my Marriott credit cards points, but we don’t do points, we go for the 2% rebate on another card.  They knew as well as we did that we weren’t going to buy, so they saved us and them a lot of effort.

Oh look!  It’s time to go golf.  We ran to a Chipotle for lunch and then drove to the golf course. Come back next week for a round of golf at Dave Valley Ranch.

DESTINATIONS, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

Why We Had Afternoon Tea at the Phoenician

TRAVEL THERE: MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE PHOENICIAN

See that happy face.  I’ve dreamed of this day for a long, long time.  Let me tell you how it came about.

Love at First Sight and Beyond

So, way back in 1995, Bill and I took a trip to Arizona.  It was about three weeks long and included a side trip through Utah for skiing in Steamboat Springs.  With all the traveling we have done, it remains one of our very favorite vacations.

Two things contributed to its success – one was free airfare, thanks to Southwest overbooking a flight to Corpus Christi and a ski trip with the Lone Star Skiers.  We saw all of Arizona from the BioSphere outside Tucson, to the Grand Canyon, to Monument Valley.  It was our first of many trips to Sedona and we hope to make many, many more.

Did we stay at the Phoenician on this trip?  No, we did not.  Bill and I like to go check out resorts – have a drink or a meal and then wander around.  We loved it and told ourselves that one day we would be back for an extended stay.

Our next trip through Arizona in 2000 did not take us through Phoenix.  We were California-bound and stayed in Sedona instead, but that’s when we started talking about spending our 10th wedding anniversary at the Phoenician.

In 2003, I passed through Phoenix with my parents.  Bill and I had bought Aunt Edie’s Cadillac.  Bill was in the throes of getting the Pismo Beach house finished, so I had to drive the Caddie from Temple TX to our new home in Cali.  As it turns out, my parents weren’t about to let me make a cross-country drive all by myself (even though I sort of relished the idea) so I took them on what I called The Cadillac Tour.

It was a tough trip, with flat tires, the leatherette roof peeling off, a speeding ticket and Mom losing a crown, but it was also a trip of great memories and I love that we did it.  Phoenix was one of the places we stayed.  Mom and I visited Fashion Square and had afternoon cocktails at the Phoenician.  Though no photograph was taken, that respite from travel has stuck vividly in my mind, like a beacon, for all the years since.  That’s when I found out they had afternoon tea.

In 2004 we had our 10th wedding anniversary, but our dream of the Phoenician did not come to pass.  Our nephew was graduating from Wharton and the whole family would be there.  Instead of the Phoenician, we did a ramble that started in Philly and included the Brandywine Valley, Hudson Valley, the Adirondaks, 1000 Islands and Niagara Falls. 

In 2006, we happily left California to return to Texas, but we drove all the way through AZ without staying anywhere.  Talk about a tough trip.  The hotel in Gallup, New Mexico was so bad that our cat went into her crate all by herself while we were getting ready to go.  She wanted out of there. We had so much going on I didn’t even have time to wish we could go to the Phoenician.

On our return to Dallas, the Phoenician faded from our minds.  Not completely, but we were doing a lot of international and family-related travel.  After the Anniversary Cruise, we’d decided we were going to travel in the States for a few years and certainly Arizona was on our list, but we weren’t talking about an actual trip until that Westin invitation ended up in our mailbox.  As soon as I had approval to book the trip, I was back down in Bill’s office lobbying for afternoon tea at the Phoenician.  It’s not like its price is totally outrageous, but its more than Bill would usually want to pay for finger sandwiches, in our usual pursuit of happiness. 

It didn’t take a lot of lobbying.  He virtually had no interest in it, but he always wants to please me, so Afternoon Tea at the Phoenician was on.  Someday we may actually stay at the Phoenician, but come back next week and enjoy finger sandwiches and other delights with us.  

DESTINATIONS, TRAVEL, Travel Books, Travel Planning, United States

The What Next of Arizona

Arizona, Sc
Getting Away to the Desert

TRAVEL THERE: AZ MUST-SEE DONE, WHAT NEXT?

The first time you visit an area there are just things you must see and thanks to a great trip early in our marriage, as well as several times passing through AZ, we’d knocked out the musts.  From Monument Valley in the northeast corner to the Grand Canyon in the west, to BioSphere down south and seriously, everything in between, I’d taken care of the must-sees.  So why were we going back?

A Desert State of Mind

We like the desert.  There is a peacefulness that comes from the landscape.  Some people like beaches and others prefer mountains, but I’ll take a desert every time.

Bill made it very clear that he wanted to take it easy, very easy on this trip.  He wanted to play golf.  I wanted to have tea at the Phoenician.  The rest was supposed to be relaxation.  Message received.

Those Free Guides from the Internet

For most trips, the first thing I do is go out and buy a travel guide, but I already owned an AZ guide and it had served me well.  I just needed the latest information, including festivals and events.  The internet is great for that and so are those free travel guides the cities and states will send you.

In the world of free travel guides, Scottsdale has won the prize.  I pored over their guide the moment it arrived and continue salivating over it to day.  It was full of information without being overwhelming and hip without being shallow.  It had great maps and references to online resources that I really cared about.

Phoenix did not fare so well.  It was virtually anonymous, merely a template someone sold advertising in.  I yawned over it and it’s greatest contribution to the trip was some headlines I used in my scrapbook of the trip.  

Sedona’s guide was somewhere in the middle – not as snazzy as Scottsdale, but not as boring as Phoenix.  A map in the center served us during the stay and made it to the scrapbook. 

Wonderful Websites

From various websites I was able to glean a lot of useful information about some art festivals and events that proved to be very helpful in planning the trip.  There were Artwalks, Art Festivals and other Arty things just begging for us to take part.  The trick is not to merely google the city, but google “visit wherever.”

I used the local New Times sites to find the best places to have breakfast.  The internet is also where I found the amazing inn where we overnighted in Sedona.  Thank you, Expedia!  

Playing It By Ear

For those of you who say phooey on all that planning, I’m just going to play it by ear, I say good luck.  I find it is a lot harder to be ready to play it by ear, than it is to plan things out in detail in advance.  This only happens on the first Friday, that is only open one evening of the week, something else needs reservations at least two days in advance.

If you just show up somewhere, without doing your homework, and then try to play it by ear, well, you might have a great vacation, but the chance of you actually getting to see and do the things you were most interested in are slim to none in most cases.

The trick in this household it to be sure I know what’s most important to me and work it in early in the trip, then as the time plays out and the options get smaller, I haven’t missed my priorities.  I work out a list of daily options, focusing on the one time or limited access events.  I don’t get to see everything I want when Bill is playing it by ear, but I don’t miss everything either.

Next week, we’ll start out on our Arizona Adventure.  Please come join me.

 

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

We Can’t Resist a Bargain

Arizona, Scottsdale, Westin Resort
Westin Kierland Resort

TRAVEL THERE: WESTIN MAKES AN OFFER WE CAN’T REFUSE

We’d talked about it.  The Anniversary Cruise had eaten up more than its fair share of our budget.  We needed to give traveling a break.  Then we got the invitation from Westin.  Come take a look at our Vacation Club it said.  Stay four nights for $299 it said.  Had they been offering a trip to anywhere else, the invitation would have gone into the trash, but they wanted us to come to Arizona.

I’m Just Leaving This Right Here

I opened the envelope, read the offer and then shuffled it around on my desk for a few days.  As I moved the offer around on my desk, I started making a case for the trip.  While the Anniversary Cruise had been expensive, I’d done a multi-year cost analysis and we’d stayed within the allotted amount.  We just didn’t have anymore right then.  However each month the travel budgets accrues a little bit…and we didn’t have to make the reservations until September sometime…and then we had a year to take the trip.  It was at least worth running by Bill.

I went down to his office and made a disclaimer, “This showed up in the mail and it was too good to just throw away.  I’m going to put it here in your mail pile and you can take a look at it if you want.”  I think he probably moved it around on his desk for a day or two.  Then he said, “What’s the deal with this trip?  I don’t want to read the whole thing.”  I cheered inside.  The question was almost as good as a rubber stamp of approval.

I explained just how amazing the offer was.  It wouldn’t be our first trip like this.  We’ve been to Hawaii, Branson, Palm Desert and a number of other places, visiting time shares on the cheap.  Bill hates the sales pitch, but he loves the price.  And we love Arizona.  I got the green light.  We discussed potential travel dates and decided on February, because the real estate market would still be cool and we wouldn’t miss a bunch of shoots.  Bill even said, “Why don’t you also look into a visit to Sedona?  We love that place.”

And We’re Off

I called up the Westin, picked our travel dates and started dreaming of desert nights.  But I didn’t just dream.  I went online and ordered up free travel guides from Arizona, Scottsdale, Phoenix and Sedona.  As the guides arrived in the mail I started poring over them, turning down the corner of pages and highlighting the good stuff.

Then one day, out of the blue, I get an email from Southwest Airlines.  We haven’t flown with them in decades and I’m not on any of their mailing lists, but there it was.  They wanted to sell me some cheap air fares.  I jumped on it with alacrity.  It seemed as if the travel gods had sanctioned this trip and were doing everything they could to make it wonderful. 

Come back next week and I’ll share how I put the trip together.

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
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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.