Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 7 nt Carnival Splendor Mexican Riviera "sisters" Cruise: Cabo; Mazatlan; Puerto Vallarta

Dec. 6-13, 2009 became our first 3 "sisters" vacation. It was the first time Carolyn and I got Jane (our sister-in-law) to come along with us. I'm very glad she was able to make it. Carolyn and I had done this same itinerary last year on Holland America so we knew a bit of what to expect---at least from the itinerary. At first I was a little disappointed to be doing the same itinerary, but it turned out to be alright. We were able to do some different things and since I was more familiar with the area, I didn't mind not doing organized tours.

Pre-cruise I met up with Jane at LAX and spent the night in a LaQuinta Suites Inn for $60 for the night. My flight from STL ended up being a little more exciting as Texas was hit by a 6 inch snow storm the night before. Some day I'll learn not to schedule myself through Texas in the winter (was stuck there during a couple ice storms in the past, as well as a couple snow storms)! But I ended up being able to catch a flight to Denver (where they're equiped for winter weather) and then on to LAX, getting there only about 40 minutes late.

Sunday morning we met up with Carolyn at the embarkation station. We were there early, so were able to register quickly and sit around outside for a couple hours visiting before boarding the ship. Jane and I did walk over to the Queen Mary (now a hotel there) and enjoyed wandering around in it. They were having a buffet breakfast there and there were lots of x-mas decorations, even carollers. Looked like it would be a neat place to spend the night. I found out after we got back that the firm Angie works for is doing some renovating to it.

Embarkation went quickly and easily. Fortunately we didn't go on the cruise the 2 weeks before this one or the one after it as there were problems. 2 weeks before, the ship had run into another ship in Puerto Vallarta, then later in the week the captain had a heart attack and they had to turn around and head back to Cabo making them several hours late getting back into Long Beach. The cruise after ours ended up staying over night in Puerto Vallarta after the ship ran into a dock and had to have repairs done before it could leave. Fortunately nothing unusual happened during our cruise.

Dec. 6-8, 2009  Embarkation and around the Splendor ship

Dec. 9, 2009  Puerto Vallarta

Dec. 10,2009  Mazatlan

Dec. 11, 2009 Cabo

After another day of sailing, we were back in Long Beach. There I parted ways with Carolyn and Jane. They flew home together out of Long Beach and I caught my shuttle back to LAX. There I was able to catch an earlier flight and get home a couple hours sooner. Thus ended our first "sisters'" trip with myself, my sister, and my sister-in-law.  I hope they had as great a time as I did!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

2009-Pompano Beach, Florida (Oct.)

Day 1:
Finally Oct. 13 arrived and it was time for another trip. We had some Wyndham points to use this year and it was our first experience using our points. I was surprised when Ken suggested coming back to Florida.  Before he could change his mind, I booked it!  Instead of Orlando, though, we decided to go down to Pompano Beach by Ft. Lauderdale. I had to split the reservation, so we'll have to move down the street to another Wyndham in a couple days for the rest of the week. If the next one is this nice, I'll be really happy! I think Ken's even impressed.

Here's our resort, Royal Vista.

This is about half of our unit--a 2 bedroom, 2 bath condo with full kitchen, free wifi, and great views. The whole area to the right is the master suite, complete with large jacuzzi and huge bathroom with washer and drier. To the left is the 2nd bedroom suite with 2 queen beds and a large attached bathroom. This picture doesn't show the large entertainment center directly to my right with stereo, tv, desk, and cabinets. Behind me is the lanai with a side view of the ocean. You can actually see sunrise and sunset from the lanai.

 master bedroom

2nd bedroom


Here's the ocean view from our patio. We're on the 8th of 9 floors--rm 8806.

By the time we got to the resort, it was past 4. After unloading and checking out the resort, we headed across the street to Stingers for pizza. It was pretty good, not great, but we were pretty hungry.  By the time we were done there, it was getting dark.  That pretty much does it for our first day.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

OAHU, Hawaii --- a compilation of my 4 trips there: 1998; 2001; 2003; 2009

Our trips to Oahu:

Our very first trip to the Islands was to Oahu in 1998.  I found a great vacation package through TWA Getaway Vacations and surprisingly enough, Ken agreed to go.  So thus began our obsession with The Hawaiian Islands!

1998 Oahu---our first trip to the Islands:

2001 Oahu---3 nights around a Kauai vacation:

2003 Oahu---7 nights with Dad for Sean's reenlistment:

2009 Oahu---3 night solo trip:

If you want a place that's always bustling with activity and beauty, Oahu is the place to be.  It's not the laid back peaceful Hawaii most people think of when they've never been to Hawaii.  We don't often come to Oahu anymore since my husband usually wants to go to just one island and he prefers peace and quiet.  So we usually go to Kauai.  But I'm definitely not opposed to visiting Oahu again

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

2009 7 nt Alaska Cruise

2009 Alaska Cruise --- 7 nt. NCL Pearl; Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, Glacier Bay, Victoria B.C.,

August 16-23, 2009----to Alaska on board NCL's Pearl.

I chose this cruise as Ken's first cruise (my 7th)to try and impress him enough that he would want to go on more cruises. With the beauty of Alaska and the ports being mostly American towns (he has an aversion to leaving the states), I figured this might do the trick. It started out as a cruise for just him and myself. As the months went by, my brother and sister-in-law, Aunt and Uncle, and at the last minute my sister also joined us. Although I was looking forward to all my family joining us, I had never cruised with more then 1 other person in my party and was a little apprehensive about how it would all turn out. In the end, I think it went well, although we all did spend lots of time hunting each other out. It also meant wait times at the restaurants and a little more work finding tables for all of us at the buffet restaurant, but it all worked out. It was also nice knowing that we didn't have to do everything together, but that we could probably find someone to do "whatever" with (NCL's motto---You're free to do whatever.) Ken and I usually found Uncle Joe and Aunt Carol in the buffet for breakfast about 8ish. The inside cruisers would usually make their appearance around 10 or later. I even had to call and wake them one day after noon to see if they were joining us in Ketchikan. Ken and I also joined the spa which in hindesite was a waste of money. The spa was nice (love the therapy pool and heated loungers), but we were in port so much and had high waves that caused them to drain the pools the last couple days so we hardly had time to use it. Plus I really enjoyed the outdoor pool and jacuzzis with the gals.

I had read poor reviews of NCL from different travel agencies, but they had the itinerary I was looking for. The poor reviews were for naught, we had no problems with NCL. The Pearl was a beautiful ship. Not any more beautiful then the others I've been on, but just as nice. It's a rather large ship at 93,500 tons and 2,394 passengers, 15 decks, and was only 2 years old.

The NCL Pearl 

2009-8-18 Juneau 

2009-8-19 Skagway

2009-8-20 Glacier Bay 

2009-8-21 Ketchikan

2009-8-22 Victoria,BC

The next morning was debarkation day and the end to another wonderful cruise.

 Why did I pick this cruise? There were a few reasons. First we wanted to round trip out of Seattle. Then I wanted a cruise that went to Skagway so we could do the ride into the Yukon like I did with Dad. I thought that was a really beautiful excursion and thought Ken would enjoy seeing the Yukon. Also I didn't want the Canadian port to be Prince Rupert and this ship went to Victoria, which I love. Lastly, I had already cruised through Tracy Arm Fjord on the last cruise and although I liked it, I'd heard Glacier Bay was a lot better. With all those criteria, this was the only cruise left. In addition to all that, we also got ports in Juneau and Ketchikan. I was not disappointed!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

2009 - June; Sunny West Palm Beach

June 7, 2009---waking up to a brilliant sunrise!

After a long day of travel the day before and arriving in West Palm Beach during an all night storm, it was a relief to see some blue sky in the morning.

Since I was awake at sunrise, I decided to watch the display. It was spectacular!

Lots of boats were even out and about already.

Barb also joined me on our lanai. For quite awhile we watched the changing colors of the sky and water.

When the sun was all the way out, we were treated to views of the bluest blue waters of the ocean.

Down on the beach we were surprised to see tons of half shells in lots of different shades of oranges and grays.

We spent the day mostly hanging out by the ocean and pool---and the daily trip to Walmart. By evening we were back at the ocean watching the clouds roll by.

On monday we decided to head over to MacArthur Beach State Park about 5 or 6 miles from our resort. There was a $4 admission fee/car, but it was well worth it.
While sitting in the park eating our pic nic lunch, we were entertained by this fellow---

And this fellow---

The walk to the beach was over the intercoastal waterway and then down this switchback trail to the beach. It is a beautiful pristine beach with lots of shells and open empty spaces.
I did have an underwater camera with me, but it decided to quit again. I guess it's time to replace it. But I found this picture on the internet of a fishy that we saw. Yes! It was a shark! My first ever shark sighting while playing in the ocean and hopefully my last! The one we saw was only about a foot long and was hunkered down in the reef. I believe it was a nurse shark. We didn't stick around it too long, even though it was so small.

This is looking back at the snorkel area from the walkway. The rocky area is actually pretty good for snorkeling. I saw plenty of fish there, some quite large---such as the largest angel fish i've ever seen as well as some large ornamental wrasses like we see in Hawaii. Even saw a squid swimming around---not to mention the baby shark. It doesn't look too deep from the picture, but there were plenty of spots before the rocky reef that were over 5 foot deep. I was too chicken to venture on the other side of the reef all by myself. Barb had problems with the snorkel gear (or was it problems with seeing a shark?!) and didn't stay in the water long.

We spend a good 5 hours in the park. It was a hot sunny day, but an afternoon storm rolled through and gave us a short spell from the sun. It wasn't long enough or bad enough to get us to leave the park, though. It was just long enough to rejuvenate us for another couple hours.
Another place we were told to snorkel was here by the marina in the intercoastal waterway under the bridge going to Singer Island. We did check it out, but Barb had enough gulps of seawater---I mean snorkeling---at Mac Arthur park and the ocean by our resort, so we never made it back to snorkel here. We did see a large puffer fish swimming along close to shore while we were standing here looking around, though. I thought it would be an interesting place to hang out and swim for awhile---lots of shade under the highway---but we never made it back there. I had also hoped to make it to Peanut Island near the Marina, but the lifeguard told us that it was probably murky with all the rain they had in the previous couple of weeks so we didn't bother going there since it would have meant a $7 rt water taxi fee and about a mile walk to the snorkel area once we were on the island.

We did enjoy a walk around the marina area and taking a few pictures, though.

Back at the resort beach near sunset, we watched schools of fish swimming along the shore line and jumping out of the water. I was able to catch one surfacing, but there really was a bunch more of them jumping around there, too.

Although the sun doesn't set over the Atlantic ocean in Florida, it still can throw colors across the sky over the Atlantic. So we watched the sun set from the beach by our condo.

Thurs. we decided to head out of West Palm Beach and down to north Miami to catch the afternoon Marlins/Cardinals baseball game. This is the first time I've been able to see the Cardinals play other then at their home field. It was pretty neat and quite different. Parking was a breeze, tickets were cheap ($10), and there was lots of space to move around. After spending the first 4 or 5 innings in the direct sun, we moved over and up to a section that was beginning to get shade. Probably at least a quarter of the fans were Cardinal fans.

Here's Duncan shanking a ball to the right.

Here's Barb enjoying the game.

Here's Ankiel catching a fly out.

What is a Land Shark? (I've learned that's a type of beer)
Note, we're actually winning---and ultimately did!

Here's Pujols catching the final out.

They definately have a strange looking stadium. Actually it's the football stadium and I understand they're planning on building a new stadium for the Marlins.
The last 3 days of our trip were without any rain. We spent most of our time hanging out in the really nice pool at the resort or playing in the ocean. Here's another view from our room.

We even encountered lots of jellyfish the last day. Sort of freaked us out at first until we realized noone was getting stung and kids were playing with them. We were told they were tentacleless critters in the jelly fish family but they couldn't sting. They were like blobs of gel. Glad they were only around on our last day there.
We only stayed 6 nights and they flew by way too quickly. I had a great time and hope that Barb did, too.

Monday, May 18, 2009

2009 May--vacation to the Sunshine State

This was an impromptu trip to Orlando for Ken and myself.  We had banked our week at Orange Lake into RCI a couple years ago and they points were about to expire.  Ken suggested, why not just go back to Orange Lake.  Sounded good to me!

May 17, 2009: Day 1

May 18, 2009

May 19: Iron Chef of OLCC!

May 20: Blue skies!!!

May 21, 2009:

May 22, 2009: Bok Tower

May 23, 2009:

Not much sunshine to be seen this week!  But we still had an amazingly great time!  At least I didn't come home with a sunburn!

Monday, March 9, 2009

2009 Kauai with Angie and Josh

 2009 Kauai- Feb. 22 - March 8-Angie and Josh trip: Napali cruise; Smith's luau; bird whisperer; Hyatt lighting ceremony; waimea canyon;

 We love showing off Kauai to friends and family.  So when Angie and Josh wanted to join us, I was really excited!  It was their first time to any of the Hawaiian islands.  Plus I know Angie enjoys the ocean and snorkeling almost as much as I do.  They weren't here the whole time we were, but long enough for us to show them some of our favorite things:  lots of snorkeling; or just enjoying the beautiful beaches;  tried to take them on a Napali cruise to see the striking cliffs; feasted and enjoyed the Smith's luau which we love for it's great food and young performers; bot to mention lots of time at their resort in the heated pool and jacuzzi.

Note on cameras this trip:  above ground-Canon 20D; underwater-Coolpix S-5 with housing.

2009-Feb. 22: travel day and Lydgate

2009-Feb. 23: Lawai, farmer's market, Poipu

2009-Feb. 24: ride to the North shore, snorkel Anini

2009-Feb. 25: Lawai

2009-Feb. 26: sunset cruise, Hanapepe, Waimea Canyon overlook

2009-Feb. 26: No Hoku and Smith's Luau

2009-Feb. 28: Lawai, Maha'ulepu beach

2009-March 1: new Wyndham owners, Tunnels

2009-March 2: the bird whisperer, poipu; lawai

2009-March 3: McBryde/Allerton office garden, Hyatt

2009-March 4: Lawai, Waimea Canyon, Saltpond

2009-March 5: Kee, Tunnels

2009-March 6: Hanalei, Lydgate

2009-March 7: Hyatt grounds

2009-March 8: Kileaua lighthouse, Anini, East side

All in all, another great trip to Kauai (8th trip to Kauai if I'm remembering correctly)! Still finding plenty of things to take pictures of even after 8 trips! Not as warm and sunny as usual, but I won't complain about 70ish. Lots of rain, but where were all those rainbows they promise with the rain?! Not much time on the northshore, but we did get 1 beautiful day there and the south shore surf was excellent for snorkeling the whole 2 weeks. Ruined another camera, but now have an excuse to buy a new one. Got 2 beautiful pendants from NaHoku jewelers this trip (one that I bought on Oahu and one that my daugher and son-in-law got me). Only really great sunsets this time were from the short while I was on Oahu. Very very windy for the first 7-10 days---sustained 30m/h winds! Whale watching didn't seem to be as good this year. Got to enjoy showing our island to some newbies (my daughter and son-in-law). Even got to meet a fellow trip advisor.

We will be back!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

2009—Feb. solo trip to Waikiki-then to Kauai

  This was a solo trip for me.  I hadn't planned to go off to Hawaii by myself, but an unfortunate circumstance resulted in this opportunity. I had picked up a week at the Wyndham Waikiki Beach Walk for a friend and her cancer stricken husband, but he ended up too sick to take the trip. So it was lose the whole week and the money I paid, or go by myself and "try" to enjoy myself. The decision wasn't too difficult to make. Ken and I were scheduled to go to Kauai on award travel the following Sunday, so I was able to change my flight to go out on the previous Wed.  I didn't get the whole week there, but did have 4 nights on Waikiki.   Unfortunately hubby couldn't get off work for those extra days.
This was my 4th trip to Oahu, so I felt pretty comfortable wandering around Waikiki by myself. I liked that I could wander around the streets and beach without being accosted by poverty. Everything was clean and the people are helpful.  I even used The Bus enough during the past 3 trips that I felt comfortable using it by myself.
It was a bit cool this trip with temps only about 70 and the winds were pretty high. But it definitely beat the 20s and 30s back home. There were spritzes of rain and lots of clouds, but the clouds were the type that made for fabulous sunsets.

 2009-Feb. 18: STL-LAX-HON-LIH

2009-Feb. 19:Walking around Waikiki, Beach, and Sunset cruise

2009-Feb. 20: Foster Gardens, Waikiki Aquarium

2009-Feb. 21: Waikiki beach, Marina reflections

2009-Feb. 22: HON-LIH

It was a short stay in Oahu, but it turned out to be a really great one.  I've not taken a vacation by myself before, so was really hesitant to do it, but I really enjoyed myself!  Maybe I should do this more often!!!  And only 4 nights there wasn't bad since I had almost 2 weeks on Kauai to look forward to now.

For the rest of my 2009 Kauai blog, check out: 2009 Kauai