Monday, December 19, 2011

2011 Nov. Eurodam cruise do-over Eastern Caribbean: Grand Turk; San Juan, St. Thomas, Half Moon Cay

The "suite life"!  Originally I booked the same category room that we had last year (a VD veranda), but when the lowest suite came available for about $60/person more, I jumped on it and booked a SZ guarantee.  We had never had a suite before, so I was really looking forward to that. 

It just so happened that our daughter, Angie, and her husband, Josh, were going to be in Puerto Rico on vacation with some friends and scheduled to fly home the day we were in port there. After joking around with her about continuing on the cruise with us instead of flying home, I managed to get approval for her to board in San Juan for the last 4 nights of our cruise.  She was even elgible for a special 3rd person add on fare of $49 + about $90 in taxes and fees.  It took some doing, but persistence paid off.  I had to call 5 or 6 times and work out everything from: does the Jone's Act apply here; to writing a letter to get approval for "late embarkation"; to getting a room assigned (went from the SZ guarantee to a complimentary upgrade to an SS cabin) before she was approved.   So instead of flying home, Angie was able to join us for the remainder of the cruise.
About 2 weeks before our cruise, I even got an email from HAL offering us an upsell to an SA suite (next category down from the penthouse) for another $398 total. I immediately called them and jumped on the offer. Not only did we have a suite, but the SA, SB, and SC suites had a lot of added benefits over the SS, SY, and SZ suites, like breakfast in the Pinnacle restaurant, a private lounge and concierge, larger pull out bed for Angie; much larger room and balcony, flowers for formal night, free laundry service, and a few other things. We very much enjoyed the SA cabin. It may be hard to go back to any other cabin now!   Our room, 7069, was a short distance down the hallway from the Deluxe Suites' private Neptune lounge.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

2002 Jan. first trip to Orlando with Dad

When I found out that Lifetouch was having their 2002 winter meetings in Orlando, I decided it might be time to check and see if Prestige would let me go to these meetings!  When they daid that I could go and they would even pay for part of it, I started making plans to go. 

When I told Dad I was going, he mentioned that he had never been to Orlando and would like to come along.  With that, I jumped on the oppurtunity to make it a vacation as well as a work trip.  Work was going to take up most of the first 4 days and a couple nights, so we decided to extend our trip 3 more nights to make it a full week.  I happened to have a Bonus Week certificate from RCI, so I called to see if I could use it for Orlando the first week in January.  They had 2 Gold Crown resorts that I could choose from, so I arbitrarily chose Orange Lake Resort.  Then I booked a midsize car (which Budget upgraded to a Ford Sport truck), booked my flights and was set to go.

Dad's flight arrived about the same time as mine and we were off to the resort.  We were both pleasantly surprised with Orange Lake resort.  It is made up of several sections and each one has it's own configuration of units.  We were in the West Village and loved the singe story "golf villas".  It had a very residential feel.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

2009—Feb. solo trip to Waikiki

Feb. 18, 2009 I flew off to Honolulu by myself. I hadn't planned to go off to Hawaii by myself, but an unfortunate circumstance resulted in this oppurtunity. 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 loose 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. So I didn't get the whole week there, but did have 4 nights on Waikiki. I left St. Louis at 8:30 am and arrived in Honolulu about 11:30pm (Hawaiian time) with 2 long lay overs in LAX and LIH. Then there was the 1 1/2 hours getting from the airport to the Wyndham. But I finally made it!

The Wyndham is very nice. It is only about 2 blocks from the beach and right across from the new shopping center, Beach Walk. I was in a 1 bedroom unit with full kitchen. The views weren't the greatest, but the insides of the unit were very nice. I also liked that it was near the Fort Derussey end of town.
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Day 1 alone on Waikiki:
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 accousted by poverty. Everything was clean and the people are helpful. It was a bit cool this time with temps only about 70 and the winds were pretty high. But it definately 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. The first day I spent a lot of time just walking around Waikiki streets and the beach.

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Thursday, March 31, 2011

2004 Graduation 7 nt. Cruise to the Western Caribbean with Angie on Carnival Elation: Progresso; Belize; Cozumel

July 4, 2004:
This was another mother/daughter trip. The excuse for this trip was celebration of her graduation from K-state the month before.
We got an early start to the day. Our flight to Houston left at 6:30 am, so we were at the airport about 5:45. We arrived in Houston about 8:30 where we retrieved our luggage, then waited until 10:45 for our shuttle to Port Galveston to catch our cruise ship, Carnival's Elation.  One thing we discovered from this cruise---when you cruise out of Texas, 90%+ of the passengers are down home Texans!  Lots of ye-haws and cowboy hats!  Nothing wrong with that, just found it interesting and amusing.
I picked this particular cruise for a couple of reasons. I always heard about the great barrier reef by Belize and wanted to snorkel there. The other reason was because I found a travel agent selling that cruise on Ebay for $450@ + $150 onboard credit.
After waiting through the lines to get through check-in and security, we finally made it on board and went to explore the ship a bit.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

2003-Aug., Oahu for Sean’s reenlistment

While Sean was stationed in Oahu, he reenlisted for his 3rd (I believe) term. He asked my Dad (his Grandpa) to be his reenlisting officer. So Dad asked me to go along with him and make a vacation out of it. I eagerly accepted and flew out to PDX to meet up with him and fly out the next morning.

As it turned out, the Navy didn’t have enough money to give Sean his reenlistment bonus if he did it at the originally scheduled time, so Dad didn’t end up being the reenlistment officer, but we did spend a few days visiting with Sean and playing tourist on Oahu. Sean did later reenlist, but Dad wasn’t able to make it back out for that.

Back in those days, I didn’t have as many timeshare points as I do now, so I went online and found a reasonable rental for a 1 bedroom/2 bath condo about a block from the beach---Imperial of Waikiki Vacation Club. I believe I got the week for something like $450 for the week at short notice. I figured that was a great deal. After seeing our unit, it was a fantastic deal! Since it was only a one bedroom, I let Dad have the bedroom and I took the fold out couch. It was actually more comfortable then I expected. It was also really nice having our own bathrooms.

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The kitchen was small but very functional.


I had called and requested an upper unit with ocean view and we got the request. We were both blown away by our view!

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

2003 Europe - on to Paris

The last city on Angie's and my 2 week trip around Europe.  It was a very busy 2 weeks.  We started in Prague  (where Angie had just completed a semester of school)  , then went to Ronchamp, Geneva, Rome, Cinque Terre, Barcelona, and now on to Paris for a couple days.  To check out our trip from the beginning, click here:  Prague

July 6:
AFter spending a hectic day traveling all over Barcelona the day before, now it was time to head on to Paris---our final stop of our 2 week whirlwind trip. 
This was a full day of travel. We were up and at it early--about 7:30am. So early that we had about an hour to wait for the train. So we went to international reservations and reserved first class seats for the 2nd part of our train ride to Paris, the TGV out of Montpellier to Paris, for an additional fee of 3 Euro @ for reservations on a premium train. Angie went hunting for our breakfast. She did good---chocolate doughnuts and pineapple juice. We boarded the train about 8:30 and again were in a different configured first class train car. It would have been nice if the air conditioner in it hadn't gone out as soon as we left. Our 4 1/2 hour trip got VERY uncomfortable by the time we reached Montpellier, but there were no other seats available on the train(good thing we had made reservations the day before).

We made our connection for the TGV about 30 minutes after arriving in Montpellier and were off for another 4 hour trip to Paris. The TGV was very nice. It had a fold out table with seats facing each other. Angie and I sat on the side of the train with one seat facing each other. As on most of the other trains, there was a snack car where we were able to get some lunch.

I was surprised at how smooth the train travelled even though we were supposedly going in excess of 200m/h. The countryside was again lush with lots of farmlands. Looking out at a distance, it was really hard to tell we were going so fast. The only hint we got that we were going that fast was that the electric poles next to the tracks were just a blur as we went speeding by them.

Monday, March 28, 2011

2003---Orlando, Feb., with Dad and Angie

This was our first trip to Orlando using Dad’s timeshare at Orange Lake Resort for the 5th week of the year. Angie happened to be on winter break from UMKC, so she was able to go with us.

We spent a few days of our week at Disney. We made it back to Epcot---Dad’s favorite. Here they are waiting to go into the America’s theatre.

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We spent all day in Epcot. Here’s the night parade they use to have.


We also finally made it to Animal Kingdom. Here we were waiting for the show, “it’s a bug’s life”.

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AFter spending another day at Epcot, we decided to check out a couple of the other Disney parks.   First we headed to the Magic Kingdom.

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And finally, MGM Studios, now known as Hollywood Studios.DCP_4173

Saturday, March 26, 2011

2007 Alaska Cruise--Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas, Aug. 24-31 (7 nt): Juneau, Skagway, Prince Rupert, Tracy Arm

For as long as I can remember, Dad had 2 dream vacations that he wanted to take---one was to go on an Alaska cruise and the other was to go to Ireland. Unfortunately, he never got to do the Ireland trip, but after his first set of chemo, I immediately booked him and me an Alaska cruise. By then he was fighting metastatic prostate cancer and recovered from colon cancer surgery and chemo for colon cancer. By the looks of him, he appeared to be doing well. If he wasn't, he never let on. But within a week of our return, he was in the hospital fighting for his life and on dialysis for blocked kidney tubes due to his prostate cancer. Stints were able to be put into his kidney tubes and he did recover from that, but the cancer treatments were beginning to stop working now. My best friend and great traveling buddy was on his last great vacation with me, but I didn't know it at the time. But this was a fantastic cruise---so much so, that I now have another Alaska cruise booked for my husband and me (his first cruise), as well as first cruise for my brother, his wife, aunt and uncle (my dad's brother) whom will also be joining us. I will cherish this dream vacation with my Dad always.
Here's my Dad dressed up for one of the formal dinners. He enjoyed having a chance to try weird stuff like escargo and foie Gras at these dinners.
Since Dad lived in Oregon and it was a fairly easy trip to Seattle from where he lived, I chose a RT out of Seattle for our cruise. I really had no idea what ports to look for or what we would see, but I ended up settling on Royal Caribbean for a couple reasons--the RT out of Seattle, the supposed grandeur of all the windows, and the advertising that there was an adult indoor pool and jacuzzi area. Unfortunately the pool area was not just for adults on Alaska cruises, as we found out when a bunch of noisy splashing kids showed up all the time and I inquired about it to some employees. I also didn't find the selection of food all that great, or the crew exceptionally friendly. The ship also became a ghost ship shortly after 11ish at night. Not sure if it's a Royal Caribbean thing or an Alaska cruise thing, but it was eerie wandering around the ship late at night. But the weather was outstanding and the scenery was gorgeous!

Friday, March 25, 2011

2001—Grand Cayman, June 2-9

I had a week banked with RCI that was about to expire. So I called and said I wanted a week in the Caribbean, on the beach, for the week of June 2-9, 2001. They had 2 choices---one in Tortola (I think) and the other at the Morritt's Tortuga Club in Grand Cayman. I mainly chose the Morritt's because I thought it would be easier to get to. This was another trip with just my son Tim, his future wife Faith, my daughter Angie, and myself.
We flew USAirways to Charlotte, then on to Georgetown, Grand Cayman. We left St. Louis about 8:30am and arrived in the Caymans about 1:30pm---not bad.
Along our way we even flew over CUba.

Soon after that we had Grand Cayman in view.

Again we cleared customs quickly and were on our way.

I had rented a mid-sized car (a very used Tercel). I was a bit concerned when I first saw it, but it managed to make it through the week---barely. I was also concerned about driving on the "wrong" side of the street. It really seemed weird having cars come at you on the right side of the road instead of the left, but we made it through that, too!

Our first stop was at the grocery store in Georgetown. Our resort was on the other side of the island (about 25 miles away) and I wasn't sure there would be a grocery store nearby. Other than the milk being $7/gallon, prices didn't seem too bad.
When we checked in, I asked if we had a beachfront room, he checked, made a change in his book, and said, "you do now". The location of our room was great! We were on the ground level, but our livingroom opened up onto a gorgeous beach. We were also near the club house and deck where all the entertainment took place.

the lobby
 the pool
Our unit as seen from the beach---bottom level 2nd from the left.
our condo from beach
It wasn't the fanciest place, but it was clean and sufficient. There was no dishwasher or washer/drier, but we didn't miss them too much.

livingroom with sofa sleeper.
small tv in livingroom

Our unit opened up onto the beach just steps from the water.  We loved the views and being so close to everything!
The bar b q hut
 our bar b q lunch
 tree outside our unit
 Tim and Faith enjoying a hammock
 the dock --- just to the right of our room.
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Even the snorkeling there was pretty good. Saw BIG fish under the dock---tarpin, I think , and some giant snook later. Dinner the first night was chicken stir fry cooked up in the condo. Angie worked out in the excercise room there for awhile, then she and i went to the bar for the nightly activities. That night it was 70's disco party-name that year.
Here she and I are enjoying the bar.

We spent much of Sunday exploring the other side of the island. We rode into Georgetown and on to Hell, stopping along the way to take lots of pictures.
This was taken before the town of Georgetown.

2004—Feb. Disney Wonder 4 nt; Not your ordinary 1st Cruise!--Nassau; Half Moon Cay

Feb. 2004 Disney Wonder 4 night cruise:
I guess Dad's and my Florida/Disney trip was doomed from the beginning! On the way to the PDX airport, Dad wrecked his car---which was ultimately totaled by the insurance company. But he had the car towed to a repair shop and continued on to the airport and I flew from St. Louis and met him in Orlando for the beginning of a very different "vacation".

I will say the week at Orange lake Resort (his timeshare) was great. We didn't do the Disney thing this year, instead, we went to Universal Studios and a new favorite place of Dad's, The Holyland Experience. When our week there was up, we headed back to the Orlando airport and dropped off the car. Then spent the night in a hotel with a free shuttle to the airport.

Next morning, we took the shuttle back to the airport and caught our shuttle to the Disney cruise ship in Cape Canaveral. It was about an hour ride, but they had tv monitors throughout the bus with videos of the Disney ships and their cruises. When we got to the port, we made our way through the lines and onto the ship without much trouble.  We chose this short 4 night cruise because neither of us had been on a cruise before and we didn't know if we'd like cruising, so we thought we'd try a short one.  We went with Disney because Dad had Disney stock and a general fondness for Disney.  You might think Disney would mainly by for families, but it was an excellent cruise for just adults, too.  They have plenty of adult only areas, including pool and Jacuzzi area, and monitor those areas so kids do not come in them.  Not that I hate kids---I have a couple, but now I'm older and enjoy a little peace and quiet sometimes!

We boarded the ship around 1:30 and were directed to the Lido deck for lunch. Rooms weren't ready yet, so everyone was sent to lunch. By the time we got to the restaurant the inside seating was full so we sat outside. A cold front had moved in the day before and it was COLD and WINDY. But the food on the Lido buffet was very good.
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1999-Florida/Bahamas trip

June 1999:
This was another "graduation" trip (the England one for Tim, this one for Angie). So shortly after she graduated, Angie, Tim, and Faith (Tim's girlfriend and now wife) took off on another week long adventure. The destination was to be a surprise to Angie, although my sister made the comment to her right before we left, "I can't wait to see your Bahamas pictures." so some of the trip wasn't a surprise.
Originally I booked the trip through a promotion on a post card we got in the mail, then decided I could book basically the same trip for less and i did.
Angie and I got to Orlando a little before Tim and Faith (got them a great deal on Delta and Angie and I flew on AA award travel). By the time I got the car, Tim and Faith had arrived, so we were on our way. First stop was to a 2 bedroom condo near SeaWorld. This was my first time using RCI for nightly stays and it worked out great. The condo was beautiful! The first night was just spent basically aclimating to the area. Angie, Faith and I drove down International Drive while Tim lounged around the condo. We also hit a grocery store for snacks for a few days. Had fast food for dinner and hit the pool and jacuzzi. That took care of the first day.
Day 2:
This day we went to Disney World's Magic Kingdom. We even met up with some Disney addict friends of ours from St. Louis and they gave us a great tour of the place---got us on more rides then we probably could have done ourselves.
It was a great day!
Even got to see the light parade finally.
We had dinner at a Bennigan's. I'm sure the waiter was annoyed at bringing us glass after glass of ice tea, but we were very thirsty after a day in the heat! We got back to the condo about 1am.
Day 3:
Time to check out and head on to our next part of the trip. First we headed down international drive to an outlet mall and shopped a bit, then we headed towards the coast. We drove straight to Cocoa Beach and got our first look at the ocean. We also shopped at the huge Ron Jon Surf Shop there. Then we wanted to get to our next destination (W. Palm Beach) as quickly as we could, so we jumped back on the highway and headed south. There I had reserved a 1 bedroom condo, also through RCI, and it was very nice, too. We immediately went to the beach and checked out the water. It was great. That night, Tim and Faith went off to find dinner by themselves and Angie and I went to a little Italian joint right by the resort. It was very good.
Day 4:
Angie and I went on a boat tour of the million dollar houses along the shore. It was a neat tour. Back by the condo we all played in the ocean for quite awhile. Then went to R J Gators and had another great dinner (even tried alligator).
Thursday, November 06, 2003 (8)2
Day 5:
Time to hit the road again. We turned in the car at the Ft. Lauderdale airport and waited for our flights to Grand Bahamas. Finally it was time. The plane really didn't look that small until we got into it-- 1 seat on each side (3 across the very back), and even I had to bend over to walk down the aisle. The flight was really pleasant. The water was unbelievably blue and green. Once in Grand Bahamas, we waited about an hour for our shuttle to pick us up and take us to Deadman's Reef. I had found this little place after lots of research for a place with great snorkeling right from the beach. There were 2 little villas there and 2 - 1 bedroom condos (2 larger villas were under construction when we were there). I rented us a little 2 bedroom villa for 3 nights. Turned out to be a really neat place. The accommodations weren't fancy, but comfortable for our purposes. The shuttle even stopped at a grocery store on the way to the place and let us pick up some groceries. The villas wasn't quite ready when we got there, so we wandered around the grounds a bit. They even had a pretty good bar b q grill open air restaurant there.
Finally we were able to check into our villa. It even came with board games and free movie videos (the tv didn't have much in the way of reception).
Soon we were out and into the water.
Day 6:
This day we rented snorkel gear and found out it's really easy and so much fun snorkeling with good equipment. So much fun that we all got burnt and couldn't get back in the water the next day! But i loved all the coral and fish. Even prettier then the coral in Hawaii, there I didn't see any fan coral or brain coral. Loved all the colorful fish, too. After 7 hours of snorkeling, I was extremely ill that night from severe sunburn (even though I did use sunscreen). Never got that sick from a burn before! Had me rather worried with the severe pain and chills. Finally I took 4 ibuprofen and laid down awhile. That helped. I managed to get up and make pancakes for dinner. We all got burnt, but we all would love to go back! After 5pm, the beach was ours. But sand mites where bad, so when darkness set in, we stayed in and watched videos.
Day 7:
Since we were all too burnt to enjoy the water again, we used the shuttle to head into Freeport. The owners of the place we stayed at ran a business where they brought people to the beach for the day and their shuttle ran back and forth to Freeport and the cruise ship port until about 5. The kids were excited about being old enough to go to the casino and gamble, so we each spent about $20 (except Angie who won about $10). We also shopped the mall and marketplace. Tim and Faith went back to the cove while Angie and I went to dinner then caught the last shuttle back to the cove.
Day 8:
It was time to get up and get to the airport, again. We flew back to Ft. Lauderdale and waited for our respective flights---Tim and Faith on Delta and Angie and me on AA. Much to our surprise, Tim and Faith ended up on our flight! Their connection was going to be missed in Atlanta, so they were sent to our flight and got there with about a minute to spare. Their luggage was even on our flight.
Another trip I will cherish with the kids. I had a great time! Hopefully they remember it fondly, too.