Thursday, December 10, 2015

2015 Oct. Food and Wine Festival in Epcot

Oct. 26---on to Orlando----
When the Schneides told us they were going to be in Orlando in Oct., we decided it would be fun to drive up and spend some time with them.  So we arranged to see them the last 2 days of their trip and I would go to Epcot with them one day, the other day they would hang out at our resort and swim and relax.

It's about a 3 hour drive to Orlando from our South Florida home.  We couldn't check in until late afternoon, so didn't bother leaving too early.   It was a pretty ride.  Even the Mt. Trashmore with the flocks of buzzards flying around them were interesting.
 We had lots of blue skies and puffy white clouds the whole way.

 Thanks to GPS, we maneuvered our way through Disney property to our Wyndham Resort---Bonnett Creek.  Originally I wasn't able to book that resort and we were going to stay about 20 miles away.  But  a couple weeks before our trip, a 1 bedroom and 2 bedroom unit opened up for the 3 nights we needed.  Yea!!!--We were able to use our VIP status to book the 1 bedroom for half the points and upgrade to the 2 bedroom free.  We hadn't planned on using the 2nd bedroom, but when we found out some other friends from St. Louis that we spent time with at Deerfield beach the day before needed a place for their last night in Florida which happened to be in Orlando, we figured why not offer it to them.  It was nice having their company.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

2015 Nov. 8-15 Western Caribbean Cruise on the Eurodam: Key West; Grand Cayman; Jamaica; HMC

When we "temporarily" moved to South Florida (as my husband likes to put it), I figured this might be a good time to try and get some good deals on last minute cruises.  Don't know how good of a deal we really ended up getting, but I managed to keep from accepting the up sell offer to a suite.  I had already upgraded us for $100@ to a balcony from the $499 OV room I had originally booked.  The first up sell offer arrived about 3 weeks before our trip and was $499 for a signature suite and $699 for a Neptune suite.  About a week later I got another up sell offer for the same super high price.  When we finally got our Verandah guarantee room assignment, I noticed we were in a less desirable room near the front of the ship with metal half walls on the veranda and no tub.  I called and requested a different room.
About 4 days before our cruise, we got an email with a new cabin number---mid ship, tub, and with a super deep veranda with Plexiglas walls and even 2 lounge chairs on the deck as well as the 2 other chairs, ottoman, and little side table.   About a day or 2 before the cruise, I called again because I noticed a couple suites opened up and I wanted to see if I could get an up sell for really cheap, like we did a couple years ago.  This time they quoted me $250 for a signature suite and $350 for the Neptune.  I was tempted, but also curious about the VA room we were reassigned.   Apparently there are 4 of these rooms---1 on either side of the lifeboats, so they're a little deeper then the boats are wide (about 14').  I read a lot of mixed reviews about those rooms.  Some people liked the extra space, others didn't because most of the veranda wasn't covered and, therefore, didn't have privacy.   I wonder if that's how we ended up with it.   I don't know for sure, just that there were no veranda rooms showing available for the last week or so before the cruise.
I'd say the actual covered area of our veranda was about what the regular verandas have.  We were on the sunrise side of the ship most of the time, so only got to watch sunset from our veranda 2 nights.  But I did spend a lot of time out there enjoying just gazing at the water.  
 from the door to the veranda.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

2015-2016 Living in South Florida!!!!

I started out making this post like most of my other travel posts.   But it got so LONG that I decided to start a whole new "South Florida" blog with a more traditional blogging style.  I edited this post with links to my new "South Florida" blog so it would be easier and faster to see specific places or things that we especially enjoyed in South Florida.  

  To check out my specific Florida events or places, click on the links below.  Some of the events or places will have multiple posts, some will just have one (be sure and click on the "older posts" link at the bottom right of the post):  

 

Our Apartment in Coral Springs, Florida

Biking around our neighborhood

Some of our trips to Deerfield Beach

Loxahatchee Federal Park

Cardinal games here in South Florida

Snorkeling at Red Reef Park

Some of our Food Trucks meals

Independence Day fireworks

Hugh Taylor Birch Park in Fort Lauderdale 
  
Tradewinds park

our rainy trip to Sanibel

our Summer weekend trip to Bahia Honda in the Keys

South Florida lightning

 

A walk along Ft. Lauderdale beach and dinner cruise on the Jungle Queen

3 Mountains Park in Broward and a Broward Heritage covered bridge

Butterfly World in Coral Springs 
     or see by date: 10/19/2015 ; 11/4/2015 ; 2/18/2016
 

Our mini Oct. trip to Orlando: Wine and Food Festival; Wyndham Bonnett Creek; Dixie Landings; Port Orleans
    


Gold Coast Railroad Museum and Fairchild Botanical Gardens in Miami 

Last minute cruise 

Hobie Island for city skyline photos for Coral Springs Camera Club

Old car show at Festival Flea Market and cool garden shop

The Everglades

Birding at Peaceful Waters Sanctuary in Wellington, South Florida  
     updated 1/29; 3/1

Birding at Green Cay Wetlands in Boynton Beach, Palm Beach County
     or check out my trips there by date:  1/29; 2/11; 2/293/9; 4/14

Birding in Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach (about 4 miles from Green Cay Wetlands)
     or check out my trips there by date:  1/29; 2/6; 2/14 ; 2/26; 2/293/93/183/213/284/84/144/22  ; 4/29

Fern Forest in Broward County

Tree Tops Park in Broward County

The Flagler Museum in West Palm Beach

Evergreen Cemetery in Ft. Lauderdale---historic cemetery on the "birding trail"

Cardinals Spring Training game in Jupiter!  

Spring trip to Naples, Sanibel, and Captiva 

Balearia ferry over to Grand Bahamas for the day 

 

( To check out my daily "South Florida" blog, click HERE )

 

There are over 50 different species of birds that call the sanctuary their home - See more at: http://www.southfloridafinds.com/park/fl/palm-beach/wellington/peaceful-waters-sanctuary.html#sthash.ikMBlrGQ.dpuf
There are over 50 different species of birds that call the sanctuary their home - See more at: http://www.southfloridafinds.com/park/fl/palm-beach/wellington/peaceful-waters-sanctuary.html#sthash.ikMBlrGQ.dpuf
There are over 50 different species of birds that call the sanctuary their home - See more at: http://www.southfloridafinds.com/park/fl/palm-beach/wellington/peaceful-waters-sanctuary.html#sthash.ikMBlrGQ.dpuf

Monday, September 14, 2015

2015 3 week road trip: S Florida - Daytona - Edisto - Knoxville - St. Louis - Knoxville - Edisto - S. Florida!

When Ken agreed to rent an apartment in S. Florida for the year, he also claimed he was going to go back to St. Louis every 4-6 weeks.  So it came as a bit of a surprise to me when it was almost 3 months before he decided to head back for the first time.  His good buddy and x-work contact was going to be in St. Louis the beginning of September and had rented party rooms at 2 Cardinal baseball games and invited us to one.  That was enough incentive to even get me to come back to St. Louis for a "vacation"!  So on Aug. 19th, we jumped in our car and started our long trek back.  


So long Coral Springs---
 Since we had a lot of Wyndham vacation resort points left for this year, we decided to make a few stops along the way.  First stop---Daytona Beach at the Wyndham Ocean Walk Resort.  We hadn't been to Daytona for about 30 years.  Even then it was just for a night and not in a resort.  It was nice checking out another Wyndham resort.  I was very impressed.  We were able to use our VIP status and get a 2 bedroom presidential unit for half the points of a 1 bedroom.  I was very impressed with the condo.
We were on the 10th floor and had quite a view of the ocean.  Even though we were looking East over the ocean, sunset was still pretty impressive.
The resort is huge with at least 5 pools.  After dining at Forest Gumps in the plaza adjoining the resort, we hung out in one of the 3 outdoor pools.  It's nice that they're open really late.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

2015 Knoxville, Sevierville,Gatlinburg birthday trip

About a week after we got back from our month in Florida and 2 week cruise in April, I was on the road again.  This time to the Knoxville area with my son and daughter-in-law.  While we were on our cruise, Tim accepted a transfer to the Federal Courthouse in Knoxville.  So on my birthday, I left with them to go house hunting and checking out the area.  I knew it would be beautiful, I've been through Tennessee many times, but had no idea how much fun the area really is!

We did hit a lot of road construction near Nashville.  The highway was even closed a few miles near there.  So we took a bit of a detour through Nashville and found a great restaurant to get some dinner at---Peg Leg Porker
 We figured it must be good with the line waiting to order.
 My pulled pork sandwich and mac and cheese were excellent.  The "kids" rubbed ribs and sandwich and sides were also very good--so they told me.

Friday, May 8, 2015

2015 (April 17- May 1) Southern Caribbean Cruise: St. Thomas; St. Barths; St. Lucia; Barbados; Grenada; Bonaire; and Curacoa

 
We enjoyed our 2014 Maasdam cruise so much, that when  we received an email with an OBC offer if we booked a future cruise --- we checked the Maasdam itineraries and decided to go back to the Southern Caribbean in 2015---but for 14 nights this time (our longest cruise yet) and with some new (to us) ports of call (Grenada,Bonaire, and Curacao).  We booked a Spa Oceanview since we like being higher on the ship and it was almost affordable. 
A couple months after booking our 2015 cruise, they offered a free Beverage Package and a cheaper fare for new bookings.  Since it was well before final payment, I called and got the reduced fare and the Beverage package, but had to give up our "welcome back OBC" which was only $50@.  After that, we waited about 7 months for the cruise to finally get here.  I was surprised the rates never lowered again.  Since we're not big drinkers, I didn't figure we'd get much use out of the Beverage package and would have given it up for a lower fare.  No further reduction came, but it turned out really nice having the Beverage Package.  On board they were charging $44.99/person/day for the package which included up to 15 drinks a day as long as they were under $7@ ---per person!   I had heard there would be a Beverage card waiting for us in our room when we boarded, but all we found was this card stating the rules and wanting us to sign that we got the card.  After calling the main office, we found out that starting with this cruise, the beverage card was also our room card.
 One day I managed to get 10 drinks, but most of them were water, soda, or smoothies.  I found I could get a "lite" mango smoothie (half mango puree and half water with crushed ice) which was probably my favorite drink and I had it often.
 We took 2 large bottles of water on each of our port calls which we got from the very personable young lady, Caryl Carane, at the Explorer's Cafe.  I also tried the Drink of the Day everyday---most of which were really tasty---such as this one: Beach Comber made with light rum, triple sec, and sweet and sour mix with a dash of grenadine.
 Usually I would get my DOD with lunch. Also would hit up the Lido bar where bar tender Roel would save  a hard to find diet caffeine free Coke for me. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

2015 On to Maui from Kauai:

 Feb.12, 2015--on to Maui from Kauai:

Usually we spend our whole vacation on one island, but this time I took advantage of good award travel itinerary to Kauai and from Maui.   We did have to pay $90@ plus $15 for one checked bag on Hawaiian for our flight between LIH and OGG, but I felt it well worth it to get to see Kauai for a few days, too.  But the 6 nights flew by and before we knew it, it was time to head to Maui.   To see my blog from Kauai, click here---   2015 Kauai


Ken is a nervous traveler, so he made sure we were at the airport plenty early---about 2 1/2 hours early for our 11:10am flight!  The flight was on time and was a nice short flight!
I love that they give you tropical fruit nectar on their flights.
There was a lot of wind and clouds, but now and then I got pictures of land.  I believe this is Oahu.
 I think this is Molokai---or is it Lanai?
 This is West Maui.
 more of west Maui
 crossing over the mountain to the airport.
 the valley.
 descending in to Kahului.
 We had another Budget reservation---again the cheapest full-size or above reservation I was able to find from a discount broker for 15 days (we're leaving late on the 14th day so reserved the car an extra day).  The car was suppose to be a "premium" level car (Taurus) for $600.  Turns out we got an Infinity---complete with a bunch of features we are not familiar with---but will learn by the end of our stay I hope.  (It got rather comical listening to Ken curse at the car everyday when he would accidentally push another button and the car would do something weird) I went to pick up the car since I'm the Fastbreak member and Ken got the luggage.  I was the only one in Fastbreak and was back at the airport in less then 15 minutes.  Ken was waiting with the luggage when I got back and we were on our way to Kihei.
It was too early to check into our timeshare, so we headed to a late lunch/early dinner.  Peggy Sue's hit the spot.  Love their shakes.  Their sandwiches were very good, too.  Love the old diner style.  Service was a little slow, but we're on Maui time now.
 Back to our car-----I noticed my seat was cold.  That's when I discovered one of the weird features---heated and cooled seats.  Ken swears his was on hot. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

2015--Feb. 6-12 Kauai trip # 13!

Finally---Feb. rolled around again and it was time to take our annual trip to Hawaii.  This time we're going to 2 islands: first 6 nights on Kauai; then 14 nights on Maui.  When I went to book our award tickets on AA, Maui wasn't available for STL-OGG, but Kauai was --- so I was more then  happy to travel to Kauai first!  This is our 13th trip to Kauai.  Most of them have been for at least 2 weeks.  I figure that gives us over 6 months here now!  Doesn't that make us residents?!

Even our day of travel went smoothly this time!  No big changes to our flights over the previous 330 days, no delays on day of travel, and we were even able to go to Customer Service in LAX during our 3.5 hours layover and got upgraded to the front of coach where there's a lot more leg room and we were able to have a row of 3 seats to ourselves.  The day really didn't seem too bad, even though it took us about 15 hours to get from our home to Kauai.
Here we are descending into LA.
We saw sunset in LA, as we were taking off.
We seemed to be a little late getting into LIH.  I took off to get our car from Budget (with my Fastbreak account) while Ken waited for our luggage.  Again Budget had the best prices for a full size or above car.  Even checking regularly, this mid size SUV ended up being the cheapest rental for our 6 nights ($220ish including about $100 in taxes and fees) and spouse drives free.  Initially she wanted to give us a Jeep Wrangler, but I asked for something else.  In about 15 minutes we were on our way to Kauai Beach Villas in our GMC Terrain SUV.  Got to the resort a couple minutes before 11pm.  Were surprised to see they put us in an Ocean View unit the first 2 days.  Yea! I was able to reserve the last 5 nights in an OV, but the first 2 were suppose to be in a garden view. We probably could have stayed in the first room all 6 nights, but the view from the G building is a lot better, so we'll switch rooms tomorrow.  Then we were off to Safeway to get our deli sandwich dinner (which they didn't have) and a few other things.  Ended up having our first dinner on Kauai this trip from McDonald's---which really tasted good!

Feb. 7: north and Anini---
Tired as we were, we were up by 7 (11am STL  time).    The weather was beautiful!  Very little wind, partly cloud and highs in the mid 70s.
View from our first room-- F3.
We were in one  of the newly renovated Kauai Beach Villas condos.  It has been a long time since they have done much to the units.  New floors, new furniture, new bedding and curtains.  Same old cabinets and counters, but I'm happy with what has been done.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

2014 Dec. 6 night Carnival Freedom cruise: Key West; Grand Cayman; Cozumel

One day my sister-in-law, Jane, told me that my brother said she could go on a cruise with me.  He pretty much had to say that since he was going to Vegas with "the guys".  So I didn't hesitate to start checking on cruises.  I looked for the best deal I could find with the most interesting itinerary leaving out of Ft. Lauderdale.  So after some searching, I came up with this 6 night cruise on Carnival Freedom going to Key West, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel.   The rate was only something like $700 for the 2 of us for the beginning of Dec.  It wasn't too long before my sister heard about our cruise and wanted to join us.  At that point I wasn't too thrilled with the idea of sleeping on a bunk, so found an inside category with fold down couch (it even had portholes) for just a bit more.  Then I started working on talking my daughter into going.  Even took a Halloween special that let me book an inside room for myself for something like $580---with the hopes of talking Angie into joining us.  I even caught another special to upgrade to an ocean view room for about $50 more and it included a $100 obc, so I took it.  I was also able to get $50 obc for owning CCL stock.  My sister had sent in for the credit for her room, so this way we both got our stock obc.  Wasn't until after Thanksgiving that I finally talked Angie into going and added her to my room.  With all that settled, all we had to do was wait until Dec. 3rd to roll around and meet up with Angie in Ft. Lauderdale.  The cruise wasn't until the 7th, but airfare was cheaper going in the middle of the week and Angie lives there so we figured we could freeload off of them for a few days.  That almost worked out.  Unfortunately, or fortunately considering how you look at it, Josh got really sick right before we arrived, so I booked us 4 nights at the Wyndham Palm Aire.

The 3rd finally came.  Jane and I flew out together.  My sister, Carolyn, was to arrive about 30 minutes later.  Jane and I arrived on time and were picked up by Angie, then we waited and waited and waited for Carolyn---the first of the "fun" times to come.  Turns out, you can't call someone when they don't have their phone on!  Go figure!  To make it worse, she didn't know her phone was off and didn't bother to try and call us!  Instead, we drove around the arrivals area and happened to find her randomly walking from one terminal to another.   So we yelled at her, picked her up, yelled at her some more, and were on our way to Palm Aire.  I know we would have still been welcomed at Angie and Josh's house, but didn't want to risk getting sick right before our cruise.  We did go to their house, though, and borrowed one of their cars.  A couple big advantages to staying at the resort were the hot tubs and heated pools!  We took advantage of them.
A couple pictures of our Palm Aire living space.
One of the pools from our lanai.

The first 4 days went really fast.  We drove to Angie's every day and went to lunch with her.  Usually had dinner with them, too.  Josh seemed to recover pretty quickly!  Went to Deerfield Beach one day.
Even did the "owner's update" for the $150 compensation.  I told the gals if they wanted to do it and get the free brunch, I'd split the money with them.  That went quickly and painlessly.  When you're Wyndham platinum, they don't harass you too much.

Dec. 7th finally came.  Josh drove us to the Everglades cruise port and dropped us off.  We thought by going later in the afternoon---after 2, we'd get in right away.  That back fired!  Not only did we still wait over an hour, but all the food venues on board were closed by the time we got on (except 24 hour room service).  We walked our luggage on board, so unpacked and waited for the muster drill. Angie and I had room 1256.  It was a good sized room and pretty quiet.