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.

This was my 2nd time on a Western Caribbean cruise.  Our ports were Key West, Grand Cayman, Jamaica (Falmouth), and HAL's private island in the Bahamas---Half Moon Cay. 

 2015-11-8 Embarkation day!


2015-11-9 Key West:


2015-11-10 Sea Day


2015-11-11 Grand Cayman:


2015-11-12 Falmouth, Jamaica:


2015-11-13 another sea day:


2015-11-14 Half Moon Cay:


2015-11-15 disembarkation day:


This was my 16th cruise.  Considering how my 1st one was, being evacuated back to Ft. Lauderdale with my Dad, I'm happy to say they've all been great since then.  

Thursday, October 29, 2015

2015 Oct. Food and Wine Festival in Epcot

Our good friends, the Schneiderjans, from St. Louis, are always inviting me to join them in Orlando.  So I finally decided to do that.  After all, I've never been to the Food and Wine festival!  Plus Ken won't go to Disney anymore.  So I booked 3 nights in the Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort and Ken and I enjoyed a short vacation in Kissimmee---Ken hanging out at the resort a lot of the time and me running around with friends!

Oct. 26---on to Orlando----

Oct. 27---Epcot's Wine and Food Festival---

Oct. 28, 2015---pool time and dinner at Dixie Landings---

I really enjoyed the fact that it only took us about 3 hours to drive to  Orlando now instead of the 15 from St. Louis.  I was even able to get a great fare to STL from there and sent Ken home to STL from Orlando for a couple weeks.  Then I drove back to South Florida.  Hopefully we'll do more of these short fun trips.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Oct. 28, 2015---pool time and dinner at Dixie Landings
So today we planned to bring the Schneides over to use the lazy river at Bonnet Creek.  Sure glad this wasn't the day we planned to go to Epcot.  It was raining most the day and often hard---as seen here from our patio.
But first, we had to do our "owner update" since I was pre-gifted the Epcot ticket.  Unfortunately, we didn't get our usual short one.  First there was a group talk, then we went with our "adviser".  He proceeded to repeat everything the gal said in the group meeting---all of which we already knew.  This guy wasn't as happy to be our "adviser".  Funny how they like to market these meetings as "owner updates", then get mad when you don't want to buy anything.  But we completed our obligation and headed over to get the Schneides.  Dropped them off at the lazy river, then I went to get Ken.  We walked on over.
 As soon as we got there it started thundering.  Dang!!!  I hadn't anticipated that!  At least something was enjoying one of the pools.
 We went and got nachos and burgers and had lunch, then there was a break in the storm to run to the pool.
 It did start raining again, but the lightening and thunder held off.
 The lazy river was a great temperature.  Even with the pouring rain.
 After a couple hours--we had had enough swimming, so Coni suggested going to Port Orleans Resort and getting some Beignets.   I think Ken followed along because he had no idea what we were doing.  He swore he wasn't going to what use to be called Downtown Disney, so made me take a picture of him there.
 some of the ghoulish delights there
 I never knew you could take these water shuttles to the resorts or other parts of Downtown Disney.  I loved the ride and could have done that all day!  Plus they're free---in Disney!!!

 saw a couple of these cruising the lake, too.
 looking towards the Boat/amphibian car house.
 A tiny boat as seen from our ride.
 This ought to be a cool restaurant.
 heading to our beignetts
I guess swimming in the rain is a good way to wear the little one out.  She napped without struggling today.
Port Orlean's sister resort, Dixie Landings, was not too far away, so we walked the pretty pathway to it.  The Schneide's use to like to stay there when their kids were young.  Now they said it's gotten too pricey.
 One of the shuttle boats.
 O and John on a bridge.
 The lobby of Dixie Landings.
water wheel by the cafe.

 Walking around Dixie Landings.
 by now it was getting to be dinner time.  Coni bragged about the off the bone turkey meals there, so we decided to check it out.  The meal was really good. 
 Then we were off to wait for the shuttle.
 Views of Downtown Disney from the water.
Looked to have a huge moon coming up then, too.
Looking towards the West dock where we got off to go to our car.
Dropped them off at their hotel and made it back to our condo in time to watch the fireworks from our 13th floor balcony.  First was the Epcot fireworks at 9pm.

 Then at 10 came the ones farther away by Magic Kingdom.

The end to another fun day in Orlando. (or should I say Disney).

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Oct. 27---Epcot's Wine and Food Festival---
I've been to Disney many times, but never to the Wine and Food Festival.  Our Disneyholic friends from St. Louis brought their granddaughter with them and their daughter from DC joined them.  They know everything there is to know about the ins and outs of Disney, so I was excited to join them for a day in Epcot.  Ken isn't interested in Disney, or crowds in general, so he stayed back at the condo.  After our friends who spent the night left for the airport, Ken and I went to McDonald's for a quick breakfast.  Then I dropped him off and headed off to Epcot.  I got the Epcot ticket ($115) for signing up to go to the Wyndham "owner update" the next day.  But parking was still $20.  I got there about 11 and wandered the mile or so in from the parking spot!   I finally got to the entrance and did the standing in line to have my bag checked (wasn't planning to take one, but ended up taking a camera bag when it looked like rain), then stood in line again to go through the entrance.  Finally I was in and called Coni.  
 Soon we were on our way to "eat around the world"!  Loved John's back pack.
 First stop---cheese and wine.  They even had Rogue blueberry blue cheese from Oregon.  I loved it all.  We would get a bunch of sample size things from each country and share it among the 4 of us.  The baby seemed to only want french bread, so a large one of them kept her pretty happy. 
 Loved the way they added more decorations to the countries in honor of the festival.

Next stop for the Dominican Republic.  We had several of the items from there.
We had cute little passport books to record what we tried, but it ended up being forgotten after a few countries.   I do remember we had a grouper dish, a yucca dish, pulled pork with pickled onions and mashed something, a flan, a couple beers, a pina coloda, and another drink that tasted like a margarita.
 Decorations from the other side of the Dominican Republic. 
Time for some more shopping---and letting O play for awhile.  Also checked out the food passport book for more delights. 
 O and Grandpa bonding---
 while Grandma, Auntie and I check out some more drinks from the champagne and desserts booth.  Since Aunt Justine is a restaurant manager in Bethesda, she was able to tell us all about the different drinks we had throughout the day.
 Auntie Justine playing with O.
 Next stop---Canada.  Here is the fillet their steakhouse is known for and it was delicious---could cut it with a fork!  The cheese soup was exquisite, too.  Of course we had to have some more wine and beer to wash it down!
Love to people watch, too.  Fun seeing families like this.
Bye Canada
 O and grandma
on to England---Of course, since we were in England, it had to start raining.  I did take my underwater camera, too, so I was constantly switching from it, to my DSLR, to my phone (to immediately post on facebook). 
We had a molten chocolate dessert here and shepherds pie, along with more beer, bailey's, and coffee with baileys.  BTW---these taster sizes are not cheap!  My Bailey's was $8.  Most of the foods were between $4-$8.  Beer and wines were up there, too.  Not sure how much was spent, but I know it was a lot.   Sure glad there were 4 of us buying, although I'm sure I didn't pay my full share!  Could never have tried all this great stuff on my own!  This grouping alone was probably about $35.
 We found some cover between the shops.  With her hands full, Justine fed her Mom bites.
Out came Olivia's raincoat.
 She didn't mind the rain.  In fact, it felt rather pleasant.  Never really poured, just on and off sprinkles, but still about 80. 
 Good bye England.
 Heading over the bridge to Europe.
 France ahead
 Olivia finally eating something--- french bread.
 While we ate at bunch of french stuff.
 and the rains start again---the hardest of the day, but still not bad.
 some people watching--love how the adult has the kiddie umbrella and the kid gets rained on.
 Had to go on into France ---
 The little patisserie that was on the left in how a big one in the building straight ahead.
 It was always so crowded.  Nice that it's so large now.
 some of the goodies.
 then we sat outside for a bit and---yes---had more wine.
Next---I presume this is Belgium
One way to settle Olivia down was to give her a phone.  Amazing how she can work it!  She entertained herself with it for hours.
 Now I think we hit Japan.  Hard to remember and using different cameras doesn't help with the timeline---at least when one has the wrong time stamp.

 Justine slurping the noodles
 again it was raining so we found cover.
 then went into the store. 

On to America and a beer flight and sliders.

 It was early evening now and the little one was fighting a nap. 

 Coni decided to sit in a quiet area of the Americas restaurant and get Olivia to fall asleep.  It actually worked.
 While they were there, we headed to Italy.

 Lots of great stuff in Italy. 
 Got some wine and a snack for Coni and went back to Americas only to find her gone.  Dennis DeYoung, an original member of STYX, started playing music loudly on the bandstand outside, so she moved to a place just past Italy that was quieter. 
We found her!  And sat at the picnic tables there for awhile and brought some Polish food over.  Gotta love kielbasa, sauerkraut, peroggis, and an apple pie drink.

Not sure how the Jagermeister worked in here, but we each had a shot.
I took pictures over the World lake while the sun set.

We continued around the World --- more people watching (never seen an outfit quite like the one on the gal on the left).
 On to Africa-----
had our last food snack in Africa---I didn't realize they have such spicy food!
 just a few more pictures around the world at night.
 honorary Chinese.
 Always loved this Norwegian building.
 Finally it got late enough that Coni, Olivia, and Justine staked a place by the rail of the lake for the fireworks display that was going to happen in an hour.
John being fashionable.
 Then John and I walked on down to the craft beer area and got 2 more flights and brought them back to the group.
 Justine went and bought herself an umbrella.
 Olivia still playing on the phone and now eating a chocolate covered cookie stick.
 John went off and got Olivia an umbrella with Olivia written in Chinese.
 and a panda bear in the front.
 then the light show began.
 Personally I loved it more in the old days when it was all a laser show over the water.  At least they still include some laser show with the fireworks now.
 the countries even light up
 more countries.
 and some fireworks.

 time to head out.
 so long Epcot!  Another fantastic time here!
First time I've been to the wine and food festival.  So glad they invited me to join them.  It was a blast!  Hopefully I'll get to do it again someday!