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.  

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.  







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!   We did end up using the drink package a lot---a couple beers a day, bottled water, soda, hot chocolate... .

2015 April--The Maasdam (suite A 182) and around the ship:

 

2015-4-20   St. Thomas---8am-6pm:

 

2015-4-21  St. Barths (8-3)  Shell Beach:

 

2015-4-22  St. Lucia---8am-3pm: Pigeon Island

 

2015-4-23  Barbados (8-5): Folkestone

 

2015-4-24  Grenada (8-5): Aquarium beach 

 

2015-4-26   Bonaire (8-5): Eden Beach (Spice Island)

 

2015-4-27  Curacao (8-6) Blue Bay

 

  
We were suppose to have a stop at Half Moon Cay, but the surf was too rough, so we ended up having another sea day.  Although I was disappointed, I was really happy with the way the rest of the cruise went and the beautiful weather we had at all the other ports.  Can't wait until we board another ship for ports unknown!

 

Friday, February 13, 2015

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. 

Feb.12, 2015--on to Maui from Kauai:


Feb.14, 2015--Valentine's day and Whale Day:

Feb. 15, Sunday: Whale Tales, West shore sights.

Feb.16, 2015---Kapalua and TripAdvisor Meet and Greet:



Feb. 19, 2015---Road to Hana and beyond:

Feb.20---Maui Ocean Center:

Feb. 21, 2015---Wailea Coastal Walkway:

Feb.22, 2015---Olowalu:

Feb. 23, 2015---The Dumps and Kameole 3---
 
Feb. 24, 2015---Back to the Dumps and a visit from Elvis:

Feb. 25, 2015--Maluaka, Ioa Valley:

Feb.26,2015--Depression setting in!  Time to go home:

I'm finally getting Ken to stay in Hawaii longer and longer.  Sure makes for a welcome break from midwest winters!!!!

To see my blog from Kauai, click here---   2015 Kauai



Sunday, February 8, 2015

2015--Feb. 6-12 Kauai trip # 13! Then Maui---Feb. 12-26, trip #3

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?!
Click on the dates to see lots of pictures and blog of our trip----

Feb. 6, 2015 --- Travel day (STL-LIH)

Feb. 7: north and Anini---

Feb. 8, Sunday: walk along KBV beach; drive through the East side; snorkel Poipu; waimea canyon overlook; dinner at Kauai Brewing Company; sunset by Koloa Landing---
 

Feb. 9, Monday:  Lydgate

Feb. 10, Tues.: high surf, no snorkeling :(

Feb. 11, Wed.: Lydgate

Feb. 12, Thursday: heading to Maui

 This was the shortest amount of time we ever spent on Kauai.  Hardly got to do anything!  No canyon this year.  No north shore snorkeling (except the one time at Anini).  Didn't even get to Poipu.  If I didn't blog, I'd be wondering what we did for 6 nights!!!  At least we get to spend another 2 weeks on the islands.  On to Maui!!!!  To follow us there, click on :  2015 Maui


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.