vacation

Beinveniedo Cozumel, Mexico

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Our first stop on our 7-day cruise was Cozumel, Mexico. Normally, we plan for a couple of to-do’s on our bucket list. One of the items on my list was to do a little dune buggying. I don’t know why, it sounded like fun to me, so I convinced our friends to come along. This shore excursion is called beach Buggies and Snorkel at Punta Sur.

    Hubby loves to snorkel and this shore excursion included both. I would have an opportunity to spend some quality time in a hammock with a coconut drink and he would swim the waters and look at some pretty fishes.

    There were several things we learned on this excursion. You can save money and can buy the same excursion once you hit the ground. We had planned this excursion in our budget and preferred to pay the extra to travel with licensed and insured tour guides. There are several benefits to this approach. The tour guides are reliable. It is a hassle free expereince. Your credit and information is safe. Most importantly, these tour guides understand when the ship leaves and will keep you on track.

    I loved this shore excursion because lunch was provided. It was the perfect step off the ship to remin us that we were on vacation.

    There are so many shore excursions available but time is always a factor. I remember when the ships would hit port and the cruisers had a day or two in port. Not anymore. Cruises now are deisnged to get as much of your money as they can, so please be aware of your spending. Many of the ports are designed with the cruise ships inmind and much of the shopping you see in one carribean port, you will see in another, and there are only so many rum cakes you can buy.


Now back to Cozumel and Punta Sur.

This lovely item on the left is a weather indicator created by the Mayans. It was created out of soft limestone and sealed with honey as a binding agent. Initially, it made little sense to me until I was informed by our very knowledgeable tour guide, that when hurricanes would come ashore, this was a warning device. The wind would get caught in the middle of the object and create a tornado like visual that could be seen several miles inland. I know right, how cool is that. It is even cooler that centuries later that Tumba del Caracol
it is still there.

Here is the lighthouse at Punta Sur.


I love vacation time and we spend a year just planning out the details and putting away the required funds to really enjoy ourselves. The goal of a vacation is to get out there, relax and to find your smile.

Here is my friend Roz. Roz has made a new friend in the form of CocoLoco. I think she may have had a bit too much because she named the coconut Wilson and refused to sit it down. By the time she reached the bottom of the contents in the coconut, she felt pretty darned happy as evident here with her happy song.

Tune in next time when we head ashore once more in Belize.

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Bon Voyage

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    There are so many people who travel from all parts of the world to take a cruise, and you are about to climb aboard a vessel that is designed to allow you to have fun. There is of course a casino. Please note, the best time to gamble on the ships is the first night. The slots and machines have been loosened to allow you to win; after that, your odds have dipped significantly, time to head to over to the night club.

    On top of the night club, there are live shows, a comedy club, open buffets, and waited dining. There are pools, spas, saunas, hot tubs and areas where kids are not allowed. Let’s face it, this is an adult play date on steroids.  There are somethings that you need to know.  You can bring one bottle of wine aboard with you and a case of sodas per each person.  This can save you a great deal of moolah.

 Dining

I do not recommend the buffet dining unless you are traveling with your family. Kids do not like to wait to be served so the buffet areas offer a vast array of menus from tacos, burgers, and salad bars. The drawback to eating at the buffets is if you are not traveling with kids, this will not be a pleasant experience for you. The dining rooms are designed for those of us who want to get away from the all you can eat troughs. There are areas of the ship where you can buy specialty foods like Sushi or a five course steak diner including an amuse bouche. I will come back and cover the food in more detail.

Entertainment

When the ship docks, many times new artists come aboard. The nightly shows and comedy acts do vary, so please take a moment to watch the shows. The comedy acts are family friendly (early show) and truly adult (later shows). The live shows are colorful and include song and dance. The production is pretty good considering the stage is rocking.

The acts are actually pretty good.

Staff

Please get to know the staff that has been assigned to take care of you. These guys work extremely hard and are often at sea six months out of the year. If your kids are destroying your room, and someone has to clean it, please keep in mind that many of the staff has not had a day off in a while. Yes it is their job to clean, but seriously; don’t be an ignorant, lazy ass American. When the ship arrives back at your US port, as we are exiting the bottom of the ship, a new group of people are boarding at the top.

Gift Shops

Once you hit open sea, or international waters, the gift shops open and everything is duty free. Please price compare and consider the items you are buying. There are great buys on alcohol and if you are driving, you can really rack up, but make wise choices. A great number of people take this opportunity to purchase diamonds, gemstones and exclusive items you can only get in the Caribbean. These Parazul bags are a prime example. They are made in the USA but you can only buy them in the Caribbean. Most ships come with a professional shopper that will help you find the perfect gift. Again spend your money wisely.

Rooms

The most important thing about your cruise vacation is your room. We took our first cruise almost ten years ago. We were excited to just be on board. Our room was in the butt crack of the ship, our son was 10, and we didn’t really plan to hang out on the ship. My second cruise, I went with some girlfriends. We had a port window, but we were not planning to be on the ship or in the rooms. This past cruise, I said “screw that!” and paid the extra for a room with a balcony. We sat out at night, we sunned in the day time, we had drinks and often in the privacy of our room.

    More importantly, my husband and I had time to just be alone and enjoy each other.

No lines, no crowds, no rush.

We are on vacation.

I will delve into these topics in more detail, but stay tuned up next, shore excursions.

Vacation’s All I Ever Wanted

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    This year, our annual anniversary get away took us to the high seas for a 7-day cruise to the Western Caribbean. Yes we boarded the fun ships of my favorite Carnival Cruise ship and set sail. This year we traveled with some friends who added a whole new level of fun aboard the fun ship. I learned many things this trip and there are many I want to share with you. I will do this in a series of posts so that I don’t overload you with rhetoric and photos.

    The first thing to think about when you are taking a cruise is the planning. There is so much to see and do on a seven day cruise, that if you are not careful you can overextend yourself financially and physically. We started planning a year out. I have a prepaid credit card that our budget was placed upon and when that money ran out, we were done; but we will come back to this.

    Starting the cruise is just as important and the vacation itself. If your cruise ship leaves on Saturday at 4 pm, please plan to arrive at the destination on Friday. Many hotels offer a pickup and shuttle service from the airport and to the port and I went with a little more pricey option, but I wanted us in the spirit of the vacation. I chose the Best Western that had a restaurant and a continental breakfast. Did I also mention it sat on the Bay in Miami? With our room, we had two free drink tickets and a continental breakfast that included sausages, eggs, waffles and so much more. I also can add my stay to my frequent flier program. Most importantly, it put us in the mood and in the frame of mind that we are on vacation. This is a night shot of the marina at the hotel’s restaurant. Yeap, this is a Best Western, see what I mean?


    We are relaxed. We are having drinks. We are enjoying the wind blowing off the Bay and we are on vacation. Neither of us are saying a word about our son, our jobs, or any bills. We are mentally preparing for the shift to just enjoy each other and our time away from our lives.

The next morning we wake, have a leisurely breakfast, and the shuttle takes us to the ship. No worries, we are going on a cruise. Out of curiosity, I called our travel companions who stayed at some $99 a night hotel near the airport. She was not happy. That extra hundred I paid was well worth the peace of mind.
This is hubby.

    First rule of thumb for vacations, please plan on the type of trip you want to have and plan accordingly based on your budget. The right amount of research can save you a fortune and most of all, can reduce your stress.

Up next….planning for fun on your vacation.

Off Days, Get A Ways & Vacations

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Often when we think of vacations, we think of sun, fun and being tired when we return. I find it humorous that so many people rush through the week, over pack the weekend with activities and come Sunday, are just as tired as when they left the office on Friday.  These worries and tiredness leads to the ever so familiar mantra of “I need a vacation!” Fine, you need a vacation, but what are you doing on your vacation or has the word vacation becomes just another synonym for off days?

For our tenth anniversary, my husband and I headed to Key West or the Florida Keys for a vacation, both were geriatrically exciting so I often get them confused.  We were bored out of our minds. This was no way to spend our off days. Outside of getting drunk, fishing, and the glass bottom boat tour, what was there to do? There were people laid about on chaise lounges reading books while sipping what I would equate to a Mint Julep. We stayed one night, packed the car and drove back to Miami. Even on the outskirts of the city, you could feel the pulse of the hot blooded Latina welcoming you back into her lair.

The same can be said for Las Vegas. Our next set of off days, we headed to hot bed of demoralization, and spent some time in Sin City.  We left the strip, took the city bus downtown to the Freemont experience and watched some people find different ways to make money on their off days. When you think of Vegas, you don’t think of vacation, you think getaway. You don’t think oooh, while we are there Honey, how about a quick trip over to the Hoover Dam? The Hoover Dam is something you explore on your off-day; Vegas ,is a get away to see a show, party, and drink a lot. Yeah, get away from it all, starting with cheap liquor as a constant companion.

As I have aged, I have learned the difference between off days, a weekend getaway and a vacation. Allow me to clarify.  On my off days, I can head up to the lake and spend some time with a good book, some friends, fish and nap.  When experiencing a getaway, I think of a nice bed and breakfast off the beaten path for a few days doing something that could fall into my hobby and special interest category. A quilting retreat or a weekend writing conference, which helps me, well get away from it all for a day or two. However, when it comes to vacation, this is an altogether different animal.

A vacation, from my perspective, is me a soil that I have not touched. I am eating foods that I would not normally eat. Partake in adventures, and treasure hunts, snorkel, and in between take naps, and blog about the journey. This is a weeklong venture that requires 3 days of doing something that I KNOW I am too old to still try, because if it goes wrong, my old bones won’t heal like they should. It is three nights of overly priced dinners in four and five-star restaurants eating dishes that I can barely spell. It is drinking Wines that only come by the bottle and not by the glass, sleeping late, venturing to museums, shops, and searching for the perfect shot glass to go in my collection.

When I return home, I am not tired. I am not twisted into knots. I am relaxed. I am rejuvenated. I have enlightened my spirit, my mind and my soul. I did not have a few off days.  I did not partake in a weekend getaway. I went on vacation.

Upon my return, I shall spend the next week, uploading photos from my adventure, as well as beginning plans for the next year. I will scrimp and save as much as humanly possible so that when I arrive at my new destination next year, I don’t have to watch every dime; because I am on vacation.

Now tell me how you spend your vacation?