Monday 1/14/11 – Day at Sea (and first “Cruise Elegant”)

Scott was up at 6am and the gym was crowded. I however, had no qualms about sleeping in until 8, and after a lackluster Lido buffet breakfast (cold eggs and toast. Meh!), it was relaxing (reading for him, knitting for me!) on the nearly empty Serenity deck.

We had our Meet & Greet at 10am in the Ivory Piano Bar. Dave and Nancy (NLBarry) asked John Heald to reserve the room, and it was in the FunTimes as such, but when we got there, the spa was having a detox class at the same time. The first thing I noticed about the piano bar (other than the gaggle of people) was the lack of a smoky smell. I was pleasantly surprised. I’d previously avoided the piano bars because I’d always get a headache, but it wasn’t noticable at all. Our group was rather large, and we were relegated to a corner, so we didn’t stick around very long, maybe about half an hour. Because we were crammed in the corner, and the size of our group, there were some who, I felt, didn’t really get to participate in the conversations. It seemed to be a huge oversight. The spa could have held that detox class ANYWHERE, but they had to double book the piano bar. In all, our roll call was a great group of people and I’m glad to say we hung around with some for the rest of the week.

After our M&G, I went around taking pictures of the ship.

Mid-ship staircase on deck 2/3.

Fountain under said staircase:

It did have water in it at some points during the week. There were benches around the staircase and the sushi station was to the left, the coffee place to the right.

The center atrium, up view:

The glass staircase up to David’s (deck 9/10):

The sports bar:

Starry Night Jazz club:

The casino bar has a horse-racing theme, and Scott was in Heaven. He’s really into horse racing, and even plays at simhorseracing.com.

After my picture taking expedition, we had lunch in the dining room. He had burritos and I tried the spaghetti and meatballs, which was horrible. The meatballs were great, but the pasta was mushy and the sauce really had no taste to it.

We decided to go back to our cabin to nap for a bit, after stopping at the atrium bar for a Coke, and a Raspberry Mojito that was OMG YUMMY!!

We’d purchased the “Bottomless Bubbles” soda card, as we had previously, and I don’t really think we got our money’s worth on this sailing. The bar service in the dining room was really lacking all week. I tried to nap on the balcony, but our upstairs neighbors were younger kids (I say “kids” but they were probably in their early 20s, all guys) who, even though the chairs were light and could be picked up, felt the need to drag them around. It sounded like they were having competitions on who could drag them the furthest at the highest velocity. I gave up and went inside.

Napping need satisfied, Scott wanted to play some Craps so I took my knitting and my Nook and sat in the lounging area on Promenade deck. Natalie, the FCC specialist, and I had a great conversation. She was looking for an e-reader and was wondering if she should get a Kindle, a Nook, or an iPad. As we have a Nook and an iPad, I let her play around with both, and gave her what I felt were the pros and cons of each.

Around 7, the “table turned cold” or something like that, so Scott and I went up to get ready for dinner. It was the first Cruise Elegant evening and he was eager to try some lobster. The only word that would describe tonight’s dinner was “awkward”. I didn’t get any pictures because I didn’t want it to be moreso. The couple we were seated with seemed nice enough, until we got a lecture about drinking ice water instead of hot water. The next complaint was that the food was never hot enough and the service was too slow. It was their first cruise, and by the looks of it, it would be their last. It made it even more awkward when they talked amongst themselves in a foreign language. They spoke English perfectly fine, thank you, and he did rave about the barbecue when he heard we lived in North Carolina. She was wearing jeans on formal night, yet I was the one who was being lectured because I drank ice water. Personally, I was glad they ducked out before dessert, because I really needed that Warm Chocolate Melting Cake!

Being boring people, we walked around after dinner, went back to our cabin and found:
; and

Then we watched Something Borrowed until falling asleep.

FunTimes:

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Sunday 11/13/11 – Embarkation Day

I had a hard time sleeping (since I AM usually awake all night), but finally was able to get a few hours in. Promptly at noon, the town car was out front waiting to bring us to the Cruise Maryland Terminal!

Once at the terminal, check in was a breeze. The only line we encountered was at security. There wasn’t even a health questionaire. An embarkation photo, a security photo, and a bing later, and we were on our way to Lido. By 12:30 we had our DOD’s in hand and went off in search of lunch.

We headed to the Pride’s recently installed Serenity area (Deck 9, aft) and were very impressed. As I mentioned, we had previously sailed on Fantasy Class ships, and this was MUCH better. There was only one hot tub, but the pool, thebar, the seating areas, the hammocks and the clam-shell chairs more than made up for it. Cabins were to be ready about 2pm, so we just relaxed. The 18+ rule did not seem to be enforced. At first, I figured it was because the cabins hadn’t been cleared yet, but there were under-18’s there later in the day, too. (I should note – this was the only day in which this was an issue.)

A few minutes before 2 we made our way closer to our cabin. We had originally booked 5236, a "bowling ball" balcony, but in June, while checking for price drops, I saw that 7258 was available for only a little bit more than what we’d booked at. Score!! Our first balcony cabin is SPECTACULAR!! Three times as long as a normal extended, for the same price! I cannot stress enough how much I recommend this cabin. There are 2 upright chairs, 2 lounge chairs, and a table already provided. The bathroom layout is much better, there’s an actual counter and shelves for toiletries. The in-room refrigerator and added space are a big step up.

Samples:

and a "panoramic" from the balcony:


We booked David’s for the first night, a 9 o’clock reservation. Once on board and realizing I wouldn’t be able to stay awake for the whole 2-hour experience, we stopped up there to see if we could go earlier. We were able to change our reservation to 8 instead.

My husband had:

The Lobster Bisque

A Caesar salad (no pic, sorry) that was hand-made at our table.

Surf & Turf

and the chocolate sampler, which he promptly ate before I could get pictures without bites in them (a feat he repeated for much of the week.)

My fare included:

Baked Onion Soup

The same Caesar salad

The 14oz Broiled New York Strip with the mushroom sauce

And a slice of cheesecake that was almost as big as my head. (Seriously. I could barely eat half.)

After that, we walked around the ship and went to bed, after being greeted by this dude:

FunTimes:

11/12/11 – Travel to Baltimore

We got up around noon (after having gotten home from work at 6am), did our grooming and packed a few last minute things. After feeding the cats, the car, our wallets and ourselves, we finally got on the road. We live in central NC, so the trip up took about 6.5 hours.

We were able to get a park & cruise package at the Brookshire Suites in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. For about $140 we got parking for all 8 days (normally $29.99/night there), an Executive Level suite, a free hot buffet-style breakfast, and a town car to the port and back. In order to gt the free wi-fi, you need to either be in the lobby or in the lounge on the top floor. There is, however, wired access in the room. The rooms themselves are very spacious and feature bay windows. The Brookshire Suites is an old building. The ceilings are very low (I’m 5’5" and my elbows hit when above my head), but the bed was abnormally high. I practically needed a stepladder to get in! It was, however, EXTREMELY comfortable once we hopped up!

The building has been updated in spots. The bathrooms are nice, but the layout is strange (unless you enjoy the door hitting you in the knee.)

Bonus telephone, too!

The carpet needs replacing, there were light switches that did nothing, and the electricity in general could use some updating. The staff completely made up for the oddities. We were accidentally charged for a day of parking, and they were more than apologetic and corrected the issue right away.

Inner Harbor view

In all, I would recommend the hotel for a night, especially if you can get the package. Any longer of a stay and I’d have to look elsewhere.

Baltimore/Carnival Pride trip 11/12/11-11/20/11

I’m aiming for a very thorough review (I have Fun Times, tons of photos and various sundry from each day), but I thought I’d start with a quick bullet-point list of pluses and not-so-pluses and general observations for those who like quick to the point reviews.

Quick facts: We booked in March, this was our first 7 day, first balcony, first non-Fantasy class vessel, and first time out of Baltimore. My husband and I are in our 30s. The ports were Port Canaveral, Nassau, and Freeport. We did YTD for the first time.

Overall, we had a great cruise. The Pride is a fantastic ship, and a HUGE step up from the Fantasy class. If my husband has his way, we’ll never sail a Fantasy ship again.

Anyway, onto those points.

– The waitstaff was hit or miss.

– There were a lot of first timers.

– Not a fan of the new menu. (I’ll go into detail.)

– Serenity Deck is splendid.

– David’s is a wonderful experience, and definitely worth the cover charge.

– Some still haven’t grasped that the chairs on the balconies CAN be picked up and don’t need to be dragged into a new position.

– Room steward was great!

– The smoking in the casino is annoying (As an explanation, to get from one end of the ship to another, you must walk through the casino. They have the smoking slot machines right in the walkway, thus not leaving an area for us to walk through. Nothing against smokers, to each his own, I just don’t want to walk through it.)

– Most of the customer service people were great, Scott ran into the worst one.

– Lunch buffet was disappointing. Pizza was usually the best option.

– He wanted me to include that the statue of David is very naked and anatomically correct.

Well, there’s the quick and dirty review. Detailed review coming soon!

Traveling :D

085. Take a photo of every state I visit.

North Carolina:

Virginia:

West Virginia:

Delaware:

Maryland:

Pennsylvania:

New York:

Massachusetts:

Rhode Island:

Connecticut:

New Jersey:

Florida

Georgia:

South Carolina:

6-Hour Throw

I’ve been working on a throw blanket for S and I to have. It’s my first major knitting project! I’m using the pattern I found using Lion Brand’s awesome iOS app. It calls for size 25 needles (aka Speed Stix) and 8 skeins of Homespun yarn. I ADORE Homespun. It’s soft, easy to work with, and best of all, machine washable and dryable.

Our couch is a chocolate brown, so we started with Nouveau (338). It’s a brown with tans, blues, and purples mixed in. From there we chose Colonial (302), which has varying shades of blue. Then came Barrington (336), which is mostly royal purple with shades of blue and teal. Our final color is Amethyst (414), and that’d purple with tan and reds mixed in. (I’ll add pictures of all of them individually later).

To make the throw, you cast on 34 stitches using 4 strands at once and just work it in the stockinette stitch until you reach your desired length. You can add fringe as well.

At this point, I’ve just finished working the first four skeins an it’s time for me to work in the last four. It’s very heavy!

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Whoops?

I haven’t updated since AUGUST! I guess I’ve got a semi-massive post in me somewhere. Bear with me while I dredge it up.

Ok, here goes!

001. Pay off credit card.
On September 12th, I FINALLY paid off my credit card!! It was such an accomplishment for us! The only thing we use credit cards for is reserving rental cars and hotel rooms, but then we pay for them with our debit card. We’d been paying down on both of our cards for awhile now, and mine finally got low enough where we could bite the bullet and pay it all off. Hopefully, within the next few months we’ll be able to pay of S’s, too.

008. Buy a winter coat.
So we live in North Carolina. It doesn’t snow much here, but it does get very cold. Two weeks ago it got down to about 14 degrees. We also travel to upstate New York to visit family at least once a year. I decided to invest in a winter jacket so I wouldn’t freeze my bum off when it got cold, and on the odd occasion that it does snow. It’s not very fancy, in fact my mother described it as “a Michelin Man” coat, but it keeps me warm. When I wear it, it’s because I want to be warm, not because I want to be stylish. It has a cool pocket to keep my phone handy, too, which is the best feature, in my opinion.

027. Crochet a blanket.
My cousin L is having another little boy, she’s due in May. In my effort to be more creative and give of myself more than from the wallet, I’ve been working on a baby blanket. It is, admittedly, not going to be spectacular, as I haven’t really made more than scarves in.. well, ever. I’m working a double stitch in a soft baby-blue Bernat’s in fingering-weight. I’ve gotten about 4 rows done so far, and I’m planning on just going until I feel it’s big enough.

044. Participate in the Red Scarf Project.
On a related note, I’ve begun my scarf for the Red Scarf Project. I’m going to have to re-start it, but I wanted to re-learn how to knit. I wasn’t having much luck with it, so while I was home for Christmas, I asked my aunt to help. She gave me some pointers and taught me how to purl, and with some more supplies (ie, bigger needles and perhaps some stitch counters), I should be good to go.

060. Scan wedding pictures.
Also while we were home for Christmas, Mom produced our wedding album. I’m not able to remove the photos from the album without ruining it, so I’m going to have to scan them IN the album and then do some cropping. I’ve previously put the candids from our wedding on my Facebook page, so as soon as I get a block of free time with the scanner, I’ll be adding the official photos.

040. Donate 50k grains of rice on freerice.com.
I’ve gotten my total up to 12,850. A few months ago, they switched to a new system which allows you to sign in and keep track of your total, instead of relying on cookies that expire after 30 days to do so. In fact, they’re planning a mobile app to debut soon, which will really help me amp up my number. It’ll be nice to be able to help feed people while building my vocabulary (etc) instead of playing Cut the Rope or some other
inane game when I’ve got a few minutes to myself. If you haven’t played on freerice.com recently, you
should. You can connect the login to your Facebook or Twitter, so no excuses.

076. Get a coloring book for myself and color every page!
A few months ago, I found myself a Hello Kitty coloring book and some coloured pencils and markers and have started colouring. It’s very relaxing, and believe it or not, it helps me focus. If I’m having concentration issues at work, I find that if I colour a small portion, I can then go back to billing and have no problems staying on task.

I’m also proud to say that in 2010, I read 111 books, which brings my project total up to 125 [Task 034]. I plan on updating more often with.. well, updates, even if tasks aren’t finished. I should be reporting their progress, dangit! Happy New Year!

Bazinga!

009. Buy 1 item from thinkgeek.com.
I’ve been wanting to purchase something from this geektastic website for years now, and I finally got my opportunity in July. In fact, I’m wearing one of my purchases now. Yes, ONE. Not only was I able to get my Bazinga! shirt, S had been oogling the Annoy-A-Tron for awhile now, so we got that for him. As a bonus, Jim Parsons won an Emmy for Lead Actor in a Comedy Series today!!

091. Get up to 10k tweets.
On August 26th, I sent my 10,000th tweet on my Twitter account. I’ve no idea which it actually was as I thought I had at least 100 left, but when I signed in later that evening, I had 10.017. I know for certain I didn’t send over 100 tweets that day, so who knows?

I do know that I’m halfway through 034 (Read 200 books.)!! I’m so excited! I think this one will be easy, I may need to rethink the number. I can definitely read more than 100 more in the next 699 days.

Changing the list & an update.

I’ve decided to change #028. (Read 40 Classics). It’s not too big of a change. I’m just changing the 40 classics. Some of the ones on that list were hard to come by, so I’ve chosen to read the top 40 from this list instead. They’re more readily available at my library. If I’ve already read them, my goal is to read them again, unless they’re on my 2010 booklist, which off the top of my head I don’t believe any of them are. I’ve also decided that these will count toward goal 034.Read 200 books.

005. Increase giving to Marcus’ ministry
S’s brother is a leader with Young Life. Young Life is an organization that comes to high school students where they are and gets to know them and for those seeking help, who need it, they give them an opportunity to know the Gospel. It reaches out to those who may have fallen through the cracks and gets them engaged and, in a fun way, lead them to Christ. There are weekly groups, and summer camps, and lots of fun things for them to do. By moving our donation to debit later in the month, we were able to increase our monthly gift. It’s still not as much as we would like, but it’s an improvement. Once some of our other expenses are eliminated, we’ll hopefully be able to contribute more.

I know you had to love me sometime, but now I’m just a toy.

I haven’t updated in awhile, but I have been working on my list. Mostly adding to the books and movies, but some others are in the works as well.

On June 4th I shall be seeing my favourite band live for the first time ever! The Barenaked Ladies will be near Richmond and we’re driving up to see them. I can’t wait!! I’ve wanted to see them ever since I was a freshman in high school. They were at the Balloon Fest in Jamesville, NY one summer and I begged my mother to take me (it would have only cost the $5 admission to the festival, the show itself was free) but it was drizzly that day so she refused. This was back when ‘If I Had A Million Dollars’ was in heavy rotation. Since then, their music has gotten me through some tough times (when I was in SC), lonely times (long bus rides and walks to work), even boring times (hello, marathon work days!). They never failed to make me laugh or smile when I felt like doing anything but. Sometimes, their songs even helped me out of a funk and I felt like they touched on what I was going through at the time (‘War On Drugs’, ‘Tonight Is The Night I Fell Asleep At The Wheel’). They even helped me with the perfect Scrabble word in ‘Crazy ABCs’!

In honor of my first show, we’ve sprung for the Gold Circle seating. We’ve made our hotel reservations, the tickets have already been delivered and in less than 2 weeks I shall be rocking out with Ed, Kev, Tyler and Jim! It’s going to be fantabulous!!