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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:

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!

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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Under the Dome

034. Read 200 books

Book 006 was Stephen King’s Under The DomeUnder the Dome. It was very, very long. I had gotten my hands on the audio book so I could listen at work. The whole thing was 34 hours long! I’d forgotten my mantra when reading his books – don’t get attached to any character!! The fictional city of Chester’s Mill, ME had a population of over 2000 people on “dome day”. By the time the ordeal was over, they were down to 16. Yes, you read right. SIXTEEN PEOPLE survived.

He does seem to have some stereotypical character “formats” that run through a bunch of books. I did notice some similarities between characters in this book and It. I could see a lot of Henry Bowers in Rennie, and a lot of “Stuttering Bill” Denbrough in Barbie.

I have to say, though, it really irritated me that all of the “bad” characters were Christians and Republicans, and stereotypical ones at that. Rennie was depicted as practically worshiping a poster of Sarah Palin on his wall. I did find this post that explains it much better than I ever could. This review on Amazon is very well written, as well.

The resolution was disappointing. Clearly, an alien device was at work in creating the Dome, however, it was never clearly explained just WHAT it was. A child’s toy. A universe within a universe.  Almost like a mirror within a mirror.  Children playing with a doll house. All it takes for them to stop is “Please?” Seriously?  Also, there’s no satisfaction in “defeating” the bad guy.  Also, the man who was reading the audio book gave them all Southern accents instead of New England ones. Go figure.

Be forewarned.. there are GRAPHIC depictions of gang rape and murder, as well as rampant drug use (Because, of course, all of us Christian Republicans use drugs, rape, beat, and kill people!).

Day 35

092. Get external hard drive.

Scott and I had been discussing getting an external hard drive for about six months, now. He agreed it would be a good investment for us, and then I went about researching what we’d want. We decided (well, I decided) that a 1TB would be best, that way we wouldn’t need to get a new one once that was full. Our hard drive on the laptop is 320GB and that’s almost full, so we’d need at least double that, and I figured I’d wait until I could get a good deal on a 1TB.

There were some on newegg.com that were fairly inexpensive (about $120) that would suit our needs fine. I’d been holding off to the new year. Then, when we were in Syracuse visiting family for Thanksgiving, I went to Target with my mom because they had the iPod Nano that Alex wanted on sale and in stock. They also had the first 3 seasons of Supernatural on sale and in stock, but that’s another story! On a whim, I took my mom over to the peripherals section of electronics. They had a ton of the smaller HDDs but only 1 (ONE!!) 1TB, on sale for $109.99. I snatched that puppy up quick.

We ended up with a HP Simple Save. It works really well. It comes with backup software pre-loaded. I deleted it all to have more space, though, so I can’t tell you how it works. All I need to do is drag and drop what I want to the drive. I’ve moved all of our audio/ebooks onto it and made a shortcut so that we can still access them from the desktop like we used to. So far, all is well and I plan to move our music library over and figure out how to get the Zune software to recognize it all. I’ve also read you can install the Zune software directly to the HDD and run it from there, so I might look into that instead.

Update: Day 14

I’ve completed task 095, which was to get up to level 30 in Fish World on Facebook. That’s when you can buy the really cool fish to make your life easier. The shark eats your adult fish, saving you the 15% fee for using the “Sell All” button, and the algea eater cleans your tank for you.

Yesterday I watched 2 movies to add to task 035. 21 was just “okay”, nothing spectacular. The male lead was kind of weak. In all, I give it 3 out of 5. I also watched Interview With the Vampire. Oddly enough, I got bored after Claudia died. Bleh.

Finally finished!

I finally finished task 099, which was to finish making my list. It only took me three weeks (lol!). I decided to be a part of this project in mid-October, aiming to start November 1st, and one week later I’ve finalized my 101 goals. I actually had 102 and had to eliminate one. The one I eliminated counted too heavily on the actions of someone else and I don’t know that person well enough to say they’d commit to helping me complete it.

So.. here we go!

I’ve been working on my list for a few days now, and I’m more than half way there. I’m trying to list things that will benefit my family as well as myself (and others).

I find the “visual” editor way too complicated, so I’m switching back to straight HTML for posting. It’s what I’m used to, so that’s what I’m sticking with.

I want to find a countdown ticker that displays days instead of condensing to y/m/d format. Of course, since it’s on WP it needs to be non-javascript.