a pictured pause…

The paper for my UK class is finally starting to take shape… and by that, I mean a shape that doesn’t make me want to throw the laptop out the window. It’s quite normal for me to hate my research papers, because I can’t get them to say what I want them to say. Until about 24 hours after I’ve written them, I decide they weren’t so bad, after all. So, now that I know I have all day tomorrow to finish it, and I’m well into the fourth page, I can breathe more easily. 12287557_10153686755089976_285132929_o 12295085_10153686751844976_1654943065_oSo, before I go see how the Christmas tree decorating is going, I thought the least I could do is share a few of my latest pictures. Mostly taken at Thanksgiving, I can assure you that we dined most deliciously on all the food that you could desire. Oh, right, the cake pictures were taken before Thanksgiving, because my mom tends to bake cakes for parties at work. They’re addicted to her cooking and baking (as are we). And I was feeling all artistic after taking some of these.  : )12290528_10153693025334976_102409055_o12281770_10153697314914976_836887180_oMost of my brothers made it to town, along with my youngest bro’s dog. Bullet has been part of the family for almost a year now, I think, and we occasionally get “custody” of him when my brother has to go do military stuff. Now that my brother is MARRIED, then Bullet stays with my sister-in-law instead. However, Bullet’s a really nice dog, and we love having him to visit, too. This picture I included was taken after he realized that he WAS going home with Joe and Amanda, instead of staying with us. Or rather, he leaped into his bed in the car, and couldn’t be shifted, as if he was afraid he might get left behind after all. So, for a rescue dog that lucked into being adopted by a young man in the Air Force… life is good for him, and he just LOVES my brother and his wife.12318272_10153697411134976_1543031468_oAnd now, away I go, and by tomorrow, I should be ONE research paper closer to being done with this semester! Hooray!

cruisin’ the memories…

One of my Aussie friends is on a cruise this week. I decided that I would not be jealous, as I was on a cruise just last October. Most of my friends should be allowed to go on at least one cruise… before I go on my next one. Because, for sure and certain, I plan to go on more than one cruise during my lifetime. Which is kind of funny, because during our time in the Bahamas, last year, we kept referring to our trip as a “once in a lifetime” trip. But that was more of a descriptive term. You can go on multiple “once in a lifetime” trips, during your lifetime, right?

But though my pal is floating around somewhere in the Pacific, and visiting places like Vanuatu, I’m remembering all the excitement and fun I had during my cruise to the Bahamas. So, if you’ll let me, I’m going to take a short walk down memory lane. Well, if you don’t want to let me… too bad.

In October of 2010, my friends and I went on a cruise with Carnival Cruise lines. Our ship was the Carnival Fantasy, and though not the newest of their line, it was plenty big and splendid for us. Almost too big, as my friends and I regularly got lost. Well, not lost exactly. I knew how to get to most places, but we could never remember which direction to go, when we left our room. So, more often than not, we’d come up in a section that we hadn’t intended, and that would screw up our travel plans.If you’ve never been on a cruise, then I highly recommend it. Ours was a five day cruise (I think), but two of my friends and I had to have the full week off, since we flew from Pennsylvania to South Carolina, in order to get on the boat.

We went to the Bahamas, where we stopped in Nassau and Freeport. If we’d done more planning ahead, maybe we’d have done more when we reached Nassau. Or maybe if we’d had more money. I swore to my friends that next time we go (there WILL be a next time), we’re going to swim with dolphins and do some other really cool things in Nassau. Anyway, we did some touring of Nassau, instead of going on any tours. That was fun, just seeing some of the sights, wandering the market, getting in a swim, and hanging out with friends. But since Freeport was supposed to be a lot smaller, with very little to do, we planned for an excursion.

The excursion of choice was to ride on a catamaran, an hour out into the ocean, where we’d be able to go snorkeling. I’d never been snorkeling before, and I definitely need some practice. But oh, the glorious views on the way there and back! When we reached the snorkel site, the strap on my mask would never stay where it was supposed to, so my mask was pulled way too hard against my nose. If I lifted my head out of water, it gave me a headache, but I still managed to forget and inhale water. So, I didn’t travel far, just looked around underwater. When I got out of the water, my nose was bruised, and it took several hours for it to go away. I guess I’m lucky it didn’t give me a black eye, though.

On-board the ship, when we weren’t trying to find our way to certain locations, we were trying to track down the rest of our group. As we neither drink nor gamble, we stayed away from the bars and the casino. But with international phone fees threatening, if we used our phones, we had to find each other the old-fashioned way. I know, dreadful, isn’t it?

So, if we lost people, we always found them at meal times, as we regularly ate breakfast and lunch in the same restaurant, and then at dinner, we had a special table in the dining room. For the first dinner, everybody was supposed to get dressed up for the Captain’s Dinner. After that, we could dress up if we wanted to. I chose to dress in sundresses for dinner, which was quite fun, as I don’t dress up a lot, when I’m at home.

As for the food, it was absolutely fantastic. And our waiters were phenomenal, as well. Every night, the menu was different, and they would bend over backward to get us anything else we wanted or needed. I’m afraid we ate WAY too much while on that cruise, as you couldn’t resist ordering dessert at the restaurant, and when you were in the buffet, you had to try things until you were stuffed to the brim.

I know I mentioned the waiters, but let me mention the room stewards, as well. You’ve never had such service, as you have when you’re on a cruise. Not all of the staff speaks English, or very good English, but it doesn’t matter. They are so friendly, and they’ll get you anything you ask for. We had our room completely cleaned, once a day, and straightened, another time on the same day. Twice a day, if we were out and about, they were cleaning up after us. And if we ran across them in the hall, they always had a smile and something friendly to say. I never saw even the hint of a frown from any staff member, the entire time we were on board.

Oh, and when they weren’t cleaning, or picking up our underwear (we had to put some of our clothes away, otherwise we’d come back and find our undergarments folded, on top of our suitcases), once a day, they’d make us a towel animal. Not every steward was really good at it, so at least one of us had an animal that we spent the whole week, looking at a picture of it, trying to figure out what it was. But for the most part, they were cute and fun. It was too bad that we needed the towels, so we had to take the animals apart.

When we weren’t in port, our travel days, to and from the islands, were known as “Fun Days”. On these days, the entertainment staff and activity directors were working their tails off, providing activities, shows, and many other things for us to do. I participated in at least one Amazing Race-type treasure hunt, and we ran ALL over the ship for that. I never joined any of the dance classes or karaoke sessions, but many people did. And in the afternoons, we headed for the back of the boat, to either lay out in the sun, or go on the water slides. Yes, they have two of those, though I avoided the blue one, after a while. You always got a wedgie, at the bottom of it.

On the final night, I finally discovered the adults-only section, and my friends and I hung out for an hour or so in the hot tub, and then went for more food at midnight. Yes, the Windows on the Sea buffet restaurant was open, 24-7, and they had special buffet stuff in the middle of the night. But I just went for the French fries or the calzones. We could’ve had any food we wanted, ordered straight to our rooms, but I didn’t want to put the staff to the trouble.

Of course, you should take it into account, if you have problems with motion sickness, but at least half the people on the ship were wearing a patch for that. And one of my friends that flew down with me, has major problems with motion sickness, so she had a supply of the patch, provided by her doctor. A good idea, because many people didn’t bring it, and needed to get it from the ship’s doctors. So, when the ship’s stash ran out, mid-trip, there were tons of people staggering around, as they went through withdrawal symptoms. I don’t have any problem with motion sickness, though. And the ship has… gadgets that compensate for the swaying, so it rarely rocks even the slightest. You can barely tell you’re moving.

My friends and I began to talk about going on another cruise, as soon as we left the ship. We were actually discussing going in 2012, but I haven’t heard a word about it since then, so I don’t know if that’s in the plans, still. But no matter, I hope to go on another cruise, by either ’13 or ’14. I’m hooked, and I don’t plan to stop now. It might have felt like “once-in-a-lifetime”, but I’m not settling for just once. No sirree.

So, in answer to the question you didn’t ask, do I recommend cruising? As Gaston once said, “oh, yes”.