Saturday, October 20, 2018

Communicating with Travel Companions

It's Cruise Ship Saturday! Today we're talking about communication with your travel companions.

Cruise line brochures give the impression that your vacation will be perfect. People laughing at the railing with blue skies and calm seas in the background. Families hugging each other. Waiters dropping off drinks by the pool. Nothing but glorious nights and fun-filled days. It'll be just like that for you, right?

Maybe. And then again maybe not.

Cruise ship behavior isn't much different that behavior found on any other vacation. Except that on a cruise ship people tend to get tired and frustrated and impatient, get tunnel vision, and forget their manners. Even on a cruise ship some people get mad over little things. Their angry dispositions affect children and spouses, other passengers, and the ship’s crew. We have seen it too many times to count.

If you are cruising with family members or friends, plan ahead. Make sure your travel companions know what you are expecting from them and what they should expect from you. If you want some alone time let them know. If you’re used to being the one who plans everyone’s days and feels responsible for entertaining them perhaps a cruise is the time for you to relax. Being the travel planner/booker/arranger/idea person in my family, a cruise is actually the best chance I get at having a vacation. My work is done ahead of time and the ship does the rest. No having to pack and unpack multiple times. (Once and done.) No needing to decide what movie the family is going to watch. (There are many choices throughout the voyage.) No worrying about getting dinner ready. (Food is everywhere.) No worrying about being stuck together in the same room on a rainy day. (There is an entire ship to roam.) No making beds. (Cabin stewards do that.) No trying to find a babysitter. (That’s why cruise ships have kids clubs.)

If cruising with kids, discuss expectations with them ahead of time as well. They will be participating in what are generally considered adult-type activities so prepare them for the dining room by practicing proper table manners. A cruise is the opportune time for them to practice how to behave when attending a show or performance. It’s a perfect time for them to learn about giving up seats to the elderly. Experienced cruise passengers will be much more tolerant when kids are well behaved. While kids don’t have to be perfect, people will judge them (and you) when they misbehave, especially if the behavior goes unaddressed. Just a heads up.

But remember, this is your vacation, too. Ships have staffed youth and teen centers with activities for different age groups. Use them and you might find your children enjoy going. Group and individual babysitting may also be available for a fee.

Despite how long the lines are, how your steak was under cooked, how your children aren’t listening, how the toilet won't flush, or how your husband won’t leave you alone, remember these important must-do’s for a great vacation:
  • Relax and go with the flow.
  • Be patient and flexible.
  • Look for the good in everyone.
  • Know there will be lines. Chat up the folks standing around you.
  • Be prepared for pools being closed and ports being missed.
  • Smile at other passengers. Smile at the crew cleaning your tables, the ones varnishing the rails, the ones handing out pool towels. Talk to the them about their lives. Ask them about their contract, about their family back home, and about how they spent their time in port.
  • Be open to new ideas. You will be cruising with people from different countries with different customs, languages, and backgrounds.
  • Know that everything won’t be perfect but you’ll still have a great vacation. Cruising is what you make of it. If you see the positive in everything it will be amazing. If you see the negative, you will find things wrong. Remember, a bad day on a cruise ship is better than a good day at work! 
Please don't be one of those passengers who throw a little tantrum because you're not happy. All the rest of us will remember how you treated your companions. I know you won't see us again, but you will for the next seven days.

Friday, October 19, 2018

The Friday 15

It's another get-rid-of-stuff Friday where I discard or donate 15 items.

Today we have a posters, magazines, clothes, and tutorial projects all going to our donation place, the Idaho Youth Ranch store. At the community yard sale we also gave away a BBQ, grill basket, and a couple BBQ tools.

15 items in total. Yay!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

5 Things to do in St. Thomas

It's Wanderlust Wednesday and today we're talking about five different activities when visiting the cruise port on the island of St. Thomas. We've been to St. Thomas several times over the last few years. There is definitely plenty to keep you busy.
5 things to do in St. Thomas

1. Head to the beach. With over 40 beaches it will be easy to find at least one to fit your needs. Consider visiting Magan's Bay for a beach with clear and gentle water. 

2. Go snorkeling. Nothing better than seeing these guys swimming around you on a Wednesday morning. 

3. Take the Skyride up the hill to Paradise Point.
Get some great views from above. And even from below.

4. Visit a US National Park. The Virgin Islands National Park is part of the United States National Park system. Take the ferry over to St. John to the visitor center and get your National Park Passport stamp.

5. Eat, drink, and be merry. Remember those conch shells you put up to your ear so you could hear the ocean? Well, folks actually eat the meat out of them. Fritters and stews, salads and sandwiches.  And authentic BBQ in St. Thomas? Oh, yeah.
And don't forget about the rum drinks. Can you guess the number of rums in this one?

Lily the bartender at the Smoking Rooster will show you. Go ahead and count.

5 things to do in St. Thomas

Monday, October 15, 2018

Bikini Beach Bar on Orient Beach, St. Maarten

It's Yummy Monday and we're taking a look at some of the tasty drinks and food at the newly-rebuilt Bikini Beach bar on Orient Beach in St. Maarten.

Hurricane Irma plowed across the island of St. Maarten and destroyed much of the island. One of the places that is just now coming back to life is Orient Beach. Before you could find restaurants and bars and shopping. Now one of the only options for food and drink is the Bikini Beach bar. They've rebuilt and it's neat, clean, spacious. And not very busy.

You can sit in the bar and restaurant area and gaze out at the water.

But if you choose to sit in a lounger (for a fee) out by the water, you'll have Flavio waiting on you. 

He'll bring you drinks and more drinks. 

A mudslide topped with coffee beans? Yep, that too.

And shots. Free shots before you leave for the day, even.

The food is good, too.

Here are the food and drink menus, if you're interested in checking them out. They do take US dollars.

 Yummy, yummy, tasty, tasty.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Most Traveled Passenger Cocktail Party

It's Cruise Ship Saturday! Today we're talking about the party for the most traveled passengers on a Princess cruise.

I remember our excitement the first time we received an invitation to the Captain's cocktail party. The gathering for repeat passengers is held in a lounge with free drinks and snacks (sometimes) provided. The excitement was short lived. For after a few cruises we got tired of people trying to impress each other with the number of cruises they had been on. Personally we don't care how many cruises anyone, including ourselves, have been on so again and again, cruise after cruise, we've received the same invitation and again and again, cruise after cruise, we tossed it in the trash.

But on an Alaskan cruise a couple years back we received that same old invitation along with a new, different, and a bit more exciting invitation. This wasn't just any party.

We had only recently heard about these "most traveled passenger" receptions/luncheons/cocktail parties. The 40 passengers on the ship with the most days on with the cruise line are invited. 40 passengers. Out of 3,000. And we fell into that group for the first time ever. Alaska is a destination where getting on the list is easier. Alaska cruise passengers tend to be first-time cruisers. Saved up their money for a once-in-a-lifetime trip. (Hey, that was us 14 years ago!)

So what does an MTP cocktail party look like? You are checked off the list as you enter the party, introduced to the Captain, and have a picture taken with him. The officers are sometimes lined up and you go down the line, shaking hands. You find yourself a seat and the food starts arriving, the drinks start flowing, and the officers sit down and chat with you.

Oh, the food. Multiple servers come around so quickly. While we've had the menu change over the years, here are photos of the food of our first party ever.

Chicken teriyaki, fried prawns, and duck burger.

Scallops and mozzarella and basil. Fruit skewer and shrimp with caviar. The other thing on that third plate, the one with what looks like jam on top that I think they called a cheesecake? I don't know what kind of cheese they used but it wasn't cream cheese.
Desserts keep coming too. Vanilla mousse, strawberry mousse, and something green. I think hubby said it wasn't pistachio, but I don't remember. 

A cream tart with a chocolate shell. A mocha tiered dessert of sorts.
And some handmade chocolates.

Photography is amazing these days. Not because of the pictures I took with my phone (well, that technology is amazing too) but the pictures the ship's photographers took of each passenger with the Captain. Within a half hour a printed copy was in every person's hands at that party.

Here it is several years later and make the Most Traveled cocktail parties and luncheons and brunches almost every trip. We've been on cruises with the top passenger having over 2,000 days at sea so we get bumped out occasionally. Don't think we'll ever get that high a number of days, but a girl can always hope!