Thursday, March 28, 2013


This is a success story for Jared.

He went to Orlando, Florida this week for a medical conference (to get continuing education credits) and his dad joined him. For anyone watching the weather, Florida has not been experiencing very warm temperatures this week. In fact, it was warmer here in Oregon yesterday in the mid 60s, compared to central Florida, barely reaching 50 degrees with the wind blowing.

Yesterday was the last day of the conference and of course, what medical conference trip would be complete without a fishing trip before coming home?

I'm not sure where they went to fish this morning. All I know is that Jared, with 40 minutes to spare before the end of the charter, caught his trophy large mouth bass.

The requirements for "trophy" size is 8 lbs. This bad boy weighs 10 lbs, 12 oz. (If our children followed these same requirements, none of them would have been a trophy. My biggest baby was 7 lbs. 9 oz.). Jake exclaimed, "look at all that meat!" We can't wait to hear the story details.

Jared's racking up quite the collection. He caught his trophy small mouth bass this summer in Canada.

I guess this means I have to actually find space on a wall for these now. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Cruise Flashback: Leaving Port New Orleans

The morning of Saturday, February 25th was our day to board the ship! We could hardly wait. After having breakfast at the hotel, packing up, then finding "Titanic" on one of the channels and chuckling at the irony, and calling my mom to say good bye and tell her how much we loved and appreciated her, we called a cab and checked out of the hotel around 11:30 am. Jared also put on the pedometer. At our friend's suggestion, we vowed we wouldn't take the elevator at all on the cruise...just the stairs. We were curious to see how many steps we could rack up in a day.

We were dropped off at cruise terminal #2. We were on Royal Caribbean's Voyager. Carnival's Elation was docked in terminal #1.

We put our bags on a cart, showed our passports, walked toward the terminal and went through security like you do at the airport. Then we had to check in with one of several agents at the front desk area. We had to fill out a medical information form and sign it, saying we hadn't had any major illnesses in the last couple of weeks. Otherwise, we would have been evaluated by the doctor on board. We showed our passports, picture IDs and gave our credit card. In turn, the agent gave us our "Sea Pass" cards. They had our name, dining room place and table assignment as well as our muster (assembly) station in case of an emergency. The sea pass card was also linked up with our credit card number so we would only need the sea pass  while on board.

We zipped through a small maze of a line (there was no was a perfect time to be in the terminal), and over an enclosed bridge to the ship.

Once we got on the ship, someone took our picture to attach to our Sea Pass cards whenever we used them so they could identify us (especially when we board after being in other ports) and also a picture up against a fun backdrop. (We had been warned they take a ton of pictures).

With it being lunch time, we went straight to the Windjammer cafe (deck 11!) where all the meals were "free", meaning they were prepaid for with our tickets...which were paid for a long ago. However, all the food still seemed free when you could just get whatever and however much you wanted without giving any thought to menu prices.

I know it seems silly, but little things like ice and fruit sculptures are so fun to me! Someone, somewhere on the ship has some real talent! I can't even write block letters on paper, let alone carve them in fruit on top of fancy flower petals with scalloped edges. The ice sculpture is the Royal Caribbean logo...the "anchor with a crown."

There was an AMAZING all-you-can-eat buffet. Baked fish, roast beef, wraps, sandwiches, fresh grilled burgers and hot dogs with all the fixings, fruit bar, salad bar, pasta bar, bread bar and dessert bar! Plus water and juices were also free. We knew why there weren't a lot of people in the terminal. They were all in the Windjammer cafe. It was hard finding a seat, but fortunately, it was just the two of us. We eventually found a table for 6 with just two people there at that moment. I asked if we could sit there and the man was very gracious (his wife was getting food at that moment). His name is Paul and his wife is Claire. They are from south Memphis and they had great accents! This was their 4th cruise. We told them we were on our honeymoon, 15 years and 5 kids after the fact :) They were a very nice couple to visit with while we ate.

As we finished up lunch, an announcement came on letting everyone know their rooms were ready, even though our bags wouldn't be in our cabins for several more hours.

We headed down to Deck 6 to find our cabin. This is a view of the "foyer" areas looking down from one of the upper decks.

This was from Deck 6 looking straight ahead at the Promenade (one deck down on 5). It's like a mini mall on the sea...restaurants, bars, and stores galore.

Thank goodness for that lit up map on the left there. It shows a visual of the ship and a cross-section so you can orient yourself. Although, for people directionally challenged, such as myself, even the map didn't help. I couldn't tell you if I was aft or forward at any given time unless I happened to read it on the wall.

The halls were more narrow than you'd find in a hotel, but other than that, looked like a hotel.
For anyone who has a 5th wheel trailer, that's what I think of as far as what our cabin looked like. Same with the bathroom. It's not huge, but definitely doable--especially with just the two of us and honestly, it was more than I thought it would be. There was plenty of clearance for storing stuff under the bed and there was also a hotel sized closet.

We did upgrade to a balcony cabin when we got our tickets, only because it was $16 more per day to do so.

We dropped off our carry-on, put our valuables in our room safe and then went exploring.

This is the La Scala theater on Deck 3, a common gathering spot for entertainment and other shows.

We chose to do My Time Dining at 5:30 pm. They had another seating at 8:30 pm, which was, quite frankly, too close to my bedtime! The dining room was beautiful and covered decks 3, 4 and 5 on one end of the ship. We were assigned to deck 4. We were cruising on the middle class of ships on the Royal Caribbean line, but I was still impressed with the beauty of things like the dining room. Makes you wonder about those ships in the classes above us.

And we found our table, which wasn't too far from the entrance doors (which later proved to be very convenient because it almost felt like you were herding cattle once the doors opened). Once those doors closed, however, you were out of luck. There was no allowance for coming back in. We had also read the clothing attire standards for the dining room. It said no shorts or short pants. I was in capris. So I asked the dining room worker who took this picture of us if I would be allowed in at dinner. He said, "Oh yes. Ladies show all leg they want. Men, no. We don't want to see their legs." Too funny.

At 4:10pm, every room and place on the ship, including stairwells, were emptied out because we were having an emergency drill and all were to participate. They even had a roll call. When we were done and walking away from our muster station, I noticed the lady with the baby who I had seen at our gate in Portland and on the flight from Denver. I went up and said hello. She and her husband are from Camas. She remembered me because she admired my KEEN water shoes that she didn't have time to get from REI. They were traveling with his brother and wife and they also have 5 of which is named Ammon. I almost asked what ward they were in, but didn't. Maybe if I run into them again.

I wanted to be up at the helm when we left, so we headed up there...Deck 13. (Yowzers, our quads were burning!) It was SO cold out there. The wind was kicking. All I had was my running jacket. This was just something I didn't think about. Jeans, long pants, sweatshirt, heavier jacket...all okay to pack, if only for that first day or two before you leave port at the end of February. The horn blew, which was about 20 feet from us, and scared the patootie out of me because I wasn't expecting it. But the strength and depth and sheer volume of the horn blasting was terrifyingly awesome! We were facing the Carnival ship and it was really hard to tell if we were even moving.

But then, we finally noticed we weren't directly behind the Carnival boat anymore. I thought we were going to pass them on the left and go straight. Not so. We did a complete 360 degree turn to leave! It was impressive.

And here is what we believe could be Bourbon Street as we cruised away from New Orleans.

After that, we headed to the gym where Jared signed up for 3 days of spinning classes while we were at sea. We also filled out tickets for a drawing at 8pm. And then it was time to head down to dinner.

There were 8 seats at our table. There were three couples: Jesse and Jenney from Minnesota, Todd and Jen from Wisconsin, and Jared and Jenn from Oregon. The last two were war pals: Mike and Buddy. Buddy was in a wheelchair and in his late 70s. A cruise was on his bucket list so Mike agreed to go with him. So sweet.

The two other couples were about our age. Our waiter, Eric, couldn't believe that all three women at the table had the same name. We told him we thought HE did that to make it easier :) I had the Chef's signature menu: pan-seared pork tenderloins with an onion tart and cherry chocolate cake. Jared had the grilled sea bass and Caesar salad. We had a good time talking with our table mates and I couldn't feel the movement of the ship at all.

After dinner we bought lanyards for our sea passes as well as a waterproof wallet for our "land excursions" later in the week. Then we headed up to the gym for the raffle. I actually won a free session with a personal trainer! Not sure how I felt about that, since I was so out of shape (and still am!) plus, it would have to be used on a port day, which wasn't real likely with the things we have planned.

We got in one of the 3 or 4 hot tubs around 8:30 pm and met an older couple from Canada. Jenney and Jesse ended up joining us unexpectedly about 20 minutes later. I clearly didn't brush up on my geography before coming on this trip, so I was floored when I discovered that the ship would be on the Mississippi River for 7 hours!! For some reason, I didn't think we were that far from the Gulf of Mexico. The older couple also informed us the Carnival boat had already passed us a couple hours before that. (Someone joked it was because they already drank all their beer and with less weight could now move faster than us).

We went back to our cabin and tried out room service. It was also "free," although there wasn't a huge selection and the menu never changed. We also put in an order for breakfast room service to come at 6:30 am the next morning because Jared had a spinning class at 9 am.

I went out on our balcony around 11:45 pm and we were STILL on the river. Crazy.

Pedometer reading: 7500 steps. Not bad considering we didn't do much in those 8 or 9 hours but eat and sit in a hot tub and most of those were stairs!