Archive for the ‘Cruising’ Category

So, after a long holiday weekend, I’m back to the grind. However, it’s a Tuesday that feels like a Monday, it’s raining and I’d still rather be off.

Got to go to Wegman’s yesterday and I saw that the price of truffles was up to $999.99/pound. I commented to SPW that even with that price, it’s still hard out there for a pig. We picked up another piece of Copper River salmon which I roasted on a wood plank. It turned out very good. I added a spice mixture called “Mural of Flavor” which I had received as a gift. It’s a nice blend for fish… gives it a nice bit of flavor without drowning out the taste of the fish. Special thanks to Lori and Matt for providing the spice… and the best part is that it’s salt-free!

See? That's not good workmanship!

See? That’s not good workmanship!

So, after a weekend of living in the Beasts, I’m thinking that I now worship at the altar of Brooks. My feet feel so supported and comfortable that I don’t even really notice the extra space at the toe of the right shoe. I plan on consulting with my foot doctor to see if there’s anything that can be put in there as a spacer, just in case. Apparently, SPW is digging her new sneakers as well. I did send my New Balance trainers back to the company, though… there’s a plastic lace guard on the 856 that broke after only two months of wear and the lace is digging into the leather. I emailed the company and they said they would send me another pair. It will be nice to have the trainers available for sessions in the gym and leave the runners for the roadwork.

Grandeur of the Seas showing fire damage

Grandeur of the Seas showing fire damage

In sad news, though, Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas suffered a fire over the weekend that resulted in the passengers being flown back to Baltimore. It was a really nice ship and we had a great time aboard her. It was sad seeing that pristine white hull with fire damage. Hopefully she will be repaired and back in service before too long. The good news is that there were no injuries reported and the ship retained full power and was able to make port in the Bahamas without too much inconvenience.

That about does it for today. Hope that you all had a safe and happy Memorial Day.

Song of the Day: Round and Round – RATT

Greetings!

I’ll preface today’s entry by saying it’s been a good day thus far. Managed to get a little sleep, The Management has returned from a week up in The Jerz and the iPhone 4 has landed. Let’s pay a quick visit to the weekend before we head back to Cozumel.

I started the weekend project list by removing all the fixtures from the downstairs bathroom and ripping up the linoleum. There was a heinous pink stain on the linoleum. I’m not sire what the root cause of said stain was, but it predated our arrival. My intention was to replace the linoleum with some very chic ceramic tile and all that rot. I spent Friday installing backerboard and getting things ready for Saturday when I intended to do the tiling. I thought, set the tile on Saturday, grout on Sunday, back in business on Tuesday. Ambitious, yes, but I didn’t think it would come down to an epic fail. Boy, was I wrong.

You see, third shift reared its ugly head again. I should never attempt a project of that scale on little to no sleep. As I had mortar on my freshly painted walls, squeezing through the tiles and making an all-around nuisance of itself, I had a little bit of a breakdown. I have a little problem with failure, have had it for years. I don’t want to go into root causes at this time, but it can be crippling at times. I sat back and wept. Because I failed, because I wasted a lot of money on tools and material. I reached out for some support, but was rebuffed, which didn’t help my mood any. I did what any self-respecting guy would do. I tore out all I had done and went to Carpet Mart for a linoleum remnant. And somebody to put it in. That was done on Sunday evening and I’m currently working on getting the plumbing back together.

Anyway, back to Cozumel. As many of you I had spoken to know, The Management and I had no definitive plans for Cozumel, assuming that it would be a day to hang out on the ship and relax. The night before, in the bar (big surprise), Fred was expounding on his shore excursion, which was an island tour with beach time. I suggested to Management that it might be fun, and she half-consciously agreed, so I went to the shore desk and signed us up on the tour, joining Fred and his family, as well as the Colorado Sisters.

We went ashore, passing a store calling itself “Drugs and Deli” (I am not making this up) and met up with our tour guide, Miguel. Now, I could be way off on this, but Miguel looked like Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega. For the record, Drugs and Deli wasn’t that great. I ordered a Reuben with a side of Vicodin. No dice.

Off we went on our air-conditioned coach. Our first stop was to a lovely stretch of secluded beach. As it turns out, the island of Cozumel is very underdeveloped, compared to Cancun and other well-known resort areas. Much of the beaches are off-limits to protect the sea turtles. You will see small vertical sticks in the ground showing where turtle nests are located. There were a few shops along this beach where you could buy bongs, serape and coconuts. Very beautiful stretch of beach, primarily made up of crushed coral.

After that, it was off to the World’s Smallest Mayan Ruins! I’m not one to judge, but this place was pretty small for a temple. Must’ve been dedicated to the really unpopular god, because I’m pretty sure I’ve seen dog houses in Manheim Township that were bigger than this temple. Of course, there was the obligatory lecture on buying black coral from the one guy who will treat you honestly. I’m pretty sure that Miguel was getting a kickback, though. The prices weren’t that great.

Following the visit to The World’s Smallest Mayan Ruins! we proceeded on to some private beach where we had a grand total of about 45 minutes and that included time for a hideously overpriced Mexican buffet that would’ve sent any TexMex snob running to Taco Bell. I think the technical term for a place like this is “tourist trap” but I could be wrong.

 The Management and I, as well as the Colorado Sisters did not have time to change to go in the water, so we settled for getting in up to our knees and watching Fred and his family have fun in the surf. The water is amazing…. so very clear, even in the harbor we could see the bottoms of the ship’s rudders.

 After our brief experience, we went back to the ship and got ready for a delicious dinner that included a wonderful capreze salad, scallop risotto that Unibrow Jeffrey kept bringing plates of to the table, and also the best chicken marsala I ever had.

 That’s enough for today… I’m going to talk about our slightly damp experience in Key West during the next post. Until then!

Greetings from the land of the sleep-deprived. Otherwise known as third shift.

Today was not a good day by any stretch. Work just seemed to drag on and on. I thought 8 AM would never arrive. I understand that doing a turn on third is part of shift work, but it’s never been my favorite thing to do. Usually it ranks right below bamboo shoots under my toenails, but that’s neither here nor there.

Anyway, when 8:00 rolled around I wanted nothing more than to get in my car and head home to bed. I got in my car, turned the key and it wouldn’t catch. The little red “SECURITY” idiot light was blinking. Again. I did not unleash Captain Furious, but instead decided to walk over to Office Max and Home Depot. While at Home Depot, I purchased a floor scraper, figuring that if the car didn’t start I could administer a beat down on it with the floor scraper. Suffice it to say, the car started upon my return.

Moving right along, I mentioned the Mr. Sexy Legs competition, so let’s get to it.

As I mentioned, we were not going to Key West due to Bonnie, so they made our second day our day at sea. After midnight pizza, we had agreed to meet for breakfast (where we saw The Joker) and figure out what to do. As was often the case, our group found each other, and there was talk of the Mr. Sexy Legs competition. Our friend Brad was convinced to enter due to a large infusion of cash to our favorite charity. After a few more contributions, our friend Fred was coerced to enter as well. There was consumption of alcohol (or liquid courage) involved and contributions continued to pour in. Our group moved poolside and I thought I was in the clear. I was going to shoot video… after all, blackmail can be useful (just kidding). Then more of our group decided to join in… John, Mike, Mike, and sure enough, I was prodded into joining the competition. This was not my finest hour, y’all.

Next thing you know, two of the women from our group were in the judging chairs, along with three complete strangers. Now, I thought this would be a “go out there, flex your calves, dance around a little and done” kind of thing. Boy, was I naive.

The host for the event was a very fit young man from Jamaica who gave a demonstration that involved hanging off a light pole. That’s where I should’ve been like, “Oh, HELL no!” We all stuck it out, and after the drunken frat boys were done cavorting all over the deck, followed by some of our guys, it was my turn. I still had a shirt on, because I didn’t want anyone to be wounded by flying cellulite.

I kept it family friendly, as there was no uncalled for pelvic thrusts. Then Mr. Emcee decides that I need to be shirtless. I was trying to say no when I realized a cruise ship full of women were baying for blood. I’m not one to disappoint the paying public, so I went for it. After all, who wants a six-pack when you can have the whole keg? It wasn’t pretty, but it was for a good cause. We raised over $700 for Avon Breast Cancer Walk. We even had two of the five winners… John won the hairiest legs and Fred won the most muscular.

Now, you may wonder what The Management was doing during the aforementioned festivities. She was on Deck 10, shooting pictures and apparently laughing her ass off. True love.

Tomorrow, we will talk about Cozumel, Daniel Ortega and the World’s Smallest Mayan Ruins!

Oh, and for anyone following along at home, I think we need to figure a name for The Joker’s paramour.

Yesterday I told you of our thrilling journey to Fort Lauderdale (or Fort Liquordale, as The Management refers to it). Today, we will look at the accommodations at the Embassy Suites and also at the port transfers.

So, we arrived around 4:00 PM. It’s a pretty long drive down through Florida, so it was a relief to get in. Mike and I unloaded our cars, got checked in, and finally got a straight answer about parking. I had called three times to find out what it would cost to leave the car at the hotel for the duration of our cruise. One guy told me $5 a day, one $13 a day, and the other $15. Turns out it was $5.00. Not too bad, considering Port Everglades gets $15 a day. I’ll take that.

We were on the eighth floor and immediately started seeing people from our group. I checked in with our fearless leader, Fred, who came up to the room to invite us to the pre-cruise meet. It was a very nice affair, including a grand prize won by our friend Julie. After the meet, back upstairs to organize the suitcases. One downside to travelling by car is you take too many clothes. Not a bad idea this trip… it was a lot of two and three shower days.

We woke up the next morning, opened the curtains and noticed our view was of a tank farm. Forget the beach. Sigh.

The Embassy Suites staff collected our bags and we went and had breakfast. They have an excellent selection, complete with omelet station. After breakfast, I went out to feed the koi.

 There’s something very zen about watching the fish swim and, well, beg. I kid you not. There was a big old fish who kept sticking his mouth out of the water. It was pretty funny, actually. As it turns out, the gift shop sells bags of Cheerios at vastly overinflated prices. The fish love the Cheerios.

We got everyone loaded on the bus and headed to the port. It’s about a five-minute ride from the hotel, but it’s quite a sight to see this giant white cliff towering 11 decks above the waterline. The ship, Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas, is actually a smaller ship as cruise ships go. It’s beautifully appointed, though… glass, marble, open atrium. Our stateroom was not ready when we boarded, so our group found some space on Deck 9, where RCCL was providing a buffet lunch.

 If there’s one thing about cruises, you learn the meaning of the word buffet. You can have buffet three or four times a day. We were able to kill time until our room was ready. Maybe we were spoiled by our Disney cruise, but the room was a little cramped. Could also be that I cheaped out and didn’t get a balcony. We had a window, though, which let us see the outside world. The Captain, who apparently moonlights at The Improv on his off nights, came over the PA to say that our itinerary was being changed due to the Coast Guard closing the port at Key West. This did not make me happy, as I really wanted to visit Key West.

 So, after that and the obligatory muster drill, we got ready for dinner. We had a great table… it was The Management and myself, Mike and Mary, Jamie and his wife and kids and one of our resident travel agents, Annette. Our server, Jeffrey was from India and had a monobrow that you could do chin ups on. The assistant server, Lido, was Filipino and I kept hearing the Boz Scaggs song in my head every time he came by. All in all, the service was excellent and only got better as the cruise went on.

 RCCL does a nice job making nutrition info available and they have a selection of lower calorie fare on every menu. The first night, I had an excellent tortilla soup as an appetizer. There was a nice heat to the dish and plenty of vegetables. My main course was a roasted sea bass with veggies that was awesome. For dessert, I had sugar-free vanilla ice cream. Total caloric damage, near as I could tell, was about 800 calories, so not too shabby.

Post dinner, it was determined that we would meet up at the champagne bar, located on Deck 4. There was a band playing that wasn’t too great, but it was here that we met The Joker.

 The Joker is not known to us. He and his paramour (wife, mistress, concubine?) were cutting a rug over by the band of questionable talent. We were taking note of his skills or lack thereof, when someone noticed the pair headed toward our group. I thought maybe The Joker was ready to rumble, but he stopped, and for no apparent reason, began to tell long rambling “jokes” with no discernible punch lines. As he is telling the “jokes”, we notice that The Joker’s left hand has began to grope his paramour’s left breast. This is not the bad part. At the same time, The Joker’s paramour has began to, well, fondle The Joker’s dangly bits.

The Joker works it in the morning

The Joker’s right hand had began to rub the shoulder of on of our people who shifted so far toward me that she was practically in my chair. We laughed heartily at The Joker, and he eventually left, paramour in tow. The next morning, The Joker was spotted at breakfast, looking suave and debonair.

Suffice it to say this is not the last we will see of The Joker, however, he was danced into submission twice. Tomorrow, we will talk about the Mr. Sexy Legs competition.

Oh, and even after a cruise and a Disney vacation, I weighed in yesterday morning at 293.4.

Cruising…

Posted: July 18, 2010 in Cruising, Travel, Weight loss

Howdy!

Hope everyone is staying cool on this warm Sunday. We had a good time here at Chez T last evening. I made one of management’s favorite dinners, zucchini parmigiana, and a friend of ours joined us for dinner, drinks and game time. The zucchini turned out pretty good. I served it with angel hair pasta and red sauce. We accompanied it with a nice salad, garlic bread and a Riesling that I had raved about last week. We went in search of said wine only to find it on clearance at the state store. We wound up buying four bottles and I couldn’t help thinking it fitting that I finally find a wine I actually like and it’s being discontinued in PA. Sigh. After dinner, there was Scrabble. I was outplayed by the management’s English degree and our friend’s journalism degree. Outplayed was a bit generous. I was smoked like a trout. I’ll get my revenge one of these days. Break out the Trivial Pursuit. 

As I write this, the management and I are preparing for our second ever cruise. We had a lovely experience the last time, onboard the Disney Wonder, where we stopped in Nassau and at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.

This time, we’re going on Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas for visits to Key West and Cozumel. We are taking a non-traditional trip, though, as we are taking the Auto Train to Florida. I look forward to talking about our experiences on the train and on the ship in further posts. I think this cruise will prove to be interesting, since both the management and I are striving to lose weight. Maybe a post called Brian vs. the Midnight Buffet? We shall see.

I’ve got to try to steer this blog back toward weight loss. Today, I’m going with walking music. As a former band geek, I still tend to walk in step with whatever music I am listening to. This can work well for walking, if you pick the right music. For as much as you might like an 80’s hair metal power ballad, they have a slow beat that’s not particularly good for walking. By the same token, a high energy dance mix might have to scurrying at a pace you can’t keep up forever. I often will post that “Joe Satriani kicked my ass on my walk today.” (If you want a strenuous pace that you can keep up with, I recommend “Summer Song”) I suggest that if you like to walk to music, make a playlist that has the type of music that you can keep up with, but challenges you. You can easily update your list as your personal pace changes. If you find yourself flagging on a walk, you can focus on the beat and get your feet moving in time with the music.

 Have a great day today!