Packing

 

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Why is packing such an ordeal???  We leave in 15 days for a 3 week European-Trans-Atlantic vacation.  Since we are flying to Barcelona we limited to 50 pounds or less per suitcase and we are allowed two suitcases a piece.  Okay 200 pounds of luggage doesn’t sound that limited!  BUT you have to be able to transport this luggage yourself through airports and cruise ports and hotels and taxis.  Add on your carry on luggage and personal items and things get a little out of control.  So I am back to two pieces of luggage at 50 pounds each.  Packing clothes for different climates and different situations makes for a lot of clothes and shoes.  We will have at the minimum three formal dinners, tours that require walking shoes and comfortable attire, gym wear, swimming and sunning attire, baseball fan apparel and of course shoes.  We will have the ability to laundry items and will take advantage of this but who wants to wear the same thing every day?

I have learned from previous trips that packing cubes and 2 gallon Ziploc bags are definitely time savers.  I try, at least for the first part of the trip, to identify and bag daily outfits.images3images1

Ziploc makes a 2 gallon size bag that is perfect for a pair of pants, shirt, socks, underwear and accessories.  I iron and carefully fold the shirt and other items into the pants and then slide everything into the bag and zip it up, squeezing out the air to make it as flat as possible.  I’ve been known to even write the day and/or occasion on the bag.  The reason I said for the first part of the trip is because so many items must be worn again.  Kinda makes it hard to pack for each day when the pants you are wearing on Monday has to be worn on Thursday also.

 

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I use the packing cubes to pack items like pajamas, swimwear, underwear, gym clothes, etc.  Each category get it’s own cube. This makes it so easy to grab and go.  Now to the dreaded shoes!  How on earth can you not take too many shoes?  You will need walking shoes, dress shoes, sport shoes, flip flops, sandals, water shoes…do I go on?  And…not all shoes go with every outfit so add a couple of pairs or more to each of those categories.  I do try to keep it simple and take as few as I possible can.

So for the next two weeks I will be packing and unpacking, picking and choosing, opting for this one or that one and continually weighing the luggage.  If you have any suggestions, comment on the post.  Add your two cents worth, I’m game to trying anything to make this simpler.  Keep reading my posts as I will keep it going during the trip.  Hopefully with lots and lots of photos too.

Harrod’s of London

 

If you go to London you must visit Harrods!  Of course I had to!  I was so amazed at the shear size of the store, I’m not even sure you can call it a store.  Upon entering the doors you are greeted by staff that inquires of what you may be looking for and will direct you. Or you can just browse.  Founded in 1834, Harrods, a luxury department store, occupies a 5-acre site and has 330 departments covering one million square feet of retail space. It is an adventure just to look around.  The Food areas were a sensory overload of sights, smells and even taste.  The staff and chefs on hand are all dressed in 1800’s style clothing and everyone is so polite and helpful.

As you can see the Food Hall was one of my favorites and I couldn’t help myself but take tons of pictures.  The food was so bright and colorful and totally intoxicating.  The aromas were killing us, around every corner was more food items of every thing imaginable.  Even the architecture was captivating and reminded you of how it must have looked in the late 1800’s as you strolled through Harrods to purchase a scone and a cup of tea.

 

Take time to really peruse the photos and see more of what Harrods has to offer and if ever on Brompton Road in Knightsbridge, London step into a timepiece from the past as you enjoy Harrods too.

Cruisin’

 

Loyalty, at times pays, I am and have been pretty loyal to Carnival Cruise Lines.  I have been cruising with them since 1981.  Every time I think about trying a different cruise line I start thinking about how many days/cruises/points I have accrued with Carnival and I hate to lose that and start over with a new company / system.  So I am sailing in 50+ days on my Diamond Status Cruise (more on that later).  Carnival is a very FUN company.    Do you know how they got that name?  Back in 1971 a man named Ted Arison had an idea and very little money, he bought a used ocean liner and started making runs or cruises from Miami to San Juan.  On his very first cruise the ship ran upon some rocks right outside of Miami before Mr. Arison could even get all his ideas off the ground.  Knowing there where several reporters on board following the “inaugural” launch of the Carnival Mardi Gras in March 1972 Mr. Arison had to think fast. And that is just what he did, he quickly opened the bars and had drinks for everyone as the ship waited for the tide to turn and the the Mardi Gras to return to Miami where she was greeted by even more reporters who snapped photos and took first hand quotes of what a “fun ship that was”!  And that my friends was how they became known as THE FUN SHIPS!

I’ve sailed on many, many of the Carnival Ships (starting with the Carnivale in 1981 and ending with the not even launched yet Horizon in May of this year).  Carnival Cruise Line currently has 25 cruise ships, with at least four more being added to the fleet in the next 5 years. Carnival Horizon will debut in the spring of 2018 and the 3rd Vista class ship is scheduled to be completed in 2019.

I’m all for getting your moneys worth for everything you can.  Squeeze every penny out of every dollar.  Find every coupon and cut every corner. So when I heard about the stock options when buying stock with Carnival Corporation I wanted to learn more.  What I learned is:

This benefit is available to shareholders holding a minimum of 100 shares of Carnival Corporation or Carnival plc. This benefit is not transferable, cannot be exchanged for cash and, cannot be used for casino credits/charges and gratuities charged to your onboard account. Only one onboard credit per shareholder-occupied stateroom.  You must provide by fax or by mail your complete legal name, reservation number, ship and sailing date, along with proof of ownership of Carnival Corporation or Carnival plc shares (for example, photocopy of shareholder proxy card, a dividend tax voucher or a current brokerage or nominee statement with your brokerage account number blacked out) no later than 3 weeks prior to your sail date to your travel agent or to the cruise line.

So if you purchase a minimum of 100 shares of Carnival Cruise Line (CCL)stock and supply the proper authorities with the correct information you will receive an on board credit.  Wow!  you still have the stocks and they have given you the credit to use on the ship – that is defiantly and win-win.  I purchased my stocks in 2002 and have gone on somewhere around 18 cruises that I have been able to use my stock option on.  This is more than paid for it’s self plus over the years the stocks have split at least once that I remember.

And then there is the VIFP (Very Important Fun Person) Club  aka Carnival’s Loyalty Program.  As mentioned earlier I will be crossing that all important DIAMOND line on our next cruise in May and I am so excited to see what all is on the other side!  I most defiantly will report here!

VIFP Club Blue VIFP Club Red VIFP Club Gold VIFP Club Platinum VIFP Club Diamond
My Benefits* BLUE First Sailing RED 2nd Sailing – 24 Points GOLD 25-74 Points PLATINUM 75-199 Points DIAMOND 200+ Points
*Itineraries featured on carnival.com.au may offer different benefits. no no no no no
Members-only offers yes yes yes yes yes
Member e-newsletter yes yes yes yes yes
Complimentary 1 liter bottle of water
(delivered to stateroom on all sailings)
no yes yes yes yes
Appreciation drink on 5+ day cruises (on the last evening of the cruise after 5pm no no yes no no
Gold VIFP pin on every sailing no no yes no no
Priority check-in and boarding no no no yes yes
Platinum and Diamond VIFP Party on 5+ day sailings (featuring complimentary drinks and appetizers) no no no yes yes
Complimentary beverage at Seaday brunch (on ships where brunch is not available, complimentary beverage at breakfast or lunch in Main Dining Room) no no no yes yes
“Chocolate Delight” strawberry plate
(delivered to stateroom on 5+ day cruises)
no no no yes yes
Unique, collectible pin (noting specific ship and year),
received on each sailing
no no no yes yes
Priority spa reservations no no no yes yes
Priority tender boarding
(ship to shore only)
no no no yes yes
Casino: Buy-one-get-one-free tournament entry (Blackjack or Slot only) no no no yes yes
$5 worth of complimentary arcade credits
(guests under 18 only)
no no no yes yes
Carnival logo gift on every sailing no no no yes yes
Priority Guest Services assistance by phone no no no yes yes
Priority line at onboard Guest Services desk no no no yes yes
Priority debarkation no no no yes yes
Priority reservations at Main Dining Room and Specialty Restaurant no no no yes no
Complimentary Wash & Fold laundry service
(2 bags on 3 – 6 day cruises,
3 bags on 7-12 day cruises, 5 bags on a 12+ day cruises )
no no no yes no
Guaranteed seating time requested in Main Dining Room for dinner only no no no no yes
Priority reservations at Specialty restaurants no no no no yes
Unlimited complimentary Wash & Fold service no no no no yes
Special event invitation from the Captain
on each sailing
no no no no yes
One-time free cabin upgrade OR third and fourth
guests sail free
no no no no yes
One-time donation to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® no no no no yes
One-time complimentary meal for two at Specialty
Restaurant of choice
no no no no yes
Dedicated toll-free number for sales and service no no no no yes

 

 So, yes, I am partial to Carnival.  I like them, I like what they do and what they stand for and and how they help others.  I have witnessed them (Carnival Cruise Lines) take linens and food items to islands that we were visiting – on vacation – that we were relaxing at -and having the time of our lives. – Carnival employees were taking pallets of linens to the people of the island that barely had shoes or shirts.  Carnival provided food after hurricanes hit ports that their ships frequented.  Carnival aided if not completely rebuilt the ports themselves.
Carnival goes further to show it cares.

Through all of their shared efforts, they have now raised more than $18 million to help St. Jude fight childhood cancer. And not to brag, but they have been on an absolute tear lately, hitting their last goal of a full two years ahead of schedule. Hand-in-hand, Carnival and their partners have passed milestone after milestone, setting their sights on ever-larger goals. Now they are ready to meet their most ambitious one so far: raise another $2 million in the next five years… for a total of $18 million.

Carnival Foundation oversees the many philanthropic endeavors of Carnival Corporation as well as its employee-driven service group, the “Friends Uniting Neighbors” (F.U.N.) Team.  See Carnival never gets very far from the FUN!

Carnival Foundation is dedicated to creating positive change through empowering youth, enhancing education and strengthening families in the communities where we live and work.

We believe that being a member of a community means giving something back. Carnival Foundation supports a broad spectrum of organizations that positively impact thousands of youth and families each year through charitable giving, in-kind donations and volunteerism.

I really am not trying to push Carnival down your throats but just wanted to educate you a little to what I have found to be interesting and FUN about Carnival.  I love selling Carnival cruise to people and hearing or seeing if I am lucky enough to go along with them, experience cruising.  Cruising is FUN.  Cruising is a way to see many places without having to pack up and travel to the next destination.  You don’t have to worry about finding somewhere to eat or entertainment for the evening either.  Once on board the ship you are at your “hotel” or “resort” for the week.  All your meals are included along with desserts and room service.  Soft drinks and alcoholic drinks are extra but tea, coffee, juices and water are included.  Entertainment includes Broadway style shows, musicians and magicians, comedians and contortionist, games and movies!  And what is great is you travel to your next destination while your are partying or sleeping and when you get up the next morning you are there, ready to discover a new day in a new place.

 

Killarney, Ireland & Hot Springs, Arkansas

What does Killarney, Ireland and Hot Springs, Arkansas have in common?  More than you would expect!  Back on July 4, 2017 we were in Killarney, Ireland not expecting to be able to celebrate our countries Independence day but Oh my gosh! IMG_2442

We arrived at Killarney and checked into our hotel to find all types of celebrations starting up.  The hotel staff were so excited that we were from the States and would be there for the parade.  Parade? Yes, the city was putting on a parade!

I must say they did a pretty good job too!  Even had President Trump! Some how I can’t seem to find the pictures of the 50 state Flags that were paraded past, but I can assure you that when Arkansas past by they were aware there were a few Arkansans in Ireland!  So is it not fair that The First Ever 15th Annual World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade is held in Hot Springs, Arkansas? I should say so! So here is our “Thanks Back To Ya Ireland!”  “We Loved Our Time There”

 

Honduras

242200_10150291677863082_4609966_oWhen someone says they are going to Honduras different images appear in my mind.  First and foremost images of Mission trips pop up.  Where church groups went to Honduras and helped build churches or homes,5074995_1435284524.3162  or taught vacation bible school to young children or even brought reading glasses and medical supplies. Unknown

But when we went to Honduras lately it was a magical place that was built by Carnival Cruise Lines for their customers.

IMG_5439Mahogany Bay, Roatan, Honduras 

Let me explain.  Roatán is an island in the Caribbean off the northern coast of Honduras. It is the largest of the Bay Islands of Honduras.

mahogany

Mahogany Bay was built by Carnival Corporation, so there is plenty to do right at the port. How does the saying go? “Build It – They Will Come”  Carnival needed a place to dock so they built it and while they were at it they added a few stores and then a couple more and then how about a restaurant, oh let’s add chair lifts so no one has to walk, hey but if they want to walk, let’s make a really pretty nature walk with lots of flowers and plants.  And that folks is just what they did. There is a man-made beach within walking distance. There are a few bars and restaurants at the beach, but only one closer to the ships: Fat Tuesdays.

There are all the standard shops at the port, including Diamonds International (or Tanzanite International), Harley Davidson, a pharmacy, and several smaller local gift shops and specialty stalls. There is a zipline canopy tour at the port, as well as an ATV tour.

Once you disembark at Mahogany Bay, you will walk along the pier, through the Dufry Store, and uphill to the main shopping area. There is a local marketplace to the far left, while the chairlift and path to the beach and restaurants are to the far right. Diagonally to the left from the central fountain is a red-roofed building – that is your exit point from the port.IMG_5440

If you take a shore excursion or arrange for your own taxi transportation through the sanctioned taxi association at the port, you will exit through that building. To meet any other tours or transportation pick-ups, you will exit that building, walk to the left uphill, and at the bottom on the other side you will find all other tour options. These are tour companies or individuals who do not have contracts with the cruise lines, so they are not allowed onto the pier. Most SCUBA divers will be picked up from this area, as well as island tour companies that work with smaller groups.  I normally use Carnival to book my excursions so everything is covered, but there has been the rare occasions that I have ventured off course and used different sources.  In these instances I recommend researching the company throughly before booking.  Ask all the “what if” questions and be satisfied with the answers.

 

New Orleans Parking

New Orleans is a popular port for most of my clients.  Due to it being a 6-8 hour driving trip from Arkansas.  But there is always the “where to leave your car” question.  We have used the Julia Street and Erato Street Terminals and Fulton Street Garage for parking.

Fulton Place Parking

neworleansparking.com 

This garage is a couple of blocks from the cruise terminal.  You park your vehicle and take your luggage to the bus, where you will be transferred to the cruise terminal.  Once at the cruise terminal, your luggage (with your luggage tags on and secure) will be taken by Carnival Porters.  You will not see this luggage again until you are in your room.  (usually 4-6 hours).

I’ll stop there and add that you should pack all valuables, medications and possibly your swimsuit or shorts in a carry on so that you will have once on board.

Erato or Julia Street Terminal Parking

portno.com

Which terminal you use will be determined by where your ship is docked.  This information will be on your cruise boarding passes.  On either of these terminals you will pull into the garage first level, where  Carnival porters will come to your vehicle and take your luggage (again make sure your luggage tags are on and secure).  Once your luggage is taken you will be directed to drive on into the garage and park.  Remember your parking spot.  I text the floor and car spot to myself or you can take a photo so you can look back for your spot number.

Comparisons

Fulton cost $83.40 for a 7 day cruise

Erato/Julia cost $20 per day – $140 for a 7 day cruise

Fulton takes longer to get to the check in process.

Erato/Julia is easier and quicker.  You don’t have to handle your luggage at all when checking in and when returning from your cruise it is a short walk and elevator service back to your vehicle.

Fulton you have to handle your luggage from your vehicle to the bus which could be several floors away.  Your luggage is then loaded in the back of the bus and transported with you to the terminal where you have to claim your luggage and then transfer to the Carnival Porters for check in.   On returning from your cruise you have to claim your luggage in the warehouse area (this is when you choose not to handle your luggage yourself) or if you opted for Self-Assist you will leave your stateroom with your luggage and continue to Customs.  Either way once you are off the ship and through customs you take your luggage to a separate loading area to board a bus and return to the garage where your vehicle is.

Tips

it is customary but not mandatory to tip your porter that handles your luggage.  We usually tip $1 per piece of luggage per person.

I am back

Sorry, I have not been on the Blog in awhile and I promise to do better.  We just returned from a quick get away cruise to Cozumel, Belize and Mahogany Bay Honduras.  ferry-boat-ferry-ship-boat-69122.jpeg

This was the first time out of 28 cruises that I was “SICK”!  I think it was food poisoning or maybe it was just a stomach virus but it kicked my butt for 3 of the 7 days. It didn’t hit till late Tuesday night, so I was fortunate to get to enjoy Cozumel.

COZUMEL, MEXICO

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http://www.mrsanchos.com

 

mr-sanchos-cozumel

Swim up bar at Mr. Sancho’s

The menu which is all included in your entrance fee of $55 per person.  You get a umbrella table and chairs and a dedicated waiter that insists on keeping your drink glass full and your plate too!  When you have ate your fill you can relax on a lounger or get in the water.  Many services are available such as massages, hair braids, tattoos, fish pedicures, snorkeling, parasailing, kayaking, and many more,  of course these are extras that you can add on.

MrSanchosModelos-12

If you are ever in Cozumel – check Mr. Sancho’s out.  You can’t go wrong.  Oh and try the coconut shrimp – to die for!  We were a large group of 10, so I pre-booked on Mr. Sancho’s website.  You can add on all the extra amminties you can enjoy on line too.  Since this is not a shore excursion offered by the Cruise Line, you are on your own.  Let me help you step by step get there and back.

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Your ship will dock here.  You can’t see the ship from this photo but it is moored at the end of the long white building marked (1) (far right).  Walk from the ship to this area.  This is a large duty free shop that you have to pass through to get into Cozumel.  Actually the area pictured is called “Little Cozumel”.  Continue walking until you reach the long covered walkway between 18 & 19.  Here is where all the taxis and cabs are waiting to pick you up and take you to wherever you want to go.  The vans they have will hold 8 people and a ride to Mr. Sancho’s beach cost us $40 ($5 each).  This is what we paid, but I suggest and recommend that you ask before you get in the cab how much they charge to Mr. Sancho’s.  Once you are loaded and on your way, it will take about 10-15 minutes to get there.  If you have reservations (highly recommended) you will be directed to the entrances where you will receive your armband and your waiter, who will show you to your table and take your first drink order of the day.

Open from Monday to Saturday, 8:00 to 17:00

Carretera Costera Sur Km. 15
77600 Cozumel, Q. Roo.
Mexico
Mobile: +(52) 1 987-871-9174
Phone: +(52) 987-120-2220
mrsanchosbeachclub@gmail.com

Be sure and check what time you need to be back on the ship. (you don’t want to miss the ship…..or do you!)

When you are ready to return to the port, taxis will be waiting on you to carry you back.  Again get the fares straight before getting into a taxi.  You will be dropped off where you were picked up at.  You can shop all the stores all the way back to the ship.

If a day at the beach is not exactly what you want, each cruise line offers a wide assortment of excursions or purchase excursions at the pavilion where the taxis and cabs are.  Just make sure of times and be back at the designated ship time.

Another option in Cozumel is SHOPPING!  Really awesome shopping!  Jewelry, Silver, Pottery and of course T-Shirts are good buys in Cozumel.  If you are a serious shopper I would recommend taking a taxi into downtown Cozumel where you will find hundreds of shops, one after another.  Remember the prices marked (if marked at all) are negotiable and don’t pay the first price they give you.  Another great suggestion is after you ask the price of an item and you shake your head no; add another item to it at the price he quoted.  Such as if you are looking at a amethyst ring and you were quoted $100 for it, tell him you will give him $90 for the ring and a pair of earrings!  I can’t promise that this will work every time but I have a lot of purchases that I got this way.