Hawaii here we come!!!…New Big Island, Hawaii house photos to share…

Aerial view of home (middle house).

Aerial view of both houses we’ve rented in Big Island Hawaii. The larger gray roof is the second house we booked the day we left for safari, putting our minds at ease.

Here is the link to this listing on the Homeaway website for pricing, more photos, and additional details. Once we are in the house, we’ll post additional photos.

Leaving Minnesota, after a lifetime for Tom and 42 years for me, was hard for only one reason, leaving family and friends behind.

We don’t miss the snow, the cold, the erratic weather in summers, the power outages from storms, the mosquitoes, or the traffic. We don’t miss house maintenance; snow blowing, house cleaning, window washing, or leaky basements.

Tom doesn’t miss pulling out all of the heavy lawn furniture from the garage in the spring or putting it back in the fall or hauling the dock into the lake in the spring and taking it out in the fall or, constantly making repairs (he was diligent and an expert at all of this).

We don’t miss cable TV problems, huge heating and electric bills (we pay no utilities in vacation homes), enormous property taxes, or paying over $500 a month for a car, house and umbrella insurance. We don’t miss car payments, maintenance, and gasoline expenses.  Nope.  None of that.

The first of the two houses that we booked over a year ago.

Panoramic view from the living room.

 We’ll stay in this house by ourselves until we move over to the other house on December 20, 2014, returning back here from January 3, until January 15, 2015

Here’s the link to this listing on the Homeaway website for pricing, more photos, and additional details on this house that we booked over a year ago. Once we are situated in the houses, we’ll post additional photos

Surprisingly, I don’t miss the endless cooking for entertaining guests; the hours of shopping, the hours standing in the kitchen, a menu in hand while cooking often printed on pretty paper to be placed at each guest’s elaborate place setting, for a multi-course gourmet meal, at the time lovingly prepared, now so far from my reality that it’s all but a distant memory. Nope. None of that either. 

We miss the people.  Period.  The people.  Our family.  Our friends.  We chose missing them to be free of angst or sorrow, instead, a simple fact, a warm memory of their faces, their laughs, their smiles.

In December 2014, a mere one year, one month, and 28 days from today we’ll see our grown kids, their spouses, and our grandchildren once again. Comparing it to the period we’ve been gone from Minnesota (it will be 1 year, in 9 days from today), it will be here in no time at all. 

But, when we think of all we’ve done in the past year, the countries we’ve visited, the places we’ve lived, the sites we’ve seen, the 8 cruises we’ve taken, and the people we’ve met, it seems much longer.

With the size of our group, 13 of them, we decided that we needed to rent 2 houses, not one. Coincidentally, (similar to our safari good luck) we found 2 houses next door to one another, one we’d booked over a year ago and the other on the day we left for safari on October 5, 2013, paying the deposit, wrapping up the details. The luck of finding this scenario of 2 separately owned houses, directly next door to one another, is uncanny.

Over a year ago, we shared the photos of the first house we’ve booked.  As time moved on and more and more of our family members were able to arrange time off work during Christmas 2014, we came to the conclusion that one house wouldn’t be big enough. 

A month ago, after they all discovered they could in fact come to Hawaii, the search began.  Go figure.  We stumbled on the house next door, available during that same two week period. Tom and I and a few of the adults will be in one house, the remainder in the other house.  It will all work. 

Covering the expense of airfare, one car, and groceries on one house had been an expense we’d entered into our budget long ago.  Now, the budget has been revised for the 2nd house, the 2nd car, and the added groceries. The kids will cover their own baggage fees, activities, excursions, sightseeing, and dining out costs.  It will work out well for all of us.

Today, for comparison purposes, we’re including photos of both houses, including an aerial view of both.

As it turns out, our cruise from Vancouver to Hawaii arrives in Honolulu on October 5, 2014, less than a year from now, where we plan to stay for no less than one week in order to visit the local sites including Pearl Harbor.  

On December 1, 2014, we’ll be moving into the 1st of the 2 houses. We have yet to book the week in Honolulu or the remaining 50 days between finishing up the week in Honolulu and moving into the Big Island house on our own.

With each of our own WiFi devices up and running with no less than 25 gigs of remaining data until we need to purchase more, we have the necessary data to begin searching for that time period. “Searching” uses tons of data due to the tremendous number of photos popping up on the various vacation rental websites.

Also, having completed the time-intensive process of logging and posting all of our safari photos and stories we now have more available time to begin the search. We’re almost ready to begin.

Sure, we don’t have maintenance, snow blowing, yard work, or window washing. But all of that has been replaced by a litany of responsibilities for constantly logging our expenses, budgeting for the future, booking for the future, searching, searching and more searching. 

The difference? We like searching for more than blowing snow and washing windows and, more than anything, we love living in other people’s houses all over the world. 

Part 1…It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…Too many photos for one post…Part 2 tomorrow…

It’s interesting how so many periods of our lives are relived by music.This morning while contemplating writing this story this song became an ‘ear worm” spinning in my head.

The beginning of the steep walk downhill toward of new discovery points in the neighborhood on a finally warm and sunny day.

Yesterday, after we’d already written the post for the day, it was time for me to go on my strenuous walk in the neighborhood to get my exercise. I had only branched out so far with my trepidation about getting lost in the maze of roads and narrow passageways between the houses that appear to go on forever.

With the interesting narrow walkways, the walk stays interesting and fresh each time we enter on the way down the steep climb.

Reminding Tom of my lack of sense of direction, he did a hefty “harrumph!” saying, “Wait, I’ll get my shoes.” 

A familiar spot that assures us, we’re going in the correct direction.
As we approached the second parking area that Tom and I discovered after I’d shown him the first I’d found on my own days earlier, without getting lost.

With a sheepish grin on my face, having accomplished my goal without nagging, we marched out the door with vigor on the first really warm morning in a week.

On one of my previous exercise walks last week, I reminded myself of our last dog, Willie.  When exploring in our leash-free neighborhood, he’d travel far down the road, stop and contemplate before he took another step with a look on his face that said, “Will I find my way home?” That was me last week. 

It’s evident that the owners of this house have taken special care for an appealing well-kept exterior.  Obviously, the stone lasts for centuries.

It’s ironic, isn’t it, us dog lovers often become like our dogs, rather than them becoming like us? 

Often beads, vines or ropes are used in the doorway of the front entrances most likely for privacy during the day with an inner door to lock at night.

I had yet to show Tom the overlooking the parking area I’d found deep within the maze of houses. I proudly stomped along, mostly downhill, with pride in the fact that I could remember how to get there. I was hoping he’d say “good girl” (or “good dog”) when we arrived but giving praise doesn’t come easy for Tom.I shrugged it off.

The view above us from the level parking deck I’d discovered a few days ag,o which was as far as I’d ventured on my own, fearful of getting lost in the maze of narrow passageways.  With Tom’s excellent sense of direction, continuing on, was easy.

As we neared the edge of the level overlook parking lot, we heard the clucking of chickens, in a yard next to the driveway.  Not wanting to snoop in a private yard, we were unable to get a photo, but the sound was music to our ears.

With all of the houses attached to one another, the various doors are the focal point of interest to define the differences, some modern and well kept and other worn and in ill repair, not unlike homes in many neighborhoods.

Before traveling to Tuscany, I had this vision in my head of chickens clucking, down the narrow roads, freely on their own. Much to my disappointment, we’ve yet to see this occurrence, instead finding chickens walking unencumbered in their pens, pecking on morsels on the ground, clucking away merrily. 

Are doors such as this blocked off due to being unoccupied or are the homeowners blocking off additional access to their house for other reasons, i.e., security, privacy, etc.?

After leaving the overlook parking lot, we continued on to new territory, up and down endless narrow, hilly pathways, huffing and puffing, discovering squeal worthy sights along the way. (Having increased my fitness level and, Tom having quit smoking when he retired, the huffing and puffing  is less than expected). It couldn’t have been more delightful.

Notice the year this house was built above the door.

Little did we know the treasures that Boveglio has tucked away as one goes where only tiny cars maneuver as well as the surefooted curiosity seekers, such as ourselves.

Short tunnels such as this are common, often leading to one or more private homes.

Suddenly, we found ourselves in an open “square” or courtyard, even with a tall statue of whom, we weren’t sure. Nonetheless, we shot the photo. The accompanying carved marble slab was hard to read to translate.

Turning to our right, we saw the first open business, we’ve stumbled across in Boveglio, a tiny bar, open early in the morning with nary at guest on a bar stool.  Tomorrow, we’ll post photos of the little bar, empty except for the pleasant owner, when we arrived around noon.

As we entered the newly discovered square, the houses inside each were unique and mysterious.  How interesting it would be to see the inside!
Some of the houses appear to have French décor.
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 The statue we found in the center of the square.
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The inscription on the side of the statue was difficult to decipher.  It appears that the year was 1923.  The bottom, more readable portion translates: “Glorious heroes, your name be blessed forever from the children does not degenerate beautiful home with your blood Bedenta”
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Tom was particularly attracted to this entrance.
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Inside the Gulf of Aden..All is well so far…Making final plans to arrive in Dubai in three days…

Due to poor internet connection we are unable to post photos today.

After another uneventful night at sea in the Gulf of Aden, we’re looking forward to nearing Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Its hard to believe that our seventh cruise is almost over, with the eight to begin on June 4th.

In three days, we’ll be in Dubai, settling into our condo, unpacking everything with the intent of further trimming our load and, much to our delight, doing our laundry.

As we get close to arriving at our next location, we find a fair amount of communication is necessary with the property manager or owner of the property to fine tune the details such as:

  1. How do we get a key?
  2. What time can we get in?
  3. If we arrive early, where can we wait, if waiting is necessary?
  4. What’s the situation with maid service, if, available.
  5. How will the security deposit of US $300, to be paid in cash be refunded to us?

In the case of Dubai, there is a glitch that we knew would transpire with little we can do about it.  The property, being a condo hotel, has a check-in time of 3:00 pm.  Our ship arrives in the port of Dubai at 6:00 am. 

We’ve found that we can take our time in order to disembark the ship approximately four hours after arriving in port eventually grabbing a cab to the property. At most, this will take us to 10:30 am. The property manager agreed to meet us at the Elite Residence Hotel at 2:00 pm, leaving us approximately 3 1/2 hours to kill.

At the moment, we’re awaiting a response from him as to the availability of a lobby at the property. Waiting there would be an ideal situation as long as we have access to a restroom and a place to sit.  We can easily entertain ourselves using our MiFi or reading books on our phones.

We’ll have breakfast on the ship before we disembark, so food during the waiting period is no issue for us since we only have two meals per day at most, breakfast and dinner.

As for the maid service for the 13 nights, we’ve asked the property manager to arrange a cleaning one week after we arrive at a cost of US $20 including tip. What a bargain! 

Yes, we certainly could have cleaned the condo ourselves, but we’ve decided that if maid service is available at our vacation homes for a reasonable cost, we will take advantage of it.  This avoids the necessity of purchasing cleaning supplies only to leave them behind and spending time cleaning and thinking about cleaning.  Of course, we clean up after ourselves daily, doing laundry, cooking and dishes.

This particular rental requires a US cash deposit of $300.  Most often, they prefer to snail mail a refund check after vacating the property, at times not until two weeks later.  This isn’t the easiest solution for us,  although our mailing service in Nevada will send the check to our bank at our request, using the addressed envelopes we left with them.

Last night, we attended a huge disco party on the Royal Promenade, the well designed “street” mid ship, lined with shops, bars and restaurants.  On the bridge over our heads, the ship’s professional singers and dancers performed many familiar songs of the 70’s while the crowd danced in the “street.”  Having arrived early for seats in the “outdoor café” we couldn’t have found a better spot.

The people watching was stupendous, the conversation loud and animated and we had a blast, reminiscing of earlier days in our lives.  Watching “old timers” many 10 to 20 years our senior, dancing along to the music warmed our hearts.  We couldn’t wipe the smile off our faces, staying until the music ended.

Actually, a smile on our faces has become a normal state of being for us.  No matter the hassles, the luggage, the comings and goings, every day we meet new people, experiencing new adventures as we learn more and more about our world, its cultures and its people.  We’re very grateful.

Security loaded on the ship while out to sea…Gulf of Aden, here we come…

Tonight we enter the Gulf of Aden.

Yesterday morning as we were reminded of yet another time change to be effective at 11:30 am, our Captain Fleming announced that a boat would be coming to ship around 4:00 PM to drop off “security equipment” for our upcoming remaining three days through the Gulf of Aden.

Tom was determined to see this event occur as was I.  Watching the clock throughout the day, we were pleased when the Captain’s voice sounded over the loudspeaker as he explained that the boat would be arriving soon and the ship would be slowed down accordingly.

It’s helpful for worried passengers to be alerted to such events.  Captain Fleming has been conscientious about making such announcements in an effort to diminish fear and its resulting rumors.  For us, we wanted to see this firsthand in order to take photos. 

Our view at the bow of the ship as the “security boat: approached.

Unsure which side of the ship the “security boat” would deliver the “security equipment” we headed for the bow of the ship where there is row of viewing windows to the bridge. If we watched the officers in the command area, we’d be able to see which direction they were looking through their binoculars.

Peering into the bridge, we had a clear view of the blue radar screens, noting three objects, one on the port side forward, and two on the starboard side forward.  Wondering which would be the delivering boat, we waited patiently while Tom, using his trusty Swarovski binoculars kept a lookout.

Around 3:30 PM, we saw the delivery boat approaching our ship approaching dead ahead, to finally veer to the port side.  We were on the move!  We wanted to get as close as possible and yet not so close that we couldn’t get a good shot.

Each of us had a camera, old and new, in our hands.  Much to my frustration and unbeknown to me, one of the settings on the new camera we had changed in error, preventing me from getting any good shots.  Luckily, Tom had the old camera and was able to take the photos we’ve posted today.

As crew members hung onto the “security boat,” two uniformed soldiers got on board our ship, each carrying two large black cases as shown in the photos. Captain Fleming had referred to these black rectangular boxes as “security supplies.”  Duh?

When asking an officer about the contents of these black boxes, it was obvious to us that his response was rehearsed, “Oh, those are night goggles, binoculars and such.”  Why wouldn’t a large ship such as ours, Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas, keep night goggles on board along with all their other such equipment?  Why were two soldiers dropped off?  To use night goggles?  Hardly.

The “security boat” as he approached our ship.

We’re assuming that the ship staff, in an attempt to avoid fear and panic, have been instructed to report the contents of the black cases contained “security equipment.”  We understand their reasons to lie to us and in essence, respect it. 

After a hysterical time at dinner last night at a table for eight with non-stop laughing, we meandered back to our cabin, smiles on our faces from yet another enjoyable evening at a “shared” table.  One couple was from Australia, another from England and a third from Florida, whom we’ve made plans to meet up with again tonight.

When we returned to our cabin around 10:30 pm, our room darkened as instructed, drapes tightly pulled, we settled into bed.  Minutes after dosing off, I awakened to a sensation of a bright light filtering through the crack in the drapes.

As the boat took off, after unloading the two security personnel and the black boxes.
Awakening Tom, he bolted out of bed, running to the window to peek out. Seeing the light, he cautiously opened the balcony door only to discover that the cabin next to us had not followed security protocol by having their drapes wide open and lights turned on.

What’s with people?  It was a simple requirement, easy to follow, affecting the safety of everyone on board.  It’s the same mentality of guests who become ill while cruising and don’t bother to stay in their cabins during the infectious period, infecting everything they touch resulting in the illness of many others.

This morning at 8:00 am, after our good night’s sleep, Captain Fleming’s voice once again blared on the loudspeakers, thanking us all for our cooperation, reporting a safe uneventful night. 

After the boat departed, we found our way to an observation deck and shot this photo of the pool area, as it thinned out in the late afternoon.  (This shot was taken after I figured out the incorrect setting on the new camera.  Bear with us, as we learn to each use it properly).

Hopefully, expectantly and most likely, we’ll hear such announcements each morning as we continue on our journey to Dubai, to arrive next Tuesday.

We’ll keep you updated as we continue on and on, and on.

Food?…Problematic for me…

 

I stayed behind while Tom enjoyed the water slide.  We especially enjoy the quiet time outdoors by the pool and in the shade when many passengers went ashore. Many returned with sunburns from the ride on the tender or the time unprotected on the beach.  With years ahead of us in sunny climates, we are careful to avoid overexposure.

Without a doubt, we knew that my strict way of eating would be an issue to some degree as we traveled the world. In Belize, it was a non-issue, buying and cooking most of our meals. 

Aboard the Carnival Liberty, it’s a huge issue at dinner.  Breakfast is easy since I can have eggs,
non-starchy vegetables, meat without sauce or fillers, and hard cheese. Mostly I order real egg omelets as opposed to the “processed” mixture that is full of chemicals and gluten with a side of bacon. It holds me all day until dinner. 
The view of the tip of Half Moon Cay, the Bahamas, a small mostly man-made tourist attraction, owned by Holland Cruise Lines and shared with other cruise lines to enhance their revenue.

Protein eaten with few carbs tends to keep a person full, comfortable, and satisfied all day. I never feel hungry or am tempted to eat off the endless tables of sweets, burgers and fries, tacos, burritos, and wraps. Free
food. Everywhere you turn.

Our first two cruises on Celebrity, the Century, and the Equinox, dinner was a breeze. They had all the gluten and sugar-free items carefully marked on the menu. Once I made choices to be low carb, grain, and
starch-free, I was home free, able to enjoy a number of options. On the Equinox, the pastry chef made me a
special dessert, a sugar and flour free Creme Brule. 

The Carnival Liberty has no such options, no indications on the menu, few cooks with knowledge as to gluten-free. Last night they brought my usual cheese plate for dessert, the cheese atop a pile of bread. Anyone with a gluten issue cannot have bread “touch” their food since the size of a grain of salt of gluten, can trigger a response. They didn’t understand when I graciously asked them to throw the entire plate away and
start anew with just the cheese.
The tenders, preparing to take passengers to the manmade beach.

Moments later, they return with the cheese and fruit. I can’t eat fruit. It has sugar that has carbs. For 20 years, I had excruciating pain. Now, for almost 20 months since I began eating this way, I have no pain.  It’s a no brainer for me.  I’m never tempted to “cheat.”  I consider anything not included in my plan as poison. Why
would I eat poison? 

Am I specific enough with the restaurant staff?  I think so. They have noted our “folio” number that I can only eat meat, fish (any type), poultry, eggs, butter, hard cheese, and non-starchy vegetables.

The tender returning from the small island filled with sunburned passengers. Again, hanging over our balcony as we began to sail away from Half Moon Cay, we were able to get this photo of the officers on the bridge only eight doors from our new quiet cabin.
If one knew food at all, they put a plate of grilled fish, a large salad, and a large side of vegetables in front of me every night with a plate of nice hard cheeses for dessert.  I’d be content. 

But, it’s like pulling teeth, drawing way too much attention to my “condition” making me uncomfortable, treating me like an annoyance and a “freak”, as if I were some picky eater that was eating this way “for fun.”

Once we began this cruise on April 9th, they required that I placed the next night’s order each night at dinner.  What??? This lovely well-meaning young woman, Julia (pronounced Yule-e-a), approaches our table (often we’re seated with other passengers), handing me the next night’s menu, waiting while I place my order. Trying to be considerate of her time, I quickly place the order of salad, meat, and a large side of steamed vegetables along with a plain cheese plate, no fruit, now “no bread”.

Invariably, my dinner arrives with rice, potatoes, corn, peas with the meat unseasoned and overcooked.  Last night I ordered the flat iron steak, rare. My plate arrived with a pile of fried potatoes, a 3 oz. well done rubbery steak and two pieces of overcooked cauliflower. 

The Caesar salad with no croutons was a tiny plate of huge pieces of romaine lettuce, dressing on the side which I had requested since they’d previously smothered no less than 1/2 cup of dressing on those few lettuce leaves. (I can have small amounts of low carb dressings, usually blue cheese and Caesar).
We can see the bridge from our balcony.

So, last night, I asked them to remove the potatoes and bring more steamed vegetables. They
returned the plate minus the potatoes with the same tiny piece of leathery meat with the two overcooked clumps of cauliflower having added a single flower of broccoli. Oh.  I ate all of it.

Thank goodness for the cheese or I’d still be hungry after each
dinner.

A short while ago, we heard that an option for tonight’s formal night dinner is lobster tail which I can have and love. I wasn’t told this last night. It wasn’t on the menu. If I want it, we’ll have to go to the restaurant soon and order it; a plain lobster tail with butter, a side of veggies, a salad. How hard is that?

Most likely their lobster tails have a bread crumb topping. It may be too late to accommodate me. They
cover all of their meats in flour laden sauces and coatings. This way they can hide tough, overly cooked,
unseasoned cheaper cuts of meat with what may be tasty, creamy, or chunky sauces.

Today, we will be contacting Norwegian cruise lines in advance, unaware at this time if they are as skilled as Celebrity was in accommodating dietary restrictions with such ease and finesse.

The pained look on the face of the servers we’ve had when reading the “notes” on me has been more annoying than the food. They keep referring to “your food allergies.”

Through all of this, I remain calm and considerate.  I am not a difficult customer.  In each case, I’ve smiled and kindly asked for the items to be added or removed, without a negative tone in my voice.

We thought that if perhaps I had a small late lunch, I could get by with less in the evening.  As we perused all of the items in the lunch buffet, there wasn’t a single piece of fish, chicken, or meat that wasn’t swimming in sauces or flour coatings. Not one. The only items I could have had were the slices of cheese, lettuce, and a
few raw veggies. Not worth it.

After a lifetime of being a dessert fanatic, having something sweet every night after dinner, most of which I baked with fresh ingredients, I have since let this go.  No longer do I crave something “sweet” or snack at all after dinner. 

Perhaps, I need to rethink my current expectation of an enjoying meal at dinner and focus more on my enjoyable companion, my hubby, and the “table mates’ often sitting with us. Of course, there’s the big glass of ice water to savor since we can’t ever get a server to come to the table to take a drink order.

All in all, we’re content. We can sleep at night.  We have our vitamins back. The shower and sink drain properly (although this morning I had to pour water into the toilet to get it to flush). More importantly, we’re safe, we have our health, we’re staying on track on our budget, we continue to meet wonderful people, we have the world in front of us and, we have each other.

Getting into the groove…Photos!

See the baseball bat on the outdoor movie screen from a scene in The Natural that we watched while we were sunning and funning at the pool aboard the Carnival Liberty?

Our negative experience behind us, we’re finally wafting into the cruise mode. Overall, yesterday was a good day. 

Should Tom tackle this slide while I take a photo?

Breakfast was a disappointment. As a port day, every passenger on the ship, around 4000, was trying to eat in the buffet at the same time. Lines for “real eggs” were long and tables were at a premium. After roaming for a while, we decided to skip breakfast and have lunch instead.

Tom walked with me to the reasonably well-equipped health club waiting patiently while I did my usual HIIT workout. There were two other passengers working out. Not unusual.  In Belize, I had seen a total of five or six tourists working out in the health club in the two-plus months we were there. 
The dorsal fin is indicative of a Carnival ship.

Lunch was a disappointment as well.  Literally every hot food item was swathed in flour laden sauces, not befitting my GF diet. Frustrated, I had a plate of lettuce and a few fatty slices of leg of lamb.  Its only food, I thought. Dinner would be more suitable with hostess Julia, assigned to see to my nightly special orders.

Around noon we wandered out to the pool for our usual one hour of sunning and funning to discover the movie, The Natural, playing on the giant outdoor movie screen. 

Parking ourselves in two tightly arranged chaise lounges, we were excited to watch the already in progress movie, giggling over the peculiarity of watching a movie in the sun by the pool. Oddly, neither of us had ever seen this movie. In the bright sun, the screen was surprisingly clear. At one point, I meandered to the pool to cool off still able to watch Robert Redford’s then handsome face. 

Another of the three outdoor pools.

After the movie, we decided to tour the ship to get our bearings. Racking up over 5000 steps on my pedometer,
we roamed several of the eleven levels while looking for an ideal shaded outdoor spot with comfortable seating for reading and writing. 

Unable to find such a spot as we had on our two prior cruises, we’re now situated in the upper level of the dining area. With today’s clouds, heat and humidity, we’re content to have found a quiet spot indoors.

We’ve yet to go to the live show but we have another full week ahead of us.

There’s no question that we’re spoiled after our great experiences on the two Celebrity ships, the Century and the Equinox, both exquisite and well-laid-out. The Carnival Liberty is an entirely different experience;  less elegant, a confusing layout, more party orientated, noisier, and geared toward a much younger crowd although I’d estimate 25% of the passengers are over 60.  With spring break over in most countries, there are few children aboard.

The friendly staff aboard the Carnival Liberty is equal to the quality we observed on our first cruise through the Panama Canal on January 3, 2013, on the Celebrity Century. 
Hopefully, our new camera will take better photos when others take shots of us.

At dinner each night aboard the Liberty, servers memorize the first name of each guest at the table and uses them freely, creating a comfortable sense of familiarity.  We find this special touch unique and refreshing, as did our tablemates.

Again, we dined with our new friends Mary and Don while a new delightful couple joined us, Georgie and Rob.  Again, the staff danced the Gangnam around the dining hall twice during dinner service, including our waiter
Christian, dressed in a festive costume, quite the dancer to boot. We all clapped and cheered.  
 

Hoping to attend the comedy show after dinner, we were unable to find a seat in the overcrowded bar. Again, disappointed, we found our way to the main bar for a nightcap. I drank a pint-sized metal bottle of Michelob Ultra, a 4.2% beer. I was sloshed!  Guess I need to drink more often.

Noisy, noisy cabin! Sounds were emanating from the ceiling and the walls all night long. The loud thumping and thumping of the nightclub below us, once again roared from 11:00 pm to 3:30 am, resulting in little sleep for either of us.

This morning at 5:30, a peculiar clicking sound awakened us as we struggled to get more sleep. I’d love to move to a different cabin but with all of our “stuff,” it’s just too much work. So this is the way it will be until April
20th, when we move to another ship, the Norwegian Epic, for our ocean crossing to Barcelona. In the realm of things, a few bad nights sleep is no big deal, right?

Soon, we’ll return to our cabin to review the two bags we’re shipping tomorrow to my sister Julie in Los Angeles, lightening our load by 100 plus pounds. Tonight at 6:00 pm, we’ll place the tagged bags outside our cabin to be picked up in the for processing in the morning through customs in Miami.

Once we’re through customs, we’ll grab a cab making our way to the bank for cash, the CVSdrugstore for toiletries, and the UPS store to pick up our awaiting Xcom Global MiFi and other supplies we ordered at Amazon.com. 

Should we encounter a grocery store along the way, we’ll stop for more Crystal Lite iced tea. We hope to get back on the ship within a few hours, providing that customs goes smoothly. The bags only contain shoes and
clothing.  We don’t anticipate any issues.
I took this photo during dinner with our new tablemates, Georgie and Rob.

Although our worldwide travels give one the impression of a carefree life, I now believe that such a life doesn’t exist. Relaxation and ease are intermittent, as we all have responsibilities in daily life, whoever we may be, wherever we may land. There’s truly is “no free lunch” even when meals are included in the cost of fares on a cruise. 

In life, in one way or another, we “pay” for everything. It’s the manner in which we pay, the amount we pay, not only in money but in time, energy, and spirit that determined the value we gain in our experiences.

So far, we’re way ahead of the game and hope to remain so going forward.

Valentine’s Day story about a happy couple we met…

Pam and Jerry, newlyweds on their honeymoon at our resort at LaruBeya. 

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, we met a very special couple on the beach yesterday afternoon with whom we shared a delightful dinner at the Mexican buffet at Hananero Restaurant, a short walk across the road.

A couple about our ages, Pam and Jerry are on their honeymoon.  They were married last week on the beach in their winter home in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize at a small gathering of local friends.

Not so unusual a story in itself:  another fine couple at retirement age, find one another and commit to spending their “golden years” together in wedded bliss. 

The magic of Pam and Jerry’s story warmed our hearts.  They found each other on Facebook a few years ago, over 40 years ago after dating in high school.  I suppose this isn’t such a new story in today’s technological environment. 

Smiling from ear to ear as they told their story, we all reveled in the good fortune of finding that special someone, especially only a few days from Valentine’s Day, a day that Tom and I always celebrated with cards, gifts, and a special dinner.

This year will be different for us. There isn’t a Valentine’s card to be found in Placencia, Belize, not a drugstore, not a Target store or a gift shop containing anything other than the handmade trinkets we agreed not to buy in our travels. 

Years ago, I’d bake a heart-shaped cake with pink fluffy frosting on which I’d write words of love in my illegible handwriting. In any case, the message was clear.  Now, with our restricted way of eating plus the lack of local ingredients to bake a palatable gluten-free cake, we will be dessert free.

At the grocery store today, I had hoped to find cream cheese to make our low carb, sugar-free, grain-free, starch-free, “Cream Cheese Clouds” a favorite candy that freezes into a delectable candy. See the recipe at the end of this post.

There was no cream cheese and no butter, both ingredients needed to make this candy. Also lacking at the little store, the biggest in the area was Italian sausage to make our pizza tonight (what we kept in the little fridge last week while living in the “water-free” zone looked suspicious so we tossed it). 

There also was no breakfast sausage and no fresh veggies other than giant carrots and onions which we purchased. See my Facebook page for more details of our grocery shopping experience this morning.

In the morning, we’ll cut some fresh flowers growing everywhere around us.  I’ll set the table on the veranda with the placemats and linen napkins I borrowed from the restaurant for our time here.  We’ll crack the bottle of sparkling wine that we saved from the first night aboard the Celebrity Equinox using the champagne flutes in our villa’s cupboard. 

We’ll dine on the leftover pizza that we’re making tonight provided we don’t devour it all tonight. (We used Polish sausage in place of Italian sausage. We shall see how that works out).

No cards to open, no gifts to unwrap, and no homemade cake with pink fluffy frosting sticking to our fingers.  What there will be is the love to behold, the companionship to cherish, the commitment to comfort, the future to anticipate, and the moment…ah, the moment that will last forever.

Happy Valentine’s Day Pam and Jerry!  Happy Valentine’s Day to my husband. Happy Valentine’s Day to our four children, their spouses, our six grandchildren, our combined ten siblings and their significant others, our aunts, our uncles, our nieces, our nephews, our cousins, and all of their extended family members and all of our friends, all of whom we left behind, all of whom we send our love.

Love is universal. Love is worldwide. Love is wafting through the air in our lives every day and hopefully, in yours.

Recipe for:

CREAM CHEESE CLOUDS 

32 ounces cream cheese, softened 
2 cup unsalted butter, softened 
3 cup granular Splenda or equivalent liquid Splenda * ¾ tsp liquid

1 T vanilla or other flavoring  (use red food coloring to make them pink if you’d like)

Beat everything with an electric mixer until fluffy. Drop by bite-size spoonful onto a wax paper-lined baking sheet.  Or if you’d prefer to make it easier, pour onto the bottom of a parchment or wax paper-lined cookie sheet and spread around until 1/3″ thick.  When frozen, break apart as you would peanut brittle into the bite-sized piece.

Freeze until firm, at least 1 hour. Store in the freezer and eat frozen.

Makes 96 clouds

* I didn’t think they were quite sweet enough with 1/2 cup so I used liquid Splenda to equal 3/4 cup granular. The counts are based on 3/4 cup Splenda.

NOTE: You
can store these in the freezer and they will hold their shape quite well as
long as they are good and cold.

With
granular Splenda: 

Per Cloud: 70 Calories; 7g Fat; 1g
Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; 0g Dietary Fiber; 1g Net Carb 


Per 2 Clouds: 140 Calories; 14g Fat; 2g Protein; 2g Carbohydrate; 0g Dietary
Fiber; 2g Net Carbs

With
liquid Splenda: 
Per 2 Clouds: 134 Calories; 14g Fat;
2g Protein; .5g Carbohydrate; 0g Dietary Fiber; .5g Net Carbs 

Per 4 Clouds: 268 Calories; 29g Fat; 3g Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; 0g Dietary
Fiber; 1g Net Carb

 

Back in Cartagena today…updates..

In order for us to get to Belize by cruise ship, we’ve had to repeat a port of call of Cartagena, Columba, along a similar route on the cruise through the Panama Canal.  We knew this when we booked the two back to back cruises.  Since
we’re using cruises as a “mode of transportation” where possible, this didn’t concern us at all.

We’ve decided to stay onh the ship rather than take one of the over-rated expensive excursions all ofw whichultimately end in shopping which neither of us cares to do.  Weo could wander off on our own but, we heard stories of muggings and pickpocketse nearthe cruise ships ports-of-call. 

Its open season fort thieves when passengers wander off on their own on foot from the pier.

Content with our decision to stay behind, we especially enjoy the time on the ship when
half the passengers are off on the various excursions. 

There’s plenty of seating at the pool where we’ll wander off to shortly to work on our 45 minute a day tan while enjoying the poolside band, mostly oldies from our youth.  They played to the crowd when aboard ship are seniors, like us.

 Last night, we opted for aa late dinner, instead going to the show in the Equinox Theatre at 7:00 pm.

Much to our surprise the entertainer, Jack Walker, a fabulous performer from Las Vegas was on this ship doing the same show he had done on the Celebrity Century.  We’d watched his show two weeks ago!

Upon entering the theatre early to ensure we secured good seats, we stopped him as he entered the theatre to tell him we’d watched his show on the Celebrity Century only two weeks ago to which he was delighted and surprised, apologizing that we’d have to sit through a repeat of his earlier show.

Tom made me laugh, when he said to Jack, “Jack, we’re groupies following you around the world!”
We all belly laughed.

The show was equally entertaining a second
time. Ending at 9:00 PM we were both ready for dinner and sauntered to the Silhouette Dining Room passing through the casino on the
way. 

We have yet to waste a dollar on gambling, although it’s tempting when hearing the sounds of the clanging machines. We have a few “Captain’s Club” gambling coupons we’ve yet to use fearful that once we’d lose that, we’d be inclined to keep going.. 

We have a lot of world to visit.  Wasting our funds on gambling seems pointless and foolish.
As we walked though the casino we talked about the unlikely possibility of winning in a casino and the natural human behavior to continue gambling until the “winnings’ are gone.  Its irresistible. 

We only know one person who is continually “ahead” of the game, playing smart poker, leaving the tables when losing, not getting emotional about winning or losing. He knows who he is.  That would not be us!  Thus, we stay away.

As you read this post, you might say, “Good grief, these two are conservative!”

You know what?  There’s nothing conservative about leaving everyone you know and love,
getting rid of everything you own, being car-less, homeless and stuff-less. We’re new at this.  We’ve decided to pace ourselves,  physically, financially and emotionally.  As we experience more and more
v overtime, we’ll spread our wings always striving to make financial, security and physical safety a priority.

Shortly after 9 PM we were seated at a cozy window table for two, white linen napkins placed on our laps as a flurry of servers scurried around us: cocktail waiter, wine steward, waiter’s assistant, tuxedo dressed waiter and then, the head maître d whom we’ve come to know these past few days.

There was little on the menu in the way of appetizers or entrées that fit my strict diet.  The
waiter insisted they will make anything I want.  I opted for an appetizer seafood platter with sautéed scallops and shrimp on a bed of cabbage and arugula with grilled grape tomatoes, again a tangy Caesar salad minus croutons and grilled salmon accompanied by my usual plate of steamed buttered vegetables.  

Tom continues to surprise mebwhen he ordered the seafood risotto appetizer as well as the butternut squash soup  Oh my, all these years I’ve suggested he try new foods, falling on deaf ears.  Now, he tries and enjoys everything put inr front of him.  

Almost every night at dinner, as he spreads his epicurean wings, he asks me if I’m mad at him for
turning down all the fancy foods I prepared for myself   I am thrilled he’s trying them now.

As the dessert menus were handed to us, the waiter in the tuxedo said, “Madame, Chef Xavier has a dessert for you.”

Tom ordered the Tiramisu.  Moments later, the waiter appeared with Tom’s traditional Tiramisu, setting it in front of him and then grinning from ear to ear proudly placed a bowl of low carb, gluten-free, grain-free, starch-free, sugar-free Tiramisu in front of me.

Looking up at Tom from what appeared to be a bowl of pure wonderfulness, we both smiled at the same time. Yes, this is heaven. And yes, it was delectable…

Our cruise bill…Our last full day aboard ship..

Based on our accumulated bill for Thursday, January 17th and expected charges for this evening, cash tips we’re leaving the waiters, cabin steward, etc., we will have spent an additional $1210 (we budgeted $1450) over and above the cost of the cruise, our balcony cabin with one queen bed, for a grand total of $6755.48. 

Our average cost per day at $450.37 for all expenses, was much higher than we’ll experience on future cruises. This Panama Canal cruise is more expensive than other cruises based on the cost the ship incurs for its transit through the canal. They estimate their bill to be between $350,000 to $450,000, due to variables Panama charges for each transit. Of course, this expense is rolled out into the fare.

We have so much enjoyed this experience that we have no regrets about the cost. When we’ll arrive in Belize in 12 days, the cost of living will be more economical over the next almost three months. The rent for our little house on the beach is only $1275 a month. Of course, we’ll report our actual costs after the cruise to Belize ends at the end of this month and our costs after our time in Belize.

It’s Wednesday night at 11:00 pm. We just arrived back at our cabin after another fun evening aboard ship.  As much as we’ve branched out, trying new things we found ourselves, like most other cruise passengers, working our way into a familiar routine which is irresistible when at sea for 15 nights.

Awakening each morning no later than 7:00, we’d shower, dress and meander to the 11th deck for coffee and buffet breakfast in the Island’s Café, an enormous, efficient, spotless, well-staffed restaurant offering a wide array of breakfast foods from all over the world.

Tom, off his gluten-free diet during the cruise (he’ll be back to normal when we get situated on land soon) loaded up on eggs, bacon, sausage, a few little Danish pastries, and a glass of much-missed orange juice.

My daily choices, limited by my continuing commitment to stay healthy, is not only a low carb gluten-free diet, but eliminates all grains, starches, and sugar.

Surprisingly, I’ve been able to enjoy many foods aboard the Celebrity Century.

These many past days my breakfast has included Eggs Benedict (minus the English muffin), topped with guacamole, a side of smoked salmon with cream cheese, capers, and sliced tomatoes plus 3-4 slices of bacon, Asian garlic beef, and a plate of grilled non-starchy vegetables. 
 

Having checked with the chef to ensure all of these items met the criteria of my way of eating, I enjoyed my two huge plates of breakfast each day plus a three-course dinner in the formal dining room each night (gluten-free and sugar-free items are designated on the menu). Leaving the ship feeling well and nary an ounce heavier, I am thrilled they so easily accommodated me.  

On the other hand, Tom, also eating only two meals a day (no snacking), leaves the ship still wearing his size 34 pants with only a few pound gain which surely will be lost once we get to our own cooking when we arrive at our beach home in Placencia Belize on January 29th. 

Tom surprised me by ordering Oysters Rockefeller for his first course at dinner tonight, enjoying every morsel. Every night at dinner he’s tried new foods, many he had refused to try in the past.

Staying healthy and fit is vital to the success of our continuing world travels over the next few years.  As Norovirus ravaged our ship, we stayed mindful of frequent hand washing, avoided handshaking and touching public areas. 
We not only dodged a bullet without a single incident of seasickness (without medications), even in the past three days and nights of rough seas but also survived the Norovirus outbreak. 

We stuck to our plan of no more than one hour at the pool in the sun each day completely avoiding sunburns. We walked no less than 10,000 steps per day, per my FitBit pedometer. We attended no less than one educational class, more often two, each day, and managed to see no less than four movies throughout the cruise.

Every night aboard the ship, we attended the 9:00 PM entertainment in the Celebrity Theatre. The first three nights we dined alone, after which we decided it was time to dine with other passengers, sitting at tables designated for meeting new people.  Each occasion has been an opportunity to enjoy the conversation and companionship of people from all over the world. 

At the end of every evening, we’ve reveled in what we jokingly referred to as “another boring day is Paradise,” not only in quality time spent together, but in making new friends and learning the history of unfamiliar areas of the world.

It’s now 12:30 pm on Thursday. We just finished packing all of my clothes in the following manner:

1.  Clothes for the next cruise beginning on Monday, January 21st on the Celebrity Equinox for eight days on our journey to Belize, kept in a separate suitcase. Thus, my other bags won’t be opened during the cruise.

2.  Clothes to wear tonight for dinner and the show

3.  Clothes to wear getting off the ship tomorrow and over the next three days in Boca Raton, Florida.

4.  Clothes to wear to board the ship on Monday. Goodness, that’s confusing. We’re done with that.

After a break for a walk, we’ll go back to the cabin and begin packing all of Tom’s clothing plus all of our miscellaneous items and toiletries. Tonight before 11:00 pm, our tagged bags are to be left outside our cabin door, (the cruise line provided the luggage tags with instructions left in our cabin a few nights ago), clothing and toiletries set aside for the morning when we disembark at 9:30, our designated time.

Tomorrow morning, our friend Carol will pick us up at the pier in her huge SUV (thank goodness) to bring us back to her gorgeous home in Boca Raton, situated on the Inner Coastal Waterway. Weather providing, we can enjoy time relaxing by her pool after we get our laundry done and repacked. Thanks, Carol!
 

We’ve had one great day after another. We promised each other we will never stop being grateful, continuing to treasure each day on its own merits, as if it were the first day on a journey of a lifetime.

The Celebrity Century???  Small with 1800 passengers, a little rough at sea.  Food? Magnificent!  Service? Extraordinary! Ambiance?  Pleasant, a little dated but very nice.  Would we consider Celebrity a cruise line, we will seek out in the future?  Absolutely!

Since this was our first of eight cruises, we don’t feel expert enough to provide a comprehensive review. Once we have a few more experiences under our belts, we’ll assess all of the cruise lines and ships we’ve experienced, sharing our thoughts with our readers.
Stay tuned! Lots more to follo

New Year’s Day…We made it to San Diego…One more day…Happy New Year!

Having offered to put us up for the two days before we sail away on the Celebrity Century to begin the first leg of our worldwide journey, my darling niece and her hospitable husband welcomed us with open arms into their close-to-the-beach home in San Diego with sweeping ocean views.

Not only was our bedroom and private bath perfectly prepared for our visit, but they also cooked an amazing meal befitting our way of eating: prime rib, roasted Brussels sprouts and asparagus, and a mixed green salad with homemade cucumber relish. We were in heaven, relaxed, and at home after the long drive from Scottsdale in New Year’s Day traffic.

Packing the car in Scottsdale with not only our excessive amount of luggage, including miscellaneous items we’re giving to the family before we depart on Thursday, was a daunting task. Tom, with  his usual determination, managed to load it all in the back of the SUV, including the flat-screen TV we had brought along “just in case.” (Which proved to be a worthwhile decision when the bedroom TV in Scottsdale was too small to see to lull us to sleep. We’ll unload it tomorrow on son Richard).

On the drive, we stopped at three locations for breakfast unwilling to wait in the hour-long lines for New Year’s Day. Desperate to get something in our stomachs, we stopped at a McDonald’s figuring we’d find something edible within our diet constraints.  I can’t recall the last time I ate anything at a McDonald’s.  It may have been 10 years ago or more.

Ending up with an awful southwest chicken salad (having requested gluten-free), I had to send back when it wasn’t.  It was covered with some crispy fried things with a side of dressing loaded with sugar (which I didn’t use). Much to my shock, the uncut chicken breast was basted with high fructose corn syrup!  I wiped it  off several times with a napkin in a futile effort to “clean it.”  That’s what we’re feeding our kids? 

Tom, without any choices he’d consider, ordered chicken nuggets and fries.  You’d think after a year and a half of our stringent way of eating, he’d enjoy junk food from his past. Not so much. Back on the road, we darted in and out of holiday traffic, hoping to arrive in time for dinner.

Today with one day until departure, we’ll be running around to complete our final tasks: a trip to the bank to get some arbitrary amount of cash yet to be determined, a venture into a local drugstore for a few last-minute toiletries, a trip to Goodwill to drop off my warm clothing that we won’t need where we’re going so far and a preliminary trip to the cruise ship port to scope out our upcoming arrival tomorrow morning when boarding begins around 10:30 am.

We’ll find a nearby restaurant for lunch with my sister and eldest son who has come to see us off at the pier. He is taking our SUV off of our hands either to sell or keep as an extra vehicle.  It all worked out after all.  We’ll drive ourselves to the pier, unload our bags, meet them for lunch and off we go, hoping they will be able to take a photo of us at the railing of the ship (we’ll post this photo if we get it).

Are we excited yet?  Almost.  Almost excited, holding our emotions at bay in an effort to stay focused on the endless steps necessary to get situated on board the ship.  After all, we are taking virtually everything we own with us, not an easy task.  There will be no home to go back to in order to repack.  There will be no new inventory of clothing and supplies to prepare for the next leg of the journey. This is it.

Tentative?  Yes, a little.  There’s no going back now.  Nervous?  A little.  We are embarking on the first cruise of our lives and yet, we’ve booked eight of them!  Crazy?  Yes, a little.  After spending a lifetime trying to do the “right thing”  we feel that it’s time to take a few chances. 

In the realm of things, what is the worst that will happen, provided no unforeseen disaster occurs?  We won’t like it or, we’ll become seasick that doesn’t resolve after a few days.  Yes, either of these could occur.  What would we do?  We’ll cancel all of the remaining cruises, lose a portion of the deposits we’ve paid (we’d get most of them back in full as long as they are outside the 90 day cancellation period), and venture on as planned, flying as opposed to cruising. 

Over the past year since deciding to embark on this adventure, we’ve discussed every possible scenario we could imagine and how we plan to respond.  As for the unforeseen, which will undoubtedly occur, we shall hopefully utilize rational thinking with the utmost consideration as to what is the best plan for us. 

We’ve taken many precautions that will prove to have been for naught and we’ll experience many situations for which we’re unprepared. We accept that reality which, it itself, is half the battle. 

We’ll tire of hauling our bags. We’ll tire of looking at the same stuff day after day. We’ll tire of not having a car.  We’ll tire of figuring exchange rates and paying exorbitant fees to convert, cash.  And, we’ll tire of language barriers.  

But, we won’t tire of one another as we find ourselves pleasingly and, not surprisingly enjoying being together day after day. That, my friends, is the greatest part of our journey.

Next time we “see” you here on our blog, we’ll be writing from the Celebrity Century. We’ll be unpacked, ready to experience the 23 days of cruising in the month of January and for now, we’ll be “home.”