Monday, May 29, 2017

Coming Soon . . .

Stay tuned for all the details . . . 

Weekend in Seattle, Washington

Friday, March 10, 2017

Day 7: Spring Break 2017

Today is the last full day on the boat.  It has been a relaxing Spring Break!!!  Today is yet another lazy day.  At least we had this to look at . . .
We did manage to get out and play some miniature golf.
. . . and we ate . . . . . . and we napped . . . . . . and the cycle continued until our last round of golf after our late dinner.  It was back to the room to pack our bags to get off the boat early and head to the Tampa airport for our flight back to Texas!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Day 6: Spring Break 2017

We had a very leisurely wake up.  I mean when you don't do much and are on a boat I guess everyday is just about being leisurely!  We had a quick lunch before getting off the boat.  Today we are in Cozumel, Mexico.  I like Cozumel . . . it is easy to come and go on the ship and plenty of places to walk around and just browse the local junk crafts.  Our excursion did not leave until 2pm so we had plenty of time to hang out.  We met our group at 2pm and boarded the catamaran.  The best part was there were only 26 people on our entire boat!  26 . . . the morning group had over 100!  How nice it was.  Today was going to be our hang out on the water day with snorkeling and beach time.  Colin was ready . . .
I love to snorkel.  We were dropped off and the current carried us which was nice.
We spent about 45 minutes in the water and saw a lot of beautiful fish!
I need a new waterproof camera!  I have researched a lot but just can't decide.  Then we boarded the catamaran where it took us to a beach with all sorts of inflatable things in the water.
Guess who picked this excursion?  He had a fun time and thankfully there were two other kids on the excursion with us that he played with while I continued to lounge.  He loved playing in the sand.
It was back to the big boat where we quickly boarded and set sail back to Florida.  It has been a fun week but at this point you know the fun is over so you just want to be home!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Day 5: Spring Break 2017

Early mornings are difficult so you order room service for breakfast!
They forgot the bacon!  Really, the bacon was missing!  And you know what else annoys me?  When they put hot water in the little carafe AFTER it has had coffee.  The hot water tasted like coffee.  It is a problem ALL the time.  Please have special water only carafes, people!  One of the main reasons I picked this cruise was it was only 5 days and one of the stops was at the Cayman Islands.  Colin had been asking to return to Stingray City.  We all remember that disaster of an experience for him.  He was so excited about going a few years ago, but when we arrived his feet never touched the sand and he had very little interaction with the sting rays.  My dad and I loved it while my mom watched from the boat.  It was a fabulous private excursion that I would do again.  Since it was just the two of us the cost was not economical so we opted for an excursion with the cruise ship.  Another negative about a stop in the Cayman Islands is you must tender to the shore which can take a long time.  One of the perks taking an excursion with the cruise ship is you get off first!  So we were all set and then we got a call they had cancelled all excursions to Stingray City due to high winds.  Bummer!  So we just booked a trip to 7 Mile Beach.  I was led to believe ALL tour companies had cancelled ALL trips to Stingray City which turned out to not be true.  When we got off there were random people/companies selling trips to Stingray City.  We had already paid for the beach trip so I wasn't about to book another trip.  Colin could not understand my logic.  Plus I had no idea if these companies were legit or not.  We met our group and boarded buses that dropped us at the beach.  It was nice.  We found us two lounge chairs and just relaxed and hung out on the beach.  The water was wonderful . . .
Colin was bored with just lounging so we rented a kayak.  He wanted to go alone but due to age I had to go with him.  I tried to explain to him how much harder it was to paddle a kayak in the open water.  He said it would be easy.  Well that lasted about 10 seconds.  Guess who was in the back working hard?  
Thankfully we only rented it for an hour.  I knew from our last trip the Cayman Islands were expensive.  We were hungry so decided to just order a light snack . . . 2 appetizers, 1 soda, and 1 adult drink . . .  $58!  I will admit the spring rolls and wings were great and so was the Mudslide too!
But $58 . . . not so sure about that.  We enjoyed just doing nothing but were a bit disappointed with the excursion knowing what we paid.  You live and learn so next time we will be better prepared.  Of course I spent a lot of time researching the original excursion that was cancelled so maybe next time I keep a back up plan just in case.  We found the never ending tender line  and headed back to the boat . . .
 . . . took a shower and just relaxed.  We were still hungry so ordered room service which took almost 2 hours to arrive at our cabin.  Insane!  Our motto of relaxation continued as we watched mindless television and headed to dinner.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Day 4: Spring Break 2017

Nothing but blue skies and blue water . . .
. . . not a bad way to wake up if you ask me!  We walked around a bit,  we napped a lot, and we ate more than we should have today.
It has been so nice and relaxing . . . I think I am almost caught up on all the lost sleep from caring for the broilers.  Tomorrow we get off the ship and can't wait!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Day 3: Spring Break 2017

It is a Monday morning.  It was time to head to the cruise terminal to board the Brilliance of the Seas.  I enjoy cruises.  It is the easiest vacation to plan!  We will be on the boat for 5 days and making 2 port of call stops.  We dropped the rental car at the airport and took a taxi to the Port of Tampa.  It was easy and the cab fare was only $25.  Of course the taxi reeked of smoke . . . it was awful.  Colin sneeze and coughed the entire way there which was an adventure in and of it self.  The driver was not the safest but we were just happy to be outside with fresh smoke free air to breath.  Checking in for the cruise was super easy!  By the time we got on board, we grabbed a quick bite to eat and headed right for our cabin.
The odd thing about this balcony was you could go to the edge and look right into the neighbors balcony.  It was the first time we have ever had this problem.
It was odd but it wasn't going to keep me from enjoying some sail away sweet treats as we left Tampa.
The ship was older but perfectly fine.  Last year we went on two of the huge mega ships so being on a smaller one was different.  Colin actually prefers the smaller ships.  We headed to dinner and were seated at a table with 4 lovely college girls from Virginia and a couple about my age from somewhere up north.  Everyone was nice, but I prefer to sit at a table with just us.  The one thing that is obvious as you look around is that there are a ton of college kids on this cruise.  It feels like about 75% are college aged kids with most being large groups of boys.  There are times at dinner where I feel as if we are at a fraternity house party . . . not that I ever really went to frat parties but it was interesting and definitely always entertaining.  Colin would pick out the intoxicated ones and watch them and laugh.  It was a good first day and look forward to five days of relaxing.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Day 2: Spring Break 2017

It was an early wake up . . . cold outside too which made me doubt our excursion today.  We would be swimming with the manatees this morning . . . the water is a constant 72 degrees which is why the manatees come to Crystal River in the winter.  We would be wearing a wet suit but 72 is still cold to me!  Colin was excited but I had my doubts he would interact after his experience with the stingrays in the Cayman Islands a few years back.  I mean these manatee are HUGE and weigh hundreds of pounds.  Let's be honest this was all about me today and if he got in the water great and if not oh well.  So we arrived, got a briefing on the rules, wedged myself into a wet suit, and headed out for the houseboat.  Our group was only 5 people which was great!
However, when we arrived at the drop area there were A LOT of other groups there.  We were warmed up with a bucket of hot water down our wet suit which made that first feel of the cool water wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  You stay warm for the most part.  I was so excited that the cold never bothered me.  We quickly saw a group of manatee hanging out in the protected area . . .
. . . the water was really clear once you got away from the people . . .
. . . and then we swam into The Three Sisters Spring where the manatee like to hang out.  Today there were none there so we spent some time looking at the fish . . .
. . . and sort of just hang out waiting and hoping one would show up . . .
. . . we watched the the natural springs bubble . . .
. . . and then we left because there were no manatee in the area.  Of course as we were almost out one swam right in so what does our guide do?
She turns us around and we follow it before the other groups notice.  Well it was worth it.  I stayed back and watched from afar but not Colin.  He was all up in there trying to get a front row seat!  I must admit it was amazing.  We were that close.  You can only touch the manatee if they make contact with you first.  There are a lot of guides above water reminding you of this and yelling often to stay back.  It was a bit annoying.  All of the photos below are the same manatee.  That is Colin with the yellow camera strap on his wrist with the camera dangling in the water.
. . . and then it was time to swim back to the boat.  As we were swimming back, a manatee just zipped by us.  Colin was so excited he spotted it on his own.
We made one last stop at Jurassic Springs but no more manatees to be found.  Of course Colin loved this bird!
I really did enjoy our time in the water.  It went by soooo fast too.  I would so do this again.  We were there at the end of the high season so the manatee were starting to go out for the season.  I think when we do this again we would come in December.  The tour was so worth it!
We made a quick stop at the hotel to shower and change into dry clothes!  Since Colin picked our meal last night, today I picked to eat at Crackers.  Of course we arrived at the busy time and the wait was awful so we opted to sit outside in the bar deck area which turned out to be awesome!  We enjoyed hanging out in the beautiful sunny weather, watching people, listening to live music and eating good food too!  The crab cakes were excellent as were the shrimp too.
It was back on the road towards Clearwater Beach.  The traffic was awful.  When I planned this I was not thinking about it being a Sunday afternoon . . . it took us much longer than I had planned, but we did have time to drop our bags and head to the beach for a walk.  I also did not think about it being Spring Break and the beach was packed with college kids and loud music.  Colin wasn't so thrilled so we left and went to play miniature golf.
Let's just hope in a few years he feels the same way about Spring Break and the beach.  We found our way back to the hotel and enjoyed watching some television and relaxing.  Tomorrow we move again.

***We booked our tour with Manatee Fun Tours which is booked by calling River Ventures.  I highly recommend this company.  Be sure to do the small group tour on the heated houseboat.  I tell you the extras like warm water in your wet suit before and after the water is amazing plus the hot chocolate was tasty too.  I always prefer small groups and the limit was 6.  We were paired with a family of three who were nice, followed directions and showed up on time.  Super easy to book and the friendly staff answered all my questions too!*** 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Day 1: Spring Break 2017

Our Spring Break offically started in the early hours as we arrived at the Tampa airport.  Our flight was late departing DFW so we arrived just after midnight.  The luggage took forever.  The computers were down at the rental car pick up.  Thankfully the hotel was near by and we were buzzed in since it was so late.  I told Colin if our room was not there then we should just catch the first flight home.  He didn't get it.  Our room was ready and very large . . . of course it was because we would only be there for about 10 hours.  We were both so tired that we walked in and went right to bed!  We finally settled into bed at 2:30am.  Thankfully we did not have any early morning plans so we could wake up late . . . late we did.  I rolled over and looked at the clock and it said 10:45am.  Wow, didn't feel that late but of course I jumped into let's get moving mode.  One thing about Florida I do like is the toll road system.  Of course, I forgot to ask about it with the rental car agent but last year they just billed us and the extra convenience fee wasn't too bad.  So on the road we headed towards Crystal River.  As we were driving I started thinking about all the things I forgot to pack and really needed to stop.  We finally found a Target so I could get a watch . . . I can't stand not having a watch especially since we would be boarding a boat in a few days and the phone would be shut off for the week.  I made a quick stop and also asked about food.  Just an exit up the road was a Chick-fil-a and anything else you might need because I then realized I did not have my nail clippers when I went to take my watch out of the case because it was zip tied in there.  I swear the little things really add extra to a trip.  Our day was quickly ticking away but I knew in order for me to be satisfied on our first day that I must stop somewhere.  So we stopped at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.  It was crowded so it must be good, right?  I really did not know what to expect but thought why not.  I had read that it used to be one of those road side touristy animal parks and then the state took it over and made it into a preserve.  Anyway, you had to either take a boat or tram or walk to get to the entrance.  We took the boat there since it was late and they told us it was scenic.  We had to wait about 25 minutes which was fine . . . it was shaded and we watched a gator and fish swimming below us.  The boat ride was nice with the guide giving a history of the area and how the state took it over.  It was hard to believe we were in the middle of a populated area with all the trees and water.
I would have never paid to visit this place if it was just a touristy attraction but since it seemed like a rescue/rehab zoo then I thought it was justified.  It was a short walk to the entrance . . .
 . . . and honestly it felt like a zoo.  We wandered around looking at the animals and stopping to watch them too.  We loved watching the birds.  Apparently it was feeding time.
One of the famous residents is Lu the Hippo.  She was made an honorary citizen of the State of Florida when they took over the park.
Apparently she is very shy because we waited to see her and she never surfaced completely.  The main reason we are in this part of Florida was to see the manatees.  It has been on my to do list for a long time so tomorrow we are crossing that off!  There was a nice viewing area to watch them from above . . .
. . . there were a lot of them just hanging out enjoying the beautiful sunny day!  I can not wait until tomorrow!  We had seen what we needed to see so headed back to the car on the tram.  Our hotel wasn't too far down the road.  We did a quick drive on the main street and headed to the hotel for an unexpected late nap.  We finally decided to head out for dinner.  We had a choice of steak or seafood and of course we all know that Colin picked steak . . . so we headed to Cody's Original Roadhouse.  It was very crowded but looked like a fun place to eat and instead of them calling your name or giving you a buzzer you got a card . . . you really had to pay attention and every time they called a number I had to check our card.
I must admit the steak was excellent and cooked just perfect!  I guess Colin made a good choice!  Now back to the hotel for the big event very early tomorrow morning.