Cruise Fun and “InvisiBrake” Installation

1/17 to 1/30 of 2014 at all sorts of places including Longwood, FL (Betty/Denny’s pad), ending at Kissimmee, FL (Sherwood Forest RV-Encore)

This will be really short renditions of our adventures, I hope.

Friday (1/17): Left by 11 am heading to Wachula, FL. We stayed with our friends Karen and Sherrie in their RV before our continuation to Miami the next day.

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Saturday (1/18): Left by 7 am for Miami, arriving at the parking lot after quite the struggle through Miami getting there. THEN it was empty except for one guy who proceeded to tell us where we needed to go for the right lot. Sheesh. We weren’t eager to strike out onto those Miami streets again. Plus this was a pretty scuzzy area, near the cruise docks. We made it only to find out we had to take the car up this street to sit in line to wait before we could get into the lot. The great news is that we got on our shuttle to the cruise by 11 am. Woohoo!! Still time plunk our hand carried stuff in our cabins and to gather our lunch goodies. Then we waved goodby to Miami as the ship sailed off. Let me note at this point how impressed John and I were with the Carnival check in process. No standing around, you kept moving until you were on the ship. No need for “special privileges” to get in front of the lines. This was our first time on the Carnival line.

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Sunday (1/19): Rain most of the day – a Sea Day. We nabbed some good chairs with a great view of the huge movie screen above the pool, to enjoy with books and drinks until the big championship game started. Unfortunately we gave up our great seats because the cold rain made life just too miserable, retreating to our inside cabins to watch the end of the last game. Yea Seattle Seahawks!! The girls were rooting for the Denver Broncos so they were happy as well. I’ll note here that we were mightily impressed with the excellent food on this Carnival ship. Our waiter (recommended by others on this trip) made sure our food was really hot or cold as it needed to be. It was also really delicious of course. At least as good or better than Royal Caribbean (the cruise line we’ve used before).

Rain Waiter

Monday (1/20): Port of Grand Turk. We spent our day lounging in the sun (liberal sun tan lotion) and walking the beach. Wonderful hot, sunny weather while the US is suffering heavy duty winter. Didn’t manage to snorkel as we’d anticipated. Hard to believe you can park such a massive ship right on the beach like they can here.

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Tuesday (1/21): Port of Dominican Republic at La Romana. The girls reminded us that this is where the US recruits a lot of their baseball players, so that explained the many baseball fields we saw from the ship. We’d heard there is a lot of criminal activity here since the earthquake hit Haiti (both comprise the island of Hispanola), so we just walked into the cruise shopping area, enjoyed the lovely scenery, and got back to the ship to relax playing cards, reading and soaking in the hot tubs. I even climbed along the “Sky Course”. John didn’t want to do that but he did slide down the water slides while I was content taking pictures.

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Wednesday (1/22): Port of Curacao. We loved walking over the floating bridge. Then we took a cab to the Curacao Liqueur Company and enjoyed their tour and free samples. I was sorely tempted to buy some Choco or Rum Raisin liqueur, but John vetoed the idea. Back in town we saw that the bridge was opened apart so a couple cruise ships and others could pass through. It was a long, hot wait for it to come together again. We all were glad to make it back onto the comforts of our ship.

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Thursday (1/23): Port of Aruba. This is the only place where we signed up for a cruise tour; riding on a catamaran and snorkeling. The first stop was near a beach, where the water was so clear and the fish wonderfully beautiful and plentiful. Our second stop was right next to the “Antilles”, a treasure ship that had sunk. This time the water was dark and murky, very rough (it had gotten much windier by now) and the fish hard to find. John and the girls didn’t stay in the water long, but “Miss Determined” stayed until the whistle to come in. I found a nice selection of fish on the far and brighter side of that shipwreck. After our snorkeling (and before) we broke down and bought things: t shirts, polo shirts and a white dress to wear over my swim suit. The last image is of the pilot boat that leads the cruise ship out of the dock area alongside a pier where you can see the ropes that anchor it. There are others of course. I kept waiting to get a photo of when they let those ropes loose, but naturally I got tired of holding the camera in the cold wind and gave up too soon.

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Friday (1/24): The first of 2 Sea days back to home port at Miami. Karen and Sherri exercised then hot tubbed every morning except our snorkel day. I managed to join them a few times- it was hard getting up early. We had great times playing cards, reading and soaking in the pools/hot tubs/slides during these days. We finished our day off with an evening of adult comedy, something we’ve rarely seen.

Saturday (1/25): Ditto of the day before. I finished 2 ship library books that were excellent! To be truthful I didn’t quite finish the 2nd book “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs, but I plan to get it from some other library.

Sunday (1/26): Up at 5:30 am so we can eat at 6 and be ready to leave at 7 am. Thanks for a great time, Carnival Breeze!  My only complaint is that our room was directly above the Ocean Plaza where music played late into the night.  We heard and felt the beat.  It has always been dead quiet in our Royal Caribbean cabins.

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One more thing, though: I liked that Carnival allows/encourages “Self Assist”, where you can carry your own luggage down on “disembarkation” day, leaving the others. It was a bit crazy as all us “Self Assist” people tried to leave without following some procedures in an effort to try to get out first. Still we were to our car and on our way by 8 am. We were impressed. Then we tried using I-95 and I-75, then SR 27 to get home. We figure we had our best chance early in the morning on a Sunday and we were right. Smooth sailing to Wachula to drop off our friends, share lunch and get John’s golf clubs with their new grips. A friend of Sherri’s put them on while we were on our cruise for a very good price. John and I made it to Longwood by 2:30 pm which was sooner than we’d expected. It helped not to have been held up by any accidents on I-4 like we’d enjoyed when we’d come from Marathon to Longwood.

Once we’d settled into our RV, we went with Betty and Denny to Mike and Marcie’s for a lovely pasta dinner. When we returned to Longwood we visited with Betty and Denny, playing the new card game we’d learned from Karen and Sherri, “Golf” until bedtime. Everyone is SO generous.

Monday (1/27): John gets to play real golf at a tournament. Before he left we squeezed our Miss Zanzibar out of her tight spot on Betty/Denny’s pad over to an open driveway, where he would have an easier time leaving early Tuesday. While John had a great time (he deserved it after all that driving of late) I spent the day washing our ton of clothes (it seemed like). Dear Betty offered to let me use her brand new washing machine. Unfortunately the water backed up in their drain, so we had a mess to clean up. She insisted on doing it herself. In between loads I cleaned up various issues like our credit card. It was expired early because of the Target credit card info mess, but they’d sent their warning letter and new cards to Spokane, of course. So we had no clue. Our card was declined in Aruba. We used cash but ran into problems with the cruise needing more money. It’s really expensive to use our phone in International waters so we didn’t want to go there. Thank heavens the cruise guest services offered complementary use of their phones. I still had lots to clear up when we got back though. Thanks to our son Joe sending our stuff via Fed Ex we got our new cards Monday before we were to leave Betty and Denny’s. Yea! We were also scheduled to go to Wachula tomorrow (Tuesday) but we were concerned about getting there after our Camping World installation that was to take 5 hours or more. We dreaded the idea of driving and setting up late, possibly in the dark. So I made several calls and managed to arrange our next 2 weeks at Sherwood Forest which just happens to be right down the road from Camping World! Best ending: while John enjoyed a dinner at the golf course I got to join Betty/Denny and Rick/Marg at the Ale House for a yummy dinner with them.

Tuesday (1/28): We had an appointment at Camping World to install the Roadmaster “InvisiBrake” system at 8:30 am. We needed to get through the congested Orlando traffic and the accident prone I-4 to get there. Not to mention the heavy standstill high school student traffic near Betty/Denny’s right about the time we planned to leave. After much planning with our dear hosts we developed a plan to leave before 6:45 am. Due to not sleeping so well, we were up and ready to go (no breakfast as planned) by 6:40 am. Right off we hit the high school traffic, but it just lasted a couple blocks because we were so early. On to I-4 that had no accidents, arriving at Camping World by 7:40 am. Hey, I’d far rather be real early than late. When I called to let Betty know we’d arrived she told me they had heard that there would be heavy traffic on I-4 because the “Holy Land Experience” would be open for free that day so to stay off I-4. They didn’t want to worry us and we were early enough that we missed the big mess. She also had great news: Denny (who built their amazing 6 sided house) dug up the pipes, found the issue (dirt piling up while they waited 5 months for the new washing machine) and fixed it!

As for Camping World, I’ll just say that we learned over the day that they’d lost personnel and were behind with their work. Long story short: we spent a beautiful warm sunny day waiting and waiting and waiting until 5:18 pm when we concluded with the service writer that it would be best to drive our RV (they were working on our car all this time with promises that they’d be calling for the RV any minute) to Sherwood Forest. I can just imagine the stress we’d have felt trying to figure out when to contact our campground in Wachula and what to say/do. We were in bed by 8:30 pm.

Wednesday (1/29): We drove our motorhome over to Camping World for its treatment and got our car which was finally ready!!! Time to drive to our lunch with Bonnie and Gene. We met them in Hawaii in the winter of 2008. They live in Minnesota but we found out we were all in Florida for the winter so this was our chance to get together at their timeshare condo. This was a pretty cold, windy, rainy day. 44 degrees feels like freezing in Florida. I think we’re becoming acclimated to the warmth plus their humidity adds to the sense of cold. Still we had a warm time visiting, sharing Bonnie’s hit-the-spot lunch (deviled eggs, pasta salad, sandwich makings and fruit) and exploring the Marriot World Center Hotel. Wow, the glass elevator takes you up 28 floors-such fun. John noted that we needed to get back soon so we could get the RV to our campground before the dark and more rain. I called, they said it was ready. Yea! Off we went after hugs and goodbyes. We hope to get together for cards Friday. At Camping World it took awhile to get Miss Zanzibar able to move (blocked) and the tech to show John how our new braking system (for the towed car) works. It’ll be SO much simpler than our clunky Brake Buddy.

Ah, finally, in a campsite with room to put out all our slides and even receive satellite TV. We celebrated with wine and our leftover pasta (from Marcie’s lovely dinner).

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About Patricia Elser

I've always loved the loose, flowing, transparent look of watercolors, of Chinese paintings and their calligraphy, but alas, no watercolor classes were available when I was in school, so that interest remained buried until my children were grown. Even then, I was afraid that I couldn't really paint, so upon my sister's advice, I actually started to take classes. I signed up for every class available, determined to learn no matter how afraid I was. I came upon a teacher, Stan Miller, who inspired me, who opened the door to success in watercolor. I love to look at beautiful images. I want to capture them forever. All my life, photography was how I gathered images of the beauty I saw. Thanks to all that photography, I enjoy composing pictures, especially up close. Watercolors allow me to add more of me in their translation of that beauty. My paintings reflect my love for music and dance, with their rhythm and flow. I am fascinated by the play of light, so it appears in my pictures as drama for they are filled with darks and lights. Maybe it's the challenge, maybe it's the beauty, but now, when a work comes together, it fills my soul.
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