Universal Studios & The Magic Kingdom

30 06 2018

11 Jun 18

Today started off with buying some coffee and filters and then returning the rental car.  I found the rental car return desk off the hotel lobby and patiently waited.  I am not quite sure where I learned or developed this habit, but I strive to always be at appointments 5-10 minutes before the appointment time.  8am came an went with no rental company representative in spite of the fact that the sign on the desk indicated they were open starting at 8am.  I decided I wasn’t going to wait any longer and filled out the paperwork and dropped off the keys.  We had a busy day ahead and I wasn’t going to waste it waiting to return a car.  Having been burned by a different rental company when I did the same thing in the past, I decided to take a video of the rental car before I left the hotel.

Yesterday we purchased some breakfast foods and we had breakfast in the room this morning.  Then it was off to Universal Studios.  The main draw here, at least for 75% of the group, was Harry Potter World.  I have never read the books and I have only seen a few of the movies.  Now Pandora, Ikran and the Na’vi are my thing!  That will be another blog post.

We had 4 tickets to get in to Universal Studios and at this point in the vacation, there are 5 in our party.  You know that saying that “more is caught than taught”?  I was reminded of that today.  I knew there were 4 tickets and 5 people.  I was going to stay in the hotel room while the others went to see Harry Potter Land.  However, my youngest caught my trick of setting up the situation such that I get to be the one that doesn’t go.  Unfortunately, she learned it and implemented it before I had a chance today.

So we went to Universal Studios.  After getting tickets, we went directly to Diagon Alley and wandered around there.  My wife and daughters went in to many of the shops.  I tried going in to a few but there were just too many people in too small of a space.  Below is a picture of my wife and two daughters in front of Gringotts Bank.  There is a dragon on the top of the bank that occasionally breathes fire.  Sorry no picture of the fire-breathing dragon.

Gringotts

We got some ice cream as a snack and I had the ButterBeer ice cream.  It was actually pretty good.  We, mostly they, wandered around shops in Hogsmeade.

 

We had some lunch and then rode the Hogwarts Express.

After that my lovely wife and I decided to go to the castle and go on the ride.

HogwartsCastle

The ride is kind of like a roller coaster where you are strapped in a four seat bench and you fly through various parts of Hogwarts including flying through a Quidditch match.  I don’t get motion sick but I was NOT feeling all that well after this ride.  I can say I did it once.  I don’t know that there is anything that could convince me to ride that one again.

On the way out of Universal Studios, I took a picture of a beautiful Hibiscus.

Hibiscus

Also on the way out my awesome daughter pretended to be a dinosaur.

DaughterDino

After we left Universal Studios we went back to our room in Disney Springs to get my youngest daughter who “had” to do some errands and couldn’t go to Universal Studios with us.  We went and spent some time in the Magic Kingdom and rode the people mover.

DaughtersPeopleMover

The adults were in the vehicle behind our daughters.

After doing a few more things in the Magic Kingdom, we went for dinner at Ohana.  While waiting for our reservation, I took a picture of Maui and the flowers in the lobby of the Polynesian resort.

TikiFlowers

We were finally seated and took some pictures while waiting for the food to start arriving.

 

After dinner we took a family picture in front of Maui

OhanaFamily

Until next time





Vacation Part 2

28 06 2018

10 June 18

This was the last day of the cruise part of our vacation.  I am not sure why but I woke up about 4:30 in the morning and noticed that there was a storm outside with lightning.  I had left the curtains open on the window in our room and the flash of lighting indicated the storm in the distance.  Since I knew we were going to be pulling in to port, I decided that I ought to close the drapes just in case we got in to port before we actually woke up.

We arrived in port a little before the expected time.  We had our last breakfast onboard the cruise ship, packed up the last of our stuff and disembarked from another wonderful cruise.  

At the suggestion of the cruise staff, I tried downloading the Customs & Border Patrol app to electronically fill out the customs paperwork.  The idea is that this will help the traveler get through customs quicker.  However, the final submission must be done within 4 hours of when you expect to go through customs.  I did that.  Prior to leaving Puerto Costa Maya, I added all the passport information and current pictures for the family.  About 20 minutes before we disembarked, I completed the electronic customs form and got receipts showing the forms had been submitted. 

At this point I thought all was well.  We got to the customs desk for those using the electronic app and apparently the form has to be completed BEFORE you get on to US soil and about an hour before you plan to go through customs.  I was still on the ship that was docked to the pier so I guess that now qualified as US soil.  This means that the 4 hour window is actually only about 3 hours.  This is definitely doable but unless I purchased the internet package on board the ship, there is no way I could have done the official submittal an hour before disembarking as we were still too far from shore to get a cell signal.

We got the rental car and drove up from Fort Lauderdale to Orlando to see my awesome middle daughter.  Somewhere between Fort Lauderdale and Orlando the display on my youngest daughter’s Google Pixel 2 phone started to turn from normal to purple eventually to black. 

Being the daughter of a “Tech Lord”, that is the families name for me, my oldest daughter had the presence of mind to help get all the data from the failing phone backed up to the cloud before the display became unusable.  Very smart thinking on her part!

We had lunch and then checked in to the Disney Springs Resort my youngest daughter is a member of the Disney Vacation Club.  After getting all our luggage into our room it was time to deal with the phone.  Given that it was a 1-1/2 year old Google Pixel 2, which no-one apparently carries replacement screens for, we ended up going to the Verizon store and getting her a new phone.  I tried really hard to convince her to come to the “dark side” and get an iPhone but she decided on a new Galaxy S9. 

We wandered around Disney Springs and had some dinner.  After dinner we went to the top floor of the Disney Contemporary Resort.  The Top Of The World Lounge is up there with areas outside to watch the fireworks.  

Before the fireworks started we got to see part of the electrical parade on the lake.

DisneyWaterParade

Here is a picture of the fireworks.

DisneyFireworks

 

Until next time





Our Second Sea Day

27 06 2018

09 June 2018

Today is our “sea day” of the voyage.  Another day spent cruising to our next, and final port.  In getting up and moving today, I found out that the time I spent on the stair-master ath the gym was not wasted.  Not only has it helped me lose weight, it has strengthened my quadricep muscles.  I know this because my lovely wife and daughters all had sore quads today from climbing the steps at the Kohunlich Mayan Ruins.  However, I am happy to say my quads were just fine.

Decided I was going to do the aqua dance exercise class.  My lovely wife joined me.  Sorry, my daughters didn’t take any pictures of my wife and I doing the YMCA in the pool!  Even if they had, this is my blog and they might not not have been published.  When the class started out there were 4 of us in the pool.  When it ended there were maybe 25 or so folks participating.

In the afternoon, my youngest and I participated in a wine tasting class.  We started out with the sparkling wine.  It was a “Classic” Chandon Brute from California.  Next was Empress Sissi from Austria.  After that was the Château d’Aussières from France.  My daughter liked all these white wines.  The first red wine was Adega Dom Antonio from Ribatejo, Portugal.   Although I am supposedly 1/4th Portuguese, I really didn’t care for this wine.  Actually neither of us cared for that wine. The final red was a Cabernet Sauvignon, Oberon from Napa County, California.

Here is a picture of the wine set up before we tasted them.

WineTasting

Here is a picture of the placemat with all the wine glasses removed.

WinePlacemat

We dressed up for dinner even though it wasn’t a designated formal attire night.  I was accused of acting like a girl with a new dress in regards to wanting to wear my new suit again.  Yes I did want to wear my suit again.  It is new and I look pretty good especially with a Tigger tie!

AllDressedUp

We had reservations last night in the Samba Grill instead of the main dining room.  After the warm welcome we got from the head waiter in our area and the waiter assigned to our table, I felt almost bad that we didn’t have our “formal” dinner with them.  So I decided to dress up just for them. 

After dinner there was a last day sale.  They were selling pretty much everything.  When the sale started it was pandemonium with people pushing and jockeying for position.  I haven’t seen such chaos since I worked in retail and we put out Cabbage Patch dolls.  That should date me some as this was when they first came out.  Anyway, since I didn’t get a t-shirt in Nassau, I decided to get one of the Nassau shirts they were selling on the ship. 

Until next time…





Puerto Costa Maya

26 06 2018

08 Jun 2018

Today we are in Puerto Costa Maya on the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico.  There was quite a bit of wind at the coast and the waves were really pounding the coast line.  The ruins were quite a distance from the port.  In fact it was a 2 hour and 15 minute bus ride to the Kohunlich Mayan Ruins.    

kohunlich

I don’t know that I realized how far away the ruins were from the port.  This is definitely one of those times I am glad this was a ship coordinated excursion.  Had there been any issue getting back in time we wouldn’t of had to be concerned about getting back aboard ship.

The ruins were amazing.  It was interesting to see how another culture lived and the way the “city” was laid out. 

We climbed to the top of the stairs on the tomb which you can see in the first picture as well as the Acropolis which is the second picture.

StairsUpTomb

Staring up the stairs of the tomb

StairsToAcropolisSome of those steps were really large.  I discovered just how weak my right knee is as I couldn’t use it to go up many of the steps.  I think I got a few steps in using my right knee but then gave up and strictly used my left knee to climb the steps.  I am going to have to find some exercises to strengthen that right knee.

Not sure why my right knee is an issue.  In October of 2010, I had both knees replaced.  In 2013, I had a second surgery on my left knee to release the tendons and resurface the patella.  If anything I would expect my left knee to be the weaker of the two.  Maybe because it had more rehab time it is stronger.  If you have any exercises to strengthen knees, please let me know.  I notice the weakness both in going up the stairs and down the stairs. 

During the 2 hour and 15 minute ride back to the port, some of the smarter members of our group took a nap.  There may be retribution for this image:

napping

When we got back to the port we did some shopping.  Then we went back to the ship. 

One of my awesome daughters found her “window seat”.

WindowSeat

In what would have been a colossal oops, I almost forgot to turn off the alarms at the house.  My sister-in-law and brother-in-law were arriving at about 9pm MST and when we started to pull away from the pier at 1:30pm MST I remembered that I had to disarm the alarm system.  Fortunately, I had cell service long enough to actually get the two alarms disarmed so that when they show up at 9ish tonight, they won’t have alarm sounds going off.  I also had cell service long enough to let mysister-in-law know the alarms were off.

It was formal night on the ship and we dressed up and when to the Samba Grill. 

FormalCruise

If you have ever been to a Brazilian grill, you know what this was.  They keep bringing by meats for you to have some of until you say NO. 

I have to admit I am somewhat disappointed in regards to the desserts.  I was fully expecting that there would be Key Lime Pie at least occasionally on the cruise given that it left out of Fort Lauderdale.  The dessert at the Samba Grill was a Key Lime Mousse but that is not the same.  There was one other night where there was Key Lime pie but it wasn’t all that good.  Maybe I just haven’t had real Key Lime Pie but the stuff at Village Inn was better than what they served on the ship, in my opinion.  They have one more night to redeem themselves in regards to the Key Lime Pie. 

I picked up my new watch tonight.  Last night at the “up to 75% off” Invicta watch sale, I got a new watch.  The price tag said $1095 and I got it for $239.  They had to remove three links from the band.  It is a very nice looking divers watch.  Not sure I will wear it diving, not that I am planning to do any diving in the near future.  Though after yesterday’s quasi-snorkel adventure with the camera, I am definitely hooked and will be signing up for any snorkeling excursions in the future.

Tomorrow is our second “sea day” meaning we will be at sea all day heading back to Fort Lauderdale with no other port stops.   There was talk again this evening about a future “around the Pacific Rim” cruise.  The “plan” is to do this after we save some money after the house is paid off.  I mentioned that it wouldn’t likely be a June-July cruise as it is winter in the Southern Hemisphere during that time so this may get pushed off until after my wife retires.  It may be after I retire too as the one we are looking at is something like a 57 night cruise.  Not sure how well work would take it if I said I wanted to be off for 2 months!

Until next time…





Roatan, Honduras

23 06 2018

07 June 2018

Today we are in Roatan, Honduras.  The excursion today is a beach day on a private island.  The island is called Maya Key.   We had some strong winds and somewhat rough seas getting to Roatan and in fact we docked an hour later than planned because of the weather. 

Speaking of weather for a moment, we have actually had very good weather this entire trip so far.  It has been way more humid than I am used to in the Phoenix Arizona area.  The temperature has been in the 80’s.  There has been a threat of rain several times but so far it has not materialized while on shore or even while on deck. 

It was a short boat ride from where we docked at Maya Key.  BoatSelfieBoatRideThe island had some animals that had been rescued or confiscated, snorkeling and plenty of beach.  After getting settled on the beach, I wandered off and took pictures of the animals.

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After I returned from my mini-safari, we had some lunch and then returned to the beach.  I had purchased a snorkel water proof case for my iPhone.  The case I purchased was a LASO Technologies ProShot Waterproof Case for iPhone 8 Plus.  It is rated to be water proof down to 50 feet.  Since I wasn’t planning to scuba dive, this seemed like an excellent purchase to allow me to take pictures underwater. 

I donned my goggles, put my iPhone in the waterproof case and went in to the water.  The water, as I expected it to be, was nice and  warm.  I started trying out the app that was created for using with the case.  Basically the volume up button takes a picture or is the start/stop for the video and the volume down button changes modes.  One of the first non-test pictures was of a small barracuda that was hanging out under the floating raft my wife was sitting on.

SmallBaracuda

Unfortunately, given that I no longer have perfect or even good unaided vision and given that I do not have prescription goggles, my underwater pictures were all “point and pray”.  There was no way that I could see what was being displayed on my iPhone.  I could see the “subject” fairly well but when I looked at my iPhone to see the framing of the subject, or even if the subject was in the frame, it was purely pray mode.  When I go see the eye doctor later this year, I am going to be sure to ask about recommendations for “prescription” goggles or what my options are for restoring my vision.  If you have any experience or suggestions on either option, please share.  I would love to learn what worked for you.

Along those lines, I think I am really hooked on snorkeling and taking underwater pictures.  If there are any clubs or groups or other organizations I can hook up with to learn about gear or locations to snorkel, please share.  Being in a land-locked state, any such trips are going to obviously involve a drive.  One day I would like to try fresh water snorkeling too.

As I looked around and took pictures under water, I saw some Cassiopea also known as upside down jellyfish on the bottom. 

At this point I decided I should put on my swim shoes just in case I put my foot down on a jellyfish.  That could be a bad day.  I ended up swimming around the pier and across the entire area taking pictures underwater.  Unfortunately, I had to come up to breathe periodically.   

FishSchoolfish_pierfriendly_fishBaracude_2In the above picture I saw the school of fish and was trying to photograph them.  I didn’t notice the much larger baracuda just under the surface of the water.

After getting changed back into dry clothes, we had to wait for a boat to take us back to the ship.  

ShipView

On the boat ride back to our cruise ship, I took this image of the coast of Roatan.

Roatan

After getting back to our ship, I decided to go work out for awhile before dinner.  Here is the view I had while on the treadmill.

Exercise

The actual view was much better than what is seen in the picture.  

Up to this point we had been having our on-board meals at the buffet call the Wind Jammer.  Tonight we decided to actually go to our assigned table in the dining room.  The staff and head waiter were excellent and asked about why we had not eaten in the dining room.  The truth is we just didn’t think about it.  It was a very good dinner.  Afterwards, we visited a few of the bars and lounges on-board and then went and looked at the watch sale.  I ended up getting a new gold Invicta watch.   

Until next time…





Cozumel

22 06 2018

06 June 2018

When we woke up this morning at 6am, we were already docked in Cozumel.  CozumelWe weren’t supposed to arrive until 8am or so.  We had breakfast in the WindJammer cafe shortly after they opened at 7.  After breakfast we disembarked from the ship and started shopping at the shops near the pier where our ship was docked.  We had a 9:45 excursion so we didn’t have time to go in to town before the excursion.

We actually had two excursions planned for today.  The first was a panoramic tour of the island.  The bus was very cramped and it was hard to see out the windows from where we were seated so the tour part left a lot to be desired.  The next part of the tour was a tour of a tequila producer.  They talked about how they grow the agave and harvest it and then process it to create tequila.  Then we got to taste a couple of different tequila’s that they make as well as some of the mixes they make including a piña colada made with tequila.   My youngest purchased the piña colada mix and I purchased some tequila aged for 17 years.  I gotta admire the guy on the tour who drank tequila with us.  He probably does several of those tours a day and drinks 4 small samples of tequila during each tour. I don’t think I would be able to function very well after that much tequila.

I was so busy listening to the presentation and tasting tequila I don’t have any pictures.

The next tour was a dolphin encounter at Dolphinaris.  This excursion included play time and riding on a dolphin, lunch and drinks including adult beverages. 

The only downside to the whole excursion was the fact that you have to wash off all the sunscreen prior to getting in the water with the dolphins.  This left me with sunburns where the vest didn’t cover which was pretty much my shoulders, face and neck area.  I got to ride on a dolphin so I think that makes up for the sunburn.  Being the last time for the excursion meant we didn’t get to do the snorkeling, kayaking or paddle boarding that was also available.  Given that the excursion was limited in time regardless of when it started, I don’t know that we would have gotten to do that regardless of when the excursion started.

We got back in to the port area in Cozumel and I had to pick up some Mayan Fiesta rum cakes.    At some point I will be trying out the following flavors: Strawberry Daiquiri, Mexican Vanilla, Golden Original, Banana Daiquiri, Lime Margarita, and Piña Colada.  I also got a Cozumel t-shirt as I have to replenish my supply of t-shirts now that I am two sizes smaller than I was a year ago!

We got back on the ship and had some dinner.  Then I had an appointment with the on-board trainer to go over the detox program.  I have some additional information on foods to eat that will help raise my body’s pH level and a three month supply of Elemis supplements to begin the detox.  If you have advise or suggestions on doing what they called a cellular level detox and foods to raise my pH level, I would love to hear from you.  I plan to write here about my progress and the changes that I  notice as this process begins.  However I am NOT starting this until I am back home from vacation.  Starting something like this while on vacation just seems to be a really bad idea.

Tomorrow is Roatan, Honduras.  We are going to a private island to sit on the beach and do some snorkeling and just relax.

Until next time…





The First “Sea Day”

21 06 2018

05 June 2018

Today was a “day at sea” which means there were no stops in ports as we sailed from Nassau, Bahamas to Cozumel, Mexico.

Most of us ended up sleeping.  My oldest daughter Kelly didn’t get the sleep-in memo which means she was up and ready to have breakfast about the time the rest of us were just waking up.  I had plans to get up a 6 and go to the gym before breakfast.  However, since I didn’t set an alarm I over slept.  My body needed the rest so that part was good.  Not having breakfast with Kelly was not so good.

After the three sleepy heads finally got up and had breakfast, we went by the shore excursion place and purchased our excursions for Cozumel, Roatan and Costa Mayo.  After that we went to a way too long presentation on the upcoming shopping opportunities in the next three ports.  Barbara and I ended up leaving part way through as there was an 11am or was it 11:30am body detox seminar in the gym.  The Royal Caribbean app said 11:30 and the paper we signed up on said 11:00.  I figured the app had the most up to date information.  I was wrong.  We showed up 30 minutes into the presentation.  Oh well.  We got some good information. 

We caught up with the girls after the presentation and had lunch.  After lunch the ladies went and sat by the pool and I went to another seminar.  While it had a different title, it turns out it was the same seminar given by the other fitness person onboard.  Oh well.  After that I worked out on the elliptical and the recumbent bike for 25 minutes each.  I then showered and met up with Barbara for our paid consult and BMR test.  It actually told us several things.  The fitness guy then wanted to have us purchase their detox supplies.  Which since according to the numbers it would take me 12 months and Barbara 9 months to detox, we didn’t purchase them as the total cost fo the materials was about $2100.

After dinner we got piña colada’s in pineapples and went to see the OceanAria Aqua Show.  It was really good with acrobatics, diving and some comedy.   

Pineapple Colada

Until next time…








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