Thursday, January 26, 2017

How to Pack for a 7 Day Cruise...

from Lexi Eddings

...without lugging home a suitcase full of clean clothes!

Yeah, you heard right. We did that. The DH & I over-packed for this 7 day cruise on the Carnival Dream. We actually could have made do with one big suitcase for the two of us. We really did bring home a LARGE rolling suitcase (read: the biggest honking bag in our set of luggage!) full of clothing we did not wear.

So I thought I'd save you from a similar fate. I made a detailed inventory of our dirty clothes because that's all we should have packed (and that's all we will next time!) Here's the list.

For Her: 

Undies, 11         Bras, 10         Socks, 4         PJs, 1        Swimsuit, 1       Cover up, 1
Tops, 10
     white crinkle tunic
     yellow shirt
     navy 3/4 sleeve
     blue print 3/4 sleeve
     black long sleeved
     peach twin set (ok, this is sort of 2 items--a sleeveless shell & matching sweater)
     black & gray top
     teal tunic
     salmon tunic
     sweater, berry-colored cardigan
Pants, 7
     white jeans
     olive khaki capris
     winter white
     navy capris
Gym wear-black yoga pants & matching black top with shark-bite hem. (Not that they saw much use. Hey! It's the thought that counts!)
Formal Wear: Black palazzo pants, black tank, black & gold jacket, red pashmina (These pieces got me through 2 formal nights very nicely.) 
Shoes, 4 pair: red loafers with non-skid, deck-friendly soles, blue walking sandals, pink flip-flops, fancy black sandals for evening

For Him:

Undies, 9        Undershirts, 5        Socks, 8 casual, 4 dress      Swim suit, 1
Tops, 18
     colored T's, 7
     polos, 2
     dress shirts, 6
     Hawaiian, 3
Bottoms, 7
     dress pants, 3
     casual slacks, 1
     shorts, 3
Tie, 3
Belt, 2
Shoes, 4 pair: dress shoes, walking shoes, flip flops, & sandals
(Please note: There ought to have been a suit jacket and blazer as well, but Someone--not naming names--left them hanging on the bedroom door at home. Good thing we weren't cruising with Cunard. He'd have been in trouble!)

Of course, we did have a couple of carry-on pieces that held our toiletries, travel docs, jewelry & other essentials. But otherwise, we really could have packed in just one big bag. 

Our next cruise is a 7 day out of Seattle to Alaska on the Holland America Eurodam. I'm going to try to shoehorn us into one bag for that, but as my DH points out, it'll be colder in September and our clothes will be thicker.

Will I manage it? Only time will tell...

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sea Days


We’ve pointed our noses north and are on our way back to NOLA. It’ll take two days at sea to reach our home port. Some cruisers hate sea days. They live for the shore excursions.

Not me. I always consider the ship itself a destination. This is a shot of the main atrium on the Carnival Dream. There's so much to see, so many lights, it reminds me of Tokyo at night! 

And the cruise director makes sure there’s so much to do that if you tried to do it all, you’d run yourself silly.

Here’s how our Friday went:

8:30AM Breakfast in the Scarlet dining room. We could go up to the Lido deck for a buffet, but why do that when you can be served in style? It takes a little longer, but you also get the benefit of meeting some of your fellow passengers and sharing their experiences.

10:00AM The Fun Shop is running a “last chance” sale, so we drop by to pick up a few things for the fam back home. No, we did not get anyone a T-shirt that reads: “My parents went to the Caribbean and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.”

10:20AM As we start back up to Cabin 7219, someone stops me by saying, “Are you Lexi Eddings?” When I admitted to it, she tells me she downloaded THE COLDWATER WARM HEARTS CLUB and gushes about how much she’s enjoying it. I introduce her to my DH and thank her profusely for reading my book. I always appreciate it so much when someone spends their hard earned money for my work and gives a few hours of their life to my stories.

Not gonna lie. It feels pretty good to hear that my book has brightened someone’s day.

10:45AM~ The DH and I sit on our balcony watching the little flying fish skipping over the swells. The wind and waves lull me into a pleasant sense of my own smallness. It’s part of why we spring for a veranda cabin. The ocean is so vast, so mysterious, I can’t help but feel thankful for the blessing of abundant water on our planet.

And it makes me realize that compared to God, the greatest genius ever born is a complete imbecile.

12:00 Noon~It’s time to put the feedbag on again. Since the dining room isn’t open, we go up to the Lido deck for the buffet. The DH snags a burger and fries. I opt for a salad and roast beef.

On my way back to our table, a lady stops me to ask about Herkimer (my Portable Oxygen Concentrator). Someone she loves has to have supplemental O2 and they’re looking for a solution that doesn’t involve klunky canisters or big, heavy contraptions.

When I was first prescribed supplemental O2, my world shrank to the confines of a 25 ft green tube running from the home concentrator. To say it was merely depressing is to sugar coat it.

But my POC has made all the difference. I can travel. I can be active. Herkimer may be the first thing people notice about me, but I don’t want him to be the last. I’m not done with adventures and he helps me have them.

Anyway, I give the folks my card and ask them to email me so I can point them to Main Clinic Supply, where I bought my POC.  

While my DH and I eat our lunch, an artist starts carving a 300 lb block of ice. It’s an amazing process to watch! So much work for something that will melt in a few hours.

1:00PM~ Time for art of another sort. I often go to art auctions when I cruise. First, I love learning about the artists, the difference between a giclee  and a lithograph, and the styles of art. I’ve even bought more pieces than I probably should have in the past.

But this time, I’m here to people watch. My fellow passengers don’t disappoint. It’s a rowdy crowd for an art auction with much foot-stomping and cheering. (I think the complimentary mimosas might have something to do with that.) The bidding flies fast and furious and a number of what I’d consider big purchases (read: over $5000!) bring the gavel down hard.

Then there is a small bidding war over a simple unframed print that started at only $80. The price climbs up to $130 before the other two bidders drop out. Then the auctioneer says, “Guess what? I have 3 of them so you can all have one for $100.” The two who lost the bid jump at the opportunity, but Ms. $130 decides she doesn’t want it for $100.

If she can’t be the only one to take the print home, she doesn’t want it at all.

Human nature.  Sometimes it’s hard to unscrew the inscrutable, isn’t it?  

2:30PM~Time for the obligatory nap. My DH says it’s his goal to have two a day while we’re on board. While he saws a log or two, I noodle on the computer or play Angry Birds (yes, I have a mild Angry Bird addiction, but I’m working on it, ok?)

4:30PM~Tonight is a formal night, so it’s time to put a little paint on the old barn door. I’ll be wearing black palazzo pants, a black tank and a black and gold jacket. The DH conveniently “forgot” to pack his suit jackets so he’ll spruce up by wearing a tie with his dress pants and shirt.

6:00PM~We join our table mates for a lovely meal. It’s been great getting to know Dan & Connie from Louisiana and Theresa & Greg  from California. On the last formal night we had lobster. Not sure Carnival will repeat that, but it’s sure to be a special menu.

8:00PM~Tonight’s show in the Encore theater is a salute to country music. All right. I confess it. I’m a musical snob. We plan to play hooky from the show and hit the thermal suite when there likely won’t be anyone else there. After all, the DH has a second nap to squeeze into our busy schedule and those stone loungers are a great place to do it.

9:00PM~We shower, change into our jammies and head for the Lido Deck pool to try to snag a couple of good lounge chair for a movie under the stars. They’re playing Deepwater Horizon at 9:30 tonight.

And for those of you who are worried about us running around the ship in our pjs, let me ease your minds. The DH will be in flannel pants and a T-shirt. My jammies look a long black knit dress, cuz that’s what it is. We won’t upset anyone.


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Safety First

Cruising is kind of the ultimate luxury vaca. Everything is provided--meals, lodging, entertainment, transportation to one exotic port of call after another.

But we are bobbing around in the ocean, so special care needs to be taken to insure that everyone has a chance to make it off the the ship in case of emergency.

Enter the Muster Drill. (In case you can't read the small print below the ship image, it says "interrupting bar service," which is kind of appropriate for the Carnival Dream because all passengers embark directly into the main bar!)

On our last Holland America cruise, the muster drill involved getting out our life jackets and meeting at our assigned lifeboat for further instructions. The crew checked off names on a list to make sure everyone attended and the ship didn't weigh anchor until the drill was done.

On Carnival we were told to leave our life jackets in our stateroom and gather in the big Encore theater. Had this been an actual emergency, we would have brought our life jackets. Once the theater was about half full (no attempt was made to make sure everyone attended), one of the dancers from the stage troop who entertained us all week, told us that once we were all assembled, we'd be led, a couple of rows at a time, to our waiting life boat.

Let's see. Picture this: klaxon sounding, ship listing, the theater full to bursting with panic-stricken people. Then we'll be told to wait patiently while select small groups are led out to a lifeboat.

Well, that sounds good. Because people are always willing to wait while others are led to safety, right? No, I'm afraid this has all kinds of bad written all over it.

Of course, sometimes people don't panic. I remember one time shortly after 9/11 I was in a London Tube station when a maddeningly calm voice came over the loudspeaker announcing that "A bomb threat has been issued against this station. Kindly make your Way Out." Almost as one, the crowd turned and walked quietly toward the long escalators (which had been shut down in the emergency.) There was no screaming. No running. No pushing or shoving. I was never so proud of the English blood running through my veins. (Of course, my family has been in America since the early 1600s so we were undoubtedly trouble-causers in the Old Country!)

Anyway, Carnival's evacuation plan did not inspire my confidence.

It sank further when, at the tender port of Belize, Carnival used private contractors to ferry us from the ship to shore. Holland America uses the ship's own life crafts. If Carnival doesn't drill with the lifeboats, how do they know the boats are in good repair and the winches to lower them into the water are all working?

I stewed about this for about a minute (I am on vacation after all and have better things to do!) Then when we were in port at Roatan, the Carnival crew practiced fire suppression, ran emergency evacuation drills and lowered some of the lifeboats. They puttered around the harbor with them for about thirty minutes.

That made me feel somewhat better.

Ever since I was a kid, safety has been my hot-button. Probably because my mom is so good at imagining worst case scenarios. Now that I'm older, she's sort of taken up residence in my head--at least about this.

But if I listen to my inner worry wort, I'd never leave my bed. Can't have that.

Years ago, I heard about a group of cruise passengers who died when the excursion bus they were on plunged off a Chilean hillside. No doubt, it was terrible. But those people died while having an adventure. If I have to choose between lingering in a hospital or a Chilean hillside, I'll take the plunge every time.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Will the real Honduras please stand up?

01/12/17 Today woke to the Dream shuddering up to a pier. It never ceases to amaze me how well the crew handles this huge vessel. They snugged her up gently to her berth in Mahogany Bay. Here's the view that greeted me when I stepped out onto the balcony.

Welcome to the lush rain forest of Roatan. It's a small island just off the coast of Honduras.

We ate a quick breakfast and then disembarked.

As it turns out, Mahogany Bay is a corporate resort area owned by Carnival. While it's incredibly beautiful, it has a Disney-esque feeling of unreality. Canned steel drum ditties float from speakers hidden behind every shrub and bush. It struck me as too well manicured, too scrubbed, too full of shops and touristy trinkets.

But we still had some exploring to do. I'd hoped to be able to take the Flying Beach Chairs, a tram ride over to a stretch of beach that was waiting for us, but when we reached the place to board I found an insurmountable obstacle.


A cool mist coats you while you wait to board your Flying Beach Chair. I think it's a lovely idea and I'm always looking for ways to beat the heat in the tropics, but Herkimer (my Portable Oxygen Concentrator) does not do well with wet. He's likely to short out and then I'd be in a pickle. I toyed with leaving my POC behind in a locker if we could find one (an idea my DH quickly squashed. He didn't want me to become O2 depleted and anyway, there were no lockers to be had.)

So my DH and I took a leisurely stroll through a well-tended garden.

As you can see, my DH is wearing a backpack that holds my "walk-about" Herkimer. Usually, it rides in a little wheeled cart, but when we think we may be on uneven ground, my DH volunteers to be my Sherpa! My 7 foot cannula keeps us close together.

He jokes that I keep him on a tight leash!

You can see the many decks of the Carnival Dream behind my sweetie.

The garden was lovely, but I still felt as if I was missing something. We should have booked a tour that took us out of Mahogany Bay and into the parts of the island where people actually live. I know I was technically in Honduras, but I'm not sure this artificial version counts. Someday,  I'd like to visit the mainland and see what the country is really like. 

Well, there's another travel goal for me. And it's always good to have a goal.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

You better Belize it!

01/11/17 Now that I’ve hit all fifty states, my new travel goal is to visit as many countries as possible. So far, I’ve been to Canada, Mexico, England, Ireland, Scotland, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Saint Lucia, Antigua & Barbuda, France, Japan, Kiribati, the Marquesas, and French Polynesia.

Today I added Belize.

In contrast to its Central American neighbors, English is the official language of Belize because it used to be British Honduras. There is still evidence of British influence in the sturdy bridges and highways. The people are friendly and unfailingly eager to share their lovely homeland with us.

We tendered into port and took a riverboat wildlife excursion. I’ve been on enough whale-watching tours to know these types of experiences are a crap shoot. You may see something interesting. You may not.

Fortunately, we got lucky!

In Belize, they have fresh water crocodiles, not alligators.  They thrive in the brackish water near the mouth of rivers. We caught this fellow sunning himself on a rock. Further up river, we spied a smaller one swimming. As soon as he saw that our boat had stopped to look at him, he turned tail and headed back into the shade of the mangroves.


Sea birds enjoyed hanging out on the dead limbs of trees that had been washed down river during recent floods. These are all cormorants, but we also saw kingfishers, pelicans, and many types of cranes.

Nearby, we saw several manatees, large docile creatures, but they surfaced for only a few seconds, looking like overgrown, furless sea otters that had been hit too many times with the ugly stick. Unfortunately, we weren't quick enough to snap a picture before they sank back into the depths.


This blue-grey fellow was dogging another bird that seemed to be having good luck fishing. Why do the work yourself when you can live off the industry of others? 

Further upriver, we started to see green iguanas. Some them can grow to six feet in length (Don't worry. Most of it is tail!) Even though they are called green, it's mating season, so the males have changed to a flashy orange and black to attract a mate.

Got a great mohawk going, doesn't he? In Belize, they have iguana farms and use the meat to make tacos!

We didn't see any howler monkeys, but since they are usually more active at night, that wasn't surprising. We went upriver as far as we could before we had to return to the ship. When the captain kicked the engines into high gear, we attracted the attention of a fresh water dolphin. This delightful creature seemed to love playing in our wake, breaching and slapping back into the river, then racing to catch up to us again. Again, we couldn't get a picture because it all happened so quickly when he leaped up. 

But what a wonderful experience! 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Cozumel or Our Own Private Yacht

Since we've been to Cozumel before--we took our daughters to see the ruins of Tulum back when they were 18 & 20. Fascinating!--we decided to stay aboard the Dream and enjoy the ship with many fewer people on it.

Don't get me wrong. I like people. People are my favorites.

But there are a lot of them on this ship. At up to 4500 passengers, it's bigger by far than any we've ever cruised on before. It's easy to feel overwhelmed, especially when you can't get from one end of the ship to the other on some decks without going up and down stairs or waiting in the Disneyland-like lines at the elevators.

So we decided to play like the Dream was our private yacht.

We had a leisurely breakfast in the Scarlet dining room and met some more people from Missouri! Everywhere we go we seem to run into them. I think half the state has run away from winter this week!

Then we went to the Thermal Suite for our daily nap on the lovely stone loungers. This our big splurge on board. We don't drink. We don't gamble. Bingo and Trivia hold no allure for us and I won't shop unless someone forces me to.

But we do like to lounge around in the spa. For months beforehand, we look forward to feeling that heat seep into our bones.

And today, we had it all to ourselves instead of having to wait until there were two vacancies.

Then after our lounging, I decided it was time to make good on my little Bucket list item. If you visit with me on Twitter , Facebook, or the CruiseCritic message boards (you might know me there as Aquadesiac) you know I've been talking about doing the big slide on board the Dream. When our kids were young we used to take them to water slide all the time. It was a fun family outing. Good times. Guess I was just hoping to recapture some of that.

Surprisingly enough, other people are interested in whether or not I did the slide. Yesterday a fellow wearing a Mizzou t-shirt stopped and offered to carry Herkimer, my Portable Oxygen Concentrator, up the stairs for me if I was still determined to do the slide. He'd read my goal on FB or the CC rollcall board and recognized me by my POC. He was invested in my little dream and wanted to see me accomplish it.

Well, I couldn't back out after that.

Even so, the Twister is a real monster. I have to admit I felt a little apprehensive climbing up the many stairs to get to the top. (My DH served as my Sherpa and carried up Herkimer for me! Then since it couldn't go with me on the slide, he packed it back down. God bless the man!) I was a little winded when I reached the top, but that may also have been excitement.

Anyway, I settled into the tube marked "The Twister," crossed by ankles, folded my arms across my chest and off I went!

The water was so co-o-old!!!!! (You must pronounce that word with 3 syllables to get the full effect of how frigid it was.) I could scarcely draw breath. I zipped along, through the tight turns, thinking surely I'm almost down, surely I'm...

But then there was yet another series of corkscrews. Just as I decided I'd probably pass out before I reached the end---I reached the end.

And a big wall of water smacked me in the face!

All in all, with my pulmonary issues, this probably wasn't the smartest thing for me to do. It was sort on a par with the time I took my PhD in Roller-Coaster-ology with my sister Linda at Six Flags by riding every coaster in the park. A great deal of excitement punctuated by moments of real terror.

Either way, it was a fun thing to have done.  Just not so much fun while you're doing it, if that makes any sense. If the water had been warmer...if I'd taken five minutes or so to catch my breath at the top of the slide, I might not have felt so oxygen depleted while I was running the gauntlet.

If I'd just had more witnesses! Unfortunately, most of my fellow passengers were off in Cozumel so you have only my word that I did it. And my DH's and the ever-smiling Indonesian crewman who helped me get started down the slide.

Ok, everybody playing in Cozumel can come back now. We're done pretending the Dream is just ours. Just be sure to make it back on board before 5:30.

I'd hate to be standing on my veranda waving to you as you run frantically down the pier. That's zero fun for either of us.

Welcome to Cabin 7219!

Hey there! Come on in! This is our “tiny house” for the next 7 days. I specifically chose this stateroom for a couple of reasons.

  1. It’s on a deck that’s sandwiched between two other decks of passenger cabins. It should be relatively quiet (read: not under a disco that’ll be rocking till the wee hours.)
  2. It’s located in an area that doesn’t lend itself to much foot traffic. The only reason to walk our little corridor is because you have a cabin nearby.  
  3. Our cabin has a veranda. When we first started cruising, we always bought “ocean view” accommodations. We figured it didn’t matter how big our cabin was because the whole ship was our playground. Now we enjoy the feeling of having our own private retreat with our own. And because of the way this Carnival Dream is configured, we can lie in bed and watch the ocean race by.
(I tried to make a video tour of the cabin with my phone, and it shows up great on my little screen, but I can't figure out how to post it here. I've played with it long enough to get frustrated and have decided I'll work on it when I get home. After all, right now I'm on vacation!)

Now that we’re here, we’ve discovered a few challenges.

That's not Charlie on the bed.
It's the sad ruin of a towel lobster our room steward made for us last night!
  1. There’s only one electrical outlet in the whole cabin. This gets exciting when we need to charge laptops, tablets, cellphones & Herkimer (my Portable Oxygen Concentrator) all at the same time.  We brought a power strip with us so this helps, but it also means we have a tangle of electrical cords criss-crossing the room.  There is an outlet for European style appliances, but we can’t use it. (Note to self: Always bring the converter we use on our trips across the Pond.)
  2. The bedside tables are pitifully small with a teeny lamp affixed to the center of it. I can’t set up my bi-pap machine on it. There’s barely enough space for my glasses. Fortunately, the sofa is close enough to my side of the bed to serve double duty at night. However, if the DH needed a c-pap too, we’d be in a pickle.
  3. The bathroom doesn’t have an enclosed medicine cabinet, just open shelving with short rails to supposedly hold things in during rough seas. It would have been good if I’d brought a small storage container or two to fit into those spaces.

But that said, there seems to be enough room for us and our stuff. All our clothing fits well in the three closets (two for hanging clothes and one with shelves), five drawers and multiple wall cabinets, both enclosed and open. There’s a fridge in the cabin and we saw a number of enterprising passengers bringing on their own soft drinks and liquor. This is not something that’s generally allowed on the other cruise lines we’ve traveled with, but evidently it’s ok with Carnival.

We’ve discovered that even with all the packing and planning, we forgot a few things.

As we were driving down, just a few miles south of Memphis, the DH smacked his forehead, a la “I-could’ve-had-a-V8!” and announced that he’d forgotten to put in his suit jackets. He’d intended to leave them on the hangers, swinging on the bar in the back of our van, until we got to NOLA where he’d transfer them to his suitcase. He didn’t want them to wrinkle. Since they’re still hanging on our bedroom door back home, I think they’re safe.

I’m sadder about the fact that we forgot our binoculars. We could also use a tote. We’ll need something for odds and ends when we go ashore. I really expected Carnival to supply us with one, so I left my Holland America bag at home. I’ll bring it next time.

So the take-away is that we need to have a checklist for essential items.

What would you want on a cruise ship to make your home away from home more comfy?