Sunday, June 12, 2011

This is the way the cruise ends, not with a whimper, but with a blast

I am deeply immersed in planning our road trip to Arkansas.  Surely, in another life I was a travel agent.  This is something I do every year, and thanks to the internet, I have built a nice database of hotels, restaurants and things to do in cities along the way.  Although Mandy will be accompanying us as always, I still map out the entire route ahead of time using Mapquest or Google Maps.  That way I know how long each leg of the trip will take, and what time we can expect to arrive.  It also lets me plan for meals, on the road (can't miss the Varsity in Atlanta or the Jack in the Box in Nashville) and near the hotels.  And then, thanks to Open Table, I can make reservations for dinner without having to pick up the telephone.  You know how I hate to talk on the telephone.

Cookie A's "Eunice" socks, from her book Sock Innovations

At the back of my mind, always, is which knitting projects to bring.  Since finishing the baby hoodie and the cat's paw scarf on the cruise, I have been working on the spiral galaxy socks and designing a little blanket to go with the hoodie.  If I'm smart, I'll stick with those, and then move on to the other socks I've got started.  No reason why I shouldn't be able to finish the Eunice socks, since I am already on the second sock ... no reason at all, except that out of the corner of my eye I can see sitting at the top of the growing stack of travel documents, the pattern for this little beauty:

"Vortex Shawl" by Kristina McCurley, free pattern on Ravelry

The only thing that is stopping me from casting on is that I do not have 840 yards of fingering weight yarn in any one colorway.  Of course, that is easily correctible, and without my even having to leave this chair (God, I love the internet).  I keep debating the wisdom of such a move, however, although if I could possibly start and finish the project during the trip, that would be awesome.  Foolhardy, but awesome.  A single, beautiful project representing our journey to the Great Smokies and the Ozarks and back to the flatlands of Central Florida.  A "fractal inspired shawl" to remind us of our visit with very dear friends, of watching Master Casco test for seventh-degree blackbelt, and of Rob's participating at Worlds in the Top Ten competition.  A gloriously symbolic shawl. 

In the meantime, I have prepared a choucroute garnie which I recommend highly.  It feeds about 400 people, however, or maybe that's twelve; in any event, plan on serving it when you are throwing a party, or contributing to a potluck when you really really really like the people.

And now, our last day on the cruise - designated a "Fun Day at Sea" (everything on Carnival is about fun), and it was.  No, really, it was.  Keep reading.

June 3, 2011 - 10:39 am

The Last Breakfast

I haven't gushed yet about my iPad; that will come later. Here we are on the Lido Deck, in the casual dining room known as "The Gathering", watching the last breakfast feeding frenzy of the cruise. Today is designated as a Fun Day at Sea, as there are no planned port stops until our final destination of Port Canaveral. I really liked the schedule for this cruise, which both started and ended with a full sailing day.

In fact, there is very little that I did not like about this cruise. The Baked Alaska was a disappointment. And the selection of TV channels was sparse. At least half the adults have no freaking idea of how to dress, but I really can't complain, as that gives me a rich source of Fashion Police commentary. I would have liked some reasonable access to cellphone and Internet service, but there is a big part of me that is very glad I have been, in the words of my dear departed great-Aunt Ceil, incognito. It is true that I don't have easy access to my personal accounts, but that also means I have absolutely no access to my office accounts. The State of Florida BlackBerry is tucked away safely at home.

Such a pretty ship ...

I can go on and on about the good stuff, though, but that will come later as well. This morning we finished our onboard shopping, listened to Butch, Your Cruise Director's explanation of debarkation procedures, and planned our lunch at a different location, the Lanai for bar-b-que. I also would like to peek in at something called Tea Time at 3:00, and Rob has been wanting to check out the sushi at Wasabi. Good grief, it really is all about the food with us. Oh yeah, I bought two cookbooks.

Lunch at the Lanai on the Promenade deck

The Lanai had chicken quesadillas, soft pork tacos, hot dogs and sliders, and a nice place to sit out on the Promenade deck, away from the much noisier swimming pools. Rob had a rum and coke, and after lunch, a nice walk on the deck, and more photos of white caps, I got a moccachino at Carnival's version of Starbucks, and it is very good. According to the charts, the Carnival Dream is sailing at a pretty brisk pace heading northeast around the Florida Keys. We still have couple of meals to go before this truly lovely cruise ends.

Fashion Police reporting in to bitch about hair braiding. When the ship made it's last stop at Costa Maya, there were ladies waiting on land, and also a number of shops, offering hair braiding. Unfortunately, a number of white ladies have indulged in this particular hair styling with less than stellar results. Not because of the quality of the work, which has been rather good, but because it is, in my opinion, a look that simply doesn't work with Caucasian hair and scalps. It was especially unattractive on a frowsy, colorless white lady of indeterminate age who would have been better served by a visit to the ship's beauty salon for a good cut, color, and style which would have softened her looks. The braiding and beading created a harsh effect. Very high on the ick factor scale, accompanied as it was by a completely unfashionable granny type dress which had probably seen better days back in the sixties.

I am watching the afternoon proceeding of the Casey Anthony trial in real time, which is now serving as an uncomfortable reminder that I have two termination of parental rights trials starting this week. One of them is straightforward and rather sad, while the other is, for want of a better descriptive word, a doozy. And that's all I am going to say about that.

The Tea Cart

4:05 pm
From the "oh darn, why didn't I check that out sooner?" department: I have always wanted to go to an afternoon tea, but have yet to find a satisfactory venue. So I have been on this lovely ship for six days, and looked at the schedule every day, and noted that there is something called Tea Time from 3:00 to 4:00 pm. We finally did check it out and it was so pleasant and so relaxing I feel like a dummy for not looking into it sooner. Choice of teas, of course, and a rolling cart with six or seven sweet offerings and two savory. I had a scone which had been split and filled with a delicious cream and a cup of Darjeeling while Rob had the apple tart, the open faced smoked salmon sandwich, with a cup of Earl Grey. It was peaceful and delicious, a nice combination.

Afternoon tea, a lovely experience

More in this department - the daily sushi bar, open from about 5:30 to 8:15 pm. Now, are you sitting down? The sushi is FREE. I thought it was one of those extras you pay for, like the moccachino or liquor. Seemed reasonable to me anyway, since almost everything else is included, but we get down here and get on line, and these very cheerful men behind the counter are shoving plates filled with three different types of delicious sushi at each of the guests and no one is paying for anything.

6:49 pm
Well, we've got one more big meal to go - the last supper at 8:15 - and our vacation is over. We will debark around 8:45 am tomorrow. I will be avoiding the scale for a while.

It has been a blast.

Speaking of blasts, if anyone saw the season finale of "Doctor Who" last night on BBC America - were you blown away? 


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