Thursday, May 30, 2013

A few pictures... the good and the bad:
On the 23rd we headed down to Baltimore for another trip out on a beautiful lady.  Beff and I picked up my niece and sister from the metro station, where they headed after their arrival at Reagan, and headed to our hotel.  This time I went with a park and cruise package from the Wingate.  I need to make a note for next time as this was a great stay, nice big clean room and no extra charges for all 4 of us to have the included breakfast or shuttle to/from the pier.

Bright and shiny on the 24th we prepped to head to the ship and get Danielle and I our honey stung chicken!  This was my first time with a junior suite and I was impressed.  All four of us put our things away and we had some storage space to spare.  The fold out sofa bed was quite comfortable, and even when it was opened we still had plenty of room to get around without needing to squeeze past.  It was also nice to have a full sized tub onboard, but we were back to fighting with the clingy shower curtains.

As to Grandeur of the Seas, she had some improvements recently, and she was beautifully appointed.  I did note some loose railings and other little odd things (like the numbers worn off of some elevators) but that is normal wear and tear I guess.  I do not like the bathroom sinks.  They are the bowl type that you end up slamming your fingers into when you try to get your hands under the water.  The pillows were pretty flattened out, so I had to sleep with 4, but we got them quickly as our stateroom attendant Tobian was fantastic.  Dani and I shared the fold out couch which was comfortable, no worries there.  We had lots of vibration to give us that rocking feeling I so adore.  I guess some ppl complain about that, which is fine, they can leave the aft balconies for others - while it's a bit of a hoof if you have to run back and forth it was still a great place to be on ship.

We started out with my time dining, this was a first for me, but since we booked so late it was all that was available.  I had booked times, the first night for 6:15.  They called and asked us to come at 5:30 since it was so busy.  Ok, fine, it was a bit of a challenge once we got our luggage to be ready in time, but we made it... to find a line we stood in for a half an hour.  Then we were sat by ourselves, which is not my preferred for dinner.  Shockingly, it took 2 hours to eat.  Yea, no.  The next morning at breakfast I talked to folks and got us moved to the late seating where we had a short period of time to get to know our waiter and assistant waiter, Ali and Alexander.  The new menus we saw were okay.  I don't think the food we tried was as good as it had been in the past and I think it's ridiculous to see burgers/sliders on the dinner menu each night.  The food didn't suck, but it was a noted tick downward with the new menu items.

We really wanted this trip to be low key and relaxing, and that is just what we got (for the first couple of days).  After a day at sea, we then stopped at Port Canaveral.  I wasn't sure what to do here.  To heck w/ a long drive for part of a day at Disney.  I wasn't sure about Cape Canaveral, if it was moreso for kids (I heard from fellow passengers it was quite nice, so maybe a stop some other time).  Instead we took a shuttle to the Cocoa Beach area where we did some shopping and walked up along the beach and pier.  Then we headed to a putt-putt that also did alligator rescue before heading back to the ship.

Dani and I sat out on the balcony that evening around midnight, it was just lovely.  We even said "we could sleep out here".  Fortunately, we did not... and instead headed in to get some rest for our next morning's stop at the private island, Cococay.

Well, we didn't get to Cococay.  A few minutes before 3am we heard a loud booooong noise.  It was enough for my eyes to open in time to see the nightlight snap off as the power went out.  Within a second there was a voice, the Captain, Espen Been, calmly telling us we had a fire and were to report to our muster stations.  It took a while to process what he said, it felt slower than I guess we were moving.  Some folks by us claim they heard an explosion, we did not, I thought the noise before the power snapping off was the bell/horn system long noise, but it could have been metal boinging, which some theories mentioned.  We were out the door pretty quickly, seeing our stateroom attendant already there making sure everyone was moving in the right direction, and headed towards our station, but we were re-routed to the casino as our stations were inaccessible because they were too near the fire.

I don't know why I didn't pull back the balcony curtains to get us some light, maybe because Beth had her phone flashlight on so quickly.  It's probably a good thing I didn't.  The neighboring cabins DID pull their curtains back and saw fire licking up over the edge from the lower area.  Shortly after checking in at the muster stations the Captain announced before doing so that they were going to sound the general emergency alarm.  Just hearing the 7 short and 1 long blast sends a shiver up my spine during muster practice, it was surreal to hear it mid-sailing.  A while later they announced they were going to prepare life boats as a precaution.  I guess the lifeboat preparation scared a few people who were at the normal muster stations.  I guess seeing/hearing them move into place would be pretty chilling, another thing we didn't experience, fortunately.

During the next hours we received frequent updates, always reiterating that they were continuing to advance on the fire and then that they were doing inspections to verify everything was out and had no chance of reigniting.  We were allowed to leave the stations 8am-ish?  But our area was still closed off while they continued inspections.  They eventually cleared us to return to the back of the ship on deck 7.  As you went back the hall and pulled open the fire doors (they close when you have no power) to enter the dark hallway you could definitely smell that there was a fire.

Our power was out for a while longer, longer still our air conditioning, but they got everything back up for us.  With the balcony we simply propped the main door and opened the balcony giving some light and air movement to the whole hallway, I'm sure helping to clear the smell, which was no longer noticeable within 24 hours.  Now, stepping out on to the balcony we had lots of soot and we could see the smoke blackened metal and areas out over the balcony.

We, at no time, were afraid.  The staff was amazing.  Everyone worked like a well oiled machine and they did everything right.  95% of our fellow passengers were also wonderful... but I guess you'll always have one or two over the top hysterical women and drama queens screaming lawsuit.  After working ALL NIGHT this staff still made sure we stayed fed and clean, granted the food wasn't as expansive the first morning, but it picked back up quickly.

The ship headed to Freeport Bahamas where we were allowed to get off and see the damage from the outside.  Those photos were all over the news, just let me state clearly we were right above all of that... sleeping.  It gave us a moment of reality, but I still remain confident of my safety, thanks to the Royal Caribbean crew reaction.  There were definitely windows gone in the lounge below us, some people speculated they heard these blowing out, others said they removed them in the course of fighting the fire.  I suspect the lounge on the floor below us was drenched in addition to missing a few window, as the next day I used the restroom near the Schooner bar and the carpet was soaked.  I was really surprised the dining room reopened, which means there was no damage there or in the galley.  My guess is repairs done by my Birthday, and I see that they've now cancelled sailings until early July.

The President of RC flew in with a rather large staff to assist with operations.  They quickly began working out transportation for all including both charter flights and a ferry/train for those that do not fly.  In the mean time the show went on.  There were performances, food, activities.  They treated us like gold, even though you could see the exhaustion on some faces.  Our flight was to be late on Tuesday, but we ended up volunteering to come back after getting to the airport and fly out the next day since we'd arrive to BWI in the middle of the night.  At that point we had an open bar and a heck of a late night with some fellow passengers.

In addition to the accommodations to get us home, we were fully reimbursed for this trip, given all of our photos from onboard, they opened up the telephone and internet connections for free, and they will be giving us credits (100% of what we paid for this trip) towards another sailing.  Will I sail again?  You better believe I will.  After this experience, I am so proud to say I am Loyal to Royal.  I cannot speak highly enough of everyone working onboard.  They were heroes in the face of danger.

Our flight home was uneventful, as was our drive back to the Jtown/Altoona area.  After dropping Beth off we headed to Altoona where I spent the night before coming back to Jtown to get the dogs from camp this morning.  Home.  Not back at work... a few days to catch up on sleep will be good.  I'll get Dani and Jackie back for their flight home as well.  I'll attach a few photos shortly, after they finish uploading to shutterfly.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Why do some carrots taste so wonderful and some taste like licking a sour, dirty, foot?  No fair.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The second rabbit kill of the year is split, literally, between Danika and Safyre, bringing the bunny record to:
Saf:  1 1/2
Dani:  1/2
Vix:  0

Just ew girls.  Not only is it gross, but it makes me sad.  So there I stood, trying to scoop up the bunny and all of his guts, all the while he twitched and seemed to be gasping.  I on the other hand was apologizing and crying.

Not warm enough today to pull out the pressure washer as I had hoped to do, so I'm crossing other little tasks off of the list.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The weather has completely shifted and it has been just beautiful the past few days.  Today is no exception.  The windows and doors are open, there is a light, fresh scented breeze.  The lilac is in bloom, so I had to go clip some off to bring inside.  It's still early in the day, but I've already washed the blinds in the bedroom and put the last set of curtains through the wash.  Yep, that means the windows are getting washed today (thank you warm weather).

But first I need to run Dani to the vet for a blood draw and a check on her itch.  I suspect we have a staph infection again, poor kid.  My to do list is long, but a reward isn't far off as I also have an hour massage scheduled.

A pleasant surprise popped up on facebook today, a friend request from someone who had been "off the virtual grid" for a while from back in my NC days.  This is someone I've thought of and wondered how they were periodically, so I am quite happy to hear from them.  This of course has me thinking about two other people from high school that I've wondered about through the years that I'd love to find again and catch up.  Maybe they'll pop up someday too, or maybe they'll finally figure out what we're doing for a class reunion this year.

Friday, May 17, 2013

I've stayed reasonably on track w/ the 17 day diet this week with a few cheats, but not extreme - like having pineapple, which is a no no due to the high sugar.  I've got to say, I think tonight is time to cheat.  What I really want is a peanut butter sammie.  But I'll settle for a mixed drink, just one delightful glass and all of the evil sugar inside.  Cosmic forces... either give me strength or forgive me.  It's 5 o'clock somewhere you say?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Sorry, it's whiney complainy time.  Never underestimate the power of a severely displeased set of sinuses.  Wow.  The heat on dries everything out, making everything itchy, then the plug up taking place from the high pollen has my head slammed shut and draining down my throat all night.  I had to get up 3x to use the bathroom due to my feeble attempts to take in enough water, good thing I was already awake.  Note, this is after only getting in 32 oz of water yesterday, not the 64 oz they want you to drink.  Oy.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

I did visit mom today for Mother's Day, but other than that, this weekend was pretty much a bust.  With the heat back on I just want to hibernate.  Tomatoes are covered with a tarp, but of course the winds that have kicked up in the past few hours may make that null and void.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Teetering on numbers I don't want to cross, I accepted the challenge from a coworker to jump back on the 17 day diet.  I started this morning... so my breakfast was a smoothie w/ some yogurt, fresh strawberries, and blueberry/pom juice.  I then realized I could have easily made one w/ some of the chocolate milk I need to use up, yogurt, and peanut butter.  I think I know what I'm having tomorrow!  At least coffee is okay on the diet, as I need to have a cup.  The last time I went on this diet I was off of coffee completely.  Maybe I should start to back off of it again.  The bigger challenge will be getting enough water in each day, I just can't drink 64 oz each day.

My stop at Aldi last night produced a lot of produce :)  I guess it is the best time of year to try and start something like this.  There are strawberries, a mango, a pineapple, tomatoes, lemons, oranges, apples, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kefir, frozen mixed berries, and chicken.  I guess I don't need more from Fritz's but I want to stop, is that wrong?  I do need to stop at Iggle and get more yogurt and maybe another container of fruit juice for smoothie purposes.

Now, I said "best time of the year" a second ago and my next thought was, sure... but I might have to cover the tomato plants because it could snow on Monday.  Seriously.  Even if I had waited until the dates I found online to plant tomatoes in this area (May 10th) I'd be sitting here waiting even longer.

Needless to say, it is still too cold, and rainy, to go out and do the things that I am eager to cross off of the list outside.  I did put the humidifiers away, but I might regret that too if the humidity drops w/ the snow.  As to feel like I am making some type of progress I am instead doing a couple loads of laundry and scrubbed the basement floor.  Maybe I'll work up the gumption to gather more stuff upstairs for Goodwill and trash.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Ok, enough of the slightly chilly and looming thunderstorms.  I really need a couple of nice warm days so I can run the pressure washer and wash the windows without freezing to death.  The windows are naked waiting for the return of the freshly washed curtains!

Sunday I tried to keep making progress, despite being rather sore.  I did get the kick plate on the basement door before church and returned the other afterwards.  I stopped a few other places hoping to find a good idea for mother's day, but no such luck.  I guess I better hurry up.

Three cheers for Beff, who helped me ensure I didn't teeter off of the ladder out front on Monday night.  As a result the hedges between my house and the next are trimmed back a good bit again.  We did find one nest with a couple of baby birds during our effort, and we finished up before the rain started.

Not much specific tackled last night or tonight, other than a good scrubbing of the tub and making myself dinner on the grill (trying to kick the gas so I can get a refill without wasting any).  This week has also been busy so far with packaging shells and running to the post office to ship.  There was an issue on a chunk of the listings, so I'll need to relist them in June when I get more free listings, but at least I cranked out a few extra bucks for my cruise addiction.

I finished up the one project I've been working on today and attended a call to spin back up on one that I put a little time in on a couple of months back.  That and another I've been waiting to start tasking me should keep me going to the end of June.  Funny how that seems like a long time at this point.  Of course, once you get told you're at 100% then others call... potential for a little more work to be done before the end of June.  Feast or famine, every time.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

It has been a very full Saturday.  There was a little of the standard weekend fare (vacuuming, running to the grocery store) and then some less frequent repeat occurrences (firing up the grill for the first time this year, trying to reattach the carpet on the basement stairs), and then there was a few rarities.

I actually convinced myself to take the move beyond the ladder onto the back roof to sweep off the pine needles and branches that collected up there.  I am so beyond afraid of heights it is not right.  It took a bit of standing at the top of the ladder to make the move to get on the roof and even longer to make the move to swing my weight back over the side back onto the ladder.  Lemme tell you, the dogs are terrible spotters.  They just laid in the sun down at the far end of the yard staring up at me wondering what on earth I was doing.

I also reattached a few peel and stick tiles that were starting to lift (probably drying out as they were in front of the heat vent).  Now, normally, you'd think that was a pretty full Saturday for me, right?  Nope.  Remember I said I fired up the grill... after baking the whole thing over 600 degrees, to burn off anything evil, and giving it a scrape, I cooked up a couple of hot dogs before I headed out the door to go help at Eggs' house.  He now has one set of kitchen cabinets emptied out, 50% boxed up, and washed down with Murphy's, a few ceramic tiles chiseled out, and an evil maple tree's attempts at spring growth thwarted.

From there we headed out to Westwood to see Olympus has Fallen.  It was a pretty good flick, but totally unbelievable.  Everyone knows that you're not allowed to have guns in Washington DC!  (I would say <sarcasmoff /> but that doesn't happen.  Ok, more unbelievable was a completely ripped president.  There was of course quite a few other "yeah right" moments, but if you suspend disbelief a little and just go ahead and watch it turns out way better than any other North Korea is coming to get us propaganda out there.  Oh, and for once I deviated from the Miss Piggy and had a burger w/ my cheap date.  Not bad!

Friday, May 03, 2013

Hey abercrombie and bitch.... frell you, not for the sizes you choose to make or who you choose to market to, but for calling me fat and unattractive.  That's a GREAT marketing campaign.
The 7th graders, who wear your clothes, will either go through puberty and they won't be customers anymore  or their non-size 6 mothers will give you the proverbial extended digit by not shelling out.
 Goodness, where has the week gone?  I added more Miche items to ebay on Wednesday night and I've been keeping an eye on everything, but more than that, going crazy trying to find the right boxes to ship what went on buy it now.  Fortunately, my estimations on shipping have been pretty good on what I've shipped so far, so I'm feeling decent about it.  Looks like a good number of things will go, let's just hope the bids keep moving up so it isn't at a tremendous loss on the item.  It's definitely looking like I could have a full down payment for a room on Quantum.
I've also spent a little more time outside (last night), cleaning up after the girls and removing some stray pine roots that were creeping in the yard and sticking up to the point they were an issue for a lawn mower to navigate.  I also watered the tomato plants which still look nice and green.  The weather reports sound decent, we should be good to go as far as avoiding frosts.
I tried to fight with the water filter canisters last night but could not get them loose on my own.  *sigh* there needs to be a better tool to twist them off out there, something longer w /a little more leverage, please?  I also picked up smaller kick plates that I ordered to the store (Lowe's).  I guess I need to figure that out this weekend so I can return the one that doesn't look to be as good of a fit.
More mayhem and uncertainty this week w/ work hours, but I'm trying to wait it out and see how things flush out.  Might be good until right up to the end of the month, might have a week gap.