My mom passed away last month, her loss has left a huge void in my life, so while in Florida we decided to make the 3 hour drive to visit my Uncle Bernard and Aunt Ellie in Tarpon Springs. The hugs I received when I arrived were worth the drive, It meant so much to be around my moms family. I was thrilled when they offered to show us around the beautiful town of Tarpon Springs. Continue reading “A Day in Tarpon Springs”
Carnival Cruise and Heart Cruise
My husband loves cruises and who wouldn’t, they are the perfect escape. You go out into the middle of the ocean with great food, entertainment, and activities to fill our days and nights.
Our latest was aboard the Carnival Ecstasy. One of the older and smaller ships in the Carnival fleet. We sailed from Miami to Key West and Cozumel. But it was not the destinations that appealed to my husband when he booked this trip; it was the fact the band Heart was to perform during our night in Cozumel; and yes it was the real Ann-and-Nancy-Wilson, Crazy-on-You Heart.
We arrived in Miami in the morning on the day of the cruise and were able to board early as we had purchased “Faster to the Fun” passes which allowed us to bypass the lines and get right on board. We always try to get a room with a balcony, I know people say its just a room, but there is nothing like having your own private space to sit and relax away from the crowds and look at the water or gaze up at the stars at night.
We never like having to stick to a schedule so we always choose the “dine at your own time” option. The dining area offered a 3 bottle of wine deal for $67.00 that we could split over our 3 nights, and after looking at the prices of wine, this was a definite saving. However, the real surprise that night and throughout the rest of the cruise was how bad the food was This was not our first Carnival Cruise and in the past we loved the food. I don’t know if it was this particular ship or if Carnival has let its quality slip but weight gain was not going to be a problem as we barely finished our dinner.
On our first night, the cruise director led us on a fun pub crawl to check out the bars on the ship. There were lots of fun places with a variety of music. Our favorite was the piano bar featuring a young wonderful singer named King Bea. We had a great time sitting at the piano while he played and we all sang along.
Sadly, the food never got better, nor did the service in the dining room. At one lunch we were serving water and bread to other patrons as there was no one around to take care of it. No one seemed to mind that we were doing their job for them.
Food is all covered on the cruise but alcohol is extra and can get very pricey. I went online and ordered a bottle of vodka with soda to be delivered to our room before the cruise. We also brought 2 bottles of wine which is the maximum amount you can carry on. They also offered a morning continental breakfast you could have delivered to your room. Each day we ordered orange juice and tomato juice and would make our own bloody Mary’s or screwdrivers in our room.
We were not able to dock in Key West due to bad weather. In Cozumel we opted out of the excursions and had beers, margaritas, and nachos at “Fat Tuesdays.” The drinks were fabulous. The nachos were average. We had to ask for extra jalapeños and habenero sauce (since “gringos don’t like it too spicy”). If you worry about the water in Mexico, the waiter told us that their ice was made from purified water. We had an outside seating area with a view of the ship.
When in Cozumel, be wary of the vendors. Don’t buy anything right away. Always shop around first. If you show interest in any one thing, they will hound you relentlessly. Stand firm and keep walking. I purchased a cross that I found for $5.00 less at the very next place we stopped.
My focus that day was the upcoming Heart concert that night. My husband had purchased VIP passes for us which included a meet and greet with the Wilsons. It was a small event where we were offered free champagne and a photo op with Ann and Nancy, no time for autographs just a couple brief comments then off to our great seats for the concert.
There was not a bad seat in the auditorium but third row center seats was a great treat. The concert was amazing! It was funny that the average age in the audience was 50 so when we would stand up to dance it usually was short lived as our stamina was not what it was at 20. The Wilson sisters still have the stamina and superlative talent, they have not changed a bit.
I am not sure if I would consider another Carnival Cruise, unless of course they had another fantastic concert offering like Heart. They do a yearly concert series so it could happen, I guess we will check out next years calendar.
Time together with no distractions plus the Heart concert made this a spectacular week. I am sure it wont be long before we are on the internet looking for our next great sailing adventure.
My Aunt Claire once told me when your adult children ask you to hang out with them, jump at the chance. So when my daughter Kat asked if I would help her by working the Amy’s ice cream booth at Austin City Limits I jumped at the chance. In my mind I envisioned a couple of folding tables filled with ice cream and the biggest challenge would be helping the customers decide what topping they wanted for their ice cream. It was mid October in Texas how many people would want ice cream!?
Sunday October 11 was a scorcher in Texas. I arrived at the venue and was amazed at the enormity of the event. Austin City Limits also know as ACL is a huge event held over 2 weekends at Zilker Park in Austin Texas. The concerts are played out on multiple stages with thousands of people of all ages in attendance. It’s a well organized event that in addition to great music you can find dozens of food and drink booths.
Having the opportunity to see the set up from behind the scenes was a fun eye opener. Each booth went back far enough to hold cooking areas, places to wash dishes with a special area to dump liquids, and huge refrigerated trucks that held the thousands of pounds of food needed to feed this crowd. Yes, we had folding tables, dozens of them, there were also multiple freezers for the ice cream and enormous mixers to make floats. Everything was being made fresh and on site. At Amy’s booth alone the line was four people across and so long that I never saw the person at the end of it. The Amy’s staff were well organized and hard working, everyone knew what to do and patiently helped as I poured more shakes in one day than I had in all the years I had served ice cream to my kids and their friends during their entire childhood.
It was some of the hardest work I have ever done with one of the nicest group of people I ever met. They served hundreds of shakes and gallons of ice cream that day. I was amazed how they kept the ice cream frozen, outdoors on a hot day and in spite of the volume, no shake or ice cream cones were allowed to cross the counter unless they were the same delicious quality you would find in their stores every day.
It was a great day, the music was fabulous, I had an opportunity to visit a few of the other food booths, all who were working just as hard and serving the best their restaurant had to offer. But the best part of the day was seeing my daughter in her work element, organized patient and cheerful. I felt like one of those movies where the mother and daughter switch lives and the mom gets to see how your child has become the responsible adult.
ACL is worth the trip for the music alone just be sure to check out the food booths while you’re there. Austin’s best and most delicious make an impressive showing. and if your there stop by the Amy’s booth I know it will be my first stop.