Saturday, January 14, 2012

Something new

A couple weeks ago a challenge was issued on the CCF, thats the Coleman Collectors Forum;
Use a camp stove once a week for 52 weeks. Every week a new theme is issued, follow the theme and post pictures.

The first challenge was hot dogs. Now I don't normally eat hot dogs but I'm always up for a challenge. I also figured that anything worth doing was worth overdoing so I decided to make a video:

Week two's challenge was eggs. Eggs are so easy to do poorly that I went with french toast.

These videos were really fun to make, I'm hoping I'm able to keep up with making a video every week. Theres nothing like a challenge to get you up off the couch and get things done.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Vacation - Wrap up

So the cruise was a success, after Cozumel we had another day at sea and into Tampa. The trip home was uneventful. I'd been a little nervous about making our flight but it was no problem at all. Being a paranoid traveler means you don't miss your plane.

Would I cruise again? You bet.
Would I cruise on Norwegian again? Maybe, but I want to try out another cruise line first. We definitely felt like this was the geriatric cruise line and we'd hoped to find a younger, more excited crowd. The dance club pretty much emptied out around midnight although it was open longer. We didn't close the place down each night but it was pretty dead by the time we left. The food situation was also, well, weird. A lot of people complained about the food but it seemed like their main complaint was that nobody was shoving food into their face twenty-four hours a day. I considered that a good thing. We didn't have any complaint about the food although we did steer away from the buffet pretty quick and the specialty restaurants were kind of expensive, or rather they were exactly what I'd expect to pay if I went out...

A couple lessons learned:
DON'T book shore excursions through the cruise line

DO wear sunscreen

A camelbak hydration pack can be used to smuggle booze on board

Tequila beach in Costa Maya is worth doing, bring your own towel and eat next door at Senior Frog's

Swim with the dolpins at Dolphinaris but don't pay full price for the pictures. In fact if you bring a non-swimmer they can take pictures for you.

Senior Frog's near the cruise dock in Cozumel is rowdy (at least it seemed from outside).

Vacation - Cozumel

Gah, 3 months to finish a travelog is a little long...

Anyway our last port of call was Cozumel, thats an island off the coast of Mexico, pretty much opposite Playa Del Carmen. This was another docked port of call and there were MANY other cruise ships. I think I counted 7 total. We were docked directly next to the Norwegian Spirit which is pretty much the same as our ship although a little smaller.

We'd decided to "swim with the dolphins" on the premium dolphin experience. This took us to Dolphinaris which was really great, unfortunately "swim with the dolphins" it is not. Its really, "stand near the dolphins" although you do interact with them. The facility is fantastic although recent rains meant that the water was a little cloudy. The pools have ledges where you stand to interact with the dolphins. We got to have a dolphin "hug" which involves putting your hands out and touching the dolphin's fins, kiss the dolphin's nose and feed the dolphin a fish. Actually I got to feed him 2 fish. All the time you mug for the cameras which are all around. The trainers give a really nice dolphin talk and show some anatomy and explain some dolphin on dolphin

The exit is of course through the gift shop where they try to get you to buy your pictures. DO NOT take the first offer. The big package first offer was like $1500, we'd decided to buy one or two prints maybe but played it cool when the salesman came by. He quickly sold us the same big package for ~$300. I tried to get a better price but he wasn't moving, he'd given us his best price take it or no. This package got us all our pictures on CD, a DVD with video of our interaction and a couple prints. Unfortunately we didn't look close enough and in one of mine my eyes are closed... Oh well.
It takes some time to get the prints so we ate in the attached restaurant which wa
s much better than we expected. Then back to the ship to drop off the pictures and time for shopping.

Cozumel is clearly built for tourist trade, theres a big shopping plaza with shops leading off on the streets as far as the eye can see. The locals see you and expect all Americans to have money hanging out of their pockets. We were pretty well tapped at this point (day 6 of 7 after all) but my wife is an excellent target. I had wanted to go to a grocery store I'd spotted earlier in the day and at one point had to literally drag her away from the sellers even though we had basically no money left.

I love going to grocery stores when I travel, you learn a lot about people by what their grocery stores are like. I also like to buy snacks like chocolate bars, that we don't have at home. On our return there was a kid selling roses so I bought one for Angie. Of course you aren't allowed to bring anything alive back on the ship so we had fun, Angie would rip the petals off and since it was windy they'd blow away, I got a bunch of interesting pictures of the petals flying.

We saw later some young couples where the guys were being bigshots and had bought their women a couple dozen flowers, when we got back on board the ship had big trash cans full of them.

I'd like to have more time in Cozumel, perhaps with a scooter or small car. This is the Yucatan peninsula so its actually a fairly safe place to be compared to northern Mexico as you get near the US.