Anna’s Tips for Cruising Part 1

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“Aruba, Jamaica, ooohh I wanna take ya; Bermuda, Bahamas, come on Pretty Mama…”

Yeah, so I don’t have the best singing voice, get over it.  And the song, well, you won’t find it on too many top 10 lists.  Sue me.

Back in the day – and that day meaning before I had a houseful of kids – I owned a travel agency specializing in cruise travel.  It was called the Cocomo Cruise Company (I loved that song), and while I didn’t have a chance to run the agency very long before we were leaving South Florida for New Jersey – and taking a new baby with us – it did help me to find a love of cruising – a love that began to flourish thanks to my in-laws.

My mother and father-in-law are frequent cruisers, and my father-in-law was a Walt Disney World cast member when the Disney Magic was built.  A lottery was held to determine who the passengers would be on the Maiden Voyage of the Magic, and my father-in-law was lucky enough to be chosen!  There were five of us boarding the vessel, and I thought I had never seen anything so elegant and wonderful in my life.  At least as beautiful as the nicest hotels, the ship held Magic and Wonder at every turn, from the amazing restaurants to the incredible shows.  While the trip was not without it’s mishaps (it was, after all, Disney’s first foray into the cruise business), it was wonderful, memorable, and something I knew I wanted to do again.

Over the years, we’ve learned a lot about cruising – like what’s important, what’s worth paying extra for, and even some stuff about tipping – the good, the bad, and the so ugly, we shouldn’t mention it.  But we will.  Because we’re like that.  So here are some of my best cruising tips.

1 – Inside? Outside? Verandah? Oh My! – When you hear the call of the deep blue sea, and that call leads to a call to your travel agent (and I know two phenomenal ones, so if you need numbers, let me know!), one of the first things they are going to ask is whether you want an inside cabin, an outside cabin, or a cabin with a verandah.  Now, I have to tell you, I have been on many cruise ships, and on at least a few of them, I’ve been with sick children – or I’ve been sick myself.  While this is something you certainly can’t plan for, it might be something to consider.

If you are looking at a standard sized cabin – as opposed to some sort of suite – it won’t matter in terms of size or storage if you book an inside or an outside cabin.  For some people, there is a concern that they will feel claustrophobic if they don’t have a window, so if you don’t think you can make it through the length of your cruise without a window in your room, don’t book an inside cabin.  If it doesn’t matter one way or another, consider the amount of time you will actually spend in your stateroom.  If you plan to spend your cruise lounging around the cabin, ordering room service, and watching television, you might want to spring for an outside cabin so you can at least periodically allow yourself to see the sun.  If you are booking excursions, plan to be up and out each day doing things in the ports or on the ship, it probably doesn’t matter.

Now for the verandah.  A couple of cruises ago, we spent a week on a ship, sailing to Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Key West.  During the trip, my middle daughter got sick.  Then my youngest daughter got sick.  Then my husband got sick.  I spent quite a lot of time in the cabin, and with the two sick children, I spent a lot of time trying to be quiet so they could sleep.  Having a verandah on that cruise probably saved my sanity.  I didn’t get to go off the ship in Grand Cayman, so the closest I came was to take pictures from my balcony on the ship.  Having the verandah allowed me to go sit outside, enjoy some of the sun, and not disturb the girls sleeping inside.  It gave me a place to go to feel like I was “out” of my stateroom, and I have to say, even in the evening, while the rest of the family was at dinner, and I was sitting with a sick kid, it was nice to be able to step outside for just a few minutes and enjoy an ocean breeze.  It also allowed the sick children, who did not get to enjoy the kids’ activities, a bit of a breath of fresh air and sunshine.  I would say that having a verandah on that cruise was well worth the extra money spent to have one.  Again, getting sick is not something you can anticipate, but if you do plan to spend time relaxing in your cabin, consider a balcony.  Also, if you plan on going somewhere where the scenery would be amazing, you might want to budget for a balcony.  I haven’t been to Alaska yet, but I don’t plan on cruising there unless I have a balcony cabin.

Next tip – How low should you go?

Sakura celebration lunch – WLS review

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Jim wanted to celebrate my A in College Algebra aka pre-calculus aka Why am I in this class again?, so instead of heading home to our usual lunch of whatever I can find that requires the least amount of my energy and time in preparation, he wanted to do something special!

We ended up grabbing a quick lunch from our local favorite Japanese restaurant. Okay, so we only HAVE 2 Japanese restaurants in our area.  One of them is Sagami at the Collingswood Circle, which we drove past all our lives and never knew it was a Japanese restaurant until we were in our late 30’s; and the other is Sakura, which has an awesome soup called Seafood Tofu Soup for Two.

The soup is a delicate broth filled with chunky pieces of vegetables (mostly carrots, celery, onions and whole mushrooms), and then given a generous helping of firm tofu along with shrimp, scallops, and crab leg cut into strips like noodles.  This was one of the first meals out that I ate following gastric bypass surgery, and it continues to be a favorite.  There are days when I have to skip the veggies, because after a soup filled with protein, the chunky vegetables can be a little too much to enjoy.

To go with the soup, Jim picked out two of the sushi specials.  They feature several different sushi rolls each month to encourage diners to try new things.  They discount them by 50%, and we’ve discovered some delicious sushi this way that we might have otherwise overlooked.  For lunch, we picked up a Paradise roll, which is shrimp tempura, wrapped with banana tempura, lobster salad, and topped with tofu and flavored mayonnaise.  Okay, I KNOW they don’t eat this way in Japan, but I am so glad they adapt these things for an American palate.  This was flavorful on many levels, with crunchy, sweet, savory, and a bit of spice in the mayo.  They are certainly flavors I would never think of putting together, but oh my gosh, they were delicious.

Sakura Japanese Restaurant October sushi specials

The other roll we decided to sample was the Pink Lady.  This was chicken tempura, boiled shrimp, and cream cheese, topped with a spicy mayonnaise.  This was a much smaller bite, and while it should have been easier to eat as a result, I have such a hard time with chicken.  The flavors, again, were amazing and multi-layered, but between the two of them, even though the other roll had more rice (which is a no-no for me), the chicken in this one did me in.

Sushi is a hit or miss thing for gastric bypass patients, and while I find I am able to enjoy a few more bites than I once did, I still have to limit myself.  The rice kills me after about three bites, and I’m left with the lovely taste in my mouth and a horrible pain in my stomach.

Sakura is a great place to stop for lunch (they have fabulous Bento boxes), sushi, or a date night dinner.  They have hibachi grills in addition to the sushi bar and the regular tables, so there is something for everyone at this great little spot.

Take out items are available.

Sakura Japanese Restaurant
910 South Black Horse Pike
Blackwood, New Jersey 08012
(856) 374-3088

Don’t go to a comedy club with my husband

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Twice.

What’s that saying – burn me once, shame on you.  Burn me twice, shame on me.

If you’ve ever met me, I think I come off as kind of quiet, shy, and whatever the opposite of flamboyant might be.  I’m sort of vanilla, who just happened to end up married to rocky road.

So last Halloween, the first time we took my husband to the Laugh Floor Comedy Store at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, I was worried when they appointed him “That Guy”.  “That Guy” is the guy that they keep coming back to with their jokes, and most “That Guys” sit there with a confused look on his face, and lets himself be the butt of all jokes.

Not my husband.

The first time, every time they put the camera on him, he smiled, made hand gestures, and at one point, started pointing at me, leaning in to grab a kiss.  Can you say “mortified”?  Sure you can.

So I should have known better a few weeks ago when he excitedly asked to go into the Laugh Floor again.  Memories should have come flooding back to me, but no.  It’s like childbirth.  It’s excruciatingly painful when it happens, but the memory wears off when it’s cushioned with a year’s worth of smiles and happiness.

And there I was, seated next to “That Guy” again.  Only this time, determined to make a bigger ass of himself than he did the first time around, every time they put the camera on him, he got up and did some kind of a dance – not as good as the one Elaine did on Seinfeld.  More like this one:

Then of course, he insisted on sliding closer to me on the seat, despite the fact that not only had I moved as far down the row as I could, but I was holding another man’s hand and another woman’s child to make sure no one could possibly think that That Guy was My Guy.

The cast members, however, thought he was hysterical.

It’s a pattern.  During a comedy show at Downtown Disney, when asked for the names of common household items, That Guy yelled out “chainsaw!”.  Seeing the Amazing Jonathan in Plantation?  I think the crowd laughed more at how loudly and oddly Jim was laughing than they did at Jonathan’s act.  And our first comedy show together – which we went to in the middle of a wedding reception for one of his aunts when a cockroach crawled out of the salad plate – I thought it was quirky and cute when he shouted out to the stage when they asked for suggestiosn.

Never again.  There will be no more Laugh Floor for This Girl.  At least not when I have That Guy in tow!

Oh – and let this be an apology to my cousin Rick, who is a phenomenal Improvisational comedian in Philadelphia. Now you know why we never come to the show!

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk – David Sedaris – Not For The Faint of Heart

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If you’ve read David Sedaris before, you know how he can be.  He is dark, humorous, and honest about people and how they act – even if they are animals.

I can’t help but wonder, though, if he has issues with his mother.  But of course, there is a story in this book that has a decidedly discriminating tone towards homosexuality, and we have to assume the openly gay Sedaris doesn’t have a problem with homosexuals.

This collection of stories points out recognized human failures, but translates them into the animal kingdom.  He recreates the every day imbalance of good versus evil, using fuzzy little forest creatures that we should know and love.

In the title story, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, the chipmunk finds herself in a young relationship with a handsome squirrel, but the relationship is completely unacceptable to her family and friends because of their obvious cultural differences.  During the course of a date that has way too many awkward silences, the squirrel announces he likes Jazz, something the chipmunk has never heard of before.  She agrees to liking it as well, but when discussing it with her sister later on, after thinking herself she may have just agreed to liking anal sex, she decides to break it off, blaming the wishes of her mother for the end of the relationship.  The regret is almost overwhelming later in life, when she comes to realize what Jazz really is and what she may have given up by ditching the squirrel due to the bigotry of her family.

And the other themes in the book run similarly to this – some sexual in nature, so don’t give the book (which has a very Kids book look and feel to it thanks to illustrator Ian Falconer, of the Olivia story books fame) to your 10 year old.  The lessons, if they get them, are valuable ones, but that doesn’t mean they should learn them at the pen of David Sedaris.

I laughed, a lot.  I won’t lie.  And I had to take a look at myself as a mom, trying to make sure that the egregious errors made by several of the moms in the book are not errors I make myself on a daily basis.  But someone’s mom is making them, or they wouldn’t be there to make fun of and draw attention to.  That is a sad reality in this book, but I suppose there is a lot of sad reality in this book, if you can see it through your tears of laughter.

So on that level, the book was a bit disturbing to me, despite the humor.  Holy crap, how we can mess up our kids!

Read the book.  I am recommending it (although with much more thought than went into recommending it to me – sorry, Dr. V!), but only if you can stomach the violence, the perversion, and the mirror it might hold up in front of you.

It’s good to laugh at ourselves now and again, but beware that with this book, it might be more nervous laughter than rolling on the floor laughter.