Liberation At Sea

There is something about the routine of daily life that is both reassuring and suffocating at the same time. Even more than most, I live my life at home traversing a very intentional and well-worn rut. I work out on the same three days of the week, on certain days of the week I carry out food from the same familiar places (Thursdays are soup night, don‘t you know?), etc. The upside of having a routine is that this mindless pattern saves a lot of wear and tear on the little gray cells. On the downside, however, life lived in this fashion can slowly and silently suck your bones dry of the marrow of inspiration and spontaneity.

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When people ahead of you in the grocery store line start to become irritating, double-wide barriers between you and the checkout counter and when smiling starts to require way more energy than you are willing to expend, perhaps the time has come to book your next cruise (from one of our expert agents, of course) on the Liberty of the Seas. As I write these words, I am sitting in Liberty’s Café Promenade sipping a cappuccino and reflecting on seven ways in seven days to become liberated on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Liberated To Eat Like A Gourmand

When it comes to food and vacation, rationalization is a beautiful thing.  You can devour everything that comes within an arm’s reach and tell yourself it doesn’t really count, you are on vacation after all.  The great thing about cruising with Royal Caribbean is that the quantity, although voluminous, is somehow surpassed by the quality.

Here is a very important tip for those contemplating sailing on the Liberty of the Seas.  Belly up to the bar . . . a rather apt figure of speech . . .  and buy the three dinner specialty restaurant package in advance.  It will save you a little money but, more importantly, getting to dine at Giovanni’s Table, Chops Grille and Sabor Modern Mexican will, I promise you, be the highlight of your cruise.

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The up charge is modest, the food is divine, the service impeccable and the ambience intimate and inviting.  I loved all three but I suppose if I had to choose a favorite it would be Sabor.  This comes from someone who is not a raving fan of Tex-Mex (heresy for a Texan, I know).  But Sabor offers is authentic modern Mexican cuisine.  They make the guacamole tableside as well as the margaritas!  Nadia Guevara, the manager, is a true delight (pictured above with my bride) and above, as well, you can see Cocoa making one mean margarita.

Liberated To Imbibe Like A Connoisseur

When it comes to adult beverages, the great thing is you don’t even need to  rationalize!  Here is another little tip.  When you first get on the ship, you can purchase a wine packageIMG_1294 with several bottles of wine.  If you don’t finish one, you can have the remainder brought to you the next evening, regardless of where you are dining.  If you don’t consume all the wine during the trip, as we didn’t, you can bring the rest home with you.

One evening at dinner, as we were about to order our wine (you get to choose from a list of about 15 wines), the head waiter, Lucian, told is it was not necessary.  He said someone had provided a bottle for us.  He then raved about the quality of the wine, a 2013 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon pictured here.  We can confirm his estimation as we consumed the entire bottle over a long and lingering dinner!  So here is a special shout out to the benefactress whose name I will not mention both for fear of offending her modesty and also being accused of brazen name dropping.  Thank you for your gracious contribution to a wonderful evening.

Liberated To Indulge In Shameless Pampering

We rewarded ourselves for our numerous visits to the fitness center with a visit to the spa.  Let’s just say it is not exactly every day I am the recipient of a Swedish back message, energizing foot and ankle massage, relaxing scalp massage and a Men‘s Skin IQ MiniFacial.  I was very disappointed, though not completely surprised, to discover that my skin has a higher IQ than my brain!

DSC03243The pampering extended to the way Kevin, our cabin steward, attended to our every whim.  (I am pretty sure we exceed our whim allotment the first couple of days.)  From tracking down a lost suitcase, to brightening our day with his towel art and much more, Kevin embodied the rock star treatment one unfailingly gets on a Royal Caribbean ship.

Liberated To Explore Like A Latter Day Columbus

Our cruise called at Cozumel, Georgetown, Grand Cayman and Falmouth, Jamaica. Among the score of offerings at each port of call, Royal Caribbean singles out these three for special recommendation:

  • Cozumel – Explore the ruins of the ancient Mayan city of Tulúm, majestically perched above the turquoise Caribbean.
  • Grand Cayman – Experience a once-in-a-lifetime adventure: snorkeling with stingrays at Stingray City Sandbar. These relatively tame creatures will swim right into your arms as they glide around you.
  • Jamaica – One of Jamaica’s leading natural attractions, Dunn’s River Falls are terraced, giant limestone stairs, measuring about 180 feet tall and 600 feet long and plunging into the sea.

DSC03229I would tell you all about these wonderful excursions were it not for the fact that we never ventured out of the fantastic dockside shopping areas each port offered.  From the picture above, you might say the one in Falmouth, Jamaica was conveniently situated!

Liberated To Shop Like Paris Hilton

Speaking of shopping, I was particular impressed with the incredible village in Falmouth, Jamaica with the bamboo stores and rum shops.  OK, we may have whiled away a couple of hours in this cute little rum shack.

You can purchase all manner of items in these shops.  You would be completely off base if IMG_1298you are picturing a Bahamas “Straw Market”.   In these shops, you can find diamonds, colored gemstones, jewelry, watches, gold, sterling silver, and even Oriental rugs.

Among my favorite places  were the bamboo stores where everything sold was made of bamboo.  They sell sheets that are softer than Egyptian cotton.  You can find shops offering everything from handicrafts to designer stores such as “C2K, Caribbean Hook, Honora, House of Tanzanite, John Hardy, Kabana, La Nouvelle Bague, Starnight, White Diamonds, Cartier, Concord, Maurice Lacroix, Michele, Movado and more”.

Liberated To Learn Like A Rhodes Scholar

You literally would not believe how many learning opportunities there are on board if you want to expand your horizons to match your growing waistline.  We both attended a cooking . . . and tasting . . . demonstration put on by Sabor where they demonstrated how to make some of their signature appetizers.   I did not join in on the cupcake decorating class, however, knowing my limitations full well.  Sampling is one thing, squeezing icing something else all together.

I was never able to work in the “Puffy eyes and dark circles” seminar.  Honestly, the whole subject sounded a little depressing anyway.   I wasn’t sure I wanted to surround myself with a room full of folks who felt a pressing need for that information!

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Liberated To Transform Former Strangers Into Fast Friends

When we are at home, we seldom approach strangers and when we do, they usually assume we want to sell them something. OK, by way of full disclosure, in my case that is usually true. I tend to place people into two important categories: potential cruisers or possible land tourists. Non-travelers are, truth to say, passing blips on the radar screen.

When you are on a cruise, total strangers have a way of becoming Facebook friends on the elevator somewhere between deck five and eleven. You find yourself asking the couple at the next table at dinner where they are from and, no matter what answer they give, it triggers some long suppressed genius for free association. You will immediately discover what seems (for the moment at least) like a providential connection fated by a mysterious higher power.

DSC03171Isn’t the time long overdue for you to discover you own seven ways in seven days to liberation?  In spite of the length of this post (my apologies), I have only scratched the surface.  To experience all this for yourself, trade in your frustration at home for liberation at sea.

Royal Caribbean’s Royal Suite Class: Best, Bester, Bestest

My abject apology to English grammarians around the world (or better yet, across the seas) for trampling upon their sacrosanct rules governing comparatives and superlatives.  I was an English major myself so, for what it’s worth, my sin . . . while no doubt mortal in their eyes . . . was at least not committed unconsciously.  The reason for the title is simply that the time-worn phrase “Good, Better, Best” just doesn’t cut the mustard in this instance.  Shall I explain?  Indeed, I shall.

Royal Loft Suite with BalconyRoyal Caribbean International next May will launch a newly enhanced luxury at sea program called the “Royal Suite Class”.  This program offers three levels of delicious self-indulgence.  Picture yourself standing on the spacious balcony of one of these suites as I was just a few days ago on the Anthem of the Seas.  Your gaze quite naturally falls first upon the glistening sea below, then rises to the brilliant sky above and finally, as twilight falls, to the luminous panoply of stars beyond.  Thus, the names of the three tiers almost begged from the beginning to be known as Sea Class, Sky Class and Star Class.  See how easy this all is when you have moi to guide you by the hand!

THE BEST:  SEA CLASS

Something all three classes have in common is access to the Coastal Kitchen, a dining option exclusively for suite guests and Pinnacle members.  Think a fusion of Mediterranean coastline and California farmland.  They pretty much had me when I read about ” . . . Med-inspired tastes like Serrano ham, whipped goat cheese and roasted grapes.”  Granted “whipped” and “roasted” sounds a little violent from the food’s point of view but I am pretty sure you will enjoy the results!

This particular class has one category perfect for families.   On the Quantum Class of ships, the Family Connected Coastal Kitchen Anthem of the SeasJunior Suite provides the greatest number of guests in connecting rooms of any suite configuration.  It provides space for up to 10 guests!

I am desperately trying to picture nine other friends,  relatives or even passing acquaintances willing to share that level of intimacy with me and so far I am drawing a blank.  If you find yourself both wealthier and more popular than your humble scribe (not a high bar), you will just have to move up to the Star Class on one of the Oasis class ships where the Four Bedroom Family Suite sleeps fourteen!

All three classes of suites afford access to two other fantastic features.  The first is the suite lounge where you will enjoy 24-hour access to this intimate setting which offers complimentary breakfast and evening drinks.  Secondly, you can recline in the comfort of a plush lounge chair and bask under the Caribbean sun in a private Sun Deck reserved just for you . . . well, you and a handful of other discriminating suite guests.

EVEN BESTER:  SKY CLASS

This year has been a pretty good year for you, all things considered.  Are you ready to take it up a notch?  If you have ever stayed in a five-star hotel, you know the value of a great concierge.  When you book this class, your exclusive concierge will assist you in booking priority reservations and theater seats.

Take a look at all the suite benefits and concierge services that are at your disposal.  You haven’t been pampered like this since you first learned as an infant to scream your head off in the middle of the night sending your parents scurrying about like the fire alarm just went off.

Sky Class

ABSOLUTE BESTEST:  STAR CLASS

If you book the Star Class, you receive  all the amenities listed in the chart above PLUS unlimited beverage package, complimentary specialty restaurants, in-suite hand crafted cocktail service, complimentary minibar, Nespresso coffee maker service, complimentary fitness class, complimentary in-suite movies, daily gratuities included, Duxiana mattress, and Frette linens, towels and robes.

Sky Loft Suite With Balcony  Royal Suite with balcony bathroom

With all those inclusions, I have saved the bestest for lastest.  For the Star Class guests, Royal Caribbean is introducing something called the Royal Genie Service.   Royal Genie ServiceThe concept is not just to attend to your every need and desire (legal and moral, let me qualify) but to actually anticipate them.  The rumor is that these future genies are being trained even as we speak at the London School of Mental Telepathy.

To summarize, the Royal Suite program will be available on two classes of ships:  the Oasis Class and the Quantum Class.  There are three tiers of suites:  Sea Class, Sky Class and Star Class.  Finally there are sixteen different categories of suites such as Royal Lofts and Owner’s Suite.

I beg you, don’t try to sort this out all on your own.  You will only bruise your precious little gray cells.  Instead, reach our to one of our Royal Caribbean experts.  Why not let your Royal Genie service begin with the booking process?

Let The Anticipation Begin!

Would you like to hear the Denton theorem regarding a universal trait seemingly shared by every intrepid soul in the travel business?   (By way of  warning, unless you hit delete immediately, you are about to.)  So, here it past-present-future-traffic-sign-on-a-sky-backgroundis.  As much as we enjoy reminiscing about the past and reveling in the present, our secret passion is anticipating the future.

As Edward Streeter put it, “”Travel is ninety per cent anticipation and ten per cent recollection.”  Sometimes this affliction is so acute that we actually catch ourselves in the midst of one glorious travel experience dreaming about the next.  Admittedly, that is a little sad.

But here is another great travel insight (I am just full of them today, or as  some would say, just full of it.).  As much as we enjoy anticipating the next experience, for better or worse, it seldom turns out quite the way we expect.  The brilliant Benjamin Disraeli once observed, “What we anticipate seldom occurs, what we least expected generally happens.”   That, however, is precisely what makes travel so rewarding.  If it were predictable, it wouldn’t be an adventure, don’t you see?.

So what has prompted all this philosophical musing on my part, you may (or may not) be asking yourself.  As it happens, I am brimming over with keen anticipation as I stand on the precipice of another travel odyssey. Frankly, like so many of my travel exploits, I am indebted to one of my favorite travel partners, in this case Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.

A couple of weeks back, RCCL announced a contest where travel professionals were invited to submit an essay of 100 words or less explaining why they were “Loyal to Royal”.  I quickly realized that I can100 Words To Wow merely sneeze and expectorate at least 100 words, so I decided to enter.

To cut to the chase, five executives at RCCL headquarters were obviously feeling particularly magnanimous that day because miraculously, I was one of the five winners selected from over 500 entries!. Here is my entry.

Loyalty, like faith, is never sounder than its intended object. No amount of fanatical belief will support a heavy man standing on thin ice. I am “Loyal to Royal” in part because I have confidence in their consistent product, respect for their professional staff and agreement with their strategic vision. A much more important reason for my loyalty, however, is simply that across the span of twenty-eight years the foundation of my faith has never seen so much as a fissure. When one’s own commitment is consistently reciprocated and one’s trust proves entirely justified, loyalty comes very easily indeed!

Quantum of the Seas under construction

The prize was a trip tp Papenburg, Germany to the Meyer Werft ship yard for a sneak peek at the soon to be launched  Quantum of the Seas. The trip will be hosted by Vicki Freed, RCCL’s Senior Vice President Sales and Trade Support & Service and Joanne Schimelman, Vice President of National Accounts.  I interviewed Vicki on this very blog a while back which you can read and listen to here.

As I pen these words, I am wending my way at 30,000 feet to Miami. Tomorrow around 1:00 pm we board a special Miami Air charter for Germany.  I invite you to follow along over the next few days as I chronicle my journey and publicly post many pictures beyond even those on this blog.

In a sense we have come full circle.  I venture forth not knowing who else will be participating, where we will be lodging or the seating configuration of our silver chariot. If you imagine that I find these little gaps in my knowledge disconcerting, you need to go back and reread the first two paragraphs. The mystery only augments the anticipation.

I learned long ago that it is not getting there that is half the fun.  Thinking about being there . . . now that is half the fun!

 

Let’s Talk Turkey: Ephesus To Be Precise

Note to Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, prime minister of Turkey:  I realize it was my first time to visit your fine country but the official greeting committee, shown below, which you sent to welcome me when I stepped off the ship was so much more than I was expecting.  Simply having President Abdullah Gül standing there offering me a cup of Turkish coffee and presenting me with my medal while the military band played the İstiklâl Marşı (Turkish National Anthem) was more than sufficient . . . and even slightly embarrassing for a man of my notable humility.  (Note to reader:  Unfortunately, the picture of that historic moment was snatched out of my hand while feeding an overly aggressive sea turtle from the aft deck.) 

Turkish greetingBut let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  By now, you know the drill.  First we look at one of my favorite aspects of the Navigator of the Seas and then I regale you with fascinating and occasionally true stories of my exploits at the latest port of call.

A FAVORITE FEATURE

“Those are my principles,” Groucho Marx once famously said, “and if you don’t like them–well, I have others.”  One of my own principles is that I never over indulge.  It may have happened once or twice that I was over-served but I think we can all agree, that is hardly the same thing.  Nonetheless, I must admit, I do enjoy the fruit of the grape from time to time.

Vintages on the Navigator of the SeasThere are few better places to sip a mellow Malbec or sample a crisp Cabernet or imbibe a saucy Shiraz or . . . I think you get the idea . . . than Vintages on the promenade deck of the Navigator of the Seas.  This cozy gathering place features more than 60 vintages in their 600 bottle cellar.  Frommer’s has a very nice review of this venue midway down the page here under the heading Public Areas.  Be honest, doesn’t just looking at this inviting image make you yearn to be sitting there right now?

A PORT TO PONDER

For those of you whose biblical knowledge is a trifle rusty, Ephesus was a city visited by the Apostle Paul in his evangelistic journeys and a place which bears the name of one of his epistles.  Just so you don’t embarrass yourself at the next Sunday School pot luck dinner, okay, the Epistles were not the Apostles’ wives!  The epistles were pastoral letters written to burgeoning congregations of Christians in places like Ephesus, Thessalonica, Corinth and Philippi.

Ephesus was built on a small hill with the entrance at the top and the exit at the bottom, a rather unusual design.  That reality is clearly illustrated from this picture.  It is not at all difficult to imagine this main thoroughfare crowded with people from all over the world 2000 years ago just like it was on the day I snapped this picture.

Ephesus, TurkeyIf you would like to view the many pictures I took during my stroll through Ephesus (too many to post here) just visit this site.  (Tip:  The pictures are in chronological order just as Houses of the Wealthy in Ephesusare these Golden Circle posts.)  This is truly one of the most amazing excavations anywhere in the world.  There is a large covered area where massive excavations are underway to unearth “Terrace Houses”, also called the “Houses of the Wealthy.”  These impressive homes were built right into the side of Bulbul Mountain opposite the Hadrian Temple.

This is a picture of the Grand Theater where the Apostle Paul once preached.  It is the largest extant theater from the ancient world with a seating capacity of 24,000.  Just think of it as the “Cowboys Stadium” of Ephesus' Grand Theaterantiquity.   If you have never been to Ephesus, you owe it to yourself to make the effort.  If you have even a remote interest in the ancient world, this is a must see.

For those who need an additional incentive to make the trek, like shopping for example, take note of this head scratching sign that I could not help but notice in the small shopping bazaar just as you exit the ruins to return to the motorcoach park.

Sign in Ephesus market

I am thinking about adopting the slogan for this blog: “Genuine Fake Blog Posts!”  What a great disclaimer against charges of false advertising.

Picture It, Sicily 2013

First things first.  Apologies are no doubt due to the late Estelle Getty who famously portrayed the fictional character Sophia Petrillo-Weinstock on the hit TV series The Golden Girls for the shameless rip-off in my title of one of her most popular comic devices.  She would start a sentence “Picture it, Sicily 1922”, or some other year, with a hilarious story inevitably ensuing.  Thanks Estelle, for all the laughs.

Marina in Massina, ItalyYou needn’t expect this blog post to meet, much less exceed, the high comedic standard set by that show.  Fortunately, regular devotees of Travel By Terry probably figured out mid-way through my initial post to keep their expectations lower than a world champion Jamaican limbo dancer.

The next few posts will recount my recent voyage through the Mediterranean on Royal Caribbean’s incomparable Navigator of the Seas.  In each post, I will relate one of my favorite aspects of the ship, i.e. A Favorite Feature and describe one of the enjoyable ports of call, i.e. A Port To Ponder.  In that fashion, keeping to two simple points, even my readers on Ritalin can stay engaged.

A FAVORITE FEATURE

Did I mention that I celebrated my birthday on my Golden Circle cruise?  Possibly not.  Did I mention which birthday?  No chance in #@%$*!  In any case, some of my dear friends invited me to share a birthday dinner with them in the Chops Grille which immodestly but accurately touts “the best steak on the high seas.”   If you are not familiar with specialty dining on Royal Caribbean cruise ships, it is the opportunity to upgrade your dining experience from merely great to gourmet.  Take a moment and watch this video!

Chops Grille on Navigator of the SeasThere is a modest up charge of $30 per person for the experience but because I am blessed with magnanimous friends (thanks Tim and Margo!), I did not have to bother my pretty little head with that pesky detail.  The food was sumptuous, the wine delectable (thanks Roger!) and the convivial atmosphere delightful (thanks to the entire table!).  Even if it is not your birthday and you are not accompanied by friends from whom you can con . . . ahem charm an invite, you still owe it to yourself to visit one of the two specialty restaurants during your cruise.

A PORT TO PONDER

Our first port of call was Messina, Sicily.  After perusing my handy Royal Caribbean Shore Excursion guide, a settled on “Taormina On Your Own“.  (There were eleven choices by the way!)  I did this for two reasons.  The price was easy on my pocketbook which, by this point in my travels, was getting lighter by the day.  Also, I figured staggering around through a small village like a vagrant looking for a cigarette butt was well within my limited capabilities.  As it turned out, I couldn’t have been happier with my choice.

I amused myself no end by taking pictures of things that for some odd reason you were not supposed to photograph, like this shop window.  I suspect that this was actually a little Sicilian reverseTaormina, Italy shop window psychology to get you to stare at their window.  If that was the case, all the little signs with X-ed out cameras had the desired effect as I found myself unable to withstand the temptation to take a picture.  The same is true, apparently, of the guy on the right.

Speaking of signs, this little jewel caught my attention.  Who would Street sign in Taormina, Italyhave thought that flashing, Mardi Gras style, was a huge law enforcement issue in Taormina? The tiny print under the top image says, “Circolare a torso nudo – Do not go bare-chested.”  Considering it was about 40 degrees that day, a violation of that edict might have proved very interesting, if you catch my drift.

Taormina is an absolutely charming village.  It is an excellent place to get your cannoli fix, as I must confess, I did!  On the edge of this quaint village is a magnificent Greek theater built in the 3rd century B.C.  This tour offers a relaxing three hours to tour the shops, stop off for lunch at a sidewalk cafe and, on a clear day, view the snow-capped peak of Mt. Elba.

Taormina's Greek TheaterI may have missed the mafia tour called, “In The Godfathers’ Footsteps” but I live with no regrets.  I walked in my own footsteps and had a wonderful time doing so.  And just for the record, I kept my shirt on the entire day . . . sparing me a fine and the entire populace a grotesque visual!

My Trip / The Ship / A Tip

Those of you who have been paying attention . . . just for grins let’s kid ourselves and assume that’s 100% of you . . . will have noticed that this recent series of blog posts has been called “Golden Circle 2013”.   I’m curious.  Did that unfamiliar term cause you even a moment’s pause or did you just shrug your shoulders and mutter “Whatever” like some bored tween being asked to clean his room?

Picture from my balcony on Navigator of the SeasGOLDEN CIRCLE 2013

Not that it happens all that frequently on these pages but there happens to be a perfectly logical reason for the use of this term.  Every year our franchise organization, Travel Leaders, sponsors a reward trip for some of its top performing franchisees called, not coincidentally, the Golden Circle.  To qualify you have to be willing to sport a gold belly button ring of no less than twenty-four carats.  (OK, I’m being silly.  Fourteen carats is perfectly fine.)   Actually, you just have to be the creme de la creme of the travel industry, able to dispense expert advice, draw upon decades of distilled experience and resolve prickly problems all without breaking a sweat or mussing your hair.

This year’s trip was a seven night Mediterranean cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas in and out of Civitavecchia, Italy, the port near Rome.  More about the cruise ship momentarily.  But why, pray tell, did I fly to Rome from Dallas-Fort Worth by way of Dubai?  For those who can still afford a globe, even a cursory glance will reveal this is not exactly the most direct route.  In fact, it is 14 hours from DFW to Dubai and another 5 1/2 hours from Dubai to Rome.  I promise I was not amassing frequent flyer miles.  I did it for the perfectly sane reason all of us travel zealots do what we do.  I succumbed to a new destination’s allure, a new airline’s ambiance and a new culture’s attraction.   The travel itch, mon ami, simply has to be scratched!

Navigator of the Seas PromenadeNAVIGATOR OF THE SEAS

The Golden Circle cruise was aboard the Royal Caribbean vessel Navigator of the Seas.  The cruise that I was on was the penultimate cruise before the Navigator left the Mediterranean for its new home, Galveston, Texas.  Would you believe that the reason for this repositioning was that I struck up such a fast friendship with the captain that he wanted a home port nearby where I could continue giving him little navigation tips to enhance his career?  No, I didn’t think so.

Would you believe that I wrote an entire post explaining this move back in May?  You should!  It was called Travel Industry Proposes, Royal Caribbean Disposes.  Read this post and you will learn that not only is the ship coming to Texas but will be undergoing an extensive dry dock revitalization.  In upcoming posts as we sail from port to port, we . . . that is the we of majesty in case you didn’t notice my toe ring . .  will share  more about this charming vessel.

Sidewalk cafe in Ladispoli, ItalyA TIP

Being slightly intoxicated by the holiday spirit(s), I have magnanimously decided to share three tips for those contemplating booking a Med cruise!   First tip, never ever book your flights to arrive the day the ship sails.  That is a sure-fire recipe for unnecessary stress.  Arrive at least a day earlier. as I did.

Secondly, if you are sailing from Civtavecchia (near Rome), you might want to consider booking an overnight stay in the charming little town of Ladispoli.  (Bonus tip:  the accent falls on the second syllable.)  I stayed at a modest but perfectly suitable little place called the Hotel Alle Tamerici which offers a very cozy restaurant.

Tip number three.  So how do you get from the madhouse known as Fiumicino Airport in Rome to the tranquil Italian seacoast?  I’m glad you asked.  You simple contact Raffaele Rispoli with My Cab In Rome.  Raffaele is a charming and knowledgable denizen of that region of Italy and will gladly spirit you wherever you need to go.  Here is his website and email address (rrispoli at gmail dot com) if you would care to avail yourself of his dependable services.

Did this blog post ignite an all-consuming urge to experience even more?   There are two possible responses to that impulse:

1)  Take two aspirin, lie down and see if the feeling subsides

2) Click on this link where you can view over 200 pictures I took on my Golden Circle trip

Check back soon to hear about our first port of call.

Galveston oh Galveston: I See Your Cruise Ships Sailing

I have always liked the haunting, Vietnam-era melody penned by Jimmy Webb and popularized by Glen Campbell called “Galveston”.   I love the alliteration and especially the vivid imagery woven through the lyrics by the phrases “seawinds blowing”, seawaves crashing” and “seabirds flying”.

In keeping with the alliteration but totally devoid of any of the poetry, this blog post is alDisney Magicl about “ships a sailing” . . . from Galveston, of course.  I am writing this post based on the assumption that some of you lost souls floating around out there in cyberspace are :

1) thinking about taking a cruise ship out of Galveston over the next few months and

b)  find yourself as easily confused as I am regarding what options are available.  My condition actually used to be a lot worse back when I was dyslexic.  Fortunately, now I am K.O.

Carnival Cruise Lines MagicAnyway, here is the pop quiz question for this post.  How many cruise ship depart this fall and winter from Galveston?  If you answered “seven ships a sailing” you obviously have the song “Galveston” confused with “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  If you answered five you are either in the travel business or have Google set as your home page.  If you had no clue, you may be a little surprised, as frankly I was, to discover that there are so many options

Just to make it as easy as possible for you to reach out to me with your next cruise booking, my team of crack researchers (and no, before you ask, we do not research crack around here) have crunched the algorithms, or whatever the heck you do with algorithms, and come up with the simple chart below.

Cruise Ships sailing from GalvestonThis will get you started but you are still going to need expert guidance regarding the differences between these cruise lines, the characteristics of the various ships, the pros and cons of the various itineraries, whether it is appropriate to wear your Tommy Bahamas shirt on formal night, etc.  Fortunately,  that’s why we skilled cruise specialists spend all those grueling hours sailing through the Gulf and the Caribbean.  It may have appeared self-indulgent but we were really fueled by altruism and perhaps the occasional foo foo drink.

While we are on the subject of  Galveston, it just so happens that this sea port is a very pleasant spot to spend a day or two pre or post cruise.  If you are feeling a little too euphoric, you can always visit Moody Gardens and mellow out a bit.  Conversely, if your life has been a little humdrum, schedule a visit to the newest attraction in town, the brand new Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier.

I don’t know about you but I am having one heck of a time getting that tune out of my mind.