From Russia (and elsewhere) with love!

Anyone who knows us, knows that the two of us like nothing better than walking into a bar or restaurant, and feel like we are with friends.  We love that feeling you get when the person behind the bar looks up, smiles, and says “Hello Sue and Frank”!  While lots of people will constantly try new places, we love going back to places where we are known quantities, and where we can be with friends.  People like our long time bartender friend Ralph at the Eden Lounge at Harrahs AC, or Dennis, the bartender at St. James in Mineola, that we spent so many “Nail Nights” with!  Or our friend Sue Waniak, who befriended us at Charlies when she was a waitress, and has now turned into a genuine family friend, as has the rest of the Waniak clan!  We’re still doing it, like on our weekly visits to Angelo’s in AC and our favorite bartender/waiter Michael!

 

Based on our history, is there any reason to think we would have done otherwise during our recent 2 week cruise with Kenny and Chris on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas?  Ha Ha…I don’t think so!  So this is a tale of 5 young ladies, who enhanced our cruise via their friendship!  Some on the Liberty and some off.

The R Bar

This is the 4th cruise we have taken on the Liberty of the Seas, thanks to contracts the boys have gotten to perform on the ship.  The first time was out of Bayonne, New Jersey when we sailed to Bermuda, and the next 3 cruises were out of Galveston, Texas, heading to the Western Caribbean.  To say we are familiar with the ship would be more than true, and as such, we realize that when folks board on deck 4, and want a drink, the first place they see is Boleros Bar, just next to the gangway.  However, as seasoned travelers on the Liberty, we know that just one deck up, in exactly the same place, is a nice, quieter bar called the R Bar!  This is our favorite place to hang on embarkation day till the cabins are ready.  This is our standard MO, and one we followed this year, and there we waited for my cousins Jeanne and Walt to join us, while taking advantage of our drink package!

That first day, Joey was behind the bar, and he was both welcoming and easy to be with, and so the R Bar went to the top of our list of possible hang-outs during our 14 days on the ship.  Then we met the girls!  Neither Susie nor I have a clear memory of first meeting them, but we’re pretty sure we met Irena first.

Irena is a Russian young lady in her mid 30s.  Her command of the English language wasn’t the best, but then my Russian is non existent, so no complaints here.  She soon learned our names and what our drink of choice was, and she was always very welcoming when we walked into the R Bar.  The first week, when my cousins were with us, she always wanted to know where Jeanne and Walter were if we went in alone.  Soon she wanted to know where Kenny and Chris where if we showed up without them!  During our two weeks with Irena, we learned that she had studied to be a Criminal Lawyer in Russia, and upon completion of her studies, had practiced for exactly one month, as she didn’t like being involved with people who were “trying to hurt others”.  We also found out that before she signed on the Liberty, she had almost no command of English.  

62DB0789-FB6D-4D61-91C1-FD8A20BD4C4CShe would often times squat next to our chairs and talk to us when the bar wasn’t busy.  We discovered that she had a sister and mother in Russia, and two nephews she was very proud of.  We also found out that she had a boyfriend on the ship (another bar server from the Philippines) and that she liked pocketbooks (an immediate connection with Susie…the Queen of Pocketbooks!).  We also found out that she and Shannelle were roommates!  Oh Boy…trouble!

Shannelle was another one of our R Bar friends who we got to know very well during our two weeks on the ship.  From Jamaica, Shannelle is in her first contract back from a Maternity Leave, and is the Mom of a little one year old boy named Xander.  Because of the itinerary the ship is on, she gets to see him every other week when the Liberty ports in Falmouth, Jamaica, and for this she was very happy.  She obviously loved seeing folks on the ship with young kids (especially those close to Xander’s age), and both Shannelle and Irena seemed to have a real rapport with some of the kids on the ship!  Shannelle is a young lady who knows how to have fun, and honestly, we never saw her without a big smile on her face!  She told us about her family in Jamaica, and of course about her son, and beamed all through it!  By the end of our two weeks, she was calling us Mom and Dad!  What a sweet, wonderful person, and how lucky were we to get to know her!

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The third lady at the bar was Kisa, the bar manager.  She is from Granada, and was at the end of her contract, and signed off when our two weeks were over on October 6th.  We didn’t get to know her as well as Irena and Shannelle, because she always worked the bar, but the night the girls had us join in singing Happy Birthday to her, cemented our relationship with her.  After that, there were hugs and hellos, and she worked very hard to make several special drinks for Susie! 

The last night of our two weeks on the Liberty were very sad.  We were sad to go and Irena and Shannelle were honestly sad to see us go (Kisa was sad, but since she was leaving, it was not to the same level as the other two), as we felt we were leaving friends!  

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Just before our final hugs, Irena and Shannelle gave us a package, and told us not to open it till we were back in the room.  Two sweet young ladies that we were so happy to get to know, and become friends with!  Here’s the note they gave us…

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I’ve already mentioned Joey, but can’t forget Jay at the Casino Bar and Mo the first week at the Hoof and Claw, and the second week at the Schooner Bar.  All great folks that enhanced our stay on Royal’s Liberty of the Seas!

Captain Jack’s Roatan, Honduras

The forth young lady was not on the ship, but rather a “friend” from the island of Roatan, Honduras.  When we were on the cruise in 2016, the boys took us to a little shack called Captain Jack’s Ceviche Bar and Grill.  Hanging over the water, just outside the port, we had some great drinks and some very freshly cooked seafood, and loved every minute of it.  

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When we were back in March, the plan was to once again hit Captain Jack,s, but the boys told us that there had been improvements to the place since our last visit!  Boy, they were not kidding!!  It had doubled in size, the bar was bigger and in a new place, and it even had bathrooms!  Even better, it had a young lady holding court behind the bar named Babe, and it didn’t take us long to fall in love!!  We had a wonderful afternoon with great drinks, some delish “Babe Shots” and the best Coconut Shrimp and Conch Fritters in the world!  When we left, there were hugs and kisses all around and we told her we were looking forward to seeing her again when we returned in the end of September.

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On its current itinerary, the ship visits Roatan about once a month, so the boys get to visit Babe and we get to hear stories.  On their last visit, they told her we’d be there the first week in October, and when she saw them that day, the first thing we heard from her was, “Where’s Mom and Dad??”  Both Susie and I got a bear hug that we weren’t sure was going to ever stop, and we knew immediately we were in for a glorious afternoon!  

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Her given name is Darcia Johnson, and when Susie told her that her maiden name was Johnson, Babe started calling her her “sister from another Mother!”.  We once again had a great time, again the best coconut shrimp, conch fritters, and fried plantains in the Caribbean, and many special “Babe Shots” (first a pink one, then a blue one, then a green one, then an orange one).  It was an afternoon to remember, and a Facebook friend we will always hold dear to our hearts!  Love you Babe and thanks for the hospitality!!

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Patrick’s Bar – The Strand, Galveston, Texas

The fifth young lady is someone we have heard about for years from the boys.  As I mentioned, this is the third contract they have done on the Liberty, and the second with it porting in Galveston full time.  Way back in 2016, they wandered into a bar on The Strand on one of their Sunday turn -around days to get a beer.  They got a beer, and so much more!  They met a friend!

We have heard about Sophie for over 3 years, and although we’d never met her, we felt like we knew her.  Her boyfriend Carl (a Galveston Fire Fighter) would hang out at the bar on Sundays whenever he wasn’t on shift, and the boys loved hanging with them just before they returned to the ship.  There were lots of sad eyes when their contract ended just before Christmas in 2016 and they were forced to say goodbye to Sophie!

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Last February, when the boys returned to the Liberty, on one of their first Sunday turn-around days, they once again wandered into Patricks, and suddenly almost 3 years of separation faded away!  Sophie and Patrick’s was always their last stop before heading back to the Liberty for another week.  Sunday is their only day in the United States, their only day off in Texas, and there are always things to do like shopping, picking up mail, and of course having a cocktail or two.  One thing they didn’t miss was a visit with Sophie if she was working!

Susie and I tried to meet her last March when we went on the ship, but she wasn’t working the Sunday we were in port. This time she was, and we finally got to meet this lovely young lady.  She is everything Kenny and Chris told us about her, and someone who is no longer just a bartender, but someone who has become a good friend (hmmm…does that sound familiar?)!  So much so, that when the boys sign off the ship early next month, and travel back to Nevada, they are going to meet up with Sophie and Carl in Las Vegas and celebrate Kenny and Sophie’s birthdays together! So thanks Sophie for taking care of Our Boys on a lot of Sundays, and for being a good friend to our two wandering minstrels!  

So there you have it, our tale of 5 young ladies who were a big part of the enjoyment we had during and just after our two weeks on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas!  Susie and I always love getting to know people and getting to cross that bridge from server to friend, and I suspect we will continue to make friends in bars and restaurants wherever we go.  It’s just who we are!!!

Week #2

Kind of like I did last week, I’m basically going to post a bunch of pictures of Week 2 of our cruise, and briefly talk about them.  Too much to do, too much to see, too much to remember, so, if there wasn’t a picture, we may not remember it happened!  

As I briefly noted at the end of week one, after saying goodbye to Jeanne and Walt on Saturday night, turnaround day in Galveston on Sunday September 29th, also happened to be our 40th Wedding Anniversary!  We started with Mimosas at one of the boys Sunday hang-outs, Brewchachos, and then it was off to Fisherman’s Wharf, where the boys treated us to a wonderful Anniversary Lunch!

After a beautiful Sail-A-Way, Chris had to get ready for the first parade of the week, and we visited Sorrento’s pizza on the Royal Promenade and found a good place to watch Chris perform from!

After parade, the boys joined us on a trip to the casino and a little gambling!

Monday was an alone day for Mom and Dad, as the boys had a tech run, and then 2 performances of In The Air that night.  We spent the day wandering the ship, including lunch at Giovanni’s Table, and one of our favorite non- participation spots, watching the flow rider.

This was also the night of the Captain’s Cocktail Party, so a dress-up night, but this week, since we’d already participated in the Captain’s party the week before, we decided to give up a glass of cheap champagne, for a drink in the R Bar!  A good decision on our part! Then it was time for the first show of In The Air!

The following brief video will show you one of the highlights of seeing our youngest perform.  Mom always get’s thrown a kiss from her baby!

We went to both shows, and once again there was pizza between, and a trip to the casino after!

The next day was a day we’d been waiting for since we were on the ship last March.  The port of call was Roatan, Honduras, and our excursion was a trip to Captain Jack’s and a visit to one of the sweetest women, Babe!  A haunt of the boys every visit to Roatan, we’d met Babe in March and fallen in love!  When they were last there, the boys had told her we’d be with them on their next stop, and we both got a huge hug from her and a wonderful greeting!  It was a fun day with incredible drinks, some colorful shots Babe gifted us, and the best Coconut Shrimp, Fried Plantains, and Conch Fritters in the Caribbean!!  We were joined by Kenny and Chris fellow cast members Martha (from Scotland) and Lee (from Ireland), and a great time was had by all! “Chaars…Bonkers!”

Going on one of these cruises with the boys are a blend of together time and alone time.  They are, obviously, working while we’re there, so although we love spending time with them, they’ve got shows and other duties to take care of when we’re on the ship, so Mom and Dad get to explore and enjoy some alone time too!  We head to the Windjammer buffet for meals, watch crew member drills, hit the pool and hot tub, and marvel and some of the outfits fellow passengers cram in their luggage!

But then, there are the shows!  Nothing better than watching “Our Boys” on the stage, doing what they love and what they’re very good at! They both come alive up there, and just watching them makes us happy and confirms that they are exactly where they belong!  A couple of highlights from Saturday Night Fever…look for Kenny’s Mommy kiss at the end of the second video!

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We awoke in Cozumel to find our huge sister ship,  Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, tied up across the pier from us, and knew that it would be a busy day in Cozumel as it’s 6000+ passengers would be joining our 4000+, as well passengers from the several other ships in port.  Not to worry though, we were going to have a “Kenny and Chris Day in Cozumel”, following them as they visited some of their favorite non-tourist locations!  There were Margaritas and Beers at a favorite stop, incredible burritos at a locals only little hole-in-the wall place, and then some more Margaritas and Pina Coladas before heading back to the ship!

That night was the second Formal Night of the week, and the four of us put our best foot forward, as we dined in the Main Dining Room, visited our friends in the R Bar (where Lee and Martha and Martha’s Mom and Aunt joined us), and concluded the night in the casino where bartender Jay kept us all well supplied!!

Getting back to the cabin, we found something we’d been dreading since we signed on almost two weeks before…LUGGAGE TAGS to be used when leaving the cruise on Sunday!

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Saturday morning, Susie spent some time packing, and when she felt she had it well under control, we met up with Kenny in Vintages Wine Bar for some late morning champagne and to wait the start of the last Parade of the week, and watch “Admiral” Fox put the troops through their paces!!

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After Chris got changed, it was together time for D’Elia/Fox Family Time!

Our first stop was Olive or Twist, the lounge at the top of the ship.  Great drinks, and great views!

That night, we once again dined with Nelson at Chops Grill, were we were surprised with a lovely Anniversary serenade.

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After a nice meal, it was time for our last trip to the R Bar, and to say goodbye to 3 ladies that had become good friends over the past two weeks!  A sad night for us, but we were very happy to have met and got to know Irena, Shannelle, and Kisa during our time on the Liberty! 

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Getting off the ship the next morning was a breeze, as was picking up our rental car at Enterprise, and way before they expected to see us, we rendezvoused with the boys on the Strand, and were off to Walmart for their last supply trip of the year!

Then, it was a last lunch with the boys at The Spot on Galveston Beach…

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before visiting with their bartender friend Sophie at Patricks Bar, before we dropped them off back at the Liberty, and Susie and I began our drive to Houston.

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Our flight was scheduled out of George Bush Intercontinental Airport just before noon on Monday, and we spent a relaxing night at a Homewood Suites just outside the airport.  After two weeks of wonderful meals, in specialty restaurants, the main dining room, and even Sorrento’s Pizza on the Promenade Deck, this was our last meal of the trip…

Then it was time to wing our way back to Philadelphia International Airport, get the Honda, and drive down the Atlantic City Expressway to home!  A great two plus weeks away, but, It’s Good to Be Home!!

Week 1

We’ve just spent the last seven days, sailing on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas, the ship our boys Kenny and Chris work on, and we were accompanied by my cousins, Jeanne and Walter Pratt. Our ports were Cozumel, Mexico, Grand Cayman, and Falmouth, Jamaica. The trip worked out exactly like we’d hoped…we were together when we wanted, apart at other times. 

I’m not gonna do a play by play blog here, but mostly some annotated pictures of our week.  Sometimes we were all together, sometimes it was just part of the group, sometimes Jeanne and Walt went off on Shore Excursions alone, and sometimes Walt stayed on the ship, and Jeanne partied with us.  Take a look at a fun Family Week on the Liberty of the Seas!!

First, once we’d gotten on board the ship, it was time to head to the R Bar and some Texas Teas, then off to boat drill at our son Kenny’s station!

Then some family fun with Jamie at the piano in the Schooner Bar!!

We hit the casino….

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And then pregamed in the room before the Captain’s Cocktail Party!

We had dinners together….

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And burritos with the boys in Cozumel….

We loved watching Saturday Night Fever where Chris starred as Double J and Kenny as Father Frank Junior!

We ate at Johnny Rockets…

And enjoyed Grand Cayman!!

In Jamaica we spent the day at Margaritaville!

We enjoyed a beautiful Jamaican sunset from our balcony…..

And loved seeing Kenny do the 70s Set on the Royal Prominade. 

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We had Late night family time in the Schooner Bar….

And a parade on the Royal Promenade starring Christopher!!!

Of course, there was time for a few last drinks in the R Bar….

And a trip to the Platinum Theater to see Our Boys starring  in In The Air!!!

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There were other Family dinners

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And then it was time to say goodbye to Jeanne and Walt (sniff, sniff), but we spent our 40th Anniversary with the boys in Galveston….

And now we’re back at the R Bar ready to start week #2 on the beautiful Liberty of the Seas!!!

 

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To be continued……

 

 

September 29, 1979 – 40 Years!

 

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40 Years ago today, on the afternoon of Saturday September 29th, 1979, at the Interfaith Chapel on the C.W. Post College campus, Susie and I started what has truly been the Great Adventure of our lives! That day, in front of friends and family, we said our vows, and became a married couple.  Why the Interfaith Chapel on the CW Post College Campus? Well, unbeknownst to each other, we’d both gone to Post at the same time! While I was pursuing at Batchelor’s Degree in Music, Susie took her academic classes at Post while a student at Pilgrim State School of Nursing! A connection we never knew about till we started dating in 1977.

I’ve always believed that our union was destined to be, and firmly believe that it was no accident we were brought together by friends in at a July 4th Bar-B-Que. There clearly was a plan for our lives, and today we are still living out the script that was written in the stars!  She’s still my best friend, the one I want to be with when I’m down, the one I want to celebrate with when I’m up, the one who kicks me in the ass when I need it, and the single most important person in my life.  She’s also the best caregiver in the world, as I experienced when I had my knee replaced in July! We don’t live our lives like others do, and that’s all right with us.  It’s our life, and we love it!

The last 40 years have truly been Our Great Adventure! Between buying and selling houses, raising children, going through the sickness and death of parents, working through our health issues, watching all three of our kids walk down the aisle, and ultimately becoming Grand Parents, I have trouble believing it’s been 40 years! In my mind’s eye, I can still see that scared girl walking down the aisle of the Interfaith Chapel with her Dad  like it was yesterday (I would like to forget the brown tuxedos, but hell, it was the 70s!).

I freely admit that we’re dreamers and so far, they’ve all come true!   My life has been a dream, because of the lady I’ve spent it with!  I love you now and forever Susie, and I thank God for bringing us together, and for giving us a wonderful life, filled with wonderful kids and grandkids, and friends that are like family!

My life has been special because you’ve been in it! Thanks for the most wonderful 40 years anybody could ever hope for! The Adventure continues…..

 

We Made It!

After a good night’s sleep at the Philadelphia Airport’s Embassy Suites, and a shuttle ride to Terminal C, we actually made it on the 8:30 American flight to Houston!!!  And guess what…we were able to reclaim our paid for First Class seats!!  I’ve finally learned that if you keep asking enough people, you’ll eventually get the answer you want!

The flight was uneventful and even about a half hour shorter than scheduled!  Oh, one funny thing….the meal they served us. I thought I misunderstood the Flight Attendant when she told us what it was, but then found out that she did indeed say a Granola and Strawberry Sandwich on a roll!  Huh???   In what realm is that a sandwich??  Oh well, two Bloody Marys helped a bit!

It was hot when we exited George Bush International Airport in Houston to wait for our Lyft.  In the 90s and sunny, but a lot of clouds in the area. In a few minutes our ride arrived and we were off. It’s some distance from the airport to Galveston, and the ride took about 90 minutes.  We had to detour a bit because of some remaining problems from the 43 inches of rain, but we weren’t driving, so all was well!

We’re staying at the Harbor House Hotel, on Pier 21, on the waterside of Harborside Drive.  It’s a nice hotel, created out of an old commercial building.  It’s a great location, just a couple of blocks from the cruise terminals and the historic Strand neighborhood.  

Luckily, even though we were early for check in, Glenn at the front desk found us a room, and we got to change out of our flying clothes, and into something more fitting for the Galveston temperature!  Still hungry after our Granola Sandwiches, we enjoyed the 2 club sandwiches we’d bought at the airport when we still thought we were flying coach.  Thank God we had them!

Then it was off to the Strand, an area we’d explored with our boys when we were here in March!

We purchased 2 bottles of Prosecco for tomorrow’s Sail-away, stopped for a couple of Pina Coladas when the rains came, and Susie shopped a bit – she got a visor and I got a t-shirt.  When the rain stopped, we headed back the couple of blocks to the hotel, and just as we were walking into the entrance, the rain started again!!  

After watching the Carnival Dream leaving Galveston from our hotel window, we got a text that my cousins Jeanne and Walt had arrived in Galveston, and now our traveling party is complete!  Tomorrow we board the Liberty of the Seas, and share Our Boys for week one of our 2 week cruise with them!!

But tonight, our last pre-cruise event, dinner right next door at Willie G’s, as the 4 of us reunite for the first time since we saw them last February at their house in Florida!   Let’s just say, a good time was had by all!

Mother Nature

So, all things being equal, our view tonight should be of Pier 21 in Galveston, Texas, but instead, thanks to a Tropical Storm named Imelda, and the 40 plus inches of rain she dumped on Southeast Texas, our view is instead of the atrium of the Embassy Suites hotel at the Philadelphia Airport!!!

Our original plan was to leave home this morning, and be on American’s 12:30 flight to George Bush International Airport in Houston. That was till we got the notification last night, while having dinner at Angelo’s, that today’s flight had been canceled!   They booked us on a flight tomorrow morning at 8:30, and we lost our First Class seats, but got two together in the Main Cabin!  Just hope we don’t have to fight to get the difference between First Class and Main Cabin returned!!  Rather than leave home before the sun rises in the morning, we decided to drive in tonight,  and stay at the airport!  A little bummed, but hey, we’re still TSA Pre!  

Fingers crossed everything goes right, and this time tomorrow we are indeed at the Harbor House Hotel at Pier 21 in Galveston!   Come on now…let’s see those fingers crossing!!

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See you in Texas!