Week One

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As I said before we started, we are doing without internet on the ship, so there will not be a detailed blow by blow description of our travels, but I’ve been taking some notes on my phone, and depending on how good the internet is in Galveston on turn around day, I hope to post some brief notes about our first week of two on the Liberty of the Seas!!

So, we’re on week one of a two week cruise around the Western Caribbean with our boys. The first two days of the cruise were sea days, the first of which was cold and rainy!   No view of Caribbean weather, so it was an inside the ship day!  The second sea day, however, the sun was out, the sky was blue, and the temperature was in the 70s…beautiful!
This was also an alone day for us, as the boys had two performances of In The Air, and had a lot of prep to do during the day.  After breakfast in the Windjammer, we spent a lovely couple of hours by the Solarium pool, reading, people watching, and enjoying a couple of Pina Coladas! A little time in the casino, a little shopping,  some nap/reading time on our cabin’s balcony, and before we knew it, it was time to get ready to meet the boys to get in the theater and see 2 great performances of In The Air!
After 2 sea days, we spent today in Roatan, Honduras at Captain Jack’s Bar, perched over the water, just outside of the port!  With our Bartender Babe making incredible drinks, and their kitchen making excellent Conch Fritters, Onion Rings,  Calamari, and Plantain Chips, it was a wonderful relaxing day spent with 2 of our 6 favorite kids!  Great family time, talking about dreams and the future, it was an incredible day!  No need for zip lines, monkey farms, or swimming with dolphins! After a hug, we told Babe we’d see her in 6 months when we’re back. She said she’d be looking for us!!
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Today we are in Mexico…Costa Maya to be exact. Susie and I were last here 2 and a 1/2 years ago, and had a wonderful beach day with the boys.  This year, however, the boys have to work, so different plans are called for. Tonight they do two performances of Saturday Night Fever (6 and 8:45 PM), and on days like this, they also have a “tech run” in the morning, so a busy day for them. We’ve decided that we’re just going to get off the ship and hang around the dock area.  As I write this, Susie and I are waiting for the boys in our cabin, and preparing for the 1/2 mile walk down the pier from  the ship to the land!!!  Yes, a full 1/2 mile of pier between the ship and Costa Maya!  It’s a definite knee brace day!
There were 4 cruise ships in Costa Maya today, so the pier was crowded. The boys took us to a favorite burrito place and we had a couple of great ones, before heading back to the ship.  The walk was long, but we stopped a couple of times to look at the incredibly blue water!  Back on the ship, we said bye to the boys, and both groups went to relax.
Right now, Susie and I are sitting in the Platinum Theater waiting for the start of the first performance of Saturday Night Fever. Our night ahead?? Two performances of SNF, a drink or two, and then meeting up with the boys after the shows.  Nothing better than seeing Kenny and Chris on stage!!  This is the 7th and 8th time we’ve seen this production of SNF, and I tell you it just keeps getting better, and we’re not of that opinion because 2 of the cast members are part of our family!!! The audience LOVED the show, meanwhile we shed a tear or two of joy, watching our kids doing what they love!!!  Life is very good tonight!!
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Welcome to Cozemul , Mexico!  Port  #3 on this week’s cruise, and the only port we visit twice during our two weeks on the Liberty of the Seas.  We’ve just gotten back from a wonderful day at the El Cozumeleno Beach Resort, where for a $65 Day Pass, we had an incredible day of food, drink, and pool life!  Thanks to Miguel and Santiago, we never wanted for ANYTHING!!!
We’re back on the ship now, sitting on our balcony having a rum and coke and watching our larger sister ship, the Oasis of the Seas leave the dock.  Our lines are being dropped now and we will soon follow her. Next stop…Galveston, Texas, after a sea day tomorrow!!  The end is near for most folks, but for us, just the beginning of week 2!!
Last night we had an incredible dinner in Giovanni’s Italian Restaurant.   Thanks to Manager Alex, waiter Marvyn,  and the magicians in the kitchen, it was a magnificent dinner, and we all loved it….and may have eaten too much!!!
Today is a sea day, and the last day of the cruise for most…but not us, as we start the adventure all over again!!!  Susie and I slept in a bit, then went to the Windjammer for breakfast, then spent an hour plus watching people trying to master the Flowrider!
Then we met up with Kenny outside Sorrento’s on the Promenade Deck to watch the Move it Parade,  orchestrated by our other son Chris!!!  Good job Chris..well, except when Shreck almost went flying, but all’s well that ends well!!
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We spent the rest of the afternoon taking advantage of our drink package at various venues around the ship. Changed for the night, had a couple of glasses of wine at Vintages, and then finished up with a martini with our friend Silbert at the R Bar.

Tonight, a late dinner and room service ala Chris and Kenny!  Burgers with Sriracha Peanut Butter, etc.  a fitting way to end week one of our latest adventure!!!
See you next week, when we sail to Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Jamaica!!

One and done!

So, it’s 7:57 Central Daylight Daylight time, and day 1 is coming to a close. We left Ocean City a little after 8 this morning, headed down the AC Expressway, and about 9:30 arrived at the place we parked our CRV for 2 weeks. A quick shuttle to Philly International, an easy trip through TSA Security (even though Susie’s metal rivet shirt was not “TSA Security friendly”), and before we knew it we were on the plane, heading to Houston.

After a 3 and a 1/2 hour flight, we were at George Bush International Airport, and ASAP here come our bags down the conveyer belt!  About 5 minutes later, Jackie our Lyft driver showed up in a brand new Acura MDX, and we were off on our hour plus ride to Galveston!  Nice car, nice lady, pleasant drive!

As I type this on my iPhone, Susie and I are in our PJs sitting in our room at the Harbor House Hotel, right next to the cruise terminal.  We’re relaxed, having just cone back from a wonderful dinner at Willie G’s Steak and Seafood, just across the pier!

We started with two wonderful Martinis…with these glasses, how could they be anything but wonderful???

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Don’t we look happy??

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We started with a wonderful Gulf Shrimp Cocktail!  7 Shrimp!!!  Then a wonderful entree Shrimp Platter!!  And dessert??  How bout a couple of Mai Tai’s???  It was a good night!!

 

 

 

 

LOS

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DSC_0286By the time you read this, Susie and I will be winging our way to Houston, Texas, with our eventual destination the Port of Galveston, where on Sunday the 17th, we will rondezous with Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas, have a couple of Texas Ice Teas upon boarding, and then meet up with Our Boys!   Our Boys (ie…youngest child Kenny and his husband Chris) have been on the Liberty since mid-January, and we are looking forward to spending the next 2 weeks with them in the Caribbean!

 

 

Kenny is one of the 6 Lead Entertainers aboard the Liberty, and Chris is a Lead Dancer/Aerialist and the Dance Captain of the company.  The contract the boys are currently on, started with rehearsals at the Royal Caribbean Studio in Miami, Florida back in November of 2018, and they will be on the ship through early November of 2019.  The main shows they do are Saturday Night Fever, the Musical and a Cirque de Sole type show called In The Air.  

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In SNF, Kenny is Father Frank, the Priest brother of the main character Tony.  In addition, both Kenny and Chris play many other small parts, and of course, Chris is prominently featured in all the dance numbers.  Chris is also Kenny’s understudy in the show.  Based on the movie Saturday Night Fever, there are lots of great dance numbers and the very familiar music of the Bee Gees!  This is the third contract the boys have done on the Liberty, and our third cruise with them, so we know what to expect, but we are still excited to see them on stage, and honestly, 2 weeks in the Caribbean is much better than traveling through a blizzard to Janesville, Wisconsin in December to see Kenny perform!

 

 

IMG_2048The other show, In The Air, is comprised of a number of different scenes, all revolving around music, and featuring spectacular dancing and flying sequences.  Kenny is the host of the show and starts it, as well as being featured in several numbers, and the grand finale.  Chris is both a dancer and an aerialist in the show, flying high above the stage on rings, swings, and even just long banners of cloth!  Oh Boy!

Watch Kenny open the show!

 

 

 

 

 

This is a video of one of Chris’ Flying numbers, shot in rehearsal 

Kenny also does a 70’s Set on the Promenade Deck during the big, ship-wide 70’s Party!

 

 

 

 

But the real fun times we’ll have with Our Boys are the times we sit around having a drink, or the places in the ports we relax, and even just hanging out on our balcony!  

 

 

It’s fun to be on the ship, but it’s more fun to be with Our Boys, and to enjoy whatever they have planned for us!  Now, they are working, so that means that sometimes Mom and Dad have to amuse themselves.  Perhaps we’ll take another Martini Making Class!

 

 

 

 

Whatever we do, we know it will be fun and we will have 14 days of great family time!  As we have on past cruises, we have opted not to get Internet service on the ship, so please don’t look for an ongoing commentary here about what we’re doing and where we’re going.  During the course of the cruise, we will make 3 stops in Mexico, one in Honduras, one in the Cayman Islands, and one in Jamaica.  On our return, I would expect that we will be sharing some details of our exploits, but till then, just imagine we’re having 14 glorious days in the Caribbean!

Sue and Frank

South of the Border

img_1352-1If you’ve traveled up or down the East Coast of the United States on Interstate 95, and crossed the North Carolina/South Carolina border, you know about South of the Border!  Famous for it’s mascot Pedro, and for their advertising signs up and down I-95, it’s been a staple of our trips, as children, as parents when our 3 kids were young, and as retirees running away from the northern winters!  What you may not know is the history of this long time fixture at the North/South Carolina border.

Located in Dillon, South Carolina, like me, it was born in 1950 as South of the Border Depot. It was originally a beer stand adjacent to what was, at that time, one of the many dry counties in North Carolina.  Known as the halfway point between Florida and New York in the early days, as the years went on, the business was expanded with Mexican trinkets, and then added a cocktail lounge, gas station and souvenir shop and, and in 1954, a motel.  In 1962 they added a firework’s store, capitalizing on the fact that fireworks sales were illegal in North Carolina!  By the mid 60s, South of the Border had a barber shop, drug store, a variety store, a post office an outdoor go-cart track and other outdoor recreational facilities including a miniature golf course. 

In 1964 it was announced that the route for the under construction Interstate 95 would pass right by South of the Border, and its place in Americana History was assured.  From as far away as 200 miles, you see billboards alongside I-95, many featuring the South of the Border mascot, Pedro.  

 

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While many have called the SOB mascot Pedro culturally offensive, politically incorrect or racist, South of the Border has dismissed the criticism , saying that Pedro is a light-hearted joke. An interesting fact….today all South of the Border employees  are referred to as Pedro.  

As you approach the 350-acre compound along the east side of I-95, the first thing that you see in the distance is the 200-foot observation tower with the sombrero shaped observation deck .  

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As you come upon the site, the miniature golf course, truck stop, 300-room motel, multiple souvenir shops, campground, multiple restaurants, amusement rides, and Fireworks stores come into view.

 

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Unfortunately, in recent years South of the Border has fallen on hard times, as less and less families travel via car, and many, more modern facilities have opened along I-95.  Every time we’ve driven by in recent years, the place has looked very empty, as opposed to the times we visited in the late 80s and early 90s when Billy, Krissi, and Kenny were little kids.  Times change, and perhaps in the near future, South of the Border, mascot Pedro, and the roadside billboards will go the way of Berma Shave signs….just a memory of a time when we all were younger.  

PS – In 2016, shortly after I retired, we made our first retiree winter trip down to Florida. On the second day of our trip, we passed the North/South Carolina border, and South of the Border.  In that blog, I told the story of a much earlier trip to Florida, with three little kids, and of our adventure at SOB.  Check it out….

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Road Food

No, I said Road Food, not Road Kill!

So, if you’ve read any of our travel blogs before, you know that our eating MO is to seek out interesting local places, rather than go with national chains or fast food places.  Our two exceptions are Cracker Barrel and Arbys, which are our two travel dining guilty pleasures.  So, let me give you an idea of our last two meals on the road!

Last night was our second and last night in Savannah, and like we often do in bigger areas, we turned to Open Table for help choosing a place to eat.  After going through the listings, and checking out menus, I presented Susie with 4 places I thought sounded like we’d enjoy.  We both picked the same restaurant as our #1 choice, and so we went ahead and made a reservation at Tondee’s Tavern over by the river.

Now, how to get there?  We could have taken the car out of the garage, but then there would be the hassle of finding the place and parking and being concerned about drinking, so for the second night in a row, we used Lyft to get us from our hotel to the restaurant.  We could have used Uber too, but for some reason I have a Lyft deal for the next couple of weeks, where rides are 50% off if the original fare is under $10, so Lyft it was.  Miss Shirley picked us up at the hotel, and took us to dinner.  Along the way we had some delightful conversation about both of our daughters getting married, and before we knew it, we were there.  The fare was $6.10 minus 50% so $3.05 and I added a $3 tip.

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It was a casual place, just the kind we were looking for, with a great menu.  We each had a beer (Susie Blue Moon, me a Miller Light) and ordered a couple of great dishes.  Susie had fall off the bone ribs and I had a pan grilled flounder stuffed with crab.  You’ll notice, no starch on either of our plates, and they had some great choices!  We continue to be semi-good.

We Lyfted (is that a word) with Timothy back to the Courtyard Hotel (same fare deal) and had a lovely night’s sleep!

This morning we got up after 8:00 and had a leisurely morning, then both showered, and were downstairs waiting at the valet for the car a little before 11 AM.  Our first destination of the day was just an hour away, Darien, Georgia.  We’ve stopped in Darien for at least the last 3 years for one reason and one reason only, a visit to B&J’s Steak and Seafood for a plate of their delectable fried shrimp!!!

Two firsts this year at B&J’s.  #1..this would be our first lunch visit, because we usually stay in Darien and have dinner at B&J’s.  #2…in 5 visits to B&J’s, this is the first time we got to park the car in front of the restaurant and not in some far corner of their lot out back!

As is usual for us, we both started out with a visit to the salad bar, and then each got a shrimp basket.  B&J’s Shrimp Baskets contain 1/2 a pound of the freshest, most delicious fried shrimp we have ever in our lives eaten.  Makes it kind of hard to order fried shrimp anywhere else! Again, we passed on fries, and had cole slaw instead! 

As usual, they were out of this world, and again as usual, we will also be stopping in 5 weeks or so, on our way back north, for another helping!  Tipped by a former work colleague years ago (thanks Abe), we have stopped every year since, and I’ve also got my Cousins Jeanne and Walt stopping there too.  If you head south or north on I-95, I suggest you make it a stop!

So tonight we are in Gainesville, Florida and tomorrow we will check into our condo on the beach for the next 3 weeks.  We only hope it’s as nice as the pictures and descriptions made it out to be.  Stay tuned!

Savannah

Separated by the Savannah River from the state of South Carolina, Savannah is a city steeped in history, and tradition, having been founded by James Oglethorpe in 1733.  It was Oglethorpe’s plan for the city, with 24 park like squares, that is largely what is now Downtown Savannah, which includes the Savannah Historic District, and the Savannah Victorian Historic District.  Although 2 of those squares are gone, the 22 squares and the surrounding tree lined streets and magnificent homes truly represent his vision for the city of Savannah.  

Of course, having recently seen the movie, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and since I’m in the middle of reading the source book of the same name, written by John Berendt, and have started to listen to some of native son Johnny Mercer’s music, we were as prepared for our visit as we thought possible.

We started this morning at the Savannah Visitor’s Center  and History Museum just across from our hotel.  Inhabiting a historic Central of Georgia Train Shed and surrounded by the Georgia Rail Road Museum and Battlefield Memorial Park, there is a lot of history to be absorbed there, as Savannah was an important city during both the Revolutionary and the Civil War.  

As we always like to do in a new city, we next took an Old Town Trolley tour, and got to see lots of incredible buildings and hear much about the history of this beautiful city.  Our guide Paul provided a lively tour hitting both the highlights and the low lights of the city, and referencing lots that we remembered from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Would love to be able to share with you beautiful pictures, but unfortunately, the weather is a bit brisk in Savannah, and because of that the plastic windows were rolled down on the trolley, making picture taking impossible.  (Do hope you enjoy the picture of the back of our tour guide Paul’s head above) Oh well, perhaps next time.

After the tour, we thought it time for a bit of libation, so it was off to the Savannah Distillery and Ale House for a couple of their Pickled/Spicy Bloody Mary’s and a southern staple, some Fried Green Tomatoes!

Then it was back to our hotel to write this blog, and to spend a little down time figuring out what we’re gonna do next!

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Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the temperature has improved, and after a night of rain, the sun and blue skies have again made an appearance.  It’s windy, and in the 60s, but still better than what it is at the beach in New Jersey!

Tomorrow Florida, but first a visit to B&J’s Steak and Seafood in Darien, Georgia and SHRIMP!!!  See you there!

Touring Charleston

Welcome to Charleston, South Carolina, which according to the AAA maps we have with us, is in the South.  Then why oh why did we wake up this morning to a temperature of 37 degrees???  Even now, as we approach the dinner hour, it’s only 48 degrees!  What the heck is going on with Mother Nature!!

Today, after breakfast at the hotel, we started our day at the Charleston Museum, America’s First Museum!

Then we headed across the street to the Charleston Visitor’s Center.  This is housed in what was Charleston’s first train station.   After looking at some of the exhibits, we caught our City Tour from Adventure Sightseeing!

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Our tour guide was very knowledgable about Charleston and it’s history, and provided us with a very good tour of many of the high points of the city.  Among the highlights was the Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina…..

Commercial areas of the city….

A lot of the beautiful homes that are a part of Charleston…

We also passed the Embassy Suites Hotel which he told us was the site of the original Citadel College until they moved to their new location in 1922.

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Along the way, we passed a horse drawn carriage tour, which would have been a great way to see the city, but frankly they looked a bit cold!  Glad for our bus!

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We returned to the Visitor’s Center, saw some Sea Grass Baskets being made, and watched a movie about Charleston’s past.  

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Having been fully submerged in the history of the city, we decided to cross the street and head back to our hotel and a late afternoon libation and to put our feet up!

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And that’s how we spent our day in the frozen South!