Week One In Florida!

We’re a little past our first week in Florida, and thought it was time to update you on our journey. There will be a lot of pictures this time around, because strangely, we remembered to take them…no guarantees going forward! So, here we go!

We arrived in Indian Rocks Beach late in the afternoon of Saturday ,February 1st. We have a new condo this year, that we’d only seen via the internet, so turning the key and walking in, there was a little mystery. Would it be as nice as what we saw on the internet, or would those pictures have been old, old, old! Well, our fears were unfounded, it’s very nice, but also HUGE! Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a huge kitchen, huge living/dining area, and huge balcony. Not the decor that we’d choose for a beach house (more dark Mediterranean than beachy), but probably bigger than our Ocean City house! Take a look and see for yourselves!

Of course, the sunsets in Indian Rocks Beach, on the Gulf Coast of Florida are legendary, and our first night on the beach was exactly what you’d expect!

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Last week was a bit chilly and windy, so a beach day was in shorts and t-shirts, which was more than I’m sure we would have been doing on our home beach in Ocean City! The pool was warm, and sheltered from the wind, and we got to sit by the side and take a dip, so again, a win!

Did we eat out yet? Yes, we crossed the street and went to Keegan’s, one of our favs from last year. We also had breakfast at JD’s, and on Tuesday, instead of the Back Bar at Charlies with Sue, we walked down a couple of blocks, and enjoyed our night at Guppy’s!

Towards the end of the week, my cousin Jeanne and her husband Walt joined us from the East Coast of Florida. They spent 4 nights with us, and joined us as we tried some new places to dine!

One afternoon, we traveled down to Madiera Beach (a place Susie used to go with her Grandma a long time ago) and had lunch at the Mad Beach Brewing Company. Lunch was good, the surroundings were great, but the waitress was a pip, and soured it a bit for us!

On Saturday, we traveled up the coast to Clearwater Beach, for a wonderful lunch at the Columbia Restaurant! A great place, with incredible food and drinks, and this day, Taylor a wonderful waitress just enhanced the experience! Such good things like a 1905 Martini (their original location in Tampa opened in 1905), a 1905 Salad made table side, an incredible Cuban Sandwich, Sangria (made table side), and desserts to die for! We will be back!!

Sunday night, we tried another new place..PJ’s Oyster Bar, just down the road in “downtown IRB”. A nutty setting, a great waitress, and wonderful food!! It checked off all the boxes!!!

When we got home, there was a great light show out on the balcony, as the Full Moon rose to the east! A great Sunset, followed by a great Moon Rise!

Today Jeanne and Walt headed home (we will be back with them in about a month at their home in Barefoot Bay, Florida), and once we made some beds and such, we headed to the beach and pool! 80 degrees on February 10th, is nothing to dismiss as unimportant! We spent a wonderful couple of hours on the beach, and then took a dip in the pool! Also met and talked to some folks from Ohio. Life DOESN’T suck!

Then tonite, we returned to where it all started! Three years ago, we stayed at the Indian Rocks Beach Holiday Inn. After getting settled, we ventured down to the “Hotel Bar”, Jimmy Guana’s, where we met our new friend Lindsey Sterry. We had such a great time with Lindsey, in Jimmy Guanna’s and in Indian Rocks Beach, we turned our 2 day stay into 4, and started our love affair with a little Florida Gulf Coast town! It was good to go home tonight with Tony, one of our favorite local performers on the bandstand, but we did miss Lindsey!

So that’s a wrap up on week one in the Sunshine State. We’re here in IRB till the end of February and in Florida till almost the end of March! Stay tuned…lots more of Sue and Frank’s Really Excellent Florida Adventure 2020 to come! We’ll save a seat for you in the back of the CRV!

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See you next time!

Florida, Here We Come!

It’s Snow Bird time for the D’Elias, and Susie and I leave the cold and inhospitable beach in Ocean City, for what we hope will be a warm and inviting, Gulf of Mexico beach in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida!

We left OC yesterday morning, and our friend the Waze GPS App took us in a way that we’ve never gone before. Rather than across the 9th Street Bride to the Garden State Parkway to the Atlantic City Expressway, it had us go south to 34th Street, and across the Roosevelt Blvd bridge. Then it took us on back road, after back road, after back road (some we’d been on during one of our “Sunday Drives”, and eventually dumped up on the New Jersey Turnpike a couple of miles from the Delaware Memorial Bridge (or DELMEMBR)! Perhaps it was because we left the house at 7:45 and this was to avoid rush hour traffic heading towards Philly, but honestly, it wasn’t a bad way to go!

Traffic once on I-95 was good, and we hit Baltimore and Washington, DC at the perfect time to sneak right through, before the traffic Gods knew we were even there! As we approached Washington, Susie was driving and got this great Instant MPG reading on the Honda CRV! Not bad for driving 60-80 most of the way in a fully loaded SUV!

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Everything was going along fine, till we started seeing overhead signs talking about a “major accident” by mile marker 103 in Virginia with the right lane closed!! What a colossal waste of our time, directly related, I think to the (sorry but) CRAPPY way so many people drive today!! Speaking about that, if anything, Americans’ Driving Skills are even worse that we’ve seen on other car trips we’ve taken! Driving 20-30 miles above the speed limit, tailgating at speeds in excess of 70 MPH, cutting you off as they change lanes, weaving in and out of 2-3 lanes, just to get ahead of a car…you name it, we’ve seen it! Amazed there aren’t more accidents!! Well, the Waze took us off 95 to a ridiculous detour, that was backed-up FOREVER, because of a traffic light within the first 1/2 mile, that only let 3 people turn at each sequence! We lost 40 minutes and I was pissed, till getting back on 95, we came upon people who were right next to us when we exited 95! The age old question…get off or stay the course! Looks like it didn’t matter!

We ended up getting to Billy and Lori’s new house in Wake Forest, NC a bit after 5, but once we got hugs from the littlest D’Elias, all was right with the world! They’ve been in the house since just a bit after New Years, and have done a wonderful job getting new furniture, and making the house into a real home! So proud of the two of them and happy for their new house and their great success!!

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Susie and our 4th Grandchild, Beatrice!  A wonderful, loving soul!

We took off this morning about 9 and it was 36 degrees and overcast. No rain, but that would come before our day was half over! Of course, we had to take our obligatory, yearly South of the Border pictures, as we passed from North Carolina to South Carolina. It continues to be very sad, and we won’t be surprised to drive by and find it abandoned one day!

img_2476We enjoyed our “Traveling Guilty Pleasure” of Arby’s for lunch again today…we did it yesterday too…but since we get the roast beef sandwich without the bun, accompany it with a side salad with ranch dressing, and a diet soda, our carb intake is very low, (under 5) so do we really have anything to feel guilty about anymore?? Wonder why we never drive down to Cape May Courthouse to have it for lunch back home???

Then the rain came! Cold, yucky, light to heavy and everything in between! We usually love getting to the one rest area in southern South Carolina, where we first see palm trees! Those trees were very sad today in the cold, driving rain!! No dreams of shorts and flip flops there today!!!

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Our stop tonight is in Darien, Georgia for one of our favorite stops along the way, B&J’s Steak and Seafood for our first shrimp meal of the trip, the 1/2 pound Fried Shrimp Basket! Tonight was also the Friday Night Seafood Buffet, which all looked great, but we’d only eat too much and suffer tonight!

Tomorrow we’re out of here and head to Florida. We are 49 miles from the Florida/Georgia border tonight in the Darien Hampton Inn, and just 300 miles and about 4 and a half hours away from our condo in Indian Rocks Beach, and what we hope will be our preview of the Summer of 2020!

Stay tuned!!

A Tale of Two Tables

 

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It was just about two years ago, in November of 2017, that a huge change happened in our lives.  It was on November 9th of that year, that we sold our Mineola house, a place that had been home to the D’Elia Family for 31 years, and we officially became full time residents of Ocean City, NJ.  It was a major change in the life of two people who had never known anyplace else but Long Island as home (Susie and I), and an emotional issue with leaving a home that our 3 children had grown up in….including for our 3 children!  I don’t think I’ve written about this before, so here’s brief recap to set up today’s story.

As often times happens, the anticipation of doing something causes you to put it off, and then once you’ve done it, you realize how stupid you were for dragging your feet.  That was our case when we faced the prospect of selling our house!  Our anticipation was that it would take months, and that it would be a painful process involving realtors, and all kinds of folks traipsing through our house.  Our reality was that one of the people that had told us they were interested in the house, came by with their family one afternoon and before we went to bed that night, they made an offer, and we accepted!  Never put the house on the market, never dealt with one realtor, never experienced one bit of pain, but afterwards wondered why we’d waited so long to do it!

The night they made their offer was a little less than 3 months before we went to closing, and our main job during those 3 months (besides a two week trip out to the West Coast to meet our prospective Son-in-Law Chris’ family), was figuring out how to empty the Mineola house.  We’d already taken the things we wanted to Ocean City, and all three of our kids had staked their claims on other items, and even some friends had taken a few items, but the sad Baby Boomer truth is, that we’re all looking to get rid of things, and NOBODY wants them!  Not our kids, not folks running tag sales, not even neighbors!  So, in the end, as the closing date got closer and closer, we had to pay somebody to empty out our house!

Now the clock wasn’t our friend, and as the closing date got closer, we got more and more desperate to just move on, and walk away from the Mineola House.  In the past two years, since Ocean City became our one and only home,  I can’t tell you how many times we have gone looking for something, only to realize that it was obviously one of those things we just left in the house, in haste, to be dealt with by the folks cleaning it out!  The list runs from things in the garage like snow brushes and shovels for the car, to snack tables, that we’d used for years, and that we have regretted leaving so many times since!  This, then, is the tale of those two tables!

These were well made, heavy oak snack tables, that we’d originally bought on one of our yearly trips to the Amish Country in and around Lancaster Pennsylvania.  We’d first bought one for my Mom as a Christmas present, and then added two more for our use on a subsequent trip.  We probably used them in the living room a couple of nights a week.  Sometimes they were the base for take-out food, or other times we used them when we had a meal we needed to use a knife and fork with (which necessitated sitting at a table, because you couldn’t do that with a plate on your lap!), and sometimes, just a base for Susie to write Christmas cards or such. 

We really don’t remember if we made a conscious decision to leave the snack tables, or it was just an oversight on our part, but we’ve missed them so many times over the past 2 years.  Wednesday, we spent the day righting that mistake, and along the way, we also took care of several other missions!

On our yearly trips to Amish Country, we always stopped at King’s Furniture.  It was place the kids loved to explore, and the place that Susie pined over a beautiful dining room set that ultimately came to live in our Mineola House (and one piece of which now lives in the den of our Ocean City House), so we knew exactly where we’d bought them!  Recently, I proposed to Susie that we spend a day, and make a great loop route through Pennsylvania, Delaware, and back to New Jersey, and in the process we hit King’s Furniture, then Total Wines in Delaware, and then Bagliani’s Italian Market in Hammonton, NJ before returning home.  And that’s exactly what we did on Wednesday!!

We left the house a little after 7:15 in the morning, and arrived at King’s Acres a little after 10.  The day was cold and clear, and the Amish countryside was as beautiful as always, and a little after 10:30 AM, we were back at the car, putting two lovely snack tables into the back seat!  Mission 1 accomplished and a wrong corrected that had been waiting 2 years to be made right!

Then we were off on the return part of our loop drive to Claymont, Delaware, and one of our multi-time a year visits to Total Wine & More!  It being mid-November, this trip would go down as our 2019 Holiday visit, and provide us with wine and spirits for Thanksgiving, Christmas and through to New Year, plus holiday gift items!  The prices are excellent, and there is no tax on liquor or wine in Delaware, so it’s a win/win!  

On the way home, we made a stop in Hammonton, NJ so that we could buy some of the great cheeses and sausages they have at Bagliani’s Italian Market!  A great end to a great day!

We left Ocean City about 7:20 in the morning and arrived back around 3:30.  In between, we traveled 257 miles, went through New Jersey to Pennsylvania to Delaware, drove briefly through Pennsylvania again, and back to New Jersey.  We replaced two tables that had slipped away from us two years ago, we stocked up on wine and liquor for the holidays, and stopped off at our favorite NJ Italian Market for some goodies!  All in all, a good day In Our Humble Opinion!

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Family Life Changes

 

When our three kids were younger, we were very lucky that our immediate family lived minutes, not hours or days away!  Susie’s Mom and Dad were in Hempstead and later East Meadow. My Mom was in Bayside. Susie’s sister and family were in Huntington, and her brother and his wife in Merrick.  We, living in Mineola, were pretty much in the geographic center of our entire family.  A 20 to 30 minute drive, got us to any of their houses, so casual drop-ins were very easy to do.  

Then there were holidays.  The hardest thing to decide about most holidays was who was going to host, and what could the rest bring.  It seemed very normal and natural, and we never really realized how lucky we were.  Our oldest son Billy reminded us of this fact of his childhood recently, but now, as the title of this piece says, family life changes!

Life has indeed changed, and Susie and I are at the center of those changes.   We were both born geographically on Long Island…Susie in Amityville, and me in Jackson Heights, in the New York City Borough of Queens.  Our entire married life, we lived in Nassau County…first Port Washington, then New Hyde Park, and from 1986 to 2017, in the same house in Mineola.  Over time, Susie retired (June of 2013), I retired (January, 2016), and then we moved out of the Mineola house (November, 2017).  We not only moved out of Mineola, we moved off Long Island and out of New York State, and made the house we’d owned at the beach in Ocean City, New Jersey since 2005 our forever home! 

Changes happened in our three children’s lives too.  First, they are all married!  Krissi and her husband Mike live in Astoria, in the NYC borough of Queens.  Krissi’s twin brother Kenny and his husband Chris have just finished  up a year long contract on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas, but before that, they were in Los Angelos, and who knows exactly where they will end up.  Oldest son Bill and his wife Lori made the move a couple of years ago off of Long Island down to Raleigh, North Carolina, along with our Grandchildren Layla and Henry, and just bought a brand new house as their family has grown with the addition of our newest Grandchild, Annabelle, 6 months ago.  So, like many American families, our family is now spread out, and we no longer have the luxury of living 20 to 30 minutes from each other.

On a recent weekend, however, we made the effort and were rewarded by spending some family time with two thirds of our children, their spouses, and our three Grandkids!  Susie and I took the 8+ hour drive from Ocean City to Raleigh on Thursday morning.  Krissi and her husband Mike flew down from New York after work on Friday, and it was a weekend of family, fun, and babysitting!  Just the best!!

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……

 

 

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! 

Meeting our New Granddaughter

Last October, at our youngest son Kenny’s wedding, oldest son Billy informed us that he and his wife Lori were expecting their third child.  Having started with a girl and then a boy, we figured they were done, but we were overjoyed when we heard that their family would be growing.  

Just over a week ago, on Wednesday afternoon, April 17th, Billy sent us the following text, “Annabelle Lorraine D’Elia is here!  Lori and baby are both doing great!”, and we got to see the first pictures of our just born Granddaughter!

A little later, we got details that she was born at 4:06 PM, was 7 lbs. 4 oz, 21 inches, “And beautiful”, said the proud Papa!

The next day was a big one in little Annabelle’s life!  First, she got to meet her big sister and big brother, when our 5 year old Granddaughter Layla, and her 3 1/2 year old brother Henry visited Mommy and Annabelle in the hospital.  Just looking at Layla and Henry with Annabelle, it’s easy to tell that both of them are thrilled to have a new baby sister, and are going to be a great big brother and sister!  The other big event in little Annabelle’s life was that she and Mommy were going home!  Hard to believe, but within 24 hours of being born, Lori and her newborn baby were getting out of the hospital, and going home.  How time changes the way things work.

Another thing we learned on Thursday was that they were going to be calling her Anna.  I had to tell Billy at that point that his Anna D’Elia was not the first time that first and last name had gone together in our family.  His grandfather’s mother, my paternal Grandmother was also named Anna D’Elia.  She died in 1953 when I was 3 years old, and I don’t have any recollection of her beyond pictures and stories, and don’t know if Billy had ever even known, but little Anna and her Great Great Grandmother share the same name!

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My Dad’s Mom…another Anna D’Elia

Although pictures kept coming from North Carolina to Ocean City, at this point Susie and I could not wait till Saturday when we were heading down to NC to spend Easter weekend with Billy’s family and to meet the newest member of that family!

Our trip started early Saturday morning with torrential rain as we left Ocean City, but by the time we got to Delaware, the weather had calmed down, and the further south we drove, the nicer the weather got.  The drive was long, but once we got to their house Saturday afternoon, that was all forgotten and we were taken with how incredibly beautiful and small our new Granddaughter was.  We tend to forget the size babies are when they come home from the hospital, but even though it’s been 30 plus years since any of our babies were that size, Susie had absolutely no trouble sliding right into Grandma mode!

Anna was very awake and totally aware of what was going on around her.  She sized us up, and we like to think decided we were acceptable as Grandparents!  I know for sure she liked snuggling with Susie, and enjoyed the bottle she fed her and even the diaper change Grandma effected!  And for Grandma, it was of course, love at first sight, especially the new baby smell!  And what was I doing while Grandma was bonding with her Granddaughter, why Grandpa was playing Mouse Trap with Layla and Henry!

I don’t remember if our kids ever had the game Mouse Trap, but it’s something Layla and Henry always drag out and want to play with Grandpa.  It’s a diabolical game, that takes about 3 times as long to set up as it does to play, but the kids love it!  Honestly, the game itself is rather lame, but the board, with all it’s levels and Rube Goldberg kind of ball drops is a lot of fun, and what they really love about the game.  As the saying goes, “Some Assembly Required” and this time took the efforts of Grandpa and Dad before we could play.  About halfway through, Henry tired of the game and Layla and I continued to play for him and in the end, he won, Layla came in second, and Grandpa last!  Not my favorite game, but playing with those two is some of the most fun I have whenever we visit!

Talking to Billy and Lori, we discovered where Annabelle’s name came from.  Annabelle was Lori’s late Dad, Fred’s ,Mom’s name, and Lorraine was Kathy, her Mom’s Mom’s name.  Once Billy knew that Anna was his Grandfather’s Mom’s name, he commented, “So she was named after 2 old Italian ladies”.  

The next day was Easter, and we were all going to a big family gathering at Lori’s sister’s house, and Billy and Lori needed some items from the store, so while we watched the 3 little ones, Billy took Lori on an outing to the grocery store!  Is there anything better in life, than spending time with your Grandkids??  Love talking to Layla and Henry, and getting their take on life.  Grandma was in 7th Heaven with Anna, while honestly, Layla and Henry are more my speed.  Love hearing them call me “Grandpa”!

Easter Sunday dawned cloudy and the weather forecast was for a cool and cloudy day.  We arrived at Lori’s sister Kerry and her husband Bill’s house at 11 AM, and were immediately surrounded by family, including 11 kids under the age of 10, including Layla, Henry and Anna!  Everyone had brought something to contribute (we’d brought traditional Easter Pies from my Dad’s heritage), and there was so much food, including the very good Shrimp and Grits our son had made.  It was a great day, with lots of food and conversation and the kids playing, and participating in an Easter Egg hunt, and Anna spending time in a lot of folks arms…even Grandpa’s!  

After a busy Easter, Mom and Anna were pooped and just looking for some down time, so we spent our last day in Raleigh with our son Billy and Layla and Henry.  First on our schedule, lunch at Chik-fil-a and playing in the playroom (Layla and Henry that is).

Next we were off to see The Missing Link at the movies.  The theater we were going to was in a neat shopping destination called North Hills.  Along with the theater there were restaurants and shops all along carefully laid out streets.  Once we got the tickets, we went on a short walk to look around, before Dad got a Starbucks coffee, and we settled on a park bench while the kids played a bit in the gorgeous sunshine!

Once we got to the movie theater, it was tough to steer Henry away from the little arcade that was right inside the entrance, but with the promise of soda and popcorn, we moved to the theater.  Like when we went to the movies in Florida, this is one of the new theaters with reclining seats, and all the comforts of home, and the two kids made full use of them!  Grandpa had to sit next to Henry and Layla had to sit next to Grandma.  Then Daddy wisely got both the pop corn and soda split into two for them, and after about 20 minutes of previews, the movie finally started.  I don’t know why they have to do the same endless previews with kid’s movies, because every time a preview started, Henry would ask me, “Is this the movie Grandpa?”.  What a pain!  We enjoyed the movie, but by the end, Daddy had both kids in his lap, forgetting the carefully crafted seating plan they’d earlier devised!  After 30+ years, you forget what it’s like to have little kids!

By the time the movie was over, and we’d gotten Henry off the motorcycle in the arcade, it was close to 5, and as it was a school night, it was time to say good-bye to our son and grandkids.  Hugs and kisses were given all around, and promises to see each other real soon were uttered, as they walked Grandma and Grandpa back to their car.

As we always do, we loved our time with our North Carolina Family, loved being with our Grandkids, and loved meeting little Anna.  It’s hard when your kids and their kids live a 7+ hour drive away from you, but you make it work, and you enjoy the hell out of the time you get to spend together.  I know we both did, and will enjoy the memories till we get together again, either in Ocean City or in Raleigh.  It is what it is!

Week 2

Pardon the delay, but waited till we got back home so I could finish this on the computer rather than my IPhone!

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On Sunday morning, we woke already tied to the dock, back in Galveston, Texas.  This was the boys weekly “turn around day”, and the plan was for them to show us what they do weekly.  Just before 10, armed with our old and new Sea Pass cards, our In-Transit cards, and our passports, we worked our way off the ship, down the gangway, and through Immigration.  We were the happy people in the group, as we knew in a couple of hours, we’d be joining the Liberty again!

Once through Immigration, we met up with Kenny who told us Chris had taken off to make the long walk to a store he needed to get something from and he’d join us soon, so the 3 of us headed off to The Strand.  This is a tourist area just a couple of blocks from the port, and where the boys spend most Sundays.

Once Chris met us, it was off to their first weekly stop…a store that sells everything, including drinks!  Apparently, to sell booze on Sunday before 11 AM, you’ve also got to provide food, so a piece of a cut up hot dog was provided. Then it was to a table on the sidewalk to enjoy the Mimosas.

 

After that, we headed off to their “brunch” place, a taco “stand” with about 50 beers on tap, and a very eclectic menu of gourmet type tacos.  We had some great ones, and it would be great if I had any photographic evidence, but we ate everything before I thought of it!!!  Tell me we haven’t done that before!

After lunch, we headed off to their “after-lunch Bar” with their favorite bartender Sophie, but alas, she was at a baby shower and not working!  Oh well, perhaps next Sunday.  Then it was time to walk back to the ship.

We said goodbye to the boys (they go on via a crew entrance), and with our In-Transit cards and our new Sea Pass cards already in hand, we got to skip the lines, and in not much time at all, we were back in the R Bar starting week 2 the same way as week 1!

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After another boat drill, the boys joined us on our balcony for sail-away, and then dinner in the Windjammer.  A brief stop in the casino, and then it was time for bed…we were all pooped!

Day 2 dawned sunny and warm, and on this sea day, our plan was lunch for 4 in one of the Liberty’s specialty restaurants, Sabor, Modern Mexican! We met Kenny and Chris at the restaurant at 12:30, and as usual, we were served too much food!  We didn’t eat it all, but we did our best!!

After a brief stop in the casino, Chris went off to work the ice show, Kenny retired to their cabin for some R&R, and Susie and I went to the Ice Show.   A great show, more so because it’s on a cruise ship!!

After the show, it was time to shower and dress for the Captain’s Champagne Reception on the Royal Promenade. Some free champagne, an hour spent people watching (and some is sooo good), and listening to the Captain speak.  You must admit, we did clean up well!

 

Then it was time for Chris to hit the hay, while Susie, Kenny, and I headed to Vintages Wine Bar for something a little better quality than the cheap Royal Champagne!

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We had several glasses of wine, had a nice talk with Julia who we’d met earlier in the Jewelry Shop on the Promenade, and with Remy, who works in Vintages. There are a lot of nice people who work on the Liberty, if you just take the time to meet them!!  We enjoy meeting these crew folks from all around the world. learning a bit about them and where they’re from, and hearing their experiences!

After 3 glasses on wine each (I think it was three???), a profitable visit to the casino, a couple of pieces of pizza at Sorrentos, it was time for bed, ending day 2.

 

Day 3 was Cozumel again. As you may recall, this was our only duplicate port, and since we’d had an incredible day there at the El Cozumeleno Beach Resort just 4 days earlier, and since the boys had a busy day with a tech run and two performances of In the Air, Susie and I decided to stay on the ship and let them go their own way.

We started with a lazy morning, headed up to the pool deck and the adult Solarium, with our books, and a couple of Pina Coladas!  We read, we sipped, and we dozed a bit. The Liberty was quiet, with the majority of folks wandering the streets of Cozumel.  It was nice!!!

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Because the ship was so empty, just after they opened at 1, we decided to go to Johnny Rockets for lunch!!!  Great burgers!!!

 

That night, performances of In the Air, after which the boys came to unwind in our cabin.  A nice day.

We awoke the next morning, already at anchor in Grand Cayman.  There’s no pier there, so this was our only tender port of the cruise.  The water was the most incredible color blue, and we sat on our balcony watching the tenders come and go, while waiting for the boys to finish a meeting.   A short tender ride, and we were walking the streets of Grand Cayman, heading to the boys favorite lunch spot!

 

Tell me those drinks, and that background doesn’t look magical!

Then, another stop at another outdoor bar, on the way back to the port.  I’d call this more of a “dive bar”, but good drinks, great setting, and a fun atmosphere!

 

Back on the ship, the boys joined us for a small Sail-Away party on our balcony and a little champagne.  

 

I think that this was the most beautiful port we stopped at during our two weeks on the Liberty, and reminded me a lot of our several visits to Bermuda.

 

That night, while Chris was doing some Dance Captain stuff, Susie and I joined Kenny in the Star Lounge and enjoyed 4 of his fellow singers in a presentation called the Jazz Set.  Really mislabeled, as I’d call it more American Standards, we enjoyed listening to his 4 very talented friends.

 

Then we met up with Chris and after discussing where to go to have a bite, it was decided to give Johnny Rockets another shot!  Good burgers all around!  On the way out, we paused to take a photo in front of one of the art pieces on Deck 12.  A little bit of Chris’ home town of Reno, Nevada on the Liberty of the Seas!

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Our stop the next day was Falmouth, Jamaica, in a port that was created a number of years ago by Royal Caribbean for the Oasis Class ships, that were really too big to fit in other ports on the island.  Created to resemble a 15th or 16th century town, the port is full of shopping opportunities, because that, it seems, is what most folks do on a cruise.  However, we had other plans!  Our first stop, the Jamaican Beef Patty stand for a round of patties for all!  Then it was off to Margaritaville, with their potent drinks, some of their delicious food, and the pool with a swim up bar!

 

The water was cool, the sun was hot…it was a great way to spend the afternoon, before heading back to the Liberty of the Seas!

That night, it was time for Kenny to do one of his other jobs on the ship, and that was the 70’s Set on the Royal Promenade during the ship’s 70 Disco Party themed night!  Because Mom and Dad wanted to have a good view of the action, we got there about an hour and a half early, and sat at a table outside of the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Parlor.  Having not eaten since Margaritaville, we passed the time by having a couple of sandwiches from Cafe Promenade for dinner, along with a couple of drinks from the R Bar.  As we were waiting there, who should come along but our personal photographer Jennifer.  We called her that, because she was the only one who’d taken pictures of us on our second week, and she obliged us again and took 3 wonderful pictures, that were the only ones we bought that week!

 

We had a lovely conversation with her and discovered that although her name tag said Columbia, she was really from Venezuela, but had escaped the problems there, and called Chile home.  She would be signing off the ship after a couple of more months and told us it would be winter when she got home…a season she hasn’t seen for some time!  Another great member of the crew we were happy to get to meet!

Then, what we came for…our baby (he really is our baby….being the youngest of our 3 kids!) on the flying bridge, above a couple of thousand passengers and crew, performing with his partner about 15 minutes of songs from way before he was born!

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So much fun!!!

After Kenny changed, we met the boys down at the Schooner Bar, had a couple of drinks, and then went into the casino for a little One Armed Bandit action!  Tonight, Lady Luck was on our side, and we had a really great run on a Wheel of Fortune machine!

 

Following our stop in Jamaica, we had two sea days, our last two days of the cruise as we traveled over 1,000 miles back to the Liberty’s home port of Galveston, Texas.  

After sleeping in a bit, Susie and I had a cappuccino at the Promenade Cafe, then selected a table near Sorrento’s Pizza and waited for the Move It, Move It Parade!  Kenny joined us and we played cards for a bit, till the participants started to arrive for the big Dreamworks Cast parade all along the promenade, that Chris, as Dance Captain, coordinates.  The parade lasts about 15 minutes, and is supposed to end with Chris shooting off a confetti gun, but just before the parade started, one of the Dreamworks characters picked the gun up, and dumped all the confetti out!  

 

 

Night 6 of the cruise was our second Formal Night of the week, and since we’d cleaned up so nicely on our previous Formal Night, we decided to do it again and journey, once again to Giovanni’s for a wonderful Italian meal!  Thanks to Alex the host, and our favorite waiter Melvyn, it was another memorable night, with great food, wine, and laughs!  

As day 7 of the cruise was a busy one for the boys (a tech run of Saturday Night Fever in the morning followed by two shows of SNF that evening), following dinner, we let them head off to their cabin, while Mom and I headed back to see our friends at the Schooner bar, and have an “after dinner”  Martini or two!

 

This has really been our go to bar this week of the cruise, being the place we’ve stopped most for daytime Mai Tai’s or nighttime Martinis, with bartenders Antonio, and Francisco and waiters Alexander and Fernanda.  You know us, we like feeling like we’ve got a home, and when folks know your name, and you enjoy the conversation with them, well, that’s what makes us feel like home.  So when Antonio would say, “Susan, Frank, the usual?” we were happy!

 

After a couple of drinks, and listing to Phil at the piano bar, we decided to head back into the casino, and see if the night before had been a fluke, or if our luck was indeed on the upswing.  Well, if Lady Luck was on our side the night before, she was in our laps tonight!  Just saying…..

 

A nice way to end what had been a wonderful day!!

So, that brings us to day 7 of our cruise and our last sea day before Galveston.  This was a full day for our boys, as they prepared for tonight’s 2 shows of Saturday Night Fever, and therefore an alone day for us!  It was time to drag those 3 suitcases that had been stored under the bed in cabin 7344 for 2 weeks out, and to empty the closet and the drawers, and to prepare to leave a place that had been our home for the past 14 days.  It was a sad day because we’d had a wonderful time, and tomorrow would be the last day with Our Boys for some time, but all 4 of us knew it was also time to get back to the real world.  

So drag out those suitcases we did, and Susie packed, while I brought her the items she asked for.   In short order, we were packed and headed to the Windjammer for some lunch.  We relaxed on our balcony that afternoon, reading and honestly napping, and a little after 5, we met Kenny outside the Platinum Theater as he let us in before the doors opened for the last time.  We love watching these two on stage, seeing them both do something they love.  Hope you do too!

 

 

A little after 9:30 the next morning, we were off the ship, through Immigration, and out into a cold and damp Galveston!  The week before on turn around day, it had been sunny and in the 70s, today it was hovering right around 50!  Yikes…not the Caribbean anymore!  Our plan today was simple…once we met up with the boys, they were going to roll our suitcases to one of their Sunday hangouts while Susie and I Ubered to pick up our rental car.  That done, we drove over to the local Walmart so that they could do probably the most extensive shopping they’ll do during their time on the ship, spending close to $300!  Then we had a marvelous lunch at a place on the Galveston Sea Wall called, My Spot.  It was our last Family Meal….

 

Then it was time for Susie and I to drop the boys back at the pier, and to make our way to George Bush International Airport in Houston for our flight home to Philadelphia.  We finally arrived back on Pennlyn Place and home in Ocean City about 1:30AM, ending what had been a wonderful two weeks in the Caribbean sunshine with Our Boys!  And so ends the story of week two of Sue and Frank’s Excellent Adventure on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas, with the Fox Boys!

A couple of postscripts…

One thing Susie loved was some of the art that was featured around the ship.  Here are some of her favorites that she captured via her IPhone camera.

 

Last, but not least, even though we were in the Caribbean, we’re never really far away from our Jersey Shore home at heart, as you can see from this picture of our cabin door!

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