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!!

Cruise Part 2

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Day Forty Nine – Saturday, October 8, 2016

Okay…I am going to be totally honest with you, day 49 of our travels was the last night of Cruise Week #1. On what was Day Seven of our first week’s cruise, the cast of the Liberty of the Seas performs two shows of Saturday Night Fever…get it, Saturday Night Fever on Saturday Night! As I write this, it is Monday, October 10, 2016, or what they call Day Two of our second week on the Liberty. I have been a bad boy for the past two days, and I have not written anything, so please excuse any huge gaps in the narrative!

On the day that they do a particular show, they start the day with a technical rehearsal of that show, which takes as long as the show. Then they do two performances of the show, so that folks with different dinner hours have a chance to see the show either before or after they eat. So, for the cast, that really works out to 3 shows on Saturday. Saturday is also the day the boys do their laundry, and take care of other “real life things”, so we agreed we’d be on our own during the day.

We spent the day doing things that appealed to us. We started in the Windjammer Cafe with a small breakfast, you’ll see why “small”, later. Then we walked the pool deck, watched the water slides for a bit, and then watched people riding the FlowRider for about 45 minutes, and that was fun. Some are very good, some are clumsy, but they all look like they are having fun. Did we try it? Ah, no, we wanted to continue to walk around the ship on two legs and not in a wheel chair.

Then we went to have lunch at Johnny Rockets (see the reason for a small breakfast)! Two huge burgers, fries and onion rings, and washed them down with a couple of chocolate shakes! I know, a lot, but wait, this was in preparation for what we were doing at 3 PM! Martini Mixing and Tasting Experience #2 of the week!!! We returned to the R Bar with Melvin, Kristina, and Arminda, and this time with about 23 other folks, to mix, taste, and enjoy some additional taste temptations in a martini glass! A bigger class, but with many of our Monday class alumni in attendance, and still a great experience! We had to run at the end, because we had to change clothes and meet Chris at 5:20 so that he could let us into the theater before it opened for show #1 of Saturday Night Fever!!

If you’ve watched the movie, Saturday Night Fever with John Travolta, you know the plot of the musical. While the BeeGees music is the soundtrack of the movie, it’s actually performed by the cast in the musical and integrated into the story line. The show is 82 minutes, so some things have been cut, but the basics of the story are still there.

Let me just say that there is probably nothing better that watching your kids and their friends perform on stage, especially when the caliber of the performance is as good as anything you will see anywhere! Unlike In the Air, and the 70’s Set, Kenny’s main part in SNF is smaller, playing Tony’s Priest Brother, “Father Frank, Junior”, but in these productions, just about everyone wears different hats. I counted 6 costume changes for Kenny, as he plays different parts throughout the performance. What a great show, and the ending, where they interact with the audience would truly be a show stopper, but for the fact it’s the end of the show! We loved both shows, even though the audience for the second show was a little different. Kenny said that they almost always are, as they haven’t packed yet, have eaten and are full, or have been slightly over-served…if you know what I mean!

Afterwards, we met the boys in the R Bar for the last martinis of week one! We were saddened to learn that Kristina and Arminda will be transferring to different bars next week, but Melvin will still be there with two new staff members. It’s part of Royal’s revolving staff assignments, so they must all work within the system! Oh well. We missed our friends Leasa and Scott, but did meet up with our Martini Mixing Class friend Johnny for one last time! A great night, but sad in that week two will be different!

 

Day Fifty – Sunday, October 9, 2016

The end of the cruise for some folks, but just the mid point in our two week back-to-back on the Liberty of the Seas!!

The boys went back and forth about what they wanted to do on “turnaround day”, and as back-to-back cruisers (we were two of 67 people out of the 4000 passengers, staying for another week), we could have just stayed on the ship if we wanted to. Ultimately, they decided that since we had the car, and wheels were something they never have on “turnaround day”, we’d get off about 9 AM and do some things in Galveston. With no luggage to collect, getting off was seamless for us! In very short order, we were off the ship, through Customs and Immigration, and waiting for the boys. Then we got the call from Kenny. Cell phones…remember them? First time they’d worked in a week! The boys were stuck at Immigration and didn’t know how long they’d be! So we decided to hop on the shuttle to the parking lot, get the car and come back and meet them.

The car, that we had dutifully washed and gassed up before we’d left here 7 days before, was covered in a week’s worth of thick Port of Galveston dust! Of course, before we got into the car, the phone rang again…they were off the ship! Now our challenge was to get back to the port, where not one, but two cruise ships were off-loading passengers, and greeting new cruisers! Busy, busy, busy was the order of the day, and had we realized it, we would have told them to walk out of the port, and picked them up on the street! Eventually though, we did get the 4 of us to the car, and we were off for a day of exploring!

The first place they wanted to check out was an area just beyond their usual Sunday walking distance, that on the map looked like it might hold some additional shopping venues for them. There were a couple of places that they said looked good, and that they’d walk to, if the weather was cooperating. Speaking of weather, it was a beautiful morning in Galveston, with blue skies, not much humidity, and temperatures in the low 70s! They’d be happy to walk the additional distance on a day like this!

Then, it was time to head off to Walgreens and Walmart, which were just down the road from the hotel we’d stayed in the week before. After a quick stop at Walgreens, we moved on to the main objective, Walmart. The boys went their way and Susie and I ours, and I got a couple of new shirts and even a 7 pack of underwear, effectively putting off the need to do laundry (at $34.95 for a small bag on the ship) till we were back on dry land (you can never have too many undies). With our Walmart mission accomplished, it was time for the real, out of the closet, honest to God purpose of getting the car out of the parking lot! The boys first visit to Taco Bell in 18 weeks!!

Forget about the Crew Mess, or the Windjammer Cafe, or the gourmet Mexican, Italian, or Steakhouse, and even Sorrentos pizza or the Promenade Cafe. It was plain and simple Taco Bell that Kenny and Chris had craved since they signed on the Liberty of the Seas!!!

$47 later, we’d eaten our fill, and the boys had a large “doggie bag” to take back to the ship and use to turn their friends green with envy!! It was after noon, so now we could make our last stop, at the Kroeger’s Grocery store to buy 4 bottles of Prosecco (not available till after noon on Sunday in Texas), and some other staples they needed for what they were planning for tonight! Once we were all back on the ship, and the boys had run their stations and we’d participated in the boat drill, we were going to spend the sail-a-way on our balcony, and then they were going to show us Liberty Room Service, their way!

On the way back, we dropped the boys off so they could have a beer, while we headed back to the parking lot. We’d purchased 14 days of parking at a reduced rate, and they’d explained how we were to re-enter the lot for week two, but either they’d not done a great job, or I wasn’t paying careful enough attention. I know this because as I parked the car, a Galveston police officer greeted me at the back of the car. It only took a minute to straighten everything out, and he was a very nice cop, and we became friends, and after some time, I wondered if he’d keep me there till the ship sailed, just BS-ing? Eventually he had to move his police van, and we got over to the shuttle back to the pier!

There was a long line out front, and Susie says that unlike my usual behavior, I asked 3 different people till I finally found someone who knew that as return cruisers we didn’t have to wait or check-in, and pointed us to the shortest line! In very short order, we were through security, had had our champagne checked and verified it was legit (champagne yes..booze, no!), and were on the way to the gangplank!! We headed to the room to chill the champagne, and relax before boat drill!

We waited till almost 3:30 to head to our boat station, unlike week one, when we arrived about 3:15, and then waited till almost 3:40 for the stragglers to show! Much better not standing there for close to a half hour, and a shame we had to do it again, but rules are rules! After the drill, the Captain dismissed us, and it was PARTY TIME!!!! Back to the cabin, time to open bubbly bottles of champagne (we had 5!!), and just hang out and watch us sail out of Galveston!

The boys were done with work for the day, we had plenty to drink, and the weather was still beautiful, so we were set for the night! We sat on the porch, drank champagne, watched first Galveston, and then the drilling rigs and tankers slide by, talked, took pictures, and watched the sun sink into the western sky! It was a marvelous evening with our family, and we loved every minute of it! Then it was dinner time!!

The boys put together a list, Chris got on the phone and ordered, and about 45 minutes later, four full trays of food showed up at the door of cabin 6580! Then they went to work!! Their own dressing for the salad, Sriracha in this, peanut butter in that, Franks Spicy Honey Hot Sauce mixed with something else, and before long, we were experiencing Liberty of the Seas room service a la Kenny and Chris! An excellent meal, and wonderful night, and at last count, 8 empty bottles lining the hall!!

So ended what they’d call Day 8 were this a 14 day cruise!!

 
Monday, October 10, 2016 to Saturday, October 15, 2016
Day Fifty One through Day Fifty Six of our “Big Adventure”!

Since many of the things we are doing, and even one of the ports of call is the same from week one to week two, I thought that rather than going through each day in detail, as I’d done for week one, I’d instead talk about things we’d done for the first time, people we’d met, different places we’d gone and meals we’d eaten. Just hit some of the highlights of week two on the Liberty of the Seas, in almost a “stream of consciousness” fashion, with no particular order or importance reflected in what, why, and when I talk about it. Sound good to you? Well, good or bad, this is my blog, and that’s what I’m gonna do!

The format for this week’s cruise is different than last week. We start off with three sea days, and then three port days in a row (Roatan, Honduras, Costa Maya, Mexico, and then Cozumel, Mexico), followed by one sea day, and then we are back in Galveston. Because of the different schedule, things may happen on different days, but as we realized soon after week two started, these cruises are designed as one week adventures, so if it’s called the same thing on the Cruise Compass, it’s exactly the same as what we saw, did, ate, or listened to last week. Fine with shows Kenny and Chris are in, but we’re going to avoid repeating other things we did week one, so that we can maximize our time with the boys, because after all, that’s exactly why we are on this cruise. Having said that, let’s get started!

At Sea Day – Day Fifty Two – Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Our plan for this second Sea Day, was to do different things than we’d done all along. For example, we decided to go to the Dining Room for breakfast. It has been years since we’ve breakfasted in the Dining Room, much preferring to order Room Service, or to go to the Windjammer Cafe, and go the buffet route. Well, at about 9:30 we got on the short line at the Rembrandt Dining Room on Deck 3, and shortly after were seated at a nice 2 top table by the window, where we waited, and waited, and waited! We’d forgotten how slow it took for everything in the dining room! It was well after 10:30 by the time we’d finished our meal of Eggs Benedict, with runny eggs, that kind that turned Susie’s stomach. Now we remember why we don’t go to the Dining Room!!

Then we decided to get our Kindles, find a nice spot on the outside of Deck 4, and read our books. The breeze was nice, we were not in the sun, and we were on the other side of the ship from our cabin and balcony! But after about 15 minutes, we realized we had a perfectly good balcony, just waiting for us, so why were we down here listening to people talk, when we could really be alone! Okay…second new thing done!!

The boys had a show, In the Air today, and this was an “alone day” for Mom and Dad, so we decided to go to the steakhouse, Chops, for lunch! Again, something new for us, as the last time we were in Chops was on the Allure 5 years ago, when we celebrated all 3 kid’s birthdays! Beautiful setting (with floor to ceiling windows looking at the ocean), wonderful Mushroom Soup, a nice Shrimp Cocktail, and a Filet for Susie and a NY Strip for me. I’d love to tell you it was well worth the money, but it appears we didn’t get charged for it! Two glasses of wine each, a soup to nuts lunch, all for a $20 tip! A bargain!!!

The last thing we’ve never done before on a Cruise Ship, that we did this day was, book a cruise to Alaska! The summer of 2018 will find us on a Royal Caribbean Ship heading southward from Seward, Alaska to Vancouver, Canada for 7 days, after a 3 day land package which includes Fairbanks and Denali National Park! The deal, the bonus, and the procedure just seemed too easy and good, so we decided we have two years to save and click off another “Bucket List” item….ALASKA!!

And that was our, “Do Different Things” day!

Ultimate Drink Package

In past cruises we’ve been on with Kenny, we let him buy most of the drinks with his crew 20% discount, but this time he realized that with 2 weeks of cruising, there would be lots of time we wouldn’t be with him, and would want a drink, so he suggested we get the Ultimate Drink Package. As the name suggests, this package includes just about everything you can drink on the ship, from orange juice, coke and specialty coffees, to wine, martinis, and all cocktails up to $12! It kind of makes cruising like an “all inclusive resort”, and as far as we are concerned, well worth the price!! There were only 2 times we had to pay a small surcharge to get something we wanted. Now, who’s got the number for the Betty Ford Clinic?
Roatan, Honduras – Day Fifty Three – Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The ship got to our first port of call this morning at about 8AM, and we were awakened by local musicians on the pier, and when we opened the curtains, found we were looking at a real Disney version of what a Central American port would look like!

We had a leisurely morning, because the boys were involved in a “Green Drill” at 10:45. This involved them dropping down one of the Liberty’s Life Boats from the starboard side of the ship, motoring it around to the port side, tying it to the dock, and then loading 150 of the crew, wearing life jackets into the lifeboat…that’s the part Kenny and Chris played, as members of the Green Team! The best, they did it right within view of our balcony, so we had a great view, and with the telephoto lens, I got lots of pictures of the boys “working”. Chris then had rehearsal, and Kenny needed a nap, so Susie and I puttered around till the boys were ready.

At 1:30, we met them at the aft gangway, got off the ship, and walked through the port. “Where are we going?”, I asked them. “Captain Jacks”, they responded. “I thought that was in the port?” “No, just outside”, they answered. So we walked through the port, dodging sellers of various wares, went through the gate, and walked down the road. We were really not accosted by folks selling things or offering services, and were soon walking into Captain Jacks, a two story shack on stilts over the water! There were a couple of tables and a bar along one side, which we sat at, and we were so glad we did! This was a combination bar/kitchen, and a huge man was working a fryer, BBQ grill, and frying pan like they were a symphony orchestra! I always love sitting somewhere you can see someone who is good at their work, doing it, and this man was a master!! We had the most incredible conch fritters, fried fresh plantains, and the freshest onion rings I have ever tasted!! Margaritas, Rum and Cokes, and local beers complemented an incredible lunch, in a great location, staffed by wonderful people! This is a place that Kenny and Chris usually hit at Roatan, and Susie and I can see why. It was fun getting out of the port, seeing some local color, and meeting some incredibly talented folks! Good one guys!!!

 

Members of the Crew, that made this trip SPECIAL for us!

On day 2, of our first cruise, Susie and I took the Martini Mixology and Tasting class at the R Bar, on the Royal Promenade, and immediately fell in love with the bar and it’s staff! We’d always wanted to find “Our Bar” for a cruise, and the R Bar was going to be it! It started with Melvin from India, the Master Mixologist on the Liberty. Then there were his two assistants, Kristina from the Ukraine, and Arminda from the Philippines. These three people made us feel like old friends, and along with other alumni from our Mixology Class (Scott and his wife Leasa, Johnny who allegedly had a wife but we never saw her, and our Mexican friend Geraldo), we were regulars at the bar, and really got to know them. They knew us and the boys, and were wonderful to us. We were very disappointed to hear on Day 7 of our first cruise, that it was time for new bar assignments, and the girls would be moving, Kristina to the Hoof and Claw, English Pub, and Arminda to the Schooner Bar! Melvin said that his new assistants would be great, as he’d worked with them before, but we were sad to say goodbye to the two ladies. Melvin was correct, Anna and Raj have been great to us, and we have spent many hours with Arminda at the Schooner Bar, but unfortunately less time with Kristina. In the end, it means we now have a choice of several bars to go to, and to see friends! We will miss all 5 of our new Bar Service Friends!

 

This is the 4th (and 5th really) cruise that we have taken on Royal Caribbean, and for these two weeks, we have had the best Cabin Steward we have ever had on Royal, Dilcia Rubi. From day one of the first week, there was nothing that we wanted for that Dilcia did not take care of. From ice multiple times a day in our room, to incredible towel animals almost every night, to two bottles of Moet Champagne she presented us within buckets of ice!! She has been just the greatest, and has done such a superior job taking care of us! Like us, she signs off on October 16th, and gets to go home to Belize to see her family for a couple of months before she returns. A very nice lady, who we have become very fond of in the past two weeks!

Two other folks, that made us feel very welcome were Craig and Courtney, the Port Shopping Team. Kenny and Chris work for Port Shopping as a way to earn a few extra bucks (“fun” money) so that they can save as much as possible. Craig, and especially Courtney, had a smile and a hello whenever we saw them, and they were two more friendly faces we were happy to know on the cruise! Unfortunately, they signed off the ship in Cozumel, Mexico on day 6, so the boys no longer will get to hang with them!

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One thing we have discovered in speaking to many members of the crew, is that probably 95% of the folks on the Liberty of the Seas, and we’d imagine in the cruise industry, are not working on a ship because they enjoy it, but rather because it’s a financial necessity. From the bartenders who have left spouses and children back home, to the Cruise Director who at 57 came back to the industry to pay bills, to even our two, Kenny and Chris, who came on the ship because they want a nest egg to use for a move to LA, and Royal pays them well, just about everyone we’ve spoken to has a purpose for being here!!

 
National Beach Club, Costa Maya, Mexico – Day Fifty Four – Thursday, October 13, 2016

The plan was to get off the ship around 10 AM, get a cab, and go to a beach club the boys had discovered a couple of weeks ago. The plan worked flawlessly!

When we opened our curtains, we discovered that we were tied to a pier that seemed to be about a 1/4 of a mile from shore. Going on the balcony, we discovered it was! We’d heard there was a shuttle to take you down the pier, but as we got off the ship, and walked to it, it pulled away, so the 4 of us hoofed it. At the head of the pier, were a collection of shops and restaurants, and after the walk, we stopped for a cold drink before heading on. We needed to walk completely out of the port to get a cab, so this would be a big walking day or us! After our drink stop, we walked out of the port, got into a cab, and were off.

When we got to the National Beach Club, we couldn’t believe our eyes! It was like every beach front movie set you have ever seen. A white sandy beach with chairs and umbrellas set in groups, palm trees, crystal blue water, hammocks attached to poles in the water, tiki hut bungalows behind the beach, and an outside tiki bar! We headed to the bar, and Kenny and Chris introduced us to the owner, a young American named Evan. He took our drink order, and told us to grab some chairs on the beach, and start having fun!! Originally, Susie and I sat in two chairs, and the boys sat on a towel to be near us, but shortly after our first drinks arrived, Evan sent one of his workers with chairs, an umbrella, and a cordless drill with an big auger bit, to dig the support hole for the umbrella (file away that idea for Ocean City next summer).

We enjoyed the drinks, swam in the very salty water of the Gulf of Mexico, and then the boys went and ordered some lunch for us. A delicious Caesar Salad with chicken, a plate of Poke (raw octopus and tuna over rice which was incredibly good due to what it was marinated in and served with), and a chicken and pork belly club sandwich that was so fresh, the chickens may have been running around the courtyard when we pulled up! A fresh and delicious lunch, in a picture perfect setting!

After lunch, we enjoyed the beach and the incredible water some more, and then before we left, Evan took us on a tour and showed us one of the beach cottages on his property! Literally right on the beach, with a cute little porch, a beautiful main room with a king sized bed, air conditioning, a lovely bathroom (Evan was proud to show us some of his handiwork, such as the conch shell in the bathroom sink that was the water faucet!), and all this for under 90 US dollars a night! Incredible! Kenny and Chris say they will definitely come back here again from the ship (unfortunately, the next time that they hit Costa Maya will not be till the Christmas cruise) and after. Evan sounds like a guy with ideas, and someone to stay in touch with!

As we said goodbye to our host Evan, we again told him how much we’d enjoyed our day, and thanked him for his hospitality, as we headed towards a cab. We will take our memories of National Beach Club with us forever, and have a few souvenirs that will help us remember this wonderful day too! There were merchants strolling along the beach, and Susie bought a lovely silver necklace and a new beach bag, which will remind us of our lovely day on the beach in Mahahual, Mexico every time we take it to the beach in Ocean City next summer!

 

Bingo

I guess bingo has been a staple of cruising since people have been cruising, but frankly, we don’t even remember the last time we played bingo, on land or at sea! Of course, for many years, I was banned from bingo, due to the “Atlantic City incident”. Back probably over 20 years ago, we had a free offer to play bingo at Trump’s Castle, and Susie and I went. It was the big game, with a $1500 prize, and I got bingo, BUT waited too long to call out. The next number was called, somebody else called out “bingo”, and they got the $1500! Since then, Susie has banned me from the game…until this week!

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Bingo is run by a spitfire named Helena from Croatia, who is part of the Cruise Staff. She calls herself “Bingo Mama”, and among other duties, is Kenny’s “bodyguard” when he heads into the audience during In The Air. She conducts a lively game, and although we didn’t win, we played twice and had fun. Susie let me handle the tablets, which is the new electronic way to play the game. Your tablet is directly linked to the master computer, and it self-marks the numbers called, and it is really idiot proof…ergo, why she let me play! I thought for sure we were going to win, when I noticed that the number on one of the cards on the tablet was 11501…our zip code in Mineola!

Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel was both our first port, and the last port on our two weeks on the Liberty of the Seas. On the first cruise, we ported in Cozumel on day 3, and this second cruise it was our home for the day on day six, and what a difference 10 days makes!

If you remember back to my story of the cruise’s first week, you will recall that on day 2 of that cruise, Susie and I attended, and thoroughly enjoyed the Martini Tasting and Mixology class at the R Bar. That was the day we found our “bar home” on the Liberty, and due to my enthusiasm, I might have consumed a few more of Melvin’s delicious martinis that day than I realized. That was strike one on Cozumel the next day. Strike two was that by the time we got off the ship the morning on day 3, I think the temperature in Cozumel must have been approaching 90 degrees, and the humidity was probably close to the same number! Take a slightly hungover senior citizen, place him in an “oven hot” climate, have the plan for the day be a Mexican lunch, and then walking the streets shopping, and well, it just wasn’t a fun day!

Cozumel, take two, found us waking without an alarm, finding us already tied to the dock, going out on the balcony to find a much cooler, lower humidity morning, watching the Liberty’s sister ship, the Freedom of the Seas dock next to us, having a light room service breakfast, and leaving the ship with the boys a little after 10:30 AM. The first order of business was a few errands that Chris had to run, so we worked our way through the port and grabbed a cab into town. Both Craig the Port Shopping Guide and Jeffery the Cruise Director hammer home to you on the Liberty, that the cab ride from the port to downtown is $8 for 4 people. As Jeffery says, “Not $10, not $12, not $8 each, $8 for 4 people.” Apparently the cab driver didn’t know how well educated the passengers and crew of the Liberty of the Seas are, because when Kenny went to pay him he said “$10”. Kenny said, “No $8.”, at which time the cab driver yanked the money out of Kenny’s hand and mumbled “fucking crew member” at him. A wonderful representative of his town and his country, and his loss, because Kenny was prepared to give him $10 to start, but not when the guy thought we were stupid gringos!

After the errands, we grabbed another cab (a nice driver this time and a cab with AC), and headed out of town to the Hotel B, and another afternoon of lounging in a movie location setting, on the edge of the most incredibly blue water, having great drinks, enjoyable food, and spending a wonderfully relaxing afternoon as a family! Just a perfect day!!

Walking

So, we knew that we walked a lot when we went to DisneyWorld last February, but we wondered what the ports might be like, as at most, there is a long walk just to get off the ship and to actually get to the port area. On top of that, we knew that we’d be walking as we explored the 5 ports we visited, and then there’s the ship. Our cabin is about midway between the two elevator banks, so at the minimum, we’d be doing that walk a couple of times a day, as well as walking around the ship. Then there are the stairs, as we knew we’d not always be waiting for an elevator. Well, I’m here to tell you that walking was absolutely no problem!

According to the app on my iPhone, we did between 1.5 and 3 miles of walking every day, and one day the app even says we climbed 18 floors! I think we were able to keep up with Kenny and Chris wherever we went, and didn’t hold them back. Now, as to my right knee…it has never felt better! No pain, no stiffness, and we think the walking has been good for my knees! The old “use it or lose it” adage is applying we think, and I’m thinking that continuing to use it when we get off the ship will only make it better. In fact, I have pretty much decided that I am not going to get my right knee replaced this spring, as my original intent had been. The Doctor told me that I would know when it was time, and you know what? I don’t think it’s time! Frankly, we’ve got too many things on our near future agenda, for me to be laid up for 3 months! It’s a decision I feel very good about!

Cozumel…..AGAIN!

As you read previously, after a wonderful Day Six of week two in Cozumel, we returned to the ship, and sat on our balcony and watched as we pulled away from the dock, and from our sister ship, the Freedom of the Seas. Unbeknown to us, sometime later that night, the Liberty of the Seas returned to Cozumel because we had a passenger that was in critical condition, and needed to be transported to the hospital. We don’t know if it was when we were in the dining room for dinner, or later, when we were in the casino, as we only found out about it the next morning. The upshot of returning to Mexico is the the ship will be about 4 hours late getting back to Galveston. As you can well imagine, the ships crew has spent the past 24 hours busily rearranging the departure/arrival schedule for Galveston, and many folks who had booked early plane reservations were trying to reschedule them. Luckily, the Sonata is parked across the street from the dock, and she will be there whenever we get there! It may throw a crimp into what the boys had planned to do with us on turnaround day in Galveston, but that’s nothing compared to what some poor family is going through at a hospital in Cozumel, Mexico!

Giovanni’s Table – Pasta Class – Day Fifty Six – Saturday, October 15, 2016

We loved the Martini classes so much, that on our last sea day, we looked to see what else we might do like that, and we settled for the Pasta Class at Giovanni’s Table. We showed up at 11:00 AM, and were immediately handed a glass of champagne…this worked for us! We then watched one of the chefs go through the routine of making fresh pasta, and in about 8 minutes, he’d made some beautiful pasta, and a quick and delicious Bolognese sauce to top it. It was an interesting look at pasta making, especially when they rolled out their $13,000 professional pasta machine and gave us a demonstration!

Then they showed us to our tables, and we had the most incredible lunch we have had on this ship!! They started with an Antipasti Plate, one of their house flat breads, and a choice of red or white wine. Then there were 4 pasta courses!!! Delicious tagliatelle with pesto, a stuffed meat ball with bucatini, and then (as far as I’m concerned) the star of the meal…their house lasagna! OMG!! The trouble was we were so full by this point that we couldn’t enjoy it as much as we would had it been #1, and we never even tried the clam and white wine spaghetti that was dish 4! Like we needed it, Tiramisu and Cannolis were for dessert!!! Quite the bargain for the $30 entrance fee!

The Casino

img_6603As you may know, we do happen to know our way around a casino. Could it be having the Ocean City house, just 12 miles south of Atlantic City? Of course, we would find our way down to Deck 4 of the Liberty and Casino Royal! As an added incentive, Kenny and Chris love casinos, but they are forbidden to gamble on the ship, but as they were entertaining guests, they were allowed in with is, and were living vicariously through us. We went down a couple of times week 1, but it was really during week 2 that we were there more! Only once did we play Three Card Poker (with a drunken dealer, who kept paying off different amounts for the same wins and a substitute dealer, that we thought was a smileless deaf mute till the very end of play), but mostly stuck to slots.

Unlike most of the land based casinos, lots of old reel slots were still in play, and we got to gamble on some old friends that we haven’t played on in many years. We held our own during most of the week, till the last day or so, when the machines suddenly decided they liked us, and started paying off. Not huge sums (someone won $12,000 on a slot this week), but we cashed in vouchers for decent sums ranging from $150 to $500, and definitely came out ahead! Always nice to be able to say that!!!!

Day Fifty Seven – Sunday, October 16, 2016 – Galveston, Texas

 

img_6604A sad day…the last of our 14 calling the Liberty of the Seas our home, and our last day with Kenny and Chris before the ship sails away again, and we continue on the road! As I mentioned above, due to a medical emergency with one of the passengers, the arrival of the Liberty this morning, and her departure this afternoon has been all turned around. We were supposed to pick up the Pilot about 4:30 AM, and be tied to the dock before 8, but that schedule went out the window, and we were still at sea when we got up at 8 AM. We were supposed to be able to get off the ship by 10:30, but now are scheduled for around 12:30 PM. As I write this, it is 11 AM, and we have already eaten breakfast, and we’re in our cabin awaiting announcements. It’s going to be a slow process this morning, and all we hope is that more of our fellow passengers are the type that have patience, and not the ones who keep trying to get off the ship long before their scheduled time, and screw up the works even more!! Only time will tell, and we have no idea how much, if any time we will get to spend with the boys today. Stay tuned for (as Paul Harvey would say), The Rest of the Story!

An update…it is 12:32 PM and Susie and I are sitting are sitting in two comfortable chairs on deck 7, overlooking the Royal Promenade! We are NOT getting of the Liberty at 12:30!

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Shortly after I wrote that, we decided to head down to the theater, which was our staging area, as that was the time we were given to be there. When we walked in, the first person we saw was Helena, “Bingo Mama”, who told us to go get on line at the gangway. Sounded good, so Helena gave Susie and I a huge hug, and sent us on our way! We told her to enjoy the rest of her contract, and to watch out for the boys, as they all sign off January 29th.

img_6608We took the elevator down to deck 4, got on the line, and they promptly stopped disembarkation because the terminal was a zoo! So we stood for another 10 minutes or so, and then they started the process again. We were quickly across the deck, down the gangway, and on our way to the luggage room, to find our suitcases! They were exactly where they were supposed to be, under the #22 Section sign, so we collected them, and got in the line for Customs and Immigration! A lot of people, and all I can say is that it was HOT!! We were both soaked to the skin by the time we got to the desk, but no questions were asked (all we bought was some souvenirs and a little Mexican silver), and about 1:35 we were on our way to the car!

The boys had gotten off earlier, done some of their shopping, and by the time the shuttle got us to the car, they walked up and joined us. Unfortunately, the late arrival had stymied our “Turnaround Day” plans, but there was time for a trip to Walmart, and a brief stop at Taco Bell on the way back to the Liberty for some take out!!! We dropped Kenny and Chris off about 3, with hugs all around, we said good-bye to our boys, and to two wonderful weeks at sea on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas!!

As I write this, we are at a Homewood Suites in Beaumont, Texas, about an hour and a half from Galveston. We are tired, hungry, and somewhat let down from our fabulous cruise being over. Being with our boys, meeting such wonderful people from the Liberty’s Crew, seeing all the shows multiple times, enjoying fellow passengers, loving being in one place for 14 days (and how we loved Cabin 6580), the experiences we had on the ship, and the great places Kenny and Chris took us in the ports, well it was probably the best two week “vacation” we have ever had!!! Susie and I were just talking, and the “let down” from the past 14 days is huge, and we can so feel it. I think if we decided right now, tomorrow morning we’d be on our way home, figuring the cruise just was too much to be topped, but we’ve decided we are going to go get something to eat, plan a stop for tomorrow night, relax and get a good night’s sleep, and tomorrow make the decision. We could head right home, decide to continue our journey, or pick a route somewhere in the middle! All we know for sure, is that we will be home for the littlest D’Elia’s first birthday, which happens to Henry on October 28th! See you tomorrow with a decision!!

Day Forty Two – Saturday, October 1, 2016

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Welcome to Saturday in Galveston, Texas.  It may be October 1st, but the hotel is busy, and we are of the opinion that the “season” doesn’t stop for this Gulf Coast Beach town on Labor Day!

Had to take a picture of this morning’s breakfast at the Comfort Inn we are staying at.  Now, we have told you a little bit about the “free” breakfasts we have “enjoyed” at most of our overnight stops, and many of them have been good.  We think the best so far was at the San Antonio Homewood Suites, where the breakfast choices changed daily, and the view from the glass walled breakfast room overlooking the Riverwalk didn’t.  Several of the Best Western’s we’ve stayed at have been close seconds, with nice choices and a nice breakfast area (like the 11th floor overlooking the water at the Corpus Christi Best Western).  A lot have some kind of egg dish, some kind of breakfast meat, and perhaps a waffle station, along with cold cereal, toast and muffins, juice, coffee, and tea.  Some of the Best Westerns even have a “pancake machine”!  Hit a button and in about a minute, 2 freshly cooked pancakes come out on a conveyor belt and dump on your plate!  We’ve experienced breakfasts from so so (an Econolodge early on the trip, where everything was hermetically sealed) to great, but this morning we got something we’d never seen before.  Eggs and Pigs in Blankets!

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After breakfast, we came back to the room, and I got busy on the computer and paid all our bills that are due through the 3rd week in October.  Then it was time to get out and about, and to take care of last minute tasks before leaving on the cruise tomorrow morning.  Traffic was so heavy on Seawall Blvd. in front of the hotel, that even though we wanted to make a left, we had to make a right!  Yes, the season isn’t over here by a long shot!

Our first task was to find a Wells Fargo Bank to make our last land based ATM withdrawal. We used Wells Fargo for this trip because they have branches in more states that any other bank, and generally we have driven by one at least once a day.  Wouldn’t you know that Galveston was one place that didn’t have one, so we had to get back on the Interstate and off the island, to get that done.  The rest of our tasks were accomplished on the island.  They ranged from hitting the Target to buy a couple of things for us, but mostly things that Kenny sent us a list of yesterday, and find a self service car wash so the bugs don’t bake on the Sonata as she sits for 2 weeks in the Texas sun.  Because of where we were on the island, we then decided to check out the port, so we had an idea where we were going tomorrow and how to get there.  That done, we headed back towards the beach, looking for a liquor store.  We needed a bottle of Titos Vodka (how come a vodka made in Texas is cheaper in New Jersey and New York than in Texas???) and the boys requested a handle of Fireball!  Well, we drove, and drove, and drove, and finally found one.  The sign on the door said, “see attendant at convenience store next door”.  I did, and the girl running the liquor store came and let me in.  Hey, when in Rome!  Since we’d already gassed up the Sonata, we were done with our outside list!

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When we got back to the hotel we took the “Cruise Suitcase”  out of the Sonata’s trunk for the first time since we put it in there, back on August 20th on Long Island!  For the last 42 days, our “cruise clothes” have been patiently waiting for October 2nd and their time to shine!  Of course, they may be a little wrinkled, but we can get that fixed on the ship!  A more important concern is how well some of them fit after OUR 42 days on the road!!  We shall see!

Once we got to the room, Susie got all our suitcases open so that she could separate the stuff going and the stuff staying with the car.  Honestly, having everything we own just sitting in the car in the parking lot has become a very normal thing for us over the last 6 weeks.   In some way,  I think Susie had some fear about repacking, but honestly she found that she had a clear idea of what was going and what was staying, and the job was a lot easier than she had anticipated!  As we are getting to that age, packing our prescriptions for the cruise took a little bit of time, but that too went smoothly, and in short order, we find we are packed and ready!

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Some are going with us, some are spending 2 weeks in the trunk of the car

Susie decided to do a few last minute laundry items, and as I write this blog, they are turning in the hotel’s washer and dryer, she is relaxing on her iPad, and we are enjoying a Sailor Jerry and Coke Zero!  We contemplated going out tonight for a nice dinner, but seeing how busy the island is and the fact that it’s Saturday, we’ve decided to go low key!  There is a Jimmy Johns Sandwich Shop right next to the hotel on Seawall Blvd, and when the laundry is done, we’re just going to walk over there, and order a couple of sandwiches.  Never been, but I know Kenny has sung their praises in the past, when he was on the Annie National Tour, and a heavier version of the son we now have, so we’re going to give it a try.  Tonight we’re just going to relax in front of the TV as Susie does her nails, cuts my hair (my exclusive barber for 37 years), and take showers.  A low key night to prepare for 14 crazy, wonderful, relaxing, Sun & Fun-filled days on the Liberty of the Seas!!!

The ship docks back in Galveston tomorrow morning, and Chris’ Dad and Stepmom sign off after a week long cruise with the boys!  Our plan is to get to the dock about 9:30, hopefully get our bags dropped, and the car parked in time to meet up with them at 10 AM.  As Chris’ Family is from Reno, Nevada, we haven’t yet had the opportunity to meet them, and are looking forward to the greeting before they get picked up at 11AM to head to the airport!  Kenny and Chris have been together since they met in rehearsals for their first Liberty of the Seas cruise back in June of 2015, and we really got to know him when we cruised with them last September to Bermuda.  He’s a great guy, and they are very good together, and we are looking forward to spending two weeks with “our boys”.  Let’s see if THEY can handle the old folks for 2 weeks!!  Poor kids, family three weeks in a row!!!

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“Our Boys” from our cruise to Bermuda last September of the LOS

So that’s it folks.  Susie and I bid you farewell for a couple of weeks as we head into a different kind of adventure for the next 14 nights!  The car and traveling just about every day, has become such a normal existence, it will probably take us a day or two to get use to it, but I’m sure we will!  14 nights in luxurious sheets in the same bed, in our own little home, with breakfasts on our balcony overlooking the Caribbean Sea or a tropical island port, having fun with the boys and their friends every day, great food, great entertainment, and the Unlimited Drink Package Kenny got us…yea, I think we can get used to it!!  Please be well, and know that when we get back to Texas on October 16th, I will do my best to update on the next 14 days!  Till then, Bon Voyage You All!

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Day Forty One – Friday, September 30, 2016

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So this was our last morning at the Best Western in Corpus Christi. We awoke to a beautiful, sunny, cooler morning (temps in the high 70s), and when we went up to the 11th floor for breakfast, we were greeted with this sight when we got off the elevator!

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This morning’s breakfast variety substituted tortillas for biscuits, and re-fried beans for potatoes, so of course, we made breakfast burritos with eggs, sausage, cheese, salsa, and beans…and the beans have been with us all day.  Just saying.

Not being in a real hurry to get to Galveston, as it was really only 4 hours away, I asked Susie if she wanted to take a detour and go via Mustang Island and Port Aransas.  She said it looked good, so when we turned out of the Best Western’s driveway, we went right rather than turning left towards Galveston.  Kind of like what we know at home, just off Long Island’s South Shore, and where we live in Ocean City, NJ, Corpus Christi Bay is ringed by a series of Barrier Islands that separate it from the Gulf of Mexico.  Our path this morning, was to head south-west and loop around the bay, crossing the bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway to Mustang Island, and then driving north along the island towards Port Aransas.  When you first come on the island, it’s very busy and commercial, but as we continued the drive on the Texas Tropical Trail, you first go through the Mustang Island State Park, which looks like it’s totally undeveloped. That, we figured, explained the big black stretch we saw at night from our hotel.  It was undeveloped, not a pass to the Gulf!  As you get past the park, you start to see more and more housing, including condos on the beach.  At Port Aransas, you’re in a cute beach village, and the whole look of the island was very laid back and not overly commercial.  We liked it!

Unlike when we got on the island, there is no bridge across the Intracoastal at this point, but a free car ferry run by the state of Texas.  It’s about a 5-8 minute run from the island back to the mainland, and they were just finishing unloading a boat as we pulled up, so in a few minutes we were on the water.

Susie tried her hand as a wildlife photographer, using a rather uncooperative Pelican, who was perched on one of the pilings as we docked.  He refused to pose for her, and frankly was a foul model!

After getting off the ferry, there were two things that looked like oil rig platforms, just off the road. We couldn’t tell if they were in the water, or on land, but they sure looked like oil rigs!

Back on the mainland, our trek to Galveston started on the water, and there were several bridges that we went over.  Even though we were on back roads, it wasn’t long before they didn’t run along the water anymore, and we were surrounded by Texas farms.  Long straight roads heading into the distance, with plowed fields, the occasional house, and animals of various kinds.  Not exciting, but probably better than the Interstate!

But, by going through these back roads, we got to know that it was the Bay City Rice Festival this weekend, with the Rice Festival Queen being crowned tomorrow, Saturday, October 1, 2016.  Below is a screen shot I took of the rules the Bay City Lions Club has for a candidate to be considered for the honor of spending 2016 as the Rice Queen!

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Had we not come this way, we also wouldn’t have seen our 5th accident of the trip.  A Camaro with a pretty smashed up front end, on the side of Texas 35, in Bay City. We don’t think it had anything to do with the Rice Festival or the Queen’s Coronation!

So, you know we’ve sung the praises of how our little Garmin GPS girl has done such a wonderful job almost everywhere.  We know that we never would have been able to figure out how to get to the USS Lexington yesterday without her, and although I read multiple times on the Internet about not trusting a GPS in the Southwest, she never once led us astray, and has been indispensable, even with our paper maps.  Well today, she pulled a fast one on us, and if a Garmin GPS had a sense of humor, I’d really think she was yanking our chain!  As we’re driving along Texas 35, she says, “In 5 tenths of a mile, make a right turn on Old Texas 35.”  Susie was driving at the time, and obeyed her instructions, and we found ourselves on a road that looked like it could double for a no longer used section of Route 66!  To top that off, she said that the speed limit was 70 MPH, when going more than 30 was tough.  About half a mile after we turned on it, she said, “In 5 tenths of a mile, make a right turn on Texas 35”, the same road we were on when we turned off!!  Susie did, and we were right back in the same pack of cars we’d been in when we turned off!  I tell you, she is getting back at us for not implicitly following her instructions!

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Oh, and more on the Monarch Butterfly Migration.  There were lots of big things flying around the air today, and we knew some of them were dining needles or dragon flies (or dining flies as I tend to call them).  But when we stopped to hit the bathroom at a Dairy Queen this afternoon, Susie found evidence on the ground that more of the Monarchs were not making the complete migration this year!

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We arrived at the Comfort Suites on Galveston Island about 5:30 tonight, and as we leave on this cruise in about 36 hours, Susie almost immediately started gathering laundry.  This necessitated getting the two suitcases out of the trunk that we almost never remove, but as she needed to see what needed washing and will have to repack tomorrow, it had to be done.  After the laundry was done, we had a quick pizza dinner and returned to the room.  We have a number of errands to attend to tomorrow (Kenny has given us a Target shopping list), so we will get up and out after breakfast tomorrow, and by nightfall will hopefully have everything in place, so we can get up Sunday and head to the pier.  It will be strange for 14 nights not to be in a different bed everyday, and we will surely miss the Sonata.  As of tonight, with today’s 240 miles,  our total trip mileage is around 8,000, and she has served us well, but for the next two weeks, we will have a designated driver AND she will have some rest!

Before I close tonight, I need to have a serious discussion with you about the next two weeks.  At this point, we have suffered together through 41 nights of hotel Internet Wi-Fi.  Some of it has been really excellent, some of it nonexistent (Yellowstone), and some of it came and went as I was trying to post, making things somewhat unpleasant in our room!  With the exception of the two nights in Yellowstone where it was impossible to get anything posted, and the two nights with our friends Nancy and Mike in El Paso, where we were just having too much fun to post, I have been pretty good about getting this blog posted before going to bed.  That is not going to happen from October 2nd to October 15th.

You see, on the Royal Caribbean Ship Liberty of the Seas, there is no such thing as free Wi-Fi.  If you want an Internet connection on the ship, you have to pay for it, to the tune of $30 a day, and that’s for just one device.  So for the 14 days of the cruise, that would come out to $420, and although I am so glad you are all traveling along with us, that is just too much money to spend, on top of everything else we’re spending.  So the iPads will get locked in the car, and the iPhones will go on Airplane Mode – unless we run into free Wi-Fi on one of the islands.  I’m going to take my Mac Book Air with me on the cruise, and I will try to write a brief summary each day of what’s happening, but the Wi-Fi will be turned off, until the 16th when we are back at a Homewood Suites in Beaumont, Texas.  I promise that on the 16th, I will give you as complete a recap of the two weeks of the cruise, of the time we’ll spend with Kenny and Chris, of the members of their Liberty of the Sea’s Family we’ve met, and of the wonderful places we’ve gone, and things we’ve done.  Honestly, I’d really love to be able to take you along with us, but if you think the backseat of the Sonata has been crowded, that’s nothing compared to what Stateroom 6580 on the LOS would be like!

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