Archive for July, 2013

The World We Live In

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

My friend, George presented this post on Facebook yesterday, and I thought it was worthy of reproducing it on my blog:

For the last few months I have watched from a distance the goings on in Florida. You ALL know what I am speaking of. I do NOT admit to knowing all of the facts. However the events of the last 24 hours or so have inspired me (for lack of a biter term) to write this. For those of you who truly know me, I really try to think things through before committing my thoughts to paper, or in this case the World Wide Web. My intention is not to take sides with anyone OR to offend anyone of you. So, with that said, please read this with an open heart and mind. And know that I love you all.

This entire unfortunate scenario pulls at me on so many different levels. I have three children as most of you know, two of which are boys ages 21 and 19. If ANYONE were to harm my children in any way, shape or form, my response is simple. That person or persons better hope the authorities get to them before I do. Is that vigilante justice? Perhaps, but like many of you, I feel that you can do what you want to me, but NOT to my children. That isn’t an idle threat. IT’S A PROMISE.

However, I also believe that our society has gone off the deep end. Crime, murder, theft, rape and other nonsense has become the norm rather than the occasional incident. I also believe that we are citizens have the right to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our property from those who attempt to harm, steal or infringe on our basic right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Does that mean I believe in taking matters into your own hands? Of course not, but what would YOU do if you felt that your home, your family or your neighbors were in danger? It’s a terrible quandary for sure.

I only know what has been reported in the media with regards to that night in Florida. And as I read from someone else who posted here, only two people will EVER know what truly happened that night. And unfortunately one of those individuals is no longer with us. Everything else is complete speculation. What I do believe in all of my heart is that bringing racism into this is wrong and unnecessary. I have to ask, let’s say that a black man shot a white kid who was trespassing or whatever. Would racism enter into the equation? I do NOT pretend to know what was going on in the mind of either one of these people. I think that the bigger picture should be that a young man lost his life in a situation that was very unfortunate and more than likely completely avoidable.

If a finger should be pointed at someone, maybe we should check the justice system and specifically the prosecution team in particular. Two days ago, before the verdict, I spoke to a friend of mine who is a very good and knowledgeable attorney. We chatted at length about the case and specifically the trial. His opinion was simple. THE PROSECUTION BLEW IT. He said that Mr. Zimmerman was going to be acquitted because of this. He also said begrudgingly that it reminded him of the Simpson trial where the prosecution also blew it. He had been following the trial closely because he IS an attorney and he studies cases like these much like I study recordings to learn different styles of music and so on. He also said that while a 6 member all female, all-white jury was not ideal for the prosecution, it certainly is a FAR cry better than an all-male all-white jury. Who better to gain sympathy for the loss of a child than a mom? So, in his opinion you cannot blame the jury. You have to blame the prosecution team as well as the laws in Florida.

One thing that REALLY makes me angry is the threats of rioting and so on. That is akin to destroying an entire breed of dog because a few of them have been guilty of bad behavior, or condemning an entire race of people because of a few individuals. I am not sure what rioting will solve except for driving a LARGER chasm between ALL races and creeds, which is CERTAINLY not what needs to happen. It’s ok to be angry. But I think that anger directed at the wrong person or persons is as dangerous as a lethal virus that spreads rapidly. Whether you are a Christian, a Buddhist, an atheist or whatever, our goal as a society SHOULD be less violence, less conflict and more togetherness and cooperation. Advocating retaliation towards an entire race of people or lashing out at innocent people is just wrong. And to blame white people, black people or whomever for the actions of one man or a few men is also wrong.

My friends, I don’t know what the answer is. When I end my posts here I usually end with the phrase “peace to all”. That is not some hippy, trippy thing that I say to be groovy. I MEAN IT. I have longed for peace in my life and have been on a journey to find that peace and will continue to do so until my last breath. Have I found it? Yes, for the most part. Do I struggle with that concept daily? Of course, but its events such as this debacle in Florida that can be revealing in so many ways, the LEAST of which is how we as a “civilized” society handles the aftermath of such an ordeal. Personally I have not encountered any sort of animosity directed at myself. Do I think there will be? We shall see.

Cruising on a Sunny Afternoon (Part 2)

Friday, July 12th, 2013

Selecting your Stateroom

The staterooms vary greatly and so do the prices. We generally select a veranda or balcony cabin. You should make a selection based upon your itinerary. A late season Alaskan or Transatlantic cruise may offer limited time to sit out on the veranda of have room service breakfast outside. Naturally if most of the cruise is in warm or mild weather the veranda is special. If you do select a veranda, be sure to have room-service breakfast (delivered at no additional charge,) cocktails at sunset, or just quiet reading time as you float above the brine.


When you book your cruise, you will be offered an early or late dinner seating. Early seating is usually around 6.00pm and late seating is at approximately 8.00pm.We prefer the late seating. If you have been off the ship during the day you may feel rushed to return and prepare for dinner at 6.00pm. We have also enjoyed the time to shower, dress and have a pre-dinner cocktail or two! The main entertainment is usually at 8.30pm for the early diners and 7 or 7.30pm for the late seating diners.

Tables in the main dining room range from “tables for two” and up to “tables for twelve.” We always request a table for two simply because we have witnessed too many examples of overbearing loud bores with opinions about everything dominating the dinner table discussions, and we avoid them at all costs.

Enjoy the experience if you are assigned to a polite, interesting and enjoyable dining group. Alternatively, speak with the maître d about another table. We have always found them to be most gracious and accommodating. You are left to your own devices for breakfast and lunch. They usually comprise buffets with hundreds of options. We have always enjoyed the poolside grills as an option and of course room service for breakfast.

Dinner is almost always a delight. All the ships we have graced offer 12-15 entrees. They usually have a “standing” menu that may include 5-6 entrees which are available every day and a featured menu with specials which vary daily.

Portions are average in size so don’t be shy. My wife and I have often ordered 3 entrees to share between us. Don’t hesitate to request another entrée if you are not happy with your initial order. Remember you are a paying guest!


Most cruises now allow you to pre-pay your gratuities which we prefer. We’ve never been disappointed with the cruise staff, and requests made to our waiters and cabin stewards have always been quickly and graciously fulfilled. Prepaid tips avoid the last day hassle of distribution and possible embarrassment.

Dressing for Dinner

Gentlemen: “country club” casual, khaki pants, dress shirts, possible a blazer. Tuxedos are nice to have but by no means a requirement. We have witnessed a few people turned away from the main dining room on “formal” nights for showing up in a Mickey Mouse T-shirt and blue jeans. Kudos to the maitre’d.

Ladies in cocktail dresses and dressy slacks and tops are perfectly acceptable.

On Board Activities

The activities on board ship are as varied as the passengers. We’ve always enjoyed the guest lectures and trivia contests. Anyone who is bored on a cruise ship needs their head examined.

General Ramblings

We really enjoy cruising. We have three more planned for the next year: a 14 day Baltic cruise, an 8 day Caribbean cruise, and another 14 day Transatlantic to Southampton, UK. We feel cruising is the best vacation bang for the buck. We usually pay less than $100 per person per day. Remember that includes “hotel,” all meals, entertainment and transportation (excluding appropriate airfare.) One final piece of advice on disembarkation: on the last night of the cruise passengers are required to leave their bags outside their rooms for collection. You will be re-united with them on the quayside when you have vacated the ship the following morning. Alternatively you can choose to carry the bags off the ship yourself. It can be rather cumbersome, but exiting the ship and port is much faster.

We hope these “ramblings” will help if you decide to take your first cruise or planning your next water adventure.




Cruising on a Sunny Afternoon (Part 1)

Friday, July 12th, 2013

My good friend Bob and his wife Pat love cruises. So much so he’s probably spent more time on the high seas than Admiral Lord Nelson. Consequently he kindly agreed to be my guest blogger and provide us with an insight into the art of cruising.

Taking a cruise can be the most relaxing and rewarding type of vacation (that’s holiday to Brits!) one can experience. We do not propose to be cruise experts, travel consultants, travel agents, or travel writers. We have taken 16 cruises in the past 8 years and would like to share our experiences, some insights, and hints that may help you to plan your next for first cruise.

Planning your Cruise

The first step should be decide where you would like to go and for how long. The internet is a treasure trove of information. Just type in “cruises.”  We have taken 7 day Caribbean cruises, 15 day Transatlantic cruises, 14 day Mediterranean cruises, and an Alaskan West Coast cruise. All were wonderful and deeply enjoyable. We have used travel agents, cruise line agents, and cruise consolidators. However my personal favorite travel specialist is my wife.

Each has benefits and pitfalls. A professional travel agent can be invaluable. Be sure to select one that is licensed or bonded and well versed in cruising. There is no fee for using a travel agent. Beware they may steer you towards cruise lines that pay them a larger commission or shower the agent with personal cruise benefits. Using an agent would be very helpful for a first time cruiser.

Cruise lines have their own in house sales people (800 plus.) You will speak to a real live person which is a treat especially if you have ever been re-routed by your on line helpline to Bombay (Mumbai.) They are knowledgeable and helpful. They will advise you on specials and any free upgrades that you are entitled to; such as gratuities included, shipboard credit, or cabin upgrades.

We have found that cruise consolidators or cruise line specialists are great resources. We have used “” and “cruise” They are specialists in all types of cruises, represent all cruise lines, and generally offer the best benefits. We have found that their prices are lower than cruise line sites or agents, as they offer additional benefits beyond the cruise lines. We have received extra shipboard cash credits, free drink packages, free gratuities, free dinners in the ship specialty restaurants and cabin upgrades.

You pay no additional fee for their service, but you must do most of your research yourself. They are not there to educate you or hold your hand. They book your cruise period. We have always been happy with their service. Last but not least, and my favorite source, is my own personal cruise specialist, my wife!

Now that we have some experience in cruising, she will spend hundreds of hours combing through all of the sites to create our ideal cruise. She has been fantastic and discovered some incredible deals. For example our recent Transatlantic 14 day cruise included all gratuities, beer and wine package, $300 shipboard credit, free bottle of champagne in the room upon arrival, veranda cabin, and concierge level for $899 each. That’s approximately $65 per day! A word of caution; I would not recommend this for first time cruisers,


Where to Cruise and for How Long

We have taken 5 “one week Caribbean cruises” with multiple island stops. They are fun and pure escapism but for our tastes too short. We have taken a 15 day Vancouver to Alaska to San Diego cruise. We went late in the season (mid-September) and the weather was brutal. We were the last cruise of the season. The weather was cold, and some ports of call were partially closed and boarded up.

We have taken 4 Mediterranean cruises both eastern and western. They have all been enjoyable and culturally enriching. The ships usually leave from a major city like Barcelona or Rome. They cruise at night and in the morning you have arrived in a new city. We love to explore and leave the ship either on our own if we have been there before or take the cruise ship tour.

I would recommend the ship’s tours if it is your first time in that city. The tours can be expensive, but they are well organized and very informative. These tours gave us a flavor for many cities and we returned to them later to explore on our own. The only negative is flying to Europe each way, and the air fare can be very expensive. Furthermore, the flights can last between 9-12 hours one way.

To be continued…….