Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Cons to a Cruise Vacation

To move, to breathe, to fly, to float. 
To roam the roads of lands remote, to travel is to live. 
– Hans Christian Anderson

My previous post enumerated advantages to cruising. But there are drawbacks the wary traveler should consider. Amenities, charges, destinations, etc. vary with cruise companies and individual ships. Do your homework before booking! Here are a few cons to think about when contemplating a cruise:

·      Calm waters and sunny weather are NOT guaranteed. If prone to motion sickness throw Dramamine or another motion sickness remedy in your bag.

·      Stateroom size and type vary dramatically. The cheapest rooms are interiors, no room and no view. Will that suffice? Is a porthole window adequate, or do you want floor to ceiling windows with a balcony? Check out options. A tiny room with barely enough space to turn around and no view may hinder your vacation satisfaction.

·      Meals can be a challenge for the diet-conscious. There are plenty of selections, and buffets offer fresh fruit and salads, but hidden ingredients abound. The result can be too much salt, sugar, and other food no-no’s consumed. Another drawback - although menu offerings vary, the food can get monotonous. On the other hand the dining room responds to special requests, and the menu notes gluten free, non-dairy, and vegetarian options. 

·      The largest ships today accommodate around 6000 passengers, and a lot of walking may be necessary getting from stateroom to the dining room, the pool, to shops and showrooms and other venues. Wheelchairs and scooters are available for rent for the duration of a cruise, otherwise you’ll get your exercise! Check out ship details, especially if a cozier atmosphere and experience is preferred to a vacation shared with thousands of strangers. 

·      And speaking of strangers, shipmates, and strange shipmates...investigate the demographics of cruise lines and the specific voyage you are considering. Do you want to cruise with lots of kids? Young adults? A mixed age group? Do you prefer an older crowd? The population varies depending on the cruise line, length of the cruise, destinations, time of year, and cost.
·      Large ships can result in crowds and lines, especially when sailing with maximum passenger numbers during holidays – a wait for a dining room table, a seat in the showroom, delays for an elevator.

·      Hold your wallet close. There are cruise lines that truly are all-inclusive, but most are not. Hidden fees, such as mandatory room tips, crowd your bill. Employees encourage the purchase of drinks, specialty restaurant dining, souvenirs, jewelry, shore excursions and more. Internet access can be exorbitant ($25 a day on our Holland America ship – we resisted the temptation). If you can wait for port stops, wifi is usually accessible in restaurants and coffee shops.

·      Know what type of vacation you want. Some people love the leisurely pace of cruise ship life; others get bored. 

·      Limited port time, usually only a few hours. If you like to explore new places, a cruise may not satisfy.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, 
but in having new eyes.     
-Marcel Proust
On the plus side of cruising...
As the 2020 elections approach, a cruise
is a delightful way to temporarily avoid the
political hype.

Monday, January 27, 2020

10 Reasons to Cruise

Hub and I spent a week cruising the Caribbean. The trip wasn’t exactly forced on us, but the opportunity arose and we took it. 

Summer 2018 we travelled with our grandson to Alaska. The tour included a 4-day cruise. On the ship we played bingo, the prize a 7-day Caribbean cruise.

My grandson won the cruise. Unable to take advantage because the cruise line – Holland America – does not offer Caribbean trips during the summer and holidays are blackout periods, the use of the cruise certificate fell to Grandma and Grandpa.

Notwithstanding the fact that there is no such thing as a free ride (or cruise), we enjoyed a 7-day voyage on the blue waters of the Atlantic and Caribbean seas, our companions 1,800 other passengers.

Like any kind of vacation, cruising has its pros and cons. Cruise line amenities vary. The following list is based on my experience with Holland America. 

10 reasons mature adults (in age, not necessarily any other way) 
might consider a cruise vacation, in no particular order.

§  No cooking or cleaning or shopping (unless you want to indulge) or laundry, making beds or cleaning bathrooms or partaking of any other household tasks.

§  Someone else is cooking and serving you, making your bed, cleaning your toilet, providing clean towels, pampering you.

§  Food is available most any time of the day somewhere on the ship – in the dining room, café, extensive buffet.

§  Theoretically the price of the cruise is all-inclusive. In reality you are nickel and dimed to the detriment of your wallet. Drinks, internet access, room service, specialty restaurants, shore excursions, the spa and fitness center (use of the gym is free, but few classes are). The list of ways the cruise line tries to extract your dollars seems unending. Buyer beware! As for cost, deals abound, especially at the last minute. Check out websites such as vacations to go  and Travelzoo.

Strolling a market in St. Maarten.

§  Travelling when the rest of the world is working or in school results in an older, less rowdy crowd than experienced during vacation times (unless cruising Carnival). Sailing south offers bright sun and the delight of wearing light-weight clothes, temporary relief from the cold gray northern weather. 

§  You can take advantage of free activities or not, be active or not. Find a comfy nook and read, take an afternoon nap, sunbathe by the pool, watch a movie, play a game (active or not - bingo, bridge, pickleball, volleyball...), gamble in the casino, sleep late or get up early and work out. No pressure!

One of our new friends - met lots of iguanas!
§  Meet new people, interesting people, and make friends - or be a loner. Your choice!

§  Learn something new – take a dance class, attend a lecture.  

§ Unpack once and make your stateroom a temporary home, yet take advantage of the opportunity to visit different places. 

§  Enjoy night life. Shows, bars, concerts, piano bars, the casino, dance or sing or simply listen. Or enjoy a quiet evening ‘at home’.

Enjoying the Caribbean waters.

Cons to cruising? Check out my next post... 

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Best of Boomers on Inspiration and Admiration, Well-being, and Leisure Activities

The boomers have been busy this week. Except this week’s writer. I spent the week cruising the Caribbean. Back home I am adjusting to the colder weather as I return to everyday life - restocking the fridge, cooking, cleaning, endless laundry. Meanwhile my fellow boomers compiled a group of posts informative, entertaining, and interesting.

Health and Well-being

Don’t you love now that we’re older that you get weird aches and pains for absolutely no reason? A knee twinge here or maybe unexplained back pain. Did you know they could be stress-related? Rebecca Olkowski with delves into stress-related back pain, why it happens and what you can do about it.
It's challenging to eat healthy when you are on the go. But simple when you have salads-in-a-jar already prepared, points out Carol Cassara at A Healing Spirit. Take a look at her fun suggestions for a delicious meal you can easily prepare in advance! 

About things we don’t understand and people we admire

This week Tom at Sightings Over Sixty ponders how we live in confusing times, and in Things I Just Don't Understand he wonders whether we should just get back to basics. 

Many roll their eyes, but it’s a fixation Laurie Stone of Musings, Rants & Scribbles can’t help. There’s something vulnerable about Prince Harry that breaks her heart. He could be any young man (and yes, to her he’s still young at thirty-five), trying to make his way in the world. She still sees that little baby so many years ago, holding onto his mum, cameras clicking. She sees that little boy walking behind her coffin on that terrible September morning. The other day she realized what she feels for Harry.

Entertainment and Imagination

On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer and personal finance journalist, is on her annual movie marathon to see Academy Award nominated movies so she can write about them for her blog before the big night. So far, she likes “1917” for best picture, but she still has several more best picture nominations to see. AARP’s Movies for Grownups selected “The Irishman” for best picture. See “AARP’s Winning 2019 Movies for Its Movies for Grownups Awards” to see its other choices.

Jennifer, of Unfold and Begin, is so tired of hearing people say they aren’t creative. “I’m not creative, I don’t paint.” There are even people who say they were creative as children but now they’re adults and “don’t play make-believe anymore.”  It's complete rubbish and she decided to address this issue in Creativity Myths and How to Destroy Them.

Have a good week, and take a few minutes to stop by our boomers and say hi!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Winter Break(down - almost)

The past couple of weeks hub and I lodged in the sunshine state, far from the dusting of snow that briefly covered my hometown. Also far from the balmy 60s experienced at home last week. We enjoyed 70s weather in Florida, inching up into the 80s and touching 90 (on our car thermometer; don’t know official readings), and becoming progressively more humid and muggier. 

Our arrival was not mentioned in any media, social or otherwise, unlike other folks - one individual in particular now temporarily residing in Washington, D.C. who visits the area periodically. 

We were made aware of the presence of individuals more famous than hub and I at the airport. Our Spirit plane (which never transports the famous, infamous, wealthy or well-to-do) arrived on time. We disembarked, made our way to baggage claim and waited for the appearance of our one bag on the luggage carousel.

We waited...and waited...and waited. We fidgeted, read emails, visited the restroom, and started to get a wee bit agitated, finally inquiring at the customer service desk what the delay might be.

“Oh,” the lady told us, “the airport tarmac is on a freeze. No one is allowed outside until the President leaves. Employees are not allowed to unload the luggage.”

“When will we get our bags?”

“We don’t know.”

Meanwhile the family member (unluckily) chosen to pick us up was impatiently waiting in the airport cell phone lot. 

But there is a bright side to this dismal waiting stint. 

The Palm Beach Airport cell phone waiting lot is not your ordinary airport cell phone parking lot. The new PBIA Travel Plaza has rest rooms, water fountains, and – most impressive of all – a Dunkin’ Donuts and 7-Eleven. Who wouldn’t want to spend an hour or more of your day hanging out in such swanky surroundings?

Not, apparently, my daughter-in-law.

We gave up waiting, summoned our ride (who was anxious to get home for dinner) and left the airport. We returned the following day to retrieve our bag. 

Our Florida vacay had just begun...

We spent two weeks sitting in traffic and waiting at lights. Florida must have the longest lights in the history of traffic lights. Cars turn in all directions across multi-lane roads, and make U-turns. Disgruntled drivers honk horns for no reason except out of frustration. Cars zoom in front of you and cut you off. On the other hand large cars and trucks drive directly in front of your car so you have no idea what is happening ahead of that vehicle – is the light red or green or yellow? Construction logjam? Pedestrians attempting the almost impossible – crossing the street? 

It is a miracle the three of us – hub, me, and the car - survived.

I guess locals get used to the craziness.

One additional note to folks back home...Mid-Atlantic natives will be thrilled to know that Wawa has invaded the state and taken possession of many busy intersections, adding to traffic congestion...

The good news? Wine and beer for sale at Wawa!

We leave tomorrow.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Is Adult Conversation Possible?

As Program Coordinator (a volunteer position, no compensation provided) for a non-profit offering interesting/educational/entertaining programs for seniors, I am always searching for new ideas.

A program came across my computer (as opposed to my desk, which was how I found out about things ages ago) called Socrates Café. Folks get together and talk in a civil, controlled, mature manner on a specific topic. Matters of discussion may be philosophical, societal, political...anything.

Participants do NOT debate. There are no winners or losers. I think the most important qualification for members is an open mind. 
True wisdom comes to each of us when
we realize how little we understand
about life, ourselves,
and the world around us. - Socrates

According to the Socrates Cafe website:

We don’t argue, we don’t debate, we don’t seek to persuade others...we explore, interrogate, investigate — and seek to persuade ourselves (that’s right, we focus on supporting our views via ‘self-persuasion,’ rather than patronizing proselytizing and sermonizing)...we become more connected to others — including if not especially those who look at the world quite differently than we do...

No one in my organization was familiar with the program, so attending a meeting was imperative before establishing our own. The Socrates Cafe website lists participating groups. I discovered a gathering a convenient drive away, held weekly at a local library. According to the website, most groups meet monthly. 

Ideally the group is diverse, but depending on the locale it doesn’t always work that way. I walked into a very homogenous group – white men and women of a certain age (a.k.a. senior citizens). The group met in the afternoon, so diversity age-wise can be difficult. I did not take a poll of participants’ ethnic and cultural heritage, economic circumstances and religious background. Not all were American-born – accents implied immigrants. Guesses could be made based on individuals’ comments, but that is unscientific and easily misleading.

The moderator e-mails participants a few days before each meeting with the topic to be discussed. Individuals research the subject, and many spoke from notes. 

The discussion did not produce the animosity and impassioned dialogue that current political conversation triggers. No one spoke ‘out of turn’. It was an adult, informed and informative 1½ hour exchange. The moderator kept folks focused, on topic, and within time constraints. Some speakers were interesting and engaging, others not so much. But that is strictly my opinion. 

It is heartening to realize that a group of people with varying viewpoints can gather and discuss a topic without name-calling, vitriol, door slamming or any other display of frustration and anger. But a successful group must include people with a high level of self-control and respect for others and their opinions, however mistaken one might believe those ideas and views may be.

It will take much guidance to instill in my constituency program guidelines - to restrain from emotional outbursts, to listen without interrupting, to not make faces or gestures, to act like a mature adult. I know my population –  they are impassioned, informed but often very opinionated and unwilling to listen to opposing points of view, while on the other hand quick to voice opinions on subjects they know nothing about, and they love to talk, and talk, and talk... 

It will be a daunting task.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Mom at 95

Mom at 95 at her party
 Mom turned 95 on January 2nd. Family members celebrated with 25 of her friends at a luncheon.  

The date, Thursday, January 2nd, time and place chosen, the guests invited via phone and email, and RSVPs received. On Monday, three days before the event, Mom gets a phone call. Her friend Hilda, homebound, could not attend the luncheon. She wanted to send flowers and contacted the restaurant. An employee answered the phone and told her the restaurant closed.



Hilda immediately phoned Mom, and Mom called the restaurant. Hilda must  have misunderstood. Maybe they were closed that particular day.

But there was no confusion. Sunday evening the staff had been told the business was closing. Immediately. On Monday employees were removing furniture and closing up.

After a moment of panic, Mom set about locating another venue. She let her fingers do the walking, and quickly found an Italian restaurant overlooking the water on Long Island’s south shore willing to hold the luncheon. Guests were notified. 

Everyone showed up at the right place at the right time!

Celebrating with flowers, wine,
and champagne
Friends, family, a surprise guest, excellent food, a little entertainment, socializing consumed the afternoon.

A perfect event for Mom’s mid-nonagenarian birthday.

A slice of Mom’s life, a.k.a. Elyss, a.k.a. Grandma, a.k.a. Great-Grandma...

Mom lives independently in a seniors-only apartment house. She drives, shops, and is involved in a variety of activities – volunteer organizations, book club, bridge, lunch and dinner engagements, movies and concerts...the list goes on.

A child of the Depression, Mom’s upbringing shaped certain practices. Our refrigerator was full of leftovers wrapped in wads of aluminum foil. For decades she only shopped sales, the idea of paying full retail price unthinkable. Her box of alphabetically arranged coupons, updated regularly, still sits on the back seat of her car. Sharing – especially restaurant meals – is highly desirable if not required, and slipping extra packets of Sweet and Low in her pocketbook part of the joy of eating out.

I remember our family’s first camping trip. A thunderstorm drenched the campground and everything in it, including us. Mom declared once was enough, and that first camping trip was our family’s last camping trip. 

Mom returned to school in the ‘60s. I remember her and Dad in the basement on a Saturday morning, she dictating and Dad typing a paper due later that morning. She earned a degree in Library Science, and worked for years as an elementary school librarian. 

Although not on the cutting edge of fashion, Mom was the first female teacher in her school to wear pants, a liberating experience quickly followed by other women on the staff. She was also on the cutting edge technologically, introducing computers to her school library.

Once my sister Janice and I graduated college, Mom and Dad traveled. When Mom broke her foot, she did not cancel a planned trip to England. The only place her broken limb deterred her sightseeing was at the Tower of London. 

Mom and Dad enjoyed the grandkids, taking them every summer for a week or two of non-stop fun at home, and on excursions around the country and overseas. Her oldest grandchild, Matt, a growing, hungry teenager at the time, still laments the fact that he was not allowed to eat until dinner during their trip to London and Paris. (He slept through breakfast and there was no break in sightseeing until dinner.)

One of the most memorable trips was a family cruise around the Hawaiian islands to celebrate Mom and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary. Every time they announced, “Who is celebrating a special occasion?” we all raised our hands and shouted “we are...we are!”. Unfortunately Mom and Dad remained at home, Dad’s gall bladder preventing him from travelling. But the rest of the family had a great trip and still talk about it.

Another notable trip occurred a few years ago. Mom was only 86 at the time and traveling to meet her newest great-granddaughter in Colorado. She arrived at JFK early for her 8:00 PM flight and settled at the departure gate – or so she thought. She missed the announcement about a change of gate. 

Mom’s plane left without her. 

That was the last plane to Denver that night. The next flight left the following morning, and she would have to be at the airport 5:00 AM for check-in. Rather than drive home or get a hotel room, Mom stayed in the airport terminal the entire night. She finally arrived in Denver, 13 hours late, exhausted but happy the trip was over. But of course, the weekend had just begun...

Nine years ago Mom sold her home, purchased in 1952, and moved into her current apartment. I helped Mom clean out the house and pack. We filled an entire dumpster. We loaded the car and made several trips to Goodwill. Before my sister arrived to take over, I called her and said, “Janice, we spent a week cleaning the house and filling a dumpster. When you enter the house you are going to think, “What the hell did they do?”” - Our family are not hoarders, but definitely pack rats. 

My sister and I urged Mom to move near one of us, but she wanted to stay close to her friends and activities. When planning a visit, we must first call Mom and see if she can clear her calendar long enough to see us. 

Mom, we love you.

Happy 95th birthday!