90 Millas…

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Cuba has always been one of those places that has fascinated me.

I can’t really explain why.

True it has up until very recently been “off limits” to US citizens as long as I’ve been alive, but then again, the former Soviet Union and China used to be more off-limits and at least the former Soviet Union never really interested me.

Maybe it’s because learning about it has been something not really done in my education? I mean, I remember learning about stuff with Russia and the former Soviet Union – I even had a class in college on Russian History – Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union – but I don’t remember seeing a class on Cuba. Yes, we learned about Bay of Pigs, but beyond that I learned very little.

My main knowledge of Cuba has been that it’s always been a place that people have risked their lives to escape from.

So it’s been this fascinating mystery place for me.

So close to the US – only 90 miles (90 millas in Spanish) separate Ket West from Havana – but so far away in so many ways. I remember standing here at the southernmost point of the Continental US in Key West and looking in Havana’s direction and marveling at how close we were physically…and yet how far in so many ways.

And then gradually some small things began to happen. My running coach went with a people-to-people program to run a marathon in Havana, and now there is a sponsored P2P trip that runs the marathon.

But running? Not my jam anymore.

And since I’m not a diplomat or anything, there didn’t really seem to be any way to get there.

This desire to go, to experience, to meet the people – most of whom did NOT choose this life they have been forced into – got even stronger after seeing “On Your Feet!” the first time and really seeing in a more first-hand way that there ARE people whose lives, whose families were irrevocably changed by everything that has happened there, that the spirit of these people is so beautiful and their love for their homeland is so great in spite of it all.

And then…

Then things started changing. Relations between the US and Cuba are beginning to “normalize” and new paths to visit are opening. Yes, with very specific situations that require documentation, but things are beginning to open.

One of these things is the launch ofย fathom impact travelย – which does People to People cruises to Cuba and social impact cruises to the Dominican Republic on alternating weeks. I heard about it and started looking into it and exploring possibilities.

I know fathom has its detractors. And I know it will not be perfect. The early sailings have had issues – not all completely unique to this line (MOST lines have issues when they launch new ships and/or brand new ideas). Some people complain that everything is pre-determined in terms of activities (not 100% true…you CAN do your own thing, but the amount of paperwork you have to do to prove that it meets the P2P regulations is pretty extensive) and/or that you HAVE to do these things. (I’m sorry that this is how it is, but for US citizens, you simply cannot go to Cuba and lay on the beach the whole time and have it be legal.)

It’s definitely not a cruise line for everyone – if all you want to do is drink and hang on a beach, it’s NOT the line for you, with either itinerary (which to me makes it all the more interesting that Carnival is the parent company of fathom given Carnival’s reputation as the party line of cruises).

But I do think that it has a lot of potential as there ARE people who want to explore this way and/or give back even while on vacation. Do they need to really figure out how to market is? Of course. If I wasn’t on cruise forums, I don’t know that I would have heard of fathom.

I can’t say how well or poorly fathom does this providing a different kind of vacation experience – but I can say I WANT to experience this and make up my own mind rather than listening to haters on message boards and so forth (ditto anyone who wants to comment on here about how awful it is…that was YOUR experience, please let me have mine and make up my own mind) and deciding that is how things are.

I’m excited about the opportunity. Nervous, yes. But excited!

Visiting this place that has held my imagination for so much of my life hadn’t been a possibility before. But now, suddenly, it is. There is a possibility in front of me – and expensive possibility, but a possibility!

My first thought was Spring Break week – but that is a DR week on fathom’s schedule.

Birthday cruise? Again, the week itself was a DR week, but there was the week before or after.

And then political things became clear in the US, and in addition to the multitude of worries one candidate in particular brings, one thought came into my mind.

“I want to do this before January 20! Just in case…”

So given what I already had planned for this summer, there was only one other week I could consider.

And that week WAS a Cuba itinerary for fathom!

And that week is Christmas.

I knew my dad had brought up me going home for Christmas – or possibly them coming up here. But my sister didn’t know her schedule – and once she did, it’s still not definitive as extensions and changes can happen. And even though Daddy had said “But you’re an adult, and if you’d rather stay there or do something else, that’s fine.” I couldn’t help but be nervous about his reaction if I said what I really wanted to do.

But finally one phone call when the subject of Christmas came up, I brought it up. And he was supportive!

It took a little while until I knew for sure I would be able to do it (long story…had to wait for a settlement check from a class action suit regarding some loans I had to come and see what the amount was), but…

I am officially booked and 100% paid on fathom’s Christmas week cruise to Cuba!!

This cruise is a reverse from their usual route – Havana to Cienfuegos to Santiago de Cuba – so we will go first to Santiago de Cuba then Cienfuegos, then Havana. Round trip from Miami.

Each day we are in port, we will be doing on-ground cultural immersion activities such as touring with a Cuban guide, eating in family-owned and operated restaurants, seeing performances, meeting local artisans and crafts people, etc. We are docked overnight in Havana and will have the opportunity to go to the Tropicana or the Cabaret Parisien through fathom – or the possibility to go elsewhere on your own for the evening. (Right now I’m leaning towards the Cabaret since I will be solo and my Spanish is limited. I’m working on learning with DuoLingo, so we will see, but I’m still learning towards the ship excursions.)

While we are on board we will have enrichment activities such as Cuban films, seminars to learn about Cuba and Cuban culture, and smaller group sessions to debrief and discuss.

It is going to be a vacation unlike any other I’ve been on in my life, but I’m so excited to have this chance!!

Stay tuned!! You’re coming along on this journey for sure!!

The power of music.

As far back as I can remember, music has been a huge part of my life.

Church choir. Recorder. School chorus. Band. Piano lessons. Handbells.

For the longest time I thought I wanted to become a middle school band director. For various reasons I went a different path, but music has continued to be a part of my life.

The power a song can have to encourage you. To take you back to another time. To push you forward. To speak to and for you. It’s really unlike anything else for me.

For me, music is such a part of my life I am not always consciously aware of it until something brings it to the forefront.

Such was the case when I first went to see “On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan” back in February.

I was aware that the show was happening. I’d seen the ads on buses and around town. But I will freely admit that I’m not typically one for “jukebox musicals”, so I never really looked into it, assuming that’s what it was.

I would soon find out how wrong I was.

It was during our Presidents’ Week break, and I decided to pretty much enter almost every show lottery. “On Your Feet!” was the first one to close and notify – I had won a ticket and had 60 minutes to purchase it. Which meant I was figuring that I wouldn’t win anything else if I bought it. (A pretty safe bet with “Hamilton” but not necessarily so much with the others.)

Given that it was kind of a random entry, I asked my friends on FaceBook if any of them had seen it and if so what they thought. One of my friends who sees pretty much everything said that she had enjoyed it more than she anticipated, so I bought the ticket and went.

And was hooked from the opening scenes.

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It is not your “typical” jukebox musical at all. Yes, it is all (with one exception – which is a new song co-written by Gloria and her daughter Emily) music from Gloria and the Miami Sound Machine’s catalog, but rather than building a story around the songs (a la “Mamma Mia!”) the songs are interwoven into the story of Gloria and Emilio’s life. And while the story is specific to them, the overarching themes are universal.

Gloria is brilliantly played by Ana Villafane (sorry Ana – I don’t know how to make my keyboard do accents!).

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She sounds uncannily like Gloria, especially when singing. I’ve heard more than one person say “I could have sworn she was lip-synching”.

The first Emilio I was was Josh Segarra

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who was great.

Emilio is currently played by Ektor Rivera

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who has brought a whole other dimension to Emilio.

As the title implies, the story is theirs – obviously some things are tweaked for time and dramatic reasons, but some things have been brought in directly from their story.

The shorts. That’s all that needs to be said there.๐Ÿ˜›

I had not realized how much of their music catalog WAS the soundtrack to my life from middle school on up. Some songs I hadn’t even realized WERE Gloria’s at the time, and some are completely new to me.

The book was written by Alexander Dinelaris, and Gloria has said in interviews about the process that she gave him full use of the music catalog. And it is really amazing how well songs from different parts of her career fit into her and Emilio’s story – obviously “Coming Out of the Dark” (which is set in its context in their lives), but also other songs and other times in their life.

For me, one of the most moving scenes is one with Gloria and her father, who at that point was completely bedridden with what was diagnosed as Multiple Sclerosis but was likely a combination of various factors. In pretty much a dream sequence, Fajardo, her father, sings a very early song of hers “When Someone Comes Into Your Life”. Almost invariably this scene brings me to tears because I grew up hearing the story of how the morning after I was born, my dad came to visit my mom and me in the hospital and told my mom he “dreamed about walking [me] down the aisle” (to which my mom said “Let her be a baby!”). I’ve said that if my parents make it up here while the show is running we WILL be coming to see it, but Daddy and I canNOT sit next to each other because it will just be uber waterworks!!

And while the story is specific to them, there are themes that resonate so strongly today… The discrimination that they faced in crossing over from the Latin music scene to the greater music scene in particular. In one scene where this is so apparent, they have been told if they want to cross over, they need to change everything – including their name. Emilio gives an impassioned response about the discrimination he and his father faced when they came to America and how he has worked and paid his taxes for 15 years finishing with “And you should look very closely to my face. Because whether you know it or not, THIS is what an American looks like!”

And that line has gotten cheers and applause every time I’ve seen the show! And rightly so!

The entire cast is stellar, and the choreography by Sergio Trujillo is authentic and yet his own.

In short, this show has touched me in a way that no show has in a long time. The music moves me, and the story touches me.

This entry was in no way solicited by anyone with the show. It’s my own doing and my own feeble attempt to say thank you to Gloria and Emilio for sharing their story; to Ana and Ektor and the rest of the cast for bringing the story to life 8 times a week and pouring their hearts and souls into it – and for opening themselves to the fans of the show. I’ve seen it 8 times so far – yes, most were through the lottery but a couple of them have been regular tickets (as are a couple of times coming up). That’s how much I believe in the show. (And trust me – 8 times is NOTHING compared to some!!) The crowd at the stage door is as varied as they come – in age and in cultural background. You don’t have to be Latino/Latina/LatinX to understand or be touched by the story – you just have to be human.

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13669834_10154139890226321_7509223588687165977_nwith Gloria and Emilio at Broadway Barks

13686742_10154103679641321_2920275287136795836_nwith Ana and Ektor after the show one night in July

Seriously – if you’re in New York, do yourself a favor and go see this show!! It’s at the Marquis in New York. For information, check the website:ย On Your Feet!

The rhythm will get you too!

So what’s new?

Now that I’ve finished recapping my birthday cruise, I can get back to life and regular (I hope) blogging.

Let’s see… What’s been going on?

Travel…

The brief hiatus in posting the cruise recaps was because I met up with my parents and sister in Boston on Sunday for a few days of touring together.ย Boston Family Tripย We did a historical hop on hop off trolley ride (a time and a half), the New England Aquarium, a whale watching trip, Fenway Park, part of the Freedom Trail, dinner with a friend at Casa Romano (YUM!!!), The Old North Church and Paul Revere’s House, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. It was a busy time, but good to be together!

 

Summer living…

Other than this trip and the cruise, most of my summer has been Taekwondo. I’ve gone to an actual sparring class (I got bruised, but not killed – they were told they were not allowed to kill me. HA!) and done more than a few “two-a-days”. Tuesday evening I’ll be testing for my Red Stripe (aka High Blue) Belt!!

I watched the Olympics – as much as I could anyway. I know that most of the experienced people at the dojang thought the TKD was “boring” but for me, since it’s all new, I enjoyed watching it. I was even able to pick out some specific kicks and watch how elite-level people spar.

I watched ONE of the conventions.๐Ÿ˜› The other, just seeing the lowlights on the news was enough.

I’ve also seen some theatre – in particular “On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan” which is amazing! I should do a separate entry just on that!๐Ÿ™‚

I saw “Troilus and Cressida” at Shakespeare in the Park – meh, I didn’t really get why they had to go so hyper-masculine and run around with assault weapons, etc. But it was free.

I continue to lose the “Hamilton” lottery every time I enter. I could paper my apartment – and yours too – with all the “Try again” emails if I printed them off. But that would be very boring wall paper and a huge waste of trees, so I don’t print them off.

I did a lot of reading on the cruise. I’m almost done with Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels series (on the last book now).

And like the rest of the universe it seems, I read “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” – I really enjoyed it. And now I want to go to London and see it!

I should have done some more cleaning – but I can focus on that next week. Last week of freedom before school starts back! Ugh!

 

Being gluten-free…

And I’ve been adjusting to eating gluten-free! The first part of June I went back to my doctor for a check about blood pressure (seems to be responding to the water pill combined with exercise and watching diet), and I asked her about maybe trying gluten-free to see if that helps with the belly fat that seems to want to hang on. She looked at me, and it was like a lightbulb appeared over her head.

“Have you ever been tested for a wheat allergy?”

Well, actually when I was tested for peanuts which came up negative even though I know I react to them (not seriously at this point…my allergist would prefer that I carry an Epi-Pen, but we all know the price issues with those, so I stick to Benadryl carried with me in case of accidental ingestion), I showed as positive for wheat – but I never got anything I’d think of as a reaction to it.

“Uh, your air flow that has remained lower than I’d like even though you’re not wheezing anymore? THAT could well be the ‘reaction’ so yes. I want you gluten-free.”

Three weeks before Italy!!!! Though in actuality they are lightyears ahead of us in dealing with gluten allergies and sensitivities. (Maybe you caught that picture in my Rome entry about the restaurant that had their whole menu available gluten-free? Yeah…this is why that was a big deal to me.)

So I’ve been gluten-free since mid-June. Not sure if it’s doing anything weight-wise (I will admit I’ve been pretty bad about my eating outside of “no gluten”, so I’m not saying it won’t help when I’m back on a normal schedule), but I did notice the other day in the dojang I am not getting as winded as I used to – even just before this discovery/revelation. Like, all of a sudden – which is weird to attribute to “you’ve been working out more” because it should have happened earlier if that was the only reason.

Almost makes me wonder how running would go now if I picked that back up as a regular thing. Almost. Not enough to make me start again. ย :P

 

Travel planning…

And I’ve been doing some trip planning. I’m taking my parents on the Disney Magic in February! I’ll spend 2.5 days in Miami before the cruise exploring that city. They’re flying down the day before the cruise (I think) and we’ll board on Feb 22. We go to Castaway Cay, Key West, and have a sea day! So excited to explore a new-to-us Disney ship (first time on one of the Classics) and spend some time with my parents!

I’m going home for a long weekend 9/30. We’re out that Monday and Tuesday for Rosh Hashanah, so might as well take advantage of the time!

And I’ve got one other thing – one very exciting thing – planned. But that is definitely another entry all together!

 

So yeah… That’s about all with my life right now I think.

You’re all caught up!๐Ÿ™‚ And I promise I’ll try my best to be better about regular – and more “normal” – entries!!

My Birthday Cruise Days 13, 14, and 15 – Sea Days and Flight Home

The last two days of the cruise were sea days. Meaning for me they were a blend of rest, workout, eat, read, and repeat in varying orders.๐Ÿ™‚

After dinner on the next to last night, I headed to the final production show – Center Stage. I am puzzled as to why they don’t do it the final night, but it is what it is I suppose.

I did have a momentary freak-out/flashback to a horrid show on the Radiance last summer when the show started with the notes to Styx’s “Come Sail Away”. (Last summer the one production show I ventured to was technically called “City of Dreams” but I refer to it as “City of Nightmares” it was so bad – and I was stuck in my row so I could not escape.) Adding to it, the singer’s outfit was eerily similar. BUT no fake ship.

And no worries! This show was great!

After the show I went back to my cabin and got about as packed as I could – leaving out just what I’d need the next day and the day after.

On the 12th, the last day of the cruise, I will admit to crying when I said good-bye to Yara. She had been so amazing – I didn’t mean to get attached, but I did.

28771956630_433ac6f54b_bShe knew I liked to exercise, so she put bear in “push-up” position.๐Ÿ™‚ She was that awesome!

Dinner was as always – said good-bye to Mohit and Mikhail, and never saw my head waiter. (Surprising as they almost always make an appearance on the final night – tip night. Actually being accustomed to Disney Cruise Line’s policy of anything allergy-related going through the head waiter, I was VERY surprised I never saw him/her.)

Then it was over to the wine bar to buy a glass of wine and toast to an amazing vacation…

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Then it was off to the cabin to pack up everything except PJs, clothes for the trip home, and toiletries needed in the morning – and the luggage went outside the door.

And then I just chilled in the cabin – reading, writing in the journal I was keeping (what this commentary has come from), and so forth. No “See Ya Real Soon” party or anything to kill time.

That night was VERY rocky – we ran into one of those random pop-up Mediterranean storms. Big time wind and waves! I loved the motion – but people were definitely talking about it at breakfast!

Another good flight in business class, and I was home.

As promised, here are the links to my complete albums.

Overall it was an amazing trip. Some things I learned…

  • When available, I will be getting a beverage package. Even if I don’t “break even” just knowing that I can have a drink and not have to worry about if I have enough left on my account will be nice.
  • Where there are people, there will be drama. Tender tickets, deck chairs, airports even with assigned seats on planes… Just chill and go with it.
  • It really does not matter what body shape/type you have when it comes to swim suits. Wear what makes you comfortable and don’t worry about what other people think.
  • Pack half the amount of clothes and twice the amount of tampons I think I’ll need.
  • It’s not Disney, but Royal Caribbean does have some nice ships, and I can cruise them if I have to.
  • There is so much more of the world I want to explore! There is always something to learn out there in the big wide world!!

Thanks for coming along on my trip!

My Birthday Cruise Report Day 12 – Kotor, Montenegro

Another day, another visit to a place I’d never heard of before the cruise planning started. Well, Kotor. I’d heard of Montenegro.

It was another beautiful morning sailing. “They” promised that the sail in to Kotor was not to be missed. You go through a ria (or some rias?) – which is like fjords except a ria is formed when a valley becomes permanently flooded while a fjord is formed because of glacier activity. So yep! Another day to stake out a spot on deck early! (Again, like glacier day in Alaska, but warmer.)

But…

Slight issue there. For this port, if you wanted to be off before 2:30 or so you needed a tender ticket. Not horrible if you’re with a group because one person could get as many tickets as needed. But when you’re solo, you have to wait in line for the tender ticket and then try to find a spot on the rail.

So I got up early and had breakfast, then took my trusty nook to a chair close to the desk where they’d be handing the tickets out – and pretty close to where the line for the not-needed Villefranche tender tickets started. I was there all alone until about 15-20 minutes later when an older English gentleman came up. Gradually more and more people emerged – including 2 men who plopped right down AT the desk, ignoring those of us who were already there. You could hear them saying they were first and second, so it was pretty clear there was going to be drama.

Sure enough, about the time the rest of us started standing up, their wives – or at least women who were traveling with them – sauntered up. Then a woman who was there AFTER the English gentleman tried saying SHE was first. The newly arrived women – who had no clue what reality was since they had only just shown their faces – started insisting that their men had been there first.

About that time, the people who were going to be handing out the tickets got there. And I was ready to be all “Go ahead. There are enough for everyone!” but the English gentleman pushed me up to the front and said “This girl was the ONLY one up here when I came.” So… I ended up with the first Group 3 ticket. (Excursions were Group 1 and the concierge level or suites or something was Group 2.)

Guess what everyone pitching a fit got?

Yep. Group 3.

And ultimately when Group 3 was called, the whiners and drama causers were nowhere to be seen on that first boat!

Of course.

Anyway…

The sail in WAS gorgeous, and I didn’t miss that much of it.

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I took my tender in with only one real goal. To climb to the fortress ruins…

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way up there where the little flag is.

I got off the tender and headed into town and worked my way back to the trail entrance.

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I paid my 3 euro and started up. And I mean UP! Major elevation gain here! There are steps – 1351 of them – or you can use the trail next to them. They are slippery, even in shoes with traction on them – I have no clue how people in sandals or flip flops were doing it!

28473243033_33ca1f309a_b28473252513_705b74d844_balready the views were worth it

About halfway up distance-wise there is a little chapel

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The joke is you stop there to pray for the strength to make it the rest of the way. Haha!

All along the path there are residents of Kotor who have climbed with coolers containing water, coke, and sometimes beer that they sell. Actually at fairly reasonable prices. The most I saw was 2 euro for water at the top. I did pay it as my bottle was empty – it was a hot day – and I knew I needed it on the way down.

Kept climbing after the chapel…

28470235094_86dfc23231_b28470260064_72b97d0559_z(nope!ย not there yet!)

28473323363_39abdd9b69_bbeginning to think I was nuts!

28470284394_defb597f44_bBut I made it!!

And the view was worth it…

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I made my way back down – only almost slipped badly once. Then I meandered through the town and contemplated going to the Cat Museum.

I kid you not.

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Apparently cats are kind of a big deal in Kotor because I kept seeing shirts and stuff that were “The cats of Kotor”.

But I ended up just grabbing a Coke (I earned it!!), catching up on the internet – which weirdly was better in Kotor than in any of the Italian ports other than Ravenna! – and heading back to the ship to shower and rehydrate!

Sail out was beautiful as well – this time in the twilight.

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The show was an English 60s tribute/cover band called The Zoots. Not bad.

All in all – tender drama aside – it was a really good day in beautiful Kotor.

My Birthday Cruise Report Day 11 – Ravenna

Contrary to multiple reports from this itinerary two cruises ago (the last time this itinerary went on Brilliance) that they were no longer charging for the shuttle from port into Ravenna, the Cruise Compass indicated that it was. Which was backed up by Shore Excursions. (Per someone in the executive office who responded to my mainly complimentary letter after the cruise, this was a “last minute decision by the port” to begin charging again. My guess is they realized how much they were losing in guaranteed money.) So for $22, you could take a 15 minute bus ride into town (and back).

I gave serious consideration to just going to the beach next to the port

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but realized that a) it was Saturday so there would likely be a lot of the locals descending on the beach (I was right), b) it would be a lot more sun, and c) being solo it would be hard to do anything but just sit on the sand as there would be no one to watch my stuff. (I LOVE traveling solo, but there are times it can present unique challenges.) Mostly C made my decision. Plus it looked more like lake calm than sea-ish with waves and stuff.

So I sucked it up and paid the shuttle fare. We were given maps, but to be honest they seemed completely backwards to the actual streets.

I found a couple of churches with the mosaics that Ravenna is apparently so famous for (honestly I’d never heard of Ravenna before, so it was all new to me)…

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28803959580_60e8a1d09f_bI was fascinated with their processional crucifix.

29013459501_a518284289_bIt has a unicorn mosaic! It can’t be all bad!!

I did manage to find Dante’s Tomb

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And then I stumbled upon Sant’Apollinare Nuovo

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and decided to pay the fee to go in. It actually covered multiple locations, but I had a headache that was getting worse, and the backwards map was not helping matters. It was pretty to see the mosaics in there…

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When I got back to the ship, I took some Aleve and got more water along with some made-by-me iced coffee and some food. That all worked together – along with some rest – to help make the headache go away. I found a place to curl up and read for a little while before my spa appointment.

It was a nice half-body (back and arms) massage followed by a full body scrub with a lime-ginger-salt scrub. Made me feel all shiny and new!

Walked around a little

28469426694_a6107bc0ed_bI was right about the beach!

and did some more reading before dinner.

After dinner while I was wandering (amazingly – and sadly – without my camera), the usual “group” that played in the Centrum (Soul Inspirations – not so good…the woman was pretty much a glorified karaoke singer. But I found out in the same letter response I mentioned earlier that ship personnel had observed the same thing and the entertainment management was reviewing things) was taking a break. Jeremie – the Activities Director – introduced one of the tech guys for entertainment. His name is Javier, and OMG does he have a voice. Absolutely amazing!! I was like “Ok, he could totally play Emilio in ‘On Your Feet!’ – not that I want Ektor to leave any time soon!!” Super cute and amazing vocals!!

When he finished, I wandered to the theater to see Rob Lewis, who is a Phil Collins impersonator. I guess he won some kind of show in the UK for celebrity impersonators? Vocally he wasn’t bad. But… Ok, admittedly I’ve never seen Phil Collins in person, but I don’t think he’d pull as many stunts as this guy did. I could be wrong though.

When the show was over, I wandered up to the pool deck where the Latin Nights White Party was going on. Latin Vibes – another ship band – was decidedly more Latin than I’d observed them to be before (yeah…I was definitely like “You are being so OYF! here!!!” when I’d make the observation that they weren’t being very “Latin” early on in the cruise. Some horns would have been nice though!๐Ÿ™‚

Then I headed to the cabin to get ready for bed after another fun day on the cruise!

My Birthday Cruise Report Day 10 – Venice Day 2

Or “The whole ‘tampon tax’ thing in NY has nothing on Venice – where it is cheaper to be a smoker than to be a woman on your period!” (more on that later)

This morning, I got up early to be sure that I was on the first shuttle leaving at 8. (The ship offered a shuttle into Venice and back – $25/person/day. Yes, there were less expensive options, but this was convenient. I also didn’t think I was going to have to pay for a shuttle in Ravenna…but that’s for the next entry.)

We were dropped off at “the monument of the guy on the horse”.

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I swear that is what everyone referred to it as. It’s a couple of bridges away from Piazza San Marco, but not a bad walk at all. I snapped some pics on the way.

28798238150_ca2f44a70c_bGondolas waiting for the day.

29051745056_73e8197f0f_bThe Bridge of Sighs

It was really nice leaving that early so that I could get some fairly empty piazza pictures…

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I wandered all over and went into one place that actually had a menu for their coffee, but the guy was so rude when I asked for what I had found on the menu that I wanted, I left. Ended up getting a lovely cappuccino to take away from a place on the Piazza – slightly more expensive, but much less attitude.

By then, a line was forming for San Marco, so I jumped on the end of it. My not-that-old guidebook did not mention no pictures, but there were clearly signs that said that. So no pictures inside. Some outside though…

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Given that it took me about 10-15 minutes (I did not go up to the horses), I’m guessing the no pictures thing must be at least partially a way to move people through quickly – especially as wicked busy as that place gets.

After that, I wandered around trying to figure out how to get to the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. Finally – ok, part of the charm of Venice is getting lost wandering the streets, but sometimes you just want to find where you’re going! – I accomplished that.

28467532464_48638775f5_bthe goal…

28471171393_0b0623a944_bAccomplished!!

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29056544366_b667a6cd8b_bEnjoying the view!

Getting back over towards San Marco was a challenge, but eventually I made it. Then I started trying to figure out how to get to the Rialto Bridge. Theoretically easy as there are signs, but they are not at consistent intervals, and it’s easy to get turned around.

I found it, but the challenge was not so much worth it…

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It’s undergoing renovation, so half of it is covered with a scrim painted to look like the bridge. Plus it was crazy crowded – so much I didn’t want to attempt to get my camera out and stop for a picture.

So I walked back to Piazza San Marco for a few more shots…

28471344673_45cab1cb65_bMuch more crowded than earlier in the day!

But before getting on the shuttle (guys, you can ignore this part if you want), I needed to get some more tampons. I’d taken some with me, but clearly not enough (new cruise rule – take half as many clothes as I think I’ll need and twice as many tampons!!). Followed an arrow towards “cold drinks” and a tabbaccheri thinking they might have them…they did.

After I paid and was putting my change away and gathering my stuff, I heard the exchange between the shop clerk and the guy behind me in line as he bought two packs of cigarettes. Those two packs were only 3 euro more than what I’d just paid for ONE box!

Yep! Something that is totally unnecessary for anyone is cheaper than something that is definitely necessary (at least some form of feminine protection) for half+ of the population!

Definitely needed a break after that, so it was onto the shuttle and back to the ship.

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I read, got some nibbles, went to the solarium pool and hot tub for a little while, and then took a shower to get ready for dinner.

We started pulling out as I was finishing my dessert, so I was able to go out on deck and grab a few more pics…

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Arrivederci Venice!! I definitely want to return for a more “land based” vacation!!