Saturday, February 26, 2005
Skip the shopboard excursions, unless you really want to do what they're offering and talk to the locals. We found out from the Frommer's guide that some of the best snorkeling on St. Thomas was on Coki Beach.
One thing to know about the Virgin Islands' taxis: they don't move unless they are full. Imagine a Dodge pickup truck with a people carrier where the bed would be. That's a taxi, and they usually hold about 10-12 people depending (of course) on the size of the truck and the size of the people. But one thing that is nice is that you get to see some of the sights on the Island on your way to your destination. There is a resort called Sapphire Beach.
I snapped this photo of the resort from the hilltop where our driver stopped. Yes, the water really is that blue and so is the sky; it was the kind of place you don't want to leave in a hurry. But this joint ain't cheap. Their rates for January 4th to April 13th range from $325 to $505 a night. Meal plans are additional, there is a $40.00 charge for additional adults per night, and there is an 8% tax and a surcharge for energy for the rooms as well.
That's one reason we chose to cruise. But our destination was Coki Beach, which the Frommer's' guide said had some good snorkeling. They were right! What a beautiful array of fishes, and all next door to Coral World (which will set you back $18 to get in and $9 for kids).
Coki Beach is free, but there are people there who rent snorkeling equipment, and there are people trying to sell you drinks and snacks. There is a public bathroom, but when we were there it was out of order. The closest one was at Coral World, but you had to buy a ticket to use it! The water was a little cool for Cornelia so she put on a shorty wetsuit, which allowed her to snorkel longer.
The cab ride cost us $8 there and on the way back the driver was in such a hurry that we did not have to pay. So that's $16 versus $100 for the ship excursion for two people. The best deal you can find is the dollar bus if you don't mind riding with the locals. For schedule and bus stop information, call 340/774-5678. Or you can look for the bus stop outside the port and it will take you all over the island for $1! Not a bad deal if you have your own gear, or would rather spend your money on other things, like jewelry!
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
This was no small feat for a ship this large. The Valor measures 952 ft. (or 300 meters) long and displaces more than 110,000 tons. She holds 2,974 passengers and a crew of 1,200. The Valor can chug along at more than 21 knots, and the passage from Miami to Nassau showed us a new phenomenon - when your room is near the bow, you hear every wave that hits the ship! And it vibrates the room! Another thing to realize is that the side thrusters they use to park this beast are right outside your room! But eventually they did park it.
We wanted to go to Paradise Island but after a late night on the sea, and the exhaustion of getting on board, we slept in late and decided to stay close to the ship.
We asked some of the locals where to go, and of course they all want to take you on a cab ride to Paradise Island, for several dollars. The traffic in downtown Nassau is a nightmare, especially during high tourist season, so your best bet is to walk.
Skip the hell shops around the ship terminal. They are full of crap. If you go past Senor Frogs' bar, you will find a delightful place called the British Colonial Hilton where a King bedroom can run from $225 to $475 dollars a night.
They do have a very nice beach close to the ship terminal, but it will cost you $15 a day to use the facilities. For that you get the beach, and I think the pool as well, which is not a bad deal. One of the best deals we found was the so called "dollar bus," where you pay $1 and get to ride with the locals. If you don't mind it can take you to some great beaches with excellent snorkeling. We had our own gear, but we were pressed for time, so we didn't do the bus. But $2 each sure beats the $49.99 the ship was charging to go to the same place and do the same thing.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
13 February 2005, 5:10 pm
We're aboard the Carnival Valor sailing out of Miami. We got off the plane in Ft. Lauderdale in plenty of time, and had to wait in line for our luggage. Then we got on the bus and the driver (Anthony) was some guy who did not speak English very clearly. He seemed to have the urban Patois down pretty well (y'know whaddimsayin?) and he seemed to ramble on about nothing. There was a Miami Heat game at the American Airlines center, so traffic sucked. Anthony's ramblings were getting a little tiresome, but he did get us to the ship. Since the gratuity is included in the $32 you pay for the transfer, I didn't give him a tip. Sorry, Tony.
Once we were in the terminal we had to wait in long lines for everything-- for security, to get checked in, to get our room key (that was the fastest) and to get on the ship. If you go on one of these trips, make sure that you go online and do the rapid check-in (Carnival calls it a Funpass) stuff before you get there. Even then, you have to wait in long lines, but it did move quickly.
Once we got through the terminal we got to the ship and they took the cheesy embarkation photo. I didn't bother looking for it because they always look the same -- plus I had BAD hat hair that day and was not feeling very photogenic. But we finally did get to our room. We chose an interior cabin for one reason: it was cheaper! But our tickets said our cabin was TBA. When the guys loading our luggage on the dock wrote 2-203 on it, I knew we were low in the ship. I had no idea what an adventure being in the bow would turn out to be.
We did get underway and are headed to Nassau, the Bahamas on Monday. We stopped in the spa and booked a couple's massage for Monday when we are in port. The price was normally more than $100 each while at sea, but only $79 when in port, so we decided to wait.
We ate lunch in what was called "Rosie's Restaurant" on the upper deck. The theme of this ship is "Heroes and Heroines" and Rosie's is a tribute to Rosie the Riveter from WWII. The place is spacious, and has at least four serving lines, but the decor is done in various shades of lime green and yellow. If that is not your speed, you might think about taking another ship. Also there are several painted mosaics of women from WWII who worked on ships and planes and other war material. There is a huge tile mosaic of the famous "We Can Do It!" poster from WWII with Rosie flexing her bicep. But the food was excellent that was what I was there for after all -- to eat. Also the coffee was great. The last cruise we went on (aboard a Princess liner, the one thing we remember most is that the coffee sucked! It was weak, and we had to find another place on the ship to get it). But on the Valor it was consistently good. Strong, and plenty of it, both regular and decaf. And there were plenty of drink stations, so the fact that more than 3,000 people can fit on this ship made little difference to getting your drinks. You did have to wait in line for food, but it was also plentiful.
Our cabin seemed larger than the other ones on the Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and the Princess on which we have sailed before. Carnival boasts of having more room in their cabins than other lines and it seemed to ring true. The color scheme was a kind of mottled, faux finish style, with salmon-colored molding. The cabinets are a maple finish and have an art-deco kind of feeling. They do not have knobs; there are small rope-like hooks where hardware would be, I guess to reduce the possibility of injury or tearing a garment. But they are functional, and that's all that is really needed.
There is a safe in the room, but while our "Sail and Sign" card was supposed to open and close it, it did not and we had to use a major credit card to lock the safe. There was no charge for it, but we had to have the credit card out of the safe in order to open it. That was a bit of a hassle, but we worked around it.
The gym on the Valor is excellent! All the equipment is new (as is the ship; she only launched in December of 2004) and the facilities are more than I expected. There are tile floors in the men's locker room, with at least 20 lockers (you get a key when you give them your Sail & Sign Card). There are both a dry sauna and a steam room in both the men's and women's locker rooms. There are 3 showers and a handicapped shower in the men's locker room along with ample toilet facilities. There is even a lounge area where people who are having spa services can wait for their appointments. And there are ample towels -- large, absorbent cotton ones that even I could wrap around myself.
The gym has plenty of treadmills, elliptical trainers, and both stationary and recumbent bikes. There are also LifeFitness weight machines, as well as a free weight area and several classes offered (for a $10 fee). Classes include spinning, Swiss Ball training, Pilates and Yoga. But the high-intensity classes are not free; the $10 cost is one of many shipboard expenses you can accumulate on the Valor if you are not careful. More on that later.
There is also a hot-water pool and a jacuzzi in the gym, but the jets were not that strong, and the waterfall in the pool makes it cooler than some people might prefer. Nassau tomorrow.
Sunday, February 13, 2005
February 13, 2003 8:30 am.
So we made it to the airport in time, but man am I tired! I had set the radio and the light to go off at about 4:30 and the timer was working great. Unfortunately what was on the radio was some really bad church choir and that was enough to start me out of a really good sleep. Albeit a short sleep.
My contacts are so screwed up and cloudy I could barely see to drive to the airport, but we got to the terminal in time, and we got on the bus from remote parking. I am really looking forward to getting away from DC for a week. Life in this city would make Saint Francis curse. But sunshine and palm trees and warmth await me. So here we go.
Aboard USAirways Flight 1456.
Do you believe this?! USAir is charging for the snacks on this flight! That is news to me. I mean the Cokes and the coffee are still "complimentary" but the stale sandwiches and the pretzels set you back five bucks! And this from an airline that is in bankruptcy protection!?
Cornelia is playing peek-a-boo with some little girl two rows up. The baby cant' be a year old, and has on overalls and a turtleneck sweater. And she has PINK cheeks. She's getting a little fussy, so maybe playing peek-a-boo with a stranger will give her parents a break. It's really kind of funny how parents never notice how loud their kids scream or how obnoxious they might be. Everything they do is cute. High-pitched squeals, laughter at full volume, crapping their Pampers - all are greeted with the same sense of loving adoration. Well not by all parents, but that's just an observation on this flight.
The purity of parental love doesn't seem to notice the squeals, the shrieks or the crap; it just notices the kid. But a middle-aged white guy who has no kids and has had only about 3 hours sleep notices them. But soon all that will be somebody else's problem. Parents and their kids cannot come into my stateroom unless I invite them, and believe me, vacation does not involve parents and their children in my stateroom. Vacation is a time to relax; if I wanted to be bothered I would have stayed at home. But relaxation and enjoyment are what I am looking forward to.
Saturday, February 12, 2005
This time we took the Carnival Valor, a new "Fun Ship" launched in December. It had stops in Nassau, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten on a seven-day trip. I guess this is our travel blog
Sunday February 13th, 2005 12:24 AM.
Despite my best intentions it took longer than I planned to pack. And I was a prick to my wife; mainly out of frustration. I wasn't sure everything would fit in the suitcases and they weigh a ton, but we got it all in there and I am really looking forward to getting on de boat mon. The flight leaves at 8:30 out of Reagan National so I have the chance to get a little sleep before we have to book it to the airport. But from then on it is someone else's problem for the next week. I am looking forward to getting away. It will be nice to have nothing to do for seven days. More later. With pictures!
Thursday, February 10, 2005
Also there is a classmate of mine, Tim Colson, who now lives in Hampton, Virginia. Tim has some cool raves on spirituality, but he pulls no punches.
Then there's my best man, J.R. Davison, who has defined friendship for me in the past few years. He's a good dude, a Semper Fi marine, a Vietnam vet and will get up in your world. He's definitely real.
Also I am a bass player (not Victor Wooten by any measure, but I aspire to keep things on "the one") and so that's why there are links to Active Bass and to Guitar Center. I have added one to Bass Player magazine, which I have found a great source of material and free lessons too!
Also I added one to worshiptogether.com a really cool Christian music site that features all kinds of stuff for church musicians. Check these sites out if you get the chance or skip them if they don't fit your groove. Keep bloggin'.
American Daron Rahlves finished third, 0.68 behind Maier. This was Daron's second medal at this championships - he won a silver in the downhill behind Bode Miller.
Bode - a two-time gold medalist at these championships - crashed in his first run and did not finish. He still leads the overall World Cup standings.
Hermann Maier has now won a medal in every World Championship he has entered since 1999. That is despite nearly losing his leg in a motorcycle crash three years ago. I guess that's like Arnold, with "I'll be back," - not bad for a bricklayer, huh!?
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
I met her at church, and we dated for about six months. We were officially engaged in June after meeting in January. During our pre-marital counseling, the chaplain who married us told me she would make an excellent wife, and man was he right! She is caring, sensitive, and most of all patient. She has to be with me, because sometimes I can be a real hothead.
And I hate it when she cries. I have made her cry during our marriage, and as usual it was about some insignificant thing that got my knickers in a twist. But she is also forgiving. And I can see Christ's love in her.
So honey, thank you for being the wife I dreamed of. Thanks for being patient with a man who sometimes is so overwhelmed by how you love him. You are everything I could have imagined in a wife, and your love for me humbles me and makes me thankful. Happy Valentine's Day.
Monday, February 07, 2005
This guy's a pastor who has been in ministry for more than two decades. And he has helped numerous people, but he didn't help himself. See what happened was the cancer started in his prostate gland, and because he didn't get checked out, by the time they found it, it had moved to his bones. And now he's going to die.
Everyone has to face their mortality at one time or another. God knows there are guys in Iraq who do it every day. But this is someone I know. This is the guy who had been a surrogate father to my wife. And now he's dying - and I think too early. All because he didn't get it checked out!
I also thought how I won't stay here forever. One day, Gabriel will tap me on the shoulder and whisper "it's time." But this pastor and I share the same hope - as Christians we know this life is not all there is. There is a God, and He is crazy mad in love with us, and we will spend forever with him. But the happiness of that promise is mingled with the bitterness of those left behind.
So we are not caught in a land where it is "always winter and never Christmas;" the recent thaw reminds me of that. And the daffodils will bloom again, and the chill will leave the air and new life will begin again. But it might not be the same as last year. If you pray, pray for this guy. We'll just call him K. Thanks. David
Sunday, February 06, 2005
In Sunday's Super Bowl, Donovan McNabb seemed to forget this clock. He seemed to forget that this clock will eventually run out. The Eagles - while trailing by 10 points - just seemed to drag themselves to the line again and again, with the clock always running. Sure they were out of time outs. Sure they were playing arguably the toughest defense in the NFL. But their clock management stunk. Maybe they needed to heed the words of The Evolution tune Staring at the Hour Glass
But you know the thing that was worst about this Super Bowl? The commercials were less than memorable. The only one that sticks out in my mind is the little girl and her dad who won't give her any Emerald Nuts. Dad gets an earful from a unicorn, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. That was pretty good. The ones with the monkeys were lame.
Saturday, February 05, 2005
Bode conquered the famed Stelvio piste, which included a drop of 987 meters over a nearly three kilometer ride, in 1:56.22. Another American, Daron Rahlves, finished second, 0.44 back.
Defending world champion Michael Walchhoffer finished third, but he was nearly 0.9 seconds behind the Miller man. The Hermannator - Austrian Hermann Maier - had a nasty spill in training Friday, and had to be stretchered off the course. But he was able to man up and race, stitches and tape and all - a la Curt Schilling in the World Series - and he finished 17th, almost two seconds behind Bode. And there's still more Miller time to come - Bode could take three more medals in the giant slalom, the slalom and the team event!
Friday, February 04, 2005
Number 1: Diana Krall, Love Scenes.Say what you want about jazz purism, Krall has got the piano chops and a voice that goes down as smooth as a glass of Fonseca Bin 29. This one is good if you want to put it on in the background while you and your lady curl up for some conversation. Check it out.
Number 2: Anita Baker. Anything the Songstress has put on CD should be in your quiver of Cupid's arrows. I don't think I have ever heard a bad song from this lady since I first heard her in the 1980s. Her latest is My Everything, released in 2004, but my favorites are Rapture and Giving You the Best That I Got. Again, this is my blog so feel free to disagree.
Now here's number three... Christopher Parkening, specifically his recording of Rodrigo. There's a version of Ravel's Bolero on this CD that would make Bo Derek cry. This album goes really well with candles, a massage, maybe even a bubble bath or a hot tub for your lady. The guitar work is some of the best in the world, (classical guitar always sets an intimate mood, it's such an intimate instrument). So listen for yourself.
Number four: Andrea Bocelli. You can't have Valentine's Day without Andrea Bocelli, Songo. This dude might not be Pavarotti, but he's got pipes. This is another good one for background, especially during an Italian dinner. Try cooking for your lady, get a good wine and don't forget the candles. Follow up with a nice lemon ice to cleanse the palate and then relax with a little Andrea on the box. A chocolate dessert with some strong coffee would probably be a great follow up, too.
And number five: Michael Feinstein, Forever. Good piano chops, and a crooner that provides the right mix of rapture and melancholy. This CD came out about 10 years ago, and it still plays great. I would avoid a couple of the tracks if you just broke up with your lady, because they might make the loneliness worse. Judge for yourself.
And one that you should have in your collection regardless of who you are, and where you live, it's Barry White, the Ultimate Collection. Nobody sets the mood like the late, great Barry. If you have a bad Valentine's Day, don't blame him, or me. Later guys. David
Thursday, February 03, 2005
One of the greatest -- if not the greatest running back in the history of the NFL, Emmitt Smith, has called it a career. While he finished his career with the Arizona Cardinals, my most poignant memory is of him in a Dallas Cowboys uniform -- against the Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl in Atlanta in 1994.
Emmitt was the kind of runner that punished people. Short, thick, fast as a barracuda and just as dangerous, he would find the hole and blast past defenders before they even knew he had the ball. His legs reminded me of the levers on a steam engine -- always pumping and always moving forward. His shoulder pads made trying to tackle him like trying to tackle a boulder with a head. And he did it with an electric smile that made him hard to hate, even if you were his arch rival.
Number 22 earned every one of the 18,355 yards he ran for. He is second only to Jerry Rice on the all-time list with 21,579 career yards and 179 touchdowns. I have followed only a couple of NFL teams since childhood -- one was the Washington Redskins and the other was the Pittsburgh Steelers. While with Dallas, Emmitt found a away to frustrate the hopes of both of them on a consistent basis.
He -- along with Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and the rest of the Cowboys -- captured three SuperBowl titles during his career. One of them was in Atlanta over Buffalo. As a journalist, you're not supposed to cheer for the teams on the field, but I couldn't help standing up and yelling when Emmitt broke free for a long gain in that game.
He ran for 130 yards and two touchdowns and won the Super Bowl MVP for that season. In his farewell press conference, Emmitt said he has given all he can to the game both on and off the field. What he has earned -- from me and thousands of others -- is R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
There has been a lawsuit filed against Turner Broadcasting System, claiming that Sex and the City star Kim Cattrall's phrase "yogasm" defames Baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra.
The suit, filed in Manhattan state Supreme Court, alleges that TBS's ad on buses and in subways caused "severe damage to [Yogi's] reputation. Apparently the ad defines "yogasm" as either:
1. A type of yo-yo trick
2. sex with Yogi Berra
3. what Cattrall's character Samantha has with a guy from yoga class. [this is the correct answer -- big surprise!]
The suit says that the reference to having sex with the Yogster "engenders a moral taint that has damaged his otherwise spotless reputation." The 79-year-old Berra is "a married man and has children and grandchildren. He is a deeply religious man who has maintained and continues to maintain a moral lifestyle and has a spotless reputation for integrity, decency and moral character."
The suit seeks five million on each of two charges -- using Yogi's name without his permission and unjust enrichment by use of his name without permission. So Teddy's people are busted not only for using his name, but for making money off it. A spokeswoman for TBS would only say "we do not comment on litigation." Hmmmmm. I wonder why?
Yogi played for the New York Yankees between 1946 and 1963 and he lives in Montclair, New Jersey. I had his book on how to play catcher when I was a kid. I didn't make it at catcher; I ended up in right field, but not because his instruction was lacking. He's also known for his twisting of the English language -- like "it ain't over till it's over."
Considering that TBS is part of the Time Warner collective -- the closest thing we have to the Borg on Star Trek -- I'm not sure that Yogi is going to get his money. But the story sure got my attention.
That's because German golfer Bernhard Langer told the European bigwigs that would not return to the captaincy because he wants to play.
The 47-year-old Langer, a devout Christian and a two-time (U-S) Masters champion, led the Europeans to an 18 1/2 - 9 1/2 victory over the United States last year in Oakland Hills, Michigan.
Some heavy hitters could be vying to take his place including
former Masters champions Ian Woosnam of Wales, Nick Faldo of Britain, Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain, and Sandy Lyle of Britain. Europe plans to name its Ryder Cup team March first in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Tom Lehman is the U-S team captain. He will name his squad based on points awarded for a player's performances in tournaments and has two captain's picks. The Americans are looking to bounce back from two straight losses in the competition, 15 1/2 - 12 1/2 in 2002 and of course last year's debacle. But overall the Yanks lead the series after 35 matches, 24-9-2.
The 2006 Ryder Cup competition is September 22nd-to-24th on the K-Club course in Straffan, County Kildare, Ireland. Ironically, the course was designed by Arnold Palmer.
These matches were supposed to be played this year, but the whole schedule was put back one year because of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.