a fuller life

adventures… eats… laughs… life

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When the Universe Gives You a Mostly Free Cruise…

So back in September, at a Carnival Cruise Line event, I won a free cruise! So when the universe gives you a free cruise, and the window you have to use it in includes your birthday, you take it. So we did.


A mostly uneventful travel day (can’t say I really enjoyed the chaos that is Air Canada pulling 5 flights worth of passengers out of security line, leaving us to stand there for an hour… but I’ve been on the receiving side of getting pulled out of that line, so I get it… I did enjoy the no-nonsense security person telling the Air Canada rep to piss off eventually though).. Got to Houston by noon… Uber to Galveston (complete with 90 minutes of the vocal stylings of Phil Collins and other terrible easy listening) and away we go.


We stayed at Homewood Suites on the Seawall… nice place, super friendly staff, location is ok… right across from the beach, but there’s not a lot more nearby (there’s a Walgreens). They have a shuttle that will take you anywhere in a 5 mile radius and it was totally fine for one night.

We headed out to explore the Strand area (we Ubered, with an annoying driver asking for tips with a sob story about how it’s hard in Galveston to make money because everything is close together)… Stopped for some beer and eats at Brews Brothers… craft beer selection was good, food was OK. Had some more drinks at Yaga’s Cafe (they don’t skimp on the booze here… I tried for 2 hours and my drink never managed to become empty… because every time the bartenders made one of the same for someone else, they poured the leftovers in my glass) and their staff is outstanding (regardless of the refilling of my drink). Then we walked around for a bit and stumbled across Stuttgarten beer garden, so of course we had to check it out… and eat a giant pretzel to soak up some of the mass amounts of sugar drink I am not used to imbibing. Back to the hotel after that… since we’d been up a very long time already, even though it was early in Texas. I managed to make it to 9, half-watching Lego Batman.


Had some breakfast at the hotel (Texas waffle!) and then we decided to go for a walk on the beach, since it was nice out, we had lots of time before we had to head to the ship, and it was across the street. This was an amazing beach for running! We walked, but the sand was all nice and packed down and flat… we walked for a couple of hours and enjoyed the views.


We took the hotel shuttle to the port. They had said it would only be able to take us to the Starbucks across the street, which was totally fine – we travel with backpacks… but the mister ended up dropping us right at the port. We were out of the van and onto the ship in like 15 minutes probably. Check in was a breeze – very organized.

So, to the pub. (Check that, we went to our cabin first to get our key cards – because in Galveston, Carnival is doing that now… then pub). Because that’s pretty much where we hang at least part of the time. The Red Frog pub is pretty much my favourite addition to the Carnival ships. Had a few drinks, met a few people, and generally relaxed.


Did all the usual stuff involved with the first day… got our luggage, unpacked it, drank some, muster drill, etc. etc. Day drinking may have prompted a nap, and all in all, it was a nice and uneventful day. (Get ready for this, because the only goal of this cruise was to relax.)

Monday was a sea day… we got up early so Greg could run and I could walk before the track was too busy… had some breakfast and wandered around the ship a bit. We’ve sailed this ship twice before (it’s our favourite) and we already knew where everything was, so we didn’t have to find it. Spent some time chilling in the adults only area (there was loads of free deck chairs all the time on this ship), found the beer for the week (Angel City IPA for the win), played a bit of trivia (people still take that shit way too seriously), spent some time on our balcony… yay, relaxing!


Oh wait!!! Monday was my birthday! Our cabin steward Romel left me a big Happy Birthday message on our cabin mirror. It was also formal night, and we opted to skip those altogether this time around. We had some sushi for supper, cake from the cafe (because birthday), played pub trivia and won some beer (which we shared, because I hate the kind you win), and just generally wandered around and hung out (including listening to a violin trio who were AMAZING!). Romel also left me a $50 spa gift certificate, and while I don’t spa and nothing would be that cheap in the spa, it was an appreciated nice touch. Unfortunately I couldn’t just give it to someone who might use it.


Tuesday we landed in Cozumel…. more walking/running to start the day… and food (because cruising), and then we headed off to our tacos, tequila, and chocolate tour. This was a fun one (and if you want me to use my mad skills as a travel agent to hook you up with this very tour, contact me any time). There was only four of us on our tour. We started with a bit of free time to explore and some tequila (I may have also found some delicious iced coffee). We toured through a bit of an art gallery and then outdoors through a bunch of replicas of famous Mexican structures. Then it was chocolate time… we had some hot chocolate, taste-tested some various chocolates, made our own chocolate circles to bring home, and had a frozen chocolate drink.


Then it was off to taste some Jose Cuervo (though we stopped to watch some acrobatics on the way, danging from a high pole with ropes… in the rain). I’m not a tequila expert, but I learned a lot from this tasting… well, and we got to drink tequila. We tried three different styles of Jose Cuervo, and then a few others (same brand) for comparison. After the tasting, we had a delicious buffet of tacos and sides, and then they made some delicious star fruit margaritas for us.


Back to the port after our tour, and we wandered off to find some more margaritas. And guacamole. We’re not shoppers, so after that, we headed back to the ship. There was another couple of ships in port with us that day, but Cozumel is well-appointed to handle many ships. The rest of the day was a blur – though I am quite sure we played and won pub trivia again.


Next up, Belize. But first, walking/running and breakfast. I caved and booked a cruise-ship excursion for this one. We just wanted a lazy beach day and the area of Belize (near Belize City) isn’t a “beach near the pier” kind of place… and this cruise got planned pretty quickly. We’d both been here before and we’ve done tours and visited ruins and I just didn’t want to spend a lot of time sitting on a bus. So we spent the day at Starfish Island. The boat to the island picked us up at the ship (Belize is a tender port to protect the reef system) and the ride to the island was maybe 30 minutes. The island was nice – it’s at least partially man made and it’s not overly sandy in spots… but it has everything you need for a nice beach day – loungers, shade, equipment rentals, eats, a bar, facilities, etc.


It’s a good place for water shoes if you have them for sure, and the sand is pretty sinky… water was nice, weather was great, food was fine, drinks were tasty. Greg getting sneak-attacked by a jelly fish wasn’t ideal, but it didn’t affect his beer consumption, so he must have been fine (they gave us some vinegar to pour on it… and there was a handful of others who had the same fate that day). Boat ride back to the ship was more fun (on the upper level for a dance party). Back on board, we spent some time chilling in the pub, etc. The adult Quest game was this night as well… it was fun/funny – not nearly as much naked as we’ve seen on other ships, and I’m ok with that.


And onto Roatan (Honduras)… more running/walking/eating to start the day… we didn’t miss a day. And then off to Little French Key for the day. They picked us up from the port (outside of it because they aren’t cruise-ship approved) and took us to the barge that goes back and forth to the key. Our admission included lunch, 2 drinks each, use of all the facilities (though there was some stuff that cost extra and different admission packages you would purchase), as well as transportation back to the port whenever we wanted to go. So what I didn’t like about this place was that they have a bunch of animals in cages (and they tour you through them at the start while they show you were everything is)… they looked to be well cared for, their cages were spotless, but I’m just not into that kind of thing.


Again, this place had everything you could need for a lazy day at the beach… and then some. Our waitress Kelly was outstanding and took great care of us all day. There was much relaxing, floating, drinking, and maybe even some napping. The food was fine, the drinks were tasty (and reasonably priced), and the facilities were clean. If you’re into shopping, there was a little gift shop… and then there was also options to go snorkel with them, take pictures with the animals, and that kind of thing. There’s even a spa. We headed back to the port mid afternoon, wandered around there for a bit, and then back to the ship for the rest of the week.


We did some activities on the ship this evening… which is not like us at all, but the Cruise Director on this one (Mike Pack, who is moving to the Horizon next) was AMAZING. He really has a knack for making what could be tired cruise activities very fun… and he’s incredibly funny. I think we checked out the Hasbro Game Show and the Love and Marriage show (and various other events around the ship throughout the week).

A couple of sea days rounded out the cruise… so more relaxing! We played some trivia (and won pub trivia a couple more times… because all this useless knowledge is my head sometimes equates to free drinks… and Greg’s knowledge too)… went to some more ship activities, chilled in the sun. Past guest party (translation, free drinks for an hour) was on the last night, and even that was a lot of fun with this CD. Greg won some shiny, plastic ships on sticks for playing sports trivia. We skipped another formal night and opted to eat at the deli. By the end of the week, all the usual pub trivia players just made a super team since we were sharing the beer anyways.


General stuff. Service on the Breeze out of Galveston was outstanding. The best we’ve had on any ship, out of any port, in a long time. The food was hot and better than normal. The staff and crew were friendly. Apparently people on ships out of Texas are the least likely to remove their gratuities, so a lot of the staff really want to work on those ships. Our sailing was 95% Americans and 60% Texans. There were people on our sailing who have been on that ship 30 times and have spent more than 1000 days at sea – bonkers! The CD and entertainment staff were fun.


Debarkation was smoother than last time we sailed from there (it helps not being fogged out and stuck at sea). Though all week it felt like there was a lot of new cruisers on the ship, our platinum area of self-debarkation was jam-packed. A staff member tried to organize it, but people were getting pretty fed up at some rude passengers sitting near the front of the waiting area yelling at people to go to the back. We’re all getting off… no need to be a dick. Customs was better – there was three lines for us to leave through as non-US passport holders, so that was an improvement from last time.

We grabbed an Uber back to Houston and were able to check in to our hotel (Fairfield Inn) at 9am, which was pretty amazing. Wandered around downtown (ghost town on a Sunday), got some breakfast at Mkt Bar, found some coffee, and came back to plot out our day. There was a street art festival (Via Colori) going on, so we checked that out for a couple of hours (tons of amazing artists, live music, some vendors, food trucks, beer) and then we found a BBQ place for supper (that took some doing – most of the BBQ places and breweries are closed on Sundays). Wandered around downtown to find a coffee (most of the coffee shops closed early or super early on Sunday) and found a Starbucks in the lobby of a Hilton. And then back to the hotel to watch football and call it a trip.


Flights home were uneventful… had some tasty food at Breakfast Klub in the Houston airport (with the best waitress ever in the history of the universe), watched some movies on the flight (despite some people fighting across the aisle from me about putting their seats back), customs in Montreal was a breeze (they’ve made it WAYYYY easier for people with connections), walked around YUL for a bit since we had some time to kill (don’t get me started on the nice area flights to Halifax go to from YUL versus the ghetto flights to NB and PEI leave from), and back home by midnight. And that’s a wrap.

Ange out.


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Adventures in Travel Agenting – 2017

If I ever say to you that I am going to go away again for two weeks of conferences, please punch me in the face. Hard.

Having said that, I learned a lot – but two weeks of sitting still is about a week and a half too long for me. Here we go…


First stop – Dallas, Texas. Uneventful travels, including awesome luck where the flight from Montreal to Dallas wasn’t full, resulting in an empty seat beside me… did some work, watched some movies, all good. Arrived in Dallas ahead of schedule, it’s very hot out and I’m still dressed for Canada (ish) and have a giant backpack… taxi to the Hyatt Regency (including 30 mins of chatting with my taxi driver about what to do and see in Dallas), and scored early check in at the hotel (thank you for that Hyatt Regency, neener neener to the people being jerks to the check-in agent beside me who’s room magically was not ready).

I was meeting some colleagues for the first time in Dallas, and while I had the best intentions of going out and exploring before they got in, it was hot and I was tired, so it was salad and iced coffee in the room with a Harry Potter movie marathon. They arrived around supper and we headed out to explore the area of Dallas around the hotel. It’s not very interesting, but we found some tasty tex-mex and checked out the JFK memorial.


We had a mostly free day in Dallas before the conference started and the shuttle buses to various parts of the city the conference was providing weren’t that appealing. So breakfast at Ellen’s, a quick free tour of their Holocaust Museum (more interesting than I expected), and then off to the Texas State Fair for the day. We don’t have fairs of this size where I live, so it was interesting to see, and exactly what I expected. Found some craft beer, wandered around, checked out the live entertainment (including the Charlie Daniels band), and ate some deep-fried stuff (avocado fries and funnel cake, not together).


Conference started Monday morning and it was pretty much all conference, all day for Monday to Thursday. This was a great conference and I’d definitely go again – really well organized, so many opportunities to chat one-on-one with suppliers, and interesting presenters across all areas of travel. The food situation was a bit iffy, especially the first day where my lunch was raw tofu with 2 pieces of broccoli and 2 carrots (thank you thank you Sarah and Chris for rescuing me that night… I was starving and it was great to get a chance to see you!!). Tuesday night, a supplier took a big group of us to an escape room. Wednesday night there was an awards gala (a very long awards gala) where it was nice to see a lot of money raised for the Children’s Wish Foundation and hurricane relief in the Caribbean.

Thursday night was our final night and they took us to dinner at AT&T Stadium… home of the Dallas Cowboys. That was pretty cool! They set up an open bar, dinner, games, photo booths, caricature artists, and tours. A nice and interesting way to end things off, for sure.


Next stop, NYC. Morning flight to NY, where I was not so lucky as to get a free seat beside me… or a working entertainment system. I wedged a magazine in there to make the headphone jack work and got through 3/4 of a movie before the whole system died on my side of the plane with half the the flight left to go. Boo! Then we spent a super exciting hour at LGA waiting for another colleague to meet us from another terminal, then another hour in the taxi line, and then another hour into Manhattan… so it was supper time when we arrived at our hotel finally. Not ideal for anyone wanting to site-see, but it’s how things go. I pretty much headed directly to the Pennsy for some Cinnamon Snail (hooray!!!!) and then we walked a bit. Colleagues grabbed a tour bus near Times Square, I went back to the hotel and then met up with Melissa for the rest of the night. Thai food, a cake stop, and hours of hanging out like we actually near each other for the win!


Next stop, New Jersey! Headed out in the morning to meet up with our next conference on the Anthem of the Seas. Cape Liberty is a breeze. We were there early so there was some waiting around, but nothing major. Onto the ship and checked in for the conference by 11am. We had to be there early for a speaker the first day (ironically a speaker I had just seen on Thursday, doing much exactly the same speech). RCCL was doing things differently on this cruise, in that our key cards were waiting in our cabin mailboxes when we got on and we had to wait until they opened the doors to the cabins (around 1:00) to get them. We could charge stuff with our boarding pass, but not ideal when you want to dump off some bags.


The Anthem is a nice ship – there’s lots to do and there always seemed to be plenty of available loungers and that kind of thing. There’s the normal lines (waiting for dinner the first night and that kind of thing) and tendering for one of the ports was quite a long processes. The Seaplex (with bumper cars, video games, ping pong, acrobat school, open sports, and roller skating is a nice touch). I totally forgot to try the iFly (simulated sky diving) though.

Cruising for a conference is weird. I’m used to cruising with my amazing husband and with a big group of cool kids. Cruising where there was huge chunks of time where I was stuck in a dark room in an uncomfortable wooden chair for long periods of time surrounded by people I didn’t know, less fun. It was lovely to finally meet some more of my colleagues, but we definitely weren’t all on the same page on things to do on the ship (and I would totally rather that than people spending time doing things they hate), so I spent a lot of time wandering around by myself. I’m a social butterfly, so that wasn’t my favourite… but I was too tired by a few days into the cruise to care. Hooray for fast Internet and American NetFlix.


So, the play-by-play. Sunday – sessions from morning until late afternoon, a few hours break (which I spent exploring the ship a bit and going to see a show called The Gift – it wasn’t too bad, RCCL does a better job than many at cruise ship entertainment), and then dinner (with suppliers, as part of the conference). Monday, went for a run and breakfast, session in the morning, and then the great people at Universal Orlando Resort treated us to some fun – complimentary park-hopper and fast passes for the day (well, about 5 hours by the time we got people off the ship, to the buses, and to Orlando from Port Canaveral).


I’ve never been to Universal, and even though I’ve done all their travel agent training, it was nice to wander around and get a few for the parks… tried a couple of rides (definitely didn’t have enough time for many rides, even with the fast-passes), explored the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (and tried some butter beer) and some other spots, and had a quick bite to eat. Had some adventures getting back to the port (bus driver seemed to not know how to actually get to our ship and spent 30 mins or so circling around the port trying to find the right entrance… and by the level of panic on our bus, being a travel agent does not necessarily make you a good traveler). We checked out the Name That Tune game show later that evening.


Tuesday – almost entirely a free day! We had to meet up in the morning for a group picture and then it was off to RCCL’s Coco Cay. I love the private islands… they are generally nice and relaxing and I love beach days! This one is nice and I’d go back again, but it’s not the nicest (Carnival’s HMC is still winning for me)… it’s a tender port and that takes a long time to get that many people off a big ship… but it was nice to be outside and in the ocean. Calling it a win!


So in case you’ve never been to Coco Cay, it essentially works as an extension of the ship. You can use your key card to pay for items there the same as you would on the ship. There’s some vendors set up where you can do a bit of shopping, there’s kayaks and inflatables, facilities, etc. Some items are fee-based. You don’t have to go back to the ship for lunch – there’s snack stations set up around the island and they set up a full lunch buffet. Bars are set up around the island as well, including a swim-up one. Loungers are free.


We checked out another show this evening – Spectre’s Cabaret or something along those lines. It was weird AF.

We arrived in Nassau Tuesday night instead of Wednesday morning because of a medical emergency, but we didn’t bother getting off the ship that night. We hung out around the ship and had a dance party instead. I didn’t get off the ship in Nassau at all actually – I’ve been a few times and I just wanted a real day off. Explored the ship, played some trivia, went to the gym, read on my balcony, had some drinks, chatted with strangers, and went up in the North Star (lifts you up about 300 feet above sea level). In the evening, we had dinner at Jamie’s Italian. I liked it, but I think I may have been in the minority.


Thursday – back to all sessions, all the time. This was a very long day where many of the suppliers went over their time and through our breaks. And if they didn’t, someone from Royal took it upon herself to find more people from the ship to talk to us. Our conference was in a room at the back of the ship that was too hot, allowed only the people in the front two rows to see anything on the presentation screens, and had a pole and a wall in the way, which made it so a lot of the time you couldn’t actually see the presenter. Definitely not an ideal set up for a group as big as ours. And there’s a lot of motion that high up, so not perfect for anyone that gets bothered by it. Don’t get me wrong though – all of the suppliers were great… just the location was shitty. Dinner and RCCL’s We Will Rock You (really good) to close out the day.


Friday – last day of sessions! Hooray! I was well past my ability to sit still at this point, especially in that terrible room. So I was happy when these ones ended. Some of the presenters were even getting repetitive (repeating RCCL info from day one!). We did an Amazing Race game to close it off – fun concept. More ship wandering, quickly packed, tried the bumper cars, and had some beer in the pub (decent selection). Closing session where they gave away a handful of excellent sounding cruise vacations (I did not win, but since I’m about to leave on a cruise I did win in a week, I’m good) and dinner to finish out the evening.


Saturday – time to go home. Self debark was a breeze – off the ship, through customs, and out the door in 15 mins, tops. Melissa and Dionne met me at the port and we had breakfast since I had some hours to kill before flying home. We went to the Urban Griddle and it was aawweeessooommeeee. Melissa and I had some coffee and a chat before it was time to hit the airport. I was in the crappy section of EWR (boo!), and security took forever, but it left me not having to kill much more time after that. Uneventful flight (with a busted entertainment system again, but I wanted to sleep, so no big deal). Customs in Toronto was the fastest ever… it took 2 minutes. Chilled out with some beer and eats at Mill St, found a coffee, walked around, and then it was time to fly home.


All in all, there was much learning involved and there was a lot of really great speakers across both conferences. I have lots more handy, dandy tools in my arsenal to assist with helping people have amazing vacations… and I’ve invested in my success. I just likely won’t invest in it two back to back weeks next time 🙂

Ange out.

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Bermuda 2017 on the NCL Breakaway

After a jam-packed winter and start of spring where we were both working way, way too much, it was finally time for another adventure. Note to self: never go the whole winter without a warm getaway again! This time, cruising to Bermuda.


Saturday morning started off with me at Market as usual, and Greg was off to the airport for the first time that day for a 5k race on the runway. Both back home, quickly sorted and the last few things thrown in the backpacks, we were off to the airport. Thanks Alice and Bill for keeping the car for us!

Quick flight to Montreal – in row lucky number 13… except that row 13 is at the very front and faces the rest of the entire plane (awkward!), so we swapped out and got exit rows instead. Yay leg room! Breezed through customs, so fast in fact that we had to wait 20 minutes for our bags to catch up with us before they would let us through. Quick break for coffee and tea and off on another quick flight to NYC – on a snazzy plane that even had TVs.


And now time for a very necessary shout out to our awesome friends Melissa and Mel, who not only picked us up at LaGuardia (currently a scene of mass destruction), but they also housed us for the night (saving us a shit ton on a hotel we were able to cancel), fed us (Melissa made us a very delicious meat-free breakfast), and drove us to the port in NYC the next morning. You guys are amazing! Thank you!

So after a pickup at the airport, off we went to spend the night in Jersey. Had some tasty eats and drinks at a Cuban place, stopped at WalMart because I forgot my jammies (I may have stopped packing mid-process to go have beer with friends the night before we left), quick visits with Daffodil and Lucky, and then passing out since we had been up since 4am.


After some breakfast and a visit with the M&Ms (visits are never long enough), it was time to head back to the city and catch a ship. Easy peasy. Check-in was fairly organized and pretty fast, considering NYC is not the well-oiled cruise ship launching machine that Miami or Fort Lauderdale are. We got there just before noon and the process maybe took about 30 minutes.

So normally, the first thing we do when we board a ship is head to the pub to have a beer. First impressions of the NCL Breakaway is that they ruined their pub by making it one of the restaurants where people can eat for free and putting it as the upper level of the Atrium. Second impression of NCL is that they have a lot of work to do on their beer selection. Catch up NCL, most of the other lines are bringing on at least a small selection of decent craft beer. Admittedly, I’m a beer snob – I would rather drink none than a meh option, so I had one beer the entire time I was on the ship.


Moving on, we walked around a few more decks to find a bar that was not serving food (and therefore not packed) so we could get a drink. We ended up outside the Maltings bar (this bar is advertised for beer and whiskey tastings and was closed more than it was open the entire week… and if you are going to advertise beer tastings, you need to have something more on tap than Heinekin, Stella, and Newcastle… or something along those lines). So the outdoor part of this bar was open – great! Except it’s also the smoking section, and it’s a big smoking section. So if you are smoker and drinker, you will dig this ship. If you are a non-smoker and actually want to be outside at a nice bar, too bad so sad for you.

Had a quick bite at the buffet, the one and only time we visited it. Food was edible. We didn’t look around much – just grabbed something from the very first station we saw. Dropped our bags to our room after that, and then went back to exploring the ship. We’d never sailed NCL, so we weren’t already familiar with the general layout of anything. Muster was quick and painless (in the dining room for us, no life jackets, and they took attendance).


Sailaway from NYC is worth watching for sure. It takes about an hour to get out to the open water, so there’s lots of time for viewing the NY and NJ skylines, as well as the Statue of Liberty. It was also Memorial Day weekend and Fleet Week, so there was lots going on to watch in the harbour.

It didn’t take long for our bags to show up at our room, so we quickly dumped them into the closet. We had an inside cabin on deck 5 – the cabin felt like the smallest inside cabin we’ve had, but the bathroom felt a bit bigger than normal and the shower had no curtain (hooray! shower curtains touching me when I shower, no thanks!). For us, there was plenty of room to store everything, with several cupboards and shelves getting no use at all.


This was our first experience with freestyle dining on a cruise ship as well. Timing wise, that worked out fine with us. We barely ever waited to get into the restaurants we ate at, without having made any reservations. It helps that we eat early. So for the first night, we ate in one of the smaller, free dining rooms (either Taste or Savor, I don’t remember which – they are both right across from each other). Dinner was super awkward, through no fault of our own, as we were seated at a table beside a couple that obviously hated each other right about then. She proceeded to tear him a new one loudly through all of dinner and he went between ignoring her, staring blankly, and telling her to eff off. Food was ok, service was fine.


We walked around the ship for a while after dinner, so we had a pretty good idea of where to find everything by the end of the day. Spent some time chilling on the Waterfront (open air space on deck 8) for a while, and then decided to check out Howl at the Moon (dueling pianos). Cruise entertainment is always a complete hit or a complete miss for me and there’s no in between. The piano players on our sailing were talented and entertaining, which was great. The playlists are unfortunately at the mercy of the guests putting in requests – fortunately it was pretty solid that night, so we hung out there for a couple of hours.

The next two days of our sailing were sea days en route to Bermuda. We woke up to light rain and pretty dark and ominous skies. It stayed cloudy all day, but the rain didn’t last. We were headed to the jogging track first thing, but it was way too wet so we hit the gym instead. It’s not very big, so it worked out well we got there early, because it was packed when we left.


After our runs on the dreadmill in choppy seas, we had some breakfast in either Taste or Savor (going forward, all references to the restaurants without a name is one of these two). Service was slow, food was cold and blah. Service was generally fine all week, but cold and blah were common occurrences for me for every breakfast.

NCL schedules of things to do during sea days are pretty boring. There’s only a couple of trivia sessions a day, many events aren’t free (tastings, art auctions, painting classes, etc.), and as per usual, the performers aren’t my cup of tea. Just to give you an idea from the picture below, it looks like there is a lot going on, but a lot of it is just listing when things are open, and everything with a star beside it has a fee. But there’s lots to do if you want to entertain yourself… ropes course, mini golf, sports courts, water slides, arcades
(pay) and that kind of thing. There’s even bowling in the pub (pay).


We went to the Bermuda talk this morning (one of a few things we attended for travel agent knowledge for me and not because we wanted to go). There wasn’t much of anything useful (I had already figured out a loose plan for our days in Bermuda and knew plenty about the island) and it was generally just a presentation for them to sell their excursions. They went a bit far though – Bermuda has a great and affordable (in Bermuda terms) public transportation system and they made it sound like you’d be risking your life in a third-world nation by not booking with them.

We also decided to try their version of an escape room (since we’ve never done one and it was free). We didn’t have much luck with this. They forced all the teams to have about 8-10 people, and it was race the other teams format. It was too hard to work with this many people for the tasks, especially when you don’t know them in advance. Our team only solved about 3 of the puzzles and Greg and I solved two of those three. I didn’t even get a chance to see some of the puzzles/clues.


We ate lunch in the pub (the food was hot!) and spent the rest of the day wandering around, taking pics of the ship, relaxing, and in general enjoying not having to work. I found the coffee shop (I love coffee!) and it was fine (but I would rank it 4th of the 4 lines we’ve sailed because it didn’t have much variety). You can buy baked goods from Carlo’s Bakery there as well. Heads up… the bonkers expensive 6 pack of 1 litre waters was like $14 at the coffee shop (if you buy it in advance before you sail, it’s like $35). We ate supper at the Noodle Bar (neither of us liked it).

There was a Memorial Day thinger in the Atrium at one point, but we’re not American and just passed by. For the evening, we had reservations (we made them for a few shows) for Burn the Floor, but were listening to Melvin (the acoustic guitar player) at Maltings… and he’s crazy talented, so we decided to stay there. A random family ordered a couple of bottles of really expensive champagne (I don’t drink champagne normally, but over $60 USD a bottle seems pretty high to me) and told us we needed to help them drink it – so of course we did.


Sea day number two started with much better weather and calmer seas than the day before. We hit the jogging track first thing. It’s a pretty small one and if you don’t go up first thing in the morning, it’s too busy to be useful (and deck chairs start to get the in the way). The rest of the day was drinking, eating, and relaxing. We tried the sushi place for supper (pay option) and it was one of the only meals I actually liked on the ship. Admittedly I am a fussier than most since I don’t eat meat and a bunch of other stuff.

The evening was jam packed with entertainment – first up, NCL has Second City improv on the Breakaway, and they were hilarious. We really enjoyed it (included in cruise price). After that, we went to see Rock of Ages (also included in cruise price). We’ve seen the Broadway version of this show before, and so wanted to see how a cruise ship would pull it off. This show is not family friendly and they announced that many, many times before the show started, but lots of young kids were at the show. We were pleasantly surprised with how well they did with this show.

Next up, Bermuda! We picked this sailing for a few reasons – one, we’ve never been to Bermuda; two, we loved the idea of docking in the same place for a couple of days; and three, we’d never sailed NCL before. Bermuda is amazing – I’d definitely go back.

Our must do items for Bermuda were going to the beach, checking out the caves, and trying a fish sandwich. So first things first, off to the beach. We took the shuttle from the pier to Horseshoe Bay ($7pp each way – PS: the Bermuda dollar is on par with USD and USD is accepted everywhere). It was about a 25 minute ride to get there, and as soon as we did, we trekked a few beaches over and spent hours sharing a beach with about 6 people while the main beach was jam packed. To do this yourself, when you get to Horseshoe Bay, walk all the way to your left to the end of the beach and follow the path up above the beach. You can walk along there all the way out to Warwick Long Bay Beach and pick which beach you want to hang out at. There’s lots to climb as well. For a view from above (not taken by me), check this out.


The water was crystal clear, the sand is pink and the morning was amazing! If you go to Bermuda, make sure you get to the beach. The secluded beach didn’t have any kind of facilities, so once we felt thirsty, we headed back to Horseshoe. Beers and Dark & Stormies (yum!) were had, as well as some food, and we had a lovely day. There’s 30 mins of free wifi here and some pay options as well, and drink prices are on par (actually a bit lower) than many other places we went in Bermuda. We took the shuttle back mid afternoon.

The beauty of being docked for a few days was coming and going as we pleased. We washed the sand off and headed out to explore the area around the pier (we were docked at Heritage pier in the Royal Naval Dockyard). There’s not a ton there – lots of shopping, a couple of restaurants, a man made beach (with an entrance fee), a museum, a glass blowing studio, places to book excursions and rent scooters, jet skis, etc (you can’t rent cars in Bermuda), and that type of thing. There was a bit more going on there during our sailing because we were there during the qualifiers for the America’s Cup. We walked around a bit (we’re not shoppers), went and had some beer and supper at the Frog and Onion (great food and some of the only locally made beer on the island).


During our walking around, we had booked a Bermuda Triangle night cruise (heads up, we bought the same tour they were offering on the cruise ship for about $20 a person less just by getting off the ship and walking five minutes). So we were off on our boat tour next. It lasted about 90 minutes and left at 8pm, so we get some nice sunset action, some explanation of what was going on over in America’s Cup village (we sailed by it every time we can into and out of the port area), and then we sailed out into the actual triangle (generally defined as Miami to San Juan to Bermuda). We were in a glass bottom boat, so we sailed out to visit the HMS Vixen, and sailed over top of it so we could see it and all the coral growing on it now. We also sailed over a natural coral reef. Bermuda has one of the healthiest coral deposits on earth, but it’s not as bright and colourful as some of what you would see other places as it needs to be heartier to withstand colder waters. They’ve also discovered that metal in the water helps it grow, so wrecked boats come in hand for that (and in specific areas, they throw metal in the water for this reason). It makes sailing into Bermuda a bit tricky though… you have to follow a very specific path.


Day two in Bermuda, we took advantage of their transportation passes. These can be purchased at the Visitor Information Center minutes away from the ship. We purchase a one-day pass for $19.00 – this allowed us to have unlimited use of the buses and ferries. So we took the ferry to Hamilton (about 25 minutes) and then walked to the bus station (less than 10 minutes) and took the bus out to the Crystal caves.

The caves are awesome! We did the tour of both caves, which cost us $32 each. The groups were a little bigger than was comfortable in the cave spaces, but it is what it is. If you have mobility issues, this is not the tour for you. There’s a fair number of steps into and out of each cave, and they are wet. There’s also a long ramp. Just a heads up.


So we toured the Fantasy Cave first, then came back up, waited a bit, and did the Crystal Cave second. If you are only going to do one, pick the Crystal Cave – but they are both pretty interesting. They were discovered over 100 years ago by some kids chasing a cricket ball. You cannot swim in the water in the caves (because the caves themselves are protected by law) or touch anything in them, and it’s super hot and humid in them. And if you drop anything in the water, say goodbye to it forever because it’s staying there. They only have divers come in about once a decade to tidy things up. Definitely recommend a visit.


Post cave visit, it was time for a little refreshment – so we headed over to the Swizzle Inn… where we had some tasty lunch, and of course some rum swizzles (well, maybe a couple of pitchers of swizzle, and maybe we were a tiny bit drunk when we left). Then across the street to Baileys to try their famous ice cream (mmm Dark & Stormy ice cream) – it was good, but Alex and Pete’s in the Dockyard was better.

From there, we could either go back to Hamilton or on to St. George’s to catch a ferry back to the Dockyard, so we opted for St. George’s. We didn’t stay too long because the next ferry was soon, but we walked around a bit. There’s lots of shops there and some Unesco sites. NCL offers a free ferry to and from St. George’s, but with a limited schedule. Since we had transportation passes and the NCL ferry line was hundreds of people long, we opted for the public one since they both left at the same time. The public one is about 15 minutes faster, so we raced the big group back to the ship and didn’t have to stand in a long line to get back through security.


Showered and relaxed a bit before heading back out. Normally Wednesday nights Hamilton holds a Harbour Nights festival, but this week it was moved to Thursday because of the tall ships being in port. So we grabbed the ferry back to Hamilton in the evening for the festival. We wandered off to Rosa’s to try their award-winning fish sandwich (battered fish on raisin bread with lots of fixings) and then we explored the tall ships and festival for a while. It was packed! They extend the ferry and bus schedule later for this event as well. Headed back to the Dockyard by ferry after that.


Last day in Bermuda. Boo!  Our last day, we had to be back on board by 2:30, so we were debating going to the beach again or just exploring the Dockyard. So we opted for the Dockyard. We walked around, watched some glass blowing for a bit, and then headed back to the Frog and Onion for some tasty eats and bevvies. Then back to the ship. They had a dance party with red carpet and everything to welcome people back on for the last hour. Had a couple of pier runners as well. And off we went at 3:00.

We didn’t get into too much back on the ship… some relaxing, some drinks, dinner, and chilling. We went to Second City again and they were really funny again… and they pulled Greg (now Private Investigator Rick) into the show. We also went to see Burn the Floor this night… not my cup of tea.


One last sea day before heading back into NYC. We generally lazed around and did whatever… run, eat, be lazy, drink… we spent most of the late morning and early afternoon chilling out with beverages at the bar in Spice H20 (adults only part of the upper deck). We tried Margaritaville at Sea (pay option) for lunch and it was as you would expect – decent prices for GIANT portions. In the evening, we wandered around and then spent a few hours at Howl at the Moon.

We got up early on Sunday to watch as we sailed back into NYC. Much nicer weather than when we sailed out. It’s a fun sail in/out to watch. We docked around 7:00 I would say and self-assist debarkation started at 8:00. It was fairly well organized – perhaps too much so. If you live on deck five and you need to debark on deck seven and they block off all the stairs, it’s just not going to work. We don’t elevator – so we just busted through and used the stairs anyways. It was a super easy process and we were off the ship and at our hotel (via taxi) in like 30 minutes.


We couldn’t check into our hotel until later in the afternoon, so we just left our luggage at the hotel and wandered around. We’ve been to NY quite a lot, so we didn’t have any specific plans other than meeting up with friends later in the day. So we walked around a street market that was being set up on 6th Ave, got a smoothie, relaxed in the sun in Byrant Park, wandered down to the Pennsy for some tasty vegan eats at the Cinnamon Snail, and then hit up some stalls at Broadway Bites.

In the afternoon, our friends Melissa and Dionne picked us up (thanks for braving that traffic cool kids) and we headed out to Brooklyn. Brooklyn Brewery for the win – cool spot, great beer, with excellent company. And and then we hit up the Kent Ale House for eats and more beer.


Monday morning it was time to go home. We were flying out of LaGuardia again and had to be there around 8:30. Everyone we talked to in NY said to leave a few hours in advance because traffic is chaos. Well, Monday morning at 6am, there was no traffic and we were at the airport in 25 minutes, four hours early for our flight. Oh well… sat around and played on our devices and had some breakfast. Fortunately, our flight then left an hour late, so we got to spend some more time sitting around. We had a tight connection in Montreal and we were shocked we made it after that delay… but we breezed through customs, didn’t need to pick up our luggage this time, and managed to make our final flight home. It was delayed too – but we didn’t end up spending extra time in Montreal as we expected. Alice picked us up at the airport so I could get my car back and we were on our way (our luggage even made the final flight).

All in all, this was an excellent trip. Admittedly, the NCL Breakaway wasn’t personally my favourite ship, but there was nothing wrong with it. There’s just a couple of other ships I really love (Carnival Breeze, Carnival Vista). I loved Bermuda and would happily go back any time. I did find NCL a bit nickle and dimey, in that there’s an extra charge for a lot of things and I’m not a fan of that. With the Canadian dollar not doing very well right now, cruises aren’t cheap, so I don’t want to pay for a lot more stuff on them. Most of the announcements were about selling stuff, but there wasn’t a ton of them. Getting on and off the ship was always easy. I’d sail NCL again for the right itinerary and price for sure, but we didn’t buy any of their Cruise Next certificates (that they were pushing very heavily).

All vacations are good vacations and I had a blast hanging out with Greg and enjoying some sun.

Ange out.



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NYC: Extreme Broadway Edition

When your husband tells you that he’s being sent to upstate NY for a conference, the perfect response is “I’m coming too, and we’re spending a few days in NYC to visit friends!” And so we did.


After uneventful travels and an early morning departure, we were at the airport in Jersey shortly after 10am. Our awesome friend Melissa picked us up, we found some tasty Thai food for lunch, and spent the rest of the day chilling out and catching up.

After some Cuban food for supper with Mel and Melissa, we headed out to our first Broadway show of the weekend… Come From Away. It’s based on the happenings in Gander during and after 9/11. It was outstanding. They did an amazing job finding the right balance of funny and serious, while still paying homage. I laughed, I cried. Great show. If you’re headed to NYC, go see it.


Friday we headed out to find some tasty bagels, relaxed for a bit, and then decided to check out the Museum of Natural History, since it’s one of the few major NYC tourist attractions we haven’t visited. It’s pretty interesting, but after a few hours of walking around, I don’t really find any museum all that interesting. It was pretty windy and chilly in NYC, so it was also a great break from the cold. We had a nice walk through Central Park on the way, enjoying the sun without all the buildings blocking it.


Had some beer and something to eat at some place with terrible service on the edge of Times Square, and then headed back to our hotel to meet up with Melissa. Lack of a better plan for the rest of the day and it being too cold to spend much more time randomly walking around meant more Broadway. Scored some tickets and headed off to see School of Rock. This was really cute… the “Stick It To The Man” song is super catchy, and the kids in it are amazingly talented. I’d recommend this one too.


Saturday was time to do some wandering around and hit up a vegan spot I’ve wanted to go to ages – Cinnamon Snail in the Pennsy… vegan eats and sweets. Yum! Then it was time to meet up some more of team cool kids, Michelle and Dionne, to go see Avenue Q. I have to admit, this one was not for me. The actors were super talented, but I just didn’t find it that funny. But now I’ve seen it, and the goal was to hang with friends. Paul met us after the show and it was time to find some beer… beer and eats at Jasper’s Tap House, and then some more beer at Valhalla, before calling it a night.


Sunday… more vegan eats, a matinee of In Transit with Melissa (another great show), and some eats and drinks in Hoboken. So fortunate to have been able to spend so much time catching up with friends in NYC.

Monday mostly involved sitting on a Greyhound bus headed to Albany and then Saratoga Springs. We stayed at the Embassy Suites there and it’s AWESOME!. Hit Druthers Brewing for eats and beers and wandered around a bit.


Tuesday we both worked… very exciting. In the evening, we went to a social gathering at a Broadway producer’s place (also the host of Greg’s conference), and then more working. Wednesday, more working, though I briefly went out and explored the town since it was sunny and nice out for a change. Had supper at a place called Hattie’s –


Thursday, working in the morning and then time to head home. Cab to Albany airport, some sitting around, first plane late leaving, made up the time in the air enough that we just caught our second flight from Washington to Montreal (I do sooo love flying away from where I live all the time to get home)… something to eat in Montreal and then flew home. A long but uneventful travel day. And even though it was cold, it was very nice to not see any snow for a week. And more importantly, it was awesome getting to see some of our friends.


We’re not sure what’s next… but I think it needs to be warm because I need a snow reprieve.

Ange out.

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What Happens in Vegas… 40th Birthday Edition

This has been a pretty epic year for traveling and it’s been awesome to be able to spend so much time with friends from away… but I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be able to milk my 40th birthday for anything else. Celebrating in Vegas was a pretty fun way to do it up!

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I am a slow runner who usually finishes last


Fredericton Fall Classic 10K 2016 (and photo is totally stolen from them)

I am an expert in last place. In a small group, I’m pretty much always last. In a really large group, there may be a handful of finishers that come in after me. Some days I can’t run distances I could just days before. Some days I’m so angry at myself for all the bad decisions I made in my adult life – the ones that lead to me being fat and unfit – that I could scream. Sometimes I have to stop and walk. Sometimes I have to walk most of my run. My friends are frequently well on their way back to the finish line before I have hit the half way mark. But I’m not quitting. Continue reading

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All the Adventures (Team Awesome in the Med 2016)

I’m pretty sure I’ve never titled a blog more accurately. I must have all the adventures!

This time, we took the Med by storm with loads of our awesome friends, including 10 days on the new Carnival Vista. And here we go…

(and if you just want some random tips for travelers, head right to the bottom)


Day 1 – A completely uneventful but incredibly long travel day…

It’s been a few years since our last visit to Europe and I’m always pleasantly reminded how much easier it is to fly from Canada to anywhere in the world but America (not that it’s hard, it’s more just that our main airports are kind chaotic with US customs on our own soil). We left on our midday flight to Toronto and didn’t have to touch any kind of security or customs again until we got to Athens. We had a couple of hours to kill in Toronto, so of course we had to start our holidays off right with a visit to Mill St. for some beer! Continue reading