We are back (almost)

It has been a while but you can thank the idiots at Sprint for that. My BB did not work in most of the island ports — which was a surprise since the CSR I talked to before I left confirmed that it would indeed work. Pisses me off big time. I guess Sprint is now on my boycott list and Barry Manilow is off.

Anyway, I am writing from the very bumpy comfort of seat 3A. There has not been this much shaking going on since Elvis was INDEED in the building. There is a video on the tiny outdated screen but right now it is showing reruns of CBS shows (interestingly, the ship carried CBS reruns too). Not sure when I will post this as I am likely to be internet challenged until I get back from California on Tuesday. So, I shall ramble on for a while…

First, thank you all for the BD well wishes. I’m not a big holiday/event kind of guy and it was not necessary but I do appreciate the thought anyway.

I was away from the news most of the week so no rant. That is not to say that Pelosi didn’t do something stupid – just nothing to report. We did see that Hillary is a crybaby from snippets available on CNN. Too bad, she seemed like a runaway. Then again, so did Ohio State. Unfortunately, we got that ‘game’ on the boat. Finally, I was happy to see independent reviews showing that violence/deaths are down in Iraq over the last several months. War view either way, that is good news.

The cruise is now over and likely the last until sometime in 2009 (we will likely go on the Freedom of the Seas for that one). The islands were not bad except Barbados, which was a crap hole. We did a full island tour of St. Lucia – great tour (Cosol Tours) and good place overall. Lots of variety for such a small place – banana plantations (which get shipped to England every week), beaches, mountains (the twin pitons), a waterfall and yes, an active volcano – which is what formed the island to start. They have a local beer called, “the Piton” but considering they were free on the tour, and we got stuck in a traffic at the end, I think they should have renamed them as “pee-tons”.

Antigua was okay. We went to the beech for a while. Not a ton of stuff in ton to do. It is an island of 300+ beaches so if you do not like the sun, you have no reason to be there. You cannot throw a dead cat without hitting a taxi driver or two. Negotiate AHEAD of time for the dropoff and pickup. The local beer was Wadadli. They had it in regular and “gold”. Gold was better. Going rate in the tourist center was $2.50 a pop.

St. Maartin was as we remembered it though their work to improve it is still a work in progress. The ubiquitous vendors selling beer in the street have upped their price slightly to account for inflation and/or the dropping dollar. Some were still $1 but many were $1.50. Ahh, the harsh realities of economic uncertainty. The local brand was not surprisingly Heineken (being a Dutch property and all).

St. Thomas was the biggest change for us. The old area has now a brand spanking new high end shopping center about ½ mile from the boat pier. They are really trying to differentiate themselves as more of the upscale island. The taxi’s here are pretty cheap but all “open air”. Really, think hay ride like accommodations with bench seats. There is not really a local beer but Carib (think Caribbean Budweiser) is sold extensively. They also have a micro-brew there called “blackbeard’s ale”. Not bad stuff all in all but not the taste you would expect in 80+ degree weather.

We had few issues on the boat except for some up and down days at the Casino. I think we may have been down for the week but it was pretty nominal over all. We found out that there were almost 2800 Americans aboard and 700 of those were Puerto Rican. The good news is that PRs smoke a lot less than Europeans. That is not to say the casino and other areas were smoke free, but it was much more tolerable. The ice show was once again, the best show on the boat. Had some sort of Beatles theme. There were actually two Japanese members of the skating team this time out (normally, almost all are Russian). Skaters are in great shape.

The food on board was good, at least in the dining room. The café was very underwhelming this time around to me. We ate at Portofinos (the extra cost, high end dining option) one night. The food and service was top notch. Easily a bargain for any land-based restaurant though I am not sure we would do it again – mainly since the ‘normal’ food options were so good (and paid for).

As mentioned before, our table mates were a mixed bag. The Russian’s were interesting. I guess that is one reason to cruise – to meet new and interesting people.

We gave into the ‘professional’ photographers on the boat though they really do run a practice just short of extortion. Many of you might be getting an image for Christmas. So, don’t consider it a cheap gift…

We also surrendered to yet art. Believe me, I KNOW we have enough of it already. We debated long and hard on one piece by Charles Lee (image to follow this weekend). In the end, we did not fork out what would have been a sizable down payment on a mini-van to acquire it. MA may regret it later. I’m over it already. We did get something by Britto for our son. Now, each child has a piece of art to call their own (and to probably sell to attend college). Mackenzie has a Peter Max; Meghan, an Alfred Gockel. Oh, one more name scratched from the list – Major (MA vetoed this one).

MA spent sometime listening to Spanish tapes ( I did nothing constructive). Spanish would come in handy if we moved to Texas – which is looking increasingly less likely each day. We will be taking the house off the market in a month. Keeping it clean and leaving at a moment’s notice is too stressful. Pending my job situation, will put it back on the block sometime in the spring (post #3).

I am actually thinking about doing a different thing for ACS. Some preliminary talks are underway now. It will mean more stress but less travel. No additional monies are likely to change hands. Still not sure about doing it. The company could certainly use the help and it would be the right thing to do, but probably cut into golf next year. This year was paltry enough.

Speaking of which, I should be coming home to a collection of putters. That will be nice. Be sure to see the updated putter page this weekend. I should also get the cruise pictures up then, including potentially a special beers o f the Caribbean collage. Be appreciative of my liver’s sacrifice for your entertainment. There might also be some pictures of the kids from the visits with grandparents. No promises however.

I’m in California today visiting a major hardware manufacture. The flight began early and will end late. One day back and I am already sick of the travel. Well, I suppose I am tired of the sitting in the back of the bus and at the airport. Yes, and the overpriced, under tasty foods as well. Oh well, I have not been on the road that much this past month. I need to find a good book. Next trip is not planned until after Thanksgiving. Speaking of which, when the hell did November arrive? Amazing.

For the record, we have had one showing of the house in the last 10 days.

More this weekend.

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