Sunday, October 30, 2016

Pumpkin Carving Contest

My office has 3 separate contests for Halloween this year including a pumpkin carving contest. They provided the pumpkins on Friday which gave us the weekend to come up with our best creations. I am not very experienced carver as I have only carved one or two pumpkins before. 

I have a tendency to get too ambitious when it comes to art so I wanted to do something that looked good but I was able to finish this weekend. I looked at the internet for inspiration and came across a webpage where someone had turned a pumpkin into a burger and fries. It looked easy enough and it was different so I decided to give it a try.

The whole thing is made from pumpkin. The "sesame seeds" are pumpkin seeds from the middle of the pumpkin and the fries are made from part of the pumpkin. The only thing that isn't pumpkin on the finished platter is the glue holding the seeds and the acrylic paint. 

If you want to see the step by step instructions that I followed click here. Judging is tomorrow and I'm interested to how this stacks up against the other pumpkins in the contest. 

What do you normally do for Halloween?



  

Friday, April 8, 2016

G is for gratuities



It's April so we are joining thousands of other bloggers and are participating in the A-Z challenge. For the A-Z challenge this year our theme is "the A-Z of cruising" where we will provide some hints and knowledge about cruising on the open ocean. If you missed any of our previous posts check out the links at the end of the post.

One expense that is not included on your cruise ticket is gratuities. Most cruise lines will add this to your onboard bill and it varies from $12-15 per person per day. This amount is split between your room steward, dining room wait staff and other staff. Many of these people work extremely hard and long hours and depend on tips to earn a decent living. You do receive great service while on board and is well worth the money you tip and you have the option to change the amount you tip if desired. Having it billed and paid in one spot is convenient and saves you from have to have cash to tip at each meal or leave for your room steward each day. 

When buying beverages there is an automatic 15% gratuity added to the bill. You have the option to leave more if you want. 

That's pretty much it for tipping on board. Come back tomorrow to learn more about how to pay for items on board.



Missed one or more of our A-Z of cruising posts? Catch up by clicking on the links below:

F is for Fun Day at Sea



It's April so we are joining thousands of other bloggers and are participating in the A-Z challenge. For the A-Z challenge this year our theme is "the A-Z of cruising" where we will provide some hints and knowledge about cruising on the open ocean. If you missed any of our previous posts check out the links at the end of the post.


Many cruise itineraries include at least one fun day at sea. This may sound boring at first but that is not the case. Each ship has a cruise director and a staff that arranges a ton of activities to keep you from getting bored while at sea.

Around dinner time your room steward will deliver the activity sheet for the following day. For days where there is no port call there is several activities planned for each hour throughout the day. There is something for every taste from trivia contests, belly flop competitions on the pool deck, art auctions and much much more.

At night there is always something to do. There are shows in the main theater, comedy shows, game shows and plenty of clubs and bars to meet and dance with your friends. If you want something more low key there is lounging on the pool decks or finding a nice quiet corner to read and people watch. There is always something to do so being bored at sea should not be an issue. 

Would you prefer to have a relaxed lazy day at sea or take in as many of the activities as possible?




Missed one or more of our A-Z of cruising posts? Catch up by clicking on the links below:

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

E is for Extras


It's April so we are joining thousands of other bloggers and are participating in the A-Z challenge. For the A-Z challenge this year our theme is "the A-Z of cruising" where we will provide some hints and knowledge about cruising on the open ocean. If you missed any of our previous posts check out the links at the end of the post.


Cruises are marketed as an inclusive vacation but there are things that will cost extra. Here are some of the more common items.

Specialty Restaurants: The main dining room and buffet are included in your cruise fare but there are specialty restaurants on many ships that offer a more fine dining experience and offer a different range of foods not found in the regular dining room. Costs are per person and costs between $25-40 per person. If you are looking for a special dining experience on board this is a great way to do it.

Drinks: As you would expect alcoholic drinks are not free or cheap on board but any beverage that is not tap water normally attracts a charge. Most ships offer a soda package that allows unlimited soda refills for about $8-10 per day.

Spa treatments: Most ships offer a spa and is a great way to unwind. The treatments on offer vary in price but are about what you would pay on land. They sometimes run specials while the ship is in port.

Shore Excursions: Some river cruises in Europe include this in their fares but for most other ships shore excursions are offered but are at your own cost. Prices can range from $40 to over $400 depending on the experience you book. 

Snacks on board: Many ships have specialty coffee cafe, burger bars etc that attract a nominal cost. If they ask for your room card when ordering then it is going to cost.

Casino: The casino offers entertainment and the chance to win big money but can quite easily take it as well. Most ships have a casino and usually offer a range of slot machines and table games. Disney Cruise Lines do not have casinos.

Classes: During days at sea some ships offer different classes ranging from pottery to scrapbooking. Some classes are free like the photography class we took but others cost. The daily guide will let you know if there is a cost.

Even though there are extra costs on board you are not required to purchase any of them. Which ones, if any are your choice and its up to you to decide the value of each optional extra.


Come back tomorrow to learn about some of the things you can do while at sea.


Missed one or more of our A-Z of cruising posts? Catch up by clicking on the links below:

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

D is for Dining Options


It's April so we are joining thousands of other bloggers and are participating in the A-Z challenge. For the A-Z challenge this year our theme is "the A-Z of cruising" where we will provide some hints and knowledge about cruising on the open ocean. If you missed any of our previous posts check out the links at the end of the post.


D is for Dining Options: 
Today we go over the various option on board to fill your belly with yummy food while on board.

Included in your cruise fare is a wide option of dining options that will ensure you will not go hungry whilst onboard. 

Breakfast and Lunch: Most cruise lines offer breakfast in the main dining rooms and the buffet. Lunch is served in the buffet and other locations on some ships.

Dinner: When booking your cruise you will be asked for your dining time for dinner. There is usually two times offered and you can choose which one works best for you and your party. Many cruise lines now offer anytime dining where you can show up at any time you like. There is sometimes wait for a table just like at any land based restaurant but we rarely waited more than 5 minutes. If you choose anytime dining you will likely be put at a table with random people but we found this a great way to find new friends.

The buffet also offers dinner service so that is always an option if you miss your assigned dining time or don't feel like going to the dining room that night. You can also order room service if you want. Some cruise lines offer this for free and others are charging a nominal fee.

Between meals there are other options, usually a bakery, softserve icecream, pizzeria or a reduced menu in the buffet depending on the ship so you will never go hungry.

Most meal offerings included in your cruise fare but there are some exceptions, however we will talk about that in tomorrow's post. 

This is just a brief overview of the offerings onboard. Exact offerings will vary from ship to ship but they are all fairly similar. 

Come back tomorrow to learn about what isn't included in your cruise fare.





Missed one or more of our A-Z of cruising posts? Catch up by clicking on the links below:

Monday, April 4, 2016

C is for Cabin



It's April so we are joining thousands of other bloggers and are participating in the A-Z challenge. For the A-Z challenge this year our theme is "the A-Z of cruising" where we will provide some hints and knowledge about cruising on the open ocean. If you missed any of our previous posts check out the links at the end of the post.

C is for Cabin: Today we talk about one of the most important decisions you can make on your cruise vacation, your cabin. This will be your home for the duration of the cruise and they vary in size and price. Below is a quick guide. 


Interior: Interior cabins are usually the cheapest rooms on the ship. They do not have a port hole or window, but some ships offer a virtual porthole. They are usually the smallest cabins on the ship but on many ships are the same size as an oceanview cabin. Many people don't spend a lot of time in their cabin and find this an attractive option to stretch their vacation dollar. We have chosen interior cabins on all 3 of our cruises and have enjoyed them.

Oceanview: Oceanview cabins are usually the same size and layout as an interior room but have a port hole or window. These cabins are more expensive than interior but less than a balcony or suite.

Balcony: Balcony cabins are sometimes a little bigger than an interior or oceanview but offer a balcony as well making the overall space significantly larger. Some ships's balconies are fairly private where as others make you feel very close to your neighbours.

Suites: These are the largest and most expensive cabins on the ship. There are usually mini suites which are about twice the size of the other cabins and full suites that are larger still. Suites come with perks and offer privacy but come at a hefty premium.

When booking your cabin type keep in mind there are varying prices based on the deck it is located on. Generally the higher the deck, the higher the cost. Most people choose to select their own cabin when booking although you can choose to let the cruise line pick the cabin for you in what they call a "cabin guarantee" In exchange for letting them pick the cabin (and potentially getting the room underneath the night club) you can get upgraded to a better category. Take some time to ensure you aren't going to be underneath or directly above the nightclubs or bars unless you are a nightowl. You can look at the deck plans to see what is above and below your potential vacation home. There are usually 3 decks of nothing but cabins and I like to get a cabin in that middle floor. It costs a little more but its worth it to get a good night's sleep.

Which cabin is best for you is a personal decision but hopefully this guide helps out a bit. If you have questions ask someone who has cruised before or leave a comment. Which cabin category would you purchase if booking a cruise?




Missed one or more of our A-Z of cruising posts? Catch up by clicking on the links below:

Saturday, April 2, 2016

B is for Best time to Sail


It's April so we are joining thousands of other bloggers and are participating in the A-Z challenge. For the A-Z challenge this year our theme is "the A-Z of cruising" where we will provide some hints and knowledge about cruising on the open ocean. Yesterday we discussed the different ways to get to the port. Click here to see that post and catch up

B is for Best time to sail.
Today is the letter B and our title for the day is "Best time to sail" where we talk about the best times to sail on a cruise ship.

Like much of the travel industry the prices fluctuate based on demand. If you are able to sail off season it will be much cheaper than during school vacation time. In the U.S/Canada the highest prices are during spring break and between late June and early August. It is a little cheaper during early June and mid August but the cheapest times are when the kids are in school. For example a 4 day cruise from Miami to Cozumel and Key West on the Carnival Victory is as low as $189 next January but around $400 during the height of summer. For Alaska cruises it is around $800 in May or September for a 7 day cruise but climbs to $1000-$1200 during June-August. If you are flexible with your dates you can save a lot of money.

Best time to book:
It is best to book as far ahead as possible. If you see a deal you like go ahead and take advantage of it. Usually you only need a deposit to secure your cabin and you can pay the rest off closer to departure date. The cruise lines sometimes put out specials including on board credit or cabin upgrades for certain sailings so that is something you can take advantage of. Many people book between Jan-March so there is often a lot of sales then. If you find a better price for your cabin after booking you can ask the cruise line for the cheaper price so you aren't locked into the price like an airline ticket.


The cruise lines like to sail full so there are occasions where they will put out some great deals close to sailing. If you have open availability and can get to the port easily this can also save you some money. Keep in mind getting airline tickets last minute can be expensive and could wipe out any savings you have on the cabin prices so this is probably best if you can drive to the port.

To Book online or use a travel agent:
A travel agent can be really useful if you don't know exactly what you want and can provide a lot of knowledge and experience about the ships and different cruise lines. If you need assistance in selecting a cruise it may be worth having them do the work for you and worth their fee.

If you are fairly online savvy and are comfortable shopping around for deals then you can easily book online. We have booked online for all of our cruises and found it is just as easy as booking an airline ticket or hotel. 

We are taking a break tomorrow from the A-Z challenge but will be back to help discuss one of the most important aspects of your cruise vacation.

When would be your preferred time to sail? Mine would be during the winter so I can escape the cold weather for a few days.






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