Saturday, January 30, 2010

I'm A Little Too Country SMC 1/30/10

Hello from the back room of my house I call my office. I usually post some kind of randomness to open up this blog but today I just can't think of anything worth telling so I will just jump right in. I told you all several weeks ago that I had written down a few topics to blog about shortly after getting back from our cruise in November. Actually, we were not writing them down at the time but I bet Linds or me said at least once everyday "there's a blog topic". For those of you who know me personally you already know I always have an opinion and do not mind sharing it if you ask. I must warn you though, do not ask unless you truly want it because I call em like I see em. Sometimes this is a good trait but most of the time, after sharing my thoughts, I wish I had the ability to just keep quiet. The very first employee I hired back when I opened the Roly Poly and the only one who was with me from beginning to end use to always tell me I should really put a filter on my mouth. Not from cussing but from just saying what ever was on my mind. One instance immediately jumps into my was during a busy lunch one day. If you ever came in you know we had a 2'x2' pass through from the kitchen to the cashiers and I usually was running the grill directly behind it. There was actually a reason for it and that was because from where I stood I could see all parts of the dining area and kitchen therefore attempt to run a better operation as well as have some interaction with the customer. Well on this particular day the line was probably 15-20 people deep when I notice a friend of mine and classmate of Linds about half way in the line. From no less than 15 yds away through the pass through I yell "hey Lee I had a dream about you last night". Needless to say JF(the employee) absolutely lost it! She sat on the floor laughing so hard and Lee's face was the brightest red I have ever seen. Let me tell you here and now that both he and I were and still are happily married today...I had just had some random dream that he was a part of so when I saw him the next day I thought I would share it with him, not stopping to think how it must have sounded to all the other folks who didn't know me or him for that matter. Wow I just managed to sneak in an irrelevant story after all. How about we get to the blog topic.
What I intended to blog about before the long story above was the dining on a cruise. As most of you know we went on a five night cruise back in March with my parents on Holland America's Veendam. I had some thoughts then about the food and overall dining experience but held them back wanting to get another experience under my belt before judging the industry as a whole. Well after our November cruise with Princess Cruise Lines I feel like I pretty well have it figured out. All I had ever heard from just about everyone that has ever gone on a cruise was how great the food was so I was really looking forward to it because I do like to eat. Boy have I been disappointed. Don't get me wrong there is lots and lots of food on board and it is available anytime of the day or night you want it, but it isn't anything to write home about. I am not alone in this judgment, my daddy and Linds totally agree. I will say that on Holland they had a taco bar during the day out by the pool and it was great as did Princess have a pizza bar that was out of this world! It's the buffet and dining food that has been a real let down for me. I really think this is a result of having a mother and grandmother that knows how to really cook real down home food that has made us this way. Compared to their cooking the cruise line's food is like eating a burger at McDonald's versus a rib eye at Conestoga. It will get the job done but it sure ain't the same.
This leads me into another area of cruise dining I would like to discuss, the formal dining room. I was pretty excited about this experience when going on my first cruise as well as the second for different reasons. The first was based off all the wonderful things I had been told about the food and menus the second was to see if I had missed something on the first. I came away with the same impression from both. I hate the experience! It was an hour and a half to two hours every time. They are obviously doing this on purpose so as to have you "experience" an elegant dinner with fine waiters. I know that there are people out there, like my dear Aunt, that eats this kind of crap up but not this ole boy. I don't mind being waited on and believe it or not I know how to act in such settings but to make me sit bored out of my mind for that long is complete torture to me. On both cruises the dessert was the best part and on both I was begging Linds for us to just leave because I was so tired of being in there. I found out early on in the first cruise that the buffet upstairs has the same food and I can get in and out in half an hour then go do something I enjoyed. Both cruises I managed to talk Linds out of going into the dining room on most of the nights and I know she agreed because she could truly see the pain and aggravation it caused in me.
Towards the end of the second cruise Linds and I were talking about this very subject and came up with the conclusion that the cruise lines try so hard to have a fine dining experience and make the dishes look so "perfect" that they forget taste. We also concluded that part of it was due to the fact we were raised in South Alabama and were not used to real fine dining, therefore not accustomed to the taste of those kinds of dishes. As far as the "experience" you get in the dining room, just shoot me! I will say that Linds didn't mind it so much so I am going to blame that on genetics...I am just like my daddy. To sum all this up I think I need to give the cruise lines a break and admit I am just a little too country for their style of cooking and dining. Just put some fried chicken or a rib eye(about half cooked) on a plate with mashed potatoes and gravy, a roll(that doesn't bounce) on a plate, bring it to me with some SWEET tea, leave me alone and I will be as happy as a pig in mud!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Happenings SMC 01/22/10

Good morning blog world. I bet all of you located here in LA are glad to see our typical 70 degree weather return this week, I know I sure am. A good friend of mine and I have taken up a new hobby recently and we have already gotten in trouble with our wives! We have started playing tennis for a couple reasons. #1 We both want to get into better shape but do not have the discipline to work out and #2 we are both very competitive. Well yesterday our wives decided we should all go out to dinner last night which was fine with us but my friend PR called at lunch and suggested we go play about 4 and eat a little later. That was fine with me and after some low key griping from Linds all was well...until at 6PM PR and I decided we had time for one more set. That set turned into a back and forth battle for the ages and neither of us would be smart and say, hey we better just quit and go get ready for dinner. No way was that happening and we finished up about 6:50! Needless to say my shower wasn't much of a shower and Linds low key griping turned into no talking and an evil eye. She especially didn't like it when I explained how I had not had a hobby like this since we had been married and that I could be out in a bar somewhere like some husbands :). Anyway, she got over it pretty quickly as did KR(PR's wife) and we had a great time. BTW headed back to play today in about an hour and a half.
Now on the subject of travel, this weekend is the annual Bridal Extravaganza at the Dothan civic center. The Dothan Eagle puts it on and it is basically a trade show for just about any kind of vendor you can think of that would have anything to do with weddings. Last year was my first show and I had about 350 brides to be register at my booth. I hope this year is just as good or better. Of that number I did collect several new clients, referrals from those clients, and just today have quoted one of those referrals for the second time. The exposure is invaluable and I am really looking forward to it tomorrow. It is from 1-5PM so come by to see us, I would love to meet you!
On a personal note First Baptist Church Dothan(our church) is having a special day tomorrow. There will be a guest speaker who literally was blind for ten years but now can see! I bet you are singing Amazing Grace in your head now aren't you? Kevin Derryberry will be doing the special music too. For all of you who are 30ish and older you probably remember the band Telluride that used to play in college bars, well this was the lead singer who has now left that life behind to enter the ministry. I have heard Kevin's story before and it's a good one. I have told you all this to invite you to come visit us, we would love to have you! If you like to eat, in true Southern Baptist style, we will feed you after church for free :).
I think I have just about covered three of the most different topics I have ever talked about on this blog so I better quit while I am ahead. Have a great weekend and I hope to see you tomorrow, Jeremy

Saturday, January 16, 2010

All-inclusive versus Cruising SMC 1/16/10

If you are a follower of this blog you already know that I have now been to two all-inclusive resorts and been on two cruises. Just about every week, especially this time of the year, someone will call and ask which they should do. All they know for sure is that they want to be somewhere warm that's not here. I am going to try to put my answer to those clients in writing this morning. I haven't in the past because only having gone on one cruise I didn't feel I could give a fair assessment of the cruise industry base on one experience. Now, after our Thanksgiving cruise with Princess I feel I have a much better personal grip on cruises. For the record, I have done extensive training with almost every cruise line and travel company and have toured a couple ships I haven't actually sailed on.
Lets start with an all inclusive resort. The #1 thing I like is, just like the name suggest, it's all-inclusive! I am guessing the concept was born when an investor with my mindset went on a cruise. For people like me that watch their budget very closely and like to know what it is "really" going to cost to take a vacation. As with everything we will discuss today I am speaking in general terms, there are a lot of AI resorts and a lot of cruise lines...take that for what it is worth. With AIs the initial outlay of money will almost always be more than the initial cost of a cruise. The difference and the personal experience I have had is you literally do not need any cash with you while at an AI. Most everyone of them even include your gratuities in the initial cost. Food, drinks(alcoholic and non), entertainment, and beach activities are all paid for. However, I do suggest taking some cash for two reasons. One, some countries charge a departure tax before you are allowed to leave their airport(usually less than $20). Two, you know you are going to want to have a souvenir to bring back and it is just dumb not to have some cash on you at anytime because you just never know. On the negative side of the coin with an AI you are in one country, one resort, in one city/area for the length of your stay. If you do want to venture away from the resort itself it will cost you money, though usually not much in a cab fare plus what ever it is you want to do. Side note, another reason to use an agent is I happen to know a couple resorts right now in Cancun that are offering free tours to several ruins sites, zip line, and admission to a water park if you book with them. All in all if you have a relaxing beach get away in mind and not a lot of crowd or hassle, an all-inclusive may be just what the Dr has ordered for you.
Up next cruising: Number one like, price! The cruise industry is extremely competitive therefore extremely affordable. Now like with everything in life if you want the penthouse suite you better get your check book out. On the other side if you are willing to stay in an interior cabin(which I do not suggest and will be the topic of another blog) you can cruise dirt cheap...initially. I also like cruises for some more reasons. I really like the actual cruising part. It has its own unique draw just being on the sea and watching the sunrise over the next day's port from the ship or as you pull away that afternoon at sunset. I really enjoy the nightly entertainment on board the ship(it's way better than what you will get at an AI). Last but not least I like the fact you do get to see multiple countries and cultures on one trip without having to pack and unpack. Now for the not so good side. Remember how much cheaper the cruise is? Well from the time you get on board to the time you get off there is a sales pitch for something...if you know me you know that drives me nuts! If you would like a Coca Cola, that will be about $3. If you would like a beer, that will be about $5, and if you want a mixed drink you better really want one, that will be about $8...and we are not talking about a fish bowl, it's about four swallows. Want to just spend a day at the beach in what ever port you may be in that day,it will run you about $100-150 per couple to have the cruise line take you. If that isn't enough you will usually have to rent a chair, buy your lunch, and drinks there too. Oh yea, remember the gratuities that are mandatory on a cruise, that will be about $10 per person per day. I could go on and on but I think you get the point. Unless you do not want a drink outside of water and juice and do not want to do any excursions you are not really going to save any money at all. One more quick thing about this topic and I will move on, this is for the guys. I have been with my wife on three of the four trips above...she probably spent 1/10 the amount at the AI that she did on the cruises. Those stinking sales pitches on the ship, they aren't for us. They announce that tonight from 6-8 the XYZ store will mark down everything 50% and they go bananas! It's a feeding frenzy and your wife will do it too. Not to mention that every port has something they just have to have.
I hope this has been somewhat informative for you all because I know you are tired of reading about now. Let me wrap it all up by saying that I love them both. If you still can't decide which way to go, call me and I bet I can talk to you for no more than 5 minutes, ask a few questions, and decide for you based off your personality which you would rather do. My #1 suggestion is both :) Until someone comes out with an all-inclusive cruise the debate will rage on! Jeremy

Saturday, January 9, 2010

I'm Back! Saturday Morning Coffee 1/9/10

Good COLD morning blog world, after a very long delay due to lack of desire to sit down and do this I'm back! If you are one of my regular readers I apologize for being lazy. A friend and customer of mine probably said it best several months ago in her blog, "blogging I have a new love and her name is Face Book." There is definitely something to the instant gratification that Face Book has to offer.
Well enough of that, how have you been doing? I hope you all had a great Christmas and a happy new year. We did here in LA, my mother bought us a Wii and we have been playing like elementary kids ever since. I am shocked that Linds actually enjoys it too! Since last blogging she and I have gone on a cruise with Princess Cruise Lines and had a blast. I have several blog topics that I took away from that to share with you one day. Princess and their sister company Cunard are the only cruise lines that offer agents a free cruise. All we have to do is spend some time taking and passing some training courses to qualify. Also it isn't like when you graduate you get to pick any cruise you would like. Princess releases limited space on certain cruises as they see fit. Long story short we ditched the family the week of Thanksgiving to cruise based on worry that we may not have another chance when we had the time to go. Princess only gives you 2 years to take your graduation cruise once you have completed the coursework. We traveled on the Crown Princess which is just 3 yrs old and very nice! It was a western Caribbean cruise, which I wouldn't have chosen had I been paying because that is where we went in March, but we still had a blast and I still want a vacation home in Grand Cayman :).
I better wrap it up right here for the day before I get carried away. On top of being a terrible typist, my mind really starts racing when I blog and one topic starts running into another. I wanted to keep the first one back short and sweet so as not to bore you right off the bat! Have a great weekend and I will be back soon, Jeremy