Saturday, February 20, 2010

The One I Forgot SMC 2/20/10

Good morning to you all. I apologize for skipping a week, I guess the snow just had me too excited to sit down and blog. Excuse #2 comes in the form of being very busy this month. I probably had the best two week booking period I have had yet as an agent. This week was decent but compared to the first two it was almost a depressing let down. It does amaze me just how the Lord will take care of you though. My grandfather had a recurring back issue flare back up late last week followed by three straight days this week of Dr visits and surgery. Long story short it would have been very difficult to juggle a week like the prior two and do my part to take care of him too. He is doing much better now and maybe next week will be back to bring on the bookings!
I said at the end of the blog three weeks ago that my next blog would be about people you encounter while traveling. Well about two days after the last blog I realized I lied...sorry. I will pick that up here and try to read my previous blog to make sure I haven't made any promises I need to fulfill. In the three, almost four, years Linds and I have been married we have been on a few trips and every time we run into some interesting people. It amazes me how different cultures and even regions within the same culture tend to act the same. For instance, on our honeymoon we met a group of Canadians on the first day that were extremely friendly. Since then we have ran into several more and had conversations with them with the same result...I like Canadians. One particular group that seemed to get the most eye rolls from me and Linds on this last cruise was the "Yankees". Not because they were unfriendly, but because they feel the need to make sure everyone within 50yds hear everything they say. We were on our transfer van coming back from our excursion in Grand Cayman and we stopped to pick up another family at a different beach. They get on being loud but it's vacation so we are all excited. This kid that I will guess was at least 9-10 years old sits by himself in the seat right if front of me. His mother is about 3 rows back and across the van. I swear I am not making this up, she yells really loud to this kid "hey Michael are you feeling OK?" No problem, kid must have not felt well....until he shook his head yes and she yelled at him no less than 6-7 times in five minutes asking the same question!!! I almost turned around and said he is fine! That was just an example, there were lots and lots of this kind of stuff out of that group, especially at dinner when they felt the need for everyone in the dining room to hear their stories. I will throw this in for the northerners reading, it is predominantly the women doing to loud talking. The next group I have taken note of is of Asian decent. The best I can figure with these folks is they are 50-50. They are either some of the nicest or rude people you will meet. To help define that a little further it seems to me the younger Asians are really nice and polite, it's the older ones that seem to have an attitude. Linds has always loved little Asian children and there was the cutest little girl on the November cruise that we wanted to bring home. We ran into them everywhere and were always looking at her and talking about her so I am sure they are blogging today about the weird Americans that kept stalking them :). Next up, old folks! I hope that I too will be old and grumpy one day, but I ain't there yet. I will say this and then get off of it, if you are in a buffet line setting just get out of their way because by gosh they are going where they want to go and will not move out of your way. Literally we almost got knocked out of the way numerous times trying to get a plate..beware the old hungry folks.
I know you all think I am being a little judgmental and I am, but I also know that someone some where are talking about us rednecks and all the things we do to annoy them...probably rightfully so. Have a great day, Jeremy

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Ports & Excursions SMC 2/6/10

As I sit here at this very moment I am saying to myself, " you really need to come up with another opening line. You can't say good morning everyone again." For those of you that blog I bet you know exactly what I am talking about. Sounds simple enough to mix it up a little but I am a pretty simple minded person therefore making this issue complex! Anyway, good Saturday morning. I hope everyone had a good week doing what ever it is you do. If you live here in LA it looks like we will actually have sunshine all weekend with mild temps, which is the first time I can remember in quite a while for us. I know I am happy to see it. I could probably compose a six page blog about all the good things associated with working from home but one negative is when there is a week or several days with nothing but rain and cloudy skies. That kind of weather mixed with not changing scenery very often can wear on you.

Today I want to tell you all a little about the ports and excursions we experienced last year. Let me remind my regular readers and inform the new ones that our second cruise made stops at the same ports as the first with the addition of Roatan, Honduras. It was a reward from Princess cruises or otherwise we would have chosen a different itinerary to experience something new. Our first stop on each cruise was Georgetown, Grand Cayman. I give this port a two thumbs, all eight fingers, and one leg up! G.C. to date is the nicest foreign country I have visited...keep in mind I haven't traveled all that much. The people are extremely friendly and it is really safe. In any place in the world, even right here in good ole Dothan, AL you have to be cautious as to where you go and G.C. is pretty much the same. However, I feel as safe there as anywhere I have ever been. It is a very clean, very modern country compared to the rest of the Caribbean. The majority of the locals there are Jamaican. They get one or two year work passes then have to go home for a year. The connection is that they were both settled and controlled by the British at one time. Jamaica has since declared their Independence from Great Britain and G.C. has move for the Caymanians. The reason so many Jamaicans are there to work is because there are very few true Caymanians on the island. I believe our first guide told us there were about 40k Camanians on the island. He, of course, was Jamaican. His name was Chris and he was a really nice guy. That day(our first cruise) we selected an excursion that toured the turtle farm, Hell, and the rum cake factory. On top of the planned stops, and one of the best parts of the day, was Chris talking and telling us all kinds of interesting facts along the way. For example, as we passed the Ritz Carleton on seven mile beach he told us a condo there would cost us one million dollars...and the Bill Gates owned a whole floor of it! He also pointed out the resort where the Grand Cayman scenes were shot in the movie "The Firm" with Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman. He even told us the island averages only 3 murders per year and that is usually due to drugs. That problem seems to be worldwide. On our second trip to G.C. we decided that we wanted to have a beach day. We booked it through Shore Trips, an independent company, not the cruise line and boy were we glad. Our driver took us(and by us I mean only me and Linds) right past the beach the cruise lines used where there were hundreds packed on a small beach to our beach. It was right behind a local restaurant and as far as we could see in both directions we saw about two other couples all day! Lunch was included at the restaurant and it was delicious. BBQ chicken, rice, mac & cheese, and fried plantains with a glass of lemonade.

Our next common stop was in Cozumel, Mexico. On our cruise back in March this was the "beach day" we had picked out. Again using Shore Trips, we got a taxi to take us to the private beach club to start our excursion. Lunch and drinks were included with this excursion and they were both great! Service there was outstanding but the beach itself was a little bit of a let down. It was rocky and a little grey. Overall I would rate the experience 7 out of 10 stars. The fajitas and margaritas were great but the beach, not so much. On our second trip we decided not to do an excursion and I am so glad we didn't. It came the storm of all storms shortly after we disembarked. We pretty much hung out is the port area, shopped, and had lunch. Note: do not eat at Pancho's Back Yard. You will leave under fed and over charged. Linds and I both ordered chicken nachos and a drink. We were served about 5-6 chips with very light cheese and about 2 shreds of chicken COLD with about a $30 bill. If any of you know me at all you know how the rest of my day went :).

Roatan, Honduras was up next for the second cruise and was our first, and I hope last, trip there. In trying to keep this short let me say we didn't make it more than 100 yards or so outside the port gates for fear for our lives. Scariest, third world country I have ever visited. The sad part is that it looks like it is a beautiful country with lush vegetation and mountains but I didn't have the guts to go check it out. I did have a large group that was down there last month and some actually hired a driver to show them around with no may want to give it a try but not this ole boy! There is a song from the nineties that says "I was a scared white boy in a black neighborhood" and that was me. Side note: don't think I am racist, the entire island of G.C. is black too what I am talking about is a culture not a skin color.

Last but not least on our second cruise we were suppose to spend a day at Princess Cays in the Bahamas but due to 6-7' swells we could not safely tender to shore. I was really disappointed but even if safety wasn't an issue I think I would have gotten sea sick on the tender in because that was as rough of surf I have ever seen. As always than you all for reading and go enjoy the sunshine, Jeremy

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Cabins and Ports

Hello again, and thank you for reading my rare mid-week blog. It has been a good week so far for Wiregrass Travel. We have made several bookings and expect several more. I figured while I have a little down time this morning I would jump on and do a quick blog. In this business, just like the others I have worked, in it is either all or nothing on any given day. I am expecting at least 5-6 clients to book over the next day or two but until they call I am on the nothing side of the coin, knowing that once the first calls everyone else will call within the same hour resulting in paper work all over the office and hours of getting it all booked and organized before bedtime. I will take that little problem every day of the week.

Today in continuing the blog series about our cruise experiences over the past year I want to talk about cabins and people. No, they are not interconnected just two shorter topics I think I can get into one blog. Let's start with cabin type. On our cruise in March Linds and I had a balcony stateroom for our five-night cruise and absolutely loved it! It was very spacious with a couch beside our queen sized bed and a balcony that comfortably held two chairs. Our bathroom was very spacious for a cruise ship complete with a tub/shower combo. The balcony is completely private therefore if you so choose to walk out there first thing in the morning in your boxers and t-shirt it is perfectly OK. It was so nice to be able to wake up without having to dress and put on shoes to be able to be outside to check the weather and scenery. One of the best parts of cruising is cruising near land or coming into port. It is hard to describe the feelings you get from that. Also, as I imagine most couples are this way, Linds sleeps way later than I do. Having the balcony made her life and mine much easier because instead of rustling around to find my cloths and leaving the room, only to return about an hour later, I could just step outside and enjoy the weather and scenery. As an added bonus at least one of us napped every day outside on the balcony's reclining sun chair. It is so relaxing listening to only the ship cutting through the water. On our Thanksgiving cruise we had an interior cabin. Not because that is what we wanted but because it was free! You take what you are given when you are not paying. I must admit I was dreading it a little especially since this was a seven night cruise. Well, it wasn't as bad as I thought but if there is any way I can spend the extra few dollars the next cruise for a balcony, I will! The cabin itself was sufficient. It actually had more than enough closet and storage space along with a huge mirror and makeup area with a chair. There was no couch, so if you wanted to sit and watch TV while the other got ready or just relax, it had to be on the bed. There were basically walking trails around the cabin and two people couldn't pass. The bathroom...oh boy, just step off about a 5'x5' square and imagine the sink, toilet and shower in that! It was tiny. They had actually done a really job providing space in the bathroom for all the toiletries we had brought from home, using the side walls for storage shelves. The worst part was the shower. I can't really describe it and do justice. I will say that if the ship were to move and you lost your balance you would never hit the floor unless you fell out the entrance. Also you better hope you didn't drop the soap...I did the first day on board and like always bent over to get it only to be stopped less than half way down by the wall! Linds and I discussed more than once that we had no idea how and the heck larger adults could manage a shower. Needless to say the floor was soaked each time we showered b/c there was no way to avoid it. The worst part for me was not being able to see where we were, the weather, or a place to get away while Linds got ready or slept. I really could deal with the rest of the differences but that was tough. I will say that a huge positive to an interior cabin is that if you choose to take a nap in there it is pitch black. I have clients tell me weekly that want to book an interior cabin that they don't want to spend the extra because they never stay in the cabin anyway. I have no doubt they are telling the truth because I did everything I could to stay out of that cabin too, completely different when you have your own private balcony though. I think you get the overall picture here, you can survive an interior cabin but please do your self a favor and spend the few extra bucks for a balcony stateroom, trust me you will thank me and never go back to an interior again.

Well as usual this ended up being longer than I had planned so I will cut it off here and save people for Saturday. Have a great rest of the week and thank you so much for reading, Jeremy.