2011News Archive

 

December

John, Barb & Rachael ready to depart Galveston for the cruise.

The highlight of the month just has to be our Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Cruise Lines newest ship, The Magic. Cruisers included John, Barb, Rachael, and Jessica.

We flew from Phoenix to Houston Hobby where we met up with Rachael to take a shuttle to the ship. There are 1,823 staterooms with 1,367 staff on board. We all had balcony rooms which were surprisingly comfortable and we didn’t feel crowded at all.

The ship has 14 levels and the top two are not enclosed.

 

    

The upper decks of the Carnival Magic

 

After everyone was on board and we left Galveston, we went to a “muster” meeting where we learned what to do and where to go in case of an emergency.  

 

About 3 hours out of Galveston there was an announcement of a medical emergency with one of the passengers and we were turning around and going back to Galveston so he could get the care he needed. We heard later that this person had a fatal heart attack and died, and since we were so close to Galveston the captain decided to turn back and get him off ship. 

    

The central lobby of the Carnival Magic

 

The first two days were rainy, gray, cold, and windy.  The days at port cities were sunny and beautiful and then heading back to Galveston it was gray, cold, and windy again.

 

Our dinner was at 8:15 every evening and we were entertained at the dinner table by magicians and the wait staff.  We had really interesting and fun wait people at our table.  After dinner we went to see magic and comedy shows.

 

At our first port, Cozumel,  Rachael, John, and Barb took a choppy ferry ride to shore and then a bus to Xcaret, an eco-archaeological park.  Rachael swam in the underground river while John and I walked with our tour guide, Carlos, to where we would meet Rachael at the end of her swim. We visited the butterfly pavilion, Mayan archaeological sites, and beautiful white sand beaches and lagoons. Dolphins performed for us and we took lots of pictures of the beautiful scenery.

John and Rachael at dinner

 

Our next port was Grand Cayman.  Rachael went on an excursion to Stingray City where she swam with and petted the stingrays.  John and I were easily talked into a $15 tour of the island by “Cash Money” in a rundown, barely air-conditioned van.  He took us to “Hell”, the Rum Cake Bakery, the Dolphin Adventure and by the 7-mile beach while he told us facts about the island. It is pretty much an island of banks and churches .

John and Barb "captured" by a pirate on Grand Cayman Island

 

Montego Bay, Jamaica, was our final port city. We took the Croydon Plantation Tour, and, once again, had a very knowledgeable tour guide, “K”.   We were asked to say “Ya Mon” to every question she asked and she told us that Jamaican people are happy people and there are no problems there – only situations.   She lives in the country with her mother and four year old son. They bathe and wash their clothes in a stream.  Our bus trip to the plantation was an eye opener on the poverty of Jamaica - so many shacks and run down homes. “K” said the people do whatever they can for a dollar. We saw many selling food, drinks, flowers, etc. on the side of the road, between cars or on the street.  The average wage is $50 a month for those who have a steady job.  At the plantation we sampled various fruits, four different types of pineapple, ginger beer, and were told facts about the coffee, bees for honey, and other crops they grow on this plantation.  We had jerk chicken, rice and peas, and fried plantains for lunch.  While we were eating there was a downpour that lasted about 10 minutes. On the ride back down the mountain we stopped the bus but didn’t get out at a roadside “shop” where one could buy a bag, shirt, dresses, etc.  One woman on the bus bought a walking stick for her collection.  We looked at some of the products for sale on the dock when we returned to port and if you happen to make eye contact with a Jamaican, they would practically pull you into their area and want you to buy something. 

Every tour we went on we were asked in a polite way to tip the tour guide and driver.  They would say something like, “If you liked the tour please tell others about it.  If you think I did a good job then please show your appreciation with a tip.  If there was a problem, something you didn’t like, then please say nothing".  They depend on the tips they get for their livelihood. 

    

              John and Barb on shore                                  Barb, Rachael and John in Jamaica

 

At dinner on Friday there were three bells, then an announcement: “ Bravo, Bravo, Bravo, Portside”. Our waiters looked very concerned and told us that it meant, “Man Overboard”.  The ship stopped and turned around and 400 crew members were on deck looking for the missing passenger.  Several announcements were made asking “Lonnie” to please contact guest services if they were onboard. Then another announcement that a certain line was being dedicated for them to call if they were onboard.  Finally, it was announced that Lonnie had been located and everything was OK.  When Rachael went to the restroom, security and staff were on the stairs with Lonnie and her husband.  It seems that they had a fight and Lonnie was hiding from her husband.  One of the wait staff, Natalia, told us when there is a man overboard they are usually not found and that she was on a ship New Years when one of the crew had too much to drink, went overboard and was never found.

 

The ship's staff is very hard working and have long hours. Most are not from the United States but speak English very well.  Lunch was just about anything you wanted from pizza to Mongolian cuisine. Dinner was multiple choice and there was always dessert. 

Rachael, Barb and John at the Red Frog Pub

 

The best part of the cruise was being with family. We got to see some beautiful places and took lots of pictures.  We both ate too much, spent too much time in the casino, and got to experience our first cruise.  All in all it was a wonderful week and we will treasure the memories.

November

A cooling-off early in the month takes about 20 degrees off our daytime high. For those of us now acclimated to the desert heat, it feels cold. I know  . . . silly!

We had guests from Burelson, Texas with us over the Thanksgiving holiday. Barb's cousin, Jim Chamberlain and wife, Pam, drove in to spend a few days with us. We visited Sedona and had a great Thanksgiving Day with them before they had to make the long drive back to Texas. Below are some highlights of the visit: all four of us around an old water wheel at Slide Rock north of Sedona, John & Barb, Jim & Pam, pansies growing through fall leaves at Tlaquepaque Shops in Sedona, and around the Thanksgiving table.

     .

    

October

Happy Halloween Birthday to Jessica!

Time to head to North Oak Creek Canyon between Sedona and Flagstaff for some great fall foliage photos:

    

    

    

         

Great Senior Tennis at the Surprise, Arizona Tennis Complex on the 8th and 9th: Mats Wilander, Jim Courier, Michael Chang, Pete Sampras, Chris Evert and Tracy Austin.

  

  

  

  

Happy Birthday to Barb on the 1st!!!

We haven't seen much in the way of rain for a long time, but the night of the 4th we got a short, but appreciated, downpour that put some great color in the sky. See below . .

   

 September

Barb started her volunteer work as a teacher's aid at Phoenix's Children First Academy this month. This is the 2nd year she has helped in the classroom, assisting the regular teacher. Children First Academy is the nation's largest school for homeless children.

We were visited by Jim and Susan Carson from Albuquerque, New Mexico on the 2ns, 3rd and 4th as they were returning home from a visit to California. Jim and Susan are high school classmates of John's from Pitman, New Jersey. On the night of the 3rd, we were joined by Bob and Bonnie Mummey, of Cave Creek, Arizona (also classmates of John's) for a dinner at our home here in Sun City West.

We've been enjoying seeing the Nebraska Cornhuskers this football season. When they aren't on regular cable, we watch the game, along with many other fans, at Fuzzy's Sports Bar in Surprise, Arizona.

The 12th, 13th and 14th found us in Las Vegas celebrating our 42nd wedding anniversary. A little slot machine action and two shows: Cirque du Soleil's "Zumanity" and "Vegas! The Show", a retro look at the Rat-Pack era of the Vegas Strip, complete with a cast of over 40 dancers, singers and showgirls.

Barb's cousin, Suzan Cox, of Yuma visited for a few days mid-month.

August

Happy August birthday to John!

This month has been a quiet one so far - and the temperature, as you would expect in the desert, has been consistently between 105 to 110, sometimes a few degrees higher. Officially, it's the hottest August on record largely due to the higher than normal nightime lows. 116 on the 24th in honor of John's birthday.

July

This month we went on another Miata Club outing, this time to Flagstaff and the Lowell Observatory. Afterstaying overnight in Flagsatff we awoke to a nice cool morning, something we don't get in the Valley this time of year. The top went down on the Miata and we took the back road winding down through the Coconino National Forest to Sedona - just great. After a few hours there, we headed home.

June

This month will find Barb back in Omaha for a week getting reacquainted with longtime friends. We also did a 3 day loop down to the old copper mining town of Bisbee, then down to Douglas and up to Fort Huachuca and Tombstone. mid-month we went on a Sahauro Miata Club ralley to Prescott.

May

Lots of cactus blooms this year  . . . a few examples below.

   

April

At the end of April and into the 1st few days of May Rachael visited from Lincoln, Nebraska. We took one day and took a train ride out of Clarkdale, Arizona on the Verde Canyon Railroad. April also sees our seasonal Canadian friends heading back home to plenty of snow still on the ground.

         

March

Warmer temps are on the way  . . . and with them came a lot of wind, much more than the norm.

We received sad news on the 24th that John's cousin, Dottie, in Las Vegas, had died after a short illness. She and John had reconnected only a few years ago after not seeing each other for 50 years. We miss her already!

February

 . . . and February was just  . . . February  . . .

January

The new year brought a "variety gift pack" of activities, a few days at the Monte Carlo in Las Vegas and a Sahauro Miata Club "run".