Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Some Quick Test Photos

I got Veronica a new camera for Christmas. I got her a Sony Cyber Shot DSC-H50. I looked out the window a little while ago and saw a colorful array of clouds. I decided to try out her new camera and these were the results.

Cut Out The Middle Man And Save Money

Veronica and I are scheduled to go on our first cruise in May of 2009. We will be on the Norwegian Pearl, departing Seattle WA, on 5/10 and we will be headed to Alaska. I have been busy setting up add on excursions, for the ports of call, that our ship will be in. On May 13th, we will be in Skagway. Since we arrive in Skagway at approximately 7AM and depart at approximately 9PM, we will be there for a full day. Originally I had scheduled 2 excursions for that day. Both excursions were booked through the travel agency that I had originally booked the cruise through. I also found out that the cruise company, NCL, also handles bookings for the same excursions. When checking out both of the web sites, NCL and Alaska Cruises, there were some changes in the verbage as far as describing each excursion and a small difference in the cost for each excursion. In reality, both companies handled the exact same excursions. After booking my 2 original excursions for Skagway, I recieved an email from a different company that actually handled the booking of the tours. They sent me a confirmation email about my booking. After originally booking our excursions, I was doing some checking and found the web sites for many of the companies that actually performed the excursions in Skagway. I wrote an email to one of the companies in Skagway and requested information on their tours. Last night I recieved a phone call from the owner of the business and we spoke for about an hour. She told me which excursions were the best and ones that you got your monies worth. She quoted me a price for 2 excursions...the same ones that I had previously booked through the travel agency and the promotional tour company. I was pleasantly surprised at how much cheaper it was to go directly through the actual tour company...the ones that do the actual excursion. The 2 excursions that we had originally booked, were going to cost us about $386 and was going to be about 6 hours total time of that day. Going directly through Frontier Excursions, we ended up getting a much better tour...one that would take us into the Yukon Territory, provide a bar-b-que chicken luncheon meal, a visit to a dog sled camp plus we added on a couple of extra stops at the end of the actual excursion for a very minimal fee. This excursion would be about 7 hours and it was a heck of a lot better excursion than what we had booked previously. By cutting out the middle men and going directly through the actual tour company that does the excursion, we ended up paying $218, a savings of almost 45% off the cost of our original booking. My suggestion for anyone going on a cruise is to do a google search for your port of calls. You will find the names of all businesses that offer tours in that port of call. By going directly through them and cutting out the cruise companies, the travel agencies and the promotional tour booking companies, you will be able to save some major money for the same tours that are being offered through a middle man. The major money that you save, can be given directly to your spouse for her foot message, at the spa on the ship. I guess that we could really save some money by me giving Veronica that foot message myself but unfortunately....I just don't do feet.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Oh For The Love Of SPAM

Years ago, I was kidding around with my friends and telling them about the culinary virtues of Spam. Last night, I was rummaging through some old plastic storage boxes and stumbled upon a Spam recipe book that my friends had given me. Just browsing through this recipe book got me to drooling like some long floppy eared dog that was involved in a Pavlov experiment. I mean....what is not to love about Spam...SPAM Poor Boy sandwiches, Sauteed SPAM - onions -green peppers and Andouille sausage over a bed of safron rice, SPAM omelet, SPAM fritters, SPAM pancakes, Hawaiian SPAM pizza, Chinese noodles with SPAM chunks, macaroni and SPAM, Panko encrusted spam- then fried and placed over a bed of spaghetti and cover with provolone cheese. I mean the delicacies go on and on. I could go for days firing off culinary masterpieces that involve SPAM. This world would be a sadder place if it were not for SPAM. Maybe it is time for all of you SPAM lovers to unite. Personally...I am really fed up with me and my SPAM being kicked to the curb like last years fruitcake!!!!! Are you with me on this???? If anyone out there would like to have a recipe from this book, just let me know. I will be more than happy to spread the SPAM joy.




Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Moose On The Loose- This Is Really Cool

Ken Gauthier, a friend of ours up in Canada, sent me this video clip. My wife is a moose lover from way back. I know she will love this video. Thanks Ken, for sharing this with us.

video

One Of Those Dreary Days

The last couple of days I have been concentrating on cleaning up the yard. We have a couple of rather large trees that dump tons of leaves every year. Sunday I raked the leaves up in the front yard and then mowed the front yard...hopefully for the last time this season. Yesterday I cleaned up the backyard of all of the downed leaves. The only thing left is mowing the back yard for the last time. Then I retire all of my outdoor tools for about 3 maybe 4 months, at which time I get to start all over again. Today was one of those days where you just want to stay in and nap all day long. It was rainy, dreary and cooler today. Not much else has been going on....like I said.....just one of those dreary days.

I forgot to mention this....after all of the wheeling and dealing on the price of our upcoming Alaskan Cruise, we ended up with an on board credit of $600. That can be used to pay for anything on the cruise ship....even excursions. I am almost positive that some of it will go to Veronica, for a well deserved trip to the Spa. I can see a message in her future...especially a foot message. And while she is getting that done, I might just have a Pina Colada or 2 while sitting on the deck looking for whales.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Change of 2009 Vacation Plans

As for those of you that have been following my blog know, Veronica and I go up to Andy Myers Lodge on Eagle Lake in the Ontario province of Canada. The 2 weeks that we spend up there is very special and important to me. I truly look forward to those two weeks each year. Due to the economy and the fact that we had to replace a vehicle a couple of months ago, this years 2 week trip up to Canada needed to be cancelled. There is also the fact that Veronica's work decided to change things up a bit. No longer can she take 2 consecutive weeks off each and every year. Every other year is fine but not every year. The 2009 trip to Canada would have been our 4th year in a row. With all of this going on a tough decision was made. Man was I down in the dumps when it got down to actually accepting this decision. I am the type of person that needs something, anything, to look forward to throughout the course of a year. I knew that it was going to be a long time until I got to go back up to Canada again(2010) and I felt that I needed to find something special to take the place of that 2 week annual trip. At first, I thought about us driving up to Wickford, RI...a place where I used to live. I figured that we could drive up to Bar Harbor, ME after visiting Wickford. After checking out the mileage from here to there, it appeared that we would be spending most of our 1 weeks vacation driving rather than seeing and doing things. I also wanted to go somewhere that we would be able to take tons of photos and utilize our new HD Camcorder. After nixing the Rhode Island and Maine trip, I thought about the possibility of flying to Seattle. Veronica has been to Seattle before...quite some time ago but she still remembered how beautiful the area was with mountains and water and all of the natural sights to see along with Pikes Market and other sights. I had never been to the West Coast at all and thought that a trip out to Seattle might be fun and interesting. I checked into flights to Seattle and found them to be very inexpensive, especially since we live in Virginia Beach, VA. $200 a person sounded like a real good deal considering that we usually spend anywhere between $550 and $650 a person to fly to International Falls, MN when we head up for our Canadian adventure. After finding out the cost of our flights, I grabbed my AAA travel books and got on the computer to get some ideas on what we could do while we were out there. I found quite a bit to do out there in the Seattle area along with a trip to see Mt. Ranier. I figured that there would be plenty of great photo opps out there. I discussed my thoughts with Veronica and she seemed interested in that scenario. Then one night, while sitting around thinking of things to do in Seattle... the light bulb went off in my head .....Seattle ......water ......cruises ......Alaska!!!!!! Veronica and I have talked about taking a cruise and going to Alaska. I knew that we would not have enough time to do Alaska real justice but neither one of us has ever been to Alaska at all. I figured that we could do an Alaskan cruise and then sometime in the future, maybe drive through Canada and into Alaska and do everything else that Alaska has to offer us. I did some initial checking on cruise lines and cost. I knew that we would want a cruise line that would allow us to dress casual and eat when,where and with whom we wanted...no scheduled formal sit down meals. After doing some research, I decided on the Norwegian Cruise Line. I checked on dates and decided to do a week in May...what they consider the "shoulder" period....usually the lowest fares. After doing more research and making some calls, I had enough info to drop this idea on Veronica. Needless to say, she was very interested and excited. So currently we are booked to depart Seattle on the Norwegian Pearl, a newer vessel, on 5/10/2009 for a 7 day trip up to Alaska. Here is our itinerary:

Day Location Arrival Departure
Sunday, May 10, 2009 Seattle ----- 04:00 PM
Monday, May 11, 2009 Cruise Alaska''s Inside Passage ---- -------
Tuesday, May 12, 2009 Juneau 02:00 PM 10:00 PM
Wednesday, May 13, 2009 Skagway 07:00 AM 09:00 PM
Thursday, May 14, 2009 Cruise Glacier Bay ---- ----
Friday, May 15, 2009 Ketchikan 06:00 AM 01:30 PM
Saturday, May 16, 2009 Victoria 06:00 PM 11:59 PM
Sunday, May 17, 2009 Seattle 08:00 AM ----
I also found out that NCL has what the call a Military Appreciation Program. Whether you are active duty military, retired military or a veteran, with proof of any of these, you get a percentage off of your total, depending on which type of room that you book.
Since this was most likely a one time deal for us, I decided to spring a few extra dollars and go for a Penthouse suite that had butler and concierge service.
Here is the description of the Penthouse Suite:
"This suite features rich cherry wood finishing, floor-to-ceiling glass doors opening to a private balcony, separate bedroom with a queen-size bed, duvet, living and dining area, CD/DVD library, TV, safe, refrigerator, coffee maker, hair dryer, and a luxury bath with separate shower. Butler and concierge service is available".
Veronica and I decided to schedule some excursions....one for each port of call. There were so many to pick from that it was a really tough decision.
In Juneau, we chose to do the ALASKAN WHALE WATCH. Here is a description of the excursion:
The adventure of a lifetime begins the minute you board our "mammal friendly" jet boat, with fully enclosed and heated cabin. Cruise to the playgrounds of these marine mammals where your captain will slowly approach the animals to provide as close an encounter as possible. Our captains are so confident that you will find a whale that they will offer a $40 cash refund if you do not! The entire tour time is app. 3 hours and we have three departures daily. (Times vary according to your ship's arrival in port).
In Skagway, we decided to do the SCENIC BUS UP/ WHITE PASS RAIL DOWN. Here is a description of this excursion:
SCENIC BUS UP/ WHITE PASS RAIL DOWN Times 8:30am and 1:00pm. Skagway’s most scenic ALASKAN experience begins with a relaxing 1 3/4 hour train excursion from Skagway to the top of the White Pass Summit and beyond! This excursion provides you with an opportunity to view the unparalleled beauty of Alaska from two completely different points of view -- one way by train and one way by bus -- you are exposed to even more picturesque beauty with this combination excursion. Along the way there will be ample opportunities to view and photograph waterfalls, majestic mountains, glaciers, historic sites and the pristine beauty of ALASKA! Upon arrival at the train depot at Fraser (Canadian Customs) you will be transferred to a comfortable bus and experience the beauty of Alaska while our entertaining guides amuse you with captivating stories of the Klondike Gold Rush! On your return to Skagway by bus there are many scenic stops all along the way for photo enthusiasts. Skagway Scenic Overlook, White Pass Trail of '98, Brackett Wagon Road, Pitchfork Falls, William Moore Bridge & Overlook, Tormented Valley ,"Welcome to Alaska" Sign, Bridal Veil Falls, Glaciers & Waterfalls. Enjoy the “Best of Skagway” with our rail and bus excursion to the White Pass Summit and beyond! It is the most comprehensive Skagway excursion! Since this excursion enters Canada, US and Canadian citizens must carry a passport or birth certificate with photo ID. Guests of other nationalities must bring their passport.
In Ketchikan, we decided to take the MISTY FJORDS WILDERNESS CRUISE. Here is a description of this excursion:
Experience Misty Fjords National Monument aboard our comfortable high-speed vessel. A cruise to the heart of the 3,570-square-mile Monument provides an opportunity to view Misty Fjords from a dramatic perspective. A naturalist will provide in-depth commentary on the natural history of the area as you enjoy an assortment of complementary food service including a continental breakfast in the morning and clam chowder and smoked salmon throughout the rest of the day. Bring your camera, as photo opportunities of spectacular scenery and wildlife opportunities abound! Watch for mountain goats at dizzying heights up the rocks or brown or black bears on the shore. We'll take you near seal rocks, the summer home for scores of seals. You'll see soaring bald eagles. Guillemots and Marbled Murrelets dot the waters of the fjords, and other seabirds nest in mossy niches on the cliffs. You'll be surrounded by cliffs towering thousands of feet and view waterfalls cascading into emerald waters. Your cruise includes many points of interest; an active eagle's nest, a mysterious Native pictograph, Punchbowl Cove with its columnar basalt formations and the colorful Mossy Wall bird rookery. Enjoy the dramatic landmark New Eddystone Rock, an ancient volcanic plug that juts up 237 feet from the water. Learn about Captain George Vancouver's exploratory trip through the area in 1794 and how the rock was originally mistaken for a tall ship. A day cruise to Misty Fjords National Monument is an experience you’ll always remember. Day cruise, narration, continental breakfast and snack will be enjoyed.

I plan on writing a journal during our entire Alaskan cruise so that when I return, I can share each days adventures with everyone, which will include daily writings, video and photographs. For additional information on the NCL PEARL, please visit the following links:
http://www.shipparade.com/cruise%20reviews/NCL%20Norwegian%20Cruise%20Line/Norwegian%20Pearl/Norwegian%20Pearl.htm

http://www.cruisecritic.com/reviews/review_page2.cfm?ShipID=378#cabins
There will be more updates as the time gets closer to our trip.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Isn't This Typical

Usually during the holiday season, the retail stores slap some decent prices on some of their items and on some you can actually get a good deal. Usually those good deals are few and far between but sometimes you can find a winner in the lot. All of this is done by the retailers in order to lure the customers in and have them spend their hard earned money. And usually I spend the money and try to cash in on the "bargains". This year has been very different mainly because of everything going on with the economy. People getting laid off on a daily basis, businesses closing down everywhere you turn, people losing their savings in the stock market and IRAs, houses being foreclosed upon. On and on it goes. Quite a depressing time it is nowadays. And here we are again, in the midst of another holiday season. This time the retailers are really slashing prices because of everything going on and they too are hurting. I have seen some really great deals out there on so many things that I would love to have or give to others. So what is the problem? Very simple....no money and afraid to spend what little there is. All of those goodies out there and I can't afford them. Isn't that so typical of the way things go. I supposed I could succumb to all of these temptations, dig into my file box and pull out all of the old plastic credit cards I have and blow the dust off of them. Shine them all up and get them all prepared for the onslaught that I could reign down upon the retail world. Oh the fun I could have getting my instant gratification and the havoc I could reap. Being able to instantly fulfill my every materialistic fantasy, all due to the abnormally low prices. You betcha....I could easily be talked into such an adventure. But in the end, after all of the gifts were opened, the huge plasma tv has been hung on the wall, the home theater has been completed and the last Godiva chocolate has been eaten and after all of the receipts from all of those purchases have fluttered to the ground, piling up like a 3 foot snow drift, that special time of the month comes. Those credit card statements arrive at my door step and after reading them, I know that I am in deep doo-doo. I am so broke and in so much debt that I will never see the light of day again, even if I lived to be 200 years old. But as bad as it appears, I manage a wry smile and I chuckle to myself, knowing that by standing there with my hand out, by making a simple request to our government and by claiming that I will go under by years end.....I could be freed of this burden that I created and that a magical bailout would soon be on it's way. If it is good enough for the auto companies, then by gosh it is good enough for me. I will be free of any and all obligations to make good on those payments and I get to keep all of my purchased goodies as a bonus. All of these good tidings bestowed upon me by our government just for the asking. Yes......free I said....free....until next season when I knowingly and willingly do it all over again...why...because I know that there is a good possibilty that Uncle Sam will be there to help me out once again....just for the asking and by merely telling them that I have learned my lesson......again.
PS- I am feeling somewhat better and slowly getting over whatever cold or bug that I caught....can you tell???

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Sniff Sniff Cough Cough Hack Hack

Do these words sound familiar to you? Unfortunately they do to me. I have been fighting off a cold or some type of bug for several days now. Usually I just work through it and I end up paying for it in the end. It will usually get worse and last longer. This time I am going to take it easy and let it run its course. I will be back as soon as I am sniffle free.
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