Carnival Vista Family Harbor Cabins

Vista Family Harbor

Family Harbor on the Vista

Carnival’s newest ship, the Vista, has two new stateroom categories not found on any of their previous ships. The Havana cabins are for passengers 12 and older and include exclusive daytime use of a pool and deck area. Family Harbor has some cabins that hold up to 5 people and comes with entry to the exclusive Family Harbor lounge, concierge service, and other perks beneficial to families with young children such as a night of free babysitting at Night Owls and free meals for kids at the premium restaurants.

nautical flag decor

nautical flag themed bedding

Family Harbor is found at the back of deck 2. Cabins and hallways in the Family Harbor area have a nautical decor exclusive to that area of the ship.

nautical flags

nautical flag letter chart

Pillows and bedding have nautical flag letter symbols. In addition to letters of the alphabet, nautical flags also have other meanings. Some, like diver down, signal what you are doing. Others like yes or no are used for communication with passing vessels. Some are signals for help.

inside cabin

inside cabin 2423 holds just 2 passengers, but some have drop-down bunks and hold up to 4

Like any area of the ship, the least expensive way to get into Family Harbor is with an inside cabin. Inside cabins hold two to four passengers, with the majority accommodating 3 or 4. All cabins in the Family Harbor area include the perks exclusive to that area, which means they cost more than similar cabins without extra perks.

Carnival Vista Deck Plans

Deck Plans Carnival Vista Deck 2 (click photo for larger image)

There are a couple fully accessible interior cabins that hold up to 3 passengers and some interior cabins have connecting doors to the cabin next to them. There are two sets of connecting cabins that hold 3 passengers each and two sets that hold 2 passengers each. Interior cabins don’t have a lot of space so passengers booking these for a family will likely appreciate the use of the Family Harbor Lounge.

ocean view cabin

deluxe oceanview cabin 2420 holds a maximum of 4 passengers

For more space and a view, Family Harbor has oceanview rooms that hold two to four passengers and deluxe oceanview cabins for three to five. Two beds are standard in each room. The extra beds come in the form of drop down bunks that fold out of the ceiling and a couch that converts into a bed.

5 passenger cabin

deluxe oceanview cabin 2418 holds 5 passengers

The majority of the oceanview cabins hold 3 people, though there are several – mostly accessible – cabins that hold just two and one that holds 4. The deluxe oceanview cabins mostly hold 4 or 5 people, but there are a couple just for 3. You can put less people in a cabin than the maximum that it holds, but not more.

cruise ship cabin with 2 bathrooms

deluxe ocean view cabins and Family Harbor suites have an extra partial bathroom with tub and sink

The deluxe oceanview cabins have an extra partial bathroom with a tub and sink, which comes in handy when you have four or five passengers staying in the same room.

cove balcony cabin

cove balcony cabin 2419 sleeps 4

There are just 4 balcony cabins in the Family Harbor area. These are all cove balconies, hold 4 passengers, and have a connecting door to a suite. The connecting suites hold 5 people each so a total of 9 could book into these pairs of cabins. The interior space of the cove balcony cabins is less than in the oceanview cabins because the balcony occupies part of the space allotted to that cabin. Cove balconies are wrapped in a metal shell with watertight doors into the cabin and an open windowlike view from the balcony to the sea, which is fairly near since these cabins are located on deck 2. Balconies on higher decks are more open with just a plexiglass barrier across the seaside edge.

suite cove balcony

look up from this suite cove balcony to see the lifeboats, down to see the water

Connecting doors stay locked between cabins if unrelated parties book the two that connect, but if families or other people traveling together have booked both cabins the doors are unlocked so they have inside access from one cabin to the next without going out into the hallway. Cabins without connecting doors are preferable if available when you are not sailing with the people next door because you can hear your neighbors more through the door than through a solid wall.

suite

people can order cabin decorations like these in suite 2417

Suites in the Family Harbor area have balconies half again as long as the cove balcony cabins, and the cabin itself is also that much wider making it more spacious. The suites also have the extra partial bathroom with a tub like the deluxe oceanview rooms. Each suite has a maximum passenger limit of 4 or 5 people.

exclusive area on a cruise ship

Family Harbor Lounge

Maximum passenger limits per cabin are the same with or without a portable crib because even though a crib means extra bed space could be available, the baby counts as a person for lifeboat space. Maximum passengers allowed on board is limited by the lifeboat capacity so not all rooms on the ship can be booked up to the maximum allowable capacity of people for that room at the same time and extra people over the stated limit for that room are not allowed. A ship could be booked full and still have a few empty cabins if the lifeboat capacity is reached before all the cabins are full.

private lounge

snacks area in the Family Harbor Lounge

The Family Harbor Lounge is only open to passengers booked into Family Harbor cabins. It is open 24 hours a day. The lounge has breakfast and snacks available daily.

family harbor

tables in the Family Harbor Lounge

It has concierge service, computers, video games, and family movies as well as a selection of board games to keep kids and families entertained.

family harbor lounge

sitting area in the Family Harbor Lounge

For more blogs about cabins on the Vista see Vista Cabins or Havana Cabins.

cruise ship decor

hallway decor in the Family Harbor area

For a complete list of blogs about cabins on other ships see My Cruise Stories Ships and Cabins page.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2017
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Is Your Sunscreen Reef Safe? Deter Natural Mineral Sunscreen Is!

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Snorkeling at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

Coral reefs worldwide are in decline. Along with the nutrients released by glaciers, which are currently receding at an alarming rate, corals are at the bottom of the food chain, the basis of all life on the planet. Which means their decline should be of concern to everyone – so of course should be the overall health of the planet, but unfortunately to many it’s not. Some of the worst offenders are governments of countries who could do the most to help if they cared to.

sunken ship

Shipwreck in Bermuda provides structure for coral and other sealife

At least some countries care about coral. On a recent visit to Bermuda our local guide on a snorkel excursion mentioned how they have a lot of protections for the coral there. It has declined only 11%. Which sounds bad unless you are aware that Caribbean corals are at around an 80% decline. There’s not a lot each individual can do to stop rising ocean temperatures, changes in the PH balance, water pollution, storms, overfishing, fertilizer runoff, and other things that harm coral, but there are a few things everyone can do. First of all don’t touch the coral you encounter. Also never litter. Besides fouling the land, things people carelessly toss aside often end up in the sea. Just as important, especially when in tropical areas, do everything you can to protect the coral. Unfortunately the mass-marketed sunscreens that most people use are oil and/or chemical based. Just one drop of chemicals widely used in sunscreen like oxybenzone in an area larger than several olympic sized swimming pools is enough to deform coral cells and kill their larvae. Other damaging chemicals include octocrylene, 4MBC, butylparaben and octinoxate. Chemicals used in the average sunscreen bleach the coral and oils smother it. Even some natural oils – those that work as insecticides – can kill coral. You don’t even need to go to the beach to do harm because the wrong sort of sunscreen can make its way to the ocean through the sewer systems when washed off.

diving in the Philippines

soft coral in the Philippines

Luckily there are some companies making biodegradable reef-safe mineral based sunscreens. The best thing about these is that their active ingredients of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are what dermatologists recommend most to prevent skin cancer because they actually create a physical barrier to block harmful rays. This protects skin far better than the chemical based sunscreens most people use. The ingredients are far more important than the SPF factor in providing cancer protection so while protecting the environment you also better protect yourself.

coral safe sunscreen

Deter reef safe sunscreen

One such company making not only reef safe sunscreen, but also other environmentally friendly products is Deter. Besides being mineral based and reef friendly, their non-greasy hypoallergenic fragrance free child-safe sunscreen also has skin care ingredients including carrot and green tea antioxidants, aloe vera and emollient rich natural oils from soybean, sunflower, almond, sesame, and cocoa butter that are not the sort that harm coral like lavender, tea tree, or jojoba oils can.

sunscreen

Deter and Alba Botanical out of the package

The Deter lotion is not as thick as the three I tried last year. It is closer to the consistency of ordinary sunscreens and rubs in just as quickly and easily as the Alba Botanica, which was the easiest to apply of the ones I tried previously. Once on it has a lighter feel on the skin than the other brands I’ve tried. You really don’t notice that it is there. It does not give a specific amount of time for water resistance before the need to reapply, just saying to repply after swimming where the others all gave a time. When asked about this, the company said that according to the FDA sunscreens are given only ratings of 40 or 80 minutes resistance which they earn through testing. This one has not been tested so the amount of time it actually lasts in the water is unknown, though I have noticed that mineral sunscreens tend to last longer than any of the others. The fact that the times given on the package are assigned through passing expensive government testing rather than the actual time a sunscreen lasts explains why the mineral sunscreens last longer in the water than regular ones with the same rating. Regardless of the rating, it’s always a good idea to reapply sunscreen after leaving the water.

Antigua coral

coral near Bird Island, Antigua

I was quite surprised when sunscreen from a company that makes environmentally friendly products arrived in a box of styrofoam packing peanuts. Hopefully the peanuts were recycled from something shipped to them and they were just trying to keep them out of the landfill. (It happens. I re-use the air pillows and bubble wrap my packages come in on things I ship out.)

You probably won’t find coral safe sunscreens in the average store, but they are available online. I haven’t had a chance to try Deter at a beach or for snorkeling yet, but the ease of spreading it on and the light skin feel make it great for everyday use to protect from sunburn and skin cancer. The price is significantly lower than mineral sunscreen from the dermatologist’s office and comparable to other reef-safe brands.

Deter Reef Safe Sunscreen

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Things to do On Celebrity Infinity

leaving San Francisco

Sometimes people gather by the railing to watch the scenery go by

What is there to do on a cruise ship? A lot. All the large cruise ships of the major lines are like floating resorts with all sorts of things to keep passengers entertained when they aren’t off roaming around at port stops.

Infinity dining room

the dining room serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner

First of all there’s food. Food in the dining room, food in the buffet, food in the specialty restaurants, coffee shops, outside grills, and a variety of other places on any given ship where food might be found. For a really fun meal on Celebrity try their very unique Qsine.

frosty cold drinks

drinks on ice

And if that’s not enough there’s always room service. Of course the ships all have bars. Inside bars, outside bars, poolside bars. If you want drinks on board you don’t have to look too hard or go too far to find them. The major ships all have pools, hot tubs and casinos too.

cruise ship specialty restaurant

chicken crepe at Bistro on Five where crepes were the specialty and you could watch them get made

And food. Did I mention food? Eating is a big part of cruising for many of the passengers on board. Want to go shopping? The onboard shops open every day when ships aren’t in port. How about a trip to the spa? The spa stays open even in port. Cruise ship spas offer a variety of things from massages to facials, haircuts, manicures, and even acupuncture and other treatments.

fun and sun

pools and loungers on the Lido deck

Celebrity Infinity has lots of deck chairs all around the outer decks. Whether you like sun or shade, a place where you can people watch in the center of things or a quiet corner for relaxing or reading, you can find a deck chair that suits your needs.

adults only solarium

Infinity has a free indoor spa-type pool

Want a deck chair that’s not outside? Infinity has those too, all around the thalassotherapy pool in the adults only solarium. Speaking of that pool, besides being inside it has racks to sit on over bubble jets and water fountains – things often found only in spa pools people pay extra to use, but on the Infinity the thalassotherapy pool is free. The solarium also contains the AquqSpa cafe which serves healthy alternatives to breakfast and lunch and always has jugs of lemon, lime, or orange water available.

poker tournament with the officers

free texas hold’em poker tournament final table

Besides all the usual casino games, the Infinity’s smoke free casino offered both poker and blackjack tournaments for free during the course of our cruise. Passengers competed through several rounds to make the final table and finalists played a passenger vs officer round where bystanders could bet on whether a guest or officer would win. A ticket drawn from the winning side’s bucket netted a lucky passenger an awesome prize. Better in fact than what the tournament winner got, even if that winner was a passenger. All players who made the final table got t-shirts too.

cruise ship theater

theater on Celebrity Infinity

Each night brought shows to the theater. They had some Las Vegas style production shows with the onboard cast, but many nights guest entertainers put on spectacular shows above and beyond the expected cruise ship entertainment. They also had resident aerialists who put on quite a show whenever they performed – usually as a small portion of some of the nighttime shows, but one afternoon they had a show of their own. The theater is a great source of entertainment in the daytime too with guest speakers and other presentations.

cruise ship ice carving

one night Infinity had ice carving

Other lounges and meeting rooms about the ship also play host to a variety of seminars or activities. Whether it’s dancing, fitness, health, music, technology, or wine you’ll probably find an event or activity to suit. Like most ships there’s also art auctions, which with the right auctioneer can be pretty entertaining even if you have no intention of buying any art. Besides the daily activities, during the course of the cruise they sometimes have special events.

fun and games

Infinity’s own game show with audience participation

Checking the daily newsletter, Infinity Today, shows a full schedule of activities where each hour brings more options than any one person could ever attend. Fun and games come in choices from the more sedate trivia or bingo to active games like beanbag toss.

sunset with a bonus

watching the ship go under the Golden Gate bridge in the setting sun

While there are plenty of scheduled events to keep passengers entertained all day, people can also entertain themselves quite easily on a cruise ship.

would you want this in your house

odd or ugly statues seem to be a requirement of cruise ship decor

If you’re easily amused sometimes it’s fun to wander about on a cruise ship and wonder what they were thinking when they chose their art.

cruise ship galley tour

see where all the food comes from on the galley tour

Get a peek at what goes on behind the scenes on Celebrity’s free galley tour.

Celebrity Infinity rooftop terrace

rooftop terrace photo from Celebrity’s website

New since our cruise, the Infinity now has a rooftop terrace with outdoor movies and snacks.

cruise ship events

Top Chef on Celebrity Infinity

One day on our cruise the Infinity had a Top Chef competition – with passengers selected from the audience to do the cooking and the judging.

Some onboard activities are pretty standard throughout the cruise ship industry, but others vary from line to line, ship to ship, or even day to day. One thing is for sure though, when on board a cruise ship there is always something fun to do.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2017
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A Princess in Victoria

Victoria cruise port

Ruby Princess in Victoria

Ships that cruise round trip from Seattle to Alaska all make a brief evening stop in Victoria on the way back. Victoria sits on the south end of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. While it is a touristy town with lots to see and do, the cruise ships generally don’t come early enough or stay long enough to take advantage of all Victoria has to offer. Why bother to stop there at all since the stops are so brief?

carriage rides

little horse carriages roam the streets of Victoria looking for passengers

Ships stop in Victoria because Canada is not the USA. Unless the ship is registered in the USA which they normally are not, it can’t do a completely domestic cruise in the USA. It has to stop in at least one foreign port. Ships that cruise to Alaska from Vancouver B.C. do not have this problem since Vancouver is in Canada. It is not however on Vancouver Island, but on the mainland nearby. There is also a city called Vancouver in Washington State, but it does not have a cruise ship port. There was once an early explorer named Captain Vancouver sailing around the area and all these places are named after him.

fancy chocolate dessert

Ruby Princess had different special chocolate desserts each day

Ruby Princess arrived in Victoria around dinner time. Dinner on a cruise ship can be a lengthy affair and some people’s scheduled meal time would have meant choosing between dinner and the port. To counteract this they started dinner a bit early that day and made all dining rooms Anytime Dining for that evening. Which meant a lot of people lining up at the door before it opened. Our original plan had been to go to afternoon tea and skip the dinner, but the head waiter who did a wonderful job of looking after my gluten-free sisters did not seem to want us to do that. He said that night’s meal was too good to pass up and that he would let us in a bit early before the official earlier dinner time of the day. Things did not go quite as planned when the mob rushed the dining room as soon as they cracked a door open to let the special needs diners in before the scheduled opening time. They looked at us apologetically and said to run to the table. We did manage to get to our usual table before anyone else took it and had a fine meal with time to go explore the port.

tally ho in Victoria

blurry picture of the tally-ho taken through a rainy bus window

We had booked an excursion, but before the cruise started we were notified that it had been canceled and did not book anything else in its place. I had seen the tally-ho horse carriages in the port area on a previous cruise and we thought it might be fun to take one into town, but it turned out they were all there to take passengers booked on an excursion. None were available just as transportation to town.

buildings in Victoria

building in Victoria

On my last visit taking a taxi cost less with several people than the shuttle, but this time the shuttle was fairly cheap and the ticket was good for round trip so we went with that. I’ve heard it’s not a bad walk, but we would have needed to skip dinner to have time to walk to town and have hopes that anything might still be open. That is one advantage of a booked excursion, some things that close earlier to the general public do allow them in.

fancy chocolate shop

no chocolates today, the shop is closed

The shuttle let us out not quite in the area with the Empress Hotel and the Parliament Buildings, which are something most tourists like to see. It was not too far to walk there from the shuttle stop. The late hour saved one of my sisters some money because she would have gotten something at her favorite chocolate shop when we walked past it if it had been open. A lot of the souvenir shops stayed open, but the little specialty shops were more likely to be closed.

Empress Hotel

Empress Hotel

We pretty much just wandered around town for a bit, and through the Empress and its rose garden.

garden

gardens at the Empress

The Empress has gone through some recent renovations and for a time I was wondering when they would get around to replacing the threadbare carpet running through the hallways until I realized what looked like a severely worn-out carpet was actually just a printed pattern. Sometimes you have to wonder what people were thinking when they choose their decor.

Pearl in Victoria

Pearl in Victoria, docked next to Ruby Princess

We had not seen another ship at any of our ports through this entire cruise up until Victoria. It was our last port and by then more ships  had started to arrive for the season. Some stopped there. We had one of Holland America’s ships on one side of us, and the Norwegian Pearl on the other. I always like spotting the Pearl since it is the ship on the banner of my blog due to a random photo and the fact that I like its paint job.

Victoria, BC

totem pole by the inner harbour in Victoria

Arriving in Victoria by Princess ship revived an old song from a commercial that tends to rattle around in my head when Victoria and princesses combine. Before the Victoria Clippers of today there was a ship called the Princess Marguerite that made daily sailings from Seattle to Victoria. Their commercial played frequently on TV with a song that went: Take a Princess to sea, take a princess to sea, have a crumpet and tea, have a crumpet and tea. She’s fun aboard – all the way, sail away for the day, hey,hey, hey – let’s go to Victoria on the Princess Marguerite. I don’t think they had anything to do with Princess cruise line, but it’s still a ship called princess going to Victoria. I never sailed on that one or the Victoria Clipper for that matter. The only ship I’ve sailed on that served crumpets was a British ship, the P&O Arcadia, where you could get crumpets at afternoon tea in the dining room. P&O is tied into Princess closely enough that if you sail on P&O the cruise counts toward your loyalty points on Princess.

Victoria Parliament Building

Parliament Building in Victoria

I didn’t have anything much to say about Victoria from this particular trip since we didn’t do much, but there’s more about that charming city in these other blogs from Victoria:

Craigdarroch Castle

Victoria Harbour Ferries

A Quick Stop in Victoria

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2017
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runDisney

cruise ships in Port Canaveral

Disney Fantasy and Norwegian Epic from a cove balcony on Carnival Magic at Port Canaveral

Usually cruising involves a ship, but sometimes people cruise along on their own two feet. Sometimes those very feet take their people into races, and whether literally or officially, races can be a challenge.

Disney World

typical Disney World – kids and Cinderella’s Castle

Disney World brings up images of rides, castles, princesses, and most of all happy families and children having fun. Most people probably have no idea Disney also sponsors marathons and other races. I would never have known if my daughter and her family hadn’t made plans to come to America from Australia where they live to participate in the Walt Disney World Marathon at Disney World. Of course when that was over we took time for a cruise on the Carnival Magic, sailing out of Port Canaveral which is the closest port to Orlando.

runDisney in Epcot

Aaron jumping over the finish line at Epcot

RUN DISNEY

runDisney includes a variety of events throughout the year with some taking place at Disney World in Florida and others at Disneyland in California. Some events include full marathons plus other races. Other events top out at a half marathon. Races go through Disney parks. Disney characters may be spotted along the way and some participants run dressed as characters. Participants get t-shirts and finishers get medals. The marathon at Disney World is one of their biggest events including both half and full marathons as well as other races. Some participants continue on after the marathons are over to another 5k race out on Disney’s Castaway Cay – but they have to take a specific cruise on a Disney ship to get there.

marathon runners

tired near the end of the marathon

Our daughter ran the full marathon, which was her first full marathon and at 26.2 miles about 6 miles farther than she’d ever run before. Her husband signed on for the Dopey Challenge, which included both the full and half marathons as well as 5k and 10k races. There’s also a Goofy challenge for the half and full marathons. The kids each did one of the children’s races. Age groups for kid’s races started with the diaper derby which barely has to cross the finish line and then 100, 200 and 400 meter races for younger kids with each successive age group running a bit farther. The mile is open to any kids 13 and under who can run that far.

ESPN sports world

posers at ESPN – before they ran any races

Small children can run with their parents, and for those who don’t there’s a corral at the end where the parent has to have the claim strip that matches the child’s number to retrieve them so no child can leave the pen without a parent and no adult can enter the pen without the claim strip or leave with a child unless the child they take with them matches the number that they have.

runDisney kid's race

kid’s races – Daniel crosses the finish line first and Hannah running the mile

The short races run in waves with one following after the other in fairly quick succession. Daniel won his wave in the 200 meter with a personal best and although Hannah was young enough she could have done the 400 meter, she chose the mile instead and made a personal best on her time while crossing the finish line about the middle of the pack – ahead of a lot of kids bigger than her. The boy who crossed first was about twice her size and finished the mile in less than 6 minutes (5:39)

race shirts - not really free since you pay to enter the race

runDisney shirts

Each race in the runDisney marathon weekend has it’s own unique medal. Participants all get a shirt for each race they entered when they pick up their numbers and everyone who finishes within the allowed time gets a medal. The 2-race Goofy Challenge comes with 3 medals and the 4-race Dopey Challenge with 6 as well as a shirt for each race entered plus one for the challenge. Top finishers earn money as well, but most people run for their own personal reasons with no chance or thoughts of winning. Some even walk the marathon, which is allowed as long as they finish within the maximum time.

Mickey Mile

Hannah crosses the Mickey Mile finish line wearing a Minnie Mouse skirt

Disney characters are a big part of each race and participants can stop for photos with them along the race route. They may not want to wait in line for that, but there are other photo ops along the way and if they choose to buy their photos the race package is combined with any photos they have taken in the park. Race photos are identified through their number bibs which are equipped with tracking and park photos through scanning their cards or wristbands.

medal winners

posing with medals at ESPN

Most races started and finished at Epcot, but kid’s races and number pick-ups were at ESPN. Getting there is easiest when staying in a Disney resort, but those who aren’t could take the bus from Disney World to Pop Century Resort and then one from there to ESPN. Cabs are also available, but uber gets you there just as quickly and costs less. Uber or cabs also work for getting to the races from off-site hotels which don’t run shuttles nearly that early. We used uber quite a bit around Orlando.

runDisney Marathon

Sheri has a Minnie Mouse skirt too

Safety is always a concern. The half marathon got cancelled due to lightning on a rainy, stormy day. Quite a disappointment to any runners entered in that race. All the runners still get their medals, but those in the Dopey or Goofy challenges don’t get the satisfaction or bragging rights of actually completing all their races. Some participants ran on their own to put in the mileage when the weather cleared enough, but they don’t get any official times or the experience of seeing the Disney characters along the way. Entrants were given a choice of park passes or vouchers for merchandise as a refund for their entry fees.

tired runners

marathon finishers with medals

There was a program to get updates on a runner’s progress through the marathon. People could get alerts through facebook, email, or texts. While helpful to a point, the updates weren’t frequent enough to really know what time a runner would arrive at a specific point. When they do get there odds are quite a few others will pass by at the same time. Runners wearing something that stands out from everyone else certainly makes them easier to spot in a crowd while those wearing the race shirts they were given blend into the multitude. It’s not all that easy for the runners to spot family in the crowd either. We had signs, but just small ones made last minute with colored pens and computer paper and they almost missed us. We didn’t see a lot of encouragement signs at Disney World, but apparently it’s a thing at other races – at least in Australia anyway.

runDisney in Epcot

running through Epcot’s world showcase

Runners had to walk some distance both to the starting line and back to the parking lot from the finish line. It took quite awhile for them to collect their medals and come out of the finish area.

run Disney medals

runDisney Dopey Challenge medals – one for each race plus Goofy and Dopey

The runDisney marathon brought about 70,000 people to the area, which of course made not just Disney World, but also nearby parks like Universal far more crowded than they would be during what otherwise would be the off season when all the kids have gone back to school after Christmas break. The best day we had there for getting on rides was the day the half marathon got cancelled. The crowds didn’t show up in the miserable weather so the lines were shorter than any of the other days. Plus they let people in before the park officially opened that day so we got on a couple rides that usually had long waits before any lines had a chance to get started.

If I had it to do over again I’d enter the 5k or 10k. Maybe both in case one got cancelled. It doesn’t matter if you can’t run that far, it’s OK to walk. Plus if you stop for photos with the characters you can rest a bit while waiting in line. This experience did inspire me to start running. Unless Sheri and Aaron do the Disney thing again I may never enter a race, but I can run a full 5k now without stopping. Which isn’t much to a marathon runner, but a lot farther than I ever could before. I was on the track team in High School, but only as a sprinter mainly doing 100 or 200 meters with the max at 400, which seemed quite far to me then. By the time we see the kids again I might even be up to running a full 10k.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2017
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Hobbiton, New Zealand

Tauranga cruise port

Arcadia in Tauranga, New Zealand

Hobbiton

Hobbiton movie set

sign at the trail leading into Hobbiton

When our cruise on the P&O Arcadia stopped in Tauranga, New Zealand, one of the shore excursions offered went to Hobbiton, the film set for the Shire where the Hobbits lived in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies.

flower in New Zealand

flower in Hobbiton

The bus ride from the cruise dock took about an hour through beautiful countryside with rolling hills covered in grassy fields. Near to town most had cows or horses, but once out into the country we started seeing the many sheep New Zealand is famous for. The country has way more sheep than people. In spite of that, and the fact that the set was built on a sheep farm, they imported sheep for the movie because they wanted a more rugged looking variety than the sort that already lived there.

Hobbiton movie set

trail through Hobbiton

The spaces in between farms and small stands of wild bush held Jurassic looking trees. Some looked like the fern trees we had previously seen in Australia’s Blue Mountains. Others resembled pine trees, only bigger and shaped more like a deciduous tree. Nearer the lowlands there were also some that looked something like miniature palms. The bus driver mentioned one area that held acres of wild bush where people could hike and camp. He said New Zealand has none of the poisonous snakes or spiders found in Australia so their bush country is much safer to hike through.

what's inside the hobbit holes on the movie set

not much inside the open hobbit hole

After reaching Hobbiton the bus pulled into the parking lot, or car park as they are known in Australia and New Zealand. We arrived a bit early and the tour guide wasn’t ready so they let people browse through the gift shop for a bit. Once the guide came the bus moved on while the guide explained how the film people had scouted the land on the Alexander’s 1250 acre sheep and beef farm near Matamata. When they came back knocking on the door to ask about filming Lord of the Rings there the owner replied with “Lord of the What?”

Bag End on top the hill

stairway leading up to Bag End

The youngest son had read the books and told his dad. “Sign, it’s a gold mine.” He now runs the tourist operation while his older brother runs the farm. That knock on the door must have been like winning the lottery for the Alexander family living there.

Bilbo and Frodo's house

the tree on top of Bag End looks real

Great care was taken through all the details of Hobbiton. They have 39 hobbit holes, all with working electric lights. Bag End where Bilbo and Frodo Baggins lived sits at the top of a hill, the biggest of the hobbit holes there. The large oak tree on top of Bag end was cut down nearby and wired with artificial leaves for the filming of Lord of the Rings. Since The Hobbit story took place 60 years earlier they replaced it with a smaller, younger looking tree of steel and silicon construction.

Hobbiton movie set

mill and bridge across the lake from hobbit holes

The mill and bridge were originally made from scaffolding, plywood, and polystyrene, but in the 2-year reconstruction of Hobbiton for The Hobbit they used permanent materials and now keep the 12-acre set maintained. It took just 12 days to film the Hobbit trilogy.

Hobbiton vegetable garden

vegetable patch between hobbit holes

In between The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit the movie set sat empty and abandoned. It was only after filming The Hobbit trilogy that it became a tourist attraction.

hobbit house with garden

hobbit hole behind flowers

During the tour we walked through the set where hobbit holes dot the hillside. Each one is staged with different things out front. One had jars of honey, another painting supplies, and yet another had fish hanging to dry. All had little gardens with flowers and round doors and windows.

hobbit hole

cozy home for a hobbit

Some had clotheslines with their little laundry hanging out to dry. Between the hobbit holes some areas had vegetable gardens. One area had fruit trees which the guide said were actually apple trees, but for the movie they hung artificial plums on the trees for a 5-second scene. Mostly the pathways wound their way between the hobbit holes, but here and there a path crossed over a bridge.

Sam lives here

Sam’s home on Bagshot Row

Near the end of the hobbit holes we came to a group of 3 called Bagshot Row. The one with a yellow door belonged to Sam in the Lord of the Rings.

Green Dragon Inn on Hobbiton movie set

The Green Dragon Inn is a fully functional restaurant

After making our way through the hobbit’s living areas we crossed the big stone bridge past the mill. The mill had a working waterwheel. The Green Dragon Inn sat on the other side of the bridge and everyone on our tour was given a complementary beverage of their choice.

Green Dragon Inn at Hobbiton

bar inside the Green Dragon

Options included several beers or non-alcoholic ginger beer. Outside behind the inn under canvas pavilions cruise ship passengers were also each given a large scone and a dessert where options included coconut covered cake squares called lamingtons, a regional favorite we first discovered at the airport in Fiji on a previous vacation and later saw in Australia.

hobbit house

hobbit hole

Cruise ship passengers can book the tour on their ship. Visitors to Matamata or Rotorua can catch tour busses there. People can also drive to the farm on their own. Hobbiton is just one of 20 sites New Zealand has scattered around the country where different scenes from the movies were filmed.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2017
Posted in Arcadia, New Zealand, P&O, Ports of Call, Shore Excursions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

How to Fold a Towel Bear

towel origami

towel bear on Carnival Vista

Supplies Needed to Make a Towel Bear

1 Bath towel

1 Hand towel

Eyes – eyes can be paper, felt, googly eyes, or whatever you have that works

Use white towels to make a polar bear, black towels to make a black bear, or brown towels to make a grizzly bear.

How to Fold a Towel Bear Body

towel art

fold over long sides of towel, then fold over short ends

Lay the bath towel out flat. Fold both long sides over several inches. Fold over ends of both short sides.

towel animal folding

rolling both short ends to the center

Roll both short ends to center.

towel bear folding directions

after rolling both ends to the center fold at the middle with these rolls on the outside

Fold rolled towel in half with rolls to the outside.

making a towel bear

set the folded towel bear body with one roll on top of the other

Set folded towel with one roll on top the other. Set aside and make the bear’s head.

How to Make a Towel Bear Head

making a towel bear

fold the hand towel in half short way across the center

Lay the hand towel out flat. Fold in half short way across center.

making towel animals

fold down corners from center of folded end

From the center of the folded edge, fold corners to center making two triangles on a towel with a pointed end.

flip towel over so folds are underneath, then turn up straight end

Turn towel over so folds are on underside then fold over straight edge.

making a towel bear

fold the straight end over two more times

Roll folded straight edge 2 more times for a total of three folds on that end. At this point it should have the point sticking out beyond the rolls and the folds from the edges of the triangle folds that were turned to the underside sticking up at the back of the roll.

step by step towel animal folding

fold at the center with the rolled part on the outside

Fold in half at center with roll to the outside to form head.

Assembling the Towel Bear

towel bear

assembled towel bear

Place head into center of folded body. Close body over the neck and position as desired.

easy towel bear

finished towel polar bear

Add eyes and any other desired decorations to finish the bear.

More Towel Bears:

How to Fold Towel Bear

Original Towel Bear

how to fold a bear with one towel

one towel teddy bear

One Towel Teddy Bear

Original Towel Bear

For other towel animals visit My Cruise Stories Towel Animal Page.

 

 

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Rhodes, Greece

cruise ship in Greece

Carnival Vista in Rhodes, Greece

Carnival Vista docked a short walk from the old town walled city in Rhodes, Greece. Rhodes is a great port for just getting off the ship and doing things on your own. We didn’t get far on the walk to town before coming across a hop on hop off bus. This bus makes a loop around the touristy area of the island. It goes up to the acropolis and along a hilltop road with a panoramic view of the sea from both sides of the road. We could see the ship from up there. The bus goes down to a public beach where some people got off to spend the day. Then it went into the old town area. Old town has lots of gates in and out of the city’s wall and all sorts of old structures including a castle. You can also walk along the waterfront outside the city gates.

tourist bus

Hop On Hop Off bus in Rhodes, Greece

Greece is a great place for tourists because a lot of things there don’t cost much. The hop on hop off bus cost just 12 euros each. Its route wasn’t as long as in some places, but it did have a pretty good island tour with some good viewpoints along the way and stops at several places with things to see or do.

ruins in scaffolding

ruins of temple columns at Rhodes Acropolis – in scaffolding like many European ruins

Athens isn’t the only place in Greece with an acropolis, though it is the most famous one. An acropolis is a citadel built on elevated ground, which is where ancient Greeks liked to build their temples. We got off the bus to see the one in Rhodes. There’s not a lot left of the temple structure and what there is had scaffolding around it. Scaffolding around ancient things seemed pretty common around the areas of Europe we visited throughout this cruise.

Rhodes Olympic Stadium

looking down on the Olympic stadium

The acropolis in Rhodes doesn’t look like much from the bus, but if you get off there the area has enough to see to keep occupied until the next bus comes by. There’s a good portion of an ancient Olympic stadium down in a hollow besides the few columns from a temple up on the hilltop.

building near Rhodes acropolis

this building has restrooms and a pictorial display of various ancient sports

It’s nowhere near as impressive as the acropolis in Athens, but still worth getting off the bus for. In the building with the bathrooms there’s a little alcove with all sorts of pictures and information about early Greek sports. Besides running they also had things like wrestling, boxing, discus throwing, and swimming. One thing all these sports had in common in the drawings – the participants were all male – and naked.

semi sub

semi-sub in Rhodes, Greece

We got off the bus again a couple stops before old town in a little touristy area by the waterfront. There we found the Poseidon semi-sub, advertised on a sign for 10 euros each. Since we were first to sign up for the next ride they let us on for 5. Way less than semi sub excursions cost in the Caribbean. We walked around the area a bit before time for the semi sub ride.

semi sub

inside the semi-sub

With everyone up top the boat took a tour around the harbor and near to the cruise ship before having everyone go into the underwater windowed area below the deck. At first it went slowly along with fish and seagrass in view. A large school of small fish followed the semi-sub, accustomed to having a good feed when it stops for the diver show. A semi-sub is a boat with an underwater viewing chamber. It does not submerge like a true submarine.

diver show

diver from the semi sub

Unfortunately we sat on the right and most of the action happened on the left. The diver did get around to our side eventually, but before he got in the water all the fish stayed on the other side, which was also where they dropped food in. After swimming around the boat with the school of fish the diver found a lobster and brought that by the windows. Then he came by with a GoPro camera and took photos of the people inside –  available free on facebook several days later.

walled city gate

gate into the old-town walled city

Once the boat started moving some people went back up and some stayed down below watching underwater scenery for awhile until it got going too fast to see any fish.

old church ruins

ruins of the Church of the Virgin of the Burgh, a 14th century church inside the old walled city on Rhodes – with Vista photo bombing in an arch in the wall on the left side of the picture

From there it was a very short walk to the next stop at old town and not far after that back to the ship. There were things to see along the shore so we didn’t bother getting back on the bus. The wall has quite a few gates. You can get back to the ship along the shore outside of the gates or through town inside. There are windmills in the area where we got off, a lighthouse closer to the ship, and a castle up on a hill. We were three stops away from where we got on by the ship and it was not too long of a walk from there. Anyone without mobility issues could see a lot just by walking around old town without any transportation beyond their own two feet.

old church in Rhodes

church in old town Rhodes

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2017
Posted in Carnival, Europe, Ports of Call, Vista | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Oceanview Obstructed Room

Ruby Princess cruise ship

Ruby Princess in Seattle

Oceanview obstructed rooms come in several varieties depending on what ship you find them on. The most common sort reside behind the lifeboats on ships that have passenger cabins on the deck where lifeboats are stored. Some ships also have rooms in the obstructed view category where the railing of a public deck blocks a portion of the view from windows of rooms behind that public walkway. Ruby Princess has obstructed view rooms in both those categories with the majority behind lifeboats. A few ships also have passenger cabins on the promenade deck where some have their view blocked partially or completely by the ship’s structure around the outside walkway. Ruby Princess has none of those. It has no cabins on the main promenade deck area and the few cabins it has on the upper area of the promenade deck are not classified as obstructed view.

cruise ship cabin

oceanview obstructed cabin E520 with a view of port buildings in Seattle

We booked the obstructed view room on the Ruby Princess because it cost significantly less than an oceanview room with a full view. Because we had 3 people our options for cabins were limited to those that sleep more than 2, which eliminated the majority of cabins from the selection. Hoping for a better view I picked one between lifeboats rather than directly behind it, the only available one being E520 so that’s the one we chose. We did have enough space between the boats to get a pretty good view of the scenery. We also got a view of several crew guys working on some tanks outside our window for several days during the cruise.

obstructed view

one of those little tanks had people working on it for several days

Cruise ships have two sorts of lifeboats, the ones used as tenders to ferry passengers back and forth to the dock when the ship anchors at a port that doesn’t have it’s own larger tenders, and the sort that are lifeboats only. From underneath walking around on the promenade deck you can tell which ones are the tenders because they have double hulls like a catamaran with propellers on each side. The regular lifeboats have single hulls and one propeller in the center. We were behind the tenders, which are also taller than the regular lifeboats. It looked as though our neighbors directly behind the tenders would have no view at all unless they could see through the windows of the tender.

obstructed view windows from the outside

windows above the smaller lifeboats

On the Ruby Princess the promenade deck’s outside walkway goes most of the way around the ship directly under the lifeboats. At the bow however, it has stairways and you complete the journey on the upper promenade at the bow of the emerald deck. From there we could see that the windows of the rooms behind the shorter lifeboats were actually mostly above rather than behind the lifeboats so the rooms behind boats other than tenders would get at least a partial view.

how to fit more people into a cruise ship cabin

at night the steward put a bunk down

Our cabin had 2 lower beds, 2 wall-mounted drop down bunks, a desk with a chair, and a small table. The area directly across from the bathroom had an open closet area rather than separate closets with doors, which probably made more hanging space. We brought extra hangers because even with two people in the room there are never enough. Sometimes I ask the steward for extra hangers, but this time we needed way more than we would want to ask them to provide.

storage

big open closet and small closet with door and shelves

There was also a small closet with a door next to the bathroom, which had lots of shelves and the cabin safe. It’s always a good idea to keep passports in the safe because if you were ever to get left behind in port that’s where they would look for them. Other storage included a cupboard with two shelves under the desk, two nightstands with two drawers each, and 3 shelves at one end of the desk. It just so happened that the little closet had 6 shelves so everything divided by 3 perfectly and my sisters and I each had several places to put our things.

magnets come in handy on cruise ships

magnetic walls make organizing paperwork easy

The cabin had magnetic walls, which makes keeping paperwork organized easy if you bring magnets. The cabin also had 3 outlets, though I also had a power bar as I expected just one since that is what most cruise ship cabins have. It had two by the desk and one near the TV. The cabin also had a little refrigerator behind a cupboard type door under the TV stand.

not the best, but a view

view between the lifeboats

We had enough of a view through our window that we could see Sumdum glacier as we passed by early on the morning of our glacier cruising day. Of course saying you saw Sumdum glacier is a lot funnier than writing it because people think you said some dumb glacier and wonder why you bothered to go to Alaska if you don’t care to see glaciers. We spent most of the glacier cruising time on the upper promenade deck. It was very cold and made us wish we’d brought long johns, but it had a great view and hardly any other people.

cabin with window at public walkway

Cabin L104, one of 4 oceanview obstructed rooms at the bow on the Lido deck

While a full view is nicer, the obstructed view cabin is a great compromise between paying less and seeing the outside from the cabin – as long as you choose carefully and get a room with at least a partial view.

cruise ship cabin

from the window end of our room you see the desk and TV – and the window in the mirror

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2017

 

Posted in Alaska, Princess, Ruby Princess, Shipboard Life | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Chankanaab Park in Cozumel

Cozumel, Mexico

Carnival Breeze in Cozumel

Cozumel has no shortage of things to do when cruise ships come to port.  We’ve stopped there on quite a few cruises and always found something different to do.  This Mexican island has much more to offer that we haven’t yet done, not only in Cozumel itself, but at Chankanaab Park.  The park has more to do within its boarders then most people could fit in within one day.

near the park entrance

Chankanaab Park

On our last visit to Cozumel we took a lazy beach day at Sky Reef.  As the taxi passed Chankanaab on the way there the driver mentioned that it only cost $25 to get into the park so we decided to try it out on our next visit on the Carnival Breeze. The cab ride there cost just $12 for two people (a bit more because we always tip.) The basic entry fee cost just $21 rather than the $25 the taxi driver said. For more money we could have added on extra things, but there is a lot to do with just the basic entry fee.

crocodile

crocodile

Once inside the park you can walk around and look at things, go to the sea lion show, or wander through the botanical gardens and look at crocodiles, replicas of Mayan ruins and a replica Mayan village.

inland saltwater pond

Chankanaab lagoon

Several different areas throughout the park have a view of the large saltwater lagoon the Mayans called Chankaanab meaning small sea which gives the park its name.

performing sea lions

Sea Lion show

The sea lion show is included with the basic entry fee. Trained sea lions perform with each one doing different tricks.

The park has a big beach with lots of beach chairs under palaypas and a few hammocks hanging in trees. Stairways lead into the snorkeling area, which is free to use if you have your own gear.  If not they have rental gear available. A sign by the stairway said snorkel vests are required for children so for once I could snorkel freely without my arch-nemesis, the dreaded snorkel vest. (It is easier to float on the surface of salt water than it is to dive underneath it and even uninflated snorkel vests are annoying, but many places require them on everyone.)

Chankanaab Park

hammocks at the beach

The water at the bottom of the stairs is already pretty deep so the snorkel area isn’t really suitable for small children unless they can swim at least well enough to control where they go with the snorkel vest keeping them afloat. It’s also open to waves and currents if it’s not a calm day for the sea. There is a little inlet with a nice sandy beach near the dolphin area where kids can wade or swim in shallow water more protected from waves. There’s also a pool in the park. Lockers are available for rent near the inlet and by the dive shacks on the beach.

stairway at the beach

a little sergeant major fish swims at the stairway into the sea

Rock formations line the beach in the snorkel area, but a series of stairways provide access to the water. There’s not much to see right by the shore other than a few small fish, but out a bit from shore there are reefs and lots of fish. Some of the bigger fish will follow snorkelers around and a lot of them will swim close by. There’s a raft thing anchored  off the shore for people to climb up on if they want out of the water for awhile.

Chankanaab Park, Cozumel

here some fish swim to you instead of away

I saw a bright blue fish, a lighter blue fish chasing another fish around, several schools of fish bunched up like a bait ball, and lots of other fish swimming around. Most of the action took place near a tall reef, probably anchored on a large rock. Larger fish swam mainly above the reefs.

Chankanaab underwater

lots of fish hung around this reef at Chankanaab

The park had many other things people could do if they wanted to spend more money. A lot of things cost $60. They had a zip line, a sea trek in underwater helmets, clear bottomed kayaks, dolphin swim or encounter, and manatees. Food and souvenirs cost extra of course, but the restrooms and showers are free. There’s also a natural spa and a tequila museum and tasting area.

Mayan huts

Replica Mayan village

Like Cozumel itself, this park could keep you coming back to try different things. Sometimes really different things like the human sphere which somewhat resembles a giant hamster ball. It even has an underwater cave open to certified divers.

botanical garden

flowers in the garden

Other blogs from Cozumel:  Tulum Mayan Ruins, Palancar Snorkel, Atlantis Submarine, Cave Snorkel, Sky Reef Beach, Playa Mia Beach Park.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2017
Posted in Breeze, Caribbean, Carnival, Mexico, Ports of Call | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments