*I hope you all understand what I am going to say.*
Places I wouldn’t dare eat at here in the U.S. are somewhat a non-issue when I am overseas.
Living in America has spoiled me in that I have a variety of restaurant options to choose from at any time. The ‘hole in the wall’ establishments and the food trucks here in the U.S. don’t receive my support. Looks good? Yeah. Smells good? Hecka Yeah? Tempting? Nah. I like a certain aesthetic appeal in where I choose to dine, plus, it gives me the peace of mind that my food’s possibly being handled and prepared appropriately.
When I am in another country, that standard’s laid to rest, mainly because the food’s fresher and it tastes SO MUCH BETTER! On top of this, I know that some other countries don’t have the strict regulations that we are supposed to have in the U.S. due to politics and funding. Yay to eating overseas!!!
Street Food in San Pedro, Belize
Banana and Nutella Crepe in Paris, France from a Food Truck
I was uncertain about sailing again on the smooth jazz cruise after my 2011 trip, primarily because…I really didn’t care for the Holland America cruise line…at all. (Backtrack here to read why). Now don’t get me wrong, I am not singling out Holland America, because you couldn’t pay me to go on another Carnival cruise either (I’ll get to this story in the future) and this was before they made headlines in the news. The only cruise line I’ve had a positive, memorable experience on was Royal Caribbean (I’ll get to this story in the future, too, ha ha).
When the 2012 cruise line choice (Holland America again), ports of call (same as 2011, except St Barths instead of St. John) and the artist announcements were made for the sailing in 2012, I was like ummmm…no. As much as I loved the music and meeting my favorite artists, I couldn’t justify going again…until curiosity killed the cat (and my wallet).
I decided to just casually browse the website one day and to my amazement, they removed some artists (that I didn’t want to see) and ADDED THREE that I absolutely had to see- Peter White, Brian Culbertson and Euge Groove. Unfortunately, the ports of call and the cruise line didn’t change, but these three added artists made up for it tremendously. What’s even more special is I interviewed one and had my own personal serenade from another!!!
Brian Culbertson and me, agai
I wasn’t able to get a ‘snap snap’ with Euge Groove around the ship, but that’s okay. Two out of three certainly isn’t bad.
In addition to taking pictures with my two favorite smooth jazz artists, I was lucky enough to interview one and have a wonderful song played to me by another. Check out the videos below!!!
Some of my other favorite smooth jazz/ neo soul artists that were on the cruise I was able to harass (j/k) for pictures included:
Eric Darius and me
Rahsaan Patterson and me
Brian Simpson, Music Director of the Smooth Jazz Cruise
We all know you MUST pack, but what are some things youjust HAVE to have done before you can comfortably leave your home for your vacation? For me, I MUST clean my house and I mean vacuum, mop, dust, wash clothes, etc. If I don’t,my life is incomplete (so dramatic, I know).
What about you? Must you forward your mail?Tell your neighbors of your plans?Take off a few daysfrom work in preparation of your trip?
It happened once again. My mouth overruled my brain’s warning that shouted, ‘don’t mention your upcoming out of the country plans to these people!’ Will I ever learn the concept of mind over mouthing?
Here’s how the conversation went down:
Debbie Downer 1: Have you been out of the country lately?
Fearless me: No.
*here is where my mind said, ‘she asked if you have been out of the country lately, NOT if you are going out of the country soon. There’s no need to tell her or the people around her about your plans. It’s not neces…’
Outburst having me: I am going back to Honduras soon, though.
My brain’s image after saying the above:
Debbie Downer 1: Don’t go by yourself!!!
Fearless me: I’ve been by myself twice already. What’s the big deal?
Debbie Downer 2: YOU HEARD ABOUT THAT WOMAN WHO was by herself that GOT KILLED in another country recently…
At this point, my mind told my mouth to say, ‘and YOU heard about that woman who got killed right around the corner from your home, my home, her home, etc, right?’ but once again, I didn’t obey it. I kept quiet, which is what I should’ve done after Debbie Downer’s original question.
I don’t understand why people love to ignore that crimes happen everywhere. No country, big or small is immune to tragedy.
When I traveled to New York, Philadelphia, Miami, San Diego, Chicago, I never got these warnings of impending doom. Matter of fact, I would hear ‘oh, I have a cousin-whose-sister’s-uncle lives there’, or ‘have a ball’ or the ‘I am going to shop there in so-in-so month’ remarks.
The crazy thing is these two women reside in a city that many outsiders don’t want to visit due to the ‘another 48 hours’ crime show! Hilarity!
You all love me, right? Well, I love you all, too, and I respect your opinion about this crucial decision. My first, solo voyage to Roatan was super rushed due to last minute arrangements and uncertain time off availability on my job. I was trying to figure out how to cram activities into 3 full days when I saw this submarine expedition and I was soooo stocked about it! Problem? Well, I didn’t have that much time and definitely not enough money (the cheapest expedition was $400). Well, I am headed back to my love soon and will be staying for 2 weeks (I WILL get it in, ha ha)! I am going to make sure my time in Roatan will be fulfilling to the max this time.
Okay, here’s where I need your overflow of love for me. I consider myself pretty adventurous (hey, remember I did the sea plane tour of Roatan AND I travel solo), but this expedition makes me super anxious and I haven’t even reserved anything yet! Click here to see what the heck has me shook up.
As you can see, you can do a variety of deep sea tours. I am only considering the 1,000 feet tour at this time because it’s $400 and I will be that deep in the sea for only 1 hour and 30 minutes. The six gill shark tour would be AWESOME, but…that joker’s $1500 AND you are in the sea for about 5-9 hours! No sir/ma’am, that’s okay. The pictures are enough
So what say you? Should I do it? Should I just imagine doing it? Would you do it? If so, which expedition would you choose? Would you be scared, like I am now? (I can literally see myself tearing up entering into this joker.) Check out the praise reviews herefrom tripadvisor.com.
If you’ve ever booked a cruise or any other trip online, you’re usually able to access the website, select your options, pay the cost, and instantly receive a confirmation. Imagine my shock when I tried to do just this to book my first, 2011 smooth jazz cruise. I honestly thought I was overlooking something, some page, some direction, SOMETHING, but I wasn’t. At that time, in order to sail on this wonderful cruise, you had to send emails and/or call the cruise coordinators.
What kinda back alleys mess is this? I thought, lol. I couldn’t help but wonder if this whole trip was some sort of scam; however, my excitement to finally interact with some of my favorite smooth jazz musicians and hear real, live, unadulterated tunes trumped the doubting thoughts that were plaguing me.
I did it. I sure did- I booked the cruise and thankfully, it wasn’t a scam, ha ha. The coordinators were so pleasant, cooperative and knowledgeable while communicating via both email and via phone with me. With the deposit paid, flight booked, and the final payment confirmed, I was about get my smooth groove on! *In my best country, southern voice* Come on, give me your hand chile (child), as I share my views, pictures and videos of this fantastic voyage witcha.
Maybe I Should’ve Flown Into Miami Instead… and paid the expensive cab fare to Ft. Lauderdale.
I’ve stated this ad naseum on my blog already, *here and here* but if you somehow missed it- I HATE Fort Lauderdale’s airport. I flew to it because 1.) it was my first time flying there 2.) that’s where the ship was docked and 3.)being that flights have a time mind of their own, I didn’t want to risk missing my boarding time. Anyway, you and I are hand in hand still and you are waiting to see what I want to show you, right? Right! Cool.
The performance of the first night belonged to Gerald Albright and Johnathan Butler.
Johnathan Butler performing
Played A Little Bingo the Next Day, and Guess Who I Saw? while I didn’t win any of the games, I still got my picture snap on!
This day was designated for everyone to wear their smooth jazz cruise shirts and have a little fun on the deck.
Gerald Albright and I
On Semi Dry Land(Bahamas (Nassau and Half Moon Cay), St. Thomas and Tortola)
The Bahamas. Nice island, but if you’re like me, you have been on plenty of cruises where the first stop is no other than Nassau. I didn’t get off of the ship to venture around due to the aforementioned plus in 2010, I took my mother there for her 50th birthday. I was Nassau’ed out.; however, Exhuma and Eleutra are on my bucket list, but I digress. Performers that night were the LEGENDS- David Sanborn and George Duke!
Unlike with Nassau, I looked forward to visiting St. Thomas because my girl (hey DreaDay!) resided there at the time and we were able to connect. Boney James was the musician of that night and he flew into the island for his performance later that evening; therefore, the ship stayed in St. Thomas from 8am until 12 midnight! Boney James has that kinda power, lol. Jeff Golub (super great guitarist) was in concert with Boney James that night, too.
While everyone ranted and raved about Coki Beach, I found more peace and pleasure at Emerald Beach! DreaDay introduced me to Fraco’s. It was the first time I had a snow cone with condensed milk. Still trying to figure out if I really liked it or not. Veggie Food!
DreaDay dragged me (just kidding) to her favorite vegan restaurant on the island, Natural Livitiy Kulcha and Juice Bar. Although I am not a fan of tofu-ish types of meats, it was MUCH better than the food served on the ship!
Jeff Golub and I before his performance
While the food was tasteless on the cruise, the 7 (or 8…or 9) strawberry dacquiri’s I gulped were SCRUMPTIOUS!
Still A’ Cruisin’ How could I forget to mention one crucial piece of information about why I love the smooth jazz cruise! I consider myself a true smooth jazz fan and when some unaware person tells me they enjoy this genre, but can only mention one artist which is Kenny G, I cringe. The same way I cringe when there’s a ‘smooth jazz fest’ but most of the artists are known for performing rhythm and blues. On this cruise, however, 95% of the musicians have dedicated their lives to jazz, so it wasn’t too much of a disappointment when Brian McKnight came was a featured guest performer, plus he’s known to belt out mellow tunes on jazz albums. (Run on, I know )
OH- MY- WORD!!! I have to give this performer a gold star. Now, please don’t get me wrong (especially if there are smooth jazz artists reading this entry), everyone on the cruise was wonderful, but this guy below TOOK THE SHOW! I’ve always loved Richard Elliot, but seeing him perform live was absolutely phenomenal. Readers, if you are ever in an area and he’s in concert, you must see him!
For the final stop, the ship was supposed to cruise back to the Bahamas to visit a private island, Half Moon Cay, but thanks to the wonderful wind (YAY! NOT) it didn’t happen. Instead, we circled around and around on the ocean where it was more stable. I was really looking forward to visiting this place then, but I got my chance the next year That night in the main auditorium, Mr. Marcus Miller and Miss Candy Dulfer delighted our ears to some smooth melodies.
It would be so nice to have a job that grants me so much free time to travel at will, but as of right now, I am stuck saying ‘that would be so nice.’ If you’re like me, you work a full-time job with limited and restricted opportunities for taking vacation time. Well, what are you to do when you’ve saved your money and have excitedly made future plans to travel to Switzerland, but uncertain about your job approving the time off? Here are my tips:
Obviously, you must first check if you will have the time available so that you can take off, get paid during the process and won’t receive penalties from your employer.
After you’ve decided what country you’d like to explore, write a list and separate it by two columns: one that involves when the experts advise tourists to visit/not visit and the other that involves when it would be best for you to visit based on your employer’s suggestion. For the latter, have up to 3 options for days or week(s).
When you present your requests to your manager/supervisor, start with the first choice of days/week(s). If denied, go to your 2nd or 3rd.
Try to get the requests in early. Each company is different- some require a year’s advance for time off requests, some a month, based on seniority or priority, etc. Know your company’s design.
If you want the most out of your voyage, do what I do: split your week(s). Instead of taking full week(s) (and possibly spend your entire approved time off) , take 3-4 days off one month and the remainder off another month. This can result in you visiting more countries that year. This tip is especially for those who are rejected from receiving entire week(s) off as desired.
Some companies require you to bid against other employees for time off, even if you have enough days available. When bidding against those with more seniority/priority than you, examine your co-worker’s lifestyle. Are they single? Married with children? Single parents with children? Engaged? This can assist you in determining your vacation days to request and improve your chances of getting what you want. Most families vacation during spring break, holidays and the summer. Once you’ve figured out what months/weeks/days your co-workers will request, you can go from there.
Once approved, maintain a paper trail and print any info that will benefit you just in case there’s an issue with your absence later. NEVER accept a verbal approval.
When all else fails (I hope not!), go individually to those you know have the days/week(s) you need. You’ll never know- they might’ve picked those times with no actual plans in mind anyway.
Do you have information you’d like to share about planning and taking time off from work for vacationing? If so, please comment below! My readers and I would love to hear about them