Life At Sea

Endless sea and sunset

Before I jump into the activities and adventures we did and had in our ports of call, I thought I would clear up the notion of a Sea Day. Until I took my first cruise, the idea of days at sea with nothing to do troubled me. I thought I would be bored. I assumed days floating at sea would be a waste of time and money. Many of my friends who have said they would never take a cruise vacation claim the “wasted days at sea” as their reason. I get it. I felt the same way until I had a day when I had nothing to do, no one to answer to, nowhere to rush off to, and the freedom to do exactly and only what I felt like doing. How many days do adults get like that in their busy lives? Not many.

A day at sea allows you to truly relax. It does not mean you will lack for things to do. Many cruise ships are like floating theme parks with water slides and zip lines and climbing walls. Cruises on Celebrity are aimed more at an adult crowd, though, so their sea day amenities are more about pools, spa treatments, casino time, and fine dining, but the lack of children tearing through the passageways and screaming and splashing at the pool more than make up for that. Cruise directors load the day with potential activities for those who want more and are looking for distraction. There are lectures and art classes, wine tastings and friendly on-board competitions (passenger versus crew pool volleyball and putting tournaments, for example). There are movies and games and ship tours too. At night there are karaoke sing-offs, live music performances, theater shows, comedians, and plenty of opportunities for dancing. If none of that appeals, you can read a book or nap in a deck chair facing the sea or play cards or watch for sea life. We enjoyed searching for dolphin pods and seeing them race and jump and flip alongside the ship. If you get bored at sea, you have no one to blame but yourself.

One activity that costs extra but is well worth the investment is a behind-the-scenes ship tour.Our tour took us through the galleys and into the belly of the ship where food is stored. We learned about how the ship processes recyclables and waste, does epic amounts of laundry, plans their shopping, and stores the food for the journey. On our ship, there were 1500 people employed for food preparation and service alone. We learned about what cruise life is like for those who live on the ship and work in its service. We visited the engine room and learned about what powers the ship and keeps it running smoothly and on time. The final stop on the tour was to the bridge where we learned about what training the captain and officers undertake for their careers, as well as how they bring these huge ships into port. It was fascinating.

When we finished our ship tour, we grabbed some lunch, gawked at the desserts, and then went to a wine tasting with premium wines and cheeses. After that, we sat on deck and enjoyed the view and the peace and each other’s company until it was time to dress for dinner and head to the Raw on 5 restaurant for Joe’s birthday dinner choice….sushi. We topped off our day with some silent disco because why not?

If the notion of a sea day or two on a cruise, where your every need is catered to, vexes you, perhaps it’s time to reassess your priorities. Do you not deserve a day where you don’t have to cook, clean, or care for anything or anyone other than yourself? Have you not earned a day or two with no obligations and thoughtfully prepared, delicious meals served with whatever cocktail calls to you? Come on. Live a little. Become reacquainted with yourself. When the sea day is over and you wake the next morning to find yourself in another exotic port of call, rested and ready to explore, you realize this is why you took this vacation. You’ve let yourself go in the best way possible.

The silent disco is a vibe

The Cats of Italy and Greece

My family returned late yesterday afternoon after a glorious 11 days in Italy and Greece. I’m jet lagged, watching a Stanley Cup Final game, and not feeling 100%, but I have a plethora of photos from our travel and thought I would go ahead and share some. So, in this light-and-fluffy post (quite literally light and fluffy), I submit for your viewing pleasure the cats of Italy and Greece. And in the upcoming days, I’ll write about the our travels and the memories we made on this family trip celebrating our youngest’s high school graduation and our oldest’s 21st birthday.

Find the cat

We started taking photos of cats (and some dogs) on this trip when we came across the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary in central Rome. I had no idea such a thing existed or we would have made a point of finding our way to it rather than just stumbling across it. The sanctuary, which has been in existence since cats moved into the excavated area of Torre Argentina in 1929, relies on donations to stay afloat. Approximately 125 cats a year are adopted into loving families through the efforts of the sanctuary every year. If you want to support their mission, you can do so here. I took this photo of a lone cat resting on a wall in the ruins. I was pretty proud of my effort. A couple days later, Joe showed me this.

Hope he has at least one of those nine lives left

I mean, seriously? Santorini is pure magic. Joe’s composition here was on point. Of course, his brother would tell you he gets at least partial credit for spotting the cat in the first place. We found so many cats to photograph in Greece, both of feral and the family varieties. Without our dogs to provide our daily dose of furry love, we substituted the cats we met along our journey.

Shade seeker in Rhodes on a hot, sunny day

When we arrived in Rhodes, the cat competition took off. It seemed we couldn’t turn a corner without finding another feral cat that needed to be captured by our iPhones.

Although Rhodes was fertile ground for our cat photos, we hit the jackpot when we arrived in Mykonos Town. So, so many cute cats in one of the most photogenic locations of our vacation. Joe and I disputed who took the better photo of this cat. I will grant that Joe’s composition is better, but I like my photo’s focus on the cat rather than its place in the environment because ginger kitty pops on that whitewashed step when he is the focus.

But we weren’t finished battling it out yet. The photo opportunities kept coming.

This next cat, though, he took the cake. Well, actually, he nearly took my phone. While I was trying to photograph him through the slats on a porch railing, he reached out and stuck his claws into my phone case. I went ahead and pressed the shutter button for him since he lacks opposable thumbs, and we ended up with this green-eyed kitty selfie (and some damage to my phone case). That is the price of art.

The eyes have it

So many cats, so little time in Greece. Anyone who knows me well, though, knows I am a dog person first and foremost. I can’t publish this post without giving a little love and attention to a canine furball. So I shall leave you with this fluffy pooch hitching a ride on a scooter. Man’s best friend indeed.

And Just Like That My Calendar Feels Like 2019

The pandemic. Am I right? I lived the vast majority of my life never using that word. I vaguely remember reading that word in history books once or twice before I hit 20, but that was as much as my brain ever considered a pandemic an actual thing. In the past two years, however, I don’t think I’ve gone an entire day without mentioning it. Honestly, I am sick of the word. Sick. O. It. I am almost as sick of the word as I am of not having a day alone in our house, watching my hands bleed from relentless hand washing and sanitizing, running out to buy more hand lotion, wearing masks, hearing people complain about wearing masks, getting vaccines, hearing people complain about getting vaccines, taking Covid tests, hearing people complain about taking Covid tests, and trying to explain how science works to others and remind myself about it, as well.

I know. I know. We are not out of the pandemic. (There’s that word again). No one has any idea when we might be out of it. So we are in limbo. We’re going on a cruise next month. At least, we think we’re going on a cruise next month. It all depends on whether we can manage to stay Covid-free between now and then, even as cases are on the upswing again. Now, if this was 2021, I’d say that would be no problem. We’d just hole up at home and skate our way onto the cruise with a clean bill of health. But this isn’t 2021. It’s 2022, and 2022 is apparently 2019 again. No masks. No crowd size limits. No restrictions whatsoever. It’s a free-for-all. Everything is back up and running. Sold out playoff hockey games. Sold out concerts. Parties. Dining out. It’s all back, baby. And we are here for it. We are SO here for it, so ready to be here for it, that our May calendar is packed. No lie. Here is is.

Oh, wait. I have one free day on 5/23. Woot!

As you can see from the tiny dot underneath every date (save 5/23) between now and May 31st, we have something going on every day between now and the end of the month. I plan to keep the 23rd open for the nervous breakdown I will be having. Why is our calendar so full? Well, let’s see. There’s senior prom and all our usual appointments for therapy and haircuts and doctor’s appointments and the like. Then hubby and I are flying to Pasadena to see a concert, booked a million years ago before we had anything on our calendar. We get back late on Sunday night and then Monday I load a different, pre-packed suitcase in the car and drive to Washington to pick up oldest son from his sophomore year at college and then drive the 1,085 miles back home across five states. Then it’s our youngest’s 19th birthday. Then there are graduation parties for friends’ children and more events for our own son’s graduation. We are going to another sold out concert (in our city this time) on the 24th. The 27th is my damn birthday, but that should be low-key because hubby and I are in class that entire weekend trying for get scuba certified. Then it’s basically June, and we have graduation practice and will have family in town. Then it is graduation and woohoo! We’re almost done! But we aren’t because we are hosting a graduation party for Luke and his friends. Then on the 6th we have to clean the house for the house/dog sitter, buy dog food for our security beasts, shop for what we need for the trip, find our passports, pack, get Covid tests to prove we can take the trip, upload results of said Covid tests to the Celebrity Cruises web site so they will let us board, and get on a plane to Rome on June 8th. Did I mention we still have a puppy who is, well, a puppy and a senior dog who is, well, not exactly a puppy? What the hell was I thinking? Finish strong and you can collapse on a boat? They have limoncello and ouzo where you are going? Hold on, sister. You can make it. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.

I realize this is a lot of sniveling from a white woman with an embarrassment of riches in the areas of wealth and good fortune, but it’s my full calendar and my introverted, whiny butt will complain about the lack of quiet, sit-in-bed-all-day time if it wants to.

Just please don’t remind me that in 2020 and 2021 I begged for my life to be, and I quote, “back to normal,” because of course I did. Who wasn’t wishing for that same thing after being stuck at home with spouses and children and pets for months on end? We all wanted out. Now we’re getting what we asked for. Don’t remind me I did this to myself. Of course I did. Be kind and please say a silent prayer to Jesus or Allah or Vishnu (or even the Flying Spaghetti Monster God of Pastafarianism) that my heart holds out, at least until we get to Santorini. Then I can die, exhausted, happy, and at peace at long last in an ouzo haze.

Puppy exhibiting how I can attempt to hide from those dirty obligations and celebrations

I Need Six Months Of Vacation Twice A Year

“I want to live in a world where searching for plane tickets burns calories.” ~Unknown

I have spent most of my day researching travel. We have a week picked out when we can skip town (or the country, as luck might have it) to celebrate Luke’s graduation from high school. We have a decent-sized budget for this trip and had originally considered going to Italy. We had two trips we were trying to decide between, one to the Amalfi Coast and one to the Cinque Terre and Tuscany. I spent a lot of time vacillating between those two before I found one in the French and Italian Alps that piqued our interest momentarily. We had a couple family FaceTime sessions, trying to get everyone’s input and buy in. For some reason, I still wasn’t able to pull the trigger. So I took a break for a few days. Then I tossed it all out the window and started looking at trips to Costa Rica or Belize. Then I thought maybe we could take the boys to Machu Picchu. After that, I landed on Iceland and was busy researching that before I came to my senses and decided I didn’t want to go anywhere I might need cold weather gear. And all the back and forth and hemming and hawing landed me squarely in analysis paralysis.

Then tonight, for giggles and also apparently because I was trying to avoid writing this post, I started searching Mediterranean cruises because I am certifiable. And there, on the Celebrity Cruises page, on the exact date on which we hoped to start our vacation, was a cruise leaving Rome and visiting Santorini, Rhodes, Mykonos, and Naples before landing back in Rome. Hold up. Hold up. Hold up. This was hitting all the boxes we’d previously discussed. Italy? Check. Pompeii. Check. Boat. Check. Swimming opportunities? Check. All-inclusive. Check. Within the budget? It appears to be. I floated the idea by Luke. He was thrilled. I asked Joe, and he said he was down. Steve too said it sounded like a good balance of relaxing and eventful. Is it possible that all four of us agreed on something? Might my relentless search finally be relenting? I crossed my fingers and took a deep breath.

There were all sorts of things I should have done today rather than sitting at the kitchen island obsessing over air fare and trip insurance. But not one of them would have been more interesting or a better escape from the news. And, in the end, if it gets us out of the country for the first time since 2019 and we get to go on an adventure, it won’t have been a wasted day at all.