Back to my roots

Hi folks! Boy, it’s been a while. I took a much needed break from this little blog and…pretty much everything. In retrospect, I think that I had a big-time travel hangover. The idea of editing pictures just felt overwhelming because I came back from my trip pretty much flat out exhausted…

BUT today is a new day and we’re in a new month and I finally feel like I’m ready to jump back into life with both feet. For starters, I’m going to bring the blog all the way back to where it started: training for a race. Six years ago, the Daily Cynema launched to document my training, my meal plans, and my travels. I miss the focus that came with documenting and contemplating my progress.

As inducement/motivation, I’ve signed up for two half marathons over the next ten months.  First up is the Cherokee Harvest Half Marathon in October.

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I’ve also signed up for the Wolf Double in June of 2015, which is a half marathon in Grand Teton National Park followed by a 5K in Yellowstone one week later.

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I’m going to FINALLY post the last of my pictures from my trip to the Tetons last year. Those mountains were the most peaceful place I have ever visited in my life and I cannot.wait.to.go.back.

In other news, my right hip has been nagging me for about a year now and I finally went to a Sports Medicine Clinic to have it checked out. The good news is that it doesn’t look like it’s anything serious. The bad news is that I have a pretty long road of Physical Therapy ahead of me to get back to 100%. What does that mean? Well, I’m not sure how much of the Harvest Half I’ll actually be running versus walking, but that’s okay. The important thing is that I’m back in the game. I’ve pretty much taken 6 months off from everything so that I could rest and heal so it’s going to be a long, slow climb back to peak fitness.

Truth be told, it feels so good to have decided to commit to an active lifestyle again. Let’s do this!

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Zucchini Blossom and Feta Omelette

Greetings from Greece! We’re in the middle of our summer holiday where I’ve been beaching it with the kids and furiously finishing the last chapters of my book. I’d taken a wee hiatus from bogging –and from the Internet in general– with the intention of catching everyone up on our adventures when we returned to the states. And yet here I am; compelled to hop on the blog to tell you something that has blown my mind.

Zucchini blossoms.

Before I delve into the joys and wonder of this edible flower, I should remind you that I know next to nothing about growing my own produce. If you’ve been reading here for a while, you already know that my knowledge of growing things is pretty much limited to herbs and the hardest-to-kill house plants. I have always wanted to attempt a garden of my own, but haven’t made it a priority.

Here on the island, however, we have the luxury of enjoying a well-developed garden without having to deal with the planting. Since my parents are here for only three months, they have someone plant the garden months before they arrive so that when we get here, it’s bounty is plentiful. Along with zucchini, we have cucumbers, bell peppers, eggplant, hot peppers, green onions and cherry tomatoes. If you also consider the cherry, pear and apricot trees that produce, we can exist almost solely on what we grow.

Okay, back to the zucchini blossoms. If you’ve ever planted zucchini, you know that each plant produces an abundance of vegetables. Each zucchini grows at the stem of the flower (or so I hear) and by cutting the blossoms, you’re controlling the number of zucchini that you will have. This is a good thing because there are only so many zucchini that you can eat in any given week.  I’ll confess that I didn’t give eating the blossoms a second thought until a couple of weeks ago when we went to a restaurant run by my childhood friend. In typical Greek fashion, we ordered a dozen dishes (family-style) based on the recommendation of the chef. One of the dishes he brought out was a zucchini blossom stuffed with cheese and then fried. Oh. my. word. It was so decadent and delicious. As I was exclaiming my delight, my mom casually mentions that we have at least a dozen blossoms in the garden every morning.

Suddenly, my summer mission became clear: Learn how to cook zucchini blossoms a dozen different ways. The first recipe I wanted to share with you is this zucchini blossom and feta cheese omelette. It is honest to goodness the most delicious omelette I’ve ever had, which is saying something since I really don’t like the taste of eggs.

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The ingredients are simple: farm fresh eggs, a splash of milk, zucchini blossoms (one per egg), feta cheese, salt and pepper. (pretend that you see feta in the picture above)

First, crack your eggs into a deep bowl, add a splash of milk and beat with a fork until they’re well-blended and airy. Next, dice your zucchini blossoms (discarding the base) with a sharp knife and add them to the egg mixture.

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Crumble a chunk of feta cheese (I use about a one square inch piece per egg) in the egg mixture and season with salt and pepper. Mix everything together well and set aside.

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In a medium-hot pan, melt a tablespoon or two of butter.Add the egg mixture to the pan, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and be patient.

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The omelette is done when the middle is no longer runny.

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Serve it up with some feta cheese for garnish, then sit back and wait to be completely and utterly surprised at how tasty this is! Next up, I’m going to try to recreate the cheese-stuffed fried blossoms that started my obsession. I’ll keep you posted on the progress, but I’m determined to have nailed it before we leave in a couple of weeks. Cross your fingers!

 

Packing for Europe like a pro

Okay folks, this post has been a long time coming. If you’ve been reading here for a bit, you know that I travel. A LOT. Whether it’s three months in Greece or ten days in Hawaii, I have packing smartly down to a science. My next trip departs in 5 days and I’ll be heading to London, Paris and Munich for 16 days before heading over to Greece for 5 glorious weeks. Regardless of where I go, my guiding principles are as follows:

1. Always bring less than you think you need. When you’re getting dressed on any given day, I bet you gravitate towards the same 5 or 6 outfits. They’re probably comfortable, stylish, don’t bunch or ride up, and you feel good in them. Your closet is probably filled with things that you love on the hanger (or wearing for 5 minutes), but that you ultimately reject for one reason or another. When narrowing down what to pack, do not bring anything that falls into this second category. I promise that if you don’t wear it at home, you’re not going to wear it abroad.

2. You can buy almost anything in a pinch and chances are that you will. If you forget ___________ or you decide you should have brought one more ____________, I can almost guarantee that –unless you’re hiking through Kenya– you can probably find what you’re looking for wherever you’re traveling to. The last time that I spent two months in Paris, I had to buy a second suitcase to bring back all of the cute and cheap clothes that I bought during my stay. With that in mind, I generally recommend that you actually bring less than you’ll wear if you know that you’re the kind of person who likes to shop.

Okay, now that we’ve established the ground rules. I always, always, always start off with a packing list. If it’s not on the list, it doesn’t get packed, plain and simple. This serves two purposes. It keeps me organized once I’m there (I bring a copy of my packing list with me) and it keeps me from adding “just one more thing” x 10. I should add that this is generally the amount of stuff that I bring whether I’m traveling for a week or three months. You can always find a laundry facility and the way that I see it, tracking down a laundermat or using the hotel washer is more convenient than hauling around a 60 lb. suitcase.

My Packing List

In your carry-on (if you are checking your bag): Wear your heaviest clothing/shoes

  • 1 change of clothes
  • 2 pairs of underwear
  • something to sleep in
  • Snacks
  • Meds
  • Entertainment (book/kindle/etc..)
  • Toiletries
  • Gum
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Passport (plus a copy of your passport!)
  • Camera (or phone for photos) + charger
  • Directions to hotel/route to get there

Ideally, you want to anticipate your bag getting lost, so include what you’d need to get you through the first couple of days. I’m not saying your bag will get lost, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. You know, the whole Murphy’s Law thing.

Medicines to bring (ALL TRAVEL SIZED):

  • Imodium AD (or similar antidiarrheal)
  • Gas-X
  • Stool softener
  • Pepto Bismol
  • Antihistamine (Benadryl, Claritin,…)
  • Tylenol, Advil, etc…
  • Bandaids, Neosporin
  • Cold meds – NyQuil, DayQuil,…
  • Melatonin
  • Z-pack or other antibiotic from your dr.

Can you easily find a pharmacy in the country you’re visiting? Probably. Do you want to try and find it if you’re feverish or have diarrhea? Probably not. I bring everything on the list above for every trip and I can guarantee you that I’ve used all of it at one time or another.

Toiletries to bring (ALL TRAVEL SIZED):

  • Contact solution/case
  • Feminine products
  • Toothbrush/paste
  • Shampoo
  • Soap
  • Hairbrush

CONVERTOR for whatever country you’re visiting. UK is different from mainland Europe, which is different from Africa. (Also, if you’re bringing a hairdryer/hair straightener – be mindful that US outlets are 110 volts and international outlets are 220 volts. If your small appliances aren’t equipped to handle both, you’ll fry them unless you also get a transformer.

Clothes to Pack (this is typically a week’s worth):

  • 5 socks
  • 7 undies
  • 3 shorts or capris
  • 5 shirts/tanks/polo (combo of those)
  • 2 dresses that can be dressed up or down
  • 1 jeans (if you want to bring 2, wear one on the plane)
  • 1 Chacos/ flip flops
  • 1 comfortable walking/hiking shoes
  • 1 “medium weight jacket”
  • 1 fleece shirt/jacket
  • 1 rain coat and/or mini-umbrella
  • 3 pairs of jammies
  • bathing suit if appropriate

If you’re concerned about being photographed in the same clothes multiple times, bring decorative scarfs or a cardigan to switch up your looks. I promise you, if anyone overpacks, it’s in the clothes arena. My recommendation is to try on everything that you plan on bringing and to wear it for a full day. If it’s uncomfortable for any reason whatsoever, don’t bring it. I know that a lot of people will say, “But Cyn, I like to have options.” To which I respond: you’re on the trip of a lifetime, I promise that you won’t care one lick what you’re wearing once you’re actually there.

Are you still with me? Okay, onto the next category: how to pack it and what to pack it in. I have a very specific system for packing and it involved heavy-duty gallon sized Ziploc bags. Here’s what I do:

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I lay out all of the clothes that I’m bringing and I separate them by type: dresses, shorts, shirts, jammies, etc… Then, I fold them neatly lengthwise and roll them up as tightly as I can manage. I should add that I typically only bring lighter types of fabrics specifically for this reason. Once it’s rolled up, I neatly put it in the bottom of the Ziploc bag. I do this for as many things as I can fit into one bag and still get it closed (I got all 5 shirts in one bag). Then, I zip the bag 3/4 closed before sitting on it to get all of the air out. While I’m sitting on it, I zip it the rest of the way. This way, I’m left with a neat stack of bags instead of a pile of clothes. I can see clearly what I have and I can grab just those items instead of having to dig through everything to find something.

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Let me add a note here about shoes. I, under no circumstances, bring more than 4 pairs of shoes. I typically bring my Teva wedges–which look like dressy sandals–, my Merrell low-top hiking boots (very well broken in), Frye flats, and a pair of flip flops. Now, if I was going to bring a big pair of shoes like boots, I would plan on wearing them both on the plane and on travel days between countries. They’d never get packed because they take up waaaay too much space. All of the shoes you bring should be well worn prior to your departure. Trust me here, you do not want to bring shoes that you have not tested over an 8 hour day. My cut off for buying new shoes is one month before departure and then I wear them for a couple of hours every day. There is nothing more agonizing than painful feet when you’re traveling.

Now that  I have my clothes situated. I need to decide what to pack them in. It may seem unconventional to a lot of Americans, but I always pack in a hiking backpack even if I’m not technically backpacking and here’s why – the vast majority of places that I travel to have public transport and uneven roads. If you bring a 50 lb. rolling suitcase, plan on taking a taxi from the airport to your hotel and back again because let me tell you, the Paris Metro and the London Tube were not designed with large suitcases in mind. As a result, they often do not have elevators conveniently located. What that means is that you may find yourself hauling your luggage up and down many flights of stairs (or as my friend, Meg, did in Paris, simply hurling it down the stairs).

Also, it’s just plain easier to navigate a city when your hands are free. And my final sales pitch for getting a backpack (because if I’m doing it, I think everyone else should be, too) is that having to carry your stuff on your back is probably the best inducement of all to stick to your packing list.

I have used a number of backpacks over the last 20 years and I have finally found one (after many, many months of research) that might just be the best travel backpack ever made. Oh yeah, this is NOT a sponsored post, I just love everything about this backpack. Okay, back to business. Meet my Vaude Cimone 45+10 (for a total of 55 liters of space):

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Hey look, a Lexi cameo!

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Let me quickly walk you through the features. First and foremost, it is an organizational dream! The worst thing about the typical backpack is that you can’t find anything or get to anything once it’s packed. Not so with this Vaude. Check it.

Here’s the very front pocket:

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Immediately behind that from pocket is a zipper that gives you access to a separate compartment. I use this for shoes, belts and accessories, but it could also easily be used for laundry. If you don’t need the separate compartment, you just simply unzip that orange zipper and it’s a separate compartment no longer.

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You can stuff the main compartment from the top:

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Or, you can also access the main compartment by a zippered panel in the front. *Sorry for the blurry photo – I was in a rush to snap these shots and had a child hanging on my leg*

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There are also two exterior zippers for things that you might need to have quicker access to.

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While you’re wearing the pack, you can access two zippered side pockets on the hip strap that can hold your phone or money:

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Also on the exterior of the bag are two water bottle pockets. I keep water in one and an empty coffee Thermos in the other so that I can get a cup of joe at my earliest convenience.

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As if all of that wasn’t enough, here is what really sold me on this bag. The top detaches….and becomes a hanging toiletry bag.

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I kid you not. Is that not the coolest and most useful feature that you have ever seen? I’m seriously in love with this bag. Here’s me wearing it, shot courtesy of the Irishman (who also had a child sitting on him).

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The backpack is adjustable based on your height and while it looks fairly compact on me, keep in mind that I’m 5’11”. With that said, with a properly fitted pack, I could carry 40 lbs. all day long because the weight is distributed evenly between your hips and your shoulders.

Now then, for my final words of wisdom. Whatever suitcase/backpack you bring, do not pack it to the gills. It will just be harder to repack and you won’t have any room for souvenirs. Pack it about 3/4 full and you’ll be good to go.

I’m happy to answer any and all questions you might have!

 

*PS – pardon any typos. I wrote this furiously, but wanted to make sure I got it written up as I know a number of you are looking for guidance for your upcoming trips. As always, thanks for stopping by and reading. 

 

 

 

 

Miss Lexi is Threeee!

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party01Well, well, well, Miss Lexi is three. I wish I could say that the first three years flew by, but let’s be real. Honestly, her birth feels like a lifetime ago and I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way. As families with multiple kids know, when your second (or third, or fourth,…) offspring arrives, it’s as if they’ve always been there. This little miss, in particular, has made her presence known for every single day of these three years. It’s amazing how much energy and laughter (and screaming) that she has added to our world. She is a force to be reckoned with and, as you can see above, marches to the beat of her own drum.

If you’ll recall, when I first found out I was having a girl, I was terrified that I would have a small tyrant wielding a Barbie and bossing the boys around. I chuckle now, in a maniacal way, because that’s exactly what she is. And adorable, angelic-looking, tiny Titan who will move mountains with her will. It’s amazing how different two children can be. I sometimes worry about Parker because he has such a gentle heart and cannot yet conceive of the fact that sometimes, people are mean on purpose. He isn’t helpless, not by a long shot, but he is sensitive. I can honestly say that I do not have that same fear for Lexi. She is determined, independent, and has the heart of a lion. She won’t get hurt, she’ll get mad. Somehow, I think that mad is safer.

Both of my loves have changed a lot over the last three years, but one thing has remained the same. These two love each other with ferocity. Sure, they have the occasional sibling squabble, but more often than not, they are kind to each other and fiercely protective of one another.

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So regardless of how hard the transition was from one kid to two (very hard), I’m glad that they have each other. Happy birthday, sweet girl. Thanks for keeping us on our toes.

 

Keeping the “I” in Family

Friends, this year has been nuts. It’s been a crazy, beautiful kind of nuts, but still. Somehow, we’re already a third of the way through the year. How? What? Now don’t get me wrong, I have a lot to show for that 1/3 of a year. I’m almost done with my first book, I’ve traveled to Hawaii and Mexico, and the kids are still alive. I’d call that a success.

What I’m struggling with right now (as in this very second as I sit in bed having just tucked the littles into theirs) is that my lovely children requires a lot of attention. Lexi, for example, fills a room with her presence and her needs, which is quite the feat considering that she has yet to break 30 lbs. as she nears her 3rd birthday. I am fighting hard to maintain patience and to also give Parker his fair share of attention. But let’s be real; I’ve been in the “parenting of small children” trenches for over 7 years now. It is a tough job to do while keeping your sanity. I always thought that people whose children were close together were certifiable. Now, I’m not so sure.

I have a very strong sense of self and frankly, I just love life. The experiences, the tastes, the sights, the sheer joy that every day is a gift. I love being a mother, but it by no means is the only thing that defines me. I am also a professor, a wife, an avid outdoor enthusiast, a book-lover, and introvert who craves solitude. All of those things take up space in my head. What I struggle with is that MOM takes up the majority of space and it’s not the love and cuddles of getting to be MOM (which I still get in spades), it’s the gripes, demands, and idiosyncrasies that are wearing me down.

Let me give you an example – or 30.  In the mornings, Lexi wants to put her pants on before her shirt, but only if it’s a shirt and not a dress. If it’s a dress, the dress goes first and then the socks and then the leggings. Parker wants a snack the very second he gets in the car after school. Not just any snack, but only one of a few snacks. If that snack is not readily available, I will hear about his near-death levels of hunger until we get home. Lexi wants me to read her two books before bed. If Parker volunteers to read the books, Lexi will yell over his voice so that she is reading the books. Lexi will tell you that she does not have to go potty mere seconds before she poops in her diaper. Parker wants to sleep with my scarf, but only if I’ve been wearing it for at least 15 minutes before bed so that I can “charge” it up with mom powers (I’ll admit that this is actually very sweet if a bit on the hot side). Lexi wants me to rock her to sleep, but she doesn’t want her head to hit my collar bone or my shoulder or my scratchy shirt or my hot skin. Unfortunately, the child is not yet capable of levitation, so rocking is a bit of an issue. every. single. night.

The kicker is that I have wonderful children. They are lovely, thoughtful, kind to each other, and delightful. When I put Parker to bed tonight and gave him a long hug, he said to me, “I wish I never had to let you go.” This is the stuff of melting hearts, folks. My kids are the sweetest creatures on the planet. They are also utterly exhausting and could wear down Mary freakin’ Poppins. Where am I going with this? I’m not exactly sure. Only that after having a handful of days of only taking care of myself, it suddenly feels overwhelming to keep an entire house moving. You’d think that the break would be restful, but honestly, I think that it makes the re-entry just that much harder. It is, in fact, almost exactly like running a marathon. As long as you keep moving – you’re fine. You’re in pain, but you’re fine. But once you stop…no matter how sweet it feels to rest your tired, aching legs…it is virtually impossible to muster up the will to get moving again.

But alas, you do. And you start to limp along until you find your rhythm again. And then you forget that you ever stopped to begin with and you keep going until you cross that finish line and then, and then, your rest has been earned and you can take as much time as you need to truly recover. You just had to hold on for that last little bit.

Okay, I feel better now. I just need to find my rhythm again and to remember that these years are fleeting. I know that they are. I just need soak up the good, deal with the bad, and find the patience of Mother Theresa so that I avoid sounding like a shrieking harpy.

I’m really glad that we had this little chat. I’m going to catch some sleep – tomorrow is another day and a chance to do better. Yep, I’ve got this.

How I #SeasTheDay on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas

Hi again! As I’ve mentioned before, this was my very first cruise. For as much as I travel, that seems a little bit nuts, but I think the reason why I had never pursued it before is because to me, cruising seemed…lazy. There, I said it. I know that it’s not like me to prejudge things, it just that when people got back from cruising, all I heard them talk about was the food…and the naps…and the food. It just didn’t seem like something that would jive with my active lifestyle. Um, I was wrong. Dead wrong. There are so dang many things to do on the ship! Here, let me show you.

You can play a rousing game of mini-golf on the top deck…DSC_7476

You can rock climb up a seriously impressive wall. For real, check out the height of that climb!

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You can practice your surfing skills on the FlowRider (which was hysterical to watch)…

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You can also go swimming or lounging in one of the three different pools (kid-friendly, adults only, or a combo) or check out the numerous hot tubs….

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If you want to keep up your fitness level, there’s a boxing ring in the state-of-the-art gym (along with everything else you’d expect to need for workouts). If gyms aren’t your thing, there’s also an outdoor running track on the top deck. Say what?!

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Suffice it to say that I didn’t have time to nap. I was too busy running around the ship and trying out all of the fun stuff to do. I spent waaaay to much time hanging out by the SurfRider and Climbing Wall. Watching people try is as much fun as trying it yourself and everyone is a good sport when you, ahem, wipe out (which is really almost inevitable).

Now, was there food? Of course. Was there lots of food? Yeah. What really surprised me, though, is how many healthy options they had. Salad bars, fruit bars, smoothie station, grilled fish, sushi (yep, for real),… I could go on and on, but truly, there was something for everyone.

We got a tour of the main galley from the female head chef (girl power!) and I was impressed to learn that not only do they have a kitchen staff of over 200 cooks, but every single thing they serve is made fresh onboard. From the pizzas to the rolls; from the steaks to the tiger shrimp – nothing is prepackaged. I love that.

One of the many cooks doing his thing (they work in shifts, but the kitchen is buzzing 24 hours a day).

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I was happy to see that they go through A LOT of salads.

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While the Windjammer Cafe was great for grabbing a quick lunch, I really enjoyed the full service in the fine dining room.

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I ate all of my breakfasts in there and most of dinners. During breakfast, I brought my laptop down, enjoyed my mushroom and herb omelette, and sipped a bottomless cup of coffee while I worked on my book. It was seriously divine. For dinner, the menu rotated daily and we had the option of about 10 appetizers and 7 or so entrees (to say nothing of the desserts). I enjoyed shrimp, salmon, escargot, and too many different types of salads to mention. Everything was delicious.

On my third cruise day, we did something that was so much fun – we took a cupcake decorating class at the Cupcake Cupboard!

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Our cupcake instructor was a pastry chef from Manilla, Philippines and he was wonderful. During our group class, we learned how to make a double-patty angus burger. I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to turn these ingredients into something that resembled a burger….

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but our pastry chef talked us through it and I was shocked that my burger turned out so great.

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Now, there was also a competition component to the class. You all know where this is going. I am so competitive (even in cupcake making) that I put on my game face and went to work. The competition was for who could assemble the tallest burger. So I added extra frosting in between layers and cut the bare minimum off of my initial cupcakes and the results were…I won. Woohoo!

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Then came the best part.

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As a vegetarian, I got a kick out of eating my first “burger” in seven years.

I’ll have one more post coming for you (that has lots of fun excursion video), but I want to reiterate that my idea of what cruising entailed couldn’t be father from the truth. It was such an action-packed, fun-filled 5 days. I would do it again in a heartbeat. If you want to know more about all that Royal Caribbean has to offer, you can read about it here.

Disclaimer: I cruised with Royal Caribbean International as part of a press group. While my cruise was complimentary, I did not received monetary compensation and all opinions are my own. Naturally. 

 

Royal Caribbean – What to Expect & What to Pack #SeasTheDay

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Oh my goodness, folks, what an experience this was! Since the ship is so big (14 levels), I wanted to write several different posts on the various aspects of cruising. This first post can fall under the auspices of “what to expect” when you first arrive at port.

I know this is going to sound completely nuts, but even though I’m from Ft. Lauderdale, I somehow avoided entering Port Everglades for my entire adult life. As a result, I completely underestimated the time it would take from reaching the port gate (anticipate a line of cars, tankers, delivery vehicles, and semi-trucks) to finding the terminal gate. I had the good fortune of being dropped off directly at my terminal (thanks dad!), but if you need to park and leave your vehicle, it’s probably a good idea to unload the baggage you are checking with a porter, and then drive over to the long-term parking. If you’re taking a hotel shuttle or taxi cab, you can just skip that little piece of advice.

Speaking of luggage, DO print your luggage tags at home prior to driving to the port. It will streamline the check-in process and earn you the love of the employees who are handling your bags. Also note that it might be many hours before your checked luggage makes its way up to your room. For that reason, it’s a good idea to bring anything that you might need right away –bathing suit, camera, book to read, etc…–in a backpack so that you don’t feel limited in what you can take advantage of on the ship.

Okay, back to the process of getting on board: Imagine going through airport security on the busiest day of the year. That’s pretty accurate of what the process is IF you wait until a couple of hours before departure to board. They recommend arriving 90 minutes prior to departure, but truly, I would arrive many hours earlier than that. For a 4pm departure, there was no line around 10:30am. By noon, the line was around the building. Royal Caribbean has a ton of helpful information on their website and it’s easy to find out the earliest time you can board. Once you enter the building, you will go through a security checkpoint (which includes a metal detector). Once you clear security, you will enter a second line to sign paperwork, provide your passport or birth certificate, receive your room key, provide a credit card as a deposit, and get your photo taken. When this line gets long, it will feel like going through customs at a major airport.

Don’t fear though, you’re almost aboard the ship! Once you receive your Sea Card (room key and charge account), you can finally come aboard. The feeling of victory is immense! From the moment that you board the ship, you’re free to drop your backpack off at your room or go to the open restaurant for a meal.

My stateroom with a balcony. Ohh la la!

Here’s another tip: DO eat prior to arriving at the port. It really might take as long as 90 minutes to board the ship, so you’ll want to make sure that you aren’t starving during this process. There is a great selection of food once you make it to the restaurant, but don’t be like me and arrive there feeling like a famished lion.

Windjammer Cafe with 360 degree ocean view!
Windjammer Cafe with 360 degree ocean view!

One last thing before the ship sets sail – there is a safety drill that occurs approximately 30 minutes before departure. You will be asked to head over to your designated emergency area (there are lots of people to assist you in case you don’t know where to go). The drill lasts about 10 minutes and then you are free to move about the ship!

I thought this first post would also be a good place to include some tips on what to pack. I embarked on a 5-day/4-night cruise, so you can adjust this list accordingly based on how many days you’re cruising. As a note – I showered and went through more outfit changes than I anticipated, so I used up every bit of the clothing that I packed. From outdoor pool fun, to wandering around the ship, to evenings in the formal dining rooms – I felt like I was hosting the Oscars with how many times I switched it up around the day. Here’s what I found helpful to bring:

Clothing:

2 bathing suits (so that you always have a dry one)
2 bathing suit cover-ups for wandering to the pool and back
5 casual shirts/tank tops
4 pairs of shorts
2 pairs of casual pants/capris
3 causal dresses (or slacks and polos for men) for the main dining room
1 cocktail dress (or suit) for the formal night of the cruise
very comfortable shoes – the ship is huge and you will do a lot of walking
any special clothing/accessories for an excursion if you do one
twice the underwear that you would normally wear (I’ve been showering 3 times a day!)

In the ‘other than clothing’ category:

Sunglasses
Sunscreen
Contact lens solution
Camera
Tote bag or backpack
Band-Aids

Medicine:

Since I’m often traveling on a tight schedule, I bring an array of medication with me so that I’m not trying to hunt down a pharmacy. Here is a sampling of what I usually bring:

Anti-diarrheal
Gas-X
Pepto Bismol
Advil/Tylenol
Advil Cold & Sinus (AM/PM
Sudafed
Benadryl
Zyrtec
Anti-itch cream

Trust me, in my 35 years of travel, I needed them at least once. I’d rather have them and not need them than the alternative.

In the next post, we’ll talk all about what there is to do on the ship (answer: A LOT!). Stay tuned…

 

Disclaimer: I cruised with Royal Caribbean International as part of a press group. While my cruise was complimentary, I did not received monetary compensation and all opinions are my own. Naturally.