Last weekend, Apple and I went on our first cruise. Thanks to my parents’ membership in the Disney Vacation Club, we were able to book a three-night cruise to the Bahamas that included Nassau and Castaway Cay, the latter of which is Disney’s own private island. I’ve never thought of myself as a “cruise person”; for some reason the thought of being trapped on a ship at sea with nowhere to go never sounded appealing, despite the fact that I often trap myself in my own house not only wittingly, but happily. Ask me today, however, and I’ll tell you that I would definitely go on a cruise again — especially if it’s a Disney cruise.
We may have been a bit spoiled. After all, the ship we sailed on — the Disney Wonder — was recently rated #1 for crew and service by a Condé Nast Traveler magazine poll. Disney does have a reputation for making every experience about as polished and professional as is possible, and our cruise was no exception, filled with some of the most friendly staff, finest accommodations and nicest locales I could imagine. And like most cruises, all of the food was free. Hard to beat that!
Mostly playing it low-key, we did just a smattering of activities, ranging from a tour of Nassau and its Ardastra Gardens and Zoo to taking in some of the musicals and shows that the ship’s crew put on for us. Even so, we felt like we filled each day to the brim with stuff to do, sights to see and food to eat, and it was a rare thing for us to even have a moment to just lay around and watch TV. (Which is perfect — because we probably do enough of that at home!)
I think my favorite day was the one we spent at Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island. Those were some of the most incredible beaches I’ve ever seen, and talk about quiet — there was total silence out there at Serenity Bay. We made the most of it, basically just floating on our backs in the crystal clear waters and soaking up the tranquility. Just like in the movies, servers would walk up and down the beach every so often and ask if you wanted a drink. You could sit out there like Milton at the end of Office Space and complain about the margaritas. (Although once you got a load of the scenery, I’d imagine it’d be hard to complain about much of anything.)
Earlier today I spent a while uploading all of the best photos from the cruise, then titling and tagging them. If you want to see them, check them out right here.
I also edited together a collection of footage I shot using my iPhone, including stuff from the cruise ship, Ardastra Gardens and Castaway Cay:
Now that we’re back from our trip, Florida has decided that we’ve all had enough “springtime” weather and has hit us full-on with summer. It’s in the low nineties, but thanks to the 70% humidity, it feels like an absolutely disgusting-hot 106 degrees in the afternoon. You can’t step into your garage, let alone out the door, without turning into an instant sweat-sicle. And if you park your car outside — like at a store, or at a friend’s house while visiting — make sure you put a sun shade up on the dashboard, or you’ll be roasting when you return.
In fact, I was chuckling wryly to myself yesterday evening as I thought to myself that Florida (and our house itself) must be pretty damn mad that we’re geared up to leave for Texas. Pretty much as soon as we decided on that course of action, the garbage disposal blew up. Now, of course, that oil rig in the Gulf (which also blew up) is threatening to paint the entirety of Florida’s coastline black with oil, which of course would likely destroy the entire state’s economy, to say nothing of its real estate market all over again. I can’t seem to catch much of a break with real estate down here, but if anything it’s just illustrated for me how fragile so many things about Florida’s economy are, and why I don’t want to bank on this town — or this state — any more while I am still a working class schlub.
It’s a pretty sad state of affairs, but that’s southwest Florida. The entire economy is tourism-driven, and that tourism only exists for roughly half of the year. Each winter, it’s a desperate life-or-death struggle to make as much money as fast as possible so that you can survive through the summer season. And then the next winter, you do it all again because, as one top chef in the area once said, “Many of your customers forget you exist, and you have to hook them as new customers again, every single year.”
Tell you one thing: I’d never want to run a retail business in this town. I don’t have the masochist gene.
Oh! Speaking of masochism, we had a nice little surprise for us when we got back from our cruise last Sunday. In the mailbox was a letter from our homeowner’s association, telling us that our driveway was dirty and had to be cleaned. We also needed to respond with notification that corrective action had been taken within 15 days. Yep…that’s another sure sign that the snowbird season is over: We year-round residents start getting smacked around by the local authorities for violating codes, ordinances or whatever else. See, most of the lawmakers don’t want to piss off the snowbirds, since they’re by-and-large the rich ones who contribute the most money to the area, so the local police and HOAs go on big enforcement binges right at the beginning and end of the off season. It’s lots of fun.
I had to chuckle and shake my head when I got the letter, because it would never occur to me that there were cleanliness standards for a driveway. Further, the only thing wrong with our driveway was the dirt between the brick pavers that it’s made of, which was naturally what the HOA was griping about. I’ve cleaned that shit out of there with a pressure washer before, and it’s long, tedious work — it seems like you’re mostly just moving the dirt around. It blows out of one crevice and into another. You’re at it for hours and it seems like you’re getting nowhere. And in this heat and humidity, I was in no mood to play Court Jester for the HOA.
That being the case, I called up the guy who pressure cleaned our roof last year and explained that I needed his services for the driveway. “They’re sending letters about driveways, now?!” he asked, incredulous. “That’s what I said,” I replied. So his crew came out on Friday and got the job done, so now I can get the Compliance Patrol off my back for another interval. I imagine just about everyone else on our street will be doing something similar in the coming days, since everybody’s frickin’ driveway looks exactly the same to me. (I mean…euughhh, never mind.)
Anyway, I’m about to go and enjoy the rest of my evening — probably with more Red Dead Redemption on the Xbox 360. I can’t seem to put that game down; nothing else has been in my console drive since I bought it. I’m 44% through the single player campaign now, according to the in-game stats. Earlier this week I decided to try a multiplayer match on a whim, and ended up scoring the “Red Dead Rockstar” achievement — in which you must kill a member of the game’s development team, or someone else who has. It was totally blind luck, as I just shot the first dude who sidled up to me and bang, there was my achievement. In fact, I haven’t killed another human player since. One and done.
In other news…I’m sick of news. Yeah, I think I’m going back on my “no-news” binge from our stay in Thailand, when everything the media could churn out was overwhelmingly negative, and most of it regarding a topic that strikes a particularly sensitive chord with me (the auto industry). Now, it’s wall-to-wall “Oil spill! Oil spill! Oil spill!” which makes me want to vomit, because here is yet another story that we can do nothing about except sit and watch it unfold, like a bloody train wreck. Every single fucking day, the local talk radio guy wants to hash and re-hash the same tired facts of the case even though nothing has changed at all. I’m sick to death of it, so I’m turning it all off. The mainstream media, which is largely made up of talentless hacks with a political agenda to push, can spin themselves into a vomit-inducing, centrifugal force-powered singularity without my help.
Okay folks! I’m out of here. Off to do some gaming, and then perhaps some writing on the laptop in bed this evening. I’ve been reading some silly old stories lately and have gotten into a bit of a creative mood.
Stay cool out there.