Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cruising Into Spring

by Caren Crane

Regulars here in the Lair know I am a devotee of autumn. I love the crisp air, colorful leaves and "settling in" that happens as the Earth prepares for winter. I also enjoy winter and have made a complete and total fool of myself during the Winter Olympics. (Anyone care to discuss curling? I'm now an expert! I could hardly get this post done for the women's gold medal final. Canada broke my heart!) Okay, gold medalist Apolo Ohno was just here as your daily eye candy. *g*


This year, though, it has been colder and snowier than usual, even here in the (normally) sunny South. I find myself looking forward to the budding trees and warm breezes of spring. I am also getting an itch to travel, much like my friends up north tell me they get when winter drags on too long. My friend Elizabeth says that by March everyone in Chicago is beating a path to the travel agent, begging for tickets to "anywhere the sun is shining" and this year, I can relate.


My husband is at home these days and, despite his curmudgeonly tendencies, has begun to pick up some phone calls he would previously have ignored. I came home a couple of weeks ago to be told by my beloved that we had won a cruise. Huh? Yes, indeed, I had heard correctly. My man said we won a cruise. I have no idea how we (or actually, he) won this cruise, but I took his word for it since he assured me it was real. Then I went to fix dinner or something and promptly forgot about it. Until last week, when the information about our cruise came in the mail. It is real!


We have been on a cruise once before and it was a lovely vacation. We enjoyed many things about cruising during that first trip and also learned some things to avoid - like anything alcoholic, since it costs a fortune to drink onboard! We feel better about this second cruise, armed with knowledge about how to avoid tack-on fees. This cruise is technically free, except for the unavoidable port fees since the trip is to the Bahamas and, apparently, a fuel surcharge of some sort. Hm.


Normally, we would avoid the Bahamas due to the excess of badly-handled tourism there and the likelihood of being hassled and/or pick-pocketed by locals. But did I mention the cruise is free? I have fretted about this "free" trip, knowing it will actually cost us hundreds of dollars to: a) get to the port in Ft. Lauderdale, FL; b) park our car at the port (or take a cab, if we fly or go by train); c) pay the port fees and fuel surcharges; and, d) cover the "incidentals" that always come up. (This picture is me at home, facing the reality of the money we will have spent - so sad!) The money is a real worry for us this year, but vacation - that singular, glorious chance to get away from all our cold, wintry worries for a few days - beckons like a sun-soaked siren.

The prolonged cold weather has made our so-called "free" trip more tempting with every gray, passing day. I know the sun is shining in the Bahamas and, despite the inevitable hassles, surcharges, delays and mix-ups, a patch of warm, welcoming sand is waiting for me. I think it's time to work on trip details. Maybe something around my birthday in May?

Are you longing for spring (or autumn, if you're in the Southern hemisphere)? Have a vacation planned, in mind, or at least in your dreams? If you could get away today, where would you go?

52 comments:

Suzanne Welsh said...

Aha! The rooster is coming to Texas!

Suzanne Welsh said...

Caren, I'm so glad someone besides me drives her family crazy with the Olympics. (Yes I did watch one game of the American women's curling team.) My usual cohort in watching the games, my daughter, was busy being a mom to her babies, so I reminded the guys that the Olympics only come on once every 2 years, (uh, I'm just as crazy about the summer ones)...and that 3 nights a week they can watch all the basketball they want.

hehehe

My spring this year is going to be marked with a trip to Columbus to see my family. I'm hoping to make part of the RT conference that's being held there this year!

heidi ruby miller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
heidi ruby miller said...

So, my last post had quite a few typos in it, even though I reread it...

So, here it goes again:

My husband and I are staying domestic this year, but I'm still excited, especially with four feet of snow on the ground out there right now.

For his birthday in April we're heading to New Mexico; for mine in June, it's NYC; then the annual Ruby family vacation to Disney World; and finally the end of summer week at OBX.

Any of those places sound good today, except maybe NYC because they have about as much snow as we do near Pittsburgh!

Donna MacMeans said...

Caren -

Oh Man - a free cruise! That is so needed right now. My husband and I were just bemoaning last night about how we're so sick of snow. It' was snowing again last night and I had been out shoveling. Forecasts call for two more days of this stuff. I hate it.

So we figured we should - in future years (not this one because it's too late) plan a warm vacation for just this time of year. We usually go on vacation in the fall when the prospect of "use it or lose it" vacation days become a threat. Besides our anniversary is in the fall, so it adds a romantic touch to the trip. Normally, my tax clients cause me to stay home near my computer but I think they'd prefer a happier accountant - don't you?

Suz - you rooster nabber you. Congratulations! I heard he's an Olympic fan as well so now you have company in front of the TV.

Caren Crane said...

Oh, Suz, that was a serious rooster nab. Put him to work, will ya? *g*

My sister in Olympics madness! I am NOT in any way a sports nut. You will find no one less gaga about sports than moi. But all of a sudden, when the winter Olympics start (okay, summer, too), I am a complete expert on everything sports-related. I saw the viewership of the games last week was pushing 30 million, so obviously there are lots of us out there!

I know you'll have a blast seeing the fam in Columbus. I hope you get to RT, because I know you'll have your ear to ground and bring back all sorts of great stories and pictures. Go, Suz!

Caren Crane said...

Heidi, four feet of snow?! That is insane. I think by now I would be climbing the walls.

All of your family vacations sound wonderful. I've not been to New Mexico, but my son went last year and said it was spectacular and I would love it.

NYC is always a fave trip of mine. Always. So much to do and see! As to Disney World, it is something I long to do again. My husband doesn't care for it (he says the Mouse has his hand out every time you turn around *g*), but I'm going to force him to go again.

The OBX is a great family vacation. We like to go to Avon on Hatteras Island, so WAY down OBX, but I know lots of people stay up north in the Duck/Corolla/Kill Devil Hills area. It's great to go further south where there is a strip of land (no grocery stores) and sea and sound all around. I'm relaxing just thinking about it! Of course, my BFF is from Rodanthe and finds the OBX to be the most stressful place to go. Hm, perspective...

Gillian Layne said...

I'd pick Sanibel island in Florida. No stress, no dress code. Sounds dreamy. (But no, no budget for that right now....oh, well!)

Caren Crane said...

Donna, I was thinking of you when I wrote this, knowing how much snow you've had. I'll bet "anywhere the sun is shining" sounds great about now. I mean, I'm a big wimp for needing an injection. We have three overcast days and I'm getting Seasonal Affective Disorder. Wimpy!

Too much sunshine must spoil a person. I really do love our (normally) sunny winters, even when it's cold. But long about now, I'm ready for it to be 60 degrees again...

Nancy said...

Suz, congrats on the bird!

Your trip to Columbus sounds fun. You and Donna and the bird will take the city by storm!

I actually have not been watching the Olympics. My favorite event is figure skating, though I also enjoy ski-jumping and downhill. I don't know who the skaters are anymore, though, and I'm too aware of the chance I'll get sucked in. So I've mostly given it a pass. Though I did see Colbert's interview of Lindsay Vonn on a news show last week, and it was a hoot!

I also kept my eyes peeled for any Smallville actors since they film in Vancouver, but no joy on that.

jo robertson said...

Funny post, Caren! Isn't it interesting how those "free" giveaways aren't free at all? And you didn't mention having to pay the taxes on the value of the win! If it's actual money, like the lottery, you can take it out of your winnings, but otherwise it actually comes out of your pocket! I think about such things when I'm watching game shows LOL.

jo robertson said...

Yay, Suzanne, another Bandita won the rooster. Hey Bandita Buddies, are you gonna stand for that(vbg)?

About longing for a change of season, Caren, this is the time of the year when I really want spring. Winter for us is rain, rain, and more rain. I can't really complain because we still have those occasional sunny days, but I really want my flowers to bloom and the skies to be sunny.

Nancy said...

Caren, we're going to the UK this summer. It'll be a short trip, since that's all we can wring out of the budget, and mostly for the dh's research, for which he has a small grant that will pay his costs and thus make the trip possible, but we're so looking forward to it. We'd hoped to go last year but couldn't make the money work.

Anna Sugden and I are planning to ditch our guys and go do fun stuff for one day in London, and we'll be seeing her and Keith in Cambridge.

We haven't been to the UK in ten years. The boy refers to it as "EnglandthatIhavenomemoryof" without separating the words. If quizzed, however, he does admit to remembering a few things. And I have wonderful pictures of him--building sandcastles on the red sand of Ness Beach, Devonshire, and using the gorgeous, indigo-blue seashells I've never seen anywhere else to decorate the walls, charging down Bosworth Field's Ambion Hill at Henry Tudor's line of battle with his wooden sword held high, "stashing something" under a big tree in Sherwood Forest while wearing his green felt tunic from the handily located shop, and trying on a medieval helmet at Warwick Castle.

I wish we could revisit all those places, but there won't be time. I'm hoping for Bosworth Field and Warwick Castle, though I'm not counting on either. And the dh has a friend who lives in the Cotswolds I know he wants to see. So we'll be picking and choosing carefully, especially since the research has to come first. But it's a wonderful problem to have.

And by then, we'll be ready for the cooler UK weather as we escape the heat and humidity of the Carolina Piedmont. Hard to imagine right now, when I close up my jacket to my chin to keep out the cold.

Nancy said...

Heidi, I'm a typo queen, even when I preview my posts, so don't feel badly.

I've always wanted to see the southwest. Your trip sounds wonderful!

Nancy said...

Caren, we love the outer banks. There's so much to do there besides just lie on the beach. So much history, and we know I love that!

Caren Crane said...

Gillian, Sanibel is gorgeous! I love the Gulf coast of Florida so much. Sugar sand beaches and relatively calm waters. I spent many summer vacations at the Gulf when I was growing up. My father lived in LA (Lower Alabama), so we spent lots of time in Gulf Shores. Gotta love Floribama!

I've wanted to get to the Keys for years, but the old budget isn't allowing that yet. One of these years!

Nancy said...

Jo, we have sunshine today, but it's still cold. The sun is at least a nice change from the rain and gloom of the last week or ten days.

Caren Crane said...

Nancy, you're right about getting sucked back in. FYI, there is an up-and-coming young American figure skater who came in fourth the other night in the women's figure skating: Mirai Nagasu. She is a rising star and definitely one to watch!

I fear if you had been watching as obsessively as I have, you may have caught a glimpse of someone from Smallville. Everyone else in the universe seems to be at the Olympics!

Anna Campbell said...

Suz, one chook for you! He seems to be showing a bit of a preference for visiting his old Bandita haunts at the moment.

Hey, Caren, how utterly cool about winning the cruise. You'll have a lovely time!

I hear you on February going on too long. I remember when I lived in England I got physically hungry for some sun as dark, cold, wet winter just dragged on and on. Went to the Canary Islands just to see a bit of sun!

In Australia, February is the hot, sticky, endless month, in spite of the fact that it's only 28 days. I can't wait for the hint of crispness in the air that signals autumn is on its way.

Virginia said...

I am so ready for spring! We had a little more snow today and I am so tired of it.

We usually don't go on vacations due to not having the money. So I do all of my traveling in books. You can go anywhere in the world just by picking up a book. If I could travel any where in the world I think I would go to Scotland, but thats just me!

Anna Campbell said...

Oh, and what sort of holiday would I like? I've been really busy lately so the idea of taking the TBR pile away with me (or part of it - the whole TBR pile would break my back!) and going to somewhere quiet by the sea where I could just read and sleep and eat. Sounds like bliss!

Caren Crane said...

Jo, you know that expression "There's no such thing as a free lunch"? That is one of the Laws, like Murphy's Law. I found out in the early 90's that this one is called Crane's Law. I find that very appropriate. *g*

Anna Campbell said...

Man, I forgot about your taxes on winnings. Australia has a much more civilised approach. They take winnings on things like this or quiz shows as windfalls and they don't tax them! I think Canada's the same - ah, the things we learn watching Jeopardy!

Nancy, I went to Warwick Castle in 2004 and thought it was utterly tacky. Madame Tussaud's have taken it over and it's basically just a bit attempt to separate you from your pound notes (you know, you wander through one room and then hit a gift shop and then you wander through one room and then hit a giftshop). It's also populated by rather creepy wax models. Bleuch! Definitely disappointing because the castle itself is stunning. Be interesting to see what you make of it.

Jane said...

Congrats on the GR, Suzanne.

Hi Caren,
I've been staying up late every night watching the Olympics. I would love to go on a Mediterranean cruise someday. Right now I wouldn't mind heading to somewhere warm like Tahiti. The snow has finally stopped after two days and the streets are a mess.

Caren Crane said...

Jo, I find winter rain the hardest to take. Snow is at least pretty while it's falling and, for a brief time, on the ground. Rain is simply wet. And cold, since it's winter. The skies are gray and all I want to do is hide my head under the covers.

No more rain! Bring on spring! Soon we'll have flowers blooming everywhere.

Caren Crane said...

Nancy, I'll be waiting to hear about every minute of your trip. And you get to see Anna S. - lucky you! That is a dream trip I long to take one day. Hopefully someday we'll have the time and money to swing it. Fingers crossed!

You're right, it's hard to imagine right now that England will be a lovely, cool break from the heat and humidity, but we know it's coming. Once Spring has sprung in the Carolinas, it goes full force. Soon it will be over 90 every day and sticky, sticky, sticky!

Caren Crane said...

Nancy, the Outer Banks - really, the whole southeast coast along the Atlantic - is a treasure trove of historical sites. Have you ever been to St. Augustine? That is one place I've never been to that I am dying to see. It's not too far from Hilton Head, so I may try to tack it onto one end of our semi-annual mecca to Hilton Head.

No Hilton Head this year. We history geeks are going to Williamsburg and REALLY looking forward to it!

Caren Crane said...

Nancy, the sun was a blessing at the Girl Scout cookie booth this morning. We set up near a place that does a booming breakfast/brunch business. Unfortunately, we're in the "lull" of the sale right now.

Two weeks in, people have their initial orders, they've bought some from booths outside the grocery store and they think they are done for the year. In another week, their supplies will run out and the panic will set in.

Good for us, since it's getting warmer and sunnier every week. *g*

Caren Crane said...

Oh, Anna C., the Canary Islands sound blissful about now! Sun and surf, surf and sun. Maybe a few cabana boys too!

Your February is akin to our August - the dog days of summer. Hot, humid and miserable all the way around. At least Feb. only has 28 days, whereas August is 31. Maybe I need to move to Australia! Hey, there's a thought...

Caren Crane said...

Virginia, I love to be transported by a great story. It's always summer somewhere. *g* I have, however, had trouble relating to characters' complaints about the heat when I'm freezing to death in my house. :-)

I think if you're visiting Scotland, the time to go is August or September. Those seem to be the nicest weather and most in-demand times. It would certainly be preferable to NC in August, for sure! Scotland is another dream destination...

Caren Crane said...

Anna C., what you need is a...cruise to New Zealand!! Not sure you would get to that pile of books, but you never know. *g*

Caren Crane said...

Okay, Anna, I'm definitely moving to Australia before I win the lottery.

Too sad about Warwick Castle. I'm sure I would be morbidly fascinated by the whole thing, but my husband would have the same complaint he does about Disney - the outstretched hand waiting for your wallet!

Caren Crane said...

Jane, I'm glad to see you, too, have been bitten by the Olympics bug. I swear, I almost understand all the rules of curling now and can even figure some of the strategy they should use. I never would have guessed that about myself. Ever.

I'm glad the snow finally stopped for you. If you head for either the Mediterranean or Tahiti, be sure you send us pictures and updates. Both are dream destinations for me!

Along with Austria, for some reason. I keep feeling pulled to Austria and we all know it is NOT warm there!

Anna Campbell said...

Caren, definitely move to Australia before you win big money anywhere! And I definitely recommend September in Scotland - generally the weather is pretty good. Sadly, they can have really stormy summers.

catslady said...

Free - a great advertising gimic but if you live close enough and it's not too expensive in the end, it's probably worth it. I think they fill in this way when ships aren't full. We took a cruise almost 35 years ago and it was the best vacation I've ever taken - and that includes Europe and Hawaii.

I think Apollo got shortchanged. If they wanted to call his last race for disqualification that's fine but only as long as they disqualifed some other skaters who also touched - and ummmmm the ref. was canadian and that gave the second canadian a medal. Only the first Canadian won his gold medal in my opinion. oh well who said things are always fair. I'm really enjoying the olympics and getting nothing else done lol.

Helen said...

Well done Suz have fun with him

Caren
congrats on the cruise how I wish I could go on one I have been on one cruise about 8 years ago and loved it.
It is Sunday morning here in Oz and the last day of summer tomorrow is autumn and I am soo looking forward to the cooler weather really this summer has been so hot and humid and I am so over sleepless nights because of the heat. Although it really won't start to get cooler till towards the end of March there is a nip in the air in the mornings and night which I love.
I have 2 more weeks at work before I start 6 weeks annual leave and although I wish we were going on a holiday I am taking the time of because in about 3 1/2 weeks my new grandchild is due and the time off work will be spent helping with grandkids and finding time to relax YAY.

Have Fun
Helen

Christie Kelley said...

Suz, take that boy out for some exercise. He lounged the day away in front of my fireplace yesterday.

Caren, congrats on winning the cruise. That's great. I'd love to go on a cruise or some place nice and warm this year. But that's not going to happen. We're taking the kids to Iceland in July. I'm thinking it won't be terribly warm there. But it should be fun. We love to hike and sightsee so my husband is making the plans now.

Kim in Hawaii said...

Checking in from Hawaii (waiting for the tsunami warning to pass -the state is prepared). Our travels are limited because we are 2500 miles from any mainland. We plan to visit Kona area of the Big Island for Spring Break (assuming everything is OK after the tsunami). We'll also be on the mainland for the summer - kids are going to Camp Grandma while I attend the RWA National Convention.

Congrats on the cruise!

Anna Campbell said...

Kim, stay safe. I woke up to news of the Tsunami (I live right on the coast) but it looks like it's not going to have a major effect on Australia. Those poor people in Chile!

Nancy said...

Caren, I've been to St. Augustine, but not since I was a child. We used to visit my dad's brother and his family in Florida every summer, and we stopped there on the way home once. I'd love to go back and poke around.

I looked at William & Mary for college and got to poke around Williamsburg a bit. Went back and saw my cousin who lives near there and poked around some more, a few years back. But that was the summer of heat indices in the 120s, so the poking around lost some of its charm.

I'm glad cookie sales are going well!

jo robertson said...

LOL at Crane's Law. No free lunch, indeed! Mine is definite'y Murphy's Law -- if something can go wrong it will! Seems like I'm always waiting for the other shoe to drop!

Caren Crane said...

Anna C., maybe I'll move to Aus then convince you to go with me to Scotland in September! Not sure stormy summers in Scotland would be worse than stormy summers in North Carolina. They can be really bad here and at least there people would have cool accents! *g*

Caren Crane said...

Catslady, THANK YOU. Apolo was robbed! I mean, he was in 4th the whole race up to that point, but the Canadian guy totally tripped himself! If that's what they have to do to get a medal, that is sad. At least Apolo has bunches of others. Sorry KJ and other Canadians here, but that was a sad and sorry call. It made me sad for little Apolo!

Caren Crane said...

Oh, Helen, how lovely tomorrow is autumn for you! We won't have spring for another month, so a long wait for us!

I envy your 6 week leave, and staying around won't be a bad thing with the new baby on the way. Congratulations on the impending arrival! The new baby will make it a special, wonderful time. Be sure to let us know when the newbie arrives. I'm so excited for you!!

Caren Crane said...

Christie, how THRILLING! I have been dying to go to Iceland. I know nothing much about it, except that my darling husband worked with a guy from Iceland who was awesome. He had the coolest accent and great stories about Iceland.

Also - and this is silly - this sister/brother band I love had this super EP that featured Iceland as a theme. The songs were sort of heart-rending and made me pine for Iceland.

I can't wait to hear ALL about your trip. Oh, and check and see if they have Klondike bars in the Coke machine at the movies. I'm just sayin...

Caren Crane said...

Kim, be careful! I'm terrified for you with the tsunami on the way. I hope everyone is safe and the tsunami does as little damage as possible.

Hawaii is a dream vacation of mine and I wish I could see Kona with you. I'm devastated to miss conference this year, since it's in my hometown of Nashville. I love Nashville and have lots of friends still there. I have family there, too, on my dad's side but they sort of dropped us after my parents divorced. My mom's family is still outside Nashville in the country.

I'm sorry I won't get to meet you there and that I won't see my beloved Banditas and BBs. I hope you'll get to RWA again, though, so we can meet!

Caren Crane said...

Nancy, I wish we could do a serious history-geeking trip to St. Augustine. I plan to drag my people around Williamsburg, Jamestown, the old Jamestowne settlement, Yorktown, and anyplace else that strikes our fancy. I love cemeteries and hope to poke around some of those, too. We adore the Williamsburg area and can't wait to get back up there.

Of course, it will be August and insanely hot, but I hope the heat indices don't break 100. Hoping!

Louisa Cornell said...

Way to go, Suzanne ! Put that boy to work !!

Congrats on the cruise, Caren! Anywhere warm sounds good these days. It is NOT supposed to this cold in Alabama!

Glad that you reported in La Campbell as my phone call to Mom this PM on my way home from work started with "Australia is under a tsunami warning. Have you heard from Anna? Has she evacuated inland?" All of this before I even got a chance to say "Hello, Mom." I'm beginning to think Mom likes YOU best, La Campbell ! VBG

At this time of year I would not mind evacuating inland if I could visit Oz and spend some time up to no good with La Campbell, Madame Christine and the rest of the Aussie crew!

Now later on this summer when I will be WISHING for some of this cold air while we swelter in an Alabama summer, I would LOVE to return to my second home, England. I got so homesick the other day. My brother was researching English ale online (my Southern Good Old Boy brother is a Guinness man!) and found a site that has information about ALL of the ale houses throughout the history of England. He found the pub in our old village (now sadly closed) and sent me the link so I could see the Google earth view of our old village. You can see our hold house, the conger field where we used to play and the Norman church at the top of the hill. I truly want to visit there one more time.

So glad I saw Warwick Castle in the early seventies when it was not overrun with chintz! It was magnificent when I saw it and I have lots of photos and vivid memories of the castle.

Joan said...

I'd be up for anywhere, just to get away from winter!!!

Ireland of course (Sigh..not enough flex days this year)and I've been hankering to get back to Disneyworld.

As to why more people are watching the Olympics? I think it's because it does not involve the whoas of the world i.e. tsunami's (Be safe Kim!)

And Nancy, the figure skating was awesome esp. the young French Canadian skater Joannie Rochette who skated to a bronze 4 days after suddenly losing her mother to a heart attack (sniff)

Pissenlit said...

*HAPPY SIGH* I just watched the men's curling gold medal match.

I wouldn't mind it if Spring came a little sooner. I spent some time outside today shovelling slush off the driveway. Ick.

If I could get away for awhile, I think I'd like to spend some time in Nova Scotia.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Posh, ENJOY your "free" cruise!

Like you said, it really won't be free, and that's the whole point in the cruise company 'giving' it to you. They expect to make up for "free" of "cheap" tickets with the extras you will buy, like booze, casino play, and shore excursions. Also, you have to pay daily tips to staff like waiters, room attendants, and such. If they don't fill the cabins, these hard workers do NOT get paid (not much anyway)!

Still, as long as you know it will cost something going in, you won't be disappointed. In fact, I think you'll have a BLAST!

AC
who has never yet had a bad day on a cruise

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Louisa, your ma is obviously a woman of exquisite taste ;-) Seriously, what a sweetie! At 5am when I heard the first news, I wasn't sure if I'd be evacuating or not so I shouldn't joke!

Wow, Christie, I've always wanted to go to Iceland. You lucky ducks!

Helen, sounds like your six weeks won't be exactly a holiday but lovely all the same!