Pre-Cruise Preparation - 2013
It's only July and yet preparations are underway for our January 2013 embarkation, a mere 7 months from now! We've been making a series of door signs for our cabin to depict certain holidays & activities such as 'Home-Sweet-Home' as illustrated; others include Super Bowl Sunday, Valentine's Day, Marti Gras, April Fools, Easter, Mother's Day & numerous other fill-ins. This may seem a bit silly but when you spend over 4 months on a ship, little things like this make it more 'homey' and may possibly brighten a neighbors day!
We've also started recording some of our favorite TV shows on DVD's. Our in-room television is limited to Fox News, a Cartoon Network, repeat episodes of Big Bang Theory and a few other shows, plus limited movies. While you can also check-out a wide variety of movies at the front desk for no fee, you can only have one at a time and while I know what you're thinking...you can only watch 1 movie at a time...it's just not always convenient going through the process. There are some days & evenings when you'd rather stay in your stateroom, relax & watch a variety of good entertainment. We considered bringing some video games from home so before we disembarked this past April, we checked out the systems in our cabin and found them not to be compatible with what we have. Father's Day was great - Cheryl got me a DVD recorder so now we're set to record TV shows!
We're now 3 months away from sailing and our preparation activity has picked-up. We shopped the major department stores in September taking advantage of their Fall specials on summer & resort-wear. We hit the jackpot at Dillard's - 65% off - & the variety was incredible! We spent a fraction compared with last year so from a clothing perspective, we're ready for anything. Holland America is so well organized, leaving nothing for that dreadful last-minute rush. This week we placed our initial liquor order (4 complimentary large bottles) and also confirmed our luggage pick up in December. I may have mentioined this elsewhere, but Holland America actually sends a FedX truck to your home a few days before sailing and picks up luggage (any quantity at no additional charge) and delivers directly to the ship. Once the luggage leaves your home on FedX, the next time you see your suitcases is in your stateroom aboard the ship! Think about it - no wrestling with bags in the cab, at the airport, hotel, or ship terminal! In our case, we plan to ship 5 suitcases, same as last year. Scheduled pick up date here at home is December 28th. On the backside or conclusion of the cruise - same program - FedX delivers your luggage from the ship directly to your front door, usually within 5 business days. We participated in this program last year as well, and there were no problems at all. We've already been notified by Holland America on VISA requirements, so that process is underway - it can take as long as 30 days to process, so starting early is a good idea! We don't have information yet on required shots - last year we each had a total of 8 different vaccinations - we may be good to go this year, although with our planned safari in Africa, there may be an additional shot we need. A NEW twist this year year - we have credit cards set to expire in January, so Cheryl has been busy on the phone with the banks requesting that new cards be delivered in December before we leave. As you can see, many details to address before sailing, but working them ahead of time insures a stress-free embarkation. One last item I'll share with you that's important. Last year we met many new friends we wanted to stay in contact with. Toward the end of the cruise, we found ourselves in a mad rush trying to share contact information. The seasoned travelers all had personal cards they were handing out, while we were frantically scribbling our address & phone numbers on napkins! Rather than going to a commercial printer, we went to Office Max and bought Avery labels (template #8371) for about $9. I've since created contact cards with our basic information (in a matter of minutes) that we can give out to folks we'd like to stay in contact with - very slick, easy, & convenient!
All major landscaping projects on our list are taken care of now, Christmas cards are written & ready to mail after Thanksgiving, we've both been to our family doctor for complete physicals & required shots, and we were able to get extensions on all of our prescriptions. We made quite an extensive list of various medications, skin creams, bug spray, sun block, toothpaste, shaving cream, hand sanitizers, playing cards (you name it) and off to WalMart we went. Several hours and a dozen bags later, we were back home packing the first suitcase! You may wonder about playing cards. The ship has plenty of card decks, but we learned the hard way last year that germs enjoy the games as much as humans - so now, if someone we play with gets sick, we simply throw them away and break open a new deck. Holland America goes to great lengths to keep things sanitary and overall, they do a wonderful job - but playing cards and game boards are items overlooked, and folks just keep passing the germs back & forth.
Speaking of medications earlier - as a precaution, our family MD gave us a prescription for Percocet...just in case. At sea for 4+ months, anything can happen and rather than paying a very high cost for pain meds on the ship, we're covered.
Other activity this month included trips to the dentist to take care of two root canals & cleanings. We both have follow up cleanings scheduled just before Christmas so we start the trip in the best possible shape we can. Holland America DOES have a dentist on board for the entire world cruise and no doubt very competent, but again, it's the expense factor. It's just best to take care of everything possible before leaving - PLUS - you don't want problems with your teeth with all that food available to eat! And while I'm on the subject, if you followed us last year you know that yours truly gained a whopping 22 lbs. When we arrived home after 115 days, I was 202! I'm very happy to report that I've since lost every pound, +5! Today, I'm 175 and want to lose another 10 before Christmas. I've been on the HCG diet for several weeks - 500 calories per day. Not easy to do, but well worth it. We also walk nearly 3 miles every morning. Cheryl only gained 3 lbs the entire cruise last year and today, looks better than ever. Aside from Thanksgiving this month, the only other activities we have planned are trips to Indianapolis, Indiana & Chino Hills, California. We do volunteer work for the Blue Stars Drum & Bugle Corps - one of the top musical organizations for young adults in the country - they're holding camps & auditions in those respective cities and we'll be there to do whatever needs to be done. I was a part of this organization for several years when I was young, so now, along with my wife, I'm trying to give back to an activity that was very instrumental in molding many of my values.
December has been a whirwind of activity. Trips to California to perform volunteer activity as mentioned in an earlier update - Cheryl's birthday (on the 16th) - a visit from good friends Louie & Irene (Wisconsin) who were on the World Voyage with us last year - last minute check on required visas & shots (the eight vaccines we got last year are still valid) - coordination with Holland America & FedEx on luggage tags & pickup date (12/27) - securing 4-month supply of prescriptions for both of us - continued packing - and of course, Christmas! We had a beautiful celebration with my dear sister (Judy) from San Diego, Cheryl's parents, and our oldest son Christopher along with his girlfriend Shana. The Christmas decorations were put away on the 26th with the help of Cheryl's sweet mother (Judi Hall) and here we sit the morning of the 27th, our luggage (6 suitcases) sitting by the front door waiting for the FedEx pickup scheduled later today. We leave tomorrow morning (12/28) for eight days with our four kids & five grandkids in Charlotte, North Carolina, and will then travel to Ft. Lauderdale on January 4th to begin the World Voyage the following day, January 5th.
Our oldest son (Christopher) along with his girlfriend (Shana) will once again spot-check the house and care for the pool along with Cheryl's parents. Day-to-day supervision will be handled by our great neighbors, Jackson & Logan Paris. Jackson & Logan are 7th & 11th graders respectively...wonderful young men, very responsible & trustworthy. We've hired them to keep an eye on the house, check mail, adjust thermostats as the seasons change, and generally make sure our home remains secure. We're very fortunate to have them living across the street - and their parents, Larry & Susan, are exceptional folks! All patio furniture has been moved to the garage & covered, umbrellas folded, water turned off, hot water heater drained - vehicle in the garage hooked-up to a 'slow-charge' - all the things you would do prior to leaving for 137 days!
This evening, we're having dinner with good friends Al & Sandy Wilkinson and then tomorrow morning at 8:30, a cab will take us to the airport for the trip to Charlotte. We're as ready as we'll ever be...and I would say for our last 'World Cruise' BUT...some great folks we met last year from Texas (Harry & Marylyn) are twisting our arms already to join them on the 2014 trip...we're thinking about it, but I believe it's time to stay closer to home for awhile - plus - the 2014 voyage duplicates many of the same ports as 2012 & 2013 - we'll see!