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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Cruising 101 Part 1: Intro to Cruising

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This review is my personal opinion. I am not paid by anyone. I do not receive any amenities (free or discounted).

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Cruising 101: Top Ten Facts to Know


Editorial Purposes only
This blog entry is for travelers who are beginners in cruising.

1. Cruising has become affordable. This type of travel is very accommodating in terms of budgeting. You can plan well in advance and pay in installments. You need to know when you want to go, for how long, from where and to where. Also, check out the class of ship you might want and the activities and dining it offers. (What to Know When You Book).

2. You need a passport for most cruises. It's safe to say it should not expire within 6 months of the end of the cruise. You will need photo ID to get back on board after visiting the ports. You may be able to use your government ID (like a driver's license). Take the passport with you if you want to get it stamped.

Editorial Purposes Only

3. What's included? Your basic meals, most entertainment, the passage itself and your stateroom. Drinks (see below about soft drinks), excursions (the activities when you dock at ports), spa packages, casinos, bingo, some events, gratuities, taxes and fees are not automatically included. You can opt to pay for the gratuities when you pay for your passage or to leave an envelope with cash at the service desk with the amount of your choice (they put this information at the very end in teeny, tiny print). 




Carnival Breeze (editorial purposes only)

4. Most cruise lines charge for soft drinks and all charge for the hard stuff. Many lines offer coffee, tea, lemonade, iced tea and water (from the fountain) for free. Some beverage packages are priced per person, per day. Some say that if one adult in the stateroom buys the alcohol package, all have to do so.



Editorial Purposes

5. You choose your dinner time: early, late or flexible. Flexible dining (just show up anytime between 5 and 10PM, or so) can result in long lines or wait times. Some ships have 24 hour eating: the dining rooms close, but sandwich or pizza might be available. At the formal dining, you can order more than one entree, but I advise you to wait rather than do it all at once. It's not polite to leave all that food wasted. 



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6. What's in a Day at Sea: this is the time to explore and enjoy the ship for itself: the activities in the daily newsletters, swimming, eating, the parties and events, the sales and the shops, sunning on the deck. Deck chairs go FAST! You won't feel like getting up at 10AM (after all, you are on vacation) but if you mosey on the deck around noon or so, you may not get a lounge chair.



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7When in port: remember that sometimes an entire port's economy depends on tourism. They are eager and it is very overwhelming when you dock. Stay street smart. Watch your bag, don't be flashy with expensive items and walk as if you know the place, even if you don't. If you are touring on your own and want a cab, go past the first group you see as soon as you get off and walk a little toward town.

Grand Turk (for editorial purposes only)


8. Excursions are activities sponsored by third parties at the ports. If you are savvy and bold, you can explore the ports on your own. Just download a travel book or pick up pamphlets when you get there. There will be plenty of locals waiting to help. Bargain graciously but firmly. The first price will be too much, don't go for it. Some excursions are worth it, though. Which leads us to... 




9. You can get left behind. If you explore on your own, leave 90 minutes to get back. You will have to pay to get to the next port or to get home. You have to have ID to get back on anyway, but also have a credit card and a phone, just in case. If a ship-sponsored excursion is late, they'll wait for you.

Editorial Purposes




10. You have to pay customs for purchases that total over a certain amount. Fill in your customs slip at the end of the cruise. Be honest, there are agents when you get back to the home port. By the way, on board shops are only open at sea. No cash is accepted for purchases on board, you have to set up an account with a credit/debit card or deposit cash at the service desk.

                                      




Cruising Part 2, by the NYC Traveler

Monday, December 16, 2013

Rockefeller Christmas Tree

Like many visitors and locals alike, I did my annual trek to see the tree. It looks like the same tree, they look like the same lights and yet, for some reason, like many thousands, this has to be part of my annual December ritual. It's almost a pilgrimage: you come up either 5th or 6th Avenue, head to 49th or 50th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, battling shoppers, tourists and Radio City audiences, pushing your way through until, you turn the corner and then, as the "Hallelujah Chorus" swells in your head: there it is:

Rockefeller Center, New York City
It was cloudy, the lights do not shine as brilliantly (now that the tree is using LED lights, according to Wikepedia), yet, I loved looking at it just the same. I think of the workers during the Depression that erected the first tree back in the early 1930's and how that tradition has been carried out almost every year since.

I mentioned to a friend I had just gone to see the tree. New to the city, she said she had seen the tree-lighting ceremony on TV in the past but did that was about it. I had mentioned that it seems like the same tree every year, yet, we go see it every year. I told her that it's a big thing here: scouting for the tree, when it's cut down, transported, erected and finally, the lighting, each step chronicled on local news stations. Her eyes widened: "You mean, it's a real tree?" "Yes, of course, that's the fun part." "Oh, now I have to go see it." Now, you get it. Welcome to NYC.

But after you have seen the tree, jostled for space to take pictures and gone inside to warm up and perhaps get a hot beverage, what's next? To break up the monotony, plan your trip: the Radio City show, a Broadway show, shopping or other activities. Peeping the decorations of all the stores can take up a good hour as you go from display to display down 5th Avenue. (The American Girl Place, Sony Wonder, Nintendo World, the Lego Store, the Apple Store and FAO Schwartz are all nearby).

For the more religious observant, St. Patrick's Cathedral is on 5th Avenue and East 50th, although at the time of this writing, it is under construction. And if you are a walker, head 12 blocks south downtown and take in Grand Central Station (a topic for another blog entry).

The lights go out nowadays, going off at 11:30PM every night, unlike the good old days when we locals would go at 1AM after the tourists were scared off being in Manhattan late at night. This is adding to the crowds. Time it: go before a show lets out, or early in December or even after January 1; the tree is up until @January 6. www.rockefellercenter.com/tour-and-explore/the-tree-at-rockefeller-center/.  Subway: E, M to 5th Ave/53rd St; B,D,F,M to 47-50th Rock Center; Bus: M5, M7, M50.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Jazz at the Blue Note

Blue Note Jazz Club, New York City

If you decide to spend an evening taking in some cool jazz, the Blue Note is a nice way to do it for locals and tourists alike.

Their schedule is posted on their website, so that you can plan your evening well in advance. In fact, it is very advisable to plan way in advance: either by reservation or purchasing tickets outright. Planning is advance will help your budget also: be forewarned, this is not a cheap date! In fact, if Wikipedia is to be believed, this is one of the most expensive jazz clubs in New York.

We saw the jazz supergroup Fourplay Because of this (they are very popular), I made the reservation almost 2 months earlier, right on the Blue Note website. I chose a table rather than at the bar and I am glad I did. The bar is at the door of the club, which translates to the back of the viewing area. The view is not the best unless you are right at the front of the bar.

Fourplay at the Blue Note, NYC

Like many clubs, the set-up is very cozy. At the tables, you are right on top of each other, with most tables seating 6-10 persons. When you come in, they direct you to the coat check: it is not mandatory and there is a $1 charge. Because of the lack of seating space, it is advisable to check your coat.

The wait staff was pleasant, cordial, and attentive without being overbearing. Because Fourplay is so popular, there were enough staff for each section, so you did not have to search for your server. They were also discreet during the performance and timed the service nicely so that you had what you needed before the group started.

OK, so price, right? Just to get in the door was $55 at the table and the bar was $30 or $35 (sorry, I forgot). However, for Chris Botti's upcoming in residence series for December, it's $40 at the bar and as far as I can see, all the tables are about $75. Most of the tables for the dates are sold out. Then, there is a $5 minimum. I did not see if there was anything on the menu for $5 unless it was a soft drink.

Like most jazz clubs, gourmet food is not their forte, but for us, it is much better than BB King (although I have never eaten at BB King's companion restaurant, Lucille's). The shrimp and avocado sandwich on croissant was messy, but I liked it. Their choices were varied, with appetizers, soup, salads, entrees and desserts. As always, I recommend you check out the menu online before going.

If you want to party some more, The Village Underground (with a good house band) is right across the street and if your taste in food is totally street, McDonald's is there, also.

Tourist or local, save your pennies, peep the schedule and treat yourself to an evening at the Blue Note in NY (they have locations in Tokyo, Milan and Nagoya). BlueNote.net, 131 West 3rd St., off 6th Ave. Subway stop: West 4th Street (A, B, C, E, D, F, M). More about Greenwich Village later!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Welcome to TravelMyNY

Welcome to Travel MyNY!

This blog will be about touring and sightseeing within the New York City metropolitan area and traveling throughout the world as a New Yorker. I live in the City of New York and I am one of its biggest fans. I have lived in the NYC area all my life and I was introduced to its cultural wonders as a child. 

Many people live in wonderful places and do not tour their own areas. Throughout the years, as I have posted in social media, people have asked me for information about touring and sightseeing right in their own hometown. Hopefully, for New Yorkers and visitors alike, you will enjoy the little tidbits, fyi's and advice that will come forth from here.

I have liked to travel since taking family road trips as a kid. I enjoy seeing new places, sightseeing famous and little known sites and taking travel photos. This blog is strictly from the perspective of the ordinary traveler. From time to time, I will refer you to experts.

Follow me for all my travel adventures on:
Facebook at Marcia Crayton Photography and Travel@aicramphoto on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr and visit our website for travel photos at www.mcraytonphoto.com.

Happy Trails to All!!