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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Niagara, the Falls and Me: Part 1


Disclaimer

Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 if the copyright act of 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

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


Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitterTumblr. Purchase our fine art and decor or stock photos on ShutterstockZenfolioImageKindmcraytonphoto.comiStock by Getty Images , and Dreamstime.





Niagara, the Falls and Me: Part 1




The American Falls, Niagara Falls, NY



1. A little geography lesson. The Falls are really 3: the American, the Bridal Veil (on the USA side) and the Horseshoe, on the Canada side (although my research indicated that some hold that part of the Horseshoe are in the USA). The water flowing is from the Niagara River that falls into the Niagara Gorge. The water from the gorge links two of the Great Lakes: Ontario and Erie. From a nature and geographical point of view, this is truly a natural wonder.

2. Start on the USA side. The Falls are within Niagara Falls State Park. There is a fee to park (the Empire Passport is accepted). There is also more parking within a 1/2 to 1 block radius that might be cheaper. Either go to the Visitors Center (for a 40 minute, fee for an intro film), or if you can't wait, follow the roar of the water and head toward the Falls. Bear to the left and take a look at the rapids of the Niagara River. The rush of the water will give you an idea of the force of the flow. When you get to the Falls, you will be viewing the American Falls from the top. You will be almost at the point where the water goes over (see the photo above).

3. Less folks, more cold in winter. But, all the attractions are closed. A nice bonus was that the Observation Tower was free (the higher platform via the elevator was closed). But in warmer weather: you can go under the Bridal Veil Falls via the Cave of the Winds Tour (on Goat Island). You will wear a poncho (but you will get wet) and special shoes. The other experience is the famous Maid of the Mist, a boat ride in the gorge (bottom) of the Falls that sails from either country. Once again, you get a poncho as part of the price but you may get wet! I recommend a nice waterproof camera.



View from the Observation Tower, USA side. American Falls to the left, Horseshoe on the right.


4. Niagara Falls State Park is worth exploring in all seasons.  It's the oldest state park in the system. Check out The Great Lakes garden; hike or drive (via 1st Street) to Goat Island and then walk to the Bridal Veil Falls. Keep walking over to the Three Sisters Island. This part of the river is what goes over to form the Horseshoe Falls (the third Falls, on the Canadian side). The force of the water is amazing. Throughout, there will be restaurants, cafes and snacks, usually during warmer weather.


5. There may be construction on the USA side. There have been many new attractions and hotels added: a major convention center (up Old Falls Street), the usual gift shops and shopping, museums, wax exhibits and other attractions similar to the Canadian side. Frankly, even though many people prefer the Canadian side because of the Las Vegas-like atmosphere, I like the quiet of the American side. 



 



Next time: Part 2, the Canadian side.





Sunday, January 12, 2014

Cruising 101 Part 3: Behind the Scenes


Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 if the copyright act of 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.


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


Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr. Purchase our fine art and decor or stock photos on Shutterstock, Zenfolio, ImageKind, mcraytonphoto.com, iStock by Getty Images , and Dreamstime.


Cruising 101 Part 3: Behind the Scenes on a Ship

In the last post, we touched on many things about cruising: departure ports, ships' amenities and destinations (ports of call). So, you are almost on your way.

Part of the turn down service each evening
One of my room mates: Turn down service usually includes a towel animal each evening.


How does a Cruise Ship Sail?
the human side of things: how the ship runs
(All photos are for editorial/reporting use only. Photos copyrighted by Marcia Crayton)

It can take as many as 1400 people to make your cruise vacation an awesome experience. (First thing to remember: it's always a ship, never a boat!)

The captain: in charge of the ship and is the ultimate authority; has usually been to maritime academy and graduate school and is licensed/certified; has to have many years of experience working the way up the ladder, through 3rd, 2nd and 1st mate positions, staff captain/chief mate and taking umpteen exams. This journey can take at least 10 years.


The officers:
  are usually dressed in the white uniforms or in their dress blacks in the evening. This category includes the engineers, radio officers, oil people and plumbers.


Carnival Splendor, in port (editorial use only)

Dining: there is a head chef, and staff (baker, sous chef, etc) and a head waiter and staff. For the wait staff, there may be intermediary positions. This staff works in the dining room and at the buffets. Along side of these are the bartenders, who work at the various bars throughout the ship.





Maintenance and housekeeping: these important people keep our staterooms looking pretty and working properly, from fixing the toilet to cleaning up after the poor people who may get sick (for various reasons...)


Editorial purposes only


The Cruise Director: Clubs, casinos, theaters, shows, movies on deck, ugly Christmas sweater night. Where do you find out about all of that and who arranges for it? Your friendly cruise director, of course.  The cruise director supervises the entertainment staff, hosts events and makes those famous announcements. 



Lido Deck Party on the Carnival Vista, editorial purposes only

Customer Service: Service desks such as excursions, customer service, the photo area, the spa/salon people, and your friendly booking agent (there are discounts if you book your next cruise right then and there) will open like regular businesses, somewhere from 8AM-10AM to 5PM - 8PM (except for the photo and spa). 


Ruby Princess, editorial use only

Kids Activities: the children's counselors/youth activities directors. Kids' areas are usually divided into 4 areas: infants/toddlers/pre-school; elementary age (somewhere around ages 5-9 or 10); middle school (10 or 11-13) and teens, high school age. Unfortunately, ironically, college-aged young adults may not have as much fun as everyone else. Drinking and gambling age may be 21, although the late night clubs may admit age 18 and older. 


Carnival Pride, editorial use only.


The staff personnel work long hours. The crew (housekeeping, wait staff) will bunk in shared quarters on Deck 1, maybe Deck 2. Staff (entertainment, supervisors) may or may not share quarters and may be on Decks 2 and/or 3. Your traditional officers (including the cruise director, chef and maybe the assistants) may have staterooms where the passengers are: Decks 4, 5, 6 or  higher. Of course the captain has a nice stateroom, perhaps a suite.



The staff makes towel animals overnight on the lido deck


Everyone, regardless of rank, works 10-14 hours but they do get breaks and they get to go ashore when in port. The wait staff works hard: they work the morning breakfast buffet, afternoon tea and dinner in the dining rooms. Your room is serviced twice a day (making up the room when you leave in the morning and turn-down service, complete with a towel animal), plus there is room service.


Editorial Purposes Only


In the morning, around 5AM or 6AM, someone is literally swabbing the deck, chairs are being readied and the pool has already been serviced. The fitness center usually opens up then and yoga or spin classes start.


Editorial Purposes Only


Many, many positions were not mentioned: the dressed up characters/actors, the sound and light crew, life guards (although signs are posted about swimming at your own risk), and who knows, there may be a person who is responsible for running the movies, not to mention the in-house closed circuit TV channels.

Hopefully, you will enjoy your experience more when you encounter the hard working staff on your trip. Smile back when they greet you and be nice to them! :)














Friday, January 3, 2014

Cruising 101 Part 2: Tips for Booking a Cruise

Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 if the copyright act of 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.


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

5 Tips for Booking a Cruise

Carnival Glory

Carnival Glory. Copyright 2013 Marcia Crayton For editorial purposes only. Photo may not be reproduced nor sold.

Cruising used to be a luxury for rich folks. However, it is more and more affordable and cruising is a popular option when you are planning your vacation. Here are some things to consider:




Departure ports: you should take note where you want to leave from and how you will get there. The departure port may be a hot US city, such as New Orleans, Port Canaveral, Honolulu, Vancouver, Miami, New York, Baltimore or Los Angeles. You can build an extra vacation around your departure port. Will you have to fly? Can you drive there and how much does it cost to park?


Cape Liberty, NJ, home of Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas (editorial purposes only)


Destinations/Itineraries: For the world traveler, cruising is an excellent way to introduce yourself new countries without booking an entire vacation there. You can get to know a place and come back later or visit a port again and again and do something different every time.



The Carnival Breeze, anchored at Grand Turk, Turk and Caicos (editorial purposes only)


Ship:  Cruise lines build ships in classes: they name the classes and then the ships in those classes are similar. Ships in each class have many things in common: size, amenities, activities but will have something that distinguishes them so that they are not all exactly alike.






Dining/Food: Food quality is can vary from line to line. Most cruise lines keep the quality the same for each class of their ships but the variety may differ. The larger the ships will have extra restaurants (that you pay extra for). They may also have more types of foods available in between meals. Most cruise lines include lemonade, iced tea and water as part of the price but sodas are extra. (Disney included all soft drinks.) Needless to say, spirited drinks are always extra and some lines will sell you a package for that, too. Read the website carefully or check with your travel agent so that you know what to expect.


Be prepared to buy drink packages

Staterooms: You can choose your room. The rooms will be small. It's a stateroom. They're very nice, but small. Rooms near the Lido deck (near the pool), and on Decks 1-2 (under the galley/kitchen) may hear some noise. So will rooms near the elevator or the stairs.  But you'll probably get a towel animal when they turn down your bed at night. Be kind to your cabin steward, they're your host for the week.


Editorial use only
Cruising 101 Part 3: Behind the Scenes

Coming up in the series: excursions, ships' activities, ports and more.