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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Cruising 101 Part 4: Packing




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Cruising 101 Part 4: Packing




Note, very important: Check the FAQs for the cruise line you will be on. Read what is not allowed on board to avoid unpleasant surprises. My blog is just general information, for beginners.


Your luggage is checked at the curb (you will download your luggage tag or your travel agent will do this for you). Your bags may not be delivered to your stateroom until late afternoon, so you need a day bag, the same one you would take off the ship for excursions. You may want your swim suit, workout clothes, music player, book and a towel. When you board, most areas except your room are available and you can have fun right away.


All Aboard!


Clothing:

Most ships have reasonable limits, but there are security and weight concerns. This blog entry will refer mostly to 5-10 day cruises. My tip: pack as if you were traveling on an airplane. You will find with experience how much stuff you don't need.


  • 2 outfits per day: casual wear for daytime and something slightly dressier for the evening, depending on your activity. Outfits can repeat, it's OK. Keep the climate in mind.
  • You may want to work out. Bring 2-4 changes of workout clothes and the small travel packets of detergent to rinse them out. 
  • Bring at least 2 suits (same color), 1 coverup and 1 pair flip flops/sandals.  You will need to rinse out the suit after a day at the beach, so while one is drying, the other is ready to go.
  • Part of the cruising experience is dressing up for dinner. Your newsletter will tell you when it is an elegant or formal evening. Nowadays, that simply means a collared shirt with dress pants for the men and a skirt, dress or dress pants for the ladies. 
  • Special dress-up days: all-white parties, pirate deck parties, ugly sweater parties.


Personal Items:
Day pack essentials: sunscreen, lip balm, insect repellent, anti-bacterial gel


  • Medications/vitamins (check with the cruise line about oxygen tanks)
  • Sunblock, insect repellent, lip balm, anti-bacterial gel, tissues
  • Small umbrella (or find that overpriced theme park poncho) and always, a versatile jacket/sweater. 
  • Small sizes of your favorite beauty items. Shower gel and shampoo are provided, just in case. I prefer to bring my own.


Electronics:

Staterooms generally will have one 120V outlet (USA) and one that may require an adaptor. I carry my voltage converter always. I also carry a hub so that I can charge more than one device. Extension cords and strips may not be permitted. You might want: phone, camera, tablet/laptop. Blow dryers are provided, be careful about curling irons.


The Internet:


If you need to communicate with the landlubbers, you can access the shipboard internet cafe or you might be able to subscribe to wireless service. Check the website or check it our when you get on board. Each cruise line is different: some sell time by the week, others by the minute. Tip: service is really slow on days at sea, so log on when you return from an excursion or when everyone is at dinner.

Other items:

If you are very active, you will need your snorkeling mask and your scuba gear (I saw a couple that carried an extra suitcase). These things can be rented, but I rather have my own mouthpiece.
Day pack, glasses pouch, water bottle

Day packs: There are many day packs that can be worn across the body. Some people pack their money and cards under their clothing in a money belt. Every place warns against pickpockets, do not take these advisories lightly.

Kids:

For little ones, excessive toys and books are not needed: the kids clubs have that. You may want a tablet for the stateroom for a video or learning apps, but the purpose is to let them play! For babies, try to bring what they need; the shops and ports can be pricey. I've seen infants on board; my hat's off to the parents.

Finally:
The ship's shops are open only at sea. You can buy emergency items either on board or when you are in port. They tend to cost more, of course, but items are available. The key is to learn to live without some things and to remember you are not moving away from home, just vacationing. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Super Bowl Boulevard 2014

Note: This blog entry is intended for editorial purposes only. All photos are copyrighted by Marcia Crayton and are not intended to advertise nor to violate the registered trademarks of the NFL, ESPN, Fox, Macy's or GMC. 

New York City
Super Bowl XLVIII Boulevard 2014

Like thousands of other fans, I was unable to stroll along Super Bowl Boulevard in New York City until the last day, the Saturday before the game. Fortunately, I got there early to stroll the first 5 blocks without too much traffic (or last 5, depending on which subway stop  you got off at). It was when I decided to get lunch that I ran into trouble. Within 30 minutes, it was jam-packed.

Part of the trouble was that, surprisingly, Broadway was not completely blocked off. Vehicular traffic was allowed to flow normally, forcing the crowds to the sidewalks. Now, for those of you who may not know, part of Broadway (basically from West 34th to West 42 Street, or so) has already been designated as pedestrian, with one lane rather than two or three for cars and extended areas for folks to walk, sight-see, shop, eat and relax year round. The area, or much of it, is completely shut down for events like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade or New Year's Eve. Why not this time? Closing off that stretch of Broadway even for part of the time, say 11AM - 6PM would have helped with the walking traffic, not to mention the safety of the toddlers in and out of strollers.

Super Bowl Blvd. extended from West 47th Street to West 34th Street (or vice versa, particularly if you came by way of Brooklyn, New Jersey or the Long Island Railroad). I can understand allowing traffic to flow through the 3 week days (Wednesday to Friday). But not putting the area into "street fair" mode seemed not a good idea. Our city prides itself on handling large projects. We study other locales, as per statements made by officials at news conferences when new projects or events are announced, such as the new bicycle renting program, the expansion of pedestrian plazas, increasing traffic violation cameras, etc. We then try to implement and organize events to fit NYC. Somehow, this one slipped by us.

OK, venting over. The mood, though extremely crowded, was joyous and pure fun. New Yorkers welcomed the out-of-towners (and we, in turn, were welcomed into town also by workers of the event!). You were issued a backstage pass that you could either register at the information booth or through your phone (it turns out that it was not necessary at all). When you visited each exhibit, you touched your badge to the target and you could track  your trek through the boulevard. You were supposed to receive a text or email (depending on the info you entered) for each hit, but it must have gotten backed up in cyberspace because two of my emails came through the next day, ironically during the Super Bowl itself. Again, I don't think the number of people was anticipated.

My backstage pass

There were many activities but lines became very long. So, I must confess that I saw the Vince Lombardi trophy from the outside, directly behind it. I passed through the two candy exhibits and declined a picture with the chocolate characters. And, I did not take pictures on the displays that would have made me look like a football player (long lines).

The Vince Lombardi Trophy

But I did do the Tobaggan Run. Although the event was basically free (including the badge), tickets for the tobaggan were sold out. Wisely, they sold them with times listed. A gentleman must have changed his mind because he handed my sister two free tickets and the next thing I knew, my niece and I were on our way. It was really a slide on a mat, but it was high up and long enough (60 feet worth) to be impressive for a non-amusement park attraction and lots of fun. Whee!!!!

Tobaggan Run
I also managed to get a snapshot of the Roman Numerals:



I missed the concert that night (the party lasted until 11PM) and I can imagine the crowd might have changed from the families with smaller children to older teens and folks on dates. Here were the other events:

  • NFL Rush Zone and NFL Play 60, for children ages 6 to 13
  • The animated series "NFL Rush Zone."
  • Super Bowl virtual theater: 10-minute video celebrating football on the facade of Macy's 
  • Autographs with current and former NFL stars
  • Concert 
 I ended my day in Macy's, where I admit, I fell for the hype and bought a T-Shirt. Macy's did a nice job, with mannequins of the entire NFL on display and displays of genuine jerseys. I'm old, so I was impressed by Broadway Joe Namath's jersey:

Namath's Jersey
So, despite the fact that NYC and the NFL could not get together to get the street closed during the busy time, it was quite a party, a well-behaved crowd and above all, as many of us locals were saying, a lot of fun. Just being in the area was great. Not bad for someone who is not actually a big football fan!!!