Cruising

Everything you know about Alaska is wrong

alaska20130601-13ccWhen many people think of Alaska the most common thing that comes to mind is year round snow, glaciers, and maybe even a little gold.

Now, I am not saying Alaska does not have those things, I’m just saying that Alaska isn’t just about snow, glaciers, or even gold. Did you know that Alaska is BIGGER than Texas? It is so big that they have broken up the state into several regions from the Far North to the southern part designated as the “Inside Passage”.alaska20130603-58alaska20130530-01cc

alaska20130602-03While the Far North tends to be the more snow covered area we seem to associate Alaska with, the Southern part which includes cities like Anchorage and Juneau have a more mild experience during summer and even spring. Summer days can even get as high as 80.

Plus, the land isn’t completely occupied with “frontier men” looking for wives. Many people of all ages and cultures live in Alaska who come from a variety of backgrounds. In Anchorage they have many shows that come all the way from the streets of Broadway and fine museums with local treasures found nowhere else in the world.alaska20130601-01cc

Of course you can always see the glaciers, the bears, and the even try your luck for some gold. If you would like more information on what you can see and do in Alaska. Please check out their website at travelalaska.com and order your free Vacation Planner.

~Gin Nixonalaska20130601-12cc

 

 

 

 

Carnival Triumph Wedding Review

Hello, 2014! I know I’ve been putting off this blog post, but I figured the best time would be now. How many of you have just gotten engaged over this holiday? Well, whenever you got engaged, CONGRADS! Weddings can be either fun and exciting to plan or a true testament of your sanity in each other. My biggest advice in planning your wedding, don’t forget to include the person your marrying in the decision making process. Even if its something like small like, cloth vs paper napkins.

We decided to do our wedding on board the Carnival Triumph. Carnival is one of our local port cruise lines and were one of the few choices we had for the time and date of our choice. (My first choice was Princess, but they didn’t sail during my dates in our area.) If you are thinking of doing your own wedding, check all the lines. They all do weddings, but prices will vary for all of them.

When we first arrived, we were placed in a special waiting area and were even allowed to go through security and board before everyone else. The bride and groom will be seeing each other. You can ask to see if they can try to prevent that but it might be difficult depending on the port you are leaving from.First, cruise weddings are good for small weddings. For 50 people or less and a max of 100. Thing is you are limited on your guest list based on how many guest are sailing and not sailing. Typically the max non-sailing guest I could have was 50. This will work out for you if you get a group together to sail with you. With a group rate your travel agent can get it so that your own cabin will be free (minus taxes and fees). This was something I did not do, but many brides do.

Once on board the brides room is your own cabin. When we arrived we had this lovely floral arragement with little chocolates on out bed that was so beautiful. The picture just doesn’t do it any justice. (We gave to the chocolates to our neices and my kids.)

If there are any guest list items or decorations that you have already discussed with the coordinator, this is the time you would give them to them. My husband got dressed quickly and then went up to the Lido to get me and my girl friend some drinks and food. We basically, hung out in the room until ‘showtime’. Which is good if you have to do more hair and makeup. Plus, just to help you relax. My husband entertained everyone in the LIDO and most guest walked around to check out the ship as they had never been on one.

Couple of things about getting married on a cruise ship:paper flowers

1. You can not bring your own flowers on board. They will give the bride and groom a small bouque, which we found was not bad. It was generic and I personally went with my own touch by doing a paper flower bouquet.

2. You can not bring food, your own photographer, rice, bubbles, etc. on board.

Solutions: For the ceremony we placed fan programs (handmade) and made paper wands with bells on them to ring when we kissed. (We had a paper theme, but you could use ribbon wands in lue.)

*Our “guest book” was a mod podge Paper mailbox complete with miniature postcards for them to write their well wishes.

 

We let Carnival take our photos, which didn’t come out that bad. BUT we created a website on Shutterfly Spaces with a guest account for them to download them to. Then we used these cute little paper cameras to place business cards of picshare_boxeswhere they can post and share their photos with everyone else. Including camera phone photos. We did not purchase a package before hand and in the end we ended up paying just over $4k for ALL our photos, the DVD slideshow, the wedding book, digital rights of the photos with CDs, and three of our photos on canvas. All which we received before we left the ship.*Our gift was little anchor and wheel keychains. Many of the party traveled with us so we gave them an on board survival kit.

 

I would say that I enjoyed my experience. The personal touches that I wanted were there and I was very happy with the experience that I had. Please feel to message me if you have any specific questions about the Wedding Experience.

~Gin

 

Cruise Cocktail: Royal Caribbean’s B-52

b52Ok. I will be the first to admit that I have never had a B-52, let alone Royal’s. However, this is a drink that I see frequently on the Cruise Critic Boards, so I figured, what the heck! Let’s try it!

Based on a Royal Caribbean drink menu, their B-52 consist of Baileys, Kahlua, and Grand Marnier. Taking my que from the web, it appears to be a layered drink so without further ado, the B-52.

B-52

1 part Kahlua

1 part Bailey’s Irish cream

1 part Grand Marnier

Layer in the following order. Kahlua, Bailey’s and then Gran Marnier in a tall shot glass.

 

My thoughts: I couldn’t for the life of me make “layers” and other than the smell of A LOT of liquor, it tasted a bit sweet like caramel. I imagine it would of been better with a bit of chocolate. My only beef with it was that I felt like I was taking shots of moonshine. (Not that  I know what moonshine taste like, just what I imagine it does.) Otherwise, the Bailey’s really smooths it out. I know it says shot glass, but I think I would rather have this mixed up and served in a martini glass. When we tried that, it was MUCH easier to handle the mixture. Just in small sips.

My hubby’s thoughts: Sweet but smooth. Smells like moonshine and after awhile a bit too much sweetness.

Cheers!

~Gin

Cruise Cocktail’s version of: Carnival’s “Red’s Remedy”

Red Remedy CarnivalNow, I looked and looked and Googled but was unable to find ANYWHERE for Carnival’s Red Frog’s Signature Drink, “Red’s Remedy.”

Here is the “official” description from the Red Frog Menu:

RED’S REMEDY Go numb with this rich, sweet, creamy concoction of Gosling’s Black

Seal Rum, Cruzan Coconut Rum and tropical juices.”

Now, I may not have the recepie for this one, but I can tell you I sure do remember the taste of this sucker. I kid you not, on my last cruise I had at LEAST three a day. I was so hooked on these drinks. (My husband still teases me about how I would down these on the cruise.) So taking a cue from how the “Fun Ship” was made I came up with my own “mock” version of “Red’s Remedy”.

“Mock” Red’s Remedy

Using a 1oz shot glass:

1/2 shot glass of Meyer’s Dark Rum

1/2 shot glass of Malibu Coconut Rum

4 shot glasses of Welch’s Essential Orange, Pineapple, Apple Juice.

 

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain over ice into a high ball glass.

Optional: You can add a full shot for more kick or add and dilute with juice.cruise082013-05

My impression: When I first got this, I bought this in the blow fish cup so when I made this for myself at home, oh ya, I put it in the blow fish again. Felt like I was back on the ship. {sigh} Now, like on the ship, this sucker is deceptively easy to drink and I was sucking them down again. The Welch’s juice really  reminded me of the tropical juice they used on the ship.

My husband’s take: “Yep, still fruity.” (He’s not a fruity drinker.)

Well, I hope you enjoy it! Please leave a comment below if you try it and what you thoughts are on it.

Cheers!

~Gin

 

 

 

Cruising Cocktail: Carnival’s “Fun Ship”

Usually served on the first day for cheap, this punch is why they call Carnival the “Fun Ships”! Below is the recipe we found.

 

The Fun ShipFUN SHIP

Using a 1oz shot glass:

1/2 shot glass of Amaretto

1/2 shot glass of Dark Rum

1/2 shot glass of Vodka

1/2 shot glass of Apricot Brandy

4 shot glasses of Fruit Punch

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain over ice into a high ball glass. Garnish with an orange slice.

My take: Just like on the ship, this sucker is deceptively “light” on alcohol. Also, I added an extra shot of Fruit Punch because the dark spiced rum that my husband bought was really standing out in the original recipe. I will be having this probably ALL week……at least until the kids finish off the Hawaiian punch.

My husband thoughts: I should drink it more often. 😉

Cheers!

~Gin Nixon

 

 

 

Cruise Cocktail: Princess’s Milky Way Martini

Milky Way Princess

On my Alaska cruise on Princess, I decided to try a martini after watching one of their Martini shows out in the atrium. It look enticing and on top of that they said the magic word. Chocolate. (Yum!) So while cruising through Glacier Bay National Park I stop at one of the bars, took a scenic seat and embarked on this out-of-this-world drink. Needless to say, I had to make these when I got home. Since Grey Goose is my vodka of choice, this was a no brainer for me.

Here is the recipe (from Princess) to make your own:

6 parts Grey Goose Vodka
3 parts Bailey’s Irish Cream
3 parts Kahlua liqueur

Chilled over ice and strained.
Garnished in a glass with dark and white chocolate

 

Here is also a video by The Tipsy Bartender to help my visual readers. Just know that the recipe is different and I urge you to try both and see which you prefer.

Here is the video’s recipe.

1 part Vanilla Vodka
1 part Creme de Cacao
1 part Baileys Irish Cream
Chocolate Syrup

 

My take: The original mixture seemed super strong to me. I think I like the second one a bit more as the Crème de Cacao gave it more of a desert feel. Well, nothing beats having it on a cruise ship while looking out at the Glaciers (see photo). However, in front of a nice roaring fire at home next to my hubby. Sexy!

My hubby’s thoughts: They mixed well together. Even though there is an eventual bite from the Vodka you slide into the drink with the chocolate.

Cheers!

~Gin

Navigator of the Seas

Photo Courtesy of RCCLSince I’m here in Houston, I’m going to start by looking at just one of Royal Caribbean’s ships that sail out of Galveston, the Navigator of the Seas. Coming up in 2014 it will get some refurbishment and upgrades that I think it’s a good reason to start looking at this ship!

Some innovations will be:
*New Staterooms with virtual balconies.Photo Courtesy of RCCL These will show real time views and sound of the sites outside the ship. This is great for those with an interior budget but don’t want to feel claustrophobic.
*Panoramic ocean view staterooms with floor-to-ceiling windows.
*New Dining venues such as Govanni’s Table (Italian), Izumi (Asian) and Cupcake Cupboard.
*FlowRider is now on the ship.
* A 220 sq. ft. outdoor movie screen
* Royal Babies & Tots Nursery
* Diamond Lounge, exclusively for Diamond Members
* Wi-Fi available throughout the ship to provide better connection in staterooms.
* Flat-panel televisions for an updated look.
*Digital way-finders onboard so you can find your next hangout and see what’s lined up for the day

As always there is:
* a Rock-climbing wall
*an Ice-skating rink
*a Mini-golf course and Basketball court
*Jogging and in-line skating tracks

The Navigator is a Voyager Class ship on RCCL. Check out their video.

Also if you would like to see a virtual tour of the Navigator. I’m looking forward to the new changes!

Cheers!

Gin Nixon

Cruising Royally with Royal Caribbean

Perhaps, you all KNOW you want to go on a cruise but you just aren’t sure of WHICH Cruise line to go on. The next few post will be with some about some of our popular cruise companies to help you decide WHICH line you would like to take your group on.

Royal Caribbean International Cruise Lines is a Miami based company but has 21 ships and travels into over 269 ports in 75 countries on 6 continents. (WOW!)

They are the cruise line with the FIRST:

*Rock Climbing on sea on Voyager Class ships

*Ice skating on the sea on Voyager Class ships

*Surfing simulator on the FlowRider ® on Freedom Class ships

*Zip lining through the ship on Oasis Class ships

*First in line to lease land to be used as a private destination

*First cruise line to feature Broadway at Sea

 

As you can see there are also different TYPES of ships. Each with a different Feature to keep you and your guest entertained.

 

Royal Caribbean International Cruise Lines has so many options on things to do, dining options, shows, activities for kids and teens, and services. . Like the chance to learn Italian, salsa dancing, or the recipe for a perfect martini. To conquer the rock wall and ice skate on the equator. Or slow things down with a hot stone massage and duty-free designer shopping. You and you guest will see, do and learn more at sea than they ever thought possible.

 

Photo Courtesy of RCCLDining isn’t a bore either. From cupcakes to California rolls, finger foods to a five-course gourmet meal, a Royal Caribbean cruise is a journey of culinary discovery. Once onboard, you and your guest are free to explore many complimentary dining options or specialty restaurants (for a small fee) that are rich in flavor and ambience. There are dining and beverage packages that will work with any group that will even include alcohol. A typical beverage package that includes all wines by the glass, beers, fountain sodas, call and premium brands of liquor and frozen drinks is $55 per day per person. Kids can get unlimited soda package for just $6.50 per day!

RCI_DW_AQUA_LIVE_031_V2Speaking of kids, children young and old can sail with one of their favorite DreamWorks* character from Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar, and other DreamWorks animation films at:

• Character dining

• Ice shows, aqua shows and character parades

• 3D movies

• Photo opportunities

• Surprise appearances

*Available on (Allure, Oasis, Liberty, Freedom, Voyager, & Mariner ships)

And DreamWorks is the only one to partner with Royal. In fact, you can find anyone of these companies on board your next Royal Caribbean cruise.

• Fisher Price

• Guess

• Coach

• Starbucks

• Johnny Rockets

• Britto

• Coca-Cola Freestyle- Royal Caribbean is the only cruise line currently offering Coca-Cola Freestyle as part of their unlimited fountain soda package. Offering over 100 of your client’s favorite brands, from sparkling to diet to caffeine-free. Now on Allure, Oasis, Freedom, Explorer, Majesty and will be on Enchantment by end of year. Currently limited to these particular ships who sail domestic itineraries.

Photo Courtesy of RCCL

With so many destinations, there are so many choices for you to choose from.

Cheers!

~Jennifer Nixon

My Magic Tour

 

atrium2So this was my FIRST cruise inspection. The last time I was on a cruise I was, um, 8. :/ So now there is a different “adult” perspective and of course with my OWN cruise coming up in August on Carnival I was super curious on what happens during boarding, and lets me honest, OF THE SHIP!!! Well, we aren’t doing the Magic for our cruise, but it was the one I WANTED to do. So let’s see what I will miss in August.

First, going through the Port of Galveston via the Carnival terminal was not as icky I would of thought. It was all indoors which was a BIG plus for me. It was raining and I was worried I was going to get my feet soaked. Plus, once inside it was VERY clean. Even that bathrooms were clean and graffiti free. It was not what I expected. (sorry no photos allowed in this part of the tour) So you go through TSA security just like at the airport, except they aren’t going to take items that are over 3.5oz  (unless it’s just dangerous, duh) Plus, you don’t have to take off your shoes. It went very quickly.

I got there around 9:30a and they still didn’t let through security till closer to 10a. Once there we waited in a large waiting area with chairs and restrooms, to board the ship. Customs still needed to clear it and that was closer to 11a. Once you past security though you still need to check in. That is where you will get your card so you can board the ship. I noticed that many people were confused about this.

There was also two groups for a wedding there. My husband and I are renewing our vows on our cruise so it was a perfect opportunity for me to see what we and our guest will go through on our day. I found that the wedding coordinators appeared very attentive to the group and everyone looked very excited. Even those that weren’t cruising!

Once you get the OK to board, you will then scan your card not once, but TWICE so don’t put it away once you get on the bridge. Right before you board there are some photographers who will take your photo in front of a screen. You can pick these photos later up in the photo center onboard. (BTW its HUGE!) Ok, so once you enter your are in the atrium of the atrium higherCarnival Magic. Its rocking with music, lights, etc. There are Carnival representatives who will guide you each step of the way. The one thing I have to tell you though is, if you come early, don’t be surprised if your room isn’t ready. In fact, I don’t even think they will let you board early if it isn’t (unless your with a group that is ok to board early). As I was touring many of the rooms where still in the process of being cleaned.

Here are the Common Areas…..

If you do arrive early, and board early, what you CAN do is go to the LIDO lounge and eat lunch or go to casino bar and have a drink. A couple of the general area bars and restaurants were open so you could eat lunch or have a drink. Since you don’t leave until 4p, I would probably wait a bit before boarding at 10a. Maybe noon? What was a real bummer was it was raining so no one wanted to be out on the deck. 🙁  So here is a slide of each of the common areas. My favorite area? Probably the Serenity Deck. No kids? Are you kidding me?!? 🙂

Here is a look at the cabins….

Then they fed us. YUM! I thought I was getting cheese and crackers buffet! Oh no! Here was our menu: appitizerCured Salmon and Candied Tomato Dill Cream, Stewed Apples and Grapes in Lemon Vinaigrette appitizer 2Peppered Cheese Ravioli in Truffle Cream Served with Feta Crumbles, Tomatoes and Basil Jus

Entree Duet of Petite Filet Mignon and Short-Rib Confit Oven Roasted Potatoes, Red Burgundy Wine Saucedesert

Warm Melting Chocolate Cake with Choice of Vanilla, Strawberry, Butter Scotch or Chocolate Ice Cream Despite the fu-fu words and the plates, it was REALLY good. I was half expecting ‘airplane’ style food, but it was DEFINITELY restaurant quality. Plus the gave us a show!

I enjoyed my time and looking forward to my own trip on the Triumph later. 🙂

Until then,

~Gin