Some years you get to go, and other years you have to stay home. 2017 started out as the former and then turned into the latter. It was an unusual and very busy year, and unfortunately that didn’t involve nearly as much travel as I had gotten used to — although you can’t say I didn’t try.
The year got off to a good start with an absolutely wonderful cruise on the Carnival Glory in February (Blogger Cruise 10) with my daughter and assorted great friends (shout out to Bob and Gail, Elaine and Jimmy, and Bill, who made it a wonderful experience, and to Nancy and Lambie, with whom I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time). Another thing that made it special was that in Miami the day before the cruise, I finally got to meet in person and have dinner with the Best PVP Ever, Guido, who has been handling my Carnival bookings for several years.
The cruise itself was full of fun. We had the usual Blogger events with John Heald, and we visited some of my favorite islands — St. Thomas, Puerto Rico, and Grand Turk, as well as a new one for me, Dominican Republic. All in all, I’d rate it as one of the very best cruises I’ve done — up there with Freedom Repo, Breeze 20th anniversary cruise, and Vista final Med cruise.
It was my first time on the Glory. She is a Conquest class ship like Freedom (on which I had sailed four times) but she’s showing her age. Kniki, who had only been on two cruises before, on Breeze and Vista (Carnival’s two newest) walked into our cabin, looked around, and said, “This is an old ship.” But hey, I’m no spring chicken either, but we old timers can still rock and roll and Old Glory proved herself to be a great venue for having a great time with great people.
My next cruise, on Carnival Sunshine in May, was a bit of a disappointment. Sunshine was not the ship I would have picked, but the itinerary was nice and the good part (which was also the reason I booked it) was that many of my dearest cruise friends were there.
The bad part started with the fact that Tom was just coming down with some sort of raging sore throat/fatigue thing the day I left, and when he kissed me goodbye, he gave it to me. I spent about half of the 10 day cruise so sick I didn’t leave the cabin. Big thanks to Lola, my roommate, for putting up with me, and to my dear friends Sam and Rose for taking care of me and bringing me ice cream and soup for my throat.
Backing up, we did have a nice evening in Charleston the day before the cruise with Bob and Gail, and on the first two days before the sickness hit me I got to do some fun things, although my enjoyment was diminished by Tom’s illness back home. I would like to go back to Charleston some day when I have more time and under happier circumstances.
The Diamond luncheon began on a not-great note with a time mixup that caused me and Lola to be seated separately from the rest of our friends, but Emma, the CD, saved the day and cheered me up considerably with her kindness. Then our planned group get-together was threatened when an unpleasant young man at Guest Services had no record of our request for a room and tried to convince me I was supposed to be at a Cruise Critic meet & greet. After much frustration and aggravation, Bob came to the rescue and together with Emma, made it happen.
The next day I woke up with my throat on fire, and barely enough energy to get out of bed. And for the next four days, I spent most of my time reading on the balcon — which isn’t a bad thing — if only I hadn’t felt so awful while I was doing it. I didn’t feel like getting off the ship in the first few ports. I was especially sad that I missed St. Thomas and Antigua.
After I finally recovered to the point where I wouldn’t be contagious, I did get one wonderful, relaxing day in St. Kitts. I spent the day at the Palms Court Gardens, where a day pass was only $12 (not all-inclusive, but drinks and food were reasonably priced).It was absolutely beautiful there, with a view of the ship across the way, plenty of shade, quiet and lovely and just what I needed that day. Despite still having lingering fatigue, it was a pretty easy walk back to the ship. I want to go back there one day when I’m feeling 100% and can enjoy it even more.
I also was able to spend some time out on the ship the last few days, and hang out with my friends now that I was no longer afraid of transmitting my illness to them. I was even up for getting all dressed up on formal night, although I was still tiring more easily than usual. Still, I was able to squeeze a lot into the last three days of the cruise and make some good memories despite all the problems.
In retrospect, I realize that putting aside my sickness, part of my dissatisfaction with the Sunshine cruise was “not you [Carnival], it’s me.” I had recently found myself growing tired of the “fun ship” vibe and it was that cruise that brought that home to me. I guess I’m getting older and changing at the same time Carnival is changing, too, and we’re going in opposite directions. I enjoy being with my friends, but I want more relaxation, pampering, and luxury, while Carnival’s business strategy is now aimed more at attracting the new cruiser, younger demographic that doesn’t want to dress up for dinner and just wants to drink and party. That’s fine; it’s just not me (anymore).
A seed had been planted. It was time to try something different. But it would be a while before I got the chance to do that. Shortly after returning from that cruise, I was offered a big writing project that turned into more than was first planned, and that consumed most of the rest of the year. After cruising 4-5 times a year for the last several, I would spend the rest of 2017 on land.
I had a Labor Day cruise booked for September (which would also have been my birthday cruise) but I had to cancel it. Since I couldn’t be away for a week at a time, my plan was to do a few short weekend trips instead. Unfortunately that didn’t work out so well, either.
I had planned a trip to Galveston in early August for a “girl’s getaway” at a beach house with some friends, but had to cancel it due to work. Then I was going to still go down to Galveston for the weekend before the Labor Day cruise to see my friends on that one off, but along came Hurricane Harvey, and the resultant gasoline shortage the day before I was supposed to leave, and so I ended up not doing that, either.
Then there was my and Tom’s planned December vacation. We had started out earlier in the year by booking a week at a resort in Cancun, but the extra money from the writing project inspired us to switch that to a much nicer place in St. Thomas. Well, hurricanes Irma and Maria took care of that, wiping out much of the island and closing down the resort we had booked. So I switched it again, to a condo resort in Grand Cayman.
I was excited about finally getting out of the country again. My daughter flew in to house- and pet-sit, and we were ready to go … until I went to check us in with the airline and found out Tom had forgotten to renew his passport. So that one didn’t happen, either.
The one little bit of traveling that I did manage to pull off in the second half of the year was a quick 4 day trip to Biloxi, MS with my son, to visit my daughter, Kniki, and my brand new son-in-law, Trevor. Those 4 days went by way too quickly, but we had a surprisingly great time (after another hurricane scare right before that flooded some waterfront casinos but otherwise didn’t do much damage).
It was my first experience with renting through Air BnB, and I was a little wary but it ended up being a great choice. Kris, my son, travels all the time and had done it before, and talked me into trying it. We were able to get a 2 bedroom condo right across the street from the beach for about the same price as a regular small room in one of the casino hotels.
Our host, Garland, was easy to deal with and very responsive to emails and messages, the place was even nicer than represented on the web site, and I definitely would do it again.
It was great to see our “Navy kids” again, and that evening we met them at Shaggy’s Seafood
, a nice little casual beachfront place that had some excellent food and drinks and a nice view of the ocean. The crab cakes and sweet potato fries were great, and the others seemed to enjoy their dinners as much as I did.
It was a short trip but we packed a lot into the short time we had. On the next day, we met Trevor in downtown Gulfport at a very popular (and very packed) place for lunch, Tony’s Brick Oven Pizzeria,
where they had good pizza and pasta (the kids had the former; I had the latter). It was delicious.
After lunch, I needed to walk off some calories. Trevor went back to work and Kris and Kniki and I drove down to the Beau Rivage hotel and enjoyed the view from the rooftop parking area, then walked through the hotel where they had already put up Christmas decorations although it was early November.
Next, we left the car in the hotel parking garage and walked across the Hwy 90 Bay Bridge from Biloxi to Ocean Springs, which was a good workout, and found a great restaurant on the other side.
We ate at the Phoencia Gourmet Restaurant, a somewhat upscale restaurant on Government Street. The walk, from the Beau Rivage where we started, was 4.9 miles so we were plenty hungry by then. The food didn’t disappoint; it was delicious. It’s billed as “Greek neo-classical,” and had some very interesting dishes.
I had the “heart healthy” marinated grilled chicken breast over fettucini with zucchini, squash, house dressing and parmesan cheese, and it was fantastic. Kris had the half rack of lamb, and Kniki had the crab cake. The hummus with homemade naan was also absolutely amazing. I would give this restaurant five thumbs up — if I had five thumbs.
The next day, we decided to drive to Alabama and check out the U.S.S. Alabama Memorial Park
in Mobile. It was one of the few states that my son had never been to, and he and I both enjoy touring ships. It’s only a one-hour drive from Biloxi.
We had a great time viewing the tanks and planes on the site and then exploring the Alabama.
I’ve been in several carriers but this was my first battleship of this class so it was interesting, especially the weaponry. I took way too many pictures to share them all here. If you find yourself in Mobile and you like ships, the tour is highly recommended.
I was disappointed that we didn’t have time to also tour the U.S.S. Drum, the submarine that’s also at the park. The 5:00 p.m. closing time came way too quickly. I guess it gives me an excuse to go back again soon.
That evening, we had dinner at a nice Indian restaurant in Gulfport called Orchid Indian Cuisine.
It was only about a 10 minute drive down Beach Blvd. Trevor wasn’t able to join us due to work, but we met up with a couple of my dearest friends from my cruise “family,” Sam and Rose, who had driven down to Biloxi for the night on their way to New Orleans. They even brought Kniki a wedding gift. It was great to get to see them again.
On our last day, we had a little time before our 3:40 p.m. flight, so we grabbed a quick lunch at a little Greek “hole in the wall” restaurant named Mr. Greek
that had surprisingly good food (as I’ve found hole-in-the-wall Greek restaurants often do). Although the neighborhood looked a bit shady, the place itself was clean and the staff was friendly, and the spanakopita and tzatziki really hit the spot (yes, I’m biased — I do love Greek food).
Then it was off to return the rental car and on to the airport for the short flight back to DFW. First class this time, and a glass of Bailey’s made it an even more pleasant trip home. We got in on time, grabbed on Uber (or maybe it was a Lyft; Kris summoned it), and were soon back home to a trio of frenetically spinning pups and a turtle who seemed pretty happy to see me, too.
And that was all the travel I got to do in 2017 — although there were plenty of good times here in DFW, especially when Kniki and Trevor came to visit for Christmas. I’m looking forward to some smoother sailing both figuratively and literally in this new year.