On Saturday, May 20, we were still coming off of the amazing high from the day we spent with Fabrizio, but we had to head back into town, as we had scheduled a cooking class in Montepuliciano with a lady named Barbara. This was a group cooking class where we would learn to make two different types of pasta and tiramisu. When I put the address to Barbara’s house into Waze, it told me that it would take 27 minutes to get there. So we started the morning off with a very small breakfast at our farmhouse (we were still full from Fabrizio’s dinner), and then headed to the cooking class. Once on the road, it was saying that we were 53 minutes away. Google maps sent us a different way where we were stuck on a 1.5 lane dirt road that was taken over by more than 20 cyclists. This was not an easy road to drive and we were constantly having to swerve to miss other vehicles speeding towards us. I tried to go fast to make up any time possible. Lindsey texted Barbara to say that we would be arriving around 20 minutes late and she stated that she would try and start late, but that there were four other people joining our class that had already arrived. We had finally made it to paved roads, but they kept winding throughout the mountain and city. Lindsey stated that she was starting to get car sick, but that she could make it. I assured Lindsey that it didn’t matter to me if we canceled the class and lost the money we had already paid using credit card points, if she didn’t feel up to it. She finally relented and stated that she just wanted to head back to the farmhouse. We texted Barbara and told her that we apologized, but that Lindsey ended up getting car sick and to go ahead without us. Then, I was able to pull over for a minute, let Lindsey relax and then find a new route back to our farmhouse that didn’t include the dirt road. Once we made it back, we took a two hour nap and woke up refreshed and ready to start our day over. Lindsey didn’t want to get back into the car, so we ended up going on a 2 mile walk around our farmhouse and see the sights in the Tuscan country. After our walk, we sat outside and watched a storm roll in. It was beautiful to watch, but as the storm got closer, we headed back to our room. We had the window open and realized that it was hailing. I have now seen hail on two different continents. After the storm rolled through, we took showers and headed downstairs to eat a delicious dinner at the farmhouse (pasta with mushroom and pork ragù, veal on top of a bed of fresh vegetables, and then an amazing cooking ice cream with raspberry sauce and cookie crumbles for dessert). Our bellies were full (once again) and we were ready for bed to try again tomorrow.

On Sunday, we woke up and decided to take a pasta cooking class at our farmhouse with the Chef. She was amazing! She taught us to make tagliatelle and picci pasta, along with cantucci (almond biscotti). As Lindsey and I made the pasta, we realized none of the sizes were the same. The Chef reminded us that our pasta was “rustic” and that it would still taste delicious. Once were done making the pasta, the Chef said that she would set up a nice lunch for us outside and would prepare our pastas with different sauces. This was absolutely gorgeous! We started off with our picci pasta with tomato and garlic sauce topped with fresh Parmesan cheese. We kept thinking that maybe she traded our crummy pasta for some that she had made in the kitchen, but as we were eating, we definitely found many rustic pieces that we had made. Then, she served our tagliatelle pasta with a wild boar ragù and it was fantastico! We were so full that we just couldn’t eat everything. Then they served us some tiramisù and our cantucci (almond biscotti) for dessert. We could hardly touch dessert, but they packaged up a nice bag of the biscotti that Lindsey is coveting. For dinner, I didn’t want anything heavy, but Lindsey had her heart set on going to this local place in Montepulciano that is run by young guys that were friends in school. I agreed and it was great! We ordered the small meet and cheese board and I had water, while Lindsey had two glasses of rosé. This was the perfect meal for us. We got back in the car and headed to the farmhouse to call it a night and begin planning our next adventure.

Have you ever had a day on vacation where everything worked so great that you do not feel that you deserved it? Today was that day for us!

When we first knew that we were going to come to Tuscany, I wanted to have a guide at least for some of the days. Just someone who could really get us imbedded into the region and culture. For a lot of it, we were looking at what we could get via credit card points and through that I found this guy (Fabrizio Fe’) that was offering four-hour curated tours of Tuscany. We sort of went back and forth on what we wanted to do and I sent him an email looking for more information. We sort of forgot/put off making a decision until a few weeks before our trip. By that time when I looked at his services he had added a 12 hour Tuscan tour! The tour starts with him picking us up at our place, we would then see some sights, go to two vineyards, and conclude with him making us dinner at his house in Montepulciano. Twelve hours is a massive commitment to spend with a guide, and we were hesitant to take it. However, when I saw his blooper reel on his website, I knew this is someone I needed to meet.

I emailed back and forth with Fabrizio before I trip so that he could get a sense of who we were and what we liked. We made plans on the price, date, and time. Today, we had an early breakfast and at 9:30 AM we met him at the front of the farm house. This guy has a massive smile and from first glance I knew that this was going to be a great day. Before getting in his car, he checked with us to see if we had issues with car sickness (we both took medicine for it before we walked out) and he indicated that he will drive slow so that we don’t have any problems. The car ride was just like connecting with an old friend. We talked about everything, some Italy related, others about our pasts. He hit me right away with a great fact, the entire Val D’Orca area (think of it like Nappa Valley) is a Unesco World Heritage location. What this means is that they basically take a snapshot of the entire area and say that nothing can change from that point on. Purchased a new tractor for your olive farm and want to have it covered in a shed? Nope! If the shed was not in place in the past, you can not add it now. He joked that before Google Maps it was easier because people would just start announcing when the inspectors were coming by and people would hide anything that they changed.

We made our way to Pioggi Grande vineyard, which was hand selected by Fabrizio based on a number of criteria. First, the vineyard must be multi-generational. He wanted to make sure that he is bringing people not just to a vineyard that has good wine, but that it also has history and a story to tell. The second, is that the vineyard produces a limited supply annually. This means that the product that we try will be special and each grape means something. Finally, he wants vineyards that are off the beaten path and does not supply to large groups. We passed a few of these vineyards that had access for large buses and there is just no personal touch that you can provide when there are 70 people showing up.

This vineyard was run by a woman named Giullitta. Apparently, one in three vineyards in the area are run by women, which I think is amazing. This is in the Castiglion d’Orcia, and for the most part they just work with different blends of the sangiovese grape varietal. Oddly enough, they also have some grapes that make some white wines, which is very rare for this area. We tasted around six wines, all of them were very good. The prices are crazy reasonable and we really enjoyed the stories about the vineyard and how they came up with the name. At the end, they provided us with the price sheet and the shipping cost and I was blown away with how reasonable it was….so we bought six bottles.

We left Pioggi with a little more smiles on our faces and Fabrizio took us to Bagno Vignoni which is a small town (really there are only 22 residents) and is home of a natural thermal spring. In the middle of the “town” there is a large Roman bath and from the stories that Fabrizio told us, this is where the Romans would come to relax and talk business. Apparently, it was open for locals for a while until people started to drop trash and bottles into the pools after they drank a little too much and they banned people from going into it. There are additional hotels and spas in the town that you can pay 20 euros for some time in their thermal baths, and there were a lot of people at our farmhouse that visited and really enjoyed it. This location has the hottest thermal spring in all of Tuscany (it comes out at 126F!).

After we left the thermal springs we headed towards another vineyard. This one is called Innocenti (sounds like innochenti in Italian). This was another multi-generational vineyard. However, it is in the Montalcino region which means that it is known for a wine type called Brunello. This has a lot of regulations on how long the wine has to stay in the barrel and the bottle. The plan at this place was to have a light lunch, and try some wines and olive oil. They prepared a meat and cheese plate for us, then served us some olive oil. The olive oil here is amazing, however, every now and again we get some that just tastes off. Apparently, what we are missing is to add a little salt to the oil, which is not not something that they take offense to. The olive oil here is remarkable, it is very easy to add to just about anything. They bring us a bunch of wines to try while we eat. The first two were just their normal sangenovese wines. Then they brought out the big guns, the brunellos. They bring out a 2016 brunello and it is remarkable. We kept talking about how much we enjoyed the wines and I think that since we bought some at the pervious vineyard, Fabrizio was able to convince then to let us try some of the older vintages. They brought out the 2013 vintage and we were in love. Lindsey and I mentioned that we love to guess the prices when we do wine tastings/classes at Total Wine, and apparently they have never heard of this before. I see Fabrizio running back to the room to grab paper and pencils. They refill all our glasses and we start to guess the prices. Fortunately, just before we left for Italy we did an “Under the Tuscan Sun” wine class at Total Wine and through that we learned that some of the Brunello Reserve wines are extremely expensive. Armed with this experience and knowledge, we start to put down numbers. I think the highest we guessed was $200 for the 2013 Brunello Reserva….it was $69! The ladies at the vineyard enjoyed seeing how close we were to the new vintages and how far away we were for the “good stuff.” As the time wound down, it was once again time to pick and choose what we wanted to purchase. We ended up with 18 wines, 2 bottles of EVOO, and a bottle of reserved grappa.

After we left the winery we drove through the country side and made it to two of the locations where they shot the movie “The Gladiator,” followed by some gelato in Pienza. When walking through Pienza there was a market there that the nun’s were putting on. From there, I was able to get some limoncello and Lindsey got some soap. The nun’s were so cute and happy that we were buying things from them, they sent us on our way with their blessings and we headed to Montepulciano.

We did a quick tour of Montepulciano, which is where Fabrizio lives, and then we headed to his house. He has an amazing apartment that is basically on the cliffside of the town, facing the setting sun. We meet his wife, and she starts making the pasta for our food. We have some prosecco and conversations and then Fabrizio makes up some mozzarella and tomatoes with a truffle and balsamic vinaigrette. Then followed the tagliatelle pasta his wife prepared with a pork cheek and beef ragù sauce. He then served us some raw sliced fennel drizzled with olive oil and topped with smoke salmon that even Lindsey enjoyed. For dessert, it was simple but amazing. He cut up an orange, sprinkled some date sugar on it and then drizzled a chocolate liquor on top. It was so light and full of flavor, that it surely will be something that we make at home.

The evening carried on far past the “planned” time that we were supposed to finish. The conversation was so easy and as he told his wife, “Today, I did not have to work,” confirmed that this was a great time. At the end of the evening, I tried to arrange the payment. However, he stopped me saying that I can send him the payment tomorrow or whenever I wanted. We ended the evening like we started, full of conversations on the way home and not at all feeling like we had spent the last 14 hours hanging out with someone we just met.

Thanks Fabrizio for an amazing time, and ruining all future guided tours I will have for the rest of my life 🙂

We slept like babies! Our little part of the farmhouse is so cozy, and there are these amazing old wood shutters on the windows that make the room so dark. Breakfast was a typical Italian one, with lots of sweet things and cappuccinos. This small meal provided all the energy we needed to tackle the day.

During breakfast, we made our plans for the day, an exploratory journey to a town called Montalcino. This is one of the medieval towns that sit on the top of a hill. Of course, coming from Texas, their hills are our mountains and we were not ready for what was in store for us.

The town itself was around 25 minutes from where we were staying, and of course, we were using navigation apps to get us along the way. What we would soon find out once we set off was that the “quickest” route was through an old gravel road that was cut through the Tuscan countryside. This “road” is about 1.5 lanes wide at the best of times, and a great opportunity to practice your ability to pray while a crazy Italian is barreling toward you. After the longest 10-minute drive, we were back on the pavement and my blood pressure returned to a normal level, at least for now.

I spent a bit of time before we left working on locating the parking for the city as I had heard that it can be a bit tricky to find one. The reality is that these spots are not only small, but also apparently everyone wants them. To make matters worse, there is a fun thing called a ZTL zone in every city. This is basically a place set aside to prevent tourist from driving into these tight areas that are designed only for the residents. Unfortunately, it is easy to miss the sign or get turned around and without much effort they had pictures of your license and you get a nice fine as a gift when you get home. For us, we had to just loop around for a good fifteen minutes before we were able to stalk an old grandmother to her car and grab her spot.

The town itself started off nice, mostly because we were at the top of the hill. As we made our way down, the writing was on the wall that getting back to the car was going to be a beast of a climb. Fortunately for us, we were able to get into a delightful little resuraunt with a killer view for lunch. For most meals, Lindsey and I compete for who had the better meal. For this one, I think I certainly won it!

We walked around town for a bit just going down alleys that looked interesting and managed to find a castle that I am sure if one of the key features of the town. After having a wonderful call with our kiddo at the top of the castle, we made our way back to the farmhouse to take a little nap and get ready for dinner.

For dinner we went to Pienza to a restruant that our hotel recommended. It turns out that this is one of the main ones that the locals go to since we were the only ones who spoke English. The meal was amazing, I had duck ragù and a second dish with roasted rabbit, and Lindesy got bruschetta and gnocchi. It was really tough to know who won as my rabbit and her gnocchi wereboth fantastic. It was pouring rain when we got out of dinner so we headed back home and did not have a chance to walk around town. Little did we know that the next day would more than likely be one of the best days of our entire trip.

We woke up on Wednesday full of energy and ready to get on with our day. After a nice breakfast at the hotel that appeared to be void of any real coffee (assuming it was weak instant coffee), we decided to head back out to the streets of Florence before we checked out. We managed to find that the Arno River was just a block away from the hotel, this is the larger river that splits Florence into two. From there we walked to the Ponte Vecchio bridge, which is some fancy old bridge that has some very expensive jewelry stores on it. For me, this was a bit underwhelming, and I was more interested in the people on fancy row boats in the water. However, it was early and the shops were not open, so maybe we swing by there again at the end of our trip.

We meandered around the streets of Florence for another hour and managed to find the Pitti Palace (a place that I think we may revisit). As well as Piazza Della Signore which is full of old statues, a replica of the David statue, and a cool Neptune fountain. It was a square full of naked (an obviously cold) statues of men.

We needed to head back to the hotel and somehow using my excellent sense of direction (luck!) I was able to navigate back this time without any assistance from a map. We packed up and said our goodbyes to the excellent staff and headed back to the tram for the airport where we would pick up our car. We used points for our car rental and I found Alamo rental was reasonably priced for what we needed. This was a great choice because most of the Europeans were renting from well-known rental places so we were able to walk directly to our counter to pick up our car. We ended up getting a Spanish car, a Seat Tarraco. This beast only had 13 kilometers on it and still had the new car smell, as well as a great dashboard that works with Apple CarPlay.

After watching some YouTube videos on how to teach the car to speak English instead of Italian we were on our way to Tuscany. The drive would be around an hour and a half and would be one of the most intense drives of my life. I have mentioned previously that we try to plan the smallest amount on this trip. There is one issue with this plan, I had no real understanding of all the types of traffic signs in Italy. There are signs for speed, no passing, no waiting, no stopping, end of speed zone, construction, minimum speed, limited traffic area, smaller lanes, and the list keeps going. Not having any form of Italian or English on the signs meant that we had to guess what they meant. Imagine driving down the street and seeing a sign that looks like the speed limit is 50mph, then going a mile down the road and seeing another sign showing the speed limit is 30mph, but in blue numbers. What would you do? I know what I did, I was changing speed like some sugar-crazed ADHD kid who could not make up my mind. In reality, any of the speed limit signs in blue number were the minimum speed…so obvious!

Our first stop in Tuscany was Podere Spedelone, which is an old farmhouse that they have converted into a hotel. The trip from Florence to there was stressful, but most of it was expressway driving and not too bad. However, as we got into the heart of the country we soon found another feature that did not show up on Google Maps. The hills of Tuscany are…hilly… with lots of windy roads. Poor Lindsey has been doing all she could to keep from getting sick pretty much anytime we get into the car.

We make it to our little farm hotel and it is just lovely. Lindsey was able to unpack all of our stuff, something that she has been looking forward to doing since we will be at this location for six nights. They have a great restaurant and one that Lindsey has been dying to try since they are so great at their Instagram by always putting the menus up. We decided to eat here since it was such a busy day and it made everything so much easier on us. They start the meal off with a traditional appertivo (like a happy hour) where they have a magnificent spread of meats, olives, and other wonderful things. For dinner, we had a great Rissoto followed by veil cheeks on top of sweet potatoes, and then something similar to cookies and cream ice cream for dessert.

We ended the evening knowing that our time here was going to be amazing and looking forward to the rest of our time.

Lindsey and I have been using an app on our phone that in theory is supposed to get us more acclimated to the Italian time zone. Fortunately, we have also been working many early mornings to get ready for such a long trip away. This app tells you when you should sleep and wake as expected, but also when to get out into the sunlight and when to have any caffeine. We have tried to be really responsible with sticking to the app, while at the same time not taking away our time with the kiddo.

On the day of our departure we both got up really early in the morning (2am for Lindsey and 4am for me). We said our goodbyes to Jennifer before she heads off to school and then eventually make our way to the airport. Our plane fortunately it just about half full, and once we got into the air everyone started scurrying around like rats trying to find the best place to sit amongst all the empty seats (seriously, there were 9 full rows of four seats empty). Our plan, well our app’s plan, was to eat the provided dinner and then sleep until we land. Dinner was normal airplane fare and within no time we were bedding down for at least 6 hours of sleep….or not! No matter how hard I tried, I just was not able to get comfortable enough to fall asleep, and that is with a window seat. I would guess I got around two hours of restless sleep. Lindsey got around the same, and we were both worried that our first few days in Italy we would be zombies!

We zipped through the Amsterdam customs in no time at all and got into our connecting flight to Florence. I don’t know if it was the lack of sleep (remember we had been up since early morning still), but the little KLM Cityhopper plane was one of the most comfortable planes I have been in. We both, against our best efforts, fell right asleep only to wake up with a message from the captain telling us that there was some wind issues in Florence and it was possible that they may not be able to land. They made a few passes and then one attempt to land only to have to quick pull back up. I looked over to Lindsey and say, “They are going to make us land at Pisa…”, just seconds before they get on the announcements to say the same thing. To me, as the planner of the trip, this was just going to throw everything off. Not only are we going to land at the wrong airport, we are also both deliriously tired and are in no shape to make any major decisions.

We land at Pisa, another tiny airport, and while we are working on getting our luggage they announce that they will have busses arriving shortly to drive us to Florence! It was a 10 minute wait for the buses to arrive and once they showed up everyone rushed to get to the bus as if they would get there faster. Little did they know that there were two busses and once the first bus was filled up they would use the second bus. Lindsey and I were in the back of the line so we ended up getting into the second but with about 10 other people. The best part was that the seats layed back almost fully horizontally, and with no one sitting behind us, it was not looking good for trying to stay awake. Sure enough, 2 minutes into the ride I am in a coma, with Lindsey not lasting much longer. It took an hour and a half for the trip, and I was able to wake up shortly before we arrived at the Florence airport. Our plan was to spend one night in Florence so that we could get some rest before driving out to the Tuscan countryside. However, by the time that we got to our hotel, we were pretty well rested and ready to go out on the town.

There are some items on this trip that were planned a while ago when we first decided that we were going, flying and this hotel were the first two items. I had totallly forgotten what we booked and for some reason I thought it was just some random choice that had the earliest check-in policy. In reality we booked (or at least was given) a full suite! This bad boy was huge and had a massive four poster bed with a large fresco with inlayed gold trim painted on the ceiling. It was far too opulent for these two Texan’s and may have set a poor standard for the rest of our trip.

We decide to have a bit of a walk around Florence, again, we are really bad at planning. We basically walked out the door and headed down the street, with no idea what it leads to. We end up stopping at this little cute bar for an apertivo (it is like an early dinner snack). Hands down one of the best little charcuterie board I have had! In addition to the food we both had an aperol spritz. It was a little heavy on the aperol side, but by the end it mellowed out and was just what we needed. We ended up making our way to the Duomo, which was massive and amazing. We have tickets for it later in the trip, but I wanted to see what we had in store for ourselves. We ended up walking further away and managed to get to a massive church just as it was closing. As we were leaving I was thinking to myself that I would have to show my parents the pictures and they would tell me the name of the church, for us, it will remain a mystery church that was very neat to see.

We finished up the evening at a random restaurant where I was able to get some amazing grilled duck with celery jam and Lindsey got a really amazing pasta dish that I forget the name of. It had pecorino cheese in it, which is the main cheese for the region that we will be spending much of our time in. We closed out the day with happy hearts and big smiles that our newest adventure was able to begin as planned, although slightly altered.

The year is 1492. An Italian guy who goes by the name Chris decides that he wants to find an easier way to get to India. Queen Izzy slaps down some approval for his little trip. He gets a few boats together, all with easy-to-remember names (you are saying them in your head right now, right?), and heads west. West…that is the plan. There are no specific details on what to do when he gets to Asia. The journey is the destination.

Five hundred thirty-two years later, a couple of crazy Texan explorers set out for a similar journey, traveling east to find a place called Italy and making our way to Tuscany. They were armed with only one plan: go to Tuscany, eat food, and drink wine. Two hours before the pair got on the plane, you could ask them, “What are you going to do in Italy?” The response would be a resounding, “We don’t know; we are going to Tuscany.”

Vacuuming, driving, seafood, and the proper doneness of steaks are topics on which Lindsey and I rarely agree. In fact, just mentioning these topics raises my blood pressure. Traveling, on the other hand, is an area where Lindsey and I naturally sync. The women on my side of the family are obsessive planners regarding vacations. They are satisfied that they can experience “everything” when they go somewhere and, as such, have everything planned to the most minor details. Alternatively, Lindsey and I enjoy living in the moment, experiencing things as they come. For us, being tied down by plans means that if we fall in love with a place, we can’t stick around with it as we are constantly moving to the next thing.

For this trip, we will stay in four locations over 18 days: Pienza, San Gimignano, Cinque Terra, and Florence. Of these locations, Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, home of Michelangelo, and the Duomo, we only have one full day. The rest is spent in the countryside, where we wake up most days without any firm plans for what we will do.

So, as we prepare for our journey, we look forward to sunsets, gelato, and a slower pace, enjoying the journey rather than all the places we “should” go.

A new adventure is soon to come as we embark for an 18-day trip to Tuscany. Join us as we dust off this blog (Really? Do people still blog?) for new fun times!

I feel a little older and more wiser as I am sitting here in the adult-only area of the ship drinking a glass of wine with my lovely wife.  As a look over at her wind blown hair, I cannot help but think about Ferrah Faucet and her beautiful feathered hair.  As we have some time now for reflection, I think I will give us a 9 out of 10 for our embarkation experience.

Lindsey decided to get only a few hours of sleep last night while I am on the back end of a upper respiratory infection and have been taking plenty of medicine to “help” me sleep well.  We both got up and moving around 7am.  Fortunately, we had all of the bags packed last night with the exception of our carry on gear.  The plan was to be on the road at 9:30 AM but for some reason my traveling anxiety (I guess I am finally putting a name on it) was not going nuts and I really was not in a crazy rush to get going.  We stopped at the bakery on the way out to get some breakfast and were on the way to our vacation around 10 AM.

I was thinking that we would run into some of the Lone Star Motorcycle Rally traffic on the way, but it really was smooth sailing all the way to the port.  Once we arrived at the port, we found out where all of the bikers were hiding.  Lindsey was told that they were going to be on the opposite side of the strand from the cruise terminal.  Turns out that was a big fat lie!  They were practically sitting on top of the terminal.  This made first time cruisers like us have a heck of a time dealing with parking and getting our bags checked properly.  We managed to get into the terminal around noon.  As we were going through security, we heard the announcement of the first family being allowed on the boat.

Once through security we went ahead and got checked in.  The line was a bit long, but we knew that we had plenty of time before our turn to board.  After check-in there was the kid’s section check-in.  Technically, we could have avoided this line and just picked up Jennifer’s access bracelet on the kid section of the boat, but since we were boarding group number 24 and they just called group 9, we went ahead and stood in line so that we would not need to stand in line on the boat.

The great part is that once we got checked in to the kid section, we only had to wait around 1k0 minutes before our group was called.  We had a family picture taken and then we walked onto the boat.  For Disney cruises, they announce the names of all the families as they walk on the boat. While there was only a handful of crew members in the area, it still does give a little touch of pageantry.  

Once on the boat, we already had a game plan on how we were going to attack the needed tasks.  Lindsey stood in line to book the princess and Frozen meet-n-greets and character breakfast.  I went to the adult area to sign us up for the drinking seminars, and took the kid with me since I would be faster.  Jennifer and I were done fairly quickly and went ahead up to our room to drop off the carry on gear that I had been lugging around.  I told Jennifer that we could not poke around the room too much since we wanted to experience it as a family and it was not fair to Lindsey since she was still waiting in her line.

Once we accomplished all of our tasks, we were then able to head up to the room to unpack and look around.  Fortunately, by the time we got up there our luggage had arrived.  While I love Lindsey, there is nothing that can stop her from holding off from unpacking clothes that are sitting there looking at her.  Within no time we had all our clothes unpacked and all of the luggage stored under the bed.  Amazingly all of our stuff fit perfectly in the space that they provide.  This room, for the size that it is, can hold a ton of stuff and does not overflow into the living area.

We hung around the room until the muster drill was done, and then we headed to the top deck for the sail away party.  It was nice to experience this in person after the hundred of videos I watched.  All the classic disney characters made an appearance and had a very interactive party for the kids.

After the party we headed back to the room to get ready for the afternoon activities.  Jennifer and I were sitting on the veranda while the ship was pushing away.  She was having fun hanging all over me and somehow managed to knock my glasses off of my head….down the boat…and into the ocean.   Yes, my glasses, which I need so badly, are sitting in the Gulf.  Fortunately, I was a Boy Scout and thought ahead to bring my spare pair of glasses.  Jennifer was very upset from what happened, but it is not the end of the world and having a second pair means that we do not miss a beat, and I don’t have to dictate any of the blog for Lindsey to write.

I will end the blog post here.  We have been able to explore the ship and have our first night’s dinner.  It is a bit late now and we are ready to get a good night sleep and be fresh and ready for the morning.  Catch y’all tomorrow!


Getting onboard

Castaway Party


Happy Cruise Eve!

It almost does not seem real that cruise day is almost here. Next to the Manhattan Project, I don’t think as much work has been put into researching a trip. The constant searching of Youtube, Blogs and vacation tip sites have hopefully armed us with all of the needed information to have a successful vacation. We do have some positives working in our favor though. First, we have a kid who loves to engage with others. She can talk at length to kids, adults and even statues. The second, and perhaps our strongest asset, is the fact that we are laid back. We never feel like we need to do or see everything. Most things that we have scheduled revolve around drinking…so we have that going for us.

Today has been a day of getting all of the last minute things taken care of. Laundry has been done and the house is clean and ready for us to come home. We are now starting the packing process. The bad part about this cruise is that the trend is to dress up a bit for dinner. This means that between excursions, theaters and dinner it is possible to go through three sets of clothes in one day. I think all of our luggage is going to make an appearance for this trip. There will be no one on that boat that cannot say that we don’t look damn fine though! The downside is that if anything were to happen to our luggage, we would be missing a good portion of our work clothes in the process.

Our arrival time tomorrow is set for 1:30 – 2:00 PM. Lindsey is already prepared for Captain Travel (me) to have us there by noon just to make sure that we have no chance of delays. The word around town on the interwebs is that general boarding starts at 12:30, so there is a good chance that we could just walk on the boat shortly after we arrive and get through security. Once we get on the boat, the fun does not start. They have recently switched to a ticket system for all of the princess meet and greets. This means that once we get on the boat, we need to rush to the area that is handing out the tickets since they are first come, first serve. While, oddly enough, Jennifer has told us that she is not that interested in princesses anymore, I am sure that things will change when they are standing in front of her. The next thing we need to do once on the boat is sign up for the adult drink activities. There are two that we are most interested in, Mixology and Stem to Stern. The Mixology is just as it sounds, a taste and learn about mixing different drinks. It is apparently a must-do on the ship for adults and has all the good stuff I love, alcohol. The other one, Stem to Stern, is a wine tasting session in which I am sure they try to upsell expensive wine to us, which we can not drink until we get off the boat.

Once we get done with all of that business, we should be able to get to our stateroom. We have a room that has a veranda ocean view. It is classed as a “navigator’s porthole” which means that we have a large opening, but unlike the other verandas our has a metal bottom. For us it means that we have a little more privacy in our outdoor area and a little more lounging options. I’ll shoot out some pictures which can better explain what it looks like.

Time to finish packing and get a good night sleep. It is going to be a long day tomorrow of “chillaxing.”

Testing one, two, three….is this thing still on?  It turns out that we have not had enough adventures to merit a blog post, but as Jennifer’s favorite musician says, “the times they are a changing!”.  Months ago Lindsey and I started to look for a enjoyable family vacation destination which we can all be a part of.  I guess we felt a little guilty with all of the fun we had in Ireland without the little one tagging along.

The first place that came in mind for me was Disney World.  As a kid I was blessed enough to visit Disney World quite often, and to this day still have fond memories of our time there.  Lindsey on the other hand only went once and had much more fun playing in the off-site hotel rather than her time in the park.  For those that do not know, while Lindsey is one of the most caring person I know, she does lack a little bit of patience (this is the nicest way I could phrase this).  From the immortal words of Paula Abdul opposites must attract, as my patience is one of my strong suits.  To that end, we are divided on the desire to stand in line after line at Disney World.  

Lindsey mentioned the idea of doing a Disney cruise, bridging the gap between my desire for Disney and her desire of lounging around drinking pretty drinks with fruit on the top.   It turns out that Disney was just planning on coming back to Galveston on the date that we were looking on taking the vacation.  For full disclosure it turns out that having the word “Disney”  in the name of the vacation means that it is several thousand dollars more expansive than other cruise options.  We had to really dig into how Disney stands above the others.  

It is no surprise that Disney Cruises have an exceptional kids program.  We are certain that our social butterfly of a kid will be right at home with their program.  On the ship there are two kids “clubs” which are in her age range.  For each club she will be given a wrist band which will let them know where she is at all times on the ship.  The kids area is a kids-only area, we are basically only able to drop her off and then are “forced” to go relax on the deck or in the adult areas.  I know, it will be awful.  For her age group the kids area is open from 9am till midnight.  They are able to provide her both lunch and dinner if need be, however I suspect that she will eat with us most times as the selection of food will be a bit better (and the desserts plentiful).  Each day we will  be given a Personal Navigator which will have a schedule of all events on the ship, both for adults and kids.  From this, Jennifer can plan her day around which club she wants to hang out in.  I have seen copies of these from other ships, and I will say that she will have a blast and I will not have to worry about any guilt of handing her over while Lindsey and I lounge.

As if the pot was not sweet enough there is another wonderful facet to the Disney cruise which I tip my hat to (seriously I need to class it up and really tip my hat more often), the dinner service.  There are two dinner services, one at 5:30 and one at 8:30.  We have chosen the late service, which at first I regretted.  Through my research I have discovered that this is actually the best service to go with for no other reason than Dine and Play.  Oh heavens do I want to kiss the person that thought of this idea!  Parents, what is the worst part of any fancy family dinner?  You can say it….that impatient kid(s)!  They are like piranhas, devouring their food and once it is all gone they either want more or to run off and do something else.  For some reason Jennifer can not seem to enjoy a nice conversation about diversifying our 401k and just wants to go off and play.  In steps Dine in Play!  For this we just simply inform our server that we will be participating in the program.  They will bring Jennifer’s food out ahead of ours (including dessert) and once she is done a counselor will come by to collect all of the kids like the wonderful lady in Hansel and Gretel and check them into the kids area.  We are then left to enjoy our dinner, and drinks, at our own pace while Jennifer gets to run off her dinner!

As a result of the wonderful children programs we have decided to go on a Disney Cruise aboard the Disney Wonder.  The best part, we sail in four days!  That rights, on November the 6th, we will be heading on a 7 day cruise which will visit Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Falmouth Jamaica.  The main purpose of this blog is to get back in the swing of detailing my thoughts, but also test out how much data blogging will require.  While the ship does have internet, it is charged based on the data usage.  This means that I need to be careful with how much data I actually push out to the internet.  Normally I would do this all on my laptop, however I have promised that no laptops will be brought on the trip to prevent even the possibility of dealing with work.  So I must do all of this on the IPad which will include writing the offline version of the blog, transferring images from iPhone to iPad, and beaming it all up to the internet so that the updates go live.  Hopefully it all works like a well oiled machine, but it is good that I have a good understanding on how to limit our data use.

I end this post with troublesome image, one that I do not easily admit to.  I, Jeff Drouet, am the owner of a selfie stick.  Whew, it feels good to get that off my chest!  For weeks if feels like I have hidden in the shadows with this little secret.  Yes, Lindsey, wanted us to have one.  However, I was the person to actually order it; a transgression that is not easily forgotten.  Please forgive me, and do hold my family accountable for my actions.

“Selfie Stick of Shame”