Cruising Through the Start of 2018

Penny S. Tee Happy New Year!

Penny S. Tee Happy New Year!

We began the year celebrating New Year’s Eve 2018 on a cruise to Mexico. I’ve been blessed through my years to have been on many cruises from my single days (always a safer way to travel the world alone), to romantic getaways, family vacations and even temple women’s retreats . They’re always a great way to see the sights, enjoy plentiful food and libations and be catered to by obliging cruise staff.

I’ve enjoyed the more extravagant, and those less pricey, and then there was the one years ago that I referred to as the X of the seas (I don’t want to get in trouble but you can fill in any low cost, low quality restaurant chain of your imagination — shall we say the food which is always something I look forward to — was less than appetizing.

This time we were on Carnival’s ship Imagination, a fitting passage for a writer, although that’s not why we chose it. We wanted a value-priced, fun time during the kids’ winter break to chill out, celebrate 2018, see some fun sights, enjoy time with friends and let the boys safely enjoy time on the ship together apart from us — even the eleven-year-old girl in our group had activities to happily take part in at the kids club. Basically a little something for everyone’s tastes. The fact someone else had to plan and clean up after the party was the cherry on the cake.

The boys I’m referring to are our son and his best friend. Our last trip together before our young men would be going off to college. “Just five months!” the dad’s decried, as they calculated how little time was left before high school graduation. Yes, both these men have been dedicated fathers every step of the way. It wasn’t just us moms suffering pain in our hearts at the thought that our babies were soon to go as nature intended — off to their new lives, ones that they would traverse and create for themselves.

By the way Mr. Trump, and my readers forgive my rant but… their family is of Mexican heritage, both parents live legally in the United States, are college educated and have raised their precious children with such high family values that if anything had happened to us, we’d have wanted them to finish raising our beloved son. They are friends we consider family. What are you thinking…or are you enthralled with the sound of your voice no matter what spews forth?

Sorry, but my outburst will continue just a little longer…Then of course there was Mimi, our cherished Latin American nanny we had when our son was a youngster. I’ll always be grateful for the love, kindness and moral values she showed him. Which is not to say that I wasn’t there every step of the way. I spent the majority of my time with my son by choice, but that didn’t mean I didn’t need help on occasion.

And our Mexican housekeeper who’s worked for us for years. Yes, she does the work that I don’t want to do, and has for over a decade. I could always trust her with anything in our house, she’s reliable, does that yukky housework I loathe with a smile on her face, and has a kind heart. I appreciate her help every time she arrives with her cleaning supplies in hand. Where would I have been without their help?

I’m sorry folks I’m distressed at what I read in the news. I have utmost respect for our country and the position of President of the United States, but wtf? How did we go from an African American president to a bigot? Being Jewish and raised amongst a rainbow of races and religions, how some have been portrayed and denigrated makes me angry. I apologize, but I had to get it off my chest.

Besides, today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the American federal holiday celebrating the life of the African American civil rights leader. I console myself by raising the issue in one of his famous quotes,

“The time is always right to do what is right.” And thus I cannot remain silent regardless if some people may stop reading or following me. I have to do what I think is right in good conscience. Amen.

Now back to our cruising fun…

Carnival Imagination slide

Carnival Imagination slide

The ship came equipped with a huge slide that any kid would love the opportunity to commandeer

down regardless of the weather. Although back home weather was in the eighties, our cruise was in the sixties, but this fact didn’t deter some children from indulging their excitement during the cruise. Brrrrr, only kids would make that choice between glee and comfort!

I’m always amused by the clever towel animals we’re greeted with daily by our cabin steward. Maybe they just know for those of us with pets at home, it eases missing them even though our dog Jake doesn’t resemble the elephant, or other creatures that

Towel elephant surprise

Towel elephant surprise

greeted us when we returned to the room. If you want, you usually can find a class to teach you how to make these characters, although I’ve never been so inclined. But I’m sure I have a few more crafty-type friends who would take them up on the opportunity if the occasion arose.

From our cabin window we could see the moon glimmering

The moon from our room

The moon from our room

above the water and I wondered what magic the night would bring.

We had boarded the ship on New Year’s Eve. We stuffed ourselves at the buffet —

Buffet splendor

Buffet splendor

always an artistic palette of colorful foods displayed like an artist’s canvas with designs carved into watermelons, an ice sculpture proclaiming 2018, and desserts looking and tasting yummy. From each deck came sounds of music, dancing and anticipation.

We rang in the New Year with tunes, flashing 2018 glasses — our friend’s daughter looked like a rock star, and I couldn’t resist playing too. Silly hats, colorful undulating sticks heralding in 2018 — revelry abounded.

The driving beat of the songs, dancing with my husband,

New Year's fun!

New Year’s fun!

friends and even trying to get the kids involved was great fun — at least for me. My son looked the least comfortable…”Mom must you grab my hands and swing them around?” Can’t you see I’m trying to be cool and avoid you embarrassing me? Oops, too late. I try to convince myself that someday he’ll look back on these memories fondly. Only time will tell.

We went to the cruise show welcoming the New Year. It was impossible not to move with the pulse as the talented performers twerked on stage. I always admire singers and dancers — people who have the gift of grace in their bodies. I enjoy dancing but never would be accused of it being one of my strengths. Just a dabble for fun, and yes if I really wanted to do better I could. But my cost-benefit analysis says I’ll let others with more natural talent put in the work and I’ll enjoy ogling the fruits of their labor. See, I’m still putting my MBA to good use.

Ice sculptures

Ice sculptures

2018 ice sculptures floated across the pool and Jacuzzi and banners and streamers adorned the flights of decks and staircases.

As we awaited midnight, I couldn’t help but wonder about how things will turn out in 2018. I had just finished my manuscript, and I knew it would be published during the year. Who would join my team to help me? So many blanks to fill in… I was so excited to move forward. My son would be going off to college. We both would be starting our new lives — huge, exciting transitions.

As 2018 approached, thousands lined every inch of the interior decks. Balloons dropped from the top floors of the ship  and we celebrated the New Year. I hope your’s was as much fun.

Our stop the next day was in Catalina so we weren’t worried about sleeping in, nor being able to communicate with the locals once we waddled onto shore. All of us had been to Catalina several times.

I reminisced with my husband about our Cub and Boy Scout days camping at Cherry Valley and Emerald Bay. Me, actually camping on the sand at the beach…proving once again that we’ll do anything for our kids.

A cruise is definitely more my style. Not the “dress up” nights that I tolerate (of course, I have some fashionista friends that have the more typical female reaction — loving donning their gowns.) However, we’ve sorely missed our scouting days as our son moved on to other interests through the years. They were truly some of the best times of our lives and we are grateful for the memories and the hundreds of pictures and videos to fill in the blanks of the details that fade with time. So much fun.

In Cub Scouts my husband was the Committee Chairman and we’d have monthly meetings at our house that turned into feasts, driven by my Jewish mother’s nature — eat, have some more, did you try this? In my way of thinking, we had a party every month. Those friends who shared our boy growing up to be a young man, well our heartstrings will always be intertwined and I’m grateful.

As our teen prepares for his last months in high school we often find ourselves looking back at our grand adventure raising him and our hearts are flooded with wonderful memories seared into our souls. Raising kids is as terrific and difficult as you hear, and I often tell friends who are starting out to capture every moment, photos, videos every sound and nuance because being parents is also every cliche you’ve ever heard…it goes by far too quickly.

In the morning, after we filled our tummies with the cruises’ breakfast that at this point was fresh and new…we headed out and discovered that we could take an hour tour of the island that was mapped out for us, in tandem golf carts. I felt like Goldilocks…the choice was “Just Right!” We got to see the island in our open air chariots,

Carnival Imagination

Carnival Imagination

scooting slowly along the cliffs with a terrific view of our ship waiting for us on the ocean, and Avalon in the harbor below.

Avalon Casino

Avalon Casino

Catalina Harbor

Catalina Harbor

As we stopped along the way, our friends told us that their son who had applied early decision to a few schools, had already had been accepted to two of them. I was so happy and proud of him and told him so. I asked his younger sister how she felt about her older brother going off to college. With that, she threw her arms around his neck and gave him a big hug. Between that and his decision to ride with his family so he could spend quality time with his younger sister, well the love in their family is always evident.

One annoyance was that I finally caught the damn cold making the rounds throughout my family. My son had it for a week and a half, my husband now was working on his second week, and no surprise, and just in time for our cruise…here came my runny nose — disgusting. So far so good, just gross, not devastatingly stopping me in my tracks of having fun.

I hear echoes of my parents in my ear about my Aunt being described as “Good Time Charley” Yep, I’m happy to say, I inherited that gene.

Monte Xanic Winery

Monte Xanic Winery

In Ensenada the next day, we chose to do an off-road jeep tour to a winery. Each family on the tour had their own jeep and we formed a caravan on the bumpy dirt road to the winery. The wine drinkers amongst us were intrigued as Mexico isn’t known for their wine, even amongst our Mexican friends. We were surprised to learn that over 80% of the wine production in Mexico is produced in this area of Ensenada.

The Mexican winery, Monte Xanic, reminded me of

Monte Xanic Bodega Vinicola

Monte Xanic Bodega Vinicola

the high-class wineries in Northern California. The buildings were made of stone, wood, cement and glass with contemporary art adorning the walls. We were met by dignified and gracious hosts and given a tour of the entire wine process from the fields to the fermenting process, storage in the caves to the bottling.

Monte Xanic

Monte Xanic

I don’t drink wine, my body has decided to compromise my liver by covering it with hemangiomas (excess blood vessels) that the doctor thinks best was enough strain — no need to add alcohol. So for me, the trip to a winery was more for my husband, our friends, and my natural curiosity about any new experience. I couldn’t resist purchasing some earrings as I loved

Monte Xanic

Monte Xanic

their logo with the modern impression of a flower.

As far as the taste of the wine, it was met with mixed reviews. Some liked it and bought bottles to bring home, others found it to be bitter and watery tasting. Like anything, different palettes like or dislike wines or food according to individual tastes.

Walking back from the winery tour we stopped at El Cid, a restaurant where we thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere and food. As we walked back to the ship, we spotted a street vendor selling hand-made bracelets. One had a curt message for our President beginning with F and ending with Trump. Apparently the Mexicans weren’t appreciating the President’s comments either. Other bracelets were personalized with people’s names and we were mesmerized by the gentleman’s talents while he made a souvenir for Celine

Celine's bracelet

Celine’s bracelet

Serenity Deck

Serenity Deck

Our final day at sea was one of extreme relaxation. I began my daily morning meditation practice on the adult-only Serenity Deck… finding me time — it couldn’t be more perfect. Peace-filled and relaxing. The view exemplifies my favorite aspect of

"Jonathan Livington Seagull"

“Jonathan Livington Seagull”

cruising…relaxing on the water on a deck lounge chair watching the calm waves drifting by — my idea of heaven on Earth. It even looked like Jonathan Livingston Seagull decided to join me.

We enjoyed our meal at our dinner table that night with our friendly wait staff and fellow passengers. During cruises if you choose to attend your assigned table, after a couple of days it begins to feel like you are joining your extended family for a joint meal. I say choose to because there are always

options to go to the buffet or sometimes you might even choose to eat in your room. Cruising is filled with options that are fun to explore depending on your mood or with whom you are traveling.

We were treated to the magic of a fantastic roaming magician during dinner who moved from table to table. He said that he was “working his dream job as he moved from ship to ship throughout the world.”  I took his comment as a good omen for my own 2018. I too believe I will be working on, beyond giving birth to my son, what I was put on this Earth to do. Wish me luck.

Epic Rock

Epic Rock

After dinner we went to an incredibly staged Epic Rock musical, complete with amazing choreography and costumes. It was so much fun to sing along and you couldn’t help but bounce your head along with the beat of the music.

We finished off the night at the comedy club enjoying the talented comedian, Seth Buchwald. We only caught the end of Monique Marvez’s comedy, but I wish we had come earlier. It’s interesting because it was rated PG, we didn’t go. It’s a prejudice us newly freed, almost empty nester parents have to consider…just because something isn’t rated for adults only, doesn’t mean it won’t be funny. Lesson learned.

I have to admit the thought of kids everywhere also was considered — being around young children becomes much more of a choice when you don’t have to…oh no, am I becoming a cranky old lady? I don’t think so, it’s just the break before grandkids : )

So that was how we began the year — just how I love to spend time — with family, friends and traveling. I hope you forgive my agitation, I couldn’t be still and have decent people be maligned — especially by our top leader of our country which was founded by the pursuit of personal freedoms. God Bless the citizens of the United States of America and those who seek the privilege of the rights that we enjoy.

I invite you to Join Me On My Journey…

 

 

 

 

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