A compilation of the posts from our June vacation 2018.
Slayer Day 2018
June 9, 2018
June 9th is finally here and though I was encouraged to sleep in for what will no doubt be a late night, I was still up at 5:30. We’ll head to Pittsburgh in a couple hours for lunch and some Guitar Center time for Colton. This adventure has been in the works for a long time, so I’m more than ready to get on the road. Preparing for two weeks off work was a little more difficult than anticipated. But, the freedom to do this is one of many reasons I remain in a government job.
One of the coolest aspects of the day ahead is meeting up with my friend Jason. We’ve been friends since 7th grade and saw Slayer together for the first time in 1991 at the same venue we’re going to today.
I also get to introduce my son to a huge chunk of my personal metal fan history today since Testament, Anthrax and Slayer more than dominated the soundtrack of my years at WVU.
It has the potential of being a fantastic day and rain or shine, I plan on enjoying it. I’ll plan to check in each morning over the next couple weeks. Hope you’ll read along.
The Aftermath and the Road East
June 10, 2018
All I can say is, wow. That was an incredible experience. It was great to see my old friend Jason and even greater to once again be pounded by the power of a Slayer show, only this time with Colton. We splurged on great seats and certainly didn’t regret it. Close enough that the guy in front of me even got a pick. We’ve been fortunate enough to show Colton a lot in his 14yrs, but I’m willing to bet last night may just top the list. I’m sure I could come up with some stories, but for now, it’s still marinating.
We were eastbound this morning by 9 or so. My route, while geographically direct, isn’t likely the quickest. But that’s ok, we’ve got more time this trip than usual. Typically we do a night or two in Manhattan, but because the show last night jumpstarted the trip, we’ve got a bonus day today. The plan is to take our time and meander across northern Pennsylvania to the GW Bridge, tour Harlem a bit and then head down to 37th St. and our home away from home for the next three nights.
Monday morning-New York
June 11, 2018
Sunday was a very long day. Don’t get me wrong, it was a vacation day and not bad at all by normal standards. On the road by 9, I envisioned a mid afternoon arrival in New York. Man was I ever wrong! Sure, we intentionally took our time, but the trip ended up at right about 10hrs. The bad part is that I’m not even certain what to attribute that to. On thing was obvious, but even that only amounted to maybe 2 hrs of delay. That one thing was my decision to get to Manhattan via the George Washington Bridge. No kidding I bet we spent 2hrs or more within 30mi of the bridge. And this was a Sunday evening at 6 or so. Whatever the reason, the bottlenecks of my usual routes, the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels will be welcome sights on future visits.
I suppose it’s worth mentioning we drive through Happy Valley along the way. Nice area, beautiful scenery, big stadiums that generate millions of dollars for Penn State, yeah whatever.
The hotel has been disappointing for a Hilton property. As Diamond members, we’ve apparently been spoiled. They’ve set a bar that, at least so far, this property hasn’t achieved. It’s fine actually, as I said, we’re just spoiled. The location is nice, 37th St. between 5th and 6th. We’re about 10 blocks south of normal.
We spent our brief time out and about last night at Bryant Park and the Guitar Center flagship store on 44th St. That place was fantastic. Even to me, a wannabe bass player, it was overwhelming. The store in Pittsburgh is huge compared to our local music store and this one makes three of them in a basement under Times Square. Between the show Saturday and this store on Sunday, Colton probably feels he’s conquered the world. And that makes me happy. Apparently spoiled only children go out of there way to raise the next generation’s only children to new levels.
Today we plan to walk the Highline down to 14th St. and thoroughly cover Greenwich Village. If I can squeeze more from them, I’d like to work our way further downtown as well. But we’ll see where the day takes us.
Chelsea, Greenwich Village, Soho, Little Italy
June 12, 2018
Thought I’d go ahead and post an update here since we’re currently in “crashed at the hotel for a couple hours” mode. Our walk this morning was just about exactly what I had in mind. We began by heading west down 34th to Madison Sq. Garden, or the “Center of the Universe” as Billy Joel says. From there over to 30th at 10th Ave. where we found some stairs accessing the Highline.
The Highline is an old section of bridges carrying train tracks that has been turned into a narrow 15 block long elevated park. It was really nice and made it nearly effortless to walk down to lower Chelsea and Greenwich Village.
We explored Chelsea Market and worked our way over to Washington Square Park where we chatted with a guy who feeds the sparrows there. Then more or less meandered south and east to Little Italy where we had Ferrara canoli for the first time in a long while. Then it was back north and west to Generation Records. A legit record shop with a great selection of metal T-shirt’s in the basement.
Eventually we reached the 4th St. subway station and came back home. My tracker was around 10.25 miles at the subway station and I forgot to turn it off, so it’s got about some extra distance in there. Ultimately we walked probably 10.75 to 11 miles. Absolutely perfect weather too.
Uptown and ABC
June 12, 2018
I’d guess I finished up yesterday with 13 to 14 miles walked. Absolutely fantastic. After the downtown walk described earlier, Colton and I set out for Grand Central Terminal and the obligatory Guitar Center time.
The day was closed out exploring the 34th St. area. We’ve passed through there several times over the years but never spent much time. It was enjoyable, but the miles had taken their toll and we turned in early.
Today we’ll grab the subway to the Upper West Side and explore a bit before heading to ABC Studios and a taping of the Chew. Since it’ll be among the last few shows, I’d like to think they may do something special, but who knows. TV shows are a huge hassle, but Colton hasn’t done one yet and there is practically nothing where a 14yr old is permitted. So we’re limited.
Thankfully Steph is a fan of the Chew and has watched for years, so it’ll be nice for her. And that’s a really good thing considering the first four days of this adventure have basically been all about indulging Colton and I. She certainly wasn’t about to set foot in the world Colton and I immersed ourselves in Saturday, and enjoying New York City has always been a me thing. To my great satisfaction, Colton enjoys it as much as me. It’s a truly magical place for loners like us who just want to disappear into the scenery and do whatever the hell we want to do.
June 13, 2018
I’m sure Steph is thankful today is here. I am as well but I’d also be content to maintain my current city dweller routine for another week. It always seems to take a little time to settle in to cruise ship life. Especially when you’re coming off three days exhausting days in New York.
Yesterday was good, although we probably spent too long at ABC. The 75 minutes in the studio were great. But the problem is that’s the last 75min of around a 3.5hr chunk of your day. It was still fun, but I would rather have spent that time further exploring uptown Manhattan. We had one decent guest, and that was 50 cent. He was pretty funny and at least recognizable. Two others from Power were there as well, but I have no clue who they were. The three remaining hosts were funny, but Michael Symon engaged most with the guests.
After the show we walked a little further uptown to Magnolia Bakery then had some pizza and took the subway back. A little rest time of course and then we thoroughly scoured midtown between 34th and 53rd. All in all I only got about 7mi in since we incorporated three subway trips.
We visited Sam Ash for the first time on 34th where Colton once again encouraged me to put some effort into learning the bass. I want to do so very much, but have no confidence in myself whatsoever when it comes to music. I have been making a great effort to drop a lot of time wasters from my life though, so I really shouldn’t use time as an excuse. How cool would it be if Colton and I could play a few songs together? Guess we’ll see when I get home.
Well, I’m heading out from Bryant Park and walking a little more before they get up. Next time I check in we’ll be on board!
June 14, 2018
I think a good reason for cruising more frequently than twice a year would be to lessen these first day grumpies. Bitch, bitch, bitch. All day long. I admit it. Countless little things have irritated me to no end today. At one point I even came to the conclusion Carnival just wasn’t for me anymore.
As it always does, it’ll get better. Tomorrow morning I’ll drag myself out of bed around 5:30 or 6 and head out to binge on fruit and coffee. Then I’ll sit on the deck in the sun and write up something for the blog explaining how it happens every cruise and all will be perfect from that point forward. Just watch and see the magic of first morning sunrise, coffee, fruit. It’s why you buy the ticket.
Here we go
June 14, 2018
Good morning! You may have seen from yesterday’s post that the day had me wound up about every little thing. As expected though, at 6:28 and three coffees in, its just fine.
I do honestly wonder if Carnival is for me these days. They seem to cater their product to first timers and young people. And I am neither of those. We’re 30 cruises in at this point. Even Colton may be closing in on 20! So does that mean I have to go to the upscale lines now? I sure hope not. I can’t afford that kind of cruising.
Boarding yesterday was a breeze! That system is indeed mastered it would seem. We waited a little to board, but check in couldn’t have been more efficient.
For the first time in many years, we were forced to sit with others at dinner. We went to check the table early, but the numbers weren’t out yet. Not sure how they expect you to check your table assignment. The people we ate with seemed very nice and the kind of people we might genuinely enjoy spending time with. But that’s not me. And it’s sure not Colton. Steph? Sure she was chat, chat, chat all dinner long. It’s a shame she has to deal with her antisocial boys.
Speaking of that, why does Colton have to be so much like me!?!? I mean in the long run sure, perhaps he’ll make a fine old guy. But he had the opportunity yesterday to meet a half dozen girls his age from Fairmont and the young lady at our dinner table was downright delightful! But he’ll be content with his parents and within himself, just like I was. At least he’s found the music. The music is the only thing that kept me sane through my youth.
I envision a lot of time at the pool with my book today! Check with you later.
June 15, 2018
Wonderful morning out by Havana pool. It turns out Steph was right about those beds out there. Very comfy and shaded enough to still be tolerable to us pale folks.
For all the complaining I’ve been doing, this ship does have more than its share of good things too. Today we found Sky Fitness which is outdoor exercise equipment by the sea. Everything is simple and uses your body weight rather than anything complicated. Not crowded and mostly just regular people messing around rather than gym rats gazing upon newcomers with disdain.
The IMAX theatre looks interesting, but short of a day long rainstorm, I don’t see us making time for it.
Tonight is formal night. Had I thought about it, we could’ve held back our Slayer tour shirts for tonight. Oh well, you can’t win them all. Although, when you consider the scope of this particular vacation, it makes me question if thats true.
We did a comedy show this evening and are waiting for the main show now. The comedian was good. We generally only go to the PG rated shows. It’s always been my opinion, and I’ve heard Jerry Seinfeld agree, that the mark of a truly good comedian is the PG show. I’m a fanatic about comedy, but probably two thirds of the comics currently on Netflix are unwatchable.
Second Sea Day
June 15, 2018
Five thirty am on a cruise ship is a weird place. Some have been up all night and some are just groggily searching for morning coffee. In the real world these cultures don’t often cross paths. I’m sure the night owls feel the same about their early morning hours, but I wouldn’t trade these early mornings for anything. This kind of peace is hard to find later in the day.
We came across the library yesterday. It’s good to see there is still such a thing. Although another indicator of Carnival’s decline is that it’s now the Library Bar. So I guess self serve wine makes it a “bar?” Or perhaps they know a lot of Carnival cruisers won’t know what to make of it unless it’s just another variation of a bar. Anyway, they’ve done away with checking out books, instead relying on the honor system. And since the ship is only two months old, the selection is in good physical shape and actually pretty current.
Apparently it was more windy yesterday than usual. Slides, ropes course and Skyride were all closed. So that’ll just make crowds today even worse. I would like to do the the ropes course and Skyride on a sea day, so we’ll try again today sometime. After several hours perched at the Havana pool with the book I grabbed at the library of course.
June 16, 2018
Out at 5:20 this morning. It’s probably the first morning I’ve been here well before sunrise. We’re supposed to be there around 7 or so.
The comedian Al Ernst was fantastic. So good in fact that I would attend the “adult” show tonight, but they tell me Colton isn’t allowed. Carnival sure is collecting a lot of strikes this trip. If they want to make rules for the stray children roaming the ship, fine. But if he’s with me, that’s my decision to make not theirs.
Speaking of piling on Carnival, We learned yesterday that Skyride is closed the whole cruise. The ship is two months old and one of the primary gimmicks used to sell the cruise to the thousands accompanying me this week is not available? Good job Carnival.
The food so far has been amazing though. They do have that somewhat mastered. We hit the BBQ place again yesterday and weren’t disappointed. We’ve grabbed dessert at the buffet, but still haven’t seen a need to actually eat there. I can’t believe how popular the Deli is these days. I remember when that idea first materialized, it was an afterthought in the back of the ship that rarely had lines.
We’re thinking of venturing out and exploring the island today. I hear the hurricane damage is still very much there though. So they probably need whatever support we can throw their way.
From my estimation it’s Saturday. So it’s been a week since Slayer Day? Wow. I knew the trip would go fast unfortunately. When you’re home, you think 12days will be forever. I’ll never understand people who are actually ready to go home. I’m more than ready to go home from less than desirable places, like work or the hospital, but vacation? You’re not doing it right if you’re ready to go home from here.
Grand Turk, Part 2
June 17, 2018
Yesterday was one of my most enjoyable cruise ports ever. It was originally to have been a beach day for us, but at some point we decided to rent a golf cart and explore on our own. The island is only 6 or 7 miles long and maybe a mile wide. So how lost can you really get? We did make the mistake of renting from the first place we came across. The guy was more than a little shifty but our ride was parked right near the ship and at least started when he showed it to us. The other renters were outside the facility and were in the same ballpark cost wise. And sure, driving off through the island, still largely in disrepair from last years hurricanes, felt like the opening scenes of a modern day horror movie. That wasn’t about to deter us.
We headed north and drove through what’s left of the devastated little island. Despite the initial concerns, we eventually settled in and had a great time. The cart we named Turtle wouldn’t go much more than probably 20mph, if it even reached that. There were no gauges, mirrors or other bells and whistles. Just Colton in the rumble seat advising me of happenings to the rear and Steph pointing out wild roadside donkeys. It was awesome.
After a wrong turn or two, we reached the north end of the island and the lighthouse. They had a nice little oasis there for others like us as well as those who chose the formal group excursion. There was a small bar, horseback riding, zip line and ropes course of sorts. Steph even fed a bottle of water to a donkey in the parking lot.
Signs were likely the first things to disappear during the storms and weren’t a real high priority once rebuilding. So finding an obscure little beach was difficult. Twice we asked some locals, who were incredibly nice, for guidance. The second wasn’t far away so she led the way and we followed.
Compared to the packed sardines at the beach near the ship, the quiet of Pillory Beach was beautiful. After that we headed south, parked Turtle and boarded the little slice of America that is is the Carnival Horizon.
We were gone less than three hours, but it was still the most fun we’ve had at a Port in quite some time.
June 18, 2018
As usual with San Juan we just walked around the city rather than taking a formal tour. It was super hot, but that just made us appreciate lunch more once back on board. We took a new route to El Morro. It still involved a blazing hot walk across the field, just from the south rather than the east.
Before we reached the fort though we happened across a cat shelter. A small herd of cats greeted us as we sat on the bench next to the shelter. Of course, Steph felt she had to feed them. After a visit to the familiar El Morro and another incredibly hot walk across the windy kite flying haven surrounding the fort, we searched for cat food. We knew of good stores at the square in Old San Juan where we typically see a stray dog or two.
There were no dogs this time, but we did find a place with cat food. With a small bag of cat food in tow, it was back through the city streets to the cats. While they had been left with plenty of sustenance by the shelter, they seemed more than happy to have snacks with new friends. The journey back to the ship wasn’t too far, but man was it ever hot.
Guys burgers for Colton and I and a Blue Iguana taco salad for Steph welcomed us back. The rest of the day is familiar. Pool, reading on deck, dinner, show, bed. Cruise ship life in a nutshell.
Speaking of reading, I finished Between the World and Me yesterday afternoon. That’s the one I picked up at the ship’s “Library Bar” earlier in the week. It’s been in the back of my mind since I saw Coates on a talk show a few months ago, but I hadn’t gotten to it yet. Absolutely fantastic and a great book to finish on Fathers Day since it’s written as a letter to his son. Every white American needs to read this book.
June 19, 2018
Still two sea days left before the real world smacks us around Thursday. Regardless, once the ship heads north, it seems about over.
Amber Cove was nice, but not a place we’re likely to spend much time short of doing an official excursion. Shops, bars and pools are nice enough, but knowing it’s just an extension of Carnival diminishes the appeal. My routine at ports on a non-NCL cruise is to immediately find a Diet Pepsi or two. But Amber Cove is basically Carnival, so nothing but Coke. I know it’s a small thing, but it reminds you that you aren’t at a tropical locale so much as a place Carnival designed to keep what money you spend directed toward them. Anyway, the views from the bar on the hill are fantastic. If I were so inclined to sit a while, it would be a wonderful place. As it was, our visit wasn’t long enough to warrant a rest stop.
The rest of the day was in and around the ship pools. We hit the slides and were the only ones doing so. That’s a huge benefit of ports you don’t care about visiting. We’ve most always been able to score one of the “beds” at the Havana area which makes Steph happy. She’s actually gone to sleep a few times out there. And considering her difficulty sleeping in the real world, that’s worth the price of admission.
The bar service at Havana isn’t as bad as I’d originally indicated. I’m very quick to pick things apart sometimes. I guess I anticipate these trips so much that I want everything perfect, but perfect is usually a hopeless endeavor. It’s been fine there and while my list of little things is too long, only a couple complaints could actually be considered significant.
As usual, I think Colton is wearing thin and about ready to head home. He’d hang with me forever in New York, but the days here on my floating sanctuaries could be long if not for books. And much to my dismay, he is not a big reader.
June 20, 2018
I would typically say this sucks, but it’s not so bad. If I don’t wrap up this one, the next one won’t arrive.
Yesterday was a great day. We didn’t do much of anything other than hang around Havana. In what might be a record for us, I was down here around 7 and we didn’t leave until after 3. Not great for serious pool rats but we’re not that.
It was the second formal night so we skipped dinner of course. I think Colton and I actually missed our waiters. These guys (David, Eli and I Made) have been wonderful.
The show was Celestial Strings which was outstanding. In fact I even went so far last night as to say it may have been the best traditional cruise show I’ve seen. Ever! I’ve always appreciated the comics, jugglers, magicians and the like moreso than the production shows but occasionally one will hold my attention. Celestial Strings set a new standard for production shows in my book.
You won’t believe what I did during our brief rest time yesterday afternoon. I booked the the same cabin we’re in this week on the Panorama in June 2020. A little nuts perhaps, but a decision doesn’t have to be made until spring nearly two yrs down the road. She’ll debut in December 2019 in Los Angeles. It’s been 20yrs since our last visit there and a cruise on the Carnival Holiday.
Tomorrow is the road trip home so I may check in here or may not. I’ll be up early or course, but on the last day, so will everyone else.
Thanks for paying attention this week. It’s not been quite what I was hoping for writing wise, but perhaps that’s because the trip itself has exceeded expectations and would be impossible to adequately describe. Oh well, another day at Havana awaits.
NYC and Home
June 21, 2018
I didn’t write this morning for a couple of reasons. The first is that it was raining so I didn’t sit in one place too long. The second is that we were already sailing up the Hudson past Lower Manhattan by 5am. Combine the weather, location, scenery and the fact it was debarkation day and I didn’t have much interest in sitting on a deck chair writing.
Anyway, the last sea day was much like the previous one. The bulk of the day was spent in the Havana Pool area until we cleaned up and took in one last huge pasta lunch. I don’t remember if I mentioned the cakes at lunch on Horizon. Absolutely fantastic. Steph and Colton liked the gelato and I liked the cakes. After our late lunch we packed a while and then did the Thrill Theatre and past guest party until it was time for the comedian. He had more or less turned off Colton and I the night before so we weren’t much interested in sitting through another of his shows. Instead we opted to take our additional tips to our wonderful dining room staff. Each of them stopped what they were doing and took time to show their appreciation. Eli even gave us hugs. They seemed disappointed we were skipping dinner, but considering they received extra tips from us even though we only ate there 4 times, I imagine they weren’t too devastated. Afterward we went to the pool deck for a movie, Peter Rabbit, on the big screen.
So really our only entertainment the last day was the Thrill Theatre, the Dive in Movie and Jeffrey Munks, the pianist. He was fantastic and I enjoyed his music throughout the week. Colton even bought a CD off of him he was so impressed. Well, that and more importantly, we like to support young artists to pursue their dreams.
We walked a lot last night and didn’t want to go to bed and admit it was all about over.
This morning the ship was docked by 6 and we were off by 7. A nice ending to our trip, well, other than a safe and efficient trip home was getting to meet Doug Parker of Cruise Radio on our exit from the terminal. Doug had touched base a couple weeks ago and said he’d be in town boarding the ship when we got off and wanted to meet up. He’s been a valuable cruise resource for me for years and we have probably followed one another on Twitter for 7 or 8 years. So it was nice to finally get a chance to meet. He suggested that we maybe should do a review on the show, but I’m not remotely as confident in my speaking ability as I am with writing. We’ll see what happens I guess.
Believe it or not, even with that busy early morning, we were home by 3pm. Not a bad deal at all. All in all a wonderful trip that deserves a better conclusion than this. But its definitely not going to get that tonight.