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Everything Else Fabulous

    Everything Else Fabulous

    Fabulous Travel Wardrobe with Just One Suitcase

    Looking and Feeling Grand on the Grand Adventure

    Location: United States

    After wearing the same clothes over and over on our Grand Adventure I was looking forward to some major shopping once I got back in the USA. I knew I could create a fabulous travel wardrobe that would fit in  just one suitcase.

    I’ve spent a lot of time over the past two months purging my old travel wardrobe and adding fresh new and fabulously fun and comfortable items.  There are only five items from my previous wardrobe (excluding underwear) that make the cut for this next phase of my fabulous travel wardrobe.

    Fabulous Travel Wardrobe

    The white dress five ways. This is from J. Jill. I’m gonna love this dress I think.

    I have a really good understanding now of what works for me as a full-time traveler; what makes me feel good; is comfortable, pretty and easy to care for; what is well constructed and can withstand hand washing, sweat and constant wear; and most importantly what is versatile for many kinds of climates and all kinds of fabulous.

    That’s what I look for in a fabulous travel wardrobe.

    Fabulous Travel Wardrobe

    Black Dress six ways. This is a TravelSmith purchase, wrinkle free fabric. I love it. It made the cut for this next phase. Denim jacket is Levi.  Black and white kimono scarf I bought in Bali. White tie blouse is from Macy’s.

    Granted, most of the clothes I need are for warmer climates.  However on this next phase we will see some cool weather, especially while we are in Spain and Portugal in late October and November.  So I need to take this into consideration.

    I’m basing my fabulous travel wardrobe on some anchor pieces including; one white dress, one black dress, one pink dress and one green dress.  In addition I have added; one black linen drawstring pants, one white linen drawstring pants, one white walking shorts and one black walking shorts.

    With these anchor pieces I have added multiple tank tops and t-shirts and blouses as well as one sweater, two cardigans and my denim jacket. I also have two kimono scarf wraps (one silk, one cotton) and two

    Fabulous Travel Wardrobe

    The green dress four ways. This is another Travel Smith purchase. The silk Kimono scarf and the black leggings are from Sirvana

     

    scarfs.  All of these items together can create an endless array of options for me.  The photos show just some of the ideas I have.

    I also have a couple of fun hats and a small collection of versatile jewelry to mix and match.  Although most of the time we aren’t getting dressed up, it’s nice to have some jewelry options for casual outfits as well.

    My wardrobe includes

    Fabulous Travel Wardrobe

    Pink dress four ways. I got this dress on a clearance rack at J.Jills. It’s linen – my favorite fabric. There is that Sirvana kimono again.  Teal and pink scarf is from Target.

    some handbags and six pairs of shoes.  My shoe choices are flat or low heeled with excellent arch support and lots of comfort.  Anything other than that doesn’t make the cut of a fabulous travel wardrobe.

    In my suitcase you will also find my small collection of mix and match items that serve me for hiking, running and yoga.  These activities are a big part of most every day in My Fab Fifties Life so making sure I am comfortable when I’m working out is a priority.  Our fall hike of the Porto Camino will likely include some rainy days, so I am preparing with a better rain poncho

    Fabulous Travel Wardrobe

    White pants and or shorts six ways. There are endless options here. Linen pants are Caslon from Nordstrom. The white shorts I have had for years. Black lace duster from Sirvana. Blue and white striped tank is DraperJane by Reece Witherspoon. White Lace tank from Travel Smith. Washed denim top from Marshalls and red top from StitchFix.

    than the one I had last year on the Spain Camino.

    I bought two of the same swimsuit but in different colors.  This way I can wear the first one until it starts to fall apart and have a back up ready.  I hated trying to shop for a swimsuit on our travels. And because I wear a suit almost every day, mostly in salt water, they really wear out.  I’m also bringing my older one-piece suit that I found in storage.  I prefer a one piece suit when snorkeling so I want to have it for those times.

    Making the cut from last years wardrobe are my

    Fabulous Travel Wardrobe

    Black pants and or shorts eight ways. Of course black is flattering, but these pants are also comfortable. Linen pants are Caslon from Nordstrom, black shorts I have had for years. Teal button up tank and print tank from J Jill. White top with black embellishment is from Macys. Mustard sweater is Coldwater Creek.

    bold flowered print long sleeve gauze blouse.  I love the color and comfort of this top and even though it’s long sleeved it is perfect in hot weather.  It will come in handy in Muslim countries where I want to cover my arms.

    Fabulous Travel Wardrobe

    My gear for running and yoga. Black shorts and shoes are Brooks. Leggings from Sirvana.

    I’m also bringing my 12-year-old teal linen sundress which is my favorite and is a perfect beach coverup.  I did some hand stitching to it this summer to fix the hem and some fraying. Good as new and ready to go again.

    Fabulous Travel Wardrobe

    I have hiking options for all weather possibilities. And we likely will use them all! Most everything you see here is from REI. Poncho from Magellan. My hiking shoes are from Kuru- specifically designed for plantar fasciaitis.

    In addition I’m throwing in my denim cropped white jeans.  I’ve never had a more comfortable pair of jeans and they work in so many ways.  A keeper for sure. My black shorts are also on the return list.

    And finally, my black dress from Travel Smith I wore over and over on the last phase of our travels I will wear over and over on the next phase.  This dress is a wonderful wrinkle free fabric and feels really good to wear.

    There are a few other minor miscellaneous items I plan to bring, but I feel more pared-down than when we left two years ago.  We both will continue to use our sturdy REI roller bags, now in their fourth year and who knows how many miles and baggage handlers they have endured.  We had to change the wheels on one of them, and are carrying a set of wheels for the other bag just in case.

    Fabulous Travel Wardrobe

    My swim attire – the blue and the green tops are identical except for color. I bought the Sarong in Bali and there is my old trusty teal linen sundress that has been around the world several times.

    In addition Arne has his backpack and I have my new roller carry-on.  I’m confident we will have plenty of room.  Not only for our clothes but for all the other items (did you see the YouTube video we posted about packing non clothing items?  We also posted a time-lapse on Youtube that is fun to watch).

    The thing is, you would basically pack the same if you were going on a month-long vacation.  Granted there are some things you wouldn’t need to pack (back up wheels for your suitcase or 12-months of contact lenses), but it’s essentially the same.  I would most likely bring the same amount of clothes for a month as I am for a year, a fabulous travel wardrobe.  It’s all about planning and knowing how to mix and match to feel and be your fabulous best.  Everyday, every country, everywhere.  Go. Be. Fabulous.

    Launch is in T-minus 25 days!

     

    Everything Else Fabulous  --  Food & Drink  --  Inspire

    Preparing to Travel Full Time – It’s In The Details

    The Grand Adventure

    Location: United States

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    Note – at the request of one of my friends, I have updated this blog, originally posted in November 2016, with fresh new information.  Enjoy it again.

    “How exactly do you prepare to leave the country and travel full-time?”

    As our departure day to leave the USA again grows near, this is the recurring question.  People we meet often show, interest, surprise, envy, jealousy, horror and confusion. But most of all they are curious. How exactly do you prepare to leave the country and travel full-time?

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Thailand

    So over the past couple of weeks I have been pulling together some details to share again. A lot of details.  In fact, I would answer the above question with a simple sentence.  “It’s in the details.”

    Before we embarked on the first phase of the Grand Adventure we spent several years preparing.  A younger person, like my son, can prepare more quickly, in a matter of months.  But for Fab Fifty rock stars like me and my husband, it took more time.

    For us about three years.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Morocco

    When the idea first sprouted, I knew immediately we would do it.  Without a question I knew it was right for us.  All while knowing it isn’t right for everyone.

    In fact, making a major life change like this should take some serious soul searching – are you cut out for a life of travel? What is your tolerance level?  Consider everything from beds to cultural customs when considering your personal tolerance for living outside of the United States.  Do you have phobias? Afraid of bugs? Snakes? Rodents or people not like you? Are you afraid of cultures where everyone isn’t white?  Are you willing to eat new foods, communicate in languages other than English and squat to go to the bathroom? Give it a think because, a life of full-time travel isn’t for sissies or intolerant people. You gotta be open, willing and fairly fearless while being smart, observant and adventurous.

    Once you know your tolerance level that in-turn will help you determine your budget.  Because if you are only willing to stay in upscale American style hotels, then your budget will need to look very different

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Vietnam

    from ours.  Our travels have us staying in primarily Airbnb’s that average about $70.  And honestly if you are only willing to stay in American brand hotels with 300 thread count sheets and someone to cater to your every whim – well, you should just stay in the USA. Because you will miss the most rewarding part of travel – getting out of your comfort zone and expanding your world view.

    We have a daily budget of $200 all-inclusive (transportation, lodging, food and misc).  This is plenty for most places and not enough for a few places, but we are frugal and hope it all evens out.  Because the

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Spain

    reality is if we can’t stay within our designated budget then the Grand Adventure will be over, sooner rather than later.

    Speaking of timeline – we don’t have one.  This of course would not work for everyone, but for us it fits.  We will continue the vagabond life as long as we are having fun.  As soon as it becomes anything other than fun, we will wrap it up.  But so far, 99% fun.

    So listed below are some “details” on how to prepare to leave the country and travel full-time.  Most of these things we have had to learn on our own – so if this list can alleviate any work for someone else considering traveling abroad full-time in retirement, use it well.

    PURGE – we started our purge process more than two years before we put our house on the market, as we let go of nearly every bit of fluff we owned, including house, cars, boats, trailer, furniture and more.  We have a 10×12 storage unit now that is holding what remains of our stationary lifestyle and life’s memories. During this same period we worked to purge my Dad’s house, remodel his place and get it on the market as well as move him to a smaller place.  It was a big goal to get him out of his large house before we left. It was a huge job but it needed to be done.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Cambodia

    DOCUMENTS – we updated our passports even though they were not expired, so we would not have any issues with needing to do that from abroad.  We also updated our Washington State Drivers License.  We will carry a copy of our marriage certificate with us but not our birth certificates because the passport is sufficient.  We have researched every possible country we think we might visit to learn the entry/visa requirements. We are carrying extra passport photos because some countries require obtaining a visa on entry with photo. We also carry International Drivers License, even though we have NEVER been asked for one.

    SPREADSHEET – we created a spread sheet, which is evolving constantly and we can access via Google Drive, to track all of our travel including air and ground transportation and lodging.  This spreadsheet includes notes regarding entry rules for countries. It’s also a fun tool for tracking so many things from miles traveled to beds slept in.  The data we have is incredible.

    MAIL – we are using a PO Box that belongs to my Mother-in-law, but we are trying hard not to receive

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Croatia

    any mail.  We have notified our friends and family not to snail mail us, we have contacted magazines and catalogs to eliminate junk (not very successful however) and we have changed all of our banking, retirement and property related mail to online only. I canceled my 35 year subscription to Bon Apetit.

    TECHNOLOGY – we have new smart phones, an iPad and my Brand new light weight Mac Book that will travel with us.  In addition we will bring our old flip phone.  For our smartphones (we each have an iPhone) we buy a sim card in each country for one of our phones to enable the phone to have a local phone number and data.  We then also use our iPhones with wifi for things like blogging, Facebook and Instagram.  The flip phone is programmed  with our old Verizon phone number from the states.  Although we don’t plan to use that number often, it keeps it active for emergency.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Seychelles

    We also have our Bose noise-canceling headphones and our Bose SoundLink Mini speaker that measures about 6 in x 3 in.  We carry this with us and it allows us to listen to music using Spotify and listen to Audible or other books.

    APPS – We have a few travel apps we like especially Airbnb, Expedia and Google Maps.  We also have a Google translate which is really cool.  You can point your phone at a sign or menu item in another language and it will show you what it says in English.  Love it.  We use WhatsApp, an app that allows you to make overseas calls via the internet, this is primarily the way we communicate with our kids.  To call our parents, who aren’t on WiFi, we use an app called TextNow which allows free phone calls from anywhere to the USA. We also use Kindle, Yelp, Uber, Get Your Guide and Trip Advisor.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure New Zealand

    CORDS AND CHARGERS – I honestly don’t understand why there isn’t a universal cord for all electronics, but alas wishful thinking.  So we have organized and sorted all our cords, charges and adaptors to travel along. We research ahead to make sure we know what adaptors we need in each country. We have one packing cube we use for all of these items.

    CREDIT CARDS – don’t you hate it when your credit card company announces suddenly that you are being mailed a new credit card because your card has been compromised?  Well that would really screw us up if that happens.  So we have FOUR credit cards.  One is our primary and three are backups.  Three cards have no foreign transaction fees (which is a killer).  We also have multiple ATM cards. All credit and debit cards are chipped.  VERY IMPORTANT is that we do not carry all these cards together in one place.  That way, if our wallet or purse is lost or stolen, we will have back up cards available in a different location.  We have contacted all of the card companies for both credit and debit and let them know we will be traveling abroad for an extended period.  We have put a reminder on our calendar to do this again periodically. We carry several hundred US dollar in cash for emergencies.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Portugal

    PRESCRIPTIONS – I take two prescriptions regularly.  It’s been a challenge to get enough of my meds stocked up.  My insurance company will allow, with a special doctor’s note, two 90 day vacation overrides.  I have been stocking up in other ways too, but it’s not going to be enough.  I will need to find access to these meds to fill the rest of the time, because we won’t be back in the US for a visit until next summer. Shipping prescriptions abroad is illegal. We have some people coming to visit us, so I may have them bring me my pills. But I am confident I can find the meds or an equivalent.  I will need to pay cash for those at the time.  I have also 12 months worth of contact lenses and we each have our glasses plus a back up pair.

    DOCTORS – during the three months we have been in the USA we have had a ton of appointments; family physician for full physicals, new prescriptions and precautionary antibiotics; eye doctor for new contacts and glasses; dermatologist for annual check up; dentist for cleaning and some work; gynecologist for check up; and annual mammogram. I had my updated yellow fever, and DPT shot and did a round of typhoid and got a two month supply of malaria meds.

    MEDIVAC INSURANCE – considering our age, we felt there was value in purchasing evacuation insurance.  This insurance covers expenses to transport us back to the USA in case of a medical emergency that can’t be handled locally.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Spain

    EXPEDIA AND AIRBNB – we love how these two
    online websites allow us to keep files of all your bookings.  This eliminates the need for printing and gives us easy access to our bookings.  We use them both frequently.

    DECIDING WHERE TO GO – After two years of non-stop travel we feel much more comfortable with our movement around the planet.  It feels natural.  We usually agree on where we want to go and make our decisions based on budget, weather, safety and interest. We love to go new places, but have a few favorites we return to. We take turns planing the itinerary, often taking a country each.

    Although we aren’t completely booked yet, we have a plan for August 2018 through June 2019 that includes; Denmark (visiting Arne’s cousins), Belgium, Germany, Poland, Romania, Greece, Egypt &Jordan (the only countries currently where we are doing a tour), Portugal & Spain (where we will walk our second Camino de Santiago), Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru & Chile (these five countries on a cruise with Arne’s Mom), Brazil, Costa Rica (joined by our friends from Washington), El Salvador, Belize (joined by our two sons), Guatemala, Honduras, Dominican Republic and Cuba.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Tunisia

    GIRL STUFF – I’ve learned some things about myself over the past two years. Despite how easy it is to have long hair and wear it in a pony tail everyday, I just hate the look on me.  So the budget will need to include more haircuts.  Mostly I do my own nails and wear hardly no makeup, but I still like to have my eyebrows waxed from time to time. I have just a handful of earrings and necklaces I wear and of course the charm bracelet. I’ve just purchased a jewelry case that’s I hope will help my jewelry not take such a travel beating.

    The Grand Adventure Australia

    PACKING – this topic is by far the one most people ask about, and indeed one of the hardest.  We will continue to use two large REI rolling bags.  Arne will continue to use his backpack as a carry on. But this time my backpack will stay home and I just purchased a new rolling carry on. And packing cubes have changed my life.  Organized and categorized I love using packing cubes.

    It helps that we are traveling, for the most part, to warm climates or to areas during their warm season.  We may see cool and rainy in Portugal and Spain in the late fall. Honestly the clothing choice has been easier than the shoes.  And the bulkiest items are not clothes or shoes it’s toiletries and

    The Grand Adventure Namibia

    medicines. I just purchased a flat style toilette bag to replace the larger boxier cube style one we have been carrying. I’m hoping this will free up some space in the suitcase.

    Without a doubt I am bringing twice the clothes as my husband, but I have learned so much this past two years for what works for me and what is comfortable and easy to maintain.

    How to travel full-time

    The Grand Adventure Laos

    I threw out almost all the clothes I used the past two years and have replaced them with fresh, new and comfortable.  Watch for a blog soon all about my new travel wardrobe. I think you’re gonna love it.

    In addition we have our electronics and documents and toiletries, first aid and meds.  We have our Scrabble game, our hiking poles, a selfie stick, an REI titanium French press, a can opener,a small knife, collapsible small cooler and colander.  I have a new “butt cushion” to hopefully alleviate sciatic pain on long flights.  I’ve thrown in some pens and pencils, scotch tape and packing tape, a bungee cord, cloths pens, plastic bags (multiple sizes) our headlamps and some extra batteries.  Of course I don’t leave home without my Washington State University flag, my Seattle Seahawks flag and THE MUG.

    So there you have it.  The details.  I’ve probably forgotten something.  We feel more prepared and less anxious than when we left two years ago.  We are looking forward to this next phase.

    Ready to launch year three of the Grand Adventure! T minus 33 days.

    I welcome your questions.

    Fabulous!

     

     

     

    Everything Else Fabulous

    Travel Planning Fatigue

    What’s Ahead for the Grand Adventure

    Location: United States

    Travel Planning Fatigue

    The Mug in the USA

    In the beginning I really enjoyed the planning. Figuring out where to go, where to stay, how to get there and what to do.

    Unfortunately it’s now a bit of a chore and I am suffering from travel planning fatigue. But it’s a necessary chore for this nomad life we have chosen. Ahhhh first world problems…

    Keeping the details straight, connecting the

    Finding an oasis

    The Mug in Bali

    dots and STAYING WITHIN BUDGET is a monumental effort.  We have fallen into a pattern of having our plans set about six months out at any given time. Sometimes however, like now, we end up with even more advanced plans. For instance, now we are looking at Christmas through February in South and Central America. This is the height of the season there, so we are planning even further in advance.

    Travel Planning Fatigue

    The Mug in Bulgaria

    Because we follow the sun on The Grand Adventure, we often hit high season. But because we also try to focus on less-touristy destinations, it usually works out. But, it still requires managing a lot of information, spending a lot of money on advance travel and lodging reservations, and trying to decide what we want to do and where we want spend our time.

    Travel Planning Fatigue

    The Mug in Thailand

    We often split up these tasks. My husband just finished planning Brazil and Costa Rica for December and January, while I am deep into research of the rest of Central America for late winter and spring 2019.

    Travel Planning Fatigue

    The Mug in Australia

    Our goals remain the same;  see parts of the world we have never seen; revisit some past favorites; and experience cultures and places where few visitors go.  Over the past two years we have had amazing success with this strategy. And until arriving in the USA this past May 14th, we have stayed on budget. Our time in the USA however has blown our budget.

    We will get back on track as soon as we leave the USA again. We have our plans confirmed now from Aug 7 – Feb 15th. During this time we will visit the following places; Denmark, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Romania, Greece, Egypt, Jordan, Portugal, Spain, Gibraltar, Miami, Key West, Panama, Columbia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Brazil, Costa Rica, Nicaragua.

    Travel Planning Fatigue

    The Mug in the Seychelles

    We are still researching the following possibilities from March – late May 2019; Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Cuba and Jamaica.

    So we continue to plan – and to suffer from travel planning fatigue. But My Fab Fifties Life requires being organized and so we have become adept at the planning and managing the details.

    A full and fabulous life.

    Watch for more USA blogs coming soon.

    Everything Else Fabulous

    Age Perception is a Funny Thing

    Back in the USA and These Things Are on My Mind

    Age perception is a funny thing.  When you were 40 years old and your parent turned 60 they seemed so ancient.  In two weeks my husband hits the big 6-0 and he is certainly not ancient.

    When I was 35 my baby brother passed away at 32.  Of course he seemed very young to die, but recently my family lost my cousin, also 32 and she seems like a child to me now that I am 58.  Gone way to soon.

    I was thinking the other day about my teachers in grade school.  When I was a kid I had some great teachers, but of course they all seemed old to me.  I was a kid.  They were grownups.  When you are little grownups all seem old.

    Age perception is a funny thing. As we mature we look at age so differently.  I have never been afraid to grow old, but I certainly make a constant effort to keep my body in condition and be as healthy as I can.  Because at this time in my life I am acutely aware of people my age and younger who are passing away – some after a long illness while others very suddenly.

    Today I look at my parents in their 80’s and am thankful they are still here, and hope they have a lot of years left.  I think about celebrating their fiftieth birthdays and it seems like yesterday.

    Age perception is a funny thing.  Maturity definitely sheds a different light on life, age and longevity.  But we live and learn don’t we?  And I’d rather be growing old than not at all.

    No regrets.

     

     

     

    Everything Else Fabulous

    Reveling in Reunions

    Back in the USA and Reveling in Reunions

    We have been back in the USA for two weeks today. And we have been in constant motion. For us the 18 months we were traveling outside the USA flew by.  But to people we know back home they felt like we were gone for a decade.

    We weren’t.  Just 18 months.

    Reveling in reunions

    The Martini Mamas

    And yet, on our first return to our home country we find ourselves caught up in a myriad of reunions, nearly every day.  I told my husband I thought the demand on us was mostly because of the novelty of our adventures.  I think by the time we return again for a visit next year, that novelty will have worn off.

    Reveling in Reunions

    Book Club Babes

    Please don’t misunderstand.  I LOVE all these reunions.  We are having such a great time getting re-acquainted with our loved ones. We had a big reunion with my husband’s family right away.  And I have spent individual time with my parents.  Our oldest son

    Reveling in Reunions

    The Lund Family

    Reveling in reunions

    Lifelong Friends

    has been here at our house several times and we went to Seattle yesterday and toured the brand new Nordic Museum with our youngest son.  We are doing our best to work around our kids work schedules so we can spend as much time with them as possible.

    I spent four days in Nashville with my girlfriends from high school and we had another lovely reunion last Friday night with some of our oldest friends who we have known most of our lives.

    Reveling in reunions

    Yard work with my Mom

    I loved seeing the wonderful ladies of my book club as well as my dear girl friends who are known as the Martini Mamas.  I’m lunching with other friends, meeting for coffee with others and having wine with still more.  Next Sunday we head to Zion for a reunion with Arne’s college friends. Lucky me.

    Reveling in Reunions

    My son Erik

    During the time we are here in the USA I’m spending every Tuesday with my Dad (as well as other days).  We have had lunch together and we brought him from his assisted living home to have dinner at our house.  I’m spending every Wednesday with my Mom.  So far I’ve helped her in her yard, but she and I have plans to do several girl things together from crafts to Ride the Ducks in Seattle.

    Arne is also spending every Wednesday with his Mom.  They went for a walk, he did yard work and they are attending the Seattle Mariners games.

    Reveling in reunions

    My friends from high school

    As we plan to continue to travel for an undetermined amount of time, spending these eleven weeks here in the USA soaking up our family and friends is our goal. The time will fly and we will be off again before we

    Reveling in reunions

    Dinner with son Dane

    know it.  But then, I expect that time will also fly, and a year from now we will be back again.  Back and forth – we see this as our way of life for at least a few more years. A grand adventure to see the world, while we can. How fabulous!

    We leave again on August 7th – details on that coming soon.

    Everything Else Fabulous

    We are Back

    The Weird and Wonderful World of the USA

    Location: Gig Harbor Washington USA

    And We Are Back – Adjusting to being back in the fast paced USA.

    It’s both wonderful and weird being back here.  It’s surreal and my husband and I keep looking at each other with a perplexed look – “was it always this “wired”?”  Fast paced and a bit maniacal, we haven’t felt this in a while.  But here we are and it will be like any other country we visit – spend sometime getting into the swing and then we will feel right at home.  At least the language is familiar!  Oh and the money is green – the way it should be. And there is toilet paper!! Woohoo!

    For those of you who are personal friends and family, we hope to see as many of you as possible.   Please note however that we are holding the majority of our time open for our family; particularly our aging parents and our adult children.  But we still do hope to see our friends and we have many dinners and lunches and coffees and glasses of wine already on the calendar with our dearest peeps.  But other than a quick reunion trip to both Nashville with my high school girlfriends(leaving today) and Utah (college buddies) in June, we will stay mostly on the Kitsap Peninsula during our visit.

    We are staying in the home of our friends in downtown Gig Harbor while they are off in their RV for two months.  This is from May 14-July 15.  On July 15th we move to another home in Seabeck to be a closer to Arne’s family for our final three weeks.  We depart the USA again on August 7th and plan to be away this time for nine to ten months. More on that later.

    But for now we try to catch our breath, squeeze our loved ones, and remember to drive on the right hand side of the road!

    So hello USA, Washington, Kitsap Peninsula and Gig Harbor.  Hello, Susaday, Hafa Adai, Apa Kabar, Kihineh, Sabaidi, Swasdi, G’Day, Zdraveite, Zdravo, Xin Chao, Namaste, Chomreabsuro, Vanakkam, Is-Slama, Om suastiastu, Huh-low, Ssalamu, Sawubona, Salam-Alai Kum, Bom Dia, Bon Jour, Kia Ora, Hola, ‘Lekum, Aloha. Hello!

    Everything Else Fabulous

    Cruising Then and Now

    Many Changes in Cruising Since our First Cruise 26 Years Ago

    Location: Onboard Explorer of the Seas

    When we booked the cruise we are on, we were under the false assumption that repositioning cruises were not all that popular.  That could not be farther from the truth.  This 23 day cruise has been interesting to say the least.  We have learned a lot about the world of cruise fanatics and cruise loyalty.

    At the pool. There are three pools.

    Onboard this ship are people who love to cruise.  I call them serial cruisers. I over heard one women bragging that this was her 83rd cruise.  It’s very clear from people we have met that cruising for the majority of these hard-core cruise junkies is all about being on the ship and very little about the destinations.  It’s also clear that most the people on the ship are loyal to Royal Caribbean and their frequent cruiser programs.  Royal Caribbean family if you will.

    Lunch at the buffet

    Eighty Three cruises?  No thanks.  I enjoy cruising but only every few years and certainly never feel like I can really get to know a destination with only 8 hours in port.  But on this cruise I am clearly in the minority – in more ways than one.  I frequently mention how often Arne and I find we are older than other travelers  meet. Not on this ship. Not even close.

    It’s been 26 years since I took my first cruise, a Caribbean seven-day cruise out of Puerto Rico.  I’ve now done a total of nine cruises, nowhere near

    Kitchen prep in the galley

    the number of some of the people onboard with us on the Explorer of the Seas.  But averaging one cruise every three years I have seen some very clear changes in the industry of cruising since that first one long ago.  Not only has the industry of cruising changed, but cruising has changed the world.  Places like Venice Italy, Dubrovnik Croatia and Juneau Alaska now scramble to deal with the influx of visitors and the changes, often negative, that cruise ships and cruise passengers can cause.

    From a guests perspective, I have observed the following significant changes in 26 years;

    Daily towell animals in our room 

    Service on board – my first cruise was a dream because of the phenomenal service we received from every staff person onboard but most especially from our room steward and our dining room wait staff.

    Today the staff on board the mega cruise ships are great, but they are clearly overworked and the service is good, often very good, but never to the level of that first cruise I took those many years ago.  It’s clear the service staff is responsible for more guests now than back then, but also some of the lower level of service might be as a result of the pre-paid gratuity.  Our early cruises were back in the day when you handed cash to your wait staff and your room steward at the end of the cruise.  Your choice of gratuity was dependent on the service they provided.  Today, most cruises (most but not all) do a prepaid 18% gratuity when you sign up for your cruise.  Of course the staff knows this.

    Dessert in the main dining room

    Little things have changed in the dining room to create less work for the staff at the expense of the guest.  They used to come around to the table with your salad dressing choices and spoon it directly on your salad for you.  Now you take what they give you.  There used to be a wine steward who would come around and discuss wine choices with you and regions and styles of wine.  On this cruise we are on there has not been a wine steward anywhere in sight.

    Windows getting washed

    Once upon a time the midnight buffet was a highlight of your day and usually included a spectacular ice sculpture.  Since the ships now all have a full-time buffet in addition to the regular dining room, the midnight buffet has disappeared and along with it the entertaining spectacle it always was. 

    The atrium

    Back in the day the cruise line did not nickel and dime you for every little thing.  Today a cup of coffee is free, but not an espresso or a latte.  You also no longer get soda for free.  It used to be only alcohol was extra.  No longer.  In fact you used to enjoy a lobster dinner one night on each cruise but today it’s an extra $35 if you want lobster.  Today you pay extra for “speciality dinning” and even room service has a service charge.  We used to order room service breakfast and enjoy it on our balcony.  But anything “cooked” is a charge so the only breakfast you can get from room service for free is cereal and fruit and coffee.

    Today you have to sign away your first-born before you can get a pool towel, and if it’s not returned by the end of the cruise you will be charged $25 per towel.

    Shore excursions have always been expensive and we avoid doing them most of the time.  The cost has risen extensively over the years and rarely does the cost equal the value.

    Enjoying formal night

    On our first few cruises there wasn’t even a spa or a gym.  I remember running or walking on the promenade deck as exercise.  Today you aren’t allowed to run on the promenade deck because it will make noise in the rooms below.  The new ships have a running track, but it’s nine laps for one mile so you feel a bit like a hamster.  On our first cruise I remember doing morning aerobics class in the dining room and they just pushed the tables and chairs out-of-the-way.  On our first few cruises there was a ‘beauty parlor” but no spa.  Today the spa and fitness center make big bucks for the cruise lines and there is a constant push to buy products that will change your skin, your fitness and your life – at exorbitant prices of course.  In fact this is the first cruise we have been on where we had to pay for certain fitness classes.  Some classes are free still, but the very popular spinning class and yoga class will cost $12.

    Leaving Sydney Harbour

    Twenty-six years ago our first cruise was on a smaller ship than the one we are on now (3500 passengers) and there was only one dinner seating.  You also had a lunch and breakfast seating.  Today most of the time the dining room is closed for breakfast and lunch except on at sea days and you take your breakfast and lunch in the buffet.  I remember on one cruise there was a special evening with a midnight buffet served in the ships galley.  It was a wonderful way to see the sparkling clean kitchen and how the crew prepares so much food for so many guests for so many days.

    In fact, on several early cruises we took “behind the scenes” tours of the galley and the bridge.  Today it will cost you $89 to take the two-hour tour and see the inner workings of the Explorer of the Sea.

    Celebrating the moment we crossed the equator

    Long before we ever did our first cruise we were in the Bahamas in 1982.  Our friends who had just gotten married were on a cruise and in port so we hooked up and actually went on board as guests to see the ship.  That would never happen today.  The ships are very tight with security and just like at the airport you are screened and your bags are scanned each and every time you leave or come back on  board.  There are absolutely no guests.  In addition the cruise lines now make a big push about cleanliness, sanitation and hand washing in an effort to eliminate the dreaded norovirus and other fast spreading viruses on a ship with so many people.

    Today’s ships are spectacular floating cities and many serial cruisers are more interested in what ship they are on and not the destination.  We have met many people who don’t even get off the ship in port.  They love cruising and being on board more than the ports of call.  

    Vanuatu

    These floating cities today have wonderful entertainment staff who make sure there is something for you to do every minute of every day.  If that is what you want.  Throughout the ship there are bars and music, bingo and trivia, lectures and movies, dancing and pool games and of course the nightly entertainment.  They nightly entertainment has improved tremendously over our years of cruising.  On our very first cruise there was no theater.  Instead there was a nightly show in the lounge.  The entertainment was very old-fashioned and for Arne and I (in our early thirties) laughable.  I remember one night was a harmonica player.  Seriously.

    The Palace Theatre

    Today the big ships with their big theaters put on big show, with outstanding singers, dancers, costumes and sets.  Royal Caribbean still maintains a live orchestra as part of the shows (few other cruise lines do).  In addition our cruise has included a visiting performers who presented a fabulous program of “Queen” songs, a vocalist from Australia, an impressionist from the UK, as well as a pianist, a comedian and a hypnotist.  All professional and very entertaining.  And there isn’t is an ice rink on board with its in cast and performances. Amazing  Such an improvement over the old days.  Now if the cruise lines start charging for guests to enjoy the shows then I will probably give up cruising all together.

    Embarkation day in Sydney

    Still on average, cruising is a very inexpensive way to travel.  This 23 day cruise works out to be around $130 per person per day.  That is $30 per person over our daily budget goal, but we can justify because of other places we have traveled where we were way under budget.  It’s easy to see why so many people choose to only travel this way; unpack once, everything is done for you, relatively safe and definitely all the comforts of home.  I suspect we will cruise again  (in fact going with Arne’s Mom on the Panama Canal next year) but it will never be the only way we travel.  There are just too many off the beaten track places to see, and you can’t possibly see them from a ship.  But to each his own.  

    We have enjoyed our time aboard the Explorer of the Sea.  Now it’s time to enjoy being back in the USA.