Saturday, May 8, 2010

My Second Home is Swimming

This past week was a difficult one for all my Nashville friends. As most of you know, I have spent the past five years performing the Radio City Christmas Spectacular at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Disaster struck the Opry last weekend which makes me so sad. I feel like Nashville is my second home.

In less than two days, Nashville received over thirteen inches of rain. The rain flowed into rivers and tributaries which quickly overflowed their banks. The rain also broke a levee. The Cumberland River that is VERY close to the Grand Ole Opry crested at over twelve feet above flood stage. The report from the Gaylord Entertainment CEO (that owns the Opry) was the stage was covered by over two feet of water. That means it basically destroyed the orchestra level of seating, the stage, the dressing rooms, and Studio A (where Hee Haw had been taped many years ago). The Opry has a lot of renovation to do before anything performs there. Who knows how long it will take?

As soon as I heard about the rains and the flooding Sunday, I began calling my Nashville friends. By Tuesday morning, I had made contact with all of them and they were doing alright. Most had minimal damage to their homes. They were in the midst of clean up.

Here are some pictures I ripped off the internet to show you the flooding of the Grand Ole Opry.

Inside the Grand Ole Opry

The Grand Ole Opry is the black topped and white topped buildings in the center of the picture. The brown all around them is water.

Again the Grand Ole Opry is the white topped and black topped building in the lower right of the picture. The small building to the left is the Roy Acuff Theatre. The large black and white topped building at the top of the picture is a HUGE outlet mall.

The outside of the Grand Ole Opry

The Grand Ole Opry Stage Door. It looks like the water went up to about the door handle which is probably three feet.

The Guard House where we stopped to check in on our way to the parking lot backstage to the Opry. Where is Kenny going to work now?

The Guard House is on the right in the trees. The road the men are standing on leads to the Guard House. The road on the left is the Briley Parkway we took from our hotel to the Opry. The cement in between is actually a 10 foot wall.

Here's a link to a video showing the damage to the inside of the Opry.

The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is expected to return to the Grand Ole Opry this year. I wonder if they will do an underwater Cirque du Soleil version of the Christmas Spectacular?? That should be interesting to see!

My prayers go out to Nashville that they will be able to rebuild an even better Nashville than it already was. The people of Nashville have been the kindest people I have met. They are very giving. I know they have a strong community that will help them get through the lengthy process of rebuilding.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Singles Cruise

I swore I would never go on a singles cruise. No matter how old I got I wasn't going to reduce myself to something so lame. Now I have to swallow all those words. My friend called me a few months ago and said she had a friend back out of a singles cruise she was going on. She wanted to know if I wanted to take her spot. Then she added the clincher. I would only have to pay the last payment of $90. I was sold! I guess I can be bought! The whole 5 day cruise including airfare cost me less than $350. What a deal! The singles cruise was less than a week after my Oasis cruise. That week at work was VERY LONG!!

I met up with my roommates at the airport in San Diego, California. I flew Delta and they flew Southwest. Nikki's friend recently moved to San Diego and didn't have a job so we recruited her as our taxi service to and from the airport and cruise port. Thank you Ellie!

My roommates-Nikki, Jenni, and Tonya

We boarded Carnival's ship Elation. This was my first (and will be my last) cruise on Carnival. Our first stop was lunch at the buffet. We ate as if we had never eaten before and would never eat again! Why?? Who knows??

The iconic Carnival Cruise Fin from the Lido Deck

Our first item of business was the Muster Drill. Our station to meet at was at the Jekyll and Hyde Disco. We got there early because we wanted a seat. After they got done talking to us at the station, we walked up a few flights of stairs to the lifeboats. It was like a field trip. One guy apparently didn't want to go on the field trip and ducked into a bathroom. Smart man! We all passed the drill so we were free to do whatever we wanted.

Jenni and Nikki waiting for the Muster Drill

Tonya and I hoping the ship doesn't go down.

After we watched the ship (finally) leave San Diego, we headed back to the room. The girls' luggage showed up so they could do some unpacking.

Nikki and Tonya had an unpacking party. Looks like fun!

After the Muster Drill and unpacking, we attended (late) the first Singles Cruise activity which was a meeting that gave the overview of what was planned for the five days. It was very lame and I left before it finished. When some guy got on the stage wearing a shirt that told girls to kiss him because it was his birthday and multiple girls ran on the stage to do the honors, I got out of there. No thanks!

Here is how a Singles Cruise group works. Two thirds of the group are girls. Therefore, one third is guys. Half of the two thirds of girls are the really fat variety that go around in packs. Whenever you saw them, they were eating. Ice cream cones, pizza, five plates of food on their tray. Poor things are trying to use food to stop the hurt. (Apparently Carnival was warned and they ordered extra food for the week's cruise because they didn't run out.) Now for the guys. The guys were either 22 years old and newly returned missionaries. Or they were in their late forties and fifties looking for the third or fourth wives! No thanks on both counts!

We met our table-mates for the cruise in the Dining Room at dinner. I have to admit I was disappointed that all eight people at our table were of the female gender. What's the point of a Singles Cruise?? They turned out to be pretty fun and I enjoyed getting to know them. It turned out all right in the end.

Our first full day was a day at sea. If you read my previous post, you will know that is my favorite day. This was not my favorite day of this cruise. You will have to read to the end to get that. This day was pretty close. I spent the day laying out in the sun perfecting the tan I had started a few weeks before. I did some more exploration of the small ship which didn't take long. I spent most of the day with Tonya because the other two enjoyed spending A LOT of time in the dungeon (or our cabin). The dungeon (our cabin) was in the lowest possible deck in the middle of the ship. When we were in our room it was pitch dark without the lights on. Plus you could hear the gears and machinery working underneath us that made the ship go. Oh it was so pleasant! The other two girls enjoyed sleeping and watching TV so it was perfect for them.

While Tonya and I were exploring, we came across a very interesting woman. We were introducing ourselves to her and all of a sudden she bursts out, "You're a Little Person!" What do you reply to that? "No duh!" "I didn't know that!" "Oh you caught me!" I was nice to her face and said, "Yup." Then I quickly moved on. Oh the people you meet....

Tonya posing for a picture on one of our explorations.

That night was formal night. It was interesting for all four of us to get ready with one electrical outlet between us. One outlet, not one outlet that had two plugs. Good thing we didn't blow a fuse!

Tonya and me at dinner

Lobster night is my favorite night!

After dinner was a dance for the people in the singles group. It was like a stake dance for teenagers! This guy who was obviously mentally handicapped started talking to me. I felt bad for him so I talked to him and danced with him once. Then I made my escape which really wasn't that difficult. I saw him a few days later and effectively blew him off. Phew! That will teach me to be nice!

Another story that happened at the dance. I was dancing with the girls and this lady comes up to me and Jenni and asks Jenni if I am hers. We looked at her as if she was the craziest person we had met because she was. We just ignored her and continued dancing. The lady was stupid enough to ask Jenni again. Once again we gave her a look as if she were crazy and stupid because she was. We just ignored her again and she finally gave up. Now if there had been alcohol served at this dance, we could just give her the excuse she was drunk. But this was an alcohol free event so she was just STUPID! No other excuse for her.

The next day we woke up and we were at Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The girls got up early because they had dates with some dolphins. :) They had a fabulous time swimming with the dolphins. They have many pictures that they paid a pretty price for. I enjoyed my peace and quiet by exercising in the Fitness Center, having a leisurely breakfast, and then laying out. They found me (dang it!) soon after they returned so we had lunch together. They told me all about their fun morning.

Cabo San Lucas

I didn't get off the ship that day. I have been to Cabo San Lucas years ago and didn't find it particularly worth the effort to get to shore. The ship was parked out in the bay and if I wanted to go to shore, I would have to ride the tender. Too much work! The ship left Cabo San Lucas around 5:30 PM and parked it farther out for the night so they could open their shops and the casino.

We went to karaoke a few nights. It reminded me why I don't go to karaoke. Most of the people that sung karaoke were HORRIBLE!! I'm adding this to the list of what they should do to prisoners in jail! Have karaoke night every night and make everyone participate! I kept asking the girls around me, "Do you think they think they sound good?! Because they don't!" It was pure torture! After the second night, I swore off karaoke...for the rest of my life!

The following day we woke up back in Cabo. I decided to make the journey to go to shore. Tonya and I just caught the tender and headed to land. We did some shopping at the pier. The locals enjoyed touching my head. (Luckily I was wearing a hat!) After a few of these experiences and about an hour of time had gone by, I decided I had had enough of Cabo. I got back on the tender and headed back to the cruise ship. On the way back, our tender stopped for a little while so we could watch a sea lion play in the bay. It was cute!

The Sea Lion

Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas

Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas was in port the second day we were in Cabo. (I went on the Mariner a few years ago. It's an amazing ship!) I wanted so badly to get in their line and take the tender to the Mariner. I wanted to jump ship! Too bad my Fun Pass wouldn't work for Royal Caribbean. :(

Carnival's Elation

Our last day was a day at sea. That was my favorite day on the cruise. I got up early before the other girls got up. I exercised in the Fitness Center. The ship was really rocking and rolling that day. I felt like I was climbing up and down hills the whole time on the treadmill. When I returned to the room, the girls had left for breakfast. I quickly got what I needed and made myself scarce the rest of the day. It was really windy on the Lido Deck which made it too cold to lay out. I found the Adults Only area in the back of the ship. It was shielded from the wind so I laid out there most of the day. When I went back to the room to shower and change into some real clothes, the girls were not there! I quickly took care of that, grabbed my book, and found a nice hidden place to read. It was a perfect day! It was all about me! I met up with the girls at dinner and asked them about their day. I really like just doing my own thing!

The next day we got off the ship and traveled home. I got everything I wanted out of the trip which was to just be lazy and enjoy some warm weather. It was well worth the $350 I paid. As for Carnival, I just kept reminding myself I get what I paid for. I am such a Royal Caribbean snob!

Tonya and Jenni waiting to get off the ship. Cruising is so tiring!

I have no idea who this woman is. I came across her path a few times during the cruise. I just thought her hairstyle was worthy of a picture (I actually took two each on different days) and a mention in my blog. Her hair is all short and then on the right side she has this weird little ponytail sticking out. Very Interesting! I wonder how she came up with the concept of this hairstyle and what her hairstylist thinks about it.

This picture was taken in the Fitness Center. The sign on the mirror says, "Please do not use handrail for stretching". Then what do you use it for?! Why did they waste money on installing a handrail if you are not allowed to touch it?! I don't get it!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Oasis of the Seas

The travel log you have been patiently waiting for is here. Here are the highlights of the Oasis of the Seas cruise to the Eastern Caribbean with stops at Nassau, Bahamas; Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas; and Philipsburg, St Martin. We had absolutely gorgeous weather the whole time. It rained for a brief moment while we were on a bus tour in St Martin so we didn't care. Grab your flip flops, sunscreen, and sunglasses because we are headed to the Caribbean!

The family met up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The boarding process went so smoothly! We didn't have to wait in any lines. I wondered where the other 6,000 passengers were?? (Something I kept asking myself all week.) We posed for our embarkation photo, put our Sea Pass card in the Ding slot, and walked up the ramp to the Oasis of the Seas. We step onto the ship and what do we see? The gorgeous Promenade. We all kind of stand there in awe. We probably looked like first time cruisers, but we weren't! Our first destination was the Boardwalk Neighborhood. We decided to ride the carousel since there was no line. Mom, Chris, Allen, and I got the carousel all to ourselves. Dad was the photographer.

Mom, Chris, and Allen

Me, Chris, and Allen's head replaced by a giraffe (Sorry!)

Our next destination was the Windjammer Marketplace for some lunch. We sure worked up an appetite on the carousel!
Chris, Allen, Me, Mom, and Dad

After we fed our stomachs and got back our strength, our next task was to find our cabins. Chris and Allen's cabin was in the Central Park Neighborhood while mine and my parents' cabin was in the Boardwalk Neighborhood.

Chris, Me, Allen, and Dad on Chris and Allen's balcony

The View from my balcony

We did a lot of exploring! We watched the Welcome Aboard Show in the Opal Theatre. Mom and I sat on our balcony and watched the swimming and diving show at the Aqua Theatre. It was amazing!

Our first port was Nassau, Bahamas. It happened to be a Sunday. What do we do on Sunday? We go to church, of course. Mom and I were the only ones to brave the 20 minute drive to go a few miles to church. It was a cute branch! We met the elders, one from New Mexico and the other from North Carolina. The guy giving a talk taught us that if we don't feed God's sheep on God's time then somebody else will feed the sheep. We met some people visiting from a different cruise ship that was in port. We all rode back from church to the port together. Our taxi driver, DeeDee, was very talkative. She told us her whole life story and the story of Nassau. It was great!

Me in front of church

The beautiful Oasis of the Seas

The Oasis is HUGE

The beautiful Promenade in the evening

After dinner, I had some time to kill before the show. I decided to do some reading in the library because Dad had already gone to bed in our cabin. I went in the door that I thought was the library. As soon as I walked in, I realized it wasn’t because there were quite a few people there and there was music playing. I realized I was in the Concierge Lounge. (The Concierge Lounge was only for people staying in the suites.) I hurried to turn around and get out, but the door locked behind me. I was locked in. Before I found the button that unlocked the door located on a desk nearby, I was spotted by a crew member. They asked me what room I was staying in. I told them I walked into the wrong room and I was trying to leave. They asked me again. I told them I was just staying on Deck 10 and I wasn’t supposed to be there. Then the guy walked me to the computer, looked up my room and then handed me keys to the Concierge Lounge. He told me he wasn’t supposed to do that but he liked me. He said I could come in anytime I wanted as well as the other people in my cabin. I thanked him and got out of there as fast as I could. I never used the key. The library was next to the Concierge Lounge.

Mom and I watched the musical Hairspray in the Opal Theatre. It was great! I like that musical.

The next day was a day at sea. Those are my favorite days on a cruise. All day with no place to go. I found a lounge chair in the sun near the Sports Court and read most of the day. Lovely! A perfect day to watch the sunset.

Watching the sunset is tiring

Allen, Me, and Chris

My family watched the ice show Frozen in Time in the ice rink. It was awesome! It was definitely the best ice show I had seen (on land and on a cruise ship)! They did some amazing jumps and choreography.

The full moon shining down on Central Park

The next day we were docked in St Thomas. This was basically my view of St Thomas. I didn't see much else on land because I didn't get off the ship. I spent the day in some prime lounge chair real estate! It was great!

The view of St Thomas from my lounge chair

Mom and Dad feeling the love

The family in front of a beautiful piece of art in front of the casino

The show that evening was an a capella group called Mosaic. They were amazing! They made all the instrument noises with their own voices. I really enjoyed the show.

The following day the ship was docked at St Martin with about seven other cruise ships. It made for A LOT of people in St Martin. Chris, Allen, and I took a city tour. Part of the tour was going on a boat that took us out to a reef and we could see under the water. It was fine for about five minutes. After that, it was a test of my will to not throw up! I won! No throw up! I was so glad when they let us go back up in the fresh air.

The back of the Oasis of the Seas

The other side, the Aqua Theatre as we left St Martin (in the background)

The family watched the diving and synchronized swimming show called Oasis of Dreams in the Aqua Theatre. (Mom and I had watched it a few times from the balcony.) It was even better sitting in the theatre! I loved it! The depth of the diving pool changed. Swimmers came from the bottom of the pool and disappeared the same way! Awesome!

What to do at night? Ride the Rising Tide Bar

The Rising Tide Bar was like a huge elevator that went from the Central Park Neighborhood on Deck 8 to the Promenade on Deck 5. It was a bar so you could drink away as you rode from place to place. It was fun to ride.

The next two days were days at sea. Love it! I mostly spent the time working on my tan which turned out quite nicely. Chris and I were going to climb the rock wall but we didn't want to wait in line.

The Dare Devil Mom going on the zip line. She loved it!

We look hot! We can't help it!

Another formal picture taken in front of the Champagne Bar

Our awesome assistant waiter Dwayne and waiter Richard

Another picture of the Boardwalk Neighborhood

Mom in front of the carousel

The last show we saw in the Opal Theatre was Come Fly with Me. It was another amazing show! It had a lot of acrobatics in it. I was amazed that first of all they could even get their bodies to do some of that stuff and second of all they were doing it on a cruise ship!

Two places I visited every day on the ship are as follows. The first place I visited was the Vitality Fitness Center. I spent my quality time on the treadmill each day. The second place I visited was the Cafe Promenade to get a HUGE piece of Cinnamon Crunch Cake. See how the two places went hand in hand? It was the cause and effect. Even though I visited the treadmill each day I still came home with a few more pounds than I started with. At no extra charge! What a deal!!

I absolutely LOVED my vacation on the Oasis of the Seas. I highly recommend it! It was great to spend a week with my brother and Allen as I only get to see them once a year.