Monthly Archives: December 2013

20131209 – Orlando, Mickey Mouse Town

Monday – hot, sun and clouds.

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Lazy start to the day, as usual.

Then it’s off down to the Circle B bar ranch reserve. Birds and wildlife galore. Gaitors, turtles, wild boar, just missed a bob cat and of course more Pileated Woodpeckers then trees in a forest. A superb 2 hour walk, a real treat and it’s free.

Then it’s back to the bright lights and the glitz as we head to Down Town Disney. Wendy has a Ghirardelli DIY double fudge hot chocolate. At these prices you’d think it would come ready made. No you have to melt the chocolate bars in the hot milk and give it a good stir. I’m then left all on my own some with only an iPhone and free Disney wifi (15Mbps SDSL no less) for company. Perhaps I can remotely disable Wendy’s credit card!

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After a pleasant evening stroll around Down Town we head off for dinner. We’ve been told that Sweet Tomatoes is a great place to eat. It should be made to display over the door in neon lights a very clear government health warning. Veggies only. Wot no meat. Have you noticed how very one sided this veggie thing is. Blood eaters allow vegetables but veggies never reciprocate. 

Finally get to the Olive Garden. Very impressed. Reasonably priced, good food, free salad and soups. I had Steak Gorgonzola Alfredo, best meal I’ve had this holiday, Wendy needs to get it on her regulars list.

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Back to the hotel. I think we’ll have to resort to the stairs this lift has the most sickening Xmas music. By the time you’ve got to your floor you’re ready to slit your wrists rather than listen to another bar.

Tuesday – hot and sunny.

Lazy breakfast.

Then gird your loins, put on your hiking boots and we’re off to Disney Hollywood Studios.

Disney Hollywood studios today. We tried to rent some crotch droppings on the way in but they’re totally out of them. Wandering around like so many overgrown kids. 

I never thought I’d say it but thanks to 3.5 hours queuing on NCL we’re all fit and ready for all the queues Disney can throw at us. 

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Still didn’t manage to get on the Toy Story ride – 55 minutes can you believe it. God alone knows what it must be like at Christmas.

Get to see Fantasmic for the 44th time! You can now buy a Mickey Mouse ears hat that lights up different colours and synchs to the music in fantastic. Technology gone mad.

Then go to see the dancing Christmas lights. Very impressive. I wonder how long it takes to find and replace a dodgy bulb?

Dinner is MacD’s. 

Wednesday – hot and sunny.

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Hashbrowns with corned beef, scrambled eggs and baked beans for breakfast, very tasty. After all the Haute Cuisine cruise food, I can just taste now my Friday night coming home treat of Welsh Rarebit, Bacon and baked beans. Lazy breakfast and then set off for Seaworld. Change our minds half way there and go to Universal. Memories of the crap service and greed on our last visit still linger. Always good to vote with your feet.

Have a great day at Universal. A tad expensive but unlike Disney the queues aren’t too bad. Start with the Spider Man ride. Nearly have diced carrots everywhere. Devastated we’re too big for the Pteranodon Flyers kids ride. But we’re very brave and risk the kids Flight of the Hippogriff roller coaster. Then it’s the ET ride Wendy’s favourite, followed by Men In Black – a real mans ride – just about avoided shouting for Huey and Ruth. 

Starbucks provides a welcome break before the Macy’s parade and then the Shrek show.

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Great day. Spoilt only by the 30 minutes it takes to get out of the car park.

Amazing when you think about it. Universal has problems with poor customer service, that is, long queues. What do they do about it? Provide more capacity or limit daily admissions? No they sell Fast passes to jump the queues. Now how financially smart is that. But what crap customer service.

Then it’s off to Subway for their Pastrami Sub. Queue for 10 minutes only to be see a sign saying it’s so popular we’re out of it. They’re about as dumb as a bag of rocks, there’s still a big sign in the window promoting it. Vote with me feet.

Thursday – warm and sunny.

Lazy breakfast and then a late checkout. 

Drive to Down Town Disney to the big Disney store. Judging by an overflowing car park they must be giving it away.

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I sit and have a coffee at Ghirardeli’s and contemplate how much Wendy is spending.

6 weeks in Florida and not a single black bin liner perambulating around, like a Dalek without a proboscis, apart from one on the last day that had somehow penetrated Downtown Disney’s security.

Then it’s the usual airpot check in queue, TSA queue and crap. Our airport lounge is in Terminal B and by parkinson law of maximum perversity we’re in A.

Pretty good flight. I have me buttie for tea before we get on. Virgin Atlantic food is best avoided, not even a starving hog would swallow it.

Try me new idea of sleeping tablets. Sit down with Do Not Disturb and off to sleep. Free sleeping tablets courtesy of NHS so much cheaper than business class. Seems like a good way to fly, especially on an overnighter.

Well what have we learnt this trip?

Most of the best things in life are free. Take the Circle B Bar Ranch Nature Reserve. No queuing, free, no crowds and spectacular wild life. Or a walk, bike ride or kayak around Marco Island.

Florida great place this time of year.

Marco Island is awesome, we’ll be back.

Disney are loosing the plot. Yes great free wifi, but the crowds and queues at this time of the year are unbelievable. I dread to think what Christmas must be like.

It would be a great idea to have Xmas every 4 years, like the Olympics. Or as one Grinch said “Once every Preston Guild”.

Learn Spanish ready for our next visit, as it seems to be taking over.

Most of the Caribbean seem to be the same 3rd World chicken shit little Island / Resorts. Give me civilisation any day.

No NCL cruises ever again – see Ode.

Perhaps rather than cruising we should try a luxury All-Inclusive.

Sleeping tablets on a long haul overnight flight work a treat.

20131201 – Western Caribbean Cruise – NCL Dawn

Sunday – warm and sunny.

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Thats it for now were on the pirate ship Norweigan Dawn where wifi, very slow wifi at that, is $0.75 a minute.

After a basic breakfast we drop the Hertz mobile off at the Marriott and are chauffeured to the port. 

Great news there’s going to be delays boarding but fear not there’s a free shuttle bus to the Mall and back. Are they demented? Why would I want to go back to that Mall? I’d rather dip my balls in sweet cream and squat in a kitchen full of kittens. My credit cards ready to dive headfirst into the nearest sewer. 

3 hours later we’re finally on board, along with spit, blood and feathers every where. DSC00021 easons for the delay abound. It’s customs haven’t cleared the ship! It’s customs in Cozumel, their last port! It’s sea fog delayed them coming in! They’ve picked some passengers up in Cozumel to bring to Tampa – infringes their precious immigration laws. It’s a new procedure – the official NCL tall tale. It’s the computer system down – well we can certainly attest to that being true as they write everything out by hand. Reason abound, but common sense and customer service are about as rare as a Taliban at a Christmas night mass.

There’s an empty, air conditioned, port terminal with comfy seats, but oh no they have more excuses than Talibans at a stoning for why they can’t let people in to sit down. No so much better to let them all rot and dehydrate on the pavement in the sun. Some of these poor buggers are already so old and wrinkly that any more sun and they’ll need a Botox shower. There I go again with that delusion I’m a customer and it’s me paying them. Oh in case you’re wondering what cruise line provides DSC00028 his crap service it’s Norweigan Cruise Line. Not an auspicious start.

Oh and 16:30 safety briefing is mandatory. No problem with that. As we arrive in the lounge there’ssomeone playing the piano just to get you into that Titanic mood. 30 minutes later, after waiting for the usual scrots who are that thick they can’t even tell the time, we’re told what the emergency signal is and this is where we meet if they have a Titanic moment. Not even a demo of how to don your life jacket. That’s it, we’ve all been kept sat around for 30 minutes like naughty school children just to be told this is the place. Even the crew look totally confused and bemused. They could have told people that as they arrived and then let them get back to regaining some composure after 3 hours of heat exhaustion.

When I asked, as Victor would, why no life jacket demo I’m told you can see that on TV. DSC00044 athetic! Yes, we could, and we could have seen all this on TV but most people won’t bother. So when we get that sinking feeling, no doubt the scrots who don’t even have the wit to tell the time, will be flailing around like gators fighting for a marsh mellow.

Then at dinner there’s even a queue for a table. There’s a queue for customer service. There’ll probably be a queue to join a queue. 

What chance does the human race have? There are ample, clearly marked disable seats everywhere and yes you guessed it able bodied lazy f..king scrots go and sit there rather than walking a few extra feet. Personally I hope their legs fester through lack of use and drop off. Society would be so much better off with out them. But, then perhaps their disabilities hidden, perhaps they’re just so retarded they can’t even understand a disabled sign.

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Not impressed at all. First impressions count and so far I’d rather be on a cold damp leaking canal barge on the Leeds Liverpool canal. Goodbye NCL! We will vote with our feet.

Monday – hot and sunny.

Up for the 07:00 stretch exercises. Always start with good intentions.

Then it’s a frugal breakfast.

The one good thing about a cruise is it’s infested with more blobbies than muslims at a flag burning. Now I have two theories about dieting / blobbies / cruising. 1st theory is the “oh I’m nowhere near as fat as the average blobby on this cruise so I don’t need to bother”. 2nd theory is “my god if I don’t do something I’ll get to be as fat as that”. I’m an ardent advocate of the 2nd. So strict diet, no desert, no lifts and no wine – yes I even refrained last night and at these prices only me wallet should stay fat.

Then we go around the pool for half an hours sun. Not a vacant deck chair in site, yet at least DSC0004850% of them have towels and no people. Never mind the signs saying, can’t leave for more than 30 minutes. There’s plenty for every one if only people weren’t so stupid and greedy, but no, the scrots rule as usual. I move two towels and we sit back. Then about 30 minutes later the biggest fattest American slob comes up and starts getting uppity, because we’re sat in “his deck chairs”. Obviously he’s illiterate and can’t read. He even has the stupidity to tell me he got up especially early to put towels on. Oh no, the 30 minute rule doesn’t apply here, this is an American ship. Trust me to choose such a obnoxious big bullying bastard. I suggest he goes and choose one of the many empty chairs and just moves the towels. He goes to slap me and then threatens that if I’m still there when he comes back from the Jacuzzi he’s going to throw me over the balcony. Judging by the size of the slob he’d have no problem with that.  Wendy seeks out security to deal with the problem. They’re just two dinky little Indian guys, with a shiny sherifs badge. Even smaller than me and all they want is a quiet life. They don’t know whether to check their arses or scratch their watches.

Classic, why bother having signs if you don’t enforce them. I think it’s simple, there’s enough chairs for everyone if people aren’t greedy and there’s enough staff shuffling around. If a chairs left for 30 minutes throw the greedy barstewards contents overboard. If they do it a a 2nd time throw them overboard, they’re polluting the gene pool and the World would be a better place without them or their progeny.

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Anyway this is a picture of the fat Sumo bar steward, neck size is bigger than his IQ. Easily recognised as he waddles along like a drunken arthritic weeble swaying from side to side. You can hear the slap, slap as his thighs clash into one another. Arms like the thighs on a Russian shot-putter. God knows when this illiterate Neanderthal last saw his feet, never mind his weenie.

Very interesting evening meal, we share a table with a judge and his wife. A great conversation all round on American politics and putting the World to rights. One of the real benefits of flexible dinning.

Tuesday – very hot and very sunny.

I go on a dive with Dolphins. One of the best and most professionally organised dives I’ve DSC00050 ever been on. 1st dive master insists that every one goes into shallow water full geared up and demonstrate mask clearing and re-inserting mouthpiece. Then we get to sit on a dock for a Dolphin performance and of course stroke a Dolphin. 

Then it’s out to sea complete with Dolphin trainer and two Dolphins obediantly following. Do a 60 foot dive with these two Dolphins. They’re probably totally bemused why it takes us so long to get down to 60 feet, with everyone stopping and pinching their noses, and then on the way back up why we’re so slow and even stop for a 3 minute rest at 15 feet – probably just think it’s a geriatrics outing. Down on the bottom they swim and perform around us, even allow us to stroke them. Amazing creatures.

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I can see now why the dive master carried out the pre-check. We’re all supposedly certified – some in god knows what – but having certified divers who are there swimming breast stroke, arms a flailing is worrying. One Diver apparently panics and makes a bolt for the surfaces. She’s rushed back to the dock with lungs full of water and speechless. Not one of them, apart for my California girl partner and I even bothered with a buddy check or sign check. A unique and great dive.

Wendy goes on the Best of Roatan tour. Judging by the state of the Island, and the poverty, that’s going to be a very limited tour. But she gets to see some Indian dancing; a short boat trip; shop at some indigenous stalls for nick nacks that nobody needs and if they DSC00069 had a just a few brain cells left would certainly not want. Never mind they help fill the dustbins when we’ve lugged them all the way home – what a cynic. Then they go to the recommended shop where they can buy the same tat for 4 times the price – I smell backhanders. However, the guide, a school teacher who gets paid $350 a month, was very informative. Apparently the average wage is about $5,000 a month; 8,000 inhabitants and very low crime rate.

Where do I begin with the catalogue of continued incompetence on this boat? It could fill a terabyte. 

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Well a good start to the day is queueing (I wonder what the American equivalent word is, somehow “lining” doesn’t seem right), 28 minutes on the stairs and in narrow hallways to get off this floating disaster.

Staff, well they all speak English and pretty good English at that. But its liking speaking to a Mumbai call centre they talk English but just don’t understand it. Common sense has been cast overboard at the sharp end. There are just so many senseless irritations. Many of them minor but oh so easily avoidable. All the cutlery is on the table apart from spoons – keh? Soup spoons for breakfast? Just about sums them all up in one sentence.

Customer services dole out incorrect information, after you’ve queued for 20 minutes to DSC00076 speak to them; they forget to deliver things to the cabin; it takes 55 minutes to deliver a cup of tea, but looking on the positive side at least they remembered it; stale bread; cold coffee; cold food. You just get the feeling they don’t really care and the whole floating gin palace is run for their convenience.

Whilst the quality of the food is good the menu choice is as inspiring as a mute inman with a megaphone trying to incite a mob to a flag burning. Gone are the days of 20 minutes deciding which of the many tempting items to have. You’re lucky if there’s anything you fancy. 

Wednesday – hot and sunny.

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Problems today are broken shower door, still; water leaking from fridge; no hot water. Now Wendy’s on the warpath.

Well the diets continuing well. I’m still on theory 2, helped by this being a specialist cruise put on for “The American Association of the Clinically Obese Fan Club”, “The Big Fat Black Arsed Mamas Association”, “The Lazy Barstewards of America Association” and “The American Gluttony is my Passion Society”. Heaven forbid any of them should use the stairs, when they can queue for a perfectly good lift to take them down all of 1 deck.

Today we’re tendered off and have to walk down deck 4. It seems to be the steerage section, down in the bilges, where they’ve put all the blacks, like something out of a slavery scene from Roots – not PC I know but here in the land of the free and the 1st amendment they’re DSC00081quite comfortable with the word black.

Dip out on the early morning stretch. Some numpty set his alarm for PM rather than AM. Then it’s a leisurely breakfast and read / knit.

Tendered ashore. Nothing booked. We’re told Belize City is not the place to just wander around. Take your watches and jewellery off and tear some holes in your jeans to fit in. Go to book on the Little Train City tour on the dock. “What ship you on?”. “Why which is the cheapest?”. I tell them I’m on carnival – “$35″; tell them Princess, “still $35″; tell them Norweigan and its “$39.50”. By now they’ve figured we’re on Norweigan. Offer them $35 or $0. No, they want $39.50 – must be terrified of Norweigan. At which point our feet kick into gear and we scoot off. What a potential rip off.

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Pick up a complete City, Country and Rum factory tour for $25. Very informative tour, although there’s really diddly squat of significance to see, but we get to see the best of it; the worst; the muddy roads with 2 foot pot holes; the countryside; the mangy dogs scratching their fleas and sunbathing in the middle of the road; try about 5 different rums. Still have quite a few vestiges of their British Colonial past, including hanging, complete with black caps when sentencing; Queen is their head of state. This place is not as poor as Roatan, but certainly won’t be on my vacation bucket list. Still in the Common Wealth but what a 3rd World dump. Why would anyone come here? Even makes you appreciate Blackburn.

Dinner in the Venetian on a table for 6. Next table is the Captain – yes we probably breathed DSC03119 he same air as the Captain, we’re orgasmic. Can’t believe he has the brass balls to show his face. After last Sundays debacle it’s a wonder the passengers didn’t tar and feather him.

Thursday – hot and sunny.

Up at 07:00 for the early morning stretches. Wendy has major problems trying to replicate where to position arms and elbows – wooden.

Lazy breakfast and coffee. Then we stroll into Costa Maya. Whoa there are shops around the dock, the same shops as all the other ports. What a surprise. Mind you this place does have a swimming pool with swim up bar, small beach and performing dolphins.

Get a taxi down to the main village. Have a leisurely stroll along the beach front and fight off all the touts who want to be our friends or invite “pretty lady come and see my wares” – hmmmm.

Find a bar with free wifi and am forced to have a beer to get at the wifi.

After buying the compulsory fridge magnet it’s back on board for lunch and a leisurely read on a totally secluded area  on deck at the blunt end. No slobs here. 1 hour of this sun is all we can cope with.

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Well stap me vitals if NCL haven’t tried to apologise for Sundays disaster, apparently caused by a “procedural change”, and offer a watered down Rum punch for wasting 3 hours of my life. Too little, too late and no real explanation.

Dinner is on a sharing table with two other couples. Some real slow bouncers. Certainly lacking in the stimulation and zest of the judge and his wife.

Went to the comedy show. Comedian was actually pretty good. I even managed to stay awake.

Meet up with Jewelee (Californian dive buddy and her husband) for a drink. Certainly tell she’s a California girl, reminds us of De’Shaun.

Friday – cloudy, very hot and we have an early morning rain shower. Then it’s sunny again.

We’ve been here before. No tours booked this time. We were going to do the Tulum Mayan ruins, but 2 hours on a coach, down roads fit to be used as an off road Land Rover test circuit and 90 minutes via a boat sounded like an endurance test. No doubt I’d end up shouting for Huey and Ruth as I lost my breakfast, and Wendy would have a major back trauma. So pass on the cultural overdose and decide against it.

Have a walk along the main road to the next port, that’s after we’ve been corralled into DSC00095 assing all the port shops. Yes another merchandising opportunity, another Diamonds International, another Señor Frogs. Pass the town square with a nativity scene. I didn’t realise that Jesus was born in a Jewish stable complete with pigs and one of the 3 Kings was in such a hurry to get there he came on a thoroughbred race horse, the other 2 chose a elephant and the more traditional camel.

Give up with the heat, just over half way to our destination. Like two wet sponges we get a taxi back.

I suffer a Starbucks, a touch of civilisation, and of course free wifi, while Wendy tours the shops. Mind you I have to type war and peace to login.

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Went to the show again, tonight it’s two gymnasts. Another show to sleep through, although Wendy kept waking me with an elbow to the ribs – at least I didn’t snore. What a miracle we experienced at the end of the show. Those gymnasts must have inspirational healing powers as all the scrots who’d sat in the disable seats were miraculously restored to full health and vigour by the end of the show!

Saturday – hot, sun, cloud and rain shower.

Overnight the German towel fairy’s been at it again, nailing scrots towels to “THEIR” deck chairs. There’s a major downpour, all the towels and books etc. are soaked. Yes, there is a god after all. Pity they weren’t just washed over board.

Start the day at the 07:00 stretch class, while Wendy stretches out in bed.

Then it’s a lazy day around the ship.

After lunch I do a yoga class. 1 hour later, 1 gallon of sweat less and I stagger back to the DSC00096cabin. 

Dinner in the Venetian. Interesting watching Americans eat. You’d think some of them had never seen a knife and fork as they grab the fork in their fists. Tonight we had the gross exhibition of how fast can tow young blobbies stuff an 8 in square cream birthday cake into his gob. Gross. Fortunately it’s throwback time as he dashes to the toilet to throw up.

Go to the show with Jewelee and Gerome. It’s Bollywood, a noisy, if somewhat extravagant production complete with the same gymnastics from last night. How can a guy be expected to sleep through that ear drum piercing cata wailing! Very similar to what you can see on Blackburn market any day of the week.

Sunday – hot and sunny.

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Best day for this cruise, we get off. Even I’m fed up of complaining and hearing the complaints.

Decide to take our own luggage off, that way we are totally flexible. Leisurely morning as we plan to be last off given all the dire prediction of last weeks disembarkation screw up. Leave cabin at about 12. Still an hours queue on board the ship never mind whats in the customs shed. Totally unsolicited a ships officer directs us out onto deck, and who am I to ignore an officer. This bypasses the hour long onboard queue. Totally immoral and incompetent, but it’s what we’ve come to expect. Then in the customs shed there’s only one couple in the non US queue, while US citizens are just stacked up in yet another NCL queue.

20 minutes after leaving our cabin we’re being escorted to our Hertz mobile. Well NCL got one thing right for us although I’m sure that 99% of the passengers will still be stood in line, picking there noses, and doing a Victor rant.

Drive down to Orlando. Comfort Suites in Kissimmee again. Lovely room, very comfortable, but as usual pity about the wifi.

For afternoon tea we drive down to Disney Celebration to watch the snow come down. Only in America!

Then it’s off for the meal I’ve been dreaming about all this holiday. Yes, we finally find the food of my dreams. Not a one in Marco, none in the Caribbean, none on board that floating queue liner. After 2 miles driving we find a Taco Bell. Now that’s what I call food after all that Haute Cuisine on board. Mind you I think Taco Bell must be run by NCL judging by the length of the queue.