Monday, January 24, 2011

Hungry after Holland America

I've just returned from a seven day cruise of the Caribbean.  The lowest temperature was when we left Ft. Lauderdale, Florida at a gross 24 degrees celcius (read: Great temperature in January to a Canadian).  We arrived on Friday January 14th late at night in our winter coats dead tired. 

On Saturday morning I left my sleeping bride in bed and joined my father, brother, sister and friends in the hunt for some Florida Gators. A group of 8 of us arrived at Everglades Holiday Park prior to 9 A.M. to purchase tickets for an air boat tour of the Florida Eveglades. We were told no tickets would be sold prior to 9 A.M. We returned at 9 A.M. and were told the lady that sells the tickets was still preparing. We waited until 9:15 before we were told tour buses had priority and that they couldn't take us for another hour. Then we were told it might not be until 11 A.M. until we could even possibly get on a tour. With us needing to get back to the cruiseboat for a departure, we left without a tour and deep dissapointment. If you are going to sell tickets to cruise passengers that need to leave later that day at least have tickets and facilities ready to accomodate. Otherwise don't lead us astray as our time is precious!

We returned to the hotel to pick up our suitecases and headed for the Port Everglades Port (home of the Ft. Lauderdale Cruise Ship docking area).  We were quickly processed and boarded onto Holland America's Eurodam (luggage delivery to the rooms included!).  In no time we were sitting on Deck 9 (Lido Deck) on the back patio sipping some beers, waters and assorted sodas.   

A quick note: Holland America charges for Soda and alcoholic beverages. There are cards for each (soda and alcohol) that provide discounts.  A Coke is $2.50ish including service charge and a $50.00 Soda card is available for only $25.00.  Alcoholic beverage cards I believe are valued at $100.00 and cost only $90.00.  An important note is if at the end of your trip you have over $25.00 left on your card you will be refunded the difference left over $25.00. So if you have $30.00 left you will be refunded $5.00 (i.e. the $5.00 you originally paid).  If there is less than $25.00 you get nothing back. 

Savings:  If you don't drink alchohol, you can skip the Soda card by enjoying iced tea, lemonade, ice water, coffee, tea and other drinks at the Ledo restaurant and other facilities on board.  Thus, it pays to do your research on what's available to drink before you purchase your drink cards.

We toured the boat that afternoon to great excitement of what was to come.  One of our favourite places was on Deck 11 (Observation Deck) and the Observations Cafe where we could borrow books for free. As long as they are returned by the posted time of the check out, there are no fines. Just like having a library on board. 

Another great area is on Deck 3 (Promenade Deck) on the outside walking track.  In this area you can either complete laps of the boat during your morning walking routine.  The best part are the padded deck chairs on this deck that provide a great shady spot to curl up with a book as the waves rumble by below.   My wife and I spent lots of time on this deck with our noses implanted between pages while at sea. 

The food and service on the Eurodam are excellent.  We had great food service at anytime we wanted food.  Everything from Asian, to steak, to italian, to hamburgers and fries to pizza were available.  The only complaint I ever had was when I was trying to get breakfast at the Lido Restaurant (a buffet style restauarant) where a little old lady "stalled" herself between the waffles and myself.  If there is one spot you don't want to do this it is between myself and food! 

The ports of call were very picturesque for us to visit.  The light blues of the water, the sandy coral beaches and bright blue sky were awesome.  I have at least a thousand photos I still have to work my way through organizing and uploading (watch my website for updates of the ports of call as I work through uploading them).  I also took several panoramic videos with my digital camera and have begun uploading them to my YouTube channel

Returning to Ft. Lauderdale and flying home was an adventure though.  We got to Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport shortly after 10 A.M. to find the place crawling in people.  We quickly checked in with WestJet and headed to the security line up.  The security line up was less than half an hour.  The fun began on the otherside of security where there was one set of washrooms and not a lot of seating for the increasing crowds.  It took about two planes to fill at the two gates we were at for us to find a seat.  Otherwise we spent up to an hour and half finding unoccupied areas to sit on the carpet and pass the time.  The place was packed.

We looked for food and drink and came up empty.  The best this airport could do is a couple of portable refigerators set up, there didn't seem to be anything permanent on the secure side of the airport.  However, in the check in area there are lots of restaurants and gift shops.  But with the line for check in (for American airlines like Delta, American, etc.) and security being a little lengthy at times, passengars tend to want to get through these lines as fast as possible before chancing getting a beverage in hopes of not missing their flight.  Overall this airport needs a good renovation as the cruise industry into Ft. Lauderdale only seems to be growing. 

Overall I had a great time with Holland America and the Eurodam.  I returned home relaxed, well fed and two suitcases full of dirty laundry.  A great time for sure. 

The only downfall, after being fed so well on the Eurodam, my stomach on it's first full day at home is now gurgling to inquire "where's the food?"  Aw the great pains of hunger after a vacation of satisfied fullness.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Phone Book for Sale!

Earlier this week I was shoveling off my driveway.  I was throwing the snow in the snowbank along the driveway when I heard a weird krinkle. 

I was like "that was weird"

I quickly dug into the fluffy snowbank to see what had made the noise.  Was it a rat? Was it a Sun Chips bag?  No, it was a a useless phone book (pictured left) magically delivered in mint condition courtesy of The Liberal to my driveway during the night before ten centimetres of snow fell. Yup, real smart, deliver a phone book wrapped in plastic to my driveway and then let ten centimetres of snow bury the sucker so the only way I can find it is to dig it out with my snow shovel.  To make matters worse, was I expecting a five hundred page phone book to be delivered?  Um....NO!

So I moved around to the front door and dropped it on the front porch to pick up later after I finished wielding my snowshovel.

Later I flipped through the phone book to see if it was worth keeping.  I laughed at the pages that are yellow (because I suppose they are not Yellow Pages)section for "Advertising - Newspapers" where one listing was Bradford West Guillimbury Topic.  That would be "Gwilliumbury" with a "W" not a "U".  What makes this funny is the newspaper in question is owned by Metroland who also owns GoldbookHow about ensuring the listing for your own newspaper is spelled correctly!  It appears that the editing (proofreading a city name by Goldbook staff) and delivery (our world famous Liberal carrier) of Goldbook was a flop.   

I noticed also that I'm getting the usual phone book from Bell & Yellowpages as well as the Goldbook phone book.  Now for a question: when was the last time you used a phone book?  Let alone two phone books?  I will keep writing while you think about your answer...

So I wish to start the bidding at $5.00 for this valuable collectors item called a phonebook.  It is one of a kind printed on newsprint with glossy cover featuring your very own gorilla portrait.  All for $5.00 (you pick it up of course!).  Please sign in the comments section of this post your name and your bid amount.  I will review all bids at 12:39:39 P.M. Richmond Hill time on January 22nd for the highest bidder.  I will shortly thereafter contact the winner...somehow.  If there are no bidders, I will have a nice present for my recycling box (protect the environment...RECYCLE!) start your engines and put in your bid today!

Now for the answer to my question...when was the last time you used a phone book?

My answer:  "Do I have more time? I need to think some more...fine I can't remember"

And you?....thought so...still thinking, but time is up...right you can't remember either.

So why not move the telephone book online?  Wait, both Goldbook, Yellowpages and many other sites already provide search on their website.  That is where I currently go for the latest listings for things I'm looking for and not the phone book in paper form.

If your a publisher of phone books (listen up Goldbook, Bell, Yellowpages, et al), I encourage your to discontinue printing vast amounts of paper that nobody really uses anymore.  Welcome to the world of the internet, we all know you discovered this world as you have websites for your listings that people can search.  Try keeping your listings there it will save you gobs of money in printing, shipping and customer service anger management fees (the last part from having thousands call the customer service phone number...if you can find it in the phone book...and having people call you about wasting paper).  Plus you will be able to practice the first "R" in "REDUCE, Reuse, Recycle" and simply save a few thousand trees by recycling them.  Oh right, you will also save thousands on recycling costs by simply not printing the books to have them come back to you from people who simply don't want them and want you to dispose of the trash you dropped on our doorsteps.  Oh right, customers can't find the phone books because if everyone else got the same delivery as me, the phone books can be written off as "lost in the snow."

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Into the Hall Roberto!

Finally the Baseball Hall of Fame has recognized the Toronto Blue Jays as actually existing in the anals of major league baseball history.  There have many tries but so far no luck until Thursday.

Many have tried to get the late famous Blue Jay broadcaster Tom Cheek in by honouring him with the Frick Award for broadcasting.  The Frick award, as described by the Canadian Press (via this Toronto Star article):

The honour is given out annually by the Baseball Hall of Fame for excellence in broadcasting based on longevity, continuity with a club, honours, national assignments such as the World Series and all-star Games, plus popularity with fans.

Tom Cheek matches all of the above by calling over 4,306 consecutive Blue Jay games, Two World Series (Toronto Blue Jays 1992 & 1993), American League Playoff Games (Toronto Blue Jays 1985, 1989, 1992 & 1993) and I would dare anyone in Toronto, Ontario or Canada to find anyone who disliked Tom Cheek on the radio.  Tom has the Frick Award credentials aced. In fact he would be so good he could be called "Dr. Cheek of baseball broadcasting" for his longevity, quality and quantity of baseball games called.  But sadly no, he is still waiting to be elected the Frick Award and be installed in the Hall of Fame. 

Jack Morris, who pitched during the 1992 Blue Jay World Series winning season is also due for the Hall of Fame.  But in his thirteenth round of being on the ballot he is loosing steam at just over fifty percent of the balloting.  Sadly it looks like he won't be destined for the Hall as he only has two more tries before he is removed from the ballot permanently. Although, if Jack was to be elected, he probably wouldn't be elected as a Blue Jay (i.e. seen in the Hall of Fame with a Blue Jays cap) as he had several good seasons  with the Minnesota Twins.

But there is good news.  Former Blue Jay Second Baseman Roberto Alomar on his second attempt was elected with ninety percent of the vote.  I still remember Roberto Alomar's glory days of the early 1990s when he played second base.  Between him and Centre Field speedster Devon White, they had the top of the Blue Jays batting order sewn up.  Watching either or both of them on the bases would give any pitcher the willies that a base would be stolen.  Then there was Alomar's glove.  His was one of the best in baseball with ten gold gloves for his position at second base.  He was a master at diving and catching balls that hit anywhere else would have eluded the second basan.  But not Alomar, he would get the out no questions asked.  A big congratulations to Roberto for finally getting in the Hall. 

There is still more good news about Blue Jays of the past getting into the Hall of Fame.  Pat Gillick, the Blue Jays General Manager (GM) has also been elected into the Hall of Fame.  Pat was the GM through the agravating 1980s and 1990s when the Blue Jays kept falling short of even getting to the World Series.  Pat kept on trying by making the trades, watching the talent in the farm system develop and going gray and bald pulling his hair out while trying to do it.  Pat and the Toronto Blue Jays finally pulled it off with not one, but two World Series Wins back to back. 

Those were the days of the Toronto Blue Jays.  The main question wasn't "Who will represent Toronto on the All Star Team?" but "how many Blue Jay players and coaches will there be on the All Star Team?" Times have sure changed.  This past season I didn't go to a Blue Jays game, the team can barely contend in their division.  Every year it is the same old story, in the spring the team says "this is going to be the year..." and then half way through the season..."we'll be better next still come watch the players...because we will do it next year..."  Right. I bought that the first couple of years but will not anymore until I see the evidence screaming back at me in July or August with the Toronto Blue Jays near the top of the standings.   Until then, I might listen to them on the radio the odd time, but that will be all. I've been hornswoggled enough. 

Oh the glory years!  Roberto, Jack, Pat and the many others.   Hopefully Joltin' Joe Carter can land in the Baseball Hall of Fame as he also was a five time All Star, was a key player in Two World Series wins (remember a certain home run in 1993? "TOUCH EM ALL JOE!" Remember a certain player playing first base catching the ball for the final out in 1992?) and pretty well also hit more than 100 RBIs per season every year he played.  It would be nice to see another Blue Jays cap in the Hall of Fame, Joltin' Joe would be your next best bet...especially when after him there isn't much hope for a while of another Blue Jays player even making the ballot considering the seasons the Jays have had lately.   Oh for the glory years....until the glory years return...INTO THE HALL ROBERTO!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

New Years Eve with the Ponies

Last night for New Years Eve my wife and I headed up to Aurora to meet with my family at Shoeless Joe's for dinner and onto Georgian Downs for a little horse racing action before returning to Aurora to watch the ball drop at Times Square on television.

It was the first time I've ever been to a horse race track.  I bet on one horse ("Mike's Bid") which seemed a sure fire winner based on it's name...sadly it was not to be...he ended up 2nd last...BOOOOOOO!  Anywho, I'm out only two dollars...but really $1.95 after finding a nickel on the lobby floor somebody had dropped on the way out.

Below are photos from our time at Georgian Downs:

Peter & Alice contemplating the ponies.

Christine hoping for the best for the horse she bet on.

Christine wondering if her horse was a wise bet.

Christine's face of hope trackside that her horse will win the race!

Christine's fuzzy head of hope eying the finish line that her horse hopefully will cross first.

The finish of the race Christine's bet on a horse finished at.

Christine's head of shame after she notes her horse came in last place in the race.

The concession stand area of Georgian Downs.

Alice bragging to everyone about her and Peter's winnings on the ponies.

Peter Suddard trackside!

Peter Suddard trackside with the call of the final race of the 2010 Racing Season at Georgian Downs.

The horses heading towards the finish line on the final race of 2010.

Christine's face of glee that her horse finished in first place on the final race of the 2010 Season at Georgian Downs.

The horse that finished first on the final race of 2010 that Christine successfully bet on and got to pet on the nose.
 Overall we had a great time as a family eating, watching and celebrating the new year. 

Happy New Year to All!

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