Purple Carrot Meal Delivery Service Review

I am reviewing meal delivery services. There are several options these days so whatever your price point of dietary requirements, you can probably find one that works for you. The first plan tested is Purple Carrot.

Purple Carrot is a meal delivery service offering all-vegan meals. You may choose 3 unique meals per week for 1-2 people for $72 or 2 unique meals per week for 3-4 people for $80. They also offer a High Performance meal option – endorsed by NFL Quarterback Tom Brady. This plan offers 3 unique meals for 1-2 people for $78. The high performance plan is said to be higher in protein and gluten free.

I chose the standard 1-2 person plan. My research included two weekly deliveries. For me, as a single person, this broke down to 3-4 meals from each recipe, so not a bad deal. I had a coupon for my first delivery, which saved me $29. For some reason the charge for my next meal box was only $68.

Purple Carrot provides all ingredients and recipe cards so you have everything you need (and only what you need) to create the dish, and you have a picture so you’ll know what it should look like.

Video of me opening the first box. In the video I say that the high performance meal plan is $20 more, but it is only $6 more. Not sure where I came up with $20. Also – the video cuts off early, but you’ll get the idea. (I did this one on the spur of the moment, so I apologize for not being dressed up!)

Malai Chickpea Dumplings.

These were very tasty! The Indian spices tasted authentic. The dumplings were made from chickpeas. I really enjoyed this meal.

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Hanoi-Style Tofu

I really enjoyed the tofu. I was excited to learn how to make it crispy on the outside like it is in restaurant dishes. I didn’t cook the rice noodles to cut down on the carbs, but I didn’t miss them at all. (Note the skeleton hand salad tongs…my dollar store find last year that I use whenever possible!)

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“Scallop” Cioppino

This recipe included a small loaf of bread which, unfortunately, grew mold before I was able to cook it. So I substituted a slice of my organic bread so I could take advantage of the garlic aioli – which was yummy! The “scallops” were actually king mushrooms. No, they did not taste like real scallops, but they were tasty. The real star of this dish was the garlic aioli. It was so good that I ate it all in one serving – don’t tell!

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I forgot to photograph the meals from the second box, but I will say that in that box I found my favorite recipe of all – Quinoa Burgers. The recipe card is shown below. The star of this recipe is the ranch dressing – but I must admit I fluffed it up a bit with standard mayonnaise (non-vegan) and some extra ranch dressing spice mix. After making this recipe, I believe the secret to really good ranch dressing is pickle juice. The burger itself was also very good – much better than most veggie burgers I’ve had. I also liked that the burger “bun” was half a pita. I kept the recipe card for this one. I will definitely make it again on my own!

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I was excited about this plan because it is vegan. While I do eat some meat, I prefer vegetarian or vegan meals. I just feel better when I eat at least vegetarian. Unfortunately, for me Purple Carrot was not a great fit for two reasons: first, many of the meals were very high carb – some over 100 grams per serving. I eat a low carb diet, so this is no good. Second, there are no options to select a different meal if you don’t like one or more of the three meals that are planned for the week.

There were a couple hiccups with food quality. The bread for the “Scallop” Cioppini – as I mentioned – molded quickly. The celery for one of the recipes was molded on both ends (I ended up not using it because I’m not a fan of celery), and the green onions were a little wilty coming out of the box. I used my own from my garden.

I’m also not crazy about having to dispose of a large box every week. We’re talking external box, Insulation inside the box and several ice packs.

 

Adventures in Rideshare Driving

I was looking for a way to pick up some extra cash to get me through a rough spot, and as the Universe does, it began presenting me with some information over and over until I finally paid attention. In this case, it was Lyft ads showing up in my online feeds. I never fancied myself a taxi driver, but when I saw the ad for about the seventh time, I thought Maybe there’s a message here. So I bit.

I began driving for Lyft in mid July. On my second day of driving one of my passengers asked if I also drove for Uber. “No,” I said, “You have to pick just one.” “No. You can drive for both. Lots of people do.” Huh.

So now I drive for both Lyft and Uber. This means I keep both apps up and online on my phone and then when one service pops up with a ride request I accept it and then toggle over to the other app and go offline. It definitely keeps me busier to drive for both, and I find it interesting that in different parts of town he rides are more Uber or more Lyft.

Rideshare driving is definitely an interesting gig. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I do. I figured it would be much like commuting to work. Aggravating. But somehow it’s different. I get excited every time a ride request pops up. I quickly tap it and can’t wait to see who I’m picking up and where we’re going. Sometimes the destinations are a bit further out than I’d like, but that’s just part of the deal.

And I love the flexibility of it. I can pop online any time I feel like it, drive for a little while or a long while and shut down when I decide I’ve had enough. Nobody to check in with. Nobody keeping track of how long I’m working or not working. It’s the most flexible gig out there that I know of!

The money? It’s okay. Not the $25-$35 an hour they’d like you to believe you’ll make. Maybe in some markets you can do $1,000 a week or more, but Nashville is not one of those markets. And I think you have to do quite a bit of referrals to hit those numbers, even in the bigger markets. But if you want to make $300-$400 a week in extra cash consistently, you can do that in Nashville. You’ll drive a lot of hours to get there, but you can do it.

The riders are mostly nice, friendly people. I haven’t had any crazies yet and hope I never do, but I know the longer I do this the better the chances I’ll run into that. I do have some funny and sometimes charming stories though, and I’ll share them in future posts. For now, let’s just say that this has turned out to be a pretty fun sideline for me and I’m going to enjoy it for as long as I can!

If you are interested in becoming a rideshare rider or driver, click any of the links below to claim some bonuses!

Lyft New Rider Bonus

Lyft Driver Sign-up Bonus

Uber Driver Sign-up Bonus

Nashville Vintage Wine Train – It’s a Thing!

Speaking of Nashville and all the reasons I love it, one of the best-kept secret events here is the excursion train, specifically, the vintage wine excursion train! If you haven’t heard of it, you’ll want to check it out, and you’re welcome!

All excursions are boarded from the Tennessee Central Railway Museum near downtown Nashville. The destination for each excursion changes based on theme, for example, the train robbery and murder mystery excursions travel to Watertown and back. The Spring Festival and Fall Foliage trips travel to Monterey. I have had the fortune of enjoying several: train robbery, murder mystery, and my favorite, the wine train!

What many people don’t know is, there are two versions of the wine excursion. The first is included on the published schedule at Tennessee Central Railway Museum‘s site. The second is called Wine on the Rails and is hosted by Muddy Roots Records. To purchase tickets to the Muddy Roots version, you must go to their website.

Both versions of the wine train include riding on a classic streamlined stainless steel passenger train, wine tasting on board and live music at DelMonaco Winery in Baxter, TN. At the winery you may also purchase lunch or an additional wine tasting. You may also enjoy a tour of the winery where you can see where all the magic happens.

In November I first tried the Muddy Roots Vintage Wine excursion, which they call Wine on the Rails. The theme is vintage dress, but dressing the part is not required, so I didn’t. In January I attended the Muddy Roots wine excursion for a second time, and decided to spice things up by dressing up this time. Because the trip was in cold weather, the theme was (vintage) Fancy Coat. I have to say, dressing up made it much more fun!

When you take the Muddy Roots version of the excursion, you will also enjoy live music at the winery, and, depending on your train car, you may also enjoy a private performance on the train! Here is a sampling:

So if you’re looking for a new adventure, give yourself the gift of an excursion – you won’t regret it!

Why I Love Nashville (Tennessee, that is!)

There are so many reasons why I love Nashville, but the one that comes to mind today is the accessibility and availability of great talent just hanging out around town and walking the streets just like us regular folks. There are no paparazzi, no autograph hounds.

The general population are generally respectful of the privacy and personal space of the celebrity population here. And because of that, it is likely that at some point you might just bump up against one in your daily travels and possibly even have a nice little chat with them.

Case in point: Since I moved to Nashville in 2001, I have watched as Little Richard was escorted from his penthouse suite at the Nashville Hilton to his tour bus, spied Ray Liotta making a purchase at the Tennessee Craft Fair at Centennial Park, walked past Kid Rock as he exited J Alexander’s Restaurant, had lunch with Kenny Chesney at Chipotle (okay, he was seated at the table behind me, all by himself, but I still count that) and…this happened:

At last year’s Oktoberfest, I had a craft booth for my Melody Erickson Designs business. I was selling jewelry, which included some pieces using guitar picks. Late one night, a couple stopped in, browsed, and decided to make a purchase. As I was packaging their items, the gentleman said, “I see you make necklaces with guitar picks.” He tossed a pick onto the counter in front of me and said, “I’m Dennis Dunaway, the bassist for Alice Cooper. I wrote a book called Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs!, and I had these guitar picks made to promote it.” (So cool, right?)

We finished up and Dennis and his wife headed out to the street. A few seconds later, Dennis returned and said, “I see you make earrings. Here’s another pick so you can do that.”

I thanked him again, and he once again left my booth, but then turned around and came back a second time! This time he said, “I see you make earrings and necklaces. Here’s another pick so you can have a set.”

He then left for good, and I turned to my booth partner and said, “How cool was that!?”

And so, this morning, four months after-the-fact, I stepped into my art studio and saw those guitar picks, still waiting for inspiration. And it showed up. Today I am happy to report that I am the proud owner of this one-of-a-kind set! Thank you, Dennis!

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Yes, Nashville is way cool! I’m glad to be part of it!

My New Breville Juicer

My doctor recommended a juice cleanse. This was in response to my complaints of no energy and feeling generally bad. I’ve juiced off and on for years, but not recently. I’ve never done a cleanse.

I bought juice from Coco Greens to get me started. Coco’s does a three day, re-packaged, cold-pressed juice cleanse. You go into their store and they’ve got all the juices you need in a thermal bag sitting in their fridge waiting for you. They also offer a soup cleanse. And you can purchase juices and soups a la cart if you prefer. They didn’t have any thermals ready when I got there so I bought a selection of juices and soups. Even though the soups are also very much like juices, I felt like I was “eating” a meal when I heated up some soup instead of drinking a cold juice.

At first it was easy, then it wasn’t. But once I got past day three, I began to feel better. I decided to continue – not 100% juices, but at least one juice a day. I loaded my fridge with produce. Then my JuiceMan burnt out. It was a Friday morning. I had just starting making my morning juice and it pooped out in the middle of the kale. Nuts.

Not to be discouraged, I Googled “Best Juicers” and found a site that rated the Breville JE98XL Juice Fountain Plus as “Best Bang for your Buck.” Next stop – Amazon.com! I have Amazon Prime which gets me free shipping, and due to a new delivery option, my brand new Breville arrived at my door at 10:00 a.m. Sunday morning! Life is good!

Today was my first chance to use my new juicer. I had purchased a bunch of veggies for juicing prior to the burnout, and while waiting for delivery of the Breville I had a gallon growler filled at the I Love Juice Bar to carry me through. So…by the time I got to juicing, my produce had been in the fridge five days – it had to be used. Instead of looking up recipes, I decided to juice all the produce I had on hand in one big batch.

Turns out, I like juicing a larger quantity. I’ve always juiced a single serving at a time, believing that the nutrients are best when fresh. But…juicing a single serving takes almost as much time as juicing a larger batch, and I’m more likely to drink juice if it’s handy.

What you’ll see below is apple, carrot, spinach, kale, romaine, beet, cucumber, lemon, grapefruit and ginger. I like to go heavy on the ginger because I like the taste.

I had enough produce to fill the pitcher twice. I did the kale, romaine, beets, a cucumber and a couple apples in the first pitcher, when poured it into a gallon jug. I finished up with the remaining produce.

As stubborn I was about getting started on this, I have no desire to go back to eating three solid meals each day. I have much more energy now, my mood is better and I am no longer suffering from fatigue. Have I lost weight? Um, no. But that’s fine as long as I feel better.

I ended up with about 1/3 of a gallon of juice, which will last me through my mid-morning juice tomorrow.

The aftermath: It does make for a lot of dishes – another argument for juicing a larger batch!

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I really like my new Breville juicer! It’s much quieter than the Juiceman, and it is built for bigger batches. It has a larger feed tube, so I was able to put the apples in whole (they were small). I followed the user’s guide suggestion to line the pulp container with a plastic bag. What I didn’t do – and should have – was check the pulp container for fullness after filling the pitcher the first time. When I was all done and took the machine apart to clean it, the pulp had backed up in the chute and there was a big ball of it remaining in the filter cup. Lesson learned!

I’ve been at this a few weeks now, and while I no longer have cravings, I kind of miss them! But – feeling good is so much better than having a craving for something that will make me feel bad! The plan I’ve been following is:

  • Before Breakfast: Large glass of water with the juice of one lemon (I sometimes add Stevia to make it less tart.)
  • Breakfast: 16 oz juice
  • Mid-Morning: 16 oz juice
  • Lunch: 16 oz juice or salad
  • Afternoon: 16 oz juice
  • Dinner: Soup or salad
  • I also drink LOTS of water throughout the day
  • Additional Snacks/Refreshments: Pumpkin Seeds, Various Nuts, Hot Tea, Coffee

I am not going to label myself a vegan or even vegetarian, but I am having good results on this plan. And while I plan to continue eating this way into the foreseeable future, I’m sure there will still be a juicy burger or some chicken wings happening on occasion!

Final Thoughts on My South Pacific Adventure

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Gosh! What a crazy, scary, EMPOWERING trip! At a time when I was feeling broken, I made a drastic change in my life, and “launched” that change by hopping a ship to Fiji!

In the year or so leading up to this trip I had been feeling less than inspired at work. I had worked for five years for a really great company and was doing work I loved, but somehow it wasn’t satisfying anymore. I was having trouble getting up in the mornings and I would return home each night physically and emotionally drained. I had also been struggling with some physical symptoms that had me wondering if I would ever feel good again. I knew I was in need of a change in my life, but wasn’t sure what that would look like. Making the decision to do this trip was the first step.

Going through the exercise of planning the trip helped me begin to look forward to things again. As scary as it would be, I knew I needed to quit my job. I had been thinking about making a change anyway, and to do the trip right I was going to need to take much more time off than I had left in my PTO bank. I also didn’t want to feel the pressure of “what I’m coming back to” at the end of the trip.

One thing leading to another, I decided that since I would be leaving my job anyway, I’d give myself a year to do whatever I needed to do to feel better. I didn’t know for sure what was causing my physical symptoms, I only knew I needed to fix them. But that wasn’t all. Feeling tired and unwell all the time meant I wasn’t spending time with my two loves, art and writing. I decided I would go on my trip, and then I would spend the rest of my “year off” creating art and writing.

Even many of my closest friends don’t know this, but writing has always been my first love. I haven’t shared that a lot because of old tapes in my head that tell me “you can’t make a living as a writer,” and “well, I hope it’s at least cathartic” (i.e., nobody would want to read your dribble). Rubbish! I’ve been sitting on a draft of my memoir for more than ten years. Time to dust it off!

The story I told on my way out of  my job was that I was leaving to pursue my art. I told that story because I felt it would be more readily accepted than, “I’m going to write.” To most people, that would not compute. “How will you pay your bills?” sigh. Well, now I’m saying it. I’m going to write!

Back to the trip…

While traveling on my own in a foreign country did cause some additional stress, it also forced me to think about things in different ways. It broke my patterns. I couldn’t run to my safe place and hide. I had to find my way around. I spent 24 days figuring things out for myself and making decisions for myself without consideration for someone else. I tried new things. I started conversations with people I didn’t know. I began to feel less anxious and more powerful!

Okay, I’ll be honest. While on the ship, there were times I would seek out the safety of my cabin, but mostly I was out experiencing. I slathered my body with mud in Fiji. I danced on the pool deck. I made friends with a wonderful Ukrainian couple from Melbourne. I watched a glass blowing demonstration and had wine and cheese on the upper deck. I donated money to the casino. I sat at the stern of the ship after dark watching as the foamy tail of our departure reached back to meet the reflection of an invisible moon.

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Now, two months later, my trip is a surreal memory. Admittedly, some of the euphoria has worn off as real life takes over again, but I am finding the energy to do the deep work of fixing myself. Through working with a therapist, I have discovered that most of my physical symptoms were stress related. Turns out I have some grieving to do.

These days, I do spend time on my art, but I spend equal amounts of time meditating and writing. Rather than pushing myself into a specific direction, I’m listening to my body and going where my heart leads me.

So…I’ll continue to “do what I do” for the next few months and see where I end up. I would love to continue writing and creating art as my primary activities indefinitely, but if I must go back to working for someone else, I know I’ll be better prepared to handle the ups and downs that go with it.

This trip has helped to set me on a course of self-discovery and healing. And so, as I wrap up “the story of my trip” I raise my glass to toast my new life, whatever it turns out to be!

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Cruising the South Pacific: How it Came to Be

So how did I come to leave my corporate job and hop a cruise ship to Fiji? Well, it went something like this:

For several years I’ve been receiving emails from a group called Abraham-Hicks. The Abraham-Hicks group does several cruises a year to various parts of the world, and I have been receiving emails describing these fantastic trips for years, always with the same result: I would open the email, read all the exciting details, sigh, and then…delete the email. Those trips were for other people, not me.

Finally, one morning while at work, I opened my Abe Hicks email, read all the details (well, most of them), and said to myself. I’m doing this! I bookmarked the website and started thinking about how I might pull it off. It would take careful planning and a bit of money, but I was determined!

On further study of the details, I realized the cruise set sail from the Port of Sydney. For half a second I thought, I can’t do that. Sydney is halfway around the world! That’s crazy! But then I came to my senses and thought, Of course I can do this. Other people do this sort of thing all the time. Why not me? And so I set about planning the details.

I decided I was comfortable doing the cruise on my own because I’ve participated in Abraham-Hicks events in the past so I know for sure that people who attend those events are generally happy, friendly folks. I was sure I’d find people to hang out with.

As I was planning the details around getting to the cruise ship, I decided that since I probably wouldn’t get to Sydney again any time soon, I should probably spend a few days there and see some sights.

The idea of a 23 hour flight from Nashville, TN to Sydney was daunting. One night, as I shared some of my thoughts about the trip with friends, I was given the idea to split up the flight by stopping over in Hawaii. Perfect! I hadn’t yet been to Hawaii either!

When it came to booking my lodging, I decided not to stay in a conventional hotel. I would use Airbnb for all my stays. I am not interested in the downtown party life, so staying outside the city sounded like a perfect fit for me. Airbnb would provide me a connection to local folks with inside information on best ways to get around and best sites to see – without the influence of tourist industry hype. I had used Airbnb a total of one time prior to this on a short trip to Charlotte, NC, but that was enough to sell me on the idea.

Due to the length of the Sydney and cruise portions of the trip, I decided I would keep my Hawaii stays short. I could take a longer trip to Hawaii another time, so I planned for only 1-2 full days on the island of Oahu for each leg of the trip. That would be enough time to hang on the beach for a day and maybe see a site or two. I was mostly concerned about being able to rest up between flights. I also decided to book different Airbnb locations for each of my Hawaii stays so I would have perspective from slightly different areas of Honolulu – for next time.

I booked my air travel as two separate round trips, one from Nashville to Honolulu, the other from Honolulu to Sydney. I ended up on three different airlines. The Nashville/Honolulu leg was on American Airlines. Honolulu to Sydney was JetStar. Sydney to Honolulu was Hawaiian Airlines. I booked it all through the eDreams website, which I had never before heard of, but after searching on Kayak, that is the booking site where I found the best fares.

So, there it is! In October 2015, I (over)packed my bags and got on a plane, headed for the biggest adventure of my life (so far)!

NEXT STORY: Honolulu – Day 1 – or – Back to South Pacific Cruise page

Life On The Celebrity Solstice

Final Thoughts on My South Pacific Adventure

I just realized I hadn’t posted anything about the amenities and activities on the ship, save a short blog about bar hopping one night. So, here’s a rundown of some of the things I saw and did while on board the Celebrity Solstice.

Accommodations

My cabin was beautiful and very comfortable:

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Crew

My cabin steward, Anselmo, and his assistant, Arfa, did an excellent job taking care of me! I was greeted every morning with a smile and a “Good morning! What are you doing today?” They would ask if there was anything I needed. We would have a nice chat and I’d be on my way.  When I was cabin-bound the last three days of the cruise due to illness, Anselmo called my room to ask if I needed anything!

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Arfa and Anselmo

Food

The food in the main restaurant was usually pretty good. I would give them an average rating of three out of five stars. Everything here (except drinks) was included in the price of the cruise. Chefs were traded off from port to port so there was plenty of variety in style of food over the course of the cruise. Sometimes the chef for the night would be brought table to table and introduced to the guests. On Top Chef Night, the menu featured recipes from the Bravo TV show.

The one thing that disappointed me (and why I give them three stars instead of 4) was the lack of seafood (specifically, shellfish). There was a shrimp cocktail appetizer available every night. Other than that, there were some entrees that “featured” shellfish, but it was really just a couple bites of crab or lobster as part of a larger dish. Not what I would expect on a cruise.

On the plus side, you could order multiple entrees and desserts if you wanted or if you didn’t like a dish, just ask for something different – no problem. While I did not order multiple desserts at a meal, I did enjoy one dessert every night of the cruise!

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On one of the upper decks there was a huge cafeteria-style cafe that offered a wide variety of food all day long. There were 15 or so stations with different options, like Mexican, Stir Fry, Deli, Fruit & Cheese, Desserts and an Entree of the day. This was also included in the cruise price, and was great for breakfast and lunch. I never ate dinner here, but dinner was offered. Water and coffee were included from a self-serve area. Water here was by the glass from a fountain. If you ordered from any of the wait staff that wandered the area you would receive bottled water and would be charged. Coffee served at the table was also charged, however, you could order juice from a wait person and that was included. Confusing.

There was a small cafe just outside the spa and adjacent to the indoor pool. The cafe featured prepared-ahead small dish salads of all different types that were very nice. You could just grab one as you walked by on your way to the pool.

I ordered room service a couple times when I wasn’t feeling well, and later discovered that room service burgers come from the grill adjacent to the outdoor pool. While the burgers are just so-so, I tried a hot dog one day and it was pretty good. (Yes, that’s mayo on my dog. I blame my mother.) The fries, however, were fantastic! They were nice and crispy on the outside and had just the right amount of salt cooked right into them!

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There were three other restaurant options, but they were additional cost, so I did not try them.

Wine & Cheese

There was a wine & cheese event one afternoon on the lawn accompanied by live music. Fruit and cheese plates were complementary. Wine was charged to your on board account.

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Entertainment

One night on the pool deck there was a surprise guest.

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There were shows every night in the theater. One evening featured a musician playing Queen on an electric violin!

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Corning Glass

There was a glass blowing demonstration on the upper deck.

 

Oktoberfest

My trip coincided with Oktoberfest, so we had a celebration for that. The bartender in one of the pics below was the drink server assigned to my table in the main dining room.

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Other Activities

Many activities were available daily including shopping deals, trivia, bocce ball competitions, casino challenges and art shows. A spa, fitness center and several hot tubs offered additional options for whiling away your time at sea. There were places to sit quietly and meditate or read. And let’s not forget napping by the pool! There really was no excuse for boredom!

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New Friends

One of my favorite parts of the cruise was meeting these lovely folks – Tatiana and Max, from Melbourne, AU! Tatiana is the Concert Master and Principle Violinist for the Melbourne Opera! We had dinner together every night. Tatiana also guided me through my first casino experience, and I tagged along with both of them for one of the island excursions.

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Someone recently asked me if I would ever do another cruise. Maybe. I prefer the freedom of seeing sites on a timing that I decide rather than on someone else’s schedule. When you’re on a ship, you’ve got to see location x on day y, and you have a block of time in which to do it. But. A cruise allows you to potentially visit several different locations that you might not be able to fit into a land-based trip. And being on the water is such a beautiful, calming experience! Maybe I would do it again. In a bit.

Final Thoughts on My South Pacific Adventure

Hawaii – Redux

NEXT STORY: Life on the Celebrity Solstice – or – Back to South Pacific Cruise page

I had one full day to spend on Oahu, Hawaii, on my return trip from Australia. My intention for this visit was to 1) Ship home a suitcase full of souvenirs, and 2) rest. My flight had departed Sydney, Australia at 9:20 p.m. and arrived (on time) at 10:20 a.m. – on the same day!

Traveling from Australia to Hawaii means I had crossed back over the International Date Line, which gave me back the day I lost on my way out. It also gave me a really long day! By the time I made it to my Airbnb room and got settled in, it was early afternoon. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do much that day because of low energy, so I walked to a nearby ABC Store for some snacks and headed to the recreation deck in my building.

Hotel

This location turned out to be much nicer than where I stayed on my trip out! My room was inside the Aqua Skyline Hotel at Island Colony. My room, being that is was through Airbnb, was privately owned, and therefore less expensive than rooms rented directly from the hotel. As a comparison, my rate for the time I traveled (early November 2015) was $95/night for a Studio Kitchenette. The rate for a hotel-owned room of the same type booking for November 2016 starts at $149/night. The downside to this is, the privately owned room may not be as up to date as the hotel-owned room. I was happy with the trade-off. Another bonus was the last visitors had left two beers in the fridge!

The hotel is located five blocks from Waikiki beach – a very reasonable walking distance! The view from the recreation deck and my room are beautiful! The water in the pictures below is the Ala Wai Canal. The aerial photo is from my room looking down at the pool deck.

My Previous Hotel

As a comparison, on my first stay in Hawaii, the room I rented through Airbnb advertised “‘To die for ocean views’ over Yacht Harbor, Surf and Boating. Comfortable, clean, efficient.” Well. There was no balcony on the unit and the windows began at about waist height, so the only way to see those “to die for” views was to stand at the window.

To be fair, there were plenty of pictures on the listing, and the room was “as advertised.” But when I got there and couldn’t sit at the cute little table next to the window and see out the window, I thought, “Well, this kind of sucks!” Lesson learned!

There was no deadbolt on the door and the lock set was wonky, so at night I propped a vacuum cleaner I had found in the closet against the door as a sort of alarm.

Also, there was only one working elevator in the building, and that elevator only worked some of the time. One day I had called a cab to take me around town and when I left to meet them, the elevator refused to stop on my floor. I could hear it buzzing by over and over again, but it would not stop! I made a phone call to the unit owner, who then called the building management office. I was a good ten minutes late for my cab, but thankfully the driver had waited for me because he knew about the elevator issues in the building!

Dinner

After a bit of rest, I ventured out to find dinner. Within two blocks of the hotel was a place called Heavenly Island Lifestyle. And heavenly it was! The venue is open air, with an inside space and a patio. I sat on the patio. The view was pretty awesome as well. There’s a busy street on the other side of the fence, but I did not find it at all distracting.

I had a Mai Tai and a scrumptious dish called Kahuku Shrimp Ravioli Nalo Herb Cream Sauce with Organic Cauliflower Saute. It was a green curry sauce, and the flower petally-looking things sprinkled on top are the leaves of baby cauliflower. OMG! I wanted to lick the bowl!

Day Two

The following day (after sleeping way in), I rolled my overstuffed carry-on suitcase down to the USPS office to ship it home. I had had quite enough of carting around heavy luggage and finagling suitcase contents to abide by carry on and checked baggage limits. One less suitcase for my final leg was well worth the cost to ship it!

Lunch

After the Post Office, I headed over to Waikiki Beach for lunch. I landed at The Edge of Waikiki – Sheraton where I sat at the outdoor patio right next to the beach. I ordered a Margartia and the North Shore Basket, which is fried prawns and calamari. The prawns were huge! It was the perfect thing for me at that moment, as it was simple, and I was in need of some comfort food!

The view was pretty awesome as well.

Catamaran

After lunch (and another margarita) I realized I had not yet sat on the beach – on the sand – in Hawaii. When I stopped in Hawaii on the way to Australia I walked on the beach, but I had not had butt on the sand. I needed to fix this.

There was a small patch of sand very near the entrance to The Edge, and I had been watching a catamaran launch and land from there. As I sat on the sand I saw the catamaran coming in for what I assumed would be the last time, as the sun was not going to be around much longer. After unloading, they hung a banner across the front and a line formed. It suddenly hit me – sunset cruise!

The line was very long, but I thought I should at least ask. I went to the booth and was told they always sell out in advance, but I should go speak with the person who was managing the line. She said they had room for one more! Better yet – if I was paying cash, it would be $40, not the usual $45. I had exactly $40 cash! Yes!

The boat is called Maita’i Catamaran, and get this – free Mai Tai’s on tap! Granted, they’re not strong, but that’s a good thing, as they go down very easily and the trip takes just over an hour, so there’s plenty of time to down a few of them!

This turned out to be one of the best parts of my trip! I sat next to a couple from – Australia – and they were very nice! I also was situated very near the front of the boat (near the nets) so I had a totally unobstructed view. Here are some of the photos: (There are 11 photos in this batch, so get comfy!)

The Australian lady next to me offered to take my picture against the sunset, and this Japanese guy was standing where I wanted to be. Instead of asking him to move, I asked if he wanted to take a picture with me. He gave me a big smile and said, “yes!” As we were getting ready to leave the boat, he made his way over to me and said, “Thank you for taking a picture with me!” Isn’t that great?!

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Dinner

On my walk back to the hotel I decided to stop at Tapas Lanai Bar, which is where I had been heading when I stumbled onto Heavenly the day before. I chose Heavenly over Tapas the first night because, frankly, Tapas Lanai looked a bit like a dive bar. It’s located on the second floor above a touristy shop and the stairway leading up to the entrance is dark and…scary. It just doesn’t say, “Come on in – it’s safe here!” But…I had had several Mai Tai’s, so my inhibitions were numb.

When I entered the place, I saw only a handful of tables and a bar along the wall. Not much seating inside, and there were maybe three tables outside on what they call the “lanai,” but it’s really just a narrow, rundown porch area on the street and next to an alley. I opted to sit outside in spite of the lack of ambiance, as I felt an escape would be easiest from this vantage point.

Surprise – I had a really nice meal! I ordered a salad with green apples, feta and walnuts on mixed greens with a  nice vinaigrette. I also ordered their crab cakes, which were very tasty! It was the perfect ending to a perfect day!

Honolulu After Dark

It was such a warm evening, I decided to take advantage of the pool and hot tub on the recreation deck. It was quite nice! Back in my room, I snapped a couple photos – Goodnight Hawaii!

The next day it was back to the airport for the final leg home!

NEXT STORY: Life on the Celebrity Solstice – or – Back to South Pacific Cruise page

 

Goodbye Sydney, My Love!

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The Celebrity Solstice arrived back at the Port of Sydney at 6:30 a.m., right on schedule. I was booked for a 9:20 p.m. flight to Hawaii on the same day.

I had originally planned to spend the final day of my “out of country” experience seeing some additional sites in Sydney before heading to the airport, but a few days before the ship arrived back in port, I came to my senses. I realized spending the day in Sydney would mean either:

  1. Schlepping my luggage around town all day – or –
  2. Paying for my luggage to be stored for the day.

I didn’t like either option. Also, there was the issue of transportation to the airport, and, frankly, I was too tired to even think about that.

While the cruise had been relaxing, I was still struggling with congestion and cough, and the idea of public transportation and managing luggage for the day felt too complicated. I opted instead for option 3, which was to pay $30 to have my bags picked up at my cabin door the night before arriving in port and then having them loaded onto a bus first thing in the morning, said bus also transporting me to the airport straight away. This would mean passing on the downtown site seeing I was hoping to do on my last day, like the Botanical Garden, but…it had been a long trip. Unfortunately, option 3 also meant spending a full day in the airport. Fun.

When I chose this option, I thought the part about picking up bags at my cabin and loading onto the bus would be accomplished without my intervention. I was wrong.

As I disembarked with the thousands of other passengers who had also chosen this option, I found that my bags had been removed from the ship and placed along with bazillions of other bags in the cruise terminal! (I was not the only one surprised by this.)

I was to pick out my bags from one of the loosely organized, massive groupings of bags and transport them to the bus, which would be located outside the terminal. There, my bags would be loaded into the cargo area on the bus.

Turns out the reason you must pick up your bags in the terminal and transport them to the bus yourself is because there are several buses making the same trip and they are loaded to capacity and driven to the airport as people arrive, so this is the only way to keep the buses running smoothly, and to ensure that your bags travel with you on the bus. Makes sense now, but was a bit frustrating at the time.

So, by 9:00 a.m. I was on a bus and headed to the airport for my 9:20 p.m. flight! It was such a beautiful day, and I was so sad I would be spending it in an airport instead of beautiful gardens, but…

As the bus traveled away from the terminal and through the city, I caught one last glimpse of the city that had won my heart! It was with sweet sorrow that I was leaving such a beautiful city and country!

I have often thought, since my first day in Sydney, that if I ever needed to choose another country to live in, I would definitely pick Australia! It is so beautiful, and the people are so friendly and nice! You can have a conversation with just about anyone here, and they will treat you as if you belong!

At the airport, I found a great place to hang out – The Terrace Bar, Bistro and Cafe. Here I had breakfast (Eggs Benedict, of course!), then came back later for a beer and finally dinner. Between meals I wandered the airport, pushing my trolley full of luggage from store to store. I bought more souvenirs as well as some postage stamps, and then sat down to write out the post cards I had purchased on the Sydney portion of my trip. I wanted my Sydney post cards to have a Sydney stamp and postmark! (See my earlier post, Touristing in Sydney).

At about 6:30 p.m. the line began forming at the ticket counter. I was on my way home!

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NEXT STORY: Hawaii Redux – or – Back to South Pacific Cruise page