A Travellerspoint blog

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The Trip South

all seasons in one day

As seems to be our habit in these road trips to Florida, we were late leaving our home in Brampton. By the time you get all the last minute household set up completed and the car packed, locks checked etc it is often afternoon. This time it was about 3:30 as we had a nice last minute visit from one of our good neighbours, Paul, who dropped by to wish us a bon voyage.

The weather was mild and clear with no snow in sight. We decided to take I 75 down and our trip to the border at Windsor/Detroit was quick and without so much as a traffic jam. After a quick stop in the duty free we crossed the Ambassador Bridge and had a little visit with the customs officer. He seemed perplexed that we had Nexus Passes and actually had a peek in the trunk and back seat. Once through Michigan and into Ohio we did our usual stop in a McDonalds, logged the iPad into their WiFi, contacted Hotels.ca and booked a nice Fairfield Inn north of Toledo. After we checked in we went searching for dinner - the time was about 9pm. Even though most of the restaurants had closed by then we did manage to find a great little pizza place and had some left over for lunch tomorrow.

Our first adventure occurred the next day just north of Lima Ohio. About an hour into the day we hit a small piece of debris on the road. Dave heard a rattle in the wheel well but it didn't seem all that unusual, probably just a stone or something picked up and thrown off by a tire. Well that little sound had a big impact as the tire very rapidly deflated. Fortunately we were very close to an exit and we limped into a big truck repair center. By the time we reached there - probably less than a kilometer, the tire was totally shredded. We probably could have stopped faster but changing a tire on the narrow shoulder of a busy interstate is not a wise choice either.

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We unloaded every single thing from the trunk so Dave could get out the temporary spare tire, and while he changed the tire I packed all that luggage into the back seat which already had been pretty full of extra bags, coolers, jackets, computers, backpacks etc. If I do say so myself it was a masterful packing job.

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Within 15 minutes Dave had the spare tire installed and the regular wheel loaded into the trunk. Note the pile of shredded tire material by the car.

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The folks at the truck centre recommended a "Best One" tire Store at the next exit. We were a little concerned about getting a matching tire because these tires were special 18 inch high performance tires (Bridgestone Potenza 960 W) we had installed last year when we were in Florida. At that time it took them 5 days to bring in those tires from various places in the US. With a great stroke of luck they found a tire in a Bridgestone warehouse a half hour away. While we were waiting for the tire to be installed we popped over to a highly recommended burger place across the street called Kewpee Burger.

This was another find - as it turns out, Dave Thomas of Wendy's fame visited this burger place and was so impressed he tried to get them to franchise it. For some reason the franchise option did not work out - but Dave Thomas did use many of the features he saw there in his Wendy's chain. You realize that when you go in - the burgers are square, there are many toppings, everything is made fresh. It was interesting to see that in quite a small town this restaurant was packed. There were 2 doors each with a line up of over 20 people from door to counter. The lines moved fast, there was a lot of seating - much more than you find in any fast food chain - and the burgers flew off the grills. After a great lunch we returned to our repaired car and were again on our way.

We realized that with this delay and our late start we would not make it to Ft. Lauderdale in 2 days, so we settled down and continued to listen to the David Baldacci Audio Book we had been listening to and reconciled ourselves to stopping a bit earlier tonight. Another visit to a McDonalds Wi Fi hotspot resulted in us finding a nice Country Inn and Suites in London, Kentucky.

We left London the next morning in rain. The rain not only continued but really started to pour. Cars and trucks were stopped or driving slowly with their flashers on when the hail started. At that point we too pulled over until the storm passed. It continued to rain for several hours but cleared in the afternoon as the temperature started to rise. We stopped at a Days Inn in Lake City Florida which is a small town just west of Jacksonville. Again, most restaurants were closed but we did find a little place. When we enquired if they had wine and learned they had "pink" (no red or white), we ordered a Bud Light!

We reached our destination in Fort Lauderdale about 3:30 and settled in to Eric and Jeannie's lovely house.

Posted by DavidandHazel 08:19 Archived in USA Comments (3)

Chillin' and Swillin' in Ft. Lauderdale

Training for the Oasis

sunny 27 °C

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We are spending a most relaxing and enjoyable time in Ft. Lauderdale ( which apparently used to be called Ft. Liquordale when the college students went on their annual rampage in the 70s and 80s).

We usually rise late - much later than the 5:30 am when we were madly rushing to work - and have a nice relaxed breakfast and sit checking in with the world on the internet while we have a coffee. After we read and respond to all your messages (!!!???) we have been doing little jobs related to the house here. We have blazed a trail to several Home Depots which we so far have visited on a daily basis. We have had keys cut, picked up mulch for the gardens (16 bags so far), searched out cabinet hardware, found a doorbell button and generally did the kinds of things we enjoy doing at home. Dave accumulated so much landscaping debris that we had to borrow 2 additional green bins from the wonderful neighbours for the garbage people to take away this morning. Ft. Lauderdale is officially a tropical rain forest biome so the growth of the gardens is amazing. It is almost impossible to keep ahead of,.

After being told by Jeannie and Eric to stop with the house-related work we have also been stopping at several of the lovely beaches down here and going for a walk for an hour or so in the late afternoon. We then return home to have a cocktail, make dinner and have a boo at the tube before heading for bed and starting again the next morning. Retirement continues to be one great adventure after another. On this adventure we are trying to make chillin' and swillin' an olympic sport!

Posted by DavidandHazel 17:02 Archived in USA Comments (0)

The Amazing Oasis of the Seas

The largest cruise ship in the world

sunny 25 °C

When visiting Jack and Jacquie Howell (Kimberley Spiteri's parents) last year in Florida we talked about the huge mega ships, the Oasis and her sister ship the Allure. We had all experienced and liked the mid-sized ships but none of us was sure if we would like these huge ones. We decided that we wouldn't know unless we tried - so we booked 'em Danno.

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The Beauty or the Beast?

At a cost 1.4 Billion USD the MS Oasis of the Seas was ordered 2006 and built in Finland. She was christened 30 November 2009 during a charity sailing for Make a Wish Foundation. In the fleet of Royal Caribbean International she was the first of her class and was joined by her sister ship Allure of the Seas in December 2010. Both vessels cruise the Caribbean from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She set a new record of carrying over 6,000 passengers.

She is 360 meters (1,181feet) long, 47 meters (154 ft) wide at the waterline. Her 18 decks rise 72 meters (236 ft) above the waterline.

There is an interesting story about her departure from Finland for the United States. When she exited the Baltic Sea, the vessel passed underneath the Great Belt Fixed Link in Denmark. The bridge has a clearance of 65 m (213 ft) above the water; Oasis normally has an air draft of 72 m (236 ft). The passage under the bridge was possible due to retraction of the telescoping funnels and an additional 30 cm (12 in) was gained by the squat effect whereby vessels traveling at speed in a shallow channel will be drawn deeper into the water. Approaching the bridge at 20 knots (37 km/h, 23 mph), the ship passed under it with less than 2 feet (60 cm) of clearance! We wonder how many times those calculations were checked and cross-checked.

The ship features a zip-line, a casino, a mini-golf course, multiple night clubs, several bars and lounges, a karaoke club, a comedy club, five swimming pools, two surf simulators, volleyball and basketball courts, a running track, a fitness center, a skating rink, two rock-climbing walls, theme parks, nurseries for children and a temporary tattoo parlor. (I have no idea where that idea came from - there are no Harleys on board!)

We heard that it takes a week just to find your way around this ship - so we booked two! We will hook up with Jack and Jacquie for dinner the Friday night before Saturday's departure and then on Saturday, January 21 we will all begin the next adventure. Stay tuned for pictures and updates.

Posted by DavidandHazel 04:54 Archived in USA Comments (0)

The Oasis of Dreams

The Nation of Why Not

sunny 25 °C

Living on board the world’s largest cruise ship has some similarities to other large ships and similarities to large all-inclusive resorts but it truly is quite unique. The sheer size of the ship means that there is a tremendous variety of activities and venues all operating simultaneously and all creating their own din of noise and buzz of activity. Just to add to the frenetic atmosphere many venues play loud rock music to pump up the level of hype and encourage the party atmosphere. Below is a picture of a Parade on the Promenade featuring all the nationalities of the crew.

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We find ourselves frequently seeking out one of the many quieter areas for a break from the party atmosphere. One of our favourite get away spots is “Central Park” which is fashioned after Central Park in New York and has over 12,000 plants and 56 trees. It is open to the sky 9 decks up. It features lovely walkways weaving among the plants, secluded seating areas, several specialty dining areas, a café, an art gallery and a Coach store all discretely located just off the pathways.

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Hazel in Central Park

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Cemtral Park from above

The main congregating area of the ship is a large pedestrian mall (The Royal Promenade) running down the center of the ship with stores and eating establishments lining the mall much like one on land. This is where they had the parade pictured above. Here are some other views of the Promenade at quieter times.

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Just behind and one deck up from the Royal Promenade is another mall area called the Boardwalk.

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Dave at the entrance to the Boardwalk area.

This mall area is also lined with shops and eating venues. The Boardwalk is open to the sky and runs to the back of the ship where the large Aquatheater, Climbing Walls and Zip Line are located. When you look up you see the many cabin balconies which look down on the Boardwalk.

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The Boardwalk from above looking towards the stern of the ship. Note the Aquatheater at the end.

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This is one of the climbing walls. People are well harnessed in and climb up and ring a bell before rapelling down

The Boardwalk is child and activity-oriented. As you enter you see 4 carvings-in-process of a carousel horse and then the handcrafted carousel.

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There are also several restaurants including a Joe Rockets Diner, a seafood shack, a candy store, and an ice cream parlor.

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Dave in front of the Ice Cream Parlor

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and in front of Joe Rockets.

In the next blog we will show you some of the activities and entertainment on board. Stay tuned....

Posted by DavidandHazel 00:04 Archived in US Virgin Islands Comments (0)

Options on the Oasis

Something for Everyone

sunny 28 °C

Probably the most astounding thing about the Oasis is the variety of activities availble for young and old. Since it is a ship, I'm going to start with the water-related activities. There are pools and hot tubs everywhere. Below is the AquaTheater with the deepest pool on any cruise ship at 17 feet. They need this depth because this is the pool where they perform their diving shows. In this picture there is a platform covering the surface of the water. Completely surrounding the pool is a large number of jets which spout water in a variety of patterns which are very effectively used both in the water shows as well as in a fountain show. The entire surface of the pool is covered by a three piece platform which acts as a stage but it can rapidly be dropped to the very bottom of the pool seventeen feet below the surface. So one minute you have a solid surface over the pool with people walking all over it then a few seconds later the platforms are dropped to the bottom of the pool and high divers are diving from high boards into the pool. If you look to the rear of the stage there is a beige colored area - this rotates up to provide a trampoline which the performers use for amazing acrobatics landing at the railing above (where the 2 people are standing) and also landing in the pool.

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AquaTheater at the stern of the Oasis with the water platform up.

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AquaTheater from above

Below is a shot of a practice - you can see some swimmers in the pool and someone on the trampoline. One of the 2 low level diving boards is down. They dive from three heights - besides the low ones there are platforms half way up those 2 large sweeping structures and 2 platforms at the very top of those structures. You can get a better idea by looking at the pictures above. Someone told us that it looks like you are diving into a shot glass when you are at the top.

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AquaTheater from above

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High divers on the top platform

They have 2 different watershows. One is offered in the day time only and is aimed more at the children with a lot of slapstick humour and clown like costumes. The other is more story based and adult. Both shows feature olympic calibre divers who dive alone
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in tandem from each side
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and side by side.
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Another thing that happens in the AquaTheater is the famous
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which features
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Initially I was not planning on attending but it turned out to be great good natured fun.

That's about it for this post - more water features to come.

Posted by DavidandHazel 16:44 Archived in Bahamas Comments (0)

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