Sunday, January 9, 2011

Day 1 - India

Today, we woke up at the Intercontinental by the Mumbai airport. I slept really well (Ambien rocks!). We had breakfast at the hotel (Indian pancake like thing was really good). Our driver, Bhau, was there to get us around 11. Since it was dark when we drove in, it was much different in the daylight. We rode through Mumbai, and it made me so sad to see such poverty. No matter how much you see it, it is still so shocking and so sad. Kids living under tarps on the side of the road, trash everywhere. So sad. It is a beautiful country and we saw some beautiful views on the drive.

When we arrived in Pune, we went shopping first! I felt like my mom. :) Seriously, it was really nice to get some things for the family before we were so busy. I bought the girls some cashmere scarfs, and the boys some silk ties. I also looked at some beautiful silk rugs and loved them. I think those would look soooo awesome in our new house! I am tempted but decide I should talk to Mike first. I did buy some more scarves and a bed cover that is made of silk. It is really pretty.

We finally got to the Westin in Pune around 6 pm. The Westin is a fabulous hotel. It is very pretty and has all the electronic gadgets and such.  The lobby was nice but it wasn't quite as pretty as the Mumbai airport Intercontinental. We got checked in, got our luggage, and decided to eat dinner. We didn't have any rupees left after shopping, so we had to tip our driver some US dollars. I also tipped the guy dollars for my luggage. I later found out that 10 rupees is a good tip for bringing bags which is about a quarter. So, I am sure those people really liked me.

We ate at an Indian restuarant in the hote. It was really nice. We had kingfisher beer (an Indian beer that was totally YUM!) and I had prawns for dinner with some rice. It had a little spice but not too much. It was perfect.

We then went to the bar and had a couple of drinks. The bartender was super cool and he taught me how to say several Hindi words. I had fun learning them. He also made us a special drink, but I forgot the name of it. It was really good.  I slept well again - love that Ambien!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Flight to India

I got to the airport with about an hour and 10 minutes until the flight (after I parked and got to the check in). I went to the sky cap first, and he said he couldn't check me in because there was some restriction. He said to go inside. I went to the kiosk area and got in line. They can't help me either....I need full servcie. I get in the Platinum/First Class line. I am waiting for quite a while (about 20 minutes and I have already spent 30 minutes total at this point trying to check in). I have 40 mins before my flight now. I am next in line but the people there are NOT moving. The "non-platinum line" that was long now has one person in it. Crap! I should have taken the long line. Finally, one of the stations open and as I am walking there, this condescending man in a red jacket tells that guy to stop working the line I am in because there is a large group. First of all, I am in the platinum/first class line because I fly Delta all the time. Secondly, I was the only one in that line so why wouldn't you help me first and THEN help the group? I had been waiting a long time, and the guy even told Mr Mean Red Coat Guy that. He told him to do it anyway. I tried to be funny and nice about it all and asked him if he was really going to do that to me. He said yes but that I would be next. 25 minutes later, I FINALLY got someone. MAN!!!!!!! The only reason I got someone is because I got Mr. Mean Red Jacket Guy to get me someone. Geez....

I get to security and it isn't too bad, but it isn't open either. I go into the body scanner and my sequins on my shirt cause it to go off. I get frisked (man, I think she wanted to date me). I get to the gate and they are already boarding first class. A little too close for me even though I still had time.

I sit next to a really nice woman, and we chat the whole way to Atlanta. She was going to Calcutta so it was kind of funny. She goes a lot to India.

In Atlanta, I have about 2 hours. I go to the Sky Club because I have some calls and because I am SOO hungry. I get some hummus and pretzels, and I am happy. The call was something that I shouldn't have even been involved in, and once I finished it, boarding time was close. Surj said he was at the airport but not yet to the gate. I made my way to the gate and Surj said he was on the tram. I boarded and started to get settled when Surj got on the plane. We were sitting one row apart. We asked this guy to switch with us, and he reluctantly did. The seats are those ultra cool "lie flat" seats in business class. I am excited to try them as I haven't ever been in them.

I brought crackers and powerbars in case I needed them, but instead they stuffed us the whole way here. Here is a sample of part of the menu for ONE flight.

I tried to sleep on the first leg after the dinner, but I didn’t sleep much. I got a few little naps but nothing significant. It was actually kind of hot on the plane. People who know me will tell you that if I thought it was hot, then it must have been really hot. Mike would have hated it.

We land in Amsterdam, and it is morning there. We wander through the airport, and then we decide to find the Sky Club. We walk and walk and walk down these weird hallways that seem like you must be going the wrong way, and all of the sudden, we find it! We go in for a bit and chill, and then we head back to the gate as they start boarding about an hour before the flight (Crazy to me). I had a bit of trouble too with the lie flat seats. They are nice to change it up, but I actually think a good recline might be a bit more comfy. The issue is that your legs are really lower than your body so it seems like you are going to slide off the chair. Whoever came up with the term “lie flat” has a different definition of “flat” than I do. However, they were still nice to have and I thought they were really comfy when reclining. I also watched the movie, “Easy A.” It was very cute.

We go through the pre-flight security screening, and it is pretty smooth. Soon, they board. Surj and I sat together again, but a man had to move again for us to do so. This time, we were in the middle section of 2 seats. I didn’t think I would really like it, but it was actually nice because we both had an aisle. We had fantastic food again, and I had some chicken dish. Then, I fell asleep. Actually, I didn’t even make it all the way through dinner. And I slept HARD. I thought these seats were a little more comfy, but I am not sure as they seemed the same. I didn’t notice the leg slant as much for sure. Regardless, I slept well. When I woke up, I watched “Grown ups.” It was fantastic. I loved it. By the time it was over, I had just enough time to finish my book, “Bitter is the New Black.” It was very cute and witty.

We landed in Mumbai, and I had a few flashbacks to my last time here as a transit passenger. I was SO happy to be a normal passenger and not a transit. I didn’t have to sit in that silly room or anything! Surj’s luggage came pretty fast, but mine did not. It was actually pretty slow. BUT, I was just thrilled to get it!

We walked outside and saw the car waiting for us. Thankfully, it said Surj because my name showed as Mr. Army Gleason. Too funny.

It is now Saturday night around midnight (going into Sunday). We ride to the Intercontinental Mumbai, and it was very close to the airport. We checked in, cashed in some dollars for some rupees, and I went to bed! I slept incredibly well before meeting Surj at breakfast around 10.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Reality Sets In

The week after vacation is always hard. This one was no different. I started to get back into reality, unpack, do laundry, pay bills, what there is no lido deck? Where is my drink of the day? Ugh, I have to diet again? Man...where is that lottery when you need it? :)

This week was supposed to be the week I am going to India. However, there are some concerns in the group due to some news stories. So, on Tuesday, the trip is canceled and rescheduled for Feb. I went to my tri group on Tuesday night, and it was great to see everyone and some new faces! If only my knee would stop paining, life would be grand. Unfortunately, I am STILL not running which is freaking me out.

Wednesday, Morgan had horse lessons. We found out that the banquet is Saturday. Wow! We can all go since I am going to be home and we have the kids. It sounds like a lot of fun.

Thursday, I am just starting to get caught up on email and to get back in the swing when Surj calls. He changed his mind and we should got to India - TOMORROW! Seriously? India in less than 24 hours? Wow! I start getting into overdrive and planning. Laundry, check. Dry cleaning, oops, too late. Plans for Morgan when Mike is out of town, check. Packing, check. Banquet - oh crap...Mike says he can take her, check. Thanks to Krishan, I brought a small carry on suitcase with some spare clothes and some other necessities. This also allows me to take a small bag to Baroda when I go instead of lugging everytihng. Perfect! It was also comforting in case my luggage was lost. Krishan gave me lots of advice which was greatly appreciated. Mike and Morgan were both a huge help in getting me ready.

We had been trying to get into a house to see it all week, but the owner had been sick. When I told Stacey that I was going to India after all, she called back and arranged for us to see it that evening. WE LOVED IT! Of course, it had to be at 6pm the night before I leave for India, but we loved it. So, we started working on an offer. Stacey pulled together the paperwork, Morgan went to spend the night at a friend's house, and I got ready for my trip.

At 9 the next morning, we signed the offer paperwork at Starbucks before I rushed off to get Morgan. She had her outpatient infusion today, and I wanted to at least be there for her IV to get started. Thankfully, Mike was in town and could be with her.

We got to All Children's Specialty center on near Fletcher, and we were there early. I had already pre-registered so that we could go quickly. Unfortunately, she wanted to verify all that I already pre-registered. Then, she wanted to convince me to fill out some financial paperwork. Since I haven't gotten my HSA card yet for my new insurance, she let me pay a smaller portion of the deductible until I get the card. It was nice but she was making it take forever.  I tell her that I am flying to India and could we please hurry. She pages the nurse and says that she is almost done and that the nurse will be here soon. At 11:20, I ask if there is any way to hurry because I am leaving for India. They go to check and let us know that the nurse is finishing a procedure. About 15 minutes later, I check again. This manager type lady comes over and tells us that it is impossible to have her IV in by 11:45. GRRRRRR. However, this fabulous nurse came and got Morgan started. She said that she could get some of the information quickly and then could do the rest. She got her IV in on the first try and was super nice. I was so appreciative! I got to be there for the hand squeezing and then I was off to the airport! India, here I come!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Off the Ship and HOME!

Today, we got up around 7:30 and went to our final breakfast on the ship. We never made it to the dining hall, so we went there today. YUM for eggs benedict. Glad I didn't know that before today since I am sure I have gained 10 lbs anyway. :) They let us hang out there for a while. We were group 17 to get off the ship since we don't hvae a flight or anything. We got off around 10:30. Not too bad. We were home by noon. Security and customs was a piece of cake and went smoothly. All of our bags were waiting. Porter was awesome and got them all to the car. Perfect.

We spent the rest of the day unpacking and settling back in. I returned a few things (like the dress I bought for formal night that had a broken zipper before I could even wear it) at the mall. I checked for a 26.2 magnet, but there weren't any. I will have to order one. Mike, Katie, Chris, and Michael came to meet me at Cantina Laredo for a last meal out before our big diet starts on Tuesday  (Family Biggest Loser Challenge). Morgan stayed home as she wasn't feeling well and got Red Robin take out from me on my way home.

We then Umi'd with Mike and Tracy for a while and chilled out. It was nice to not be rushed for anytihng since we have off tomorrow. Love having that day as I always feel so rushed back to work after vacation. This was PERFECT!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Day 7 - At Sea - Last Day on Ship

Today, the girls cabin slept very late. We didn't even move until 10. It was HEAVENLY! Mike came over about 10 and wanted to see if we were up. Katie started showering and MoMo and I relaxed until 11. We finally all got moving around 11:30. We decided to check out the scavenger hunt that was described as the Day Long Scavenger Hunt.

Michael, Katie, Morgan, Mike, and I went down to Legends Cafe to see what it was about. Chris, who got in rather late or early depending on how you look at it, was still snoozing. As we got there, Freddy, the mascot came by.

They gave us a paper that had all of these activities. You either had to bring something back or take a picture of it depending on the event. The group can split up but some of the things had to be together.

Task 1 - Enter the slot tournament and get a souvenir. Oh darn. We HAVE to go to the casino? Really? Oh well...all for the team. :) I haven't ever entered a slot tournament, so it was a new experience. Mike and I got our $20 tickets and signed up for a machine. Round 2 had machines 2 and 4 open. Mike took 2 and I took 4.
After we pushed the little button for our 200 credits, Mike and I were both in the 1500 range, and the highest in our group was 6600. The highest ended up being 12000. We didn't make the finals but we got a ticket to come back for the wild card at 2:40.

Next on the list was the chicken dance and chef's hat. We had to go to the Lido deck and get a chef's hat and then get a chef to do the chicken dance with us. We ate first, MAN that pizza is GOOD! I asked for a hat, and finally this nice man came out and said to follow him. We got the hat and then we did the chicken dance while Mike took pictures.

We decided to drop off the hat and the ticket from the slot tournament in the room so that we wouldn't lose them. When we went in, there was our new towel animal  hanging - a monkey! It scared us half to death as it was hanging by the door.

Next, we had to go to the art show. We had to get a number and any pieces of free art we got were worth 1 point. We looked at several paintings and pictures that were really nice. There was a beautiful American flag one that I loved. It was part of some contest so they couldn't tell me the price, but I am sure it was a lot. We saw a bunch of pictures we dubbed the "Grams and Papa Collection" as they looked just like the pictures Grams and Papa send. We had to get a picture of a team member with the number. Since Mike did the slot picture and I did the chicken dance picture and Katie is in Circle C, MoMo is it. :) Plus, she was loving this Dumbo picture that was $550 "drastically reduced."

Next up is ice carving. We had to get a group shot with the ice carving. The artist was amazing. He did the whole thing in 11 minutes. We guessed along the way of what it was. A fish I thought. Morgan thougth it was a cruise ship. Mike and Katie were too far from us to give us what they thought (it was very crowded and we had to squeeze in to see).


Love this shot - Ice Flying (Morgan took this!)


Group Shot with Ice
Next on the list was the Groove for St. Jude. This is a charity dance event to benefit St. Jude's children's hospital. Since I have a newfound special love for children's hospitals, I supported the cause and bought tshirts and a bear. It said on the form that a $10 got you 25 points. Awesome!

Wow, they weren't kidding with day long scavenger hunt. Whew...Next up was trivia. It was celebrity trivia. You get a point for each celebrity on board (cruise directors, entertainers, etc) or double credit if it is on your groove for st. jude shirt! So, we were running around trying to get people to sign the shirt. It was harder to find those entertainers than you might think!

We arrived late to celebrity trivia by 1 minute, and they were already on #10. Oops. Mike was a rockstar at it though and probably would have been in top 3 if we had been there for the whole thing. Some were obvious but others were pretty hard. We got two more signatures there. :)

Mike and Morgan said I was a little obsessed by the signatures. Ok, I might have been, but we ended up with 10. 20 points!

Next up was high tea. We had to get a picture of our team members drinking tea like the queen. Morgan and Katie weren't too thrilled by the tea. I am not a big tea drinker either, but it was pretty good. I tried Mike's orange and spice one and thought I might puke.  The treats were slow to come but they were pretty tasty when they arrived. We got a point for every uneaten treat that we brought. We brought 5 and snuck them out in a napkin.I felt like Grams. :) Although, Mike did the dirty deed and smuggled them out. :) We also laughed hysterically as this guy came up and grabbed a tea thing and snatched it. They guy said, "Can I help you?" He said, "We have only been waiting 15 minutes. No problem, we will make our own." We totally thought about Uncle Mark and giggled. He is known for making his own drinks at restaurants if they are too slow.

Mike driking his tea

Katie holding her tea (she didn't want to sip it)

Me drinking my tea with my Groove shirt on my shoulder)

Morgan making faces at the tea (definitely didn't want to drink it)

Team shot at tea
Tea was the last activity, so Mike and Morgan went back to the room to get our stuff. Katie went to Circle C with the promise of being back by 5 (the entire team had to be there). I went to find more signatures but didn't have any luck. At a few minutes before 5, we met up and Buttercup went to score the competition. We bought 3 shirts which counted as 75 points, so that really helped. The second place team had 16 uneaten treats and we only had 5. We had 10 signatures and they had 8. We were declared the winners with 153 points, and we all got a trophy - also known as a ship on sticks.

We relaxed for a whil, and then we packed. Man, we have a lot of stuff. We rushed off to the PG comedy show. We saw Al, and he was really funny. The audience was pretty weird and he ended up talking about orangeville, canada and pennsytucky (he asked where people were from and some guy said "Pennsyltucky - they are two different states!). It was pretty funny. The comedian just riped him a new one. We were laughing so hard.

Waiting for dinner

Michael with Raynaldo and Rubin

Next, we went to our last dinner in the dining room. I had steak, Morgan had steak, Michael had pasta, Katie had chicken, Chris had salmon, Mike had steak. It was good, but Carnival should really do a better job with the food timing. They bring the food out with the warming lid on it and sometimes it sits there for a LONG time. Our soup was cold and the dinner was mildly warm. However, it was still good and we had a good time. We said our farewells to the Raynaldo and Ruben. Sad...we will miss them.

Their farewell dance was very cute. I will try to upload the video later. Tried twice but it keeps bombing out.

After dinner, Mike and I went to two comedians. The kids went to say goodbye to their Circle C friends. Morgan was in bed by 11, and Katie was already in bed when we got back around 12. The two comedians were really good. The second one, Al, was the same one we saw earlier. He was so funny that Mike and I were crying. He asked this guy where he was from and the guys spelled Buffalo. He just railed on him after that and kept coming back to it. Also, this other guy said "Stupid" when a couple said they were newly married. Somehow, he turned him into a serial killer by the time it was over, and it was hysterical. Great job on the comedians. Fun time on the ship. Sad to get off but have had a great time.

Overall, I would rate Holland America as the better experience, but we had a good time on Carnival. I liked the comedy shows on Carnival as I didn't really care too much for the Holland America ones. HA had two pub crawls