Tag Archives: buffet

On the road again…

I’ve been out of the loop for the past couple of weeks. Sorry ‘bout that. Here are some thoughts that have been bouncing around my head.

Mrs. Poolman and I joined two other couples, including my sister and BIL, from Greenville, SC, on a long road-trip to visit my brother and family, and to visit the Gettysburg battlefield. The idea behind this trip started more than two years ago, when I got into a conversation with my sister’s neighbor, Mac. We discovered we are both history nerds with a focus on the Civil War and World War II. Since my brother lives in Mechanicsburg, about 45 minutes from Gettysburg, the idea of a road trip emerged. It just took us two years to get it all together.

The Gettysburg experience was fantastic. Both Mac and I agreed that while we spent the better part of two days at the battlefield, we definitely left plenty of material for future visits.

The relatively new visitor’s center in the park is fantastic. My brother was a little concerned it might not be worth the $10 admission fee. It was worth that and more. You start off with a movie about the battle. Then you follow it up with the “Cyclorama” which is much cooler than it sounds. You finish up in the museum, which is worth the price of admission all on its own.

The battlefield is very cool. On the second day, we joined a Ranger for one of their walking programs. He was great – informative, funny, entertaining.

On Sunday, brother and SIL treated us to Sunday brunch at the Hershey Hotel. Wow! I’ve been to my share of Sunday brunch buffets before, but this one knocked our socks off. It was so varied and so good, it makes you feel a little guilty for indulging. It was the only meal any of us ate that day. On a scale of one to ten, this was a 20.

The only downside of the trip was the long drive. Mrs. P and I drove to Greenville on Wednesday afternoon and then we all piled into my sister’s Expedition for the nine and a half hour trip to Mechanicsburg. It is interesting how different people experience trips like this. If you put me in a semi-comfortable seat for a long drive, I’m happy as a clam. When I’m not driving, I read; I nap; I look at the scenery. Mrs. P, on the other hand, wants to claw her eyes out. To her credit, she was very good on this trip, even though we took the ride back all in one day. (We left Mechanisburg at 6:30 am and arrived home at Casa Poolman at 8:30 pm.) However, she is not looking forward to getting back into the car for another road trip.

 

A cruisin’ vacation

I’ve been off the grid for the last week, but for a good reason. Mrs. Poolman and I joined a bunch of family members on a cruise vacation.

The whole idea originated last winter with our son, Poolboy, who wanted to organize a family vacation. He picked the cruise, the destinations, the dates, etc. and then called us to see if we wanted to go along. We had a good group, including daughter (Writer Princess), Son-in-Law (SIL), SIL’s brother and wife, Mrs. P’s sister, her son and daughter and their significant others, and a couple more friends of theirs. All told we had 16 people in our group, all adults. Since booked last winter, we had a great price.

We drove to Tampa last Sunday and spent the night at the Candlewood Suites in Clearwater. Once again, were very satisfied with our stay at this relatively little-known chain. Primarily designed as an extended-stay hotel, they offer great facilities for a ridiculously low price. We had what was essentially a one-bedroom apartment with kitchen, living room, bedroom, two TVs, etc for $66/night including all taxes. We upgraded to the suite because Mrs. P’s sister stayed with us and it advertised a sofa-bed. We didn’t realize it was actually a small apartment until we got there, and were very pleasantly surprised.

On Monday, we boarded the Carnival Inspiration bound for Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Mexico and two days at sea.

The Inspiration (left) at the dock in Cozumel with the Carnival Triumph

We are not exactly novices when it comes to cruising. This was my tenth cruise and Mrs. P’s twelfth. (She took two cruises with her father and sisters in the 90s.) Of my ten cruises, seven of them have been on Carnival. I guess we like it because we do keep coming back. Our biggest adventure came when Writer Princess graduated from high school. We and two other families organized a “graduation cruise,” essentially the same cruise we originally planned for our trip last week. The group grew and grew to eventually reach 10 adults and 18 teenagers. We had an absolute blast. Ten years later, the kids are still talking about the afternoon at Carlos and Charlie’s in Cozumel.

The Inspiration and the Triumph at Cozumel

We had only one disappointment on this cruise. Our first stop was to be Grand Cayman where we had plans for “Stingray City.” Unfortunately, one of our fellow passengers burst an appendix the first night of the cruise, so we diverted to Key West for a medical evacuation. Key West became our replacement port. It was OK, but we would have much preferred Grand Cayman. Oh well, no point crying over what you can’t control.

Key West

The rest of the cruise went just great. In retrospect, once our shore excursion in Grand Cayman was cancelled, we should have gone ahead and booked something in Cozumel. If you don’t book some sort of organized activity, there isn’t much else to do there. We got off and took a cab into town and wandered around some. But after awhile, one gift shop looks pretty much like the last one. And we’re not big shoppers.

The shopping strip in San Miguel, Cozumel

The non-stop attention from the Mexican “barkers” trying to get you into their store gets to be annoying.

One thing that is never a disappointment is the food. Supposedly, Carnival is not known for gourmet cuisine, but you’ll get no complaints from our crowd. At times it seemed like everything else on the cruise was just there to fill the time between meals. We found we actually had to pace ourselves, by not eating too much early and filling up too soon.

Early on in our cruising days, our family established the custom of meeting each night for dinner in the dining room. (A casual buffet is the alternative.) When we started this, it was Poolboy and Writer Princess who objected. These days, it was the two of them who were telling the cruising neophytes of the benefits of this custom. And since the dining room is where you find the prime rib, rack of lamb, lobster tails, etc, it’s not a real hardship.

Now, we are back to dry land and life-as-normal — no one to make the bed and serve us great food every night. Life’s a bitch, ain’t it?