Tag Archives: candlewood suites

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?

A wedding weekend

We are back at home after a long weekend of wedding festivities. Sorry the gap in postings. I really didn’t have the time.

The subjects of the wedding were my niece (Mrs. Poolman’s younger sister’s daughter) and her betrothed. Mrs. Poolman headed out to Jacksonville early Thursday morning and I followed after work that evening. We were co-hosting the rehearsal dinner at the home of Mrs. Poolman’s other sister, at her very nice home in the Sawgrass gated community in Ponte Vedra Beach. Also, I was the “official” wedding photographer. The whole thing kept us very busy.

I went to the rehearsal Friday afternoon to check out the venue. I have been to the church many times, as it was Mrs. Poolman’s parents’ church. We were married there ourselves. However, I wanted to check out the location from a photography standpoint, and also to get the guidelines (dos and don’ts) for shooting the ceremony.

One thing that did strike me is the way that accepted attire has changed. I wore a suit to my rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. At most other wedding rehearsals and dinners I have attended, most of the male members of the wedding party  wore nice pants and shirt, maybe even a jacket . At this rehearsal, the guys mostly looked like they were dressed for yard work.  Oh well. I guess I am a “stick-in-the mud” fuddy duddy.

Groomsmen dress

I reserved three rooms at a Candlewood Suites hotel for our family gang. I had not stayed in a Candlewood before, and I have to say we were very pleased. The chain is part of the Holiday Inn family so I used some of my points for two of the rooms. Apparently this family of hotels is primarily an extended stay facility. It lacked some of the services common to a regular hotel. No restaurant. No pool. No daily maid service. However, the rooms were very large and were equipped with a mini-kitchen. There was even a big, leather recliner. Candlewood 1

Candlewood 2They also included free high-speed internet. (Why is it I can get free internet at a low priced hotel, but have to pay a $15 premium at someplace like the Marriott Marquis in Atlanta, where we paid $189/night?) The best part is the weekend rate for the room I put on my credit card was $42/night. Including all the various taxes, I checked out for two nights at less than $100. Can’t beat that.

Saturday was the wedding and the reception. All went well, although I worked my tail off. Between the rehearsal festivities and the main event, I took more than 900 shots. By the end of the evening, I was dead tired, at least from the waist down, and my feet were killing me.

There was one pretty funny story on the rehearsal day. The groom had not heard from one of his groomsmen, so he called him Friday morning. Apparently the conversation went something like this.

Groom — “Hey man. We need to go and pick up the tuxedos.”

Groomsman — “What do you mean?”

Groom — You know. Pick up the tuxedos for my wedding.”

Groomsman — “Why, the wedding isn’t until next week.”

Groom — “No dude. It is tomorrow and the rehearsal is this afternoon!”

Groomsman — “Oh s___!”

The problem? The groomsman lives in New Orleans, more than 500 miles away. Gotta give the guy credit, he did a super fast packing job and got in his car. He made it in time for the rehearsal dinner. I’m thinking the state patrols in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle were not real attentive.

We drove back to town on Sunday, and I spent Labor Day laboring – doing all the usual weekend outdoor chores I wasn’t able to do while I was off celebrating eternal love.   Tomorrow is a furlough day. (State of Georgia’s efforts to cut the budget.) Everyone at our place is taking it well. I think everyone thinks it is much better to take a few days off without pay, then be laid off and see a whole lot of days without pay.