October 2017
  • Day17

    Honolulu to Sydney

    October 29, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

    Sigh, today was the day I had to head back home. After breakfast, Ted and I said our farewells before I caught an Uber to the airport. That transport option didn't end up being a good idea, as it was a lot more pricey than expected. Once at the airport though, check-in was easy although the seat I was allocated wasn't all that great. The agent suggested I speak to the agent at the boarding gate to see if I could get a better option.

    That ended up being a good idea, as the boarding gate agent gave me two seats to myself towards the back of the plane. Once onboard, I befriended the crew who were really friendly. Even though business class hadn't been available, they still gave me champagne, a comfort pack and better snacks. It was also enjoyable just getting to know the crew too.

    Once home it wasn't long before I unpacked and was thinking about our next trip. Well maybe not but for now, this was the end of this holiday for me! :-)
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  • Day16

    Honolulu

    October 28, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    Since we're still on eastern USA time, Ted and I woke early today but managed to fall back asleep again. Even though it was still early when we eventually rose, it ended up being fine because we went down to the waterfront and fed the fish some bread Ted had bought. After that we decided we should go for breakfast too, and headed to one of my favourite places IHOP.

    After having a breakfast of crepes, Ted wouldn't let me order anything else even though I was still hungry. We went to Food Pantry to get some food instead even though we are only here a short while. Ted doesn't have to return to work for a few days and asked if he could stay longer. As much as I'd like to as well, it seemed like a reasonable request considering I took 4 weeks off earlier this year to study in Valencia, Spain.

    After taking the groceries back to our room, we went up onto the rooftop balcony of our hotel to check out the view - for the amount of money we've paid we are really impressed with this place. Even our room has a view of the beach. We then walked to Ala Moana which wasn't an easy task as Ted's sciatica has been playing up again. After looking around the shops, I had a great lunch of ahi fish before we caught the bus back to the accommodation.

    After having a nap it started to rain, which doesn't happen a lot when we're in Hawaii. We thought a Mexican dinner sounded like a good option so we showered and dressed and headed out to a restaurant that we had fond memories of. Well, the memories faded slightly when we saw the price of the meals. This place had always been one of our favourite cheap eateries but things have definitely changed. Ted gave the waitress the excuse that we were at the wrong restaurant so we could make a quick exit!

    Our dinner ended up being a nice cheap meal served from a row of vans catering to tourists. It might sound tacky but we really liked it. We did however end up taking it back to our room as the rain became worse. Of course the only other thing to do was visit Hula's downstairs for beers. We didn't see anyone we know, but as always, we still had a great night with the locals.
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  • Day15

    Miami to Honolulu

    October 27, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    We didn't really get to sleep in today, knowing we had to make our way to Miami airport for our next flight. As expected, the breakfast area was completely chaotic, as everyone tried to cram in their last onboard meal before having to depart. Fortunately the disembarkation was an easy process and we managed to hail a taxi not long after.

    The taxi ride was something of a scam though. We didn't have the exact amount of money and asked to pay electronically. The driver claimed the electronic machine was not working (whatever) and when it came to giving us change, he conveniently didn't have enough (meaning his tip was more than we'd planned on giving). We tried not to let it piss us off too much, and concentrated on our journey ahead.

    On our flight with American Airlines, the crew kindly us complimentary food again (just snacks but we were very grateful) before we arrived in LA. Our original plan was to fly from Los Angeles to Sydney but since business class was looking unlikely (even economy wasn't that rosy), we made a change of plans and decided to go via Hawaii instead (which was our original plan of getting here - so our holiday has been reversed)!

    Our first option of flying United Airlines was wide open so before you knew it, we already had tickets for the flight! Connecting to the UA terminal was easy, so Ted went online and booked us some last minute accommodation through Air BNB.

    Our flight on UA was pleasant and I passed the time watching "Guardians of the Galaxy 2". When we arrived in Honolulu, we decided to take a taxi as we couldn't find any wifi to use Uber. Our accommodation ended up being an apartment in the Waikiki Grand Hotel, which is the same building as our favourite Hawaiian venue Hula's. What a coincidence! And even better is the location, with a view of the beach and Diamond Head. What luck!

    After today's long day we weren't really in the mood to go partying, but we still have tomorrow to explore.
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  • Day14

    Key West

    October 26, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

    As promised yesterday, today we arrived earlier into Key West. It has been several years since we've been here, and it's definitely one of our favourite places.

    After breakfast, we were fortunate to join the much smaller non USA residents queue, meaning the disembarkation didn't take long at all. The weather was surprisingly cool here which was more pleasant than the humidity of the Bahamas. What was also a surprise is how well the place looks after the recent hurricanes that were here last month. Walking around the streets exploring was half the fun but seeing the locals ended up being most of the entertainment.

    When we stopped for lunch, we went to a local shrimp restaurant and sat on the upstairs balcony. Whilst there, the appropriately named Frenzy Fest was starting. Basically it was like the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, but with more straight people. If you wanted to be totally nude and just wear body paint you could do it. If you wanted to dress like the Cat in the Hat (like one local) you could do it. If you wanted to ride on a Harley Davidson topless you could do it. Ted thought I was offended by what I saw. He was partly right considering the people that chose to wear just body paint didn't exactly have the bodies to make it appealing!

    Ted had been in pain for a few days from sciatica so we found a local masseuse hoping it would help. Even though it was expensive, we didn't mind supporting local business after their recent tourist slump. Whilst this was happening I happily sat in the bar across the road with the locals and a few beers.

    Ted had considered hiring a motorcycle but I wasn't really sure if the outlying areas would be that appealing after the damage they've suffered recently. We ended up finding some markets down by the water which we looked through before returning to the ship.

    For dinner that night I was lucky to have shrimp again. One of the things I will miss about the cruise is the amazing food. There was meant to be another GLBTQ gathering tonight but once again it was just ourselves, the two American guys and the guy from Peru! Although at least this time the venue was much nicer, namely the rooftop bar overlooking the deck. Tomorrow we head back to Los Angeles and then onwards to Australia. The end of another cruise!
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  • Day13

    Caribbean Sea

    October 25, 2017, North Atlantic Ocean ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    Today didn't really go to plan, as we didn't quite make it to our destination! After not much of a sleep-in, Ted and I talked about what we could do when we arrived at Cococay today. Since it's an island owned exclusively by the cruise ship company, the only thing that sounded like fun was exploring the island, and the beach-side buffet lunch. As it turned out, we didn't do either, as poor weather meant the cruise line weren't able to transport us to the island via tender.

    The Captain did a PA announcing the news to the passengers but truthfully, no-one seemed that bothered. I think the disappointment was probably less due to the fact that you can't control the weather, and it meant we would arrive in Key West earlier tomorrow. Therefore today ended up being a lazy day where we did strenuous activities like eating lunch, eating dinner, going to trivia, going to the gym and reading in the room. We did however catch up with Leonard and Mike for $1 mimosas at the bar and bummed around the adults only pool with them.

    Since the movie they were showing up on deck tonight was "Wonder Woman", we headed up there to watch it before blowing $10 at the casino. Tomorrow we arrive at Key West, Florida - a place we've visited before but one we're happy to visit again.
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  • Day12

    Nassau, Bahamas

    October 24, 2017 on the Bahamas ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

    After an awesome sleep, Ted and I could happily add another country to our list - the Bahamas! As part of the beverage package I purchased, I am entitled to all the bottles of water and orange juice I can take, so I took enough waters for our excursion to Nassau. We arrived at about 8am and headed out not long after breakfast.

    As expected the place was humid! One thing that was a surprise was how low key it is though. Apart from the expected hawkers at the port, there really isn't as much commercialism as I'd expected. Before arriving, we'd made a rough itinerary of which sights to see, as purchasing a tour when everything is walkable seemed like a waste. We first went to the Queen's Staircase where we had fun trying to figure out how to work our selfie stick. Afterwards we headed to nearby Fort Fincastle. Ted headed inside first to see if it was worth the cost. As it happened, it wasn't! (Nice view though).

    We headed back down to the main part of town where we found a bar conveniently placed right near the beach. Ted wanted to go for a swim whereas I was happy to sit with a beer. We also wandered through a store that sold rum cake and had great air conditioning. We spent some time looking for T-shirts to no avail and finished off our time in the Bahamas going to a small waterview restaurant where Ted enjoyed jerk chicken.

    I know this probably doesn't sound like much but truthfully there wasn't a lot to do! Even though Nassau wasn't exactly bursting with excitement, there was something still nice about going to a place that wasn't ruined by tourism and still had locals walking around doing their daily duties. Before leaving Australia, we had already decided we wouldn't be visiting the nearby Atlantis resort, as we preferred to give our tourist dollars to the locals, not big business.

    When we headed back to the ship, we stopped to take a picture of the awesome Disney cruise ship before boarding ours next door. I settled in for an afternoon of Starbucks and trivia whilst we both headed for a nap afterwards. After dinner, we were keen to see one of the shows onboard, so we went to the onboard theatre for an evening of entertainment. According to the ship's programme, there was meant to be a GLBTQ get together at one of the bars. It probably would've been easier to mingle if it hadn't been at an outdoor bar with hundreds of people milling around. There weren't many people there but we did meet two guys from the USA, Leonard and Mike, as well as a guy from Peru. We decided to go for a drink at one of the nearby nightclubs but since it wasn't pumping that much, made it back to our room by 1am!
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  • Day11

    Nashville to Fort Lauderdale

    October 23, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    We started early today thanks to a 4am wake-up. Ted unfortunately didn't have a good sleep as he was sick the whole night. Getting to the airport wasn't as easy as we'd hoped as the original Uber we requested was over half an hour away. We finally found one closer and were on our way.

    After checking in, we had a pretty decent breakfast of coffee and waffles before heading to our flight. Our flight on Southwest was far from memorable, so it was something of a relief when we reached Fort Lauderdale. Well, at least it was until we tried to find our airport shuttle. Continuing our tradition of always having dodgy airport shuttles, our over-worked, stressed out, elderly Hispanic driver finally turned up in a plain white van to collect us. First however, we had to wait for other passengers who similarly couldn't recognise that the plain white van was their shuttle service. After all this confusion, we were finally departed.

    Our check-in for the cruise was actually quite smooth and simple until we reached the counter. When the agent couldn't find the USA entry stamp in Ted's passport, they were not going to check us in. It was exactly the kind of stress and confusion we didn't need, so we quickly retrieved the passport and managed to find the stamp in a few minutes. Once the initial panic had waned, we headed towards our cruise ship!

    We have previously sailed with Celebrity, and this cruise company is Royal Caribbean. Whilst the boat is quite fine, it still looks like the Walmart variety in comparison! We previously had a balcony room on Celebrity but the window room we have on this ship is fine. We tried to have a snooze on the boat but unfortunately all the passengers were called to the deck prior to departure for the emergency drill. It wouldn't have been so bad if we didn't have to stand in the blazing sun to do it!

    Since a buffet lunch was available, we wasted no time in going to the zoo, um dining room, to get something to eat. With Ted being diabetic and myself being vegetarian, fortunately there were still plenty of food options for both of us. We had a walk around the ship to orientate ourselves, and could see how it is definitely different to the Celebrity cruise. It isn't necessarily a bad thing though, as some of the things on Celebrity seemed a bit too high end.

    We considered going to bingo but at $33 a game, changed our mind. After our buffet lunch, we decided a buffet dinner was the perfect way to finish the evening. After this big day, it looks like an early night is the best option!
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  • Day10

    Nashville

    October 22, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    After a slight sleep in today, we still had another day to explore Nashville. After having breakfast in the kitchen (coffee and cakes!) we walked towards the Gulch, which is more of an upscale neighbourhood of Nashville. On the way we passed through a farmer's market and one of the large parks, which made us grateful we are staying in the nicer part of the city.

    The Gulch ended up being a really nice area with art galleries, restaurants and high-end pubs. We ended up staying for lunch at one of the pubs before catching (yet another) Uber back to our accommodation. Ted needed to have a nap, so he took a time out. The hosts of our accommodation asked if we'd like to join them for drinks nearby, along with their friends Brian and Angie. Since hanging out with the locals is always one of our favourite things, we definitely couldn't decline.

    I'm not sure of the name of the outdoor bar, but it was definitely popular. There was a local sporting team that turned up there after their game, so there was plenty of people. One of the hosts from our B&B became really drunk so we ended up leaving and going for dinner nearby. Brian lost his mobile phone but didn't seem as concerned about it as we were! The hosts went back early (as the bar staff were refusing them service), so we stayed and had a few drinks with Brian and Angie. Since our accommodation was so close we were able to walk back. We have an early flight tomorrow so we're already packed for the next part of our adventure.
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  • Day9

    Gatlinburg to Nashville

    October 21, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    Today we had an early start, as we needed to return our rental car to Nashville airport by lunchtime. Fortunately we would be crossing a date line during our drive, meaning we would gain an hour too, giving us an hour sleep in! Our drive today was somewhat uneventful, particularly since we didn't get a chance to stop in Knoxville on the way. I was only really interested in getting a photo in front of the Sunsphere anyway, just to see if anyone could remember that memorable Simpsons episode.

    Getting to the airport was near impossible, as there were whole sections of the freeway completely closed (no idea why). When we finally arrived we called for an Uber to drop us off at our accommodation. The neighbourhoods surrounding the airport weren't exactly the type you'd want to break down in, so it was good to see our accommodation was in a much more desirable area.

    We are staying at a guesthouse that Ted found on the Mister B&B website. We arrived before we were able to check-in, so we asked if we could leave our bags in order to explore downtown. We again called for an Uber as downtown was not really walkable from our accommodation.

    I'm not sure if I was missing something but to me, Nashville has no charm whatsoever. My impression was just a whole lot of people getting drunk in pubs playing the occasional country and western music, and the occasional beer-mobile going down the street. The town also wasn't that attractive, and lacked any of the character that makes New Orleans appealing. Maybe I just didn't get it. We walked down to the waterfront to have a look and again, it did nothing for me.

    After getting lunch at the appropriately named Pita Pit, we went to the Country and Western Museum to see what it was like. Since neither of us are interested in C&W, paying a lot of money to look at displays we didn't understand seemed like a waste. We felt similar when seeing the Johnny Cash museum. One thing that interested us somewhat was the Goo Goo shop which is one of the early confectioners in Nashville.

    We walked back to our accommodation in the now hot weather (shouldn't have worn jeans!) to meet the hosts of the accommodation. They also have a dog named Rex who immediately recognised us as dog lovers. We did some laundry and rested before getting ready to go to the Grand Ole Opry tonight. Since we've spent a bit of money to see the show, we didn't feel guilty about not seeing any of the museums today.

    As it turned out, the drive to the Opry was awful. Our driver seemed to take forever to get there, meaning our plan to have a formal dinner first was replaced by having a fast food meal instead. Even though we were among the youngest visitors to the show and our tickets were in the back row, we still enjoyed it. Some of the entertainers were great and it did show the appeal of the C&W scene. I am glad we did this or our trip to Nashville may have been a complete disappointment.

    We were keen to go out afterwards, so we called another Uber (almost impossible to find with all the people everywhere after the show!) and headed into a venue called Tribe. There was definitely a good, older crowd there and we managed to talk to a few of the locals. We probably didn't have the late night we'd expected, but it was still good to go out in the Country and Western capital of the United States!
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  • Day8

    Dollywood

    October 20, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    Today was a day I'd been looking forward to for a long time, as I finally got to visit the amusement park created by one of my all time favourite singers/celebrities. We started the day moderately early as we wanted to be sure we would be at the Park for the opening, before the crowds became huge. As it turned out, the park never ended up being too bad anyway, which made the day a lot more enjoyable.

    Dollywood is so different to any other amusement park we've seen - it's almost like Disneyland meets Timber Town. There was a lot of emphasis on local arts and crafts and traditional country fare, without the animated characters walking around the park. There was even a chapel there if you wanted to attend a service. It took a while to get used to but truthfully, I loved it. It was great to be in an amusement park that had a lot of charm and character to it.

    One of the good deals we got was the photo card, which once purchased, meant that every photo taken in the park was inclusive. This meant that Ted and I never passed up a single photo opportunity! We went on the majority of the rides too, except the ones that were catered mainly to kids. There were also a lot of attractions centered around Dolly too, including seeing her tour bus, and the story of her life and achievements. Food was definitely not a problem either as we found an awesome buffet restaurant with all that low-fat food that the south of the USA is known for!

    After riding on the Snowy Mountain River Rampage we were completely soaked, so we relaxed in the sun before continuing through the park. Since we were able to return to the park if we wanted, we headed into nearby Pigeon Forge to have a look around. We are glad we didn't stay there instead, as it is really huge. It is almost like a low-grade Las Vegas, with its endless hotels and attractions. Whilst Gatlinburg is easy to walk around, Pigeon Forge would be impossible without a car.

    Ted dropped me off at the Titanic display whilst he went to look around town. The Titanic display was wonderful (and still better than the Queen Mary at Long Beach)! I've always been interested in anything Titanic, and this attraction recreated cabins from the ship, told stories about the passengers onboard, gave an idea about life on the ship, and presented a timeline about the ship's fateful journey. It was definitely worth the entry and I would consider seeing it again some day.

    Since Dollywood was open in the evenings for its "Halloween LumiNights Display", we went back to the park to see it all lit up. Unlike during the day, this was one time when the crowds were huge! It was still great to see even though the throngs of people were everywhere. Ted and I went back to another buffet style restaurant for dinner. I am so glad we did because we got to meet Miss Lillian the Chicken Lady, who sang a song for me on her banjo and gave me a chicken blessing. I was very honored!

    Dollywood turned out to be better than we'd expected, so I'd definitely consider coming back again. Tomorrow we continue our journey to the state of Tennessee!
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