Saturday, February 20, 2016

Cruise to the Western Caribbean!

Today I am headed down to Tampa, Florida for a 5 night Western Caribbean cruise.  Yes, I am writing this on an airplane as we speak, I just cannot contain my excitement any longer.  Unfortunately, I do not have any photos yet of the cruise ship or my adventures, but I can share with you my packing experiences thus far.  For a trip this large and with lots of activities involved you have to be very conscious of packing and weight.  I took a first pass at packing and just started to lay out all of the clothes, jewelry, and accessories I definitely wanted to take.  From there, I took a second pass and laid out outfits for each day that I was going to be away.  This makes the thought of packing for a long trip less daunting and you are less likely to forget items.  Another great tip goes out to all you females, be sure to try “iffy” outfits on prior to packing, by iffy I mean clothes that require special undergarments or fittings.  There is nothing worse than forgetting to pack that strapless bra or cami to go with that cute dress.

For a 5 night cruise, my boyfriend and I packed a large checked bag and our scuba diving bag. These were our only two major large bags and then we also had our own carry-on roller bags. I also had a separate carrying bag for my scuba regulator (the mouth piece you breathe out of for you non-divers).  A good rule of thumb when packing scuba gear is to purchase a separate bag designated just for your regulator.  This is a very expensive piece of equipment and you would hate to get any one of the hoses crushed.  Another smart tip I would like to add is if you plan to check at least two or more bags try and divide up your clothes between each of the bags this will not only help to avoid over-weight additional charges from the airlines, but also if the airlines just so happen to lose your checked bag you still have some of your clothes remaining until the airlines can locate your bag. 
Cruising to the Caribbean, I always suggest to pack plenty of sunscreen.  Between my boyfriend and I we packed a wide spectrum from SPF 15 to SPF 70, it just depends how fair your skin is and how you normally react to the sun.  It is ALWAYS a smart idea to keep sunscreen on at all times, whether you are in direct sunlight or not.  Along with sunscreen it is also a good idea to pack a cute hat that covers your face from direct sunlight.  Unfortunately I only own baseballs caps, so that’s what I packed.  Try to find a cute cover-up that you feel comfortable walking to and from your room to the pool deck.  It is quite a walk and if you don’t want to have the “looks” then it’s usually best to pack some sort of cover-up or sarong. 

Our cruise disembarks on Monday and our first stop is Cozumel, Mexico.  We will be spending the day at Mr. Sanchos where it is all you can eat & drink for $55/person.  It is a great price and the best part is that it is right on the water.  This also allows you access to snorkel.  Based on the videos and pictures this is definitely a great place to start of the vacation.

The next day we are planning on making a stop in Grand Cayman.  This is where my boyfriend and I plan to go on a two tank certified open water dive excursion.  We are beyond excited and can’t wait to see what one of the top dive destinations has to offer.  I hope to capture some great footage underwater using my GoPro Hero 4 camera.  I purchased the dive housing and special tinted lenses so the changes in water doesn’t affect the video footage.  Next week I will be sure to upload actual pictures and video footage of our excursion.
Once we arrive back in Tampa on Saturday we plan to have a few days of some down time and a “vacation from our vacation”.  The Marriott on San Key is the ideal place for this.  Since I am an avid traveler for work and frequent the Marriott properties, the decision was easy when it came time to choose a perfect little hideaway from all of the chaos. 

Stay tuned for next week’s addition of photos and videos from my trip & cruise to the Western Caribbean!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Blackjack Tables, Good Eats, and High-End Shopping

This past week I traveled to Sin City, A.K.A Las Vegas for a field kick off meeting (FKOM) that my company SAP Ariba was hosting.  This was my first time travelling to Las Vegas, so I was excited to see what all the hype was about.  FKOM is a week-long event consisted of predominantly work intensive meetings & keynote speakers, however I was able to have alittle fun and explore the city while I was there.  I flew out on Monday mid-day (thankfully a direct flight to Las Vegas) and arrived early afternoon.  While on the flight I was able to see beautiful views of the Rocky Mountains and the beginning of the Grand Canyon.  The sights were absolutely spectacular, and it made me want to plan a visit to go hiking & snowboarding there in the future. 

Once arriving in Las Vegas, I could instantly hear the sounds of slot machines as I walked off the plane, I was definitely in Vegas.  I took a cab to the Venetian hotel, and from the pictures it looked pretty fancy.  Well, it truly was fancy.  The grand entrance for pick up & drop off transportation was all hand painted ceilings and marble floors with gold finish as an accent.  My favorite part about the Venetian was of course their shopping down the Grand Canal & St. Mark’s Square.  The shops include everything from Kate Spade, Tommy Bahama, and Banana Republic to Burberry, Barneys New York, and Cartier. 

I had a chance to explore all the great food that the Venetian has to offer.  Each night I ate dinner at Canonita, Casanova, Otto, and TAO Asian Bistro.  Each of these restaurants featured a different signature dish that I just had to try.  There are also many great bars as well including Public House, Yard Bird, and Rock house.

One night, some of the ladies went out to see KA by Cirque du Soleil at the MGM Grand.  This was my first ever show in Las Vegas, so I was really excited.  Watching the show, I was blown away by the talent and stunts performed.  It was a really great story line and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.  My favorite part of the whole show was the wheel of death.  These stuntmen as spinning around at a high rate of speed in what I like to think of as “giant hamster cages”.  They also have a 360-degree rotating stage which definitely had to of taken skill to perform on.  Overall, a really great show if you are planning a trip to Las Vegas.

Over the course of the week I was able to network quite a bit with colleagues and other employees, do a bit of shopping, and of course attend work conferences.  I am sure if I was not there on work, I would have much more time to explore the city, but unfortunately I only was able to go out one of the nights.  If I do ever plan to go back are there any suggestions on shows I should go see, or events to attend?