Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Family Vacation 2013

Our final big trip of the year!  It's been so busy this year and we've done so much - this one last trip will really put us over the top.  After much arm twisting, we finally decided to join our dear friends, Wade and Charlie, on this Celebrity cruise to the Southern Carribean on the Summit.  Since it's during Thanksgiving week, we're taking the kids with us and hopefully missing a few more days of school won't be too difficult. 

After looking at the cruise information, I actually decided to book the Penthouse Suite for the 4 of us.  I'm not exactly sure what it was about the penthouse suite that sold me - we've never booked such a big suite before on a cruise.  I guess having the 4 of us in the same cabin in a smaller suite was going to be just too crowded (the kids are getting so old and big - 14 and 16 now) and getting 2 cabins probably wasn't a lot less expensive than the penthouse suite. 

Stateroom: 1,432 sq. ft.
Veranda: 1,098 sq. ft.

Penthouse Suite Indulgences:
When you stay in a Penthouse Suite on Celebrity Constellation,
you will receive these added amenities:
  • 24-hour European butler service
  • Priority check-in and departing
  • Priority luggage delivery at boarding
  • Welcome champagne
  • Dining room seating preference
  • PC and Internet access*
  • Personalized stationery
  • Celebrity tote bag
  • 100% cotton oversized bath towels
  • Complimentary use of bathrobes
  • Private portrait sitting
  • Opportunity to book in-suite massage
    *For a nominal fee.
    Butler ServiceCelebrity's suites include European butler service, a Celebrity exclusive. This service includes:
  • Assistance with unpacking/packing
  • Daily news delivery
  • Full breakfast
  • In-suite lunch & dinner service
  • In-suite afternoon tea service
  • Evening hors d'oeuvres daily
  • Complimentary espresso & cappuccino
  • Shoeshine service
  • Delivery of requested board games 
 $12,906 + $420 in prepaid gratuities.  We did take advantage of a Celebrity special paying just $11 pp per day for the upgrade to the premium beverage package. 

Premium Package

For the ultimate in value and convenience, our premium beverage package provides all the benefits of our Premium Non-Alcoholic Package. In addition, you can enjoy our entire selection of Beers as well as Spirits, Cocktails and Wines by the Glass up to $12 per serving. Plus, with purchase of this Premium Package, you can enjoy a 30% discount on all wines by the bottle purchased on board, even our prized Reserve Wine list and Rare Wine list.

Celebrity Cruises proudly partners with following brands to offer you, our guests, greater pleasure and value. Package selections include, but are not limited to the following brands:

Coke, Diet Coke, Fanta Orange, Coke Zero, Sprite, Diet Sprite, Barqs, Specialty Coffee, Specialty Tea, Cranberry, Pineapple, Orange, Tomato, Apple, Grapefruit, Samuel Adams, Red Bull, Non-Alcoholic Frozen Drinks, Vitamin Water, Evian®, Pellegrino, Coors Light, Becks, Heineken, Amstel Light, Corona, Franziskaner, Dos Equis, Grolsh Swing Top, Red Stripe, Carlsberg, Hoegarden, Guinness, Newcastle Brown Ale, Boddington's, Leffe, Stella Artois, Peroni, Johnny Walker Black, Glenfiddich Pure Malt, Dewars 12 year old, Chivas Regal, Glenlivet, Crown Royal, Tangle Ridge, Old Black Bush, Knob Creek, Blanton's Single Barrel, Remy Martin VSOP, Courvosier VSOP, Hennessy VSOP, Bombay Sapphire, Ketel One, Effen, Level, Belvedere, Grey Goose, Pyrat XO Reserve, Montecristo, Bacardi 8, Patron Silver, Patron Anejo, Patron Gold, Extase XO, Grand Marnier, Bollini, St. Francis, J & H Selbach, Southern Right, Paul Jaboulet, Jena Luc Colombo, Beringer, Heron's Nest, Tenuta de Nozzole, Antinori, Chateau Castera, Rutherford Ranch, Kendall Jackson, Marques de la Concordia. 

So our schedule so far:

Friday, 22 November

Drive to Atlanta and spend the night at Wade and Charlie's house
Dinner in Atlanta (hopefully)

Saturday, 23 November

Lv 6:40 am American flight 17 to Miami
Ar 8:30 am Miami

Lv 9:35 am American 397 to San Juan, Puerto Rico
Ar 1:10 pm San Juan

Board Celebrity Summit (taxi from airport to cruise terminal?)

6:30 pm Dinner at Qsine - I was very pleased to see that I could book dinner the first night (embarkation day) even though the ship doesn't leave port until 8:30 pm.

8:30 pm - Summit sets sail

Sunday, 24 November - St Croix, USVI   0800-1730

Interesting fact:  There is no sales tax in St Croix

9 am - 3:30 pm - Big Beard's Adventure Tour to Buck Island Reef National Monument - $99 pp

When the Kennedys made a trip St. Croix in the early fifties, they paid Buck Island a visit. They were fascinated by the natural beauty of the island, and wanted to find a way to preserve it. They were responsible for initiating the legislation that made Buck Island more than just a local treasure. Today we have the Kennedys to thank for that initiative...Buck Island Reef National Monument is now one of only two Underwater National Monuments in the United States. The Monument protects a complete coral reef ecosystem and the habitat for several threatened and endangered species. Buck Island is situated just two miles off of St. Croix's north shore and to be a part of its majesty is an experience you will never forget. Of the 19,015 acres that comprise the park, less than two hundred of them are above the water's surface. It's western beach, Turtle Beach, has been voted one of the top ten prettiest beaches in the world, as well as a favorite snorkel location in a readers poll. Its biggest attraction is a 4,554 acre long barrier reef that is home to more than 250 species of fish.
Full day sail includes Buck Island and Beach BBQ Join us on our most popular trip! Sail on our 42' Catamaran RENEGADE, the only Sailboat with an underwater viewing window on St. Croix. We depart at 9:30 from downtown Christiansted to Buck Island's Turtle Beach, voted one of the most beautiful in the world. We provide snorkel gear to each guest and snorkel lessons on the beach. Once you are feeling comfortable with your gear, the Captain and crew will then take you in groups of 6 through the underwater trail along the reef. After you've seen the trail, Renegade will sail to Big Beard's private beach on St. Croix for a barbeque lunch -- all you can eat (burgers, dogs, fresh fish and assorted chips) and drink (rum punch and fruit punch). When we get back to Christiansted at 3:30pm, you'll be full, happy, and relaxed - we guarantee it!

Check-in time is by 9:00 am for our Full Day Tour so you would need to leave Frederiksted by around 8:00–8:15am to join us on this tour.  NOTE:  In order to get to where we are in Christiansted, you can utilize a cab for transportation.  (Go to the Taxi Federation Booth at the end of the pier and tell them that you are going to Christiansted for Buck Island with Big Beard’s), or any other taxi would be fine.  The ride is about 25 minutes and the fare is around $16.00 Round Trip per person.

We will not be manually processing your credit card so if you would like to use it for payment, please bring it with you at the time of check-in.  We also accept Cash, Travelers checks, Visa, MasterCard, and American Express.

Our office is located in Christiansted, on Queen Cross Street next to the Caravelle Hotel near the boardwalk.

Southern Seas Inc.

d/b/a Big Beard's Adventure Tours

d/b/a Centipede...The Outdoor Store

340-773-4482 (Phone)

Dinner - assuming it's Formal Night - MDR

Monday, 25 November - Basseterre, St Kitts  0800-1700

11:30 - 2 pm    ATV adventure with Welcome Tours (Beulah Mills)
Cost: US $75 per person
Duration: Approximately 2 ½ hours
Activity Level: Moderate

This tour is confirmed.  Meet at 11.15 am by Richies Diamond store on Port zante where the ship docks.

6:30 pm - Dinner at Normandie

Tuesday, 26 November -  Roseau, Dominica  0800-1700

Looked into Canyoning with Extreme Dominica tours - we've never done anything like this before.

Canyoning, also know as Canyoneering, Abseiling, Kloofing, or Waterfall Rappelling, is the most exciting new adventure sport to hit the US, Europe, Japan, South Africa and now the Caribbean. The CathedralThroughout the year, Canyoning in Dominica offers a great way to explore the hidden depths of this magical island, while at the same time, enjoying the fun and adventure of this great water-sport. Whether we are jumping over cascades into crystal clear pools, wading, swimming, climbing or rapelling through waterfalls, the excitement never ends.

$160.00 USD pp

Price includes 2 guides, transport from Roseau port to Extreme Dominica and back, all gear necessary (wetsuit, harness, helmet, life-jacket), short training on rappel wall, and about 2-3 hours of spectacular scenery and adventure inside the canyon.

This tour is confirmed. 
8 am pick up time for 4 people. 

This includes wetsuit, helmet, life vest and all other safety gear necessary, a short training, transport to and from the canyon, a light snack and some delicious home-made cocoa tea afterward.  If you feel you need to bring food, that is ok, but there isn't a time/place to eat until after the excursion is over.  We don't carry food into the canyon unless it is for a diabetic and is necessary. 

The total trip time depends on the number of people on a trip that day and everyone's abilities.  They usually take about 4 hours.  You will be returned in plenty of time for your ship’s departure.
PLEASE BRING: a swimsuit, running shoes, tennis shoes, Keens or Tevas, or similar shoes (closed toe is better), and a waterproof camera if you plan on taking photographs.  Please also bring your credit card so that we can run the card in our machine after the excursion.  Nothing will be charged until the trip is completed.  You may also pay in cash (USD, XCD, or Euro) if you prefer.   Please note:  As always, there is a small service charge incurred when using a credit card; and your bank may charge a foreign currency conversion fee as well. 

Also, please bring cash if interested in renting a GoPro Helmet camera, which shoots hi-def video as well as stills and is completely waterproof.  The camera rents for $35, plus we sell a 4GB Class 4 memory card for $15, which is yours to keep.  You are welcome to use your own SD type card but GoPro recommends a Class IV or above.


If arriving by cruise ship at Roseau port in downtown Roseau Upon disembarking the ship, turn right at the end of the dock and walk uphill for about one minute, past the roundabout. On the right you will see the Fort Young Hotel. We will be waiting for you by the 2 brass cannons at the main entrance. Look for Richard, Jeffrey, or Nahjie and the Extreme Dominica logo.  

Our contact #'s: 767-295-7272 or 767-295-6828 or 767-448-0412.

Should there be a cancellation due to weather, we would still come to pick you up and give you the option to do a tour with us.  It could be a hike, a swim in a hot sulfur pool, or whatever you desire.  The cost is usually around $80 per person, depending on where we take you.  If you choose not to do a driving tour with us, it will not be a problem at all.  Your card is not charged until after a trip is complete. 
6:30 pm - Dinner at Qsine 

Wednesday, 27 November - St George's, Grenada  0800-1700

Trying to book a jeep/river tubing tour through Adventure Tours but after 2 emails so far, no response yet.  Now looking into a private tour with Sunsation Tours - similar to the Tutti Frutti tour they offer:

Leaving "town" (said by many to be the prettiest capital in the Caribbean), we drive past the stadium (cricket world cup 2007!) and up the picturesque west coast, rich in history and colour.
Concord Waterfall Grenada Our first stop is Concord Waterfall, a 2 km drive up a leafy lane beside a stream, dotted with Grenadian agriculture: nutmeg, bananas, cocoa, and many other plants of interest.
The nutmeg "pool" in Gouyave is our next stop: you are shown the seasoning, processing and sorting of nutmegs and mace. Nutmeg products vary from syrup to massage oil, garden mulch to nail varnish; even a pain-relieving spray.
We continue northward to a magnificent view of Grenada's Grenadine islands, and of the place where the last fighting Caribs committed suicide in 1651, overwhelmed by the prospect of French rule.

We next take you to River Antoine Rum Distillery: the place is as antique (1785) as the rum is strong (75% alcohol - ouch!) It can be hard to believe that the place is a working distillery, not an elderly museum. Despite its antiquity, it is quite well thought-out, and has environmentally-friendly aspects.
By now, you're ready for lunch. Our usual venue is Belmont Estate: a delightful rural setting, good, varied local food from a buffet; and a cocoa bean fermentary on site. We look forward to the food ourselves.
In the afternoon, we continue through La Poterie and Tivoli, then through Pearls Airport, disused since the Americans 'intervened' in 1983. Today, sheep graze under the remains of two old Soviet-built planes.
After driving through Grenville, Grenada's second biggest town, we set off to the middle of the Island, to the mountainous rainforest, where we stop at Grand Etang crater lake.
Spices can be bought at several of the stops.
This tour is booked for 6 hours instead of 8 hours as a private tour:  $40 per hour = $240 for 6 of us ($40 pp);  Lunch at Belmont is about US$22.00 pp8:30 am pick up time in the Cruise Ship Mall in front of the shop “Duty Free Caribbean”.
Guide will have a sign with our name on it.

6:30 pm - Dinner at Normandie

Thursday, 28 November - at sea, Thanksgiving Day

Dinner -  probably Formal Night - MDR

Friday, 29 November - Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas  0800-1700

Tried to book a Water Island Adventure which included bike and beach but they are not offering tours this day.  So now we're trying the 1.5 hour Jet Ski rental from 340 Water Sports


Takes you to Cays and various uninhabited islands as well as to the waterfront area of St. Thomas where mega-yachts and cruise ships dock up. Then off to a beautiful Water

Little Saint James -an immaculately landscaped
private island. Honeymoon Beach - see the
breath taking rock formations. Charlotte
Amalie Cruise Port
-The most popular port
of call and the capital of the Virgin Islands
offering a stunning view of the cruise ships!
Yacht Haven Grande – the premier marina facility
for mega-yachts within the Caribbean, featuring
slips for yachts up to 450 feet and beyond!
Hassel Island – The MTV Real World House & a
variety of historical buildings.
$180 per ski / $15 Addt’l Rider *2 Ski Min.
6:30 pm - dinner in MDR?

Saturday, 30 November - San Juan

Lv 11:20 am American 1556 to Miami
Ar 1:10 pm Miami

Lv 1:50 pm American 3562 to Atlanta
Ar 3:50 pm

Dinner in Atlanta

Sunday, 1 December 

Drive home to Enid



Orlando NCE - October 2013

This year's AAP NCE (American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition) will be held in Orlando at the Orange County Convention Center.  Naturally, since we're Disney Vacation Club members, we have to stay on property and I had saved some points from our Aulani trip to use for this trip.  We are booked to stay at the Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa 24 - 27 October.

It seems like I've been doing nothing but planning trips all year - this was a very unusual year for us with as many trips as we've taken so far and 2 more coming up (Orlando in October and then our "family vacation" in November) before the year is over.  So my original thought was to bring the kids with us to the NCE because it was going to be their Fall Break.  As it turns out, Fall Break is actually the week before the NCE.  (Doh).  To minimize the amount of school that they will miss, the kids will fly to Orlando with us but take an earlier flight back so Amina can drive them home and make it to school on Monday.  Even getting these plane tickets booked was an ordeal.  To make matters worse (or better depending on how you look at it) - I made the realization a couple of months ago that the NCE will be held during the EPCOT Food and Wine festival.  (Double Doh).  I am definitely not getting much in the way of CMEs this year at the NCE - too many special festival events going on that weekend.  We are currently waitlisted for the Bay Lake Towers for the remaining 2 nights in Orlando (Sunday and Monday evening).

I was very excited to see the many events that would be happening while we are there.  The tickets for the festival special events were made available to Disney Visa cardholders the day before (Monday, 12 August) they were made open to everyone else (Tuesday, 13 August).  In retrospect, I should have been on the phone at 6 am (CST) that Monday morning to make our reservations.  The big prize reservation was the Signature Dinner at Victoria and Albert's on the evening of Sunday, 27 October.  Alas, when I called at around noon that Monday, it was already booked up per the CM.  I did get on the phone at 6 am the following morning hoping that they had additional openings for non-Disney Visa holders but there was a lot of confusion about whether it was booked up or whether it was not yet entered into the system as an option.  After another half a dozen phone calls over the next 2 days, I was finally told that it was all booked up.  I went ahead and took a 9 pm reservation for just dinner that same evening.  I'm still hopeful that something will open up that evening for the Signature Dinner.  Maybe we can go and plead our case to them to let us in.....DVC, honeymooned and ate at V&As for the first time 20 years ago, returned for our 10 year anniversary, eat there at every opportunity that we get, favorite restaurant on the planet, haven't been in town for their Signature Dinner in all the years that we've attended the Food and Wine Festival.....etc, etc, etc. 

So, here's how the plans look:

Thursday, October 24 - Enid, OKC, SSRS, DTD

Lv 7:04 am United 337 from OKC
Ar 8:25 am into Houston

Lv 12:22 pm United 1690 from Houston
Ar 3:45 pm into Orlando

We have the Disney Magical Express scheduled for pickup from the airport to take us to Saratoga Springs.

6:30 pm - Dinner at Fulton's Crab House in Downtown Disney

Friday, October 25 - EPCOT

10 am - 12 pm Kitchen Memories (VOLT)  $110 pp

Kitchen Memories: Celebrity chefs host this event, demonstrating how to prepare an appetizer, main course and a dessert.  A selection of wines will be paired for each course by a winery representative.

10/25: Bryan Voltaggio, VOLT, Frederick, MD

8 pm - 9:30 pm  Dessert/Illuminations (VIP "sweet seats")  $90 pp

3D Disney's Dessert Discovery at World ShowPlace Pavilion: This is a dessert lover's dream. You can sample a variety of desserts and cordials. You will also enjoy VIP viewing of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.
Sweet Seats VIP seats are available for $90 (includes private table, early entry, specialty dessert, specialty beverage) 

Saturday, October 26 - MK?

1030-1210  NCE for Eve - opening plenary session
1215 - 4 pm exhibit hall open

5:05 pm Dinner at Brown Derby

Orlando Experience! at Disney's Hollywood Studios®
Saturday, October 267:15 PM–11:00 PM
The AAP invites you to enjoy an exclusive evening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios®! This private event for all AAP attendees and registered family/guests will be filled with magical moments as you enjoy the many highlights that Disney offers including a free fall experience on The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror®, beating your colleagues or family at the popular arcade-style ride Toy Story Mania! ®, the newly updated Star Tours® - The Adventure Continues, or enjoying some of the live shows including the Indiana JonesEpic Stunt Spectacular! and Beauty and the Beast - Live on Stage. Several networking areas abound as you interact with street performers, musicians and the famous Disney characters. The evening ends with an exclusive showing of Disney’s spectacular fireworks and water show, Fantasmic! All rides and shows at Disney’s Hollywood Studios® will be available for your enjoyment.
Shuttle bus transportation will be available from all official conference hotels. Each person in attendance will receive a $10 Disney gift card that can be used at any food or merchandise location throughout the park.

Sunday, October 27 - SSRS to ?

Seth taking Magical Express with the kids to drop them off at the Orlando airport

Lv 8:20 am United 1693 to Houston

Ar 9:51 am Houston

Lv 11:19 am United 5278 to OKC
Ar 12:45 pm OKC

7 - 8:15 am - District Breakfast at NCE for Eve

8 am - Seth pick up rental car from EZ Car Rental at the MCO terminal
Full size car for 2 days: $101.05

Return to SSRS and check out.  Move to Bay Lake Towers? or maybe consider
Holiday Inn Resort Lake Buena Vista
located just 1/2 mile from Walt Disney World,
Special "Food and Wine Festival" rate of $59.00/night valid for travel through November 11, 2013.

To make your reservation
call the hotel directly at 866-808-8833.

Mention that you are an AllEars® Reader and give Code ILRRU to receive the special offer.

9 pm - Dinner at Victoria and Alberts
(Signature Dinner is at 6 pm for $525 pp)

Monday, October 28 - MK?

12:30 - 1:30 pm - Annual Business Lunch at NCE

Tuesday, October 29 

Lv 11:53 am United 1261 Orlando to Houston
Ar 1:21 pm Houston

Lv 2:27 pm United 3343 Houston to OKC
Ar 3:51 pm OKC 
I got discounted tickets through the NCE.

Item Price Qty Total
Adult 4 Day Meeting/Convention Ticket with Park Hopper Option $304.20 2 $608.40
Adult 2 Day Meeting/Convention Ticket with Park Hopper Option $218.70 2 $437.40
Subtotal 4 $1,045.80
Sales Tax
Total 4 $1,113.80