Tuesday’s Travel Tip – Cruising!!!

 

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Planning a cruise?  Already booked?  My FAVORITE site when it comes to cruising is www.cruisecritic.com. They offer professional & traveler reviews, detailed ship information, port guides & so much more. From dining room menus, to debarkation tips; best beach bars to roomiest cabins… this site has it all!

To get the most out of this site, be sure to join the “Community” for access to all the forums. There are message boards for First Time Cruisers, Ports of Call, each individual cruise line, specialty cruises, etc. This is a great spot to do your research before booking, or to gather more information once your trip’s been confirmed.

mercuryFor me, the most valuable forums on this site are the “Roll Calls.”  These are specific threads where you can meet other cruisers who are booked on your sailing. You simply search by cruise line, then by ship & departure date to connect with the people who will be sailing with you. It’s a great opportunity to share information & get answers to any questions you may have. You can also hook up with other families who have kids the same age as yours or plan excursions ahead of time as a group to save time & money. Most of the people you will meet are experienced cruisers and have a wealth of information to share.

We’ve had so much fun with the people we’ve met & have gone on some great excursions with these groups – usually at about half the cost of what the cruise line would charge for the same outing… everything from zip-lining in Costa Rica to swimming with the stingrays in Grand Cayman.

Some cruise lines even offer a Cruise Critic “Meet & Mingle” party for everyone in the Roll Call once you set sail. Or a member of the group may organize a more informal meet-up on their own. In either case, it’s a great way to connect with the people you’ve been talking to for the months leading up to your cruise. And most times, there are cocktails involved, so don’t miss it!

Honestly, I’m not always up for making tons of friends on vacation, but cruises can be overwhelming in terms of info & options, especially for first-timers. The more knowledge you have going into the cruise, the more relaxing & enjoyable it will be.  I’ve relied on this site for over 15 years & 16 cruises… so I’d have to say it’s well worth a visit!

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I Don’t Really Bake…

It’s obvious that I love food.  And I do like to cook, on occasion.  But the art of baking is just not my strong suit.  It could be due to the fact that I’m working with a 1950s GE oven that doesn’t exactly heat evenly, or it could just be the time involved with baking that I don’t have the patience for.  In any case, this morning I rolled up my sleeves, put on my apron (not really) and whipped up some breakfast… Blueberry Muffins, using a boxed mix.

IMG_20160703_103341-1Now the reason I’m excited about this, is because I found a mix that seems not only healthy, but let’s me put my own spin on the recipe (which I often do anyway).  The secret ingredient is “Krusteaz Organic Whole Grain Muffin Mix” – sounds perfect, right?  And it is!  A plain, health-conscious batter that you can doctor up any way you like & call it your very own.  All it takes is 2 eggs, a little oil & some milk (and you can even substitute the oil with applesauce if you’re really on the wagon).  Then you simply add whatever you like… fruit, nuts, etc., and voila… you’ve created your very own specialty muffin.  By the way, if I have to crack eggs & measure ingredients, that’s certainly baking to me.

So this morning, we happen to have an overabundance of fresh-picked blueberries from a farm share that we belong to (www.honeybrookorganicfarm.com) which spawned this whole endeavor.  We decided to add a little organic, unsweetened coconut to the mix for fun… and the result?  Some of the best damn muffins I’ve ever had.  That I “baked” myself. 🙂