What to eat when you cruise

OK so we have all heard the jokes about cruising.  Plan to put on at least a pound a day.  Can you imagine how overweight you would be if you did the latest and longest world cruise.  Viking Cruises is pushing hard to beat the world record for the number of days in a world cruise and I think they might just do that at 245 days.  Wow – imagine putting on 245 pounds.  We would all be rolling off the ship at the end and would not be admitted back to Canada because our passports would bear no similarity to our new pudgy post cruise figures!

Yes – cruising – It’s all about the food – that never-ending buffet that we religiously visit each day.  As the ships get bigger so do the buffet areas and it just takes that much longer to get yourself organized.   

So here’s the plan.

Out of the elevator and join the line up for the obligatory hand washing ceremony.  It seems that with the outbreaks of noro virus on the cruise ships have encouraged many cruise lines to install sinks with taps and soap so you can properly wash your hands before getting anywhere NEAR the food.

Now with clean hands carefully approach the buffet being mindful of the traffic flow as those exiting with full plates make their way to a table with determination and fierce concentration.  Then a quick squiz of the area.

SQUIZ ….. “a look or glance, esp an inquisitive one. Collins English Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers. Word origin of ‘squiz‘ C20: perhaps a blend of squint and quiz.”

Check out the salads – no need to do the desserts as I won’t be partaking – then on to the warming pans.  Usually the dish is written on a sign on the front of the pan but that doesn’t mean anything.  You have to look so that means easing the top off and taking a look at what “braised beef and vegetables” really is.  Sometimes you might be surprised – or disappointed.

Look, food is pretty important and can make or break your cruise – but one man’s meat is another man’s poison and you will find wildly differing views on cruise food.  Some reviews are so passionately angry they are almost funny.  Like this one ….

The XXXXXXX cafe offered cheap food. Lots of pasta & mac & cheese. Hot dog tempura??? Seriously? I asked a server what time the cafe closes, & she said 930pm. Along with a quip of “we have to sleep sometime”. At 930pm sharp, the lights go off & you are left with nothing.  Food tables are roped off. No kidding.

Oh dear – he or she sounds really hangry.  Maybe this review was written in the dead of night in an inside cabin somewhere on the high seas.

Others describe meals on the cruise ship as being akin to “school dinners”.    Honestly, growing up in England I loved school dinners so I can’t really see that as an insult.  However when you consider the thousands of meals that are prepared daily on the cruise ships of the world, spare a thought for the poor chefs down in the galley – it can’t be easy!

When dog poop spoils your sightseeing

Has this happened to you before? You find yourself in this beautiful medieval town with narrow cobblestone streets, terracotta tiles on the houses, church bells ringing in the square – and right in front of you on the path dog poop. Yuck.

Some cities get a bad name for this. Paris for example became known for the dog poop in the streets – not to mention cigarette butts and more. But back in 2017 the authorities realised that this was doing nothing to encourage tourists and in fact made life pretty miserable for the locals too. They set up a board (some call it the “incivility brigade” ) to look into this and charge hefty fines.

There are some cities in Europe that have found a way to deal with dog poop and I think that this has also been adopted by some cities in North America. Nerja, Spain is a good example.

Once a sleepy fishing village, Nerja is one of the few places to have kept its traditional charm, with whitewashed houses, narrow streets and all the modern amenities you could hope for.    WikiTravel describes it well –

It is a quiet town with a central historical area that still feels like a village, and the tourist mix is not exclusively northern European as many Spanish people use this resort for holidays, together with French and Italians.

“The town is built on a hillside with a not too steep gradient and the sprawling centre itself consists of an older part with white streets partly pedestrianized mainly to the east of the Balcon de Europa, the natural focus of the town and the venue for fiestas, but beyond the 17th century church and the Plaza Cavana more modern development takes over and it is in these areas that the town seems like any other recently developed Spanish Costa resort.”

So this beautiful little town started to have a problem not only with stray dogs but also with dog owners not cleaning up the poop. Now in order to get a dog licence you need to register your dog’s dna and if they find a dog poop on the street and identify the dna then you, the owner, are in for a hefty fine. Apparently this has worked quite well so far and dog poop sightings are down.

Which is a good thing…. because we, as tourists, like to visit these medieval cities and want it to look just like it was in medieval times – as if we were on a film set of Game of Thrones. We don’t want to see McDonalds or Starbucks or ATMS or anything else that might spoil the illusion. Mmmm…isn’t that why Disney is so successful???

Holiday hangover

You know that feeling when you get home after a really good holiday (vacation for our North American friends)….. stinks doesn’t it? At first you get home and you are all delighted to have your own bed and familiar things around you. The cat actually deigns to give you a rub up against your leg and the cockatiel screams with delight when you walk in. (C’mon Lesley don’t fool yourself – he does that when anyone walks in the room).

How quickly that delight disintigrates….. I think it starts with the unpacking. Which is pretty easy really – just tip everything into the laundry basket. There – done and done. Case is empty – ferreted away in the basement waiting for the next adventure. Climb up the stairs back to the bedroom. Oh. My. God….. look at that laundry basket. Well no time for that now.

Instead I get stuck into the backpack – diligently packing away all those back-packy things – like earplugs, sleeping mask, antibacterial hand wash, adaptors, chargers – making sure I put them all in the proper place.

Whew – I am exhausted. Not just from the packing but I just spent 24 hours flying. My own fault – I got involved with watching films on my ipad and didn’t sleep.

Before I sit down I better check the post box – of course we have this wonderful system now in Calgary where instead of the postie dropping the mail in our mailbox at the house it is dropped in a collective mail box a couple of houses down. I am not sure how much money this has saved but what the heck – I have to go and check the mail anyway. 10 minutes later I am back with a staggering amount of mail that I don’t need or want so I wade through it all filling up the recycling bin (what a waste of paper)!

Before I realise it lunchtime has arrived. Mmm – I think to myself. I wonder what the chef has as the special for lunch today. Think I will just toddle up to the top deck and have a Prosecco before lunch.

Wake up Lesley! You are home and in the middle of your Holiday Hangover. There is no room steward, no chef, no Maitre ‘D flicking out your napkin every day – and Conrad will not have made your bed and put a chocolate on the pillow. Damn!

Giving names to strangers

This is maybe a bit of a bad habit – but a fun one. When we travel we tend to give our fellow travellers names so we can easily identify them between ourselves. Let me give you an example – on our recent cruise one of the guests looked a lot like Rod Stewart and his wife was tall with blond air so they became Rod and Dusty (as in Dusty Springfield).

There was another couple we spotted on the first day “booking” their lounger on the sun deck. (I know we have all vented about these people who are as cheeky as this – sneaking out at 3 am to bag their place). They laid out their towels and then used these handy beach towel pegs to secure them in place.

Well naturally they became Mr and Mrs Peg. By the end of the voyage we got to speak to them and they were actually a very nice couple so we forgave them for hogging the lounger – amazing how much easier it is to forgive friends for transgressions – rather than forgiving a stranger.

Another lady on the cruise fascinated us. She had long grey hair with blue streaks and a tattoo on her face. She had the habit of wearing long gauzy dresses so her name became Miss Havisham (from Great Expectations).

Two gorgeous British girls who both looked like models were also on the cruise. They were extremely cool with the latest sunglasses, tiny waists and wore their hair in buns right on the very top of their heads. They became Pinky and Perky!

We have been doing this for years. I recall a holiday years and years ago in Mauritius when the kids were just toddlers. One of the men staying at the resort had a habit of squeezing his wife’s bum while they were standing at the omelette station (I know, I know…. this is getting weird). My Dad promptly named him The Proctologist.

“What’s a prokolowist Mom?” the kids kept asking while I cast disapproving glances at my Dad who just laughed his head off. And yes from that moment onward he was the Proctologist.

Now when I think of all this I wonder what name my fellow passengers had for me. Hmmm – I think I don’t want to go there.

That connecting flight

So what to do when you have a connecting flight? Very often there is a limited choice when it comes to direct non stop flights out of Calgary.  You often end up connecting through somewhere…. But where or where in the world do you NOT want to do a connection?

Apparently a recent survey picked on Chicago as being the most unfavourite airport for a connection.  New York came a close second – with ALL THREE of its airports – JFK, La Guardia AND Newark.   But Atlanta was voted by some people as worst AND best – so who knows?  Apparently Atlanta has great facilities in the airport itself so maybe that is why – yoga rooms, art exhibits and putting greens are some of the attractions.  I guess if you have a long layover then this would be one way to pass the time.

In Europe the best airports for connecting through are (by popular vote) Vienna and Zurich.  Quick, clean and efficient.

Further afield – Africa to be precise – Johannesburg’s Oliver Tambo airport is the top choice.  It handles 28 million visitors a year. 

And while you are waiting for your next flight consider these facilities at airports around the world….

Hong Kong has a golf course.

Tokyo has an oxygen lounge.

Zurich Airport has nature trails you can explore in between the runways!

And Singapore just knocks out the competition all round ….

It’s impossible to pick just one insane feature from Singapore’s Changi Airport. The over-the-top aviation centre is home to multiple gaming stations, music video booths, a 4-storey slide, koi ponds, a rooftop swimming pool (with swim-up bar) and an on-site cinema. Most spectacular of all are the five gardens, which include an award-winning cactus garden and a butterfly garden in Terminal 3.

But really – can you keep all of the people happy all of the time?  Clearly not.  Sometime had the cheek to complain about the “outdated Western attire” of the airport staff in Calgary.  He was put right in no time when people jumped in to explain that this Calgary touch is a service offered voluntarily – and we are very proud of our White Hat volunteers – SO THERE!

Emotional support and flight anxiety

Lots of people are scared of flying – and some overcome this by travelling with an emotional support animal…. BUT … not everyone is in favour of this including the flight attendant who recently had to have 5 stitches after having been bitten by an emotional support animal… here is the full story as reported online –

A flight attendant had to get five stitches after being bitten by an emotional support dog during an American Airlines flight, operated by its subsidiary Envoy Air, this week.

The incident took place on an E-175 aircraft that was traveling from Dallas, Texas, to Greensboro, North Carolina, American Airlines tells PEOPLE.

The customer with the emotional support animal “became ill during flight, and the flight attendant was reaching into the seatback pocket to retrieve the air sickness bag for them,” the airline says.

“The dog apparently felt threatened and bit the flight attendant on their left hand.”

The flight attendant was examined by medical personnel when the plane landed at the Piedmont Triad International Airport in North Carolina, “but did not require any treatment – he was cleared to return to [the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport].”

“Upon return to DFW, the flight attendant subsequently received five stitches,” the airline says.

The Association of Flight Attendants said in a statement Tuesday that the incident “is completely unacceptable and inexcusable,” calling for stricter “standards” when it comes to emotional support animals on flights.

 “For years, AFA has supported the role trained animals can provide to passengers in the cabin, but we have also called for action in regards to setting standards for emotional support animals,” the union’s statement continued.

“We need the Department of Transportation to take action now, so events like the one that happened yesterday do not continue to occur on our planes.”

Well this incident was probably unusual.  I have travelled on flights with pets before – but they were small dogs or cats in carriers placed under the seat.  If the animal is bigger then you would have to have them fly cargo in a proper carrier.  So if it is an emotional support animal that is too big for a carrier under the seat then they can sit on your lap or you might have to purchase another seat for your dog.  I say “dog” because most emotional support animals we see on flights are dogs…. But what about other animals..

American Airlines says only cats and dogs are allowed as emotional support animals in the cabin.  But strangely enough they also say miniature horses are allowed!

The problem is that flying can be very nerve-wracking and if you do have anxiety issues and have an emotional support animal to help with those issues then you really need that help when you fly. 

If you do have a fear of flying you might be comforted to know that you are not alone and you don’t really need to take a horse with you to overcome these fears.  Many celebrities suffer the same anxiety every time they need to get on a flight –

These are just a few of them….

Colin Farrell
Miley Cyrus
Ben Affleck
Taylor Swift
Kate Winslet
Kirsten Dunst
Sandra Bullock
Jennifer Aniston
Megan Fox
Billy Bob Thorton
Justin Bieber

So you are not alone – there are lots of websites with advice out there – breathing techniques, meditation, listening to music, natural remedies, prescription remedies…. The fact of the matter is that in this big world we live in it is the easiest and quickest way to get from A to B …. But I guess if it is really an issue then to get to Europe you could always drive or train to New York and then do the Trans Atlantic on the Queen Mary – now THAT’s travel in style – and no jet lag either!

How to find suitcase heaven

Where do suitcases go when they get separated from their owners?  Do they go on world wide adventures collecting stamps along the way?  Do they brood in dark hangers in semi-deserted airport storage.  Do they shiver when spiders crawl over them and make their nets around the handles and the locks?

If you have ever lost a suitcase on a flight …..

OK – stand by people – I know there are lots of you out there …. BUT

Have you ever lost a suitcase on a flight and NEVER EVER seen it again?  The numbers that this happens to might surprise you.

When bags are unclaimed the airlines have to do something with it – so they sell it!  Surprised?  A business in Alabama buys unclaimed suitcases from airlines.  Once they get them to their warehouse they unpack the bags and launder most of the clothes for resale.  The website howstuffworks.com reports

“When a lost suitcase or backpack arrives at the Unclaimed Baggage Center, employees remove all clothing for laundering and search every zippered pocket and corner crevice for treasures. Their diligence pays: In addition to Egyptian artifacts from 1500 B.C. (which included a shrunken head), employees have uncovered a 40.95 carat emerald, a 5.8 carat diamond and a Muppet from the movie “Labyrinth.”

Some items are so valuable and unusual, you might wonder what happened to the person who lost them. The Unclaimed Baggage Center has returned an F-16 guidance system to the U.S. Navy and a space shuttle camera to NASA.”

In Britain they have a different way of dealing with lost unclaimed luggage.  They sell them off to specialist auction houses where you can go a bid on a suitcase (sometimes without seeing its contents).  So it is a bit like Storage Wars.  Who knows what you might get?  The bids are generally from about $20 up to $130.  That might be a lot of money to pay for someone else’s laundry but I guess those who bid take a good look at the type  of suitcase before putting a number on their bid. 

Some houses actually empty the suitcases because they feel that the suitcase itself is usually worth more than the contents.   But if you want to see what its all about check out this video

In all my travels I haven’t lost a suitcase or even had one delayed …. Oh my goodness are the travel gods looking down and laughing at me…. I leave on my next trip soon…..