The trip

Any thing getting back to normal yet? This blog has more or less gone dark when it comes to regular posting but it’s still handy for recording some random thoughts that no one will find of interest whatsoever.

We recently took our first cruise. Just to be clear: Sit around vacations are not something we normally do. We enjoy the mad dash from train station to train station. Chatting with the locals and generally setting our own agenda. This is the opposite of cruising. With cruising, everything is carefully controlled, pre-masticated, and bland. Any outing is a “unique experience” in the company of dozens, if not hundreds, of other people.

Having said that, it wasn’t so bad. There’s something to be said for checking out completely and leaving the driving to someone else.

So, the destinations and my impressions.

Day 1 – All at sea.

Because the first destination was a long way off, the first two days were at sea. Like everybody else, we hit the deck and got some sun. Not the best idea. The decks were wall-to-wall. Getting a deck chair was a chore in itself. Want to feel like you’re all alone? Forget about a ship at sea with 3500 other people (plus 1000 or more staff). After a bit of baking, it was back to the cabin. The Goddess got a brutal burn in spite of slathering on the sunscreen. Great start!

Day 2 – All at sea. Puerto Rico late afternoon.

More of the same without the deck. Forget about running that gauntlet again.

Interjection 1 – What to do on a cruise ship.

If you’ve never cruised before you’re probably wondering what we all get up to. The answer: Depends on your personality. I’m not much for throwing myself into activities with total strangers (the Goddess even less so) so getting into arm-wrestling contests, dance classes, or other shipboard activities isn’t really in the cards. Note that there is something going on every hour between 9:00 in the morning and midnight so no one goes crazy.

Puerto Rico – Time in port: About 3 hours

So we all pile off the ship and the shipboard shipboard shopping expert clearly stated the day before that going to the fort was not worth the effort because it would be closed by the time we got there around 5:00. Note that the shipboard shopping expert is paid to shill for companies in the ports. As far as I can see, companies ship a pile of stuff the ship and the expert says so and so stores have so and so products which are neat and great. Letting people know what they can do other than shopping is not recommended.

We schlepped our way up to the fort San Cristobal anyway and what a surprise to find it open. So we popped in to this World Heritage site and poke around. It’s not exactly a medieval fortress or anything but it is definitely a sight better than I expected to see on a cruise. The Goddess wandered with me and then had a seat to watch the dance show. After the place closed, we wandered the streets with everyone else. The shops were packed but we were on a quest: To claim a free 1 carat sapphire! Oh yes, there’s free gems to be had. Of course, you can upgrade that sapphire to a ring or trade it in as good as 100$ cash and buy something else. Needless to say, the sapphire probably isn’t worth much but hey, it’s free! After wandering around some more, it’s back to the ship.

Interjection 2 – Shopping!

Shopping seems to be one of the main attractions of cruising. You are encouraged to shop on the ship and on shore. Most people, of course, don’t need any encouragement. The shopping expert helps you along, of course. The shopping expert was pretty funny, really. When he gave his talks, he had this undertone of “you losers are gong to go any buy all this crap and like it”. He was vaguely snarky about most of the junk he was peddling but even the advice he was giving was purely Mickey Mouse and you knew he knew it and thought the audience didn’t. Most, I’m sure didn’t. I mean, hold the jewelers loupe to your eye instead of far away? Come on folks.

Day 3 – St. Thomas

I did sign up for a Sea Trekking excursion which was cancelled. The Goddess took a historic highlights tour while I cooled on the ship.

Interjection 3 – Quiet time

If you want to escape the crowds, just stay on the ship when it’s in port. With everyone gone, I had the place to myself. I could pick any deck chair I wanted. I had all three pools to myself (salty!), the hot tubs to myself, and grabbing a bite didn’t require standing in line. Bliss.

Day 4 – Catalina Island/Dominican Republic

We purchased an excursion for the Dominican Republic. The wrong excursion. We originally intended to take a historic tour thingie to Santo Domingo. What we accidentally signed up for was a visit to Altos de Chavon which is a re-creation of a 16th century village. If you’ve seen the real thing, why even bother? It actually turned out OK, though. The museum was completely deserted because there was no power but we had a great chat with one of the locals. I’d label that as the highlight of the trip so you can see what I like in a trip.

The cruise company apparently owns an island off the coast of the Dominican Republic. The tenders shuttled people back and forth all day and most folks were frolicking in the water. We decided to skip that and stick to the ship after our little excursion.

Day 5 – All at sea.

Not much to do. We’re into the swing of things and didn’t even bother fighting for a deck chair. We’ve got a balcony so why not use it?

Day 6 – Bahamas

Another day, another excursion. We opted for the snorkeling in this case. Of course, what sounds like a nice little boat right to a private cove turns out to be a boat ride with 100 other people to a reef that already has 3 boats with 100 other people on it. You can’t snorkel without a life jacket so diving is out of the question. Unless, of course, you deflate your life jacket, dive, and then come back up and re-inflate. Not the worst excursion but considering the reef was bleaching and there was a good chance you could get kicked in the head, not the best either.

Other observations

The food was bloody good. Apparently, our cruise line is one of the top in the industry. An Italian company, the pasta was always al dente perfect. That doesn’t sound like much but considering mass-produced pasta is usually lousy, it’s an achievement. The pizza was excellent. Not Italian excellent but a damn site better than the slop we get back home. Of course, if you wanted to eat french fries and burgers, there was plenty of that too.

You can definitely see a difference in ship quality as you went from port to port. The Royal Caribbean ships were nicely kitted out while the Carnival ones were definitely a little further down the ladder. It also appears that the later the ship, the more balconies appear.

We got an obscenely good deal. We were on the 7th deck with a balcony. After comparing with a few people, it turns out we get the same price as some folks on Deck 2 with just a window. A crazy good deal.

Would we cruise again? It’s likely. Again, the hand up your brain appeal is a good but I don’t think we’d do it for anywhere interesting. We would never visit the cruise destinations we stopped at so a cruise is a good way to go for that. If we were stopping somewhere interesting, we’d much rather have a couple of days to explore. We can take up a whole day at one museum after all so a single day in port of say, Rome, wouldn’t do much good.

Now back to our regular scheduled non-updates.

posted at - 9:56 am - 4/7/2008

MacZot/MacPak guessing game

Disclosure: I’ve bought several apps through MacZot. I have no problem with their business model and think that if Indie developers want to market this way, let ‘em.

So MacZot and MacPak are offering up a mystery bundle to whip software lovers into a froth. Judging by the success of MacHeist, these sorts of things are sticking around for awhile.

No one will turn down a deal if it’s offered but the key here is “the big reveal”. It’s the mystery more than the meat. If we all knew which apps were up for grabs, we might be less likely to go for the bundle. But the mere thought that we might be missing out on something fantastic in there just gets us in a lather.

Not to spoil the fun but it looks like MacZot has left a small clue that may give at least some of these apps away: the prices.

Prices, of course, can change or be shared among similar apps but when the development community is small, it can be easy enough to pinpoint what’s being offered. So without further ado, here are my picks for the mystery apps in the MacPak:

A $49.99 business/writing utility – MarinerWrite
An $18.00 game – DanLab’s Pharaoh’s Gold perhaps?
A $21.50 iChat add-on – No idea here. Can’t find anything.
A $15.00 tool for your photos – WebPhotos
A $49.99 organizational aid – iBiz

Again, just totally guessing here.

posted at - 10:49 pm - 5/17/2007

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