Cruisin’

Before I do a city-by-city recap of my vacation, I want to make sure I spotlight one of the main features of my trip. This was my first time on a cruise ship and it was pretty spectacular! It was even better than I imagined it to be.

We originally wanted to do a 12-day cruise that started and ended in London, with a stop in Amsterdam, but we hit a SNAFU with that one, so we did a 9-day cruise that began and ended in Copenhagen, minus the stop in Amsterdam. This was a blessing in disguise, because it afforded us more time in London and the opportunity to visit Paris!

The cruise ship that we called home for 9 days was the Norwegian Star. I cannot recommend the ship more. It was amazing. The ship was extremely well-kept and the staff was SO welcoming and friendly and wonderful. They made you feel like a part of the giant family that we had on the ship. The entertainment staff in particular was really good about knowing people’s names and always being very welcoming and courteous to guests. Serious shout out to the beautiful fantabulous staff on the Norwegian Star.

The entire experience was just so fun and comfortable. From the moment you walk onto the ship, you’re greeted by your crew, dancing along to electronic dance music. (I felt that EDM was really appropriate for a European cruise.) Sometimes they give you little bits of drink or gelatin snacks. Sometimes the crew will come out on stilts. Sometimes they provide nice ice cold towels for relief on a hot day. The welcome makes you feel so welcome and wanted. Plus, every day, we were greeted by a cute little towel animal on our bed!

Examples of the towel animals we would find on our beds
Examples of the towel animals we would find on our beds

The food on the ship was delicious. Our favorite spot was Versailles, which was of the no-cover joints. Since our cruise fare included food, we didn’t have to pay at any of the restaurants. However, there were a few places that required cover as they were slightly fancier, like the Brazilian steakhouse and the teppanyaki restaurant. We loved Versailles because the food was really yummy, and we really didn’t want to venture to the other places after loving the first place we chose. I had the best steak of my life there. It was only one time, even though I tried to get it again, but it was the best steak of my life. And I’m not even a huge steak fan.

Surf & turf on our first night at Versailles yummm
Beautiful sugar-free chocolate panna cotta
Choosing a dessert was really difficult. #firstworldproblems

There were a lot of fun activities available. There was a casino, shuffleboard!, a great pool, lots of hot tubs, Bingo, karaoke at the bar… there was a LOT. There were a handful of big parties that they had, with lots of dance music and booze for all the senior citizens and people closer to my age. (Lots of line dancing, I’ll tell you that.) It was VERY difficult to be bored on this ship. I even managed to escape a few times to their library, where there were daily sudoku and crossword puzzles, as well as a bunch of great reading options. (Also, I could eat basically all day.)

Ping-pong and GIANT CHECKERS!
GIANT CHESS!

This game is called “The Keymaster” and its song haunts my dreams.
We don’t know the rules for shuffleboard.

On top of that, I saw some brilliant performances while aboard the Star. There was this great musician who played a bunch of cultural folk songs using a variety of instruments, like the pan flute! I don’t remember his name, but he had this fantastic energy, even though between songs he was very calm and collected. We also saw this MAGNIFICENT Russian acrobatics duo that absolutely took my breath away. Maria and Dimitri have such control over their bodies and the choreography was so fresh and beautiful. We also saw a show by Brenda Cochrane, who was fabulous.

I think I severely underestimated how wonderful our cruise would be. I loved it. I loved it times a million. I want everyone to get to experience what I experienced on that ship, maybe minus the bit of seasickness that kept me from stuffing my face so furiously.

I have so many more photos, but I don’t want to overwhelm you guys. I will most likely be making a separate post about just some gorgeous water shots I got, because there were a lot of those. But I need to publish  this before it’s winter XD

 

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Big Apple Recap (… Rec-apple?)

(Sorry about that pun, I had to try!)

This past weekend, I took a little weekend getaway with my boyfriend back to my native metropolis of New York. I was born and raised in New Jersey, and I will always love the city. My boyfriend really wanted me to share my love for the city with him, so off we went on Thursday.

OKAY I need to say something about BoltBus. Now I have heard a lot of good things about them, but it was my first time riding with Bolt to go up to New York. It was good and very timely but DANG, the air conditioning was blasting onto me the entire trip and I was fuh-reeeeezing. Seriously, they need to fix that. Way too cold. The entire wall of the bus was cold, so I had to lean away from the side of the bus and cover the vent with my jacket, because wearing my jacket didn’t really keep me warm when there was air blasting at me. 😦

OKAY SO. (Links to my reviews included.)
We stayed at the adorably Irish Fitzpatrick Grand Central. (Seriously. So Irish. So adorable.) Very comfortable stay, and the location was great. We were only a few blocks away from the Halal Guys cart at 53rd and 6th, so we were pretty much golden.

I saw my old friend from elementary school, Connie, for dinner that evening. It was really nice catching up with her, and I was really relieved seeing her. I remember the last time I saw her having nothing to say… so it was nice to feel like we didn’t have enough time to say everything we needed to say. We ate at Baohaus because Max Brenner is closed for renovation. 😦 Then we headed literally around the corner to try Momofuku Milk Bar, since I’ve heard soooo much about David Chang and his Momofuku restaurants and the cereal milk and the crack pie. (Verdict: Okay, not worth the hype though.) Then we just chilled in Union Square for a little bit before she headed off to go back home.

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Connie and I have been friends for nearly 16 years, how is that possible??

We walked to the High Line, which is one of my favorite places in the city. I think it’s just so nice to be above all the craziness, plus I love the urban design of the park, which used to be part of a railroad line. There’s a bunch of plants and sculptures and great views up there. It was nice to visit with my boyfriend this time, because it is definitely a very romantic place? And almost exclusively visited by couples. The last time (and first time) I visited, it was with some of my bros. Hahahaha awkward.

Then we decided we’d just walk back to midtown, taking a little detour through Times Square so that Ben could see what was what. I spent a very long time in the Disney Store because I’m a pretty big Disney geek. It was a wee bit frustrating for me, mostly because Ben’s childhood is suspiciously devoid of Disney. He asked me such absurd-to-me questions as:
– Is Goofy Disney?
– That looks like Mary Poppins, but she’s not Disney, right?
– What’s this from, Hunchback of Notre Dame? (Pointing at BELLE in the Beauty and the Beast section of the store.) (He reasoned that both stories were the same thing. Ugly guy, pretty girl. WOW SO MUCH WRONG.)
Basically, if you imagine me staring at him slack-jawed and then slamming my palm into my face, you’d be right.

We then went off for chicken & rice at the Halal Guys’ famous cart at 53rd & 6th and walked back to our hotel, where Ben was blown away by how yummy the food was. Duh, I would never lead you astray.

The next day, we slept in. This is a big deal for me because I’m the kind of person who tries to squeeze as much fun into a vacation as possible. But Ben is the kind of person who likes to sleep in and laze around. It was pretty relaxing to try it out this way, not gonna lie, and I go to the city so often that I have no need to rush around. We went off to go eat lunch at Ippudo Westside (amazing service, seriously). Then, we headed off toward Central Park, making a stop at Columbus Circle and wander around the Shops in the Time Warner Center. We walked about and enjoyed the truuuuuly nice weather we were having.

I got a bit silly while Ben was working out dinner detail on the phone.

We were going to meet Ben’s old roommate and his girlfriend for dinner, so we started down 5th Ave to do some casual shopping and for me to point out some key spots. Stopped by Uniqlo but I get super overwhelmed by stores on that scale. (e.g. the Forever21 in Times Square, the H&M on 5th Ave…) But I had fun shopping around, looking at things, before we headed down to St. Mark’s for dinner.

I had eaten the Korean fried chicken (aka KFC) at Boka before, and I was trying to not let it bug the bejeezus out of me that Ben’s roommate didn’t want to make reservations for us on a Friday night… I figured it he wanted drinks, I’d just take us to this Korean bar for wings and watermelon soju. (They serve it in a watermelon!) We ate, I grabbed some bubble tea, and we sat around in Washington Square Park for a bit before heading our separate ways.

Ben and I went back through Times Square, where I went back to the Disney Store and ultimately bought 2 things:

I got this T-shirt because a) it was one of the FEW things on sale due to the fact that b) it is a limited edition Artist’s Series Snow White T-shirt. They only had it in large and 2XL… but I bought the large because I did like it and it is a limited edition. I don’t know any fancy tricks to make it fit my body better, so I’ve only worn it underneath blazers and cardigans so far.

I figured since this is the Manhattan Disney Store, I should get something that shows my love of my favorite city and of the Mouse himself, so I grabbed this tumbler. I don’t know when is best to use it, but I liked the design a lot. I would’ve gotten a T-shirt if the ones I liked came in smaller sizes. (Why were all the shirts either an L or a 2XL??) (Or ugly?)

Grabbed some more chicken & rice on our way back to our hotel and got some sleep in preparation for our final day in the city.

We headed BACK down to the East Village again (again) to eat brunch with some of my friends I knew in high school. We ate at Yuca, this trendy tapas place with a pretty yummy brunch menu, and chatted about some random stuff. I’m glad my friend Albert was able to make it because he helped add a little more energy to our otherwise sleepy Saturday morning. Then we rounded the corner to hit up the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop, which I’ve heard a lot of hype about, too. Good ice cream, good drag queen.

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Albert, myself, and Willis

Ben and I then headed for Chinatown, where we walked around a bit and got a quick bite to eat at XO Kitchen (recommend!). I was able to walk along the Brooklyn Bridge after, which I’ve never actually been able to do before! That was pretty fun, although it was a much longer walk than I anticipated, just trying to get halfway across the bridge. Ultimately, we had to turn back so that could catch our bus back to DC.

2013-09-28 16.01.40 I had a great time, and even though I was being really difficult about the planning, I am super glad that I was able to relax and attempt going with the flow with Ben. I saw some old friends, I got some Disney swag, I ate delicious food, I got to spend time in my favorite city. It was a great trip.

Us