Come Sail Away

Those who know me best know my preferred method of traveling is cruising. For me, nothing can compare to sunrises and sunsets at sea. A virtually all-inclusive journey aboard a floating hotel. Cruises offer travel without the horrific torture of the TSA or the endless stops to gas stations. If I had my druthers, I would most likely live on a cruise ship. Well, that is, providing I could bring my small zoo of pets!

my beautiful family

It was not a hard sell to my (at the time) fiancé, to take a cruise on our pending honeymoon. At that time I had been on several cruises with my family and once with an ex. As I had traveled once previously on Carnival, I convinced him this was our best bet. I will not bore you with the details of the trip, but will simply say it was hell. It took a full year to convince him to take another cruise. Having been a bit wiser to the all too young behavior aboard Carnival, we decided to try NCL, we chose their ship the Sun. This was in February of 2006. It was our one year anniversary. At this time we fell completely in love with NCL. The contrast between Carnival and NCL was like night and day. Before the cruise was even over my husband was planning our next trip. We chose the Sun to sail on the next year and then again the next thereafter. In 09 the Sun was not at a port we had access too so we opted to try another member of her fleet, the Pearl. This made us miss the Sun! Amidst many other cruises with NCL we managed to find the Sun again close enough to our home to sail aboard in 2013. Then again she left our reach. Once we saw she was returning this year we were excited. We could not wait to set sail on our old faithful gal!

Perhaps the nicest part of NCL was its creation of the Latitudes program. I remember when we first started cruising how we anticipated jumping up to each next category. I looked forward to each bump as each offered another tier luxury.

Perhaps the nicest being the embarkation and disembarkation. Sadly this became tainted on this cruise. We woke up quite early (2:30 AM) to drive to the Port Miami to meet up with the ship. Per usual, there were many passengers walking in the terminal. It is always a lovely relief to see the section for the Platinum Latitudes members as it certainly does save time. Sadly, however, this time when we went into the line a crew member came up to us. In a rather demeaning tone, he asked us if we were Platinum guests. I told him we were and he said, “I do not believe you” and asked to see our passes. Now, if he had done this to everyone I would not be as offended. But out of the hundreds of Platinum members who continued to line up, he only singled out one other couple. And thus it began, our annual anniversary trip started by being called a liar by an employee. I felt a knot in the pit of my stomach as I stood quietly in line wondering why this man had isolated us and called me a liar to my face. I felt flush with anger but said nothing.

   Miami Skyline view from back of the ship

Embarkation post this man’s considerably poor behavior was, as always, a breeze. I must say, I am not a big fan of Port Miami. It is a mile and change from where I grew up on Brickell in Miami. Over the years it seems to have not kept up with the changes needed to support the traffic. Although the addition of the tunnel was absolutely awesome and made leaving the port a great deal easier.

The Sun (despite two apparent makeovers) looks just as she did back when we first sailed on her in 2006. The only visible difference is the bedding. I remember there used to be sailor knots on the bed covers. Of course, those have long since been replaced by the standard modern hotel style white striped duvet wannabe cover.

It had been 11 months since our previous cruise with NCL. Evidently, within that time, NCL made a host of changes to the Latitudes program. We were not aware of the changes. Mind you, we are now! We discovered last year that the one benefit of becoming a Platinum member, a behind the scenes ship tour was something we were not able to attend as our daughter is not 18. Always read the small print! It really seemed insignificant however as we knew the other benefits that came along with staying loyal to NCL would certainly make up the difference……..right?

Well, there evidently was a merger of sorts. Changes have been made. You cannot bring your own water on board now. (NCL says this was to speed up embarkation) Many cruise lines (if not, in fact, all) have implemented this change. So it seemed nice that the Latitudes membership now afforded one bottle of water free per Platinum member. One 20 oz bottle, for an 11-day cruise. But it seems in order to give that one bottle they had to then take away the nightly chocolate per passenger pillow as well as the special gift, which used to be a small box of Godiva chocolates. Mind you, we are not chocolate eaters so no big deal, right? Platinum Latitudes members receive a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine or champagne in their stateroom as well. We do not drink this stuff…so that really was a waste. We left it in the cabin for them to give to the next guests. Membership also provides a meal in one of their restaurants with a bottle of wine. Reservations have to be made before you ever get on board if you plan on cashing in on this, which sadly we did not make. Platinum members also receive 1 bag of laundry cleaned per member. Courtesy of advice from those who did use this service, we opted out as I had no ironing board and evidently their service’s pressing skills lacked. Members also receive 30 free internet minutes. Minus login time and patchy service, you can squeeze in about 17 minutes of actual online time. The exclusive latitudes party has changed drastically. It used to be quite fun. Endless drinks were free, there was a lovely band playing, they had future cruise information, and you could speak one on one with the staff. This time around you had one drink and the staff left as a DJ played music. It felt extremely ODD. Other attendees remarked that they felt the same way, and were not happy with the many changes to the program. Another note on this… A DJ…..we used to love to hang out in the lounges or by the pool for the live entertainment. Well, now they are replaced by a DJ playing digital music and his selection was a bit, well, awful. As a result, we spent no time at the pool or in the lounges. Live entertainment cannot be replaced by a man playing mp4s. We are almost at the Platinum Plus level now. This next tier adds Dinner With Officers and Priority Restaurant & Entertainment Seating. (Well, entertainment wise, some of the shows are the same as when we first started sailing!) At this point, however, I see no desire in those. I wish I had the old copy of the Latitudes Rewards Tier Benefits as I feel as though more has been removed and not replaced with anything other than just the silly chocolates which we never ate anyways.

 Curacao

I feel petty even wondering about it as in all actuality the cruise itself was PERFECT. Despite a bit of redirection of Ports Of Call courtesy of hurricanes, the itinerary was wonderful. The weather and the sea were perfect. Perhaps the smoothest sailing I have ever experienced in my 44 years of cruising.

St John’s, Antigua

Our cabin steward, Roman, was an absolute gem, as was the entire staff on board the Sun. The food was delicious, as always. The service was excellent. Although I must add this, and we did not complain because we never did see his name tag,….there was one busboy in the Garden Cafe who had significant issues. I guess he thought no one could see him as he opted to squat behind his station and pick his nose then rub his hand on his pants. He then proceeded to walk around the dining hall and pick up plates and cups from tables. I was absolutely disgusted. Normally there were white coat officers everywhere but of course not then! Perhaps I feel a bit jaded as we opted against other cruise lines because of the Latitudes Rewards and maybe I feel as though we have missed out somewhat by strictly sailing with NCL all of these years, cruising once or twice a year, per year.

St Kitts, Nevis

We have decided we will most likely start using other cruise lines as well. As our daughter is older now, Carnival poses less of a threat to our parenting advice and they certainly are cheaper. Plus we would like to visit ports NCL just does not offer to us. I still love the Sun though. She offers larger cabins and has never once had a rude staff….at least, not that I can remember. We set sail again in 43 days, this time aboard the NCL Dawn. We have had some rough trips with this particular ship in the past but are going to give her one last chance as our last two times aboard her the staff seemed upset. Perhaps fog delays had everyone cranky. Nonetheless, we always give second chances and this is her third.

I am not afraid of change, I embrace it. I am, however, against things being changed without being at least notified. Especially when these changes were once considered a loyalty program. I love the Sun. I do love NCL, but I think perhaps it is time to branch out and see more than just what they offer.

 

All art, images, and text
Elizabeth Eichelberger Art©

 

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On The Other Side

moth girlI know I have been rather quiet lately……… moth girlBut I have been working hard behind the scenes. leafy dragon girlAmidst the chaos that this time of the year brings, I have managed to eek out some art.  Here are just a few.  I hope everyone had an awesome Halloween and Thanksgiving!  Hard to believe Christmas is right around the corner! 

So Tired

I am post thyroid ablation about 3 months now.  I saw my endocrinologist yesterday.  He said had my appointment been scheduled any later I would most likely have been  hospitalized. That is always lovely to hear.  My original appointment, of course, had to be rescheduled because of hurricane Irma.

I am now on a new medication as the ablation has thrown me into hypothyroidism.  After being on a separate medication for hyperthyroidism for three years then absolutely nothing for several months, but for the radioactive iodine slowly killing off my thyroid that is,  I find I am in a perpetual state of fatigue.  The hypothyroidism has also brought an extra 15lbs my way, which is only serving to further my fatigue.

I will be unable to post for a while but shall just as soon as I am able to.  In the interim, be sure and visit my page on Amazon and perhaps pick up a special treat for Halloween! Or maybe a few early Christmas presents!

When Nature Strikes

I already had an impossible deadline for the release of Ooooooh, It’s Halloween, written by Barbara Poor.  I mean, come on, giving me less than 5 weeks to have an entire book from scratch done?!?! INSANITY!

Then…..only a week and two days into the project, mother nature decides that Florida has simply gone too long without ample tragedy.  On the heels of hurricane Harvey’s devastation of Texas, my fears were great, to say the least.

As a life long Floridian, I am certainly no stranger to hurricanes.  I was smack dab in Andrew back in the 90s.  This time however, this one, felt….different. Whether it was due to the fresh images of waters rushing homes in Texas or the fear I held for friends living in Texas, I was terrified.  I have never been so scared. The minute I heard about Irma and a possible projection toward our coast, I told my husband to prepare.  We set up an evacuation to a hotel 5 days in advance.  I began bottling water and packing. My husband began boarding windows and purchasing enough  food to sustain us throughout any power loss.  With one hurricane a few years back, we had a full 31 days without power.  So, this time around, we decided to be better prepared.  A good portion of my mind fully believed we would have no home to return to sadly. I was praying for the best, but preparing for the worst my mind could imagine. I am not negative, but I am a realist.

We took our dogs to the local boarder as one has severe storm anxiety.  I knew the vet could give him something to calm him if the need be.  I simply could not imagine how stressful it would have been on the dogs to be shoved into a tiny motel room for days on end with possibly no power or water source, other than our bottled water.

We left at the last possible minute Saturday afternoon. There was a strict order to be off of the roads by 8 PM.  We sat waiting for our room to be ready, for what seemed like hours. It was not the Ritz, but it certainly felt safer than home.  We still have roof damage from hurricane Matthew last year.

This beast called Irma was larger than our state. The early news reports showed Brickell Miami, where I grew up.  The streets looked like a raging river.  My fear grew.  I suddenly felt trapped.  I had wanted to leave the state but traffic was at a virtual standstill from days earlier and gas was almost gone.  I kept eye on the clock.  Flash forward to Sunday. We knew it would be here by about 2 AM.  By 8 PM the power was gone as had the water. Our cell phones became our life line. Of course Sprint did not care about that and was quick to slow speeds down to 2g the millisecond our data hit the cap.  Have got to love that!  Nonetheless, we were blessed to have a connection to the outside world amidst the next hours that were to become, for me personally, hellacious. I suddenly began to realize every tree outside, every chair and the hallway full of furniture and florescent bulbs that the hotel staff did not deem worthy of locking up….I mean literally, just laying on the floor, were projectiles.  As the winds picked up and the light of the sky turned to black, my heart began to pound.  Alerts on my phone were non stop. Posts on Facebook of friends who live in towns to our south describing what they were hearing , it was scary.  A bit much for me evidently.  I found myself to be the only one fully awake just sitting on the bed staring at the door and curtains which covered the window.  And I sat. I sat and I waited. I am not sure what I thought I was doing to be honest.  I know the sounds were terrible.  I cannot imagine how my family slept through it.  The gusts, I literally felt them.  We were on the 2nd floor. Each gust felt like a slight nudge. Perhaps this was all my imagination, I thought.  That is until the curtains began to move with the gusts. The wind was quite literally punching the windows and doors. This went on for hours.  When the sun came up and we knew the storm was well over, I fell asleep.  I managed an hour or so before my husband felt the need to go home. Once the county gave the go ahead for citizens to drive safely on the road (noon) we made the short trek back. The hotel had no power or water so it seemed essentially useless to stay there, even though we had paid through to Tuesday. When we arrived home, everything was as we had left it.  We had minor yard debris and the mini fridge which held my insulin had died. Our power was out.  As we have a well, this also meant no water.  We thankfully had filled plenty of bottles and totes before we left, just in case. My husband set up the generator.  Oddly enough, everything in our freezer was still frozen.  I suddenly felt foolish for throwing all of the perishable refrigerator food out that before we evacuated.

We unpacked and I began to finish the book.  I worked non stop. I not only made the deadline, but I exceeded it. Working by phone and generator was not easy but it helped keep my mind off of the disaster around me.  We were spared, by the grace of God, not everyone was as lucky.

I will evacuate a million times, and if each time it is for nothing, I will be fine.  It is better than staying once and being wrong.

Work, Work, & More Work

Where has this month gone? I can tell you where, into the book I am illustrating! This drawing, *Discovering Piggies* is the only digital drawing I have done all month except for book illustrations! It was done 22 days ago.  When I looked at the calendar and realized today was the last day of August, well, I freaked out! Granted, this month has been filled with insurmountable distractions. I have people I love and care about in Texas, so my mind and heart have also been extremely occupied. Add to that the pending deadline to have a picture book fully completed for a Halloween release date, and well, yes, I tend to lose weeks, not days!  Add to this, I am ill post my thyroid ablation.

As I am averaging 8 hour days of illustrating digitally, my free time (okay, so there is no such thing as free time when you are home schooling a teenager) is spent fulfilling my other obligations. I also had two title logos to create. When I was not doing these, cooking, cleaning, or sleeping, I was drawing traditionally.  Yes, it seems that art is my addiction.  My schedule does not seem to be slowing down, either. It is a good thing I love what I do!

Here are a few of my late night doodles.

This is a mixed media piece.  I sketched it out and outlined with micron pens, then colored some with Chameleon Pens and Prismacolor pencils.  Finally, I used watercolor paint to fill the background.

I am not sure why this image is so large. I imagine I could have fixed it, as it looks blurry, but as I have said, I am pressed for time lately. I doodled this fella in graphite while the VMAs were on.

I hope you all are safe! Here is to hoping that September brings happier events this year!

My Trip To The Library

My Trip To The Library now available

Once again I have had the distinct pleasure of illustrating for the incredibly talented and remarkably kind, Barbara poor.

I was quite pleased when Barbara asked to use the same character that I had designed for the first book I had illustrated for her, The Girl With The Curly Red Hair.

I had a wonderful time illustrating, formatting, editing, creating the cover and trailer for My Trip To The Library.

Barbara is an absolutely amazing woman.  I feel so very blessed to have met her through my art and now to once again be amidst illustrating for her with our third title together. Stay tuned to learn more about Ooooooh It’s Halloween, to be released this Halloween!

coming soon ooooooh its halloween

To learn more about Barbara Poor please visit Barbara’s Joy Of Children’s Books, to learn more about the books I have worked on and my artistry, please visit www.alysathena.com .

When All I Want To Do Is Sing

Thyroid Ablation Aftermath

When All I Want To Do Is Sing

Okay, so on July 13, I had a Thyroid Ablation.  The procedure itself was easy.  All I had to do was swallow a capsule that contained radioactive iodine.  No big deal. The time leading up to the procedure, and the aftermath however, has been a bit rough.

I am not one to complain.  My daily routine has not changed whatsoever…well other than getting out of bed is an act of congress lately.  Carrying around a letter alerting officials that I am not a dirty bomb was a bit amusing, sure. Prior to the procedure, I was informed of a special diet.  Now, being a level 3 CKD patient with type one diabetes and high blood pressure, I already am on a pretty strict diet.  Oh, did I mention I really do not eat meat also? Anyways, so they told me I had to cut out all dairy, (that was easy, I do not really do dairy anyway) all bread, (again VERY easy, I do not like bread) anything with a certain red dye, (easy I do not do preprocessed GMO grossness) any sea salt, (are you kidding me? I do not use salt but SEA SALT? Okay fine, so no sea salt) sea food, (um…my one source of animal protein is now gone) and last but certainly no least, soy.  Yes, soy.  The one thing that is in virtually EVERYTHING. Soybean oil is soy.  Read anything you have in your pantry, go ahead, I will wait.  I can guarantee you one of these is probably on the list.  Mind you there were also many other things I could not have, but I decided I would only list the main ones here. You could have egg whites.  I do not like eggs.  My brain congers up dead baby chickens and well…It freaks me out! Nonetheless, I struggled and had egg white omelets with peppers and onions. Thankfully I could have Matzos.  I was living on Matzos with grape jelly. I use non dairy creamer in my coffee, so that was safe too, as was my seltzer.  Oh my water…..I had to stop drinking my spring water and switch to…distilled.  LOL  Thankfully I usually put a lemon in my water so it masked the taste.

This diet did a number on my digestion.  I shall save you the details.  Needless to say, I did not leave home for a while. Any time I did met with uncomfortable results. It seems the medicine I was on for Graves, which I had to stop for the procedure, and then of course permanently thereafter, was also a medicine that caused constipation.  Who knew? Not me, not even after 3 years of taking it.  I guess eating healthy had it’s perks in that respect. Sadly, however, stopping that medicine, combined with the diet to end all diets, my digestive tract was a volcano.  A very, very, angry volcano.  Your welcome, I am sure you wanted to know!

When the doctor gave me the capsule, he began to explain my post procedure orders.  No lemon at first.  But then drink a lot.  As much as I could stand.  Now with gastroperesis (very early stages) this is a task.  I can only consume so much before I feel like a balloon. Nonetheless, I did. I drank.  I sort of had to, I had an insatiable thirst.  My blood sugars remained normal thankfully, throughout this all. That is until day 4 post procedure. Now I do not mind eating off of plastic utensils, washing my laundry separate, flushing the toilet twice and all the other quirks that go along with being radioactive.  I do, however, hate that I was unable to hug or kiss my family.  I had to sleep alone.  (That always feels SO strange to me) I digress, I am straying from topic, so day four post procedure, my daughter had to have the second in a series of vaccines.  I am not one to miss her appointments.  Especially not sequential vaccines.  Although she is a trooper and will take a shot, they do hurt her and I am not a fan of my daughter having pain.  Within as much, we headed to her appointment.  Now why, for the love of God, this pediatrician opted to have ONE solitary waiting room for both healthy and sick kids is BEYOND me.  Perhaps it is a form of job security.  Who knows, for whatever reason it is, it makes me dread going.  We sat alone as far behind everyone as we could.  And waited.  And waited…..and waited.  I am not sure why they gave us a 10 AM appointment as we weren’t even called back until almost 11! All the while this child, well, I assume she was a child,  (I reiterate, we were at a pediatrician) but she had a tattoo on her back and looked like a young adult, was obviously EXTREMELY ill.  I began to shift in my seat. I knew my immune system was already compromised courtesy of that lovely radioactive capsule.  Then there was also my poor child, sitting next to me, who seems to catch any bug around.  By the time we finally managed to get the heck out of there and get to the car, we were virtually bathing in our Purell.  I even sanitized my face.  (I was never close to any child so I posed zero radioactive contamination dangers to those in the waiting room)Within 4 days, I was sick.  When I say sick, I mean, sick.  I had not had a cold, or whatever this was, this bad, ever. Nonetheless, my responsibilities do not care how sick I am.  There is no one else here to do reviews for me, homeschool my daughter, cook, clean, illustrate books, format books, and do all the commercial marketing.  So, I had to carry on like I was perfectly healthy.

Flash forward to today. In three days it will have been a month since I swallowed that radioactive capsule.  Right now my voice sounds like I am either the worlds worst transgender nightmare or I have swallowed a knife.  Talking hurts.  Laughing hurts. Crying, oh my gosh does that hurt. Remember, I have neuropathy and fibromyalgia and am on zero pain medications.  I never even had so much as an aspirin when I had my daughter.  My pain tolerance is pretty good.  So when I say it hurts, I mean it.

I never received any information about post ablation vocal issues.  I have googled it and have read a few things here and there,  Nothing definitive. Now, I am no professional singer.  I do however sing,  a lot. Correction, I did. I cannot now.  I certainly hope this is temporary because not being able to sing is quite depressing.  It is funny, as an artist with neuropathy, retinopathy, glaucoma and fibromyalgia you would think the fact I am losing sight and use of my hands would depress me.  They do not.  Yet losing my voice has.  Quite strange, even to me.  Perhaps it is because growing up, singing is what we did. Nana, my maternal grandmother, who helped raise me, sang, non-stop, and she always had me sing. Nana was the one who taught me vocal control.  I grew up watching The Sweet Adelines, as many family members were members there of, and my mother’s brother was a famous quartet member.  Not to mention my incredibly talented brother who sang for a living for many years. So, singing was the norm.  I raised my daughter this way.  Not being able to sing is really depressing.  It could always be worse and honestly I absolutely realize how trivial it is.  I am grateful to be alive. I know there is always a reason for everything and one day I will see the reason behind this.  For now however, I miss singing.

My voice was not great, but it was mine.  Here, have a listen.  This is old and poor sound quality! Again, I am no singer, but I sing.