Author: john

It Was Bound To Happen Sometime…

It Was Bound To Happen Sometime…

As much as I hate saying it, my credit card information was compromised today. Some charges were made, and thankfully I’ve already handled it and spoken with the card issuer who assures me I won’t be responsible for the fraudulent charges. Unfortunately, things like this can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime, but there are things we can do to try an minimize our risk.

I made a video over on my YouTube channel talking about what happened, and shared a few suggestions to keep your risk as low as possible. Whether you have 2 or 20 credit cards, it’s good to be mindful of ways to be safe about them.  Check out the video below to find out what happened.

 https://youtu.be/_uwMuN9zJw4

My Guest Appearance on the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

My Guest Appearance on the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

There are many things I love about taking cruises, but there are also three things I really don’t like:  Getting off a cruise, having to wait until the next one, and the worst being the whole “having to pay for them” thing!  It’d be nice to be able to cruise for free (someday, right? #goals), but thankfully credit card points can help ease the burden, if even just a little bit.  This week, I was graciously invited by my good friend Matt Hochberg over at the Royal Caribbean Blog to cohost his latest podcast episode in which we talk about the Royal Caribbean Credit Card and its points and perks, as well as a few other options.

You can check out the podcast episode here:  https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/podcast/episode-209-using-credit-cards-save-cruise-vacation

You can also check out past episodes of Matt’s podcast here:   https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/podcast

Matt has a lot of great info there – I highly recommend checking out the content.   He also does Facebook Live sessions on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and Periscope live streams on other days of the week.

I’ve been dabbling in the credit card points and miles game for a while, and have certainly learned a lot in the process. I’ll be putting together some content about that in the coming weeks here and on my YouTube channel, so be on the lookout for that as well.

Enjoy!

Going On A Cruise After Having Weight Loss Surgery

Going On A Cruise After Having Weight Loss Surgery

Getting weight loss surgery was one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made. It’s improved my life immensely, and it’s been an incredible tool to help me with living a healthier lifestyle. I’ve been able to experience things I never thought I would be able to do before, and cruises were my perfect opportunity to try things previously impossible.

Back in February, while on Majesty of the Seas, I climbed a rock wall.

Never in my wildest dreams would I ever think I’d be able to go rock climbing!

On this most recent trip on Anthem of the Seas, I tried the Flowrider for the first time doing some bodyboarding!

It was so much fun!

I also participated in a scuba “Try Dive” experience on Anthem, in which a PADI-certified instructor taught another gentleman and I the basics of diving with scuba gear. After a brief orientation, we put on all the equipment (tank, weight belt, and all) and swam laps underwater in the ship’s pool for about 20 minutes. It was such a great experience, and I didn’t even think I’d get past the stage of putting all the gear on. I thought I’d be too big and wouldn’t be able to proceed, but everything fit, and I even had room to tighten some of the straps. I finally felt like a normal human being. 

Before I started my journey toward being healthier, I would often stand on the sidelines and think “I’m too big to do that.” I then would take pictures of a lot of these activities, as a way to kind of live vicariously through those participating, but I just didn’t want to do that anymore without having those fun experiences for myself. It’s time I “YOLO’d” because after all, as the saying goes, you do only live once.

There are some unavoidable considerations though that those of us with smaller tummies will have to keep in mind:

1. There’s food everywhere.

If you’re easily tempted by a little cupcake here, or a piece of bread there, your temptations may very well have a field day with you on your cruise. But, don’t let that get you down. Always remember that being on vacation you can still follow your budget, and if you want a cookie or two, have them, but don’t have them at both lunch and dinner, for example. Let yourself enjoy food within reason, and be sure to account for it in your budget. Also, you’re going to be doing a lot of walking on ships since they’re quite big, and you’re burning off calories just getting to and from your stateroom!

2. Crew may not be sensitive to those of us who don’t eat as much.

Most crew members may not even be aware of weight loss surgeries, how they work, what they involve, and how it changes all of our lifestyles. To them, we’re just average-looking people who appear to not have much of an appetite, and then are baffled as to why our plates are still mostly full when we tell them we’re done. Don’t let that get in your way; I found the best approach was I would tell servers when they pushed, that “I don’t eat very much.” Most of them understood, and let it go after that. However, be prepared to hear it more than once. In their defense,  most of them may interpret a half full plate as coming from someone who didn’t enjoy their meal. I found that making it clear (and sometimes borderline overdoing it) helped to ease the tension there.

3. Provide feedback (don’t complain) if you don’t have a good experience.

This is a big one.  No change can, or will, be made unless those making mistakes are informed that something is wrong. If a server makes a comment, or does something inappropriate, provide that feedback to the head waiter. Bear in mind the difference between a complaint and feedback; you always catch more flies with honey. Feedback is constructive, where as a complaint is simply stating a problem and expecting something in return.

Complaining really doesn’t get anywhere at the end of the day.

I’d like to share something that happened on my last cruise. This is a paraphrased excerpt of the feedback I provided to Royal Caribbean via their survey:

“Except for dining in the buffet, whenever I had a waiter waiting on me, they would always interrogate me as to why I had food left on my plate when I was finished with my meal. I’d had stomach surgery, so I no longer have the option to eat the same amount as any normal person. I decided to do this for the betterment of my life…I chose to be happier and healthier rather than be able to stuff myself. The crew should be more sensitive to situations like this, and if a passenger says they are finished, they should not be continually pressured to eat something else, as it made for some very uncomfortable situations. In one of the dining rooms, my waiter told me I could eat anything I wanted because “He has a big kitchen.” – I’ve been a big person my entire life (weighing almost 400 lbs at my worst)… I am used to people making comments, but I shouldn’t have to deal with or hear things like that when I’m on a vacation. I’m simply going to dinner to order what I want and enjoy it, and I should not have to explain my situation to someone, or hear their commentary on how big the kitchen is. Statements like that are just unnecessary and inappropriate. I know a big part of going on cruises is enjoying foods one may not be accustomed to eating, but food is not the be-all/end-all part of a cruise experience. It would be nice to see crew be more attentive to and respectful of people when they’re done eating. Even if they take one bite of their food and say they’re done, we’ve all paid the same price for our cruise an we should be able to eat as much, or as little as we choose.”

4. Enjoy yourself: You deserve it.

Cruises are very much a vacation in which you’ll get what you put into it. If you want to go on the ship and sit by the pool while drinking an ice-cold glass of water (who are we kidding…I meant an ice-cold margarita!), do it. If you want to go on and do every activity under the sun, do it! There will always be plenty of choices for activities, and foods as well.

You may have to explain your situation to those unfamiliar with weight loss surgery, but it’s not their fault they’re untrained or unfamiliar.

I recently made a video about this very subject over on my YouTube channel which I’d highly recommend checking out. (Feel free to subscribe if you enjoyed it, as I have lots of other content there and coming soon!)

The most important thing I can say is this: Don’t let anything detract you from taking part in experiences that may have been impossible for you in your old life. You deserve it. You put in so much hard work; weight loss is a lifelong war, not just a battle. A battle can be fought and won (or lost), but a war is ongoing. Think of this as one of many battles in which you were victorious.  Go, and celebrate your victory!

After 1 Week With The New 2017 Ford Explorer Sport

After 1 Week With The New 2017 Ford Explorer Sport

I’ve had my 2017 Ford Explorer Sport for a week now, and have really been enjoying it. I knew I wanted to do a YouTube video for it, but I didn’t want to do one of those typical “here’s the air conditioning, here’s the radio, it has a gazillion speakers, listen to how good it sounds (since you can really tell over a YouTube video!)”

I decided to make a video highlighting some of the features that I enjoy most, and that I think are really well thought out. I also pointed out a few observations of things I think could be better, but that aren’t that big of a deal because, as a whole, this really is a fantastic package.

Watch the video to see more!

 

One Of My Favorite Things About Cruising

One Of My Favorite Things About Cruising

It’s no secret that I love taking cruises; this year, I’ll have taken 3 and have 3 on tap for next year as well.  I put together this little video which is a nice peaceful indication of one of my many favorite things about cruising: The view, and the relaxing ambience of spending time on my balcony while out at sea.

The only sound heard is the wind blowing, and the water rushing by below against the hull of the ship. It’s truly serene.

Check out this video, but be sure to wear a nice set of headphones and enjoy in a darkened quiet room. If you’re like me, it’ll take you there…

 

I. Hate. Texting.

I. Hate. Texting.

I need to vent.

I’m 36 which means I grew up in the age where people still actually spoke to each other. We weren’t glued to our phones, and we didn’t hide behind words on a screen as an alternative to having a real conversation. We had something to say to someone, we found a time to talk, and then discussed it. Why has that fallen by the wayside? What’s happened to the art of genuine human communication?

It’s slipping away in an agonizingly slow painful bleed to oblivion.

I remember when texting came out; it was originally called SMS – which stood for Short Message Service.  The keyword there– short.

I remember sending little texts to people I was meeting up with…

“Running late, be right there.”

“Want me to bring anything?”

Stuff like that.

For some reason, though, now it’s exploded into this form of communication where people have entire conversations over texts, without hearing anyone’s voice.  This opens the flood gates of misinterpretation, which for me is extremely frustrating. I always choose my words carefully and intentionally, and have often been praised for communicating in a clear and concise way when I speak with people. There’s a reason for that; because I want to be understood. Then again, don’t we all? I don’t want to leave anything up to misinterpretation, and I expect those with whom I’m speaking to mention if they need something clarified, and I will gladly do so. That’s how conversations work; at least, that’s how I think they’re supposed to work.

The biggest flaw of this form of communication, is that it completely eliminates the human element; it’s just a collection of words, instead of a true conversation. Text-based messages going back and forth is not the same thing. It’s just letters that happen to elucidate a message from one person to another. The actual intent of the message, and the meaning behind it, it’s inflection, etc… are left up to the reader for interpretation, or in most cases, misinterpretation.

Now, I’ll admit, in most cases, this isn’t that big of a deal. In the “Running late” example, it really doesn’t need any interpretation. It’s a factual message. The person sending it will not be arriving at their destination on time, so they will be late. Asking what time a show starts, or the address of a meeting place, etc. You get the idea; these are fact-based answers.

The problem lies with asking questions that deal in feelings, and not -fact-based information. There is a major benefit to hearing someone’s voice, and having that genuine human connection. You can hear inflections and tone, and whether or not many realize it, these can drastically change how something is coming across. Things like these are what keep conversations human.

Dying or not, I’ll always be someone who prefers to talk than to text. I’ll gladly exchange texts if need be, but I’m most likely to turn the conversation toward when we can find a time to talk on the phone and have a real conversation. Human interaction doesn’t have to die in the name of convenience. Yes, texts may be more convenient, but let’s not forget about keeping human interactions…human.

 

June 2017 Trip Photo Highlights

June 2017 Trip Photo Highlights

I definitely had a great time on this trip, but not just as a ship-going passenger. The photographer in me always loves the chance to snap a great photo, so here are some of my favorites from the whole journey.

I took most of these pictures, with the obvious exception of the ones of me which were taken by the photographers onboard the ship. Since I don’t often like to take the time to set up all of my studio gear and get all dressed up for a selfie, I enjoy taking the opportunity for a nice professionally-shot image like the ones I can get onboard.

I got some great shots of a few guys up on the Flowrider too. I got a chance to chat with them, and made sure to get their e-mails so I could send them the shots after I’d gotten home.

Enjoy these shots – there may be some repeats from the live blogs, but there may be some new ones you might not have seen. Either way, thank you all again so much for taking this trip with me, and I look forward to sharing more with you on my next trips!

 

My Next Cruise: Oasis of the Seas to the Eastern Caribbean

My Next Cruise: Oasis of the Seas to the Eastern Caribbean

Having just gotten back from a cruise on the Anthem of the Seas, what better way to celebrate than going on…another one!

Last year, when we sailed on Freedom of the Seas, we were planning to visit the Eastern Caribbean, but were diverted to the Western side due to weather. Instead of visiting St. Thomas and St. Maarten, we went to Cozumel and Costa Maya in Mexico. I had a great time, but some folks in my group would have preferred we didn’t divert.

Here’s where we’re heading this time:

In addition to this being a cruise with a great group of people, it’s also a special cruise since it is occurring during the full solar eclipse that’s happening in the month of August! I can’t wait to photograph this event, and hopefully get some great images. I’ve never taken pictures of an eclipse before, so it’s a good thing I have time to learn how best to prepare.

This will be the largest cruise ship I’d ever go on, holding just over 6200 at full capacity. The Anthem holds just over 4100 fully loaded, and Freedom which I was on last year holds almost 3800 fully loaded. Majesty, which I got off of in February, held just under 2800 passengers. These numbers don’t include crew. Basically, the Oasis of the Seas is more than twice the size of Majesty.  It’s almost like combining Freedom and Majesty together on one vessel. Wow.

The design is pretty interesting, in that the ship is divided into what are referred to as “neighborhoods”. These areas have a distinct theme, and are a significant part of how a single vessel holding so many people doesn’t feel as crowded.  I look forward to seeing how this pans out, as the idea of having so many people in one place is somewhat daunting.

I know many folks that have gone on ships like this (There are currently 3 in this same class; Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, and the 2016-released Harmony of the Seas, and the fourth of this class, Symphony of the Seas is coming next year) and absolutely loved it. I’m sure I will too. I’ll definitely write about my experiences here.

I’m counting down the days until embarkation day!