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I had high expectations for my first cruise. My mind had visualized a giant boat where I could breath the fresh ocean air from the railing overlooking the endless sea while feeling and smelling the cool breeze of the mighty ocean. With that said, it didn’t quite end up like that. We took a bus from the Orlando airport which drove us to Port Canaveral where we went into boarding our might ship. The entry wait wasn’t bad at all, similar to going through airport security the port security was quick and painless leaving us antsy to get a look at the insides of our home for the next 4 days.

Once inside I was surprise at the size. It wasn’t as big as I had imagined. Visions from the Titanic were far off from the small lobby and motel looking hallways. The first encounter after boarding was a booth where passes were sold for alcohol. They charged about $225 per person for 15 drinks per day for 4 days. However, they required everyone in the same room to get the pass. We went for it and made sure we made our moneys worth. We had tried to stash some bottles of wine in our checked bags however once our bags arrived they came with a note from port security saying they had confiscated our bottles until the end of our cruise. They did however allow 1 bottle of wine in your carry on bag.

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The food was buffet style for breakfast and lunch and dinner was served at a specific time everyday and where you were seated at a large round table with the same group of people for the duration of your cruise. The breakfast food was pretty bad.. don’t get me wrong I still made the best of it with custom made omelettes and all of the breakfast additions and unlimited coffee. Lunch had choices of your typical American food such as burgers, hot dogs, fries, with an Asian wok station, pizza, desserts and other random foods all at a very mediocre buffet quality. For dinner you would choose from a short menu what you were to eat and of course you can choose one of everything if you want to. Out of the steak, lobster, soups, salads and desserts only a few of the dishes were actually memorable. Overall I would call it disappointing.

Thankfully there were plenty of other amenities to keep us busy. We played a round of mini golf, hit the Jacuzzi, comedy club, bars and of course the casino. Our first stop at Freeport was okay. They took us to a semi private beach where we were able to lay out, snorkel, kayak, paddle board.. I went snorkeling but there wasn’t much to see. They sponsored activities like flip cup and sand volleyball which were fun.Reef Shark

Our other stop was Nassau where we were able to buy souvenirs and I also went to scuba in the morning. We went to 2 sunken ships sites, one which was accompanied to 10 ft reef sharks which were awesome to see. That alone made the trip.

I would definitely do another cruise but definitely a different, larger ship and another destination.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (3 large lemons or 6 small lemons)
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream (or sour cream)
4 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
1 stick softened salted butter
2 cups flour

Directions:
The crust:
Mash butter, kneaded flour, a splash of water and 1 egg with your hands until dough forms. Add splashes of water as needed until dough forms. Roll dough out with roller and butter the bottom of your pan. Spread dough in pan and poke holes with a fork and wrap outer crust in foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until slightly hard.

1. In a bowl grate lemon zests and squeeze the juice
2. Break 3 eggs in separate bowl and beat with sugar until well blended
3. In a further bowl whisk the cream lightly until slightly thickened
4. Stir lemon zest/juice into eggs/sugar and then whisk in cream.
5. Bake at 350 for 15-20 mins. Refrigerate.

Sunrise at Haleakala Crater

Should you find yourself on a vacation to Maui, Hawai’i and have a full day to kill, watching the sunrise at the Haleakalā Crater is an unforgettable excursion. The uniqueness and magnitude of the crater will leave you feeling accomplished and hopefully satisfied depending on the weather conditions. You can go there by driving yourself or take a tour however I have not found sunrise tours, just day time tours. That’s probably because most people find it to be too cold or don’t understand that great rewards require sacrifice. Did I say cold? I meant freezing.
Haleakalā Crater stands tall at just over 10,200 feet. Not only is it cold but being so high up puts you above or in the clouds, which means not just very cold but also windy and wet.
Leaving from Ka’anapali takes approximately 2.5-3 hours. We left our hotel at 2AM and arrived at the summit around 4:45AM. Being there over an hour early meant we had to sit and wait in the freezing cold for the warmth of the sun to defrost our bodies. However, we were not alone and the parking lots filled up very quickly so it is a good idea to get there early and prepare yourself for the long, cold wait. 10730944_10152378585415658_4989650363197091271_n
My girlfriend and I decided to rent a Harley for our trip and discussed our plans with the very nice lady at Aloha Motorsports. Thankfully, one of the mechanics had done this ride before and warned us that if we were going to attempt this, we would need to be very prepared. He mentioned the Salvation Army would be a good place to find some cheap warm clothing so we set out to get some supplies:

  • Gloves
  • Jacket
  • Thermos
  • Thick socks

With 2 pairs of socks, jeans, 2 shirts, 2 sweaters, gloves and a helmet, It was still cold at the top. If you plan on riding to the top, I would highly recommend a windbreaker and face mask to cover your nose and of course some eye protection. You may want to stop at the base of the crater to put on the extra layers since it can get pretty toasty with so many layers. Up until around 7000 ft we were pretty comfortable, however at 8000 ft, the fog and the cold started showing no mercy. After 8000 ft the fog was so bad we couldn’t see more than 10 feet in front of us, and with sheer cliffs on one side we had to go no more than 15 mph and proceed with extreme caution.

Besides the bitter cold, and blinding fog, the ride itself was pretty smooth until getting near the top. We saw a small deer near the edge of the street so be careful and drive the speed limit. A collision with a deer, especially on motorcycle would be devastating. The roads are well paved and pretty straight until you reach the base. Once you start climbing Haleakalā, the roads get very windy with lots of turns and no street lights so drive slow and be extra careful. Even in a car this is a pretty dangerous drive.

Once reaching the top you’ll pass the visitor center and then the lower parking lot. It can be very confusing since there are multiple places to stop but if there is another road, you haven’t reached the top yet. From the lower lot, you can continue up another 1/4 mile and reach the summit. At the summit you’ll find a rounded building with glass windows. This is where those that don’t want to wait outside in the freezing cold winds camp out. It is a good place to read up on the local wildlife, weather conditions and history of the crater. Many people will simply stay indoors to watch the sunrise but I would highly recommend you take a seat on the wall outside and wait it out. The glass windows tend to fog up and you will surely not get the full experience indoors. Be brave, and wait outside.

At 10,200 feet you can bet on seeing a beautiful view of the night sky and waiting for the sunrise seems like a primal but incredibly humbling thing to do. Once you start seeing a glimmer of light, let me magic begin. If you’re lucky the clouds will clear up just in time for you to snap some photos of the breathtaking colors and you’ll start to appreciate how high you really are. Some people get impatient and leave before the clouds clear out and miss what the came to see by just a few minutes. I would hang out for at least an hour after first light to make sure you don’t miss the opportunity. I can’t understand why someone would drive almost 6 hours total and not spend 1 hour waiting to see what they came for. The best reward is on the ride down. The scenic road and panoramic views continue all the way down the crater. There are also a few cafes along the way to stop for breakfast or coffee. This was absolutely a once in a lifetime trip that I will never forget. I’ve attached some photos of the sunrise and the views from the ride down.

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Refried Bean Dip

Ingredients:
1 Tablespoon butter
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 (16 ounce) can refried beans
1/4 (1 ounce) package cream cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 green onions, chopped

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat and saute onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes, or until onions are soft.  Add refried beans to the sauce pan and stir until heated through.  Remove from heat and fold in cream cheese.  Spread mixture into a pie dish and top with cheese.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until cheese is completely melted.  Garnish with green onion.