Saturday, January 1, 2022

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

2021 was one heck of a year!  It started off with me still dealing with the issues from the pandemic, but got better as the months went on.  Not only did I start having friendly conversations with an ex girlfriend, but I was able to find a second job where I could work as Marian.

Now that 2022 is finally here, I'm looking forward to the future again.  It took a long while to get me out of my funk. But that's OK.  The pandemic that started in 2020 did a number on me, making my lows lower and my highs higher (as few as they were).  2021 was much better for me, as life seemed to open up again for me.  Dating opportunities opened up, and I also enjoyed being able to meet new people again.  Yes, one avenue for this was wrongly closed off to me.  But I won't dwell on that.  Instead, I'll dwell on the positive - this past year was like a year long spring season.

Hopefully, 2022 will be even better than 2021!




Friday, December 31, 2021

Going through my overflowing closets


Recently, I've had the excuse to start going through my closets, donating all the clothes and shoes I no longer use to a local charity.  So far, I've filled 4 donation bags, and I am likely to fill at least one more before I'm done.  Yet, this is only the tip of the iceberg - I have other things to clear up in this apartment as well.

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When I had a steady girlfriend, I tried to keep the place neat enough for someone to come over and spend a weekend.  She'd tell you that I was far from perfect in this regard.  But when she broke up with me and the pandemic started, I let my place go to hell.  And I'm gradually clearing my place up from a full year (and more) that I stopped caring about much.

My closets were not just overflowing with clothes.  They were overflowing with other things as well, such as old electronics (and associated supplies) that I figured I might use again.  These days, I no longer record much on CD-Roms. Yet, I have a supply of blank CD's, DVD's and associated cases that I haven't touched in years.  My newest computer didn't even come with a CD/DVD drive - it assumed that everyone uses memory sticks.  Even now, after a cleanup has started, I have more things to get rid of than to keep.

The storage area in my basement is even worse.  There is stuff in it that I haven't touched since my wife was alive.  And I have to get around to cleaning this area out, so that I have room to store the things I do use.  Not only do I have the bulk of my Vinyl (33 1/3 rpm) record collection downstairs, but I have 2 never assembled cabinets for this collection stored there as well.  (Do you know of anyone who might take this collection off my hands?)

The Swedish have a word for what I want to do with my apartment and storage area:  Döstädning.  This word refers to the Swedish practice of "death cleaning."  No, this process is not morbid in nature.  Instead, it is a process of removing the clutter from one's life, so that one can live the rest of it more productively. It also has the side benefit of making it easier for one's heirs to settle out one's estate when that time comes.

One person I know has to go through this process as she had to move out of her place sometime in the next month.  I have a choice.  Do it now, or let things fester until I am no longer able to do the cleaning by myself.  And then it will be much, much harder for me to deal with.  So, now is the right time to work on this project when I have the time to do so.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

You know your closet has overflowed when....

Recently, I awakened by hearing a noise that I couldn't identify.  When I got up to go to the bathroom, I didn't see anything amiss - virtually everything was where I expected it to be.  But it really wasn't.  Today, when I looked at my closet, I noticed that the closet rod had failed. Over time, excess weight on the rod from all of my dresses had caused it to warp and come out of its support.  This caused most of the clothes in the closet to fall on the carpeted floor, giving me an excuse to prune even more things from the closet.

Although I should have done something to support the rod better, I didn't.  So I shouldn't have been surprised that my overflowing closet's rod would fail me again.  But it did give me an excuse to fill up a donation bag, this time with "sparkly" tops I don't wear anymore, some gifts to me from friends, and some shoes I've picked up along the way.  Yet, I haven't seemed to make much of a dent in things.

Over time, I plan to do some more extensive pruning of the things I have in this closet.  I've bought way too many dresses, tops, bottoms and shoes for one woman to wear.  I've become much more of a clothes horse than my wife ever was.  However, I can still afford to indulge myself in having a full closet.  And, I have developed a better sense of what clothing I can and should wear in certain situations thanks to the friends I've had in my life.


Wednesday, December 29, 2021

A quick note: I could be away for the better part of a month next year


The above is a cruise that I might be interested in taking with a friend who knows me as Mario.  Why so, you might ask?  Well, it's hard enough to pack for a trip as Marian, and I am uncomfortable flying into Vancouver in Marian Mode and having to deal with Canadian customs.

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The itinerary below would allow me to visit ports in Alaska I have yet to visit, and would also allow me to visit Skagway again as well.  (I shouldn't ignore that this cruise sails into Glacier Bay, one of the "Must See" places on an Inside Passage cruise. 

The tail end of this cruise ends up in Hawaii.  It's not as good as NCL's 7 day cruise around Hawaii, but it allows the cruiser to schedule his/her own tours of the same places which NCL's 11 day Hawaii Cruisetour goes to.

There is one person who has expressed an interest in joining me on this cruise.  However, I don't think it will come off.  It would be nice to take this cruise, but I am still aiming for the 11 day ALL HAWAII trip.  Let's keep our fingers crossed that I can make to Hawaii in 2022.

What would you do in my shoes?  Should I take the Alaska/Hawaii cruise, then spend an extra 3-4 days in Hawaii?  Or, should I spend the money on NCL's 11 day Hawaii Cruisetour?






Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Thanks to Trump, I can't take this cruise

During the Obama administration, the USA relaxed travel restrictions for Americans wishing to visit Cuba.  This small trickle of people served an important purpose - it helped our two countries to learn how to trust each other again, and see that cultural exchange benefits both nations.  When Trump came into office, the limited number of cruises to Cuba stopped, and many passengers who booked these trips cancelled their mini vacations.

I'm one of those people who would like to take the "Axis of Evil World Tour" documented in Scott Fisher's book of the same name.  (I'd skip Iraq, as it is not a "Stable" country.)  It would be interesting to see North Korea before the regime has its next generational transition.  And, more than that, I'd love to see Iran and hear their point of view about the troubles in the Middle East.  (The DPRK is one extreme model for a country and Iran is the other extreme model for a country.)  Given that this kind of travel would require me to travel as Mario AND have US State Department approval, this will likely never happen.

One travel itinerary which may open up again in my lifetime is Cuba.  We slammed the doors shut on that country during JFK's administration, and it has only opened up a little for a lucky few over time.  (I've known a school counselor who legally went to Cuba when I was young, and a friend who went there during the 2010's.  I am envious of both.)  I want to see the Hershey Electric Railway there, as well as the 1950's American cars that they keep running with Scotch Tape, Chewing Gum, WD-40, and Duct Tape.

Sadly, there are still way too many Cuban Exiles in Florida who want to keep my wish a dream.  There is no hope that the current regime will fail.  Yet, they still have their dream of the Communist Regime falling and having all of their properties restored to their former owners.  Sounds like the calls of "The South Will Rise Again!" heard in the former Confederacy.  To me, both groups can screw themselves.  We live in the present, and not the past.  (And this coming from a person who wants Major League Baseball to return to Brooklyn....)

What do you think?


PS: I decided to contact a friend in Canada for more information.  Even she can't find any cruises.  But her situation may be more realistic in information gathering, as Canada has not embargoed Cuba.  Instead, none of the top 3 cruise lines serve this market, as their management (not their ships) is based in the United States.  And it doesn't make much sense for anyone else to serve this market without access to the United States market.




Monday, December 27, 2021

I wish I could take this cruise again.


This is a cruise I wish I could take again.  Not only was it the first cruise I had taken in over 20 years without a travel partner, but it was a cruise on which I made a new friend.

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In my old blog, I documented this cruise in more detail than I will detail here.  Not only did I mention issues related to cruising with my former cruise partner, but the details of this cruise now seem to have melded with details from other cruises.  Instead, I'll note the highlights, and remember this cruise fondly.

In the past, FCP would either have someone drop us off at the cruise terminal, or park at the terminal herself.  This can be cost effective for short cruises when two or more people are traveling.  But it is not so for someone traveling alone on a long cruise.  For someone like me, it makes more sense to take the train into NYC, then taking a cab to the cruise terminal. If I spend $60 each way to get to/from NYC Pier 88, I have still saved $160 that I could spend on drinks onboard the ship.  Until I am traveling with someone again, I expect that this is the way I will go between my apartment in Croton and the Manhattan cruise terminal.

On this cruise, I met two people, one of which I still communicate with.  First is a singer, Katy Setterfield, with whom I had several great conversations before she left my ship to perform on another ship.  Sadly, we lost contact, and I haven't heard of her performing in public venues since then.  The other was my pen pal, LKC from Canada.  Although we haven't seen each other since this cruise, we've stayed in contact in the 3 years since.

There is a part of me that wishes that I did the cruise in Mario Mode.  That would have made it possible for me to visit the islands of St. Kitts, Barbados, St. Lucia, and Antigua.  But many of the islands hold LGBT travelers in disdain, and I didn't want to risk getting trouble in a foreign land.  So traveling as Marian eliminated some of the places where I'd have liked to get off the ship and walk around.  But if I had done this, I'd never have met the two people who made this trip enjoyable.



Sunday, December 26, 2021

It's a big change for me.


My first cruise out of New York (Manhattan) was on this ship, the Norwegian Gem. It's a good ship, and it doesn't overwhelm you with its size.  I find it to be comfortable, without any of the needless frills, such as water slides, rope courses, and race tracks, etc. being added to newer ships.

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On an earlier cruise, I traveled in an inside cabin.  This is the type of room that forces you to go outside and be with people.  There is not much in the room, but there is enough room for two people to travel comfortably. 

You'll note that the bed has been assembled as a queen size bad for two to sleep together.  However, the two halves can be moved to the sides (as noted in the second photo), so that each person can have a bed to him/herself.  This is usually the lowest cost cabin category, but can also be the most comfortable, as they are often on lower floors near the ship's center of gravity.  (This can be very important during storm weather.)

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On other trips, I have traveled in an ocean view room.  These cost a little more than an inside cabin, but you get the benefit of an outside view.  (I had one of these on a Holland America cruise, and felt it was a reasonable compromise in the price/value equation.)

There is a drawback to ocean view rooms.  Sometimes, in stormy weather, the ship can rock from side to side.  And I found that this kind of rocking can be exaggerated being on the side of a ship.

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Next comes the balcony cabin.  This is a popular, but more expensive category.  When the pandemic hit, passengers in these cabins had outside air while confined to their rooms. 

However, sometimes, one can find pricing anomalies between the cabin categories between Inside Cabin, Ocean View and Balcony rooms.  In one cruise mentioned in my prior blog, I found a fluke where demand based pricing caused an inside cabin to sell for the same price as a balcony.  Although the balcony uses space less efficiently than the balcony cabin, I'd choose the balcony any day.  Yet, when the same balcony sells for twice the price of an inside cabin AND I'm traveling alone, I'll take the inside cabin.  If one is at sea, the same view can be found on deck, and one has to get up and moving to do so.  If one is in port, you may have a terrible view.  And who wants to pay extra for that?  But that's me - I don't need a lot to feel relaxed.

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Lastly, I'll mention the last of the cabins I'll consider cruising in, the Club Balcony Suite. (Note: not all browsers can support viewing images in the linked page.)  On the cruise that I'll soon be taking, it only costs twice as much as the inside cabin and gives me over twice the room in the cabin to spread out.

If you closely at the bottom picture, you'll see that this cabin has a full bath and not a stand up shower as you'd find in the other categories.  I could get used to traveling this way if I could afford to do so in the future.  This kind of splurge is a big change for me, even though I got the room at a steep discount from its normal price.

I wonder how many of the people I've cruised with over the past 25 years can say they've enjoyed a cabin like this....

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Compare the following cruises and their prices: 

The 12/26/21 cruise on the Norwegian Gem has a single occupancy inside cabin priced at $1707 while the sail away suite is priced at $3681.  This is what I'd normally expect to spend.

Above is the 02/27/22 cruise on the Norwegian Getaway.  A single occupancy inside cabin starts at $1301 while the sail away suite is priced at $1797.  This looks like another unicorn in the making.  But I'm not as familiar with the size of balcony cabins and sail away suites on that ship.  However, it is not the great bargain as the following cruise with the same itinerary as the above two cruises.

The above is the 12/19/21 cruise on the Norwegian Gem.  You will note that unlike the other two cruises, there is no single supplement.  On this sailing, a single occupancy inside cabin is priced at $650, while the sail away suite is priced at $1154.  You can guess which one of these cruises I chose to take.

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It's obvious that I've encountered a wonderful fluke in cruise pricing that I will never see again.  But I love hunting and pecking through the cruise offerings to find great bargains.  It's a safe way of spending time, as I can't afford to squander money anymore.  By focusing on the hunt for a bargain, I have a purpose for my search.  And when I find a "unicorn", I jump on it for a great trip.  Hopefully, I'll be able to find another unicorn sometime in the near future.


PS: The Cruise got even cheaper after I booked it, then went back up....

This is the price for the same cruise as of 10/14..... 

The cabin I booked now sold for roughly $900 plus taxes and port fees.

And then, as of 11/01...

None of the cabins are at their lowest price, and the pricing is a little more rational.  But one day later....

The prices for this cruise started to inch up as we got closer to sailing date.  Even though I could have saved a few extra dollars in Mid-October, that deal had sailed by the time November came along.

And lastly, a price chart taken on 12/08:

These look like the lowest prices we'll see for this cruise.  $1154 - $749 = $405 price savings by booking at the last minute.  Given that they still have mini suites available, I feel that this means that few people are booking this cruise.


It looks like one or more of the suites numbered 11632, 34, 36 / 11132, 34, 36 are still available as of 12/08.  It's too bad that I don't have someone who I am intimate with.  I could have afforded to treat her to a great cruise at this price!  Hopefully, next year at this time, I will have company for my travels....




An early dinner with a friend

  Last night, I mentioned to Pat that I wish I could have been born a cisgender female who looked like this when younger.  If I were younger...