TR: Caribbean Princess Cruise to the ABCs Pt. 2 – Curacao (11/8/16)

There were two things that we did on Curacao which would be repeated again in Aruba: 1) Rent a car. 2) Find us sharing the port with the Freewinds, the infamous Scientology cruise vessel. We rented from the Avis location at the Megapier, which was grossly under prepared for basic functionality. There was no power, forcing them to use carbon copies for credit cards. There weren’t any keys to get into the locked cars, which meant we had to wait until the parent location at the airport brought them. After waiting for somewhere in the zone of 30 minutes, we finally got our keys, but not the GPS unit I had requested.

Continue reading

TR: Caribbean Princess Cruise to the ABCs Pt. 1 – Ship Review (11/5-11/13/16)

In the past, I’ve done large multi-part trip reports of our cruises focusing on the boats, the ports, and all the cruise day activities. But my time is increasingly sparse, and it just seems wise to try to cut this down as best I can. This, our 12th cruise, was to an assortment of all new ports in the Americas. That’s quite the challenge, if I may be brutally honest with you. The ports of call were once the all part of the Netherlands Antilles, and have since split apart into a pair of constituent countries (Aruba and Curaçao) and a special municipality (Bonaire) of the Netherlands. Due to their close proximity to one another shared Dutch heritage, they are often called the “ABCs.” They are also geographically quite similar, being largely arid volcanic islands on the far northern edge of the South American plate with extensive reef systems close to shore. The biggest differences come in the degree to which each has been developed. Continue reading

Post Season 2016 Extracurriculars: Uncle Bernie’s and Wisp Mountain Resort

Seasonal parks are closing up shop, so that makes the process of going to them stateside appreciably more difficult. Having said that, I’ve managed to get myself to a couple more coasters anyways.

img_20161105_105550

The first was just prior to our most recent cruise (11/5/2016) to the Southern Caribbean. The Fort Lauderdale Swap Shop isn’t too far a drive from the airport or cruise port, and is less a mere flea market and more a spectacle. One of the largest such facilities in the country, by day it is a one-stop-shopping-plaza for locals to buy everything from soap to produce to knockoff clothing. By night, it is a drive in multiplex with some absurd number of screens. As amusement park dorks, our primary interest is in the stupid ride for babies known as Abandon Mine (A#782/M#483). We ended up taking about 6-7 orbits on this Molina and Sons kiddie coaster and felt surprisingly little shame about doing so. There’s also a powered coaster, log flume, a few flat rides (with very loud sound packages), and one of the fastest electric car rides I’ve ever seen. An Eli Wheel is also going up…I think?

img_20161105_110716

Inside the flea market, there’s a huge arcade with roughly 65% working games. Around this and the stalls is the owner’s car collection, featuring some incredibly rare super cars, race cars (he was the “gentleman driver” on a 24 Hours of Daytona winning squad) and a classic Ferrari likely worth in the vicinity of 75-100 million dollars. If one wants Caribbean food, there’s tons available, but my wife was not about that on this day, so we skipped. There’s neon, there’s discount everything, it is wild.

img_20161119_103427

Under markedly different circumstances, I found myself in Morgantown, WV the week after returning from my cruise. As part of our entertainment, my friend Will and I headed out to Wisp (11/19/16), just off I-68 and across the border with Maryland. You know, that weird long part of Maryland that sticks out and is culturally like Appalacia? Yes, that part. The mountain coaster (A#783) requires one to sign their lives away, which we happily did for the opportunity to go on. While the second half is more the meandering fun I expect from the Wiegland rides, the first half builds up a lot of speed and has some really above average drops for this style of ride. Might be my favorite one thus far, honestly.

TR: Closing Weekend at Cedar Point (10/29-30/16)

(I’ll preface the trip report with some notes – there was no trip report written for either of our other trips to the park this year. We went in June and September, staying at Sandcastle in June, and in Toledo in September on a Friday night. There are no lasting complaints about either day, and in fact, the Halloween decor looked way better in September than October. I chose not to write about either because, frankly, I’ve written about Cedar Point countless times on this blog and there’s often little to provide in terms of updates.)

Continue reading

TR: Veendam Caribbean Cruise 2016: Pt. 7 –Florida Aquarium (3/20/16)

Sunday morning came, and with it came the end of our journey aboard the venerable Veendam. Outside our porthole was the city of Tampa again, ready for our exploration on foot. Being on foot limits you quite a bit, but since we had a clear target for our time located right in the port area, it wasn’t a great concern to us. The kind folks of Tampa have spent a ton of money on the Florida Aquarium and placed it to be exceedingly convenient to us and not so much them, and I’d like to thank them for that perhaps unnecessary expenditure. Really, seriously, it was great for us, especially since we were extended a 50% off admission thanks to our membership with our local zoo. Continue reading

TR: Veendam Caribbean Cruise 2016: Pt. 6 – Costa Maya/At Sea (3/18 & 3/19/16)

Arriving into our final port of the cruise, we were welcomed by a slightly different sight than what was present the first two days: flat earth. The small town of Mahahual is barely visible when compared to the enormous cruise port facility that’s been constructed along the water front. We also weren’t alone here: two other ships had docked, one larger, one significantly smaller (NCL’s Dawn and the Swan Hellenic MV Minerva). There would be something akin to a “crowd” around us, though not much so much of one as to radically change our viewpoint. Like with our stop in Honduras, there are natural limits on the number of potential shore excursions one might be able to take, as most tour companies book through the cruise lines. Prices were anything but low: most trips towards the ruins were in the range of $120/person. Not exactly ideal. Continue reading

TR: Six Flags Great America (10/15 & 10/16/16)

(originally posted on rec.roller-coaster)

We’ve made the investment in Six Flags season passes again for the 2017 season and trekked out to Chicagoland to get processed in. This is the first time I’ve been in the park in a month other than June ever. Weird how things like that happen. From a basic standpoint, the park doesn’t look that much actively worse than it did in preceding years, however the number of empty ride pads seems to have grown without clear replacements coming in. Joker will take up one of those spaces, and the return of The Lobster (an Octopus ride) will help a little. More clear to us is the clear gap between how Six Flags manages to decorate a premier park in the chain versus how Cedar Fair does with Cedar Point and Kings Island. There was likely more money spent just on the pumpkin displays at Cedar Point than all of the Frightfest-related materials at Great America combined. It’s really too bad given how good much of the original infrastructure put in place by Marriott was. Continue reading