Kathy & I had occasion to pass through Lake Lure, NC this past weekend. I was interested to see that the lake levels and the supply of resident boats have returned. Some may recall an earlier post in January where the lake levels were lower for the winter. It looks like things are ready for spring at Lake Lure!
From our recent cruise. The ship is Celebrity Summit, and she sailed nearly alongside us for a few hours one evening. One of the few Celebrity ships we haven’t sailed on!
A very interesting phenomenon happens this time of year in the corporate world, as people try to use up their “carryover” vacation time – time that they weren’t able to use in the previous year when it was allocated. Most of us get a set allotment of Paid Time Off (“PTO”) each year, and it usually must cover any reason that a person needs to take off, such as vacation, illness, parent-teacher conferences, etc. In some cases, employers allow unused vacation time to be “carried over” into the next year, and it usually needs to be used by a certain date or it is forfeited. In my company, that “use it or lose it” date is March 15.
Kathy & I tend to think of carryover PTO in the same way we think about leftover wine or saving for our kids’ inheritance. “Why would we do that?” 😉 We use every day our employers give us and would gladly take more if we could, whether paid or unpaid. And we never have any trouble using it. The trouble comes when we have to strategize over how to get our travel done in the time we’re allotted. We’re always coming up short!
The “phenomenon” I spoke of is that all those people who couldn’t figure out how to use their PTO time during last year are suddenly inspired to use it all up in the first few months of this year. We’ve got people taking off Fridays and Mondays in January, February and part of March, and a few of them actually manage to take whole weeks off. In some cases these are the same people who managed to be off for two whole weeks at the end of the year just to get their carryover “down” to the amount that they could actually carry over. I’ve offered to help people with travel planning but for some reason no one ever takes me up on it! 🙂
The downside for me is that I often end up being asked to cover for the people who are off. And since managers are generally among the people who are impacted, the usual limits on the number of people who can be off at any one time are largely waived. And we’re generally busier this time of year than we are in other parts of the year, so there is more work to do then there is, say, over the Christmas holiday. But for the most part I don’t mind, because I always feel like I’ve gotten the most out of my time when I’ve taken it. And I certainly wouldn’t want to be off over the Christmas & New Year holidays – it’s a lousy time to travel, you can’t go anywhere because everyone who is off work is out shopping, and then I wouldn’t have that time to use when I want it!
Now I don’t intend to make fun of or condemn people for this. In a number of cases there are good reasons and it is completely justified, as in they have to save days for child care, their personal situations (money, health, caring for another, etc.) require that they hold back time or other reasons. The sad thing is that a lot of people don’t actually manage to do anything with their time off. They just do whatever it is they usually do on a weekend, they just do it longer. Maybe I just don’t get it, but like with a lot of things I just like my way better. And as long as other peoples’ way works for them, it’s nothing for me to get worked up over. But I do admit to a certain amount of smug satisfaction when I sit at my desk in March and think about all the fun things I’m going to do with my own PTO. And I have plenty of work to do so the time goes faster!
One of the stops on our latest cruise was Tortola, an island in the British Virgin Islands. Kathy & I had been to Tortola only once before, and had forgotten how much we loved the area, the islands, the scenery and the people. The itinerary for this cruise put us in port for only a part of the day, so our options for things to do were limited. I checked with a few private operators for a sailing cruise around the islands, but because of our limited time in port they could not offer us anything that would work. We could have done an island tour in a taxi, but spending 3 hours riding around in a van was not on our list of goals! Fortunately the cruise line offered a catamaran cruise to Jost Van Dyke, specifically to a place called the Soggy Dollar Bar.
The Soggy Dollar Bar is a famous beach bar on the island of Jost Van Dyke and is reputed to be the birthplace of the popular drink known as the Painkiller. The Soggy Dollar Bar is so-named because when it was built there was neither a road nor a dock. To reach the beach where the bar is located, it is a common practice for boaters to anchor off the beach, swim to shore, and pay for their drinks with wet money. Thus the name “Soggy Dollar.”
The only downside of this tour was that it was scheduled to meet at 7:00am! So we set the alarm for an early wake-up, caught a bit of breakfast on the ship, and headed off to meet our tour. Once we got underway it was about an hour’s sail to Jost Van Dyke, and we ended up at the Soggy Dollar about 9:00am. Usually a little early to start drinking, but in the islands…. Besides, you can’t drink all day unless you get an early start.
My dollars weren’t soggy, but they spent just fine and I managed to have a few Painkillers. The Soggy Dollar makes its own rum and Painkiller mix, and it is quite good. Unfortunately they don’t sell it, so you have to enjoy it there. And we did! I suppose how much pain they kill depends on a person’s tolerance. I have a fairly strict training regimen so I didn’t have too much difficulty with two, but there were obviously a few amateurs among the group!
It’s hard to believe, but until a few weeks ago we hadn’t been on a cruise in over 2 years. It’s especially hard to believe when we had previously averaged almost 2 per year for a number of years before that. Our son Kevin recently sailed on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship and liked it so much he did another one late last year and has several more on the calendar. On his advice we decided to give it a try and booked a week on Norwegian Epic out of Port Canaveral, with stops in St. Thomas, Tortola and Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian’s private island in the Bahamas. This isn’t intended to be a cruise review, so I don’t plan to go into a lot of detail about the cruise other than to say that it was good to be back on a ship, the food was good and we had excellent weather.
While we have friends that live and have lived in Florida, we generally think of Florida as a place to go to get on a cruise ship. But we decided to do this vacation a little differently and check out some towns that we have heard about but hadn’t previously visited. That led us to New Smyrna Beach and to St. Augustine. I’ll have more about those places in another post, but wanted to get something written about the cruise itself and share a few photos.
A couple of our ports involved the possibility of wading in salt water, which of course is not friendly to cameras or other electronics. So I convinced myself that I needed to have a compact waterproof camera in the event we got wet, and purchased an Olympus “Tough TG-4” point & shoot. It got good reviews and had a reasonable pricetag, so I bought one. In fact, these photos are all from that camera. I also took the Fuji, and it managed to make its share of photos too.
Unfortunately, I never had a chance to test the waterproofness of the Olympus. Our catamaran sail to Jost Van Dyke took us practically onto the beach and I barely got my shorts wet getting ashore. And we ended up not going to the private island, preferring instead to enjoy the relative peace and quiet on the ship while most of the other 4,000+ passengers stood in line for drinks and a buffet lunch. It also gave me a chance to take a few photos on board the ship without having to worry about the paranoid and camera shy. I did say it wasn’t our first cruise!
Kathy & I recently returned from our latest adventure – a 7-night cruise with some time in Florida before and after. We missed seeing our first-ever space launch by 13 seconds, but otherwise had a great time and took a few photos. This has been a busy week but the weekend may provide some time to catch up on processing. In celebration of Friday (why not?) here is a photo to get the ball rolling.
Kathy & I are off on our next adventure. No computers and limited internet. Photos when we return! 🙂