Six Hiking Tips for Seniors

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I’ve never been much of an athlete, although I’ve always loved to dance and take long walks. I grew up in a rural area and would often take walks down the country roads by my house. I found it a great time of solitude for thinking and processing life. Later when I married and our children were young, we’d often take them on hikes through the woods. We have found those times to be some of our most fond memories.

There’s just something about being in nature that soothes and replenishes the soul. In Nashville, Tennessee where I reside, there are numerous parks filled with gorgeous trees and plants and plenty of hiking trails. Some paved ones as well as other dirt trails through the woods. The paved trails are usually the easiest, however, they are much harder on the feet than the dirt trails. The dirt trails often have more up-and-down hills making for a better workout, but there is one danger to look out for. No, it’s not bears or snakes, but those deadly tree roots! Yes, those innocent-looking hunks of wood in the ground bringing nourishment to the trees. If you’re not careful, they can literally trip you up as I’ve unfortunately learned firsthand on more than one occasion.

My first trip up

On this particular summer day, my husband and I couldn’t decide if we wanted to go swimming for relaxation or hiking for exercise. It was an extremely hot day, so we wanted to go to the pool, but didn’t want to just lie around all day, so we decided we’d hike a relatively short trail at Radnor Lake and then go to the pool in the afternoon. It was extremely hot and humid that day which in hindsight was probably not the best day for hiking. The trail is just about a two-mile hike over a couple of hills through the woods. We were on the plateau when suddenly out of nowhere, I tripped over a root and face-planted on the ground before I even knew what had happened. I heard this weird sound in my head and my husband who was in front of me, came running to my rescue yelling “Are you alright.”

I didn’t know what had happened, but I knew I wasn’t alright, so I yelled back, “No!” He helped me up and saw my face around my eye was already turning black and starting to swell. I was dazed. He immediately took a picture and sent it to my daughter-in-law, a nurse practitioner. She said we needed to head to the emergency immediately.

We were just about halfway through our hike and had at least a mile to get back to the car. Then out of nowhere, it started pouring down rain! There had been no rain at all in the forecast, but here we were trying to get back to the car with my injury and the pouring rain hitting me in the face. Not a pleasant experience. However, I believe that the rain may have been a God send because the cold water probably kept my face from swelling so much.

When we got to the car we were soaked. Thankfully, we had packed some towels since we were planning on going swimming later. And for some strange reason, (I thank the Lord) Bobby had put an extra shirt in the car, so I was able to put on a dry one.

When we finally got to the hospital, they took me right back for an MRI and discovered I had broken my eye socket and had a slight concussion as well. Thankfully my eye wasn’t damaged, which can often happen with this type of injury. I’m also very thankful that I still had an eyeball since there was a big, jagged stump within an inch of where I had fallen.

My three blunders

There were three mistakes that day that contributed to my fall.

(1) It was very hot and humid, making me fatigued. When we get hot and tired, we don’t pick up our feet as we should.

(2) Since it was a hot day and we were on a short hike, I had worn tennis shoes instead of my hiking boots. Bad mistake. Hiking shoes with good traction are a must when in the woods.

(3) I was not using hiking sticks. If I had them, they could have broken my fall and possibly helped me recover from the trip. Needless to say, I ordered some right after this incident.

Oh no! It happened again

It took a while for my eye to heal, and I’ll admit it was a little scary at first to get back on the trails. But I equipped myself with good hiking shoes and new hiking sticks which helped boost my confidence.

Sometime later we were on a hike with my daughter and her husband. It was a new place I’d never been to but always wanted to go called Swanee. It was a beautiful fall hike and I had on my good hiking shoes but decided I only needed one hiking stick. The hike went well as I was very cautious going up and down the wooded trail. We were actually on the way back to the car and the ground was flat when I tripped again on a root! This time I was able to catch myself with my hand, but unfortunately, that resulted in a broken wrist! Again, it was toward the end of the hike, and I was hot and tired and therefore, not picking up my feet as I should have. I had the one hiking stick, but if I’d had two of them in hand, the story may have been different.

At this point, my kids were telling me that I should give up wooded trails and only walk on paved trails, but I’ve had bouts with plantar flagitious, and too much walking on paved trails can cause that to flare up. Even with my injuries I’ve decided that I’m not willing to give up hiking trails just yet. After all, hiking and walking are some of the best exercises for older adults, and for me, there’s nothing like being in nature.

But there are some general safety rules I’ve learned to adhere to. Below are six safety rules, some of which I’ve learned the hard way, to keep us safe and able to enjoy hiking for a long time.

Start Small

If you haven’t hiked much in the past start with a short hike and then build up to longer ones over time. Most falls do come from being fatigued so don’t hike longer than you can keep up your concentration. You’ll be amazed though at how quickly your body will adapt to longer hikes. And don’t let those young folks who blow by you intimidate you. Remember their bodies are much younger and stronger than yours.

Check out your local parks

Stick with trails that are in the city, state, or national parks as they will be well-maintained and marked. These parks house some of the most beautiful areas in every community.

Know your limits

Be extra careful on the second half of your hike. This is when your muscles get tired, and your mind starts to focus on finishing instead of taking the next correct step. Be okay with turning back if you get too tired before you reach your goal. You can always come back another day and do more. Also, keep in mind that if it’s a one-way trail and you walk four miles one way, you’ll have to walk four miles back. My husband and I have been guilty of walking until we get tired because we’re having such a good time, and then we’re utterly exhausted by the time we get back to the car because we didn’t turn around sooner. Look at your watch or phone. If you’ve been hiking for one hour, for example, consider how you are going to feel after another hour. It might be time to turn around.

Bring proper supplies

Take water even in cooler weather. Water backpacks like Camelbak are great as they keep your hands free. Take a few snacks if it’s going to be a very long hike. Put some hand sanitizer in your pocket as you may only have access to porta-potties and a band-aid if you develop a blister. And don’t forget the sunscreen.

Wear proper clothing, especially shoes. Your body will build up heat as you walk, so that heavy jacket that feels great at the start may cause you to be hot later in the day. Unless it’s extremely cold, a light jacket that you can tie around your waist if you get hot is best layered over a tee shirt. Always, were proper hiking shoes that are in good condition. Boots with ankle support are recommended for trails and good tennis shoes with lots of cushion for paved trails. I include power step inserts in my tennis shoes for more cushion on the feet.

In my opinion, hiking sticks on dirt trails are essential for older hikers. Our bones tend to break easier if we fall and our balance may not be as good as when we were younger. I like using hiking sticks because they give me a little more confidence to walk faster and they keep my arms moving so my hands don’t swell.

Watch the water

Hikes around waterfalls and streams are some of the most beautiful but always be cautious as rocks here can be very slippery and, in some instances, water can rise rapidly. Pay attention to signs that warn of rapidly rising water and never turn your back on the ocean.

Don’t go alone

If you’re walking on a popular city trail with lots of other folks, you’re probably okay to go it alone, but if you’re on a secluded wooded trail and you get injured and can’t walk, you may need someone to go for help or help you to safety. Besides, walking is fantastic for relationship building, so grab a friend.

The health benefits

According to the National Park Service website, there are numerous health benefits to lacing up your hiking shoes and hitting the great outdoors.

Besides being extremely enjoyable and observing beautiful scenery that you’ll never see anywhere else; hiking is not only good physical exercise but there is also emotional and mental relief that comes from being in nature. Hiking is a whole-body workout. It builds stronger muscles and bones, improves your sense of balance, and heart health, and even decreases the risk of certain respiratory problems.

According to a study done by researchers at Stanford University, spending quality time outdoors reduces stress, calms anxiety, increases sensory perception, and can lead to a lower risk of depression.

Hiking improves your relational health. Some of the best conversations happen while on walks where there are no outside interruptions. It’s a great way to connect with your grandchild or another family member or friend.

There are over 400 National parks in the US and almost 2,500 state parks, not to mention the numerous city parks, for you to discover. Perhaps it’s time to Take a Hike and see what they’re all about.

Your body, mind, and spirit will thank you!

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Romans 1:20

Keep a Eye on your Cruise Tab!

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Once on board a cruise ship, they issue you a card or medallion to use for all of your onboard purchases. This makes it nice since you then don’t have to carry around a debit or credit card. The cruise line keeps a running total and your card is charged at the end of the cruise.

The only issue with this is that often there are mistakes. The cruise line will usually correct the mistake if it’s reported immediately, but as I learned the hard way, the longer the mistake goes unreported the more difficult it may be to get your money back.

Recently, I was on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship and I ordered sparkling water for about $2. I was lounging by the pool and I gave the waiter my card and he wrote down what I wanted. Several minutes later, he comes back with my drink, card, and the bill to sign. The paper I signed had the correct amount on it. However, later that day when I went to unlock my cabin door, I realized he had given me someone else’s card.

I promptly went to the customer relations desk to let them know I was given the incorrect card and she apologized and printed a new card for me. I then asked her to make sure that no illegitimate charges were put on my account, and she assured me that would not happen because there was a picture associated with it. However, later that day a $9 charge for a beer was on my account instead of the $2 sparkling water. Frustrated, I returned to the desk and they happily refunded me the $9. Thankfully, they also never charged me for the $2 which I think was right since I had to make two trips to customer relations on one day of my cruise.

A very pretty fruity orange drink with a lemon on top in a small jar
Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

I don’t purchase a lot of drinks while cruising as I guzzle mostly the free water, coffee and tea, but on this particular day in Haiti, it was extremely hot and the frozen drink special sounded really refreshing. I walked up to the bar to order making sure the price for the special was only $11. He took my card and started to ring it up and make my drink when two other customers walked up to order. He then took their cards as well, instead of finishing my order first. He now had three different cards in his hand with three different orders to fill. This is not going to end well, I thought to myself. Sure enough, he gave me the wrong bill to sign. This isn’t mine, I said, and he replied It doesn’t matter, they are all the same price. But they weren’t the same price, this tab was $12 instead of $11. I just shook my head and signed the thing because I was hot and thirsty and didn’t feel like standing there while he canceled everything out and recharged me over $1.

Months later and still waiting for this refund

On Princess, they use a medallion instead of a cruise card. You wear the medallion around your neck or on your wrist and you never have to take it off as they can scan it from a distance. We were recently on a 14-day cruise and I checked my account often because I’ve learned there can be mistakes. I even went to the desk a couple of times and had them print out our bill to make sure it matched what was online. However, unfortunately, I didn’t check it on the last day of the cruise and was surprised when I got home to learn my husband had been charged $96 for a bottle of wine we didn’t order. Strangely, we weren’t even in the dining room that day where the charge occurred.

A lady holding papers in one hand and a cell phone in the other obviously making a call about something on the paper
Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

I called the 800 number thinking I would dispute the charge and they would fix it immediately. Not so! The agent told me that I would receive a refund in the form of a check in about four weeks. I thought that was strange because they just incorrectly charged my debit card. Shouldn’t they credit it back the same way? At the company I previously worked at, if someone’s bank account was accidentally charged, we fixed it that day. It became a top priority. But I left it at that and painfully said to myself, Now I’ve got to keep a lookout for that check in the mail.

Four weeks went by and I still had not received a check so I called them back. It was then that the agent informed me that they had declined my request for a refund. Her reason was that it was because we didn’t purchase a drink package. That had nothing to do with us being charged for a bottle of wine we didn’t order. She told me there was nothing she could do and that I could e-mail customer relations about the issue, I sent an e-mail to the address she gave me and got zero response. Crickets! I emailed them again a few weeks later and to this date, still no response.

My old boss used to say that if there is no communication when there is a problem, people will start making up things in their head. That’s what’s going through my mind now concerning Princess.

We have sailed with them more than any other cruise line and are platinum members and have never experienced anything like this. So I’m starting to wonder. Are they financially in trouble and having to scrape together every dollar to the point that they can’t even issue a $96 legitimate refund?

Or do they not want us to cruise with them any longer? We’re not big spenders when we cruise. We don’t gamble, eat at specialty restaurants, or purchase a lot of alcohol. Maybe they decided they lose money on us and they would rather we go someplace else and this is their way of running us off. If that’s the case, I’m okay with that as there are plenty of other cruise lines. Maybe it’s nothing like that but they are just short-staffed and have never even seen my e-mails.

I’m probably going to keep calling until I have an answer though because I’m just like that. It’s not even so much about the $96 any longer. I just want to know what’s going on with them before I sign up for another cruise. After all, what if it’s a $500 charge next time and they refuse to rectify it.

The moral of the story for me and for you is to never disembark a ship until you have a printed invoice in hand that is correct. If you don’t, sadly, you may never see that money again, at least not without a lot of hassle.

Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds.

Proverbs 27:23

How to Sail the Caribbean on a Budget

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We had scarcely got home from our thirty day cruise in March and April to the Panama Canal and Hawaii when we received this unbelievable offer from Princess Cruises for a seven day Caribbean cruise for only $349 each! This is too good to pass up, my husband said. Since we didn’t have a vacation yet planned for summer, we book not one, but two consecutive weeks on the Caribbean Princess.

There is both an Eastern and a Western Caribbean back to back cruise that you can book as one voyage. Even with the taxes and tips, the cost of this cruise was less than a room in Florida on the beach for even one week – and it included everything – incredible food, entertainment and the ability to visit some amazingly beautiful places.

While working and you’re only getting one or two vacations a year, you want them to be as nice as possible, and may not mind putting out for the extra expenses to help make them memorable, but if you’re retired and want to take several trips a year, you can scale the expenses back a bit and go more places more often.

We’d already been on several trips this year and were ready to go again, but were fine with taking it easy and not spending a ton of money on extras.

Here’s how we took a two week Caribbean cruise for under $2,500.

While $2,500 is still a lot of money, where else can you eat like a king for two weeks, travel to exotic places, stay in a nice room with twice a day maid service, get waited on hand and foot, soak up all the sun and swim you want along with various kinds of other entertainment including shows, dancing and live music and even exercise any time of the day for this price?

The cruise fare itself for the two of us for each week was only $699 for an inside room. We would spend almost that much on food, gas, electricity, water, and other miscellaneous items if we were home those two weeks.

Of course, with cruising there’s always extras to add on to the cost of the trip — mainly taxes and tips. The port taxes for the trip came to $275 per person per week and the tips were $203 per person per week. You have to pay the taxes and the tips are optional, but we always pay the recommended amount because those who serve the passengers work very hard to keep everyone happy. They earn and deserve every penny of it.

Onboard Credits

The cruise line also gave us $50 each to spend on board, which we used very wisely. Sometimes, you can get to the cruise really cheap and then end up spending a lot of money on the ship as there’s plenty of opportunities to do so including gambling, drink packages, specialty restaurants, excursions, spa treatments, etc. All readily available to enhance your vacation and take your money. We don’t drink or gamble so those two items were easily knocked off our list.

Our goal for this trip was not to have any extra charges when we disembarked. We never purchase the drink package but I do like an occasional glass of wine with my dinner. With the $50 credit for each week, that would be enough to cover that.

Hilariously, though, on embarkation day, they had accidently booked two ladies from Germany in the room with us! They gifted us each a bottle of wine for our inconvenience. (And moved the ladies to another room, thankfully!)

Princess cruises has this game where you can win a prize when your unlock your stateroom door, and somehow we won a $25 onboard credit. That along with the other $50 per person credit gave us more than enough for dinner wine, as well as some sparkling water and specialty coffee drinks throughout the cruise. I even had enough credit left on the last day to buy a small gift.

Food

There’s excellent free food everywhere any time of day on the ship. From the buffet, to the fine dining rooms to the grills, you’ll never go hungry and it’s a constant battle not to overeat. Since we were Platinum members we also were invited to an exclusive event each evening with free appetizers. We didn’t spend one red cent on food for the entire two weeks other than a coffee at the airport on the way home.

Excursions

We choose beach options for most of the ports because they were free or only involved a small fee or taxi fare. You can spend money renting chairs, umbrellas kayak’s, snorkel equipment, etc. but for this cruise we opted for the free chairs under the free shade of the trees.

Other beach excursion expenses included a taxi to the beach in Caman Islands along with a refreshing fruit drink to cool us off. We spent around $45 that day. The beaches we visited at the other ports were totally free and within walking distance.

We took an island tour of St. Kitts for $55. We had never been to St. Kitts before and always like to take a tour of the region the first time we visit. We toured for almost three hours and were able to explore a lot of the island and take in the beautiful scenery.

St. Kitts tour pictures

Other than that, I bought a hat for $12, a coverup for $12, a belt for $5 a dress for $20 and some gifts for $52 while in some of the ports. Shopping is always fun when traveling, right?

Other expenses

You’ll have other expenses associated with your trip – mainly transportation to the cruise port. I’m listing these separately because they will be different for each person depending on where you live and your mode of transportation. Our airline tickets to Fort Lauderdale were almost $600, but we had some gift cards and credits and only ending up paying $244.

Travel insurance is another optional expense, but very much recommended. We must get it because our insurance does not cover us while outside the US and it’s not worth the risk should one of us get sick or hurt. That was $191 for this trip.

What I did feel like I may have over-spent on was $231 on a hotel room the night before our cruise sailed. This is an optional expense as you can always fly down the day of the cruise, but I don’t recommend it because if you flight is cancelled or delayed, you could miss the ship. They won’t wait for you. I booked a room just to make sure we had one as there is a place we like to stay that offers transfers from the airport to the hotel and then the cruise port. I meant to check back later for a cheaper price, but never got around to it.

Our transfers to the cruise port and then to the airport on disembarking day were $60.

Breakdown of charges for 2 people – 2 weeks

FAIR$1398
TIPS$406
TAXES$550
TOUR$55
BEACH EXCURSION$45
SHOPPING$50
GIFTS$42
HOTEL & TRANSFERS$291
AIRFARE$244
AIRPORT COFFEE$8
INSURANCE$191
TOTAL SPENT ON CRUISE INCLUDING SHOPPING AND GIFTS$2454
TOTAL SPENT INCLUDING AIR, HOTE, INSURANCE, SHOPPING$3280

Cruise lines may not always be giving the great deals they are these days while they’re still coming out of the COVID lockdowns, but you can almost always find a great last minute deal and can definitely find ways to cut expenses on cruise ships. You can have a wonderful time without spending hardly any money on extras once onboard.

While there’s plenty of opportunities to spend as much as you’d like. there’s also many ways to stretch those cruise dollars farther and travel more often.

If you have any questions about cruising on a budget, leave them in the comments below. Maybe I’ll be seeing you on the high seas soon!

Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it. Proverbs 21:20

Our 30 Days at Sea Journey

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What we liked, didn’t like, and learned along the way

“You realize we’ve never been on a ship more than seven days?” I responded to my husband when he suggested we do two back to back fifteen day cruises. We already had one fifteen day cruise to the Panama Canal booked on the Caribbean Princess and when he realized the ship would be leaving San Francisco for Hawaii the same day it got into port, he thought it would be fun to stay on the ship, “You’ve always wanted to go to Hawaii and this cruise would save air fare since we’ll already be in the west coast.” It seemed like a crazy adventure for us, but I agreed to go and I’m glad I did.

While I thought of this as wild and crazy, when we got on the ship I found out that we weren’t that adventurous after all. Almost everyone we met was a veteran cruiser. Many had done as many as thirty or more cruises in their life and currently had multiple cruises booked besides the one they were on currently.

Evidently, back to back cruises is a thing that retired people often do. We met a couple that were on the ship for forty-five days doing three cruises in a row and another couple from Germany that we’re doing four in a row – Panama Canal, Hawaii, California coast and then Alaska! They said they were escaping the cold German winter!

You know how when you first meet someone, one of the first questions they ask you is what you do for a living? What I found interesting was when you’re on a ship with mostly retired folks, the first question is “How many cruises have you been on and where all in the world have you traveled?” It’s a different stage of life!

The tale of two cruises

Of the two cruises, I highly recommend the Panama Canal Cruise first for several reasons. The weather was hot every day, sometimes in the 90’s and we didn’t have to change time zones except once in Florida. Also, the sea days were intermingled with ports so we never had more than two sea days at a time. Going through the canal is an experience in itself!

View from our ship going through the Panama canal.  There is a cargo ship in front.
View from our ship with a Cargo ship going through in front of us

With Hawaii, the second leg of our trip, we had four sea days going over and five coming back. The waters are rocking coming in and out of San Francisco which is almost always the case and there were three time changes while at sea.

Ocean sunset  with blue water and a yellow and orange sky
Rocky Waters, Beautiful Sunset

We had four port days in a row visiting four different islands and it got to be a little tiring by the fourth day trying to see all the sights. There is a cruise line that allows you to fly into Hawaii and spend a week cruising the South Pacific islands and I think that is probably a better option than the way we did it. Norwegian is one line that provides this type cruise. Of course, you can always fly over and stay at a hotel if you want more time for hiking, enjoying the beaches and water sports or sight seeing.

Here’s a few things I learned worked well for us while on our long cruise that you may find helpful should you decide to embark on one yourself.

Packing for 30 days

I started getting my clothes together about a month before we left, but I decided just to pack for a fifteen day cruise and wash clothes as needed since there was a laundry mat on our floor. We only had to wash twice and that was mainly bathing suits, underwear and workout clothes. Other than these items, you can usually wear most things more than once. For example, there were two or three formal nights per cruise, so, I took just three dressy dresses and wore them each one time on each cruise. The other dinner nights were smart casual, so I had a few casual dresses and pants and shirts that I could mix and match. The same for my short outfits. A light jacket or parka is always a must for a cruise no matter the destination or time of year and, thankfully, I had a sweater and some jeans that I wore on the plane going down that came in handy during those cooler nights around San Francisco. By packing for just fifteen days I was easily able to get everything I needed into two large suitcases that the airline allowed and my one carry-on bag.

I’m cautious about taking taking expensive jewelry on trips. For this cruise I wore a pair of small diamond stud earrings which went well from the pool to the formal evenings and a small gold and silver diamond necklace that did the same. I figured that as long as I was wearing it I wouldn’t lose it, right? If you prefer to take extra jewelry with you, there is a safe in your room where you can lock it up along with your passports, wallets, etc. once you are on the ship.

While packing your 30 days of medications, pack what you’re currently taking and what you think you might need. This may mean getting an extra prescription from your pharmacy as no medications can be filled on the ship. I packed a first aid box with our prescriptions and supplements that we normally take and other things such as anti-bacteria ointment, band-aids, motion sickness medicine, etc.

COVID and cruising

You currently must have a negative COVID test before you sail. Even though my husband and I had both been vaccinated and also previously had COVID, I’ll admit it was a little stressful waiting for the results of that test just two days before we were to sail. I decided that if we happened to test positive, I was not going to unpack that suitcase! It was staying ready to go somewhere whenever we got the green light. The cruise lines are also requiring you to be vaccinated, however, they will make exceptions as long as ninety-five percent of the passengers are vaccinated.

If you do develop COVID symptoms on a cruise, the medical staff will test and treat you for free. Many people book a balcony in case they get quarantined they will have some fresh air and not be confined to a windowless room for days, but that’s not necessary as they move all the COVID cases to a designated area in rooms with balconies.

A must for travelers these days is travel insurance. It’s boring and no one enjoys spending money on insurance, but if you are on Medicare, it will not cover any medical expenses outside the US. This applies to some other private insurance companies as well. It will add a couple hundred dollars to your trip budget, but will cover almost any medical emergency including transportation back home, if needed. It also covers you in case you get sick last minute and cannot make the trip. AARDY.com is one of the best sites I’ve found for this as they are endorsed by AARP. It is an agency that will give you quotes from several different companies. They went the extra mile and sent us an e-mail before we left reminding us of important documents and things to do before we traveled and also sent us an e-mail at the trip’s end showing us how to file a claim, if needed. Thankfully, we didn’t need it, but having the insurance gave us peace of mind throughout our cruise.

Which room to choose?

Cruise staterooms are small and there are normally three or four classes: Inside, ocean view, balcony and suite. We’ve stayed in all except the suite. If I’m going to pay for an ocean view, I’d just soon pay a little more for a balcony. I love balconies, but inside rooms are normally much cheaper. Our philosophy is go cheaper and go more often. A balcony can add as much as $1,000 or more to your trip, which could go a long way towards another cruise. We find inside rooms very cozy and comfortable as pretty much all we do there is get dressed, sleep and maybe watch a little TV late at night. If you’d prefer a suite, you’ll have a much larger room with a sofa but it will come with a hefty price.

Eating on the ship

Someone asked me if after thirty days if I was tired of cruise food and the answer was “Absolutely not!” There are so many different options and varieties that it’s hard to get tired of anything even on long journeys. And the best part is you don’t have to cook any of it!

While I enjoy the buffet, I tend to overeat because there’s so much good food to choose from that I want to try too many dishes. We ate there often for lunch though especially on sunny days because it’s much quicker than eating lunch in the dining room and healthier than grabbing a burger and fries from the grill. Our ship, like most, also had a little cafe where you could get small sandwiches, soups and desserts any time of the day.

Many people cruise and never enjoy the fine dining in the formal dining room and I think they are missing out. While the food on the buffet is delicious and there is plenty of it, the fine dining is a little higher quality and a lot more fancy. And, besides, I love people waiting on me. The waiters are well trained, knowing just how to place the fine china and real silverware on your table and all are extremely kind and courteous. Dinner is usually served in four courses, over the course of the evening, a starter, salad, main course and dessert. While the portions are beautiful, they are small, but they will gladly bring you as many extras as you would like. Sometimes my husband would ask for two main entrees. You can also leave there and go to the grill or pizza shop for a fabulous hamburger or slice of pizza to top off the meal along with the free ice cream if you’re still hungry.

The cruise also offered a beverage package option which included WIFI but because we don’t drink alcohol or soft drinks, we didn’t purchase it. All the specialty coffees are also included in the beverage package, which I do love, but there is plenty of free coffee and tea on the ship. The coffee on the buffet was very weak, however. The dining room coffee was much better and the coffee from the paid shops was the best. We actually sprang for a few cups at $1.25 when we wanted a really good cup.

I like a glass of wine with dinner occasionally so my frugal husband figured out it was cheaper to purchase a bottle and have them bring it out each night for a glass. You can also take two bottles of wine per person with you to drink in your room. and if you want to take it to dinner, they will serve it to you for a $15 corkage fee.

Picking the right excursions

The excursions on cruises can be hit or miss. Sometimes they are great and at other times, it seems like you don’t get a good value for the cost. The cost depends on the country, as as well as the cruise line as they contract with local officials for the tours. On our Panama Canal cruise I feel like every ship excursion we took was worth the money. In Columbia we had a great tour of the beautiful old city of Cartagena with an excellent and knowledgeable guide. The cost was only about $35 per person.

In Costa Rica we took a river cruise to view wild life. Costa Rica is very hot, but there was a nice cool breeze coming off the ocean to the river which made for a really nice day. It was only around $60 per person which I thought was very reasonable.

Our best excursion on this trip was a sailboat ride in Cabo. It was limited to 16 people and they provided a fantastic snack, great lunch and all the drinks we wanted. We were on the water for four hours, and saw not only the beautiful coast but also some whales a huge sea turtle and they took us to a cove for snorkeling. It was a beautiful day and the crew were extremely polite. I felt this was a great value for only $129 per person.

Hawaii

Since Hawaii completely closed all tourism during he pandemic, many of the tour companies had to sell off their vehicles or went out of business all together. In Honolulu I tried to book a Pearl Harbor visit months in advance and it was already sold out, so we opted for a tour around the coast since it was our first time there and it was beautiful.

In Maui the ship wanted $149 a person to take us to the beach at Wailea bay, one of the island’s most beautiful beaches. We thought that was a little expensive so we fortunately were able to get a taxi for the 30 minute drive for half that price. They only difference was that we didn’t get a chair. A chair would have been nice, but not for $75 more dollars per person.

On Kauai all the ship excursions were completely sold out and there were no available taxis at the port when we disembarked. We walked down the street and ran into a tour company that were giving tours for only $20 per hour per person. We hooked up with two other couples and had a fabulous day touring the island. Our driver had been born and raised there and he took us all around the Island not only showing us the hot spots but filling us in on the history as well. His information is in the gallery below. Should you ever visit the island of Kauai and want an excellent guide, I highly recommend this service.

Our last island was Hilo and we decided to try our luck again with a taxi since the cruise excursions seemed very limited and expensive. Again no taxis were available at the port and there were few Uber and Lyft drivers. We got tired of waiting for a ride and decided to walk to a waterfall just three miles away which didn’t seem a lot for us since we walk that distance or more on our walks back home. The scenery was beautiful along the coast, but we ended up in the small town and I wanted to do some shopping before we left the islands so we checked out the gift shops and then caught a free bus back to the port.

My suggestion for planning excursions is to do your research before you go. You will most likely have time for just one per port, so it’s best to decide what’s most important for you to do and see at each destination. You can check out the excursions provided by the ship and also Google the things to do for each city to see other options. There should also be a port guide in your sailing information from the ship for each Port of Call and your cruise director will have suggestions as well. Sometimes they have lectures on the ship regarding each upcoming port. Don’t think you have to get off the ship in port either. If it’s a place you’ve been before or you just want to chill, you may elect to stay on ship and enjoy your “private yacht” as they say.

Making the most of sea days

I personally love sea days. They normally have an early morning free workout class, a nice brunch in the dining room and then you can spend the afternoon out by the pool on the sun deck. That’s a perfect sea day for me. I find being on the water to be very relaxing, but if that’s not your cup of tea, you can definitely stay busy inside with games, musical presentations, bingo and the casino, art shows, etc. There’s so much to offer each and every hour that you’re bound to find plenty to enjoy.

Is cruising right for you?

If you like to discover new places, and also have some R & R time, you should love cruising. With cruising you can see almost any part of the world and meet lots of new and interesting people in the process.

If you haven’t traveled internationally, a cruise is a great place to start. Once you board the ship they take care of everything for you. You can even book your flights through the cruise line and also your transfers to and from the ship. They are there to serve you, and their top priority is to keep you safe and make sure you have a great time! You can book your own travel through the cruise lines or a good travel agent can take care of everything you need including accommodations, flights, and transfers.

The most exciting discovery

Before taking this thirty day cruise, I thought my husband and I had approximately ten years to travel before we got too old. But after seeing all the people on this cruise in their 80’s and 90’s out and about, I can see that we could have much more time than that. It was inspiring to see some of these adventurous souls hobbling around on their walkers or on canes or scooting around the ship on their scooter. They were out there enjoying life and seeing the world and that was impressive. There were even some 80 year old’s working out at the gym every day. That day we took the three mile hike, a man we had met who was 87 ended up walking ten that day!

Hope to see you out on the blue seas soon!

Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them.

Psalm 69:34

Can you enjoy the 30A Florida beaches in February?

Shortly after retiring, my son and daughter offered my husband and I their rental condo in Florida for a few days, so we decided to take them up on it. We knew this part of Florida wasn’t far enough south to be warm enough to swim in the pool or lay out by the ocean, but the weather forecast promised warmer temperatures of at least 10 degrees more than in Nashville and sunny skies too boot so we headed south. Since I’m new to retired life, it was thrilling just to be able to hop in the car and go! I didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission!

30A is a collection of small, beautiful Florida beach towns nestled quietly between the much busier areas of Panama City and Destin along County Road 30A. Within this area, you’ll find the beach communities of Rosemary Beach, Seaside, Alys and Santa Rosa, to name a few. It’s a relatively new area with most of the development beginning since 1995.

Culture shock

Driving down from Nashville, we stopped at Cracker Barrell for lunch. While sitting at our table waiting for our food, I looked around and noticed that except for a couple of tables with young mothers and their toddlers, we were surrounded by all older people. Of course! The younger couples and the older children are working or in school! For the first time I absolutely identified as a retired person. These are my people now.😊

Our stay

The condo was in Prominence in a quaint little neighborhood across from the Hub. It wasn’t directly on the beach, but came with this amazing golf cart that you could use to drive the short distance to it. We like to walk and ride bikes, so we choose that option, but in the summer I can see where you’d want to load up the kids, beach chairs and a cooler in the cart to head down for a day in the sun.

We had invited my husband’s sister and her husband to join us since we had three bedrooms and knew there would be plenty of room. There are many vacation rentals in the area, both oceanfront and otherwise and they are constantly building more creating plenty of places to stay, especially during the winter months.

The first day we took advantage of the incredibly blue sky and sunshine and rode our bikes down to Rosemary beach. Even though there was a slight breeze, I actually got a little warm in my light parka. The bike trail runs for miles along 30A and allowed us to enjoy every minute of the 6 mile round trip, take in at all the beautiful greenery and lovely buildings while not having to worry about cars and traffic.

Rosemary Beach was built with European style architecture. Multiple sand live oaks line the streets along with other native greenery such as the local rosemary. At night the trees are illuminated with multiple beautiful white lights throughout. It’s a gorgeous place to stay or definitely worth a trek over to it if you are in the area.

The next day was beautiful as well and we walked about a mile down to the beach access. We then walked along the shore and again enjoyed the sun, blue skies and warm weather. However, on the way back we were busy talking and somehow missed the public access so we cut through a neighborhood to get back to the street. Only problem was it was gated! Thankfully a truck was leaving so the gate opened and we sneaked in behind it to get out. Most of the neighborhoods in the area are gated with no public access, so do keep that in mind if you happen to get lose your bearings while walking along the shore. As we unwittingly discovered, you won’t have GPS service that close to the water either.

The next day we decided to take it easy so we threw our beach chairs in the trunk of the car, drove down to the beach and spent the afternoon basking in the sun. We had on long pants and light jackets, but it was still very enjoyable and the sun felt great.

The soft white sand beaches go on for miles here in the Florida pan-handle.

Dining

In order to save money and because we enjoy our own cooking, we planned to eat out one meal each day and dine in the other. The kitchen was well stocked and we had planned our dine in meals before we left and packed that food to take with us. Therefore, we didn’t have to waste time grocery shopping and, as you know, food is always less expensive than in a tourist town.

This proved to be a good combination that allowed us to enjoy the one meal in our condo each day with our companions and also be able to explore the many fine restaurants in the area. One of our favorites is The Great Southern Cafe. They have fantastic breakfast, lunches, and dinners in what they call new-fashioned southern cooking. During the summer months you can wait up to two hours to eat dinner there, but this day we were able to walk right up and get an outside table in the sun for breakfast. They also take reservations, which I highly recommend especially during busy seasons.

Would I recommend a trip to 30A in February? Absolutely! If you’re wanting to lay out and get a tan, wait a few weeks before you go, but for folks who’d like a slight break from the cold, beautiful scenery, relaxation, exercise, and great food, its definitely worth it.

Whether if it’s the oceans, the mountains, or anything in between, I love spending time in nature as it’s beauty always allows me to reflect on the majesty and goodness of God and that can be the best part of any trip!

He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.

Job 9:8

Are you too old to ski?

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This week we embarked on our first trip in my retirement – Breckenridge Colorado for snow skiing.

While I learned to ski in my late 20’s, we later got busy with raising a family, kids sports, etc. and we didn’t ski again for over 20 years. Thankfully my husband and I were able to pick it up again a few years ago and we haven’t missed a season since.

Now that I’m of that retirement age, I asked myself if this is a sport I should give up? Thankfully, I learned absolutely not! Accordingly to the experts, You can ski at any age as long as you are fit and healthy enough for regular exercise.

Skiing is fantastic for older adults as it helps maintain balance which does tend to decrease with age. It also increases core strength and coordination. It increases cardiovascular endurance and burns a ton of calories. Although exhausting, all that fresh air and sunshine and the exhilaration of gliding down a mountain just puts you in a happy mood. Most resorts even offer discounts for senior citizens and some even offer free lift tickets for those over 70!

Where do I start?

Of course, with any new exercise routine, you’ll want to check with your doctor first.

Once you get the green light, know that it’s going to be cold so make sure you have warm layered snow clothing, ski pants, jacket, and gloves. Because of our slower metabolism we tend to get colder than the younger folks. Ski goggles are a must to protect your eyes from the elements and a helmet is a no-brainer if you want to protect yours. I prefer to ski on sunny days rather than snowy ones, whenever possible just because it’s warmer and I don’t like the snow hitting me in the face.

If you’ve never been before or it’s been a while, I highly recommend ski school. The first time I went skiing I wasted half a day, losing my balance, falling and struggling to get up again and again. After just one hour of ski school, I had the fundamentals down and had learned how to balance without falling, slow myself down, stop, and the proper way to get up when I did fall.

The instructors are always wonderful and patient. They want you to succeed and it’s definitely worth the money! You can find and book the perfect lesson for you on the resort website, like http://breckenridge.com

I’ll admit getting on and off the chair lift the first few times can be a little intimidating, but just let the attendants there know it’s your first time and they will be glad to give you proper instructions. And if you fall getting off, so what…. It happens all the time. You won’t be the first and you definitely won’t be the last.

Many people think they need to start with smaller more local ski resorts and then work their way up to the bigger places like Colorado, but I found the opposite true. The snow in Colorado is less icy giving you more control and the slopes are wider allowing you room to take it slower down the mountain when necessary, but you may want to try out the more local slopes before you spend the money to travel very far.

There are three categories of slopes, green being the easiest, blue and then black diamond being the steepest. For safety sake you’ll definitely want to start with the green and then work your way up as your skill increases. For me I’m perfectly happy breezing down the greens all day long. They are challenging enough for this lady.

If you’ve never been to Colorado before and you get a headache, become light-headed and nauseous, you probably don’t have the flu, it just altitude sickness. It takes our bodies a while to adjust to the lower oxygen levels. Drinking lots of water really helps with this.

The town

Breckenridge is a beautiful quaint town. Even if you don’t ski, it’s a lovely place to visit. Everything is pretty compact and We were able to get a condo near the chairlift we wanted to use.

We used http://epicmountainexpress.com transportation to the condo which was much cheaper for us than renting a car since we really didn’t need one anyway. The shuttle service was very organized and friendly and they communicated well our pick up instructions at the airport. They dropped us off right at the door of our condo. Also, the 2 hour drive to the mountains from the Denver airport can be a little hazardous if it’s snowing which it was on our trip so it’s nice to sit back and let the experts handle it.

A snow-covered street with Christmas lights.

We’d go out and ski during the day and then go back to the condo and get cleaned up and walk to dinner that night. The streets are lit with white and colorful lights throughout. We even went back to the condo for lunch a couple of days. The restaurants on the slopes are fabulous but a little pricy so we choose to eat in during lunch and splurge on dinner that night. If you’re too tired to go out after a day on the slopes, kicking back with a pizza and a fire in the fireplace is always a lovely option.

There is also a free shuttle bus that runs throughout the city. Check http://breckfreeride.com for the schedule. It will take you for free almost anywhere in town.

Admittedly, skiing is hard work. It’s cold, the mountain air is thin making breathing more difficult and you have to put on all those clothes and heavy boots that are hard to walk in and then carry your skies and poles over to the lift. But there is something magical that happens when you get off that chair lift on top of that mountain You take a deep breath of fresh air and head down the slopes. It’s exhilarating! And once you’re at the bottom and catch your breath, you’re ready to go again.

You’ll see everyone from the tiny toddlers to the aged on the slopes. It’s definitely a sport for anyone up for a challenge, so give it a try!

Finally, do yourself a favor and don’t miss the opportunity to experience the majesty of God while in the mountains. Listen closely and you will sense His presence there in a very unique way.

In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him. Psalm 95:4

A ski slope with a beautiful snow covered mountain in the background and blue sky