My First Cruise

what was my first cruise impression?

My cruising cherry has been popped and the itch to go again has already started. If you haven’t gone on a cruise before and have been thinking about it, jump on the bandwagon because it was a pretty fantastic experience. We went on the European Explorer itinerary with Princess Cruises aboard the Sapphire Princess.

I figured I’ll start with my impressions as a first-timer, then move on to the stops we made. 🙂 And off we go!

If I missed any aspect of the ship or you have other questions… leave a comment!

Checking In

The check-in process is really similar to when you’re flying. You check your bag and it magically appears in your stateroom later. There is an option to carry items on with you. Luggage doesn’t immediately appear in your stateroom, so I kept a few things on me that I thought I might want right away, like my purse, toiletries, phone charger, and clothes in case I wanted to change.

The Ship

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The sheer size of cruise ships is mind-boggling! The majority of the decks are filled with staterooms, but there is plenty of room for the several dining rooms and pools. As we entered, all I could think of is how powerful water must be if it can cause this ginormous piece of machinery to heave and ho.

Similar to hotel folklore, our ship did not have a 13th deck.

Stateroom

The room was bigger than I thought it would be but definitely smaller than your average hotel room. There was a large flat screen in the corner, a desk for keeping items, a HUGE mirror above the desk, two nightstands that were the same width as the space around the bed, a good size closet with lots of hangers, and a small bathroom. The shower is stall style BUT was roomier than I’d been preparing myself for. As an average-sized, 5’6″ person, I didn’t have any problems.

We upgraded from an interior room to a room with an “obstructed view.” I’m so glad we made this decision. Having the window for natural sunlight was great! I think it contributed to the room feeling bigger also.

Back to the closet, I loved being able to hang all my dresses and some shirts I brought so I wasn’t living out of a suitcase like I typically do in hotels. There are seriously SO many hangers! At least 30 so we both had plenty and then some. The robes were soft and I ended up lounging extra long in mine after showering.

Stateroom Steward

img_5252We were serviced by Agnelo each day. He was the sweetest and most pleasant person to see each morning, after my husband of course, haha. He always greatest us and asked how we slept, if we needed anything special in the room, and how our day was. He was very knowledgeable of the services on board and even the port call times. We were very impressed with his level of service. The bar has been set high!

For my sanity, I was grateful to find a really decent selection of movies and tv episodes to stream in our stateroom. We watched a few that we hadn’t caught in theatres and rewatched favorite tv shows during downtime and after turning in for the night. One of our favorites was Ocean Treks with Jeff Corwin. Yes, he’s still making content people!

On a side note, we did get chocolates on our pillow, some yummy chocolate covered strawberries (Thanks Monticello Travel!), and a pillow animal one day.

 

Amenities

A tour of the spa and relaxation area did not disappoint. Thermal steam rooms and saunas, heated relaxation chairs, a hair salon, acupuncture, workout facility, and more are offered onboard. It’s all extra $$$, but you’ll read more about how we did indulge some.

Sapphire Princess is home to five pools and six hot tubs. Each night, and some days, there was a Movie Under the Stars at one of the outdoor pools. If there was a shortage of anything, lounge chairs is not one of those things. There are stacks and stacks of them everywhere there is an open space on an open-air deck!

There’s also no shortage of food options. There is one 24-hour option, several dining rooms, and informal stations to get quick food to-go. We quickly found the ice cream station and got a swirl cone as we continued to explore the ship.

There are some retail stores if you need something quickly or have a shopping bug. Pretty much anything is available from apparel, makeup, skin care, jewelry, purses, and personal items in the many stores on board.

Overall, this ship is literally a mini-city that floats. My husband was even able to get his suit dry cleaned on board! The only thing it was missing is data service and wifi I didn’t have to pay for. I was pleased that if any needs came up (and a few did) that I wouldn’t have to summon my inner McGyver to get through a sticky situation.

Food

We chose to do the traditional dining rather than any-time dining, something I was persuaded to do with some reluctance. After the first night, I was really pleased my husband pushed this suggestion. Our waiters, Daniel and Anna, were fantastic. They have the same level of service and personality as our stateroom steward, so seeing them each day was an enjoyable experience.

I was pleased with the menu each day BUT wish there had been a larger variety when it came to ethnicity for entree options. Yes, most people enjoy steak, chicken, and their occasional veggie dishes, but I was lacking the diversity of flavors. Maybe I was too picky or didn’t order the right things. I ordered Pad Thai once, one of the few Asian-inspired dishes I saw on the menu during our time at sea. It was good, and a nice change from the seafood and red meat I tended to order.

img_5251Overall…

In many ways, our first day on board was exactly what I expected. The ship had more than I thought it would and the activities offered on board were sure to keep us occupied. We had a nice blend of scheduled items, downtime, and port visits. We even managed to log decent sleep each night. Sorry, this old couple isn’t jamming at the Skywalker Lounge until 2:00 AM anymore, but it was there if we wanted to. 😉

Our Ports of Call

I’ll make these links to each location once posts are written. Here’s what you have to look forward to reading about.

Livorno/Florence, Italy
Monte Carlo, Monaco
Barcelona, Spain
Gibraltar, UK
Lisbon, Portugal
Le Havre/Normandy, France

Life as a Stay at Home Wife

What do I do with my time?

*Tea review will be added later.

**This post was typed on a mobile device. Instead of excusing any grammatical and spelling errors, kindly excuse and pass over them.

Hey everyone! Life has hit full force and the life I thought I’d have here is so much greater than I ever imagined it to be. When we made the decision for me to quit my job to move to Italy, I surely thought I’d have a tougher time finding things to fill up the calendar.

I guess this post is to sort of explain my lack of posting regularly by expressing that I’m not simply being lazy. However, now that some balance is being achieved I have a plan to make sure this personal project doesn’t completely fall between the cracks and actually becomes part of the productivity I seem to still have day by day.

Growing Friendships and My Support System

You’re probably thinking, “Wow, spending time with friends sure sounds productive.” Maybe the thought was even accompanied by an eye roll. As a military wife, this is crucial, especially living abroad. Until living here, I could count the number of people I knew who had lived overseas on one hand. In college and working after graduation, I did not have any friends who have gone through this type of experience, or at least not any who shared about it.

Being able to talk with people about struggles I’m currently facing has been so valuable. Yeah, I can talk to my husband about it, but sometimes it’s nice having other perspectives on the situation. There’s a lot of things to get used to technology wise and regarding the culture.

For example, this winter was REALLY cold. I felt like I couldn’t layer on enough clothes to keep warm sometimes and the space heater became an extension of me as I wheeled it from room to room. At first, I thought I was being a huge wimp about it. Turns out this was one of the coldest winters or area has had in awhile. I learned that from others who lived here last winter… and then when it snowed for the first time in six years.

Also, it’s nice having people to run errands and carpool with. Sometimes I’ll tag along on a trip to the commissary just to spend time with a friend. Other times, we’ll plan a day to meet at the gym to get a work out in. I should probably do more of the latter.

I can’t forget my friends and support system back home. I still talk with them regularly as the time difference permits and am really trying to become a card person on people’s birthdays/special occasions back home. All my life, my grandmother has been so good about sending me cards and even postcards when they traveled the world. I’m returning the favor even though her birthday card was late, Brussels was a month ago, and Easter already passed. I said I’m trying…

Exploring My Interests

One thing you should know about me is that I LOVE playing softball. Prior to now, I was playing multiple times a week. It’s finally softball season here! We have practice three times a week and games start soon. You have NO idea how excited this makes me that I can play even for a few months over here. Also, I’m finally exploring the talent I have in written. During school, I was complemented several times on my writing ability and even have a bachelor’s degree in English. For years, I’ve wanted to start a blog. Obviously, I’ve done that. I started exploring the world of freelance so my voice and experience can be read in other parts of the internet. Eventually, I’ll compile some links together so you can check out some of my other, more professional work that’s out there. This shouldn’t come as a shock, but I’m just as guilty of binging Netflix and keeping up on television shows as most people are. I watched a lot of Christmas movies and finally got myself some Hulu access to keep up with shows from back home. There are days (occasionally) that I reward myself with only watching tv. I use the term “reward” her a little loosely.

Training, Meetings, and Trips

Yeah, I go on trips and they are a blast. I feel so fortunate to be able to experience the variety of cultures that Italy and the rest of Europe have to offer. Belgium and Spain were both fantastic! We have a cruise and two trips planned for Germany coming up soon so stay tuned!

I do take advantage of free trainings that are offered by the Navy that spouses can participate in. I’ve gone through SafeTalk, a suicide intervention and prevention training, and a training on being a valuable sponsor to someone new coming to our command. We’ll actually be going to Germany to participate in a Marriage Enrichment Retreat. For me, these experiences give me more that I can bring back to the states with me. I want to continue having a happy, successful marriage, and I know the SafeTalk training is something that will benefit me when I start applying to positions at a university again.

And yes, I go to meetings. The ombudsman hosts a meeting each month to address any information to us from the command and hear any concerns from the dependents. I’ve learned something every single time I’ve gone. When they’re held and I’m invited, I’ll go to meetings or briefings for wives who have husbands on the ship to try to better understand their perspective and possibly support them better if I can.

The Marriage Stuff

What I really mean is continuing to shape our marriage. It’s definitely evolved since we first started living together and in the long run the changes have been positive. We grocery shop together and use that time to discuss what we’ll have for dinner. It’s also when we talk about when we’ll go out to dinner instead. A cleaning schedule was put in place a couple weeks ago after a “discussion.” I believe it’s been helpful but the jury is still out on that. If anything, it reminds us both (*cough* mostly me *cough*) what has been cleaned that week and what still needs attention. I used to only do things away from the house when my husband was at work, but now, I’ve allowed myself a little more autonomy. Just because he’s home, doesn’t mean I have to be. Through trial and error, I’m learning what a good balance looks like for both of us to feel like we have a good amount of quality time together, whether it’s watching tv, cooking dinner, or walking around the NEX looking at things we don’t really need.

Basically…

Being a stay-at-home wife is not what I thought it would be, and I think it’s a lot different than others think it is. I don’t wear pearls and vacuum every day. I don’t eat chips and become part of the couch (most days). Heck, I don’t even clean every day. Work-life balance isn’t something that only exists on the workplace. It exists at home too. I know I’d be miserable if I was the stereotypical stay-at-home wife, so I’ve redefined that role. I’m using this opportunity to better myself, my marriage, my friendships, and my experience living here.

**The reason I’m writing his from my phone is because we were watching a Champions League game in our room. My husband fell asleep and I had been working on freelance stuff. Instead of going another week without posting, I decided to finally bring this post to life by the light of my cell phone.

Why Quitting My Job Works For Me

How can quitting my job work?

Before moving to Italy with my husband, we made one of the most difficult decisions I think we’ll make as a couple until we have children. I say WE because it truly was a joint decision that I don’t know if I could have really made on my own in good faith. The decision was to quit my job so we could be together full time.

Tea of the day: Refresh Mint
Brand: Tazo Tea

Color: More like the Peppermint Bark tea than Mint Medley I tried before, this tea is brown in color. It’s a lighter brown that allows you to see to the bottom of the mug still.
Taste: I had to check the ingredients because there is a familiar taste that I like but was slightly different than a normal peppermint. I thought may be it would be licorice, but instead is spearmint. I almost exclusively chew spearmint gum which is what made the taste familiar. The spearmint does make the bite of mint flavoring stronger than Mint Medley, and it offers a cooling sensation in the mouth.
Ideas for next time I have this: I still struggle to think of other ingredients to add to mint flavored teas. The strength of the spearmint makes me really enjoy it the way it is, so why fix what’s not broken?

Now, I had a pretty good job, and I liked it for the most part. I was a trainer at a university’s call center. By the time I left, I had trained over half the existing staff, knew everyone by name, and could tell you at least one thing unique to them. My favorite part of working is the relationships I build with other staff and my position gave me the perfect opportunity to do that with everyone.

Why it works

I would never encourage anyone to just quit their job. Some people have the ability to make those decisions without having something else like that. I am not that type of person. I wouldn’t quit a job without one in place or a plan.

Here’s why quitting my job works for us:

  • WE talked about it a LOT. My husband and I discussed several times at length what our financial situation would be if I were to quit my job. We discussed how much debt we each have, the income we would have, and looked ahead at what we would like to do with expendable income. We even got on the same page about a savings plan.
  • Extra money was saved for when we became a single-income household. Because of our specific situation with where my husband is stationed and living options, we did have some extra cash flow coming in for a few months. Before we got married, that money’s purpose was identified and we have not strayed from it. It is in a separate account and only spent on my mandatory expenses related to bills and travel. Luckily, we saved enough that student loan payments are not a worry until I can get a full-time job upon returning to the US.
  • WE discuss larger purchases. Being a single-income household brings accountability and we have to hold each other accountable. We each are very conscious about what we spend and any large purchases are discussed beforehand. Part of that discussion includes which account the purchase is made from, its necessity, and other possible options. Two recent examples are a second car and a device that diagnoses car problems.
  • It’s an ongoing conversation. Like most couples, money talk is typically left open-ended. The conversation is never truly over. There are always bills being paid and purchases being made. That ongoing conversation is part of our accountability system. It’s not wrong to ask if the internet bill was paid or if it’s ok to buy something we “want” rather than “need” on Amazon.

That last point is really key. Without the ongoing discussion, my not having a job would not work. I’d be too stressed out about money to the point where I’d likely give up my social life out of fear. Having the constant conversation continues to bring assurance of our financial situation while alleviating the stress that could be a symptom of one income for two people.

Benefits of quasi-employment

There’s also some serious benefits to not having a job, especially when you’re living abroad. I say I’m quasi-employed because I am a skincare consultant and am working on starting my own coaching business, but right now, there’s little to no income generated from those.

  • Focus on my marriage. I really have the ability to focus on my new marriage and being a great wife. Not that I wouldn’t be able to if I was employed, but our relationship has never really had to compete with a job in person. My husband and I were long-distance the first 18 months of our relationship (that includes our first 3 months of marriage), so spending time with each other never had to compete with time for our jobs. We haven’t gotten to spend time together consistently until now, so to be able to really focus on that when we are together instead of fighting thoughts of what I need to do to prepare for work the next day is incredible.
  • Focus on my interests. I have a Bachelor’s degree in English that I haven’t really used except to go to grad school. I’ve always wanted to write something. Never really knew what, but I got some time to figure it out. I started this blog and exploring opportunities to write in other places on the internet. You won’t know most of it is me, but it’s out there and I know it. 🙂 Also, I love tea so I get to drink a lot of it now. AND I’m having a lot of fun playing travel agent for us by researching places for us to travel to while we’re stationed in Europe. Oh, and I certainly wouldn’t have been able to stay up and watch the World Series at 2:00 AM if I was working.
  • Focus on my family and friends. I think I might talk more with my family and friends back home now than I did when I was working and lived closer to them. I’m so grateful that I’m able to keep up with them even when I’m 6,000 miles away. I don’t know what I’d do without my family and friends. Just because you move away doesn’t mean you have to completely start over. My husband and I grew stronger through distance so I know it’s not an excuse to lose connection with people I love and care about. And this extends to new friends I’m making in Italy!
  • Focus on me. I’ve been back in the states for almost a month. My husband decided to text my mother asking how they were holding up with me back home, haha. My mother’s response was that they were doing fine and that I was more centered. That really hit me. I have been working since I was 15 and always get invested emotionally in my job. You could say I was “always” working. Between that, a social life, softball tournaments, traveling for family gatherings/weddings, and then my own wedding, there wasn’t much time for focus on me regardless of how often people said I needed time to just relax. Well, I have it now. I’m not productive every day, but most days I am in some way. I embraced the true laziness for awhile, but it’s a lot easier to make productive decisions when I’ve actually had a chance to relax.

I still feel like I’m on a long vacation. I’m not sure it’s totally hit my psyche that I don’t have a job I will be going back to. Whatever that job is, I’ll have to apply for it and that’s a thought I can push away for now. The reality is that if I want to work, I can, but I don’t have to.

Like I said before, I’d never simply tell someone to quit their job. But if you’re thinking about it, maybe this can help ease your mind about what some benefits are and some things to REALLY think about beforehand.