Scuba Cayman – May 2017 Trip

Claudine and I had been planning to get our SCUBA certification for a while.  In the fall of 2016 we booked our classes with Scuba Unlimited.  Our plan was to do all the prerequisite work here but do the open water certification somewhere warm.  Grand Cayman to be exact.

So basically, for my 50th birthday that’s exactly what we did. We did the classwork and pool work in November and December of 2016 and the open water work over the week of May 13th through 20th, 2017.

We booked a condo for a week in Grand Cayman at Seven Mile Beach Resort with some friends (the same one’s who recommended Scuba Unlimited) who have a time share there and who has been spending a week on Grand Cayman since the early 90’s.

The flight down was anti-climactic.  Since we’re staying for a week and everything is expensive on Cayman we brought a suitcase full of food at the suggestion of the folks we’re going with.  (Sandwich fixings, meat, some steaks to grill, etc, etc.) So that we can cook our own breakfast and lunch, and have a cookout once or twice.  We also brought 4 bottles of wine (4x 750ml).  We also each brought a liter of liquor from the Duty Free.  Claudine a bottle of Vodka, and I opted for a bottle of Kraken rum.  For those doing the math, you can see that’s too much.  You’re allowed 1 liter of liquor per person, or 5 liters of wine, but not both which was a misunderstanding on our part at the time.

During the immigration/customs shakedown we disclosed that we had some FDA approved meat, which they wanted to see. Upon inspecting the meats they discovered the wine.  We had declared the 2 liters of Vodka and Rum but totally disregarded the wine.  Customs wasn’t happy with that and we were now treated like world class smugglers. In the end it cost us $12 duty.  Not the end of the world[tm].

We rented a car from Andy’s Car Rental who matched a budget price, it was $89 US for the whole week.  The car was a midsize, which in the US is a sub-compact.  I’d do that again, I’d think.

On the way to check in we stopped at the grocery and picked up all the other things we needed but didn’t bring.  Condiments and the like, we also discovered, outside of alcohol, food prices weren’t all that outrageous so we’ll not be bringing a suitcase full of food next time.

The condo was great, two bedrooms, nice living area, on the first floor, thanks to our Hosts.  About a half a block walk to the beach.

We arrived on a Saturday, with time to settle in and get a little beach time.  We would spend the next 6 days diving and enjoying the Cayman life.

Basic Dive Log details for each of the dives:

Sunday: Dives 1 and 2 of our 4 Certification Dives.
At the Aquarium (46 ft /41 mins) and Victoria’s Secret (48 ft / 44 mins) Dive sites.  At each of these sites we did skills for the first 20 mins in a sand spot and got to spend the rest of the time enjoying the dive.

Monday: Dives 3 and 4 of our 4 Certification Dives.
At Darvin’s Theory (60 ft / 38 mins) and Spanish Anchor (50 ft /  40 mins) Dive sites. At each of these sites we did skills for the first 20 mins in a sand spot and got to spend the rest of the time enjoying the dive.

(Yea! we’re now certified)

Tuesday: Dives 5, 6, and 7
At Sentinel Rock (80 ft / 28 mins) and Turtle Schooner (39 ft / 42 mins) Dive sites and afternoon at Stingray City (14ft /32 mins).
Sentinel Rock was a little deeper than expected, with our first swim through, completely awesome.  Turtle Schooner was a sweet shallow reef dive.  Our afternoon dive was a shallow dive at Stingray City west where our give master spent time feeding the rays.

Wednesday: Dives 8 and 9
Two short dives at Turtle Reef (60 ft /  45 mins) and (58 ft / 39 mins).
Our first real experience with significant current.  Dive one was a bit tough, dive 2 was better despite the shorter down time.  Spent some time working on buoyancy.

Thursday: Dives 10 and 11
At Slaughterhouse (104 ft / 35 mins) and Anglefish Reef (52 ft / 52 mins) Dive sites.  Slaughterhouse was awesome, deep wall dive with swim through, Anglefish Reef was also amazing, we’re hitting our dive stride now.

Friday: Dives 12 and 13
At Round Rock (100 ft / 35 mins) and Kittewake (61ft / 44 mins) Dive sites. Claudine and I coming through the 100 foot swim through.  I’m behind and below.

We had an amazing week, 2 dives a day on average, looking forward to buying our own regulators and BCD’s.  We ate at some amazing restaurants while we were there.  We also had excellent Snorkeling at the beach at the resort.

Other photos from our trip.

Coffee, we love our coffee, and our KRUPS Bean to Cup.

A few years ago when visiting the company office in Munich Germany I was introduced to this “Bean to Cup” concept that wasn’t a vending machine.  They literally had the same coffee maker.  While I thought the maintenance, and extra work seemed like a little too much to have to deal with every time you wanted a cup of coffee.  I quickly got over it.

Krups bean to cup

When I returned home I started looking at them.

Krups Espresseria  (< $600 now)

$900, $700, are you kidding me? So I turned to ebay, and bought a ‘barely used’ like new model for about $300.  When I told Claudine I had purchased a $300 coffee maker she gave me that look.

The look I had seen once before, when we were first married, over 27 years ago, when I had to explain to her that I spent the rent money on a new camera body. It was not a good look.

Needless to say it didn’t take long to convert her.  This thing makes excellent coffee.  Is it worth over $600? (These are now under that new, because they are a little long in the tooth).  I’d say yes.  Hard to believe but yes.

The red one in the photos is the original used unit that I purchased about 3 years ago.  It has been back to the factory for repairs, twice.  Once for the grinder, and then when we got it back it wasn’t right so we sent it back and the put new brains in it.  It has over 4400 coffee cycles today and had over 3600 when that event happened.

We drink a lot of coffee.  There are at least 4 of us that have multiple cups per day.  Word on the street is that they really only last about 3,000 cycles.  But we’re going strong at over 4400 after the last rebuild.

It is not perfect though, and there are things I’d change and be willing to pay money for.  So if you know of a similar sized unit that has some of these features for less than $2000 let me know.

  • This is a single bean unit.  Which means you can have any flavor coffee you want as long as it’s the kind that’s in the hopper.
    • I’d love a unit that would let me side-load decaf now and then (for guests of course).
    • Or some other flavor, or even pre-ground coffee.
  • The ability to brew more than 10 ounces (a double) in a single button push (actually two button pushes but who’s counting?).
  • Ideally a larger used coffee hopper, since most of the folks in my family are doing double or long coffee’s and you have to empty the thing about every 4 or 5 cups.  (both the drip tray and the grind hopper).
  • Would be nice to have a larger cup area so you could put a tall travel cup.  Today we have to make 2 or 3 coffee’s and dump them in.  Not a deal breaker but would be a nice to have.

This thing get’s two thumbs up from the disher household.

 

Cruise 2016 (Oasis of the seas)

This year Claudine and I decided we needed our own vacation.  So just like 5 years ago we booked a cruise.  This time on the Oasis of the seas, Royal Caribbean’s largest ship to date.  (At the time I’m writing this the Oasis class is still the largest ship, there is dispute over which one of the ships is actually the largest, it might be the Allure).

This blog post will be about the highlights of our cruise, it’s not going to be a review of the cruise or the ship.  That will come later.  The short review is simply this:

We love cruising, we love the all inclusive nature, with the opportunity to see multiple ports of call, good food, good atmosphere, add in the rocking of the boat and it’s the best sleep you’ll ever get.

This cruise was not without its challenges.  In short, it is unlikely we’ll ever cruise on the Oasis again.  We might try the Allure, but not the Oasis.  This has nothing to do with cruising itself, but Royal dropped the ball more than a few times on this trip.   We heard from plenty of other passengers including a few that had previously sailed the Oasis and other Oasis class ships that this was below their normal expectations for service and quality.  It is unclear to me if this is a company wide issue or if it’s an issue with this ship.  In the past we found our trip on the Freedom of the seas to be a 10 out of 10, the same ship (Indy) was more like an 8 out of 10 with respect to service/entertainment.   Using the same scale, the Oasis probably only scores a 6.5-7, and that’s not ‘awesome’.   Still at the end of the day, you’re on a cruise ship!, and it was still hella fun, and still an outstanding value.    Details on this will come later.

We booked our 7 night, Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Oasis of the seas through Costco.  Including flights from Cincy to Fort Lauderdale we were all in for a little less than $3000 USD ($2400 for the cruise/$600 air fare).  This was an upper ‘superior view balcony stateroom’.  I’m sure this isn’t the ‘ultimate deal’ but it was in our minds a pretty good deal.

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Tuft and Needle–Mattress Review

First, I’m not a mattress expert or a traditionally trained sleep specialist.  Although if sleeping were an Olympic sport, I could probably pretty easily make it into the regionals.

I know how to sleep.

We recently ordered a Tuft and Needle Foam Mattress after reading a review on Bestmattress-brand.org and when I posted that via Facebook folks said they wanted to know what if we liked it.

So here goes.

A good mattress should last between 8 and 10 years.  According to the Internet.  Just google it and that’s the answer you’ll find so I’m using that.

We’ve had multiple mattresses during what’s so far is a 26 year marriage.   Admittedly in the beginning we had cheap ones.  We had a water bed when we first got married (Don’t judge me, it was the 80’s).  Then a cheap King mattress set, and at one point we got a new foam mattress from the in-laws who didn’t like it or found it to soft or something.  I can’t remember the details.

But what I do know and can easily recall is our last mattress.     We decided it was time we had a ‘good mattress’ and we bought that in 2008 from the Original Mattress Factory.    They are, or were highly recommended in our area.  At the time we purchased a Orthopedic Luxury Firm Mattress.

Continue reading “Tuft and Needle–Mattress Review”

The Kings Island Meal Deal

kingsislandIMG_3725

For the 2015 Season, we once again have Season Passes to the great Kings Island Amusement park.  Yep the whole family.

Working directly across the street from it for the last 10 years I’ve only been a handful of times.   We had season passes 18+ years ago when we lived in Landen but not since.

Anyway, turns out they have this “All Season Meal Plan” which you can add to your season pass.  It’s $90 plus tax and you can eat every 4 hours, so basically 2x per day if you’re there all day.    Last year I’m told it had a 2 hour wait period, but they moved that to 4 hours this year.

So what do you get?

At almost every restaurant, or food place, they have combo deals that are on the ”Meal Plan”.  It basically includes an entre of some sort and a side, usually chips or fries.

A burger and fries, a wrap and fries/chips, pizza and bread sticks, chicken fingers and fries.   You get the idea.   Of course no beverage is included.   You can’t include that when a 20oz of something is $4 retail.

Along the same lines *most* of these combo deals are $14-$15 each.     That’s right, two slices of Larosa’s pizza with bread sticks  $15.00.   Buddy is turning in his grave.  Though those combo’s usually do include a drink I think.

So basically, for lunch, I hop on over to KI, and grab a meal.   I can get in an out of there in 40 minutes most days.  Sometimes less, and even ride a ride or two if the lines are short.

It’s early in the game but I’ve been there over 15 times at the time this blog post so I’ve already gotten my money back and the season’s just starting.

Here’s an example of some of the food items:
(These are actual meals that I obtained, your results may vary, it seems the staff is not really well trained on what you get and what you don’t in a lot of places).

Skyline 3-Way and Cheese Coney:
Skyline3WayDeal
Not the healthiest, but likely the best value in the park.

Larosa’s Pizza
LarosasPizza
2 Slices and some breadsticks

The Reds Club (formerly Montgomery Inn) in River town has some pretty good food:
RedsClubBuffaloChickenWrapRedsClubCheeseburgerRedsClubChickenWrapRedsBuffaloSalad_01
RedsBuffaloSalad_02RedsBuffaloSalad_03RedsCheeseburger_wBacon

Their Buffalo Chicken Wrap is one of the better meals.  Yes, that’s bacon on my burger, which isn’t part of the deal but if you ask nicely…   The Buffalo Chicken Salad cannot be beat, provided you get the crispy chicken.  The grilled chicken is suspect.

Chicken Shack Chicken Wrap:
ChickenShack
What’s good here is you get to pick what’s in your wrap.

Hank’s Burrito Shack:
HanksBurrito_TacoSaladHanksBurritoShack

Hank’s is a Chipotle knock off.   Truth is, it’s just plain horrible.   The chicken is not good, the beef is really really bad, and none of it has any flavor.
Technically you’re only supposed to get a Burrito, or Burrito Bowl, or some Taco’s, but those also come with a side of chips and salsa.   The best bet is what you see above the taco salad, which my buddies got all year last year.    While I have eaten it a few times this year, we’ve been told it’s not on the meal plan.   I don’t get it, it’s the same thing a burrito only the tortilla is deep fried, and not very well I might add.

So we’ll see.   I can’t find my photos of the burrito bowl.  I’ve had that twice and if I never had it again I’d be OK with that.

Then again I’d rather eat that then the craptastic food at the Potato Works:
PotatoWorksChickenTenders
What you see above there is some form of Chicken tender, that’s of lesser quality than a chicken-nugget from McDonalds.   Maybe it’s the gluten free aspect that makes these so horrible, but the alleged chicken inside them wasn’t clearly recognizable as chicken.   On that same day my buddy opted for the corn dog meal deal and it was equally bad.

Also missing photos are:
Chick-fil-A, you can get a regular Chick-fil-A sandwich and large fry.  Yes their waffle cut fries.   This isn’t a horrible deal, but it’s not a lot of food.

There is a Panda Express in the fest-haus.   Which isn’t completely horrible it just depends on how fresh the food is and who’s serving.   The orange chicken is pretty plain, and the king pao is fairly spicy.   But the sides, the egg rolls, and Crab Rangoon’s without crab are pretty nasty.

You can get a 6” Subway sandwich too.   But what we’ve learned so far is that you really need to stay away from the meals that are labor intensive.   Building a 6” sub is hard for a lot of people and the line there isn’t worth the wait.

So I plan to post updates throughout the season.    The plan is to try and eat as healthy as is reasonable.   Chicken Salads, stuff like that when possible.   But a burger and/or pizza will get in there from time to time.   Thankfully the servings aren’t all that large and you end up walking quite a bit to get in and out of the joint.  Literally a mile in and out on a good day.

At last check, I’ve eaten there 32 times.   Money well spent.   We were told recently by an employee there that the average person only uses the meal plan 2.5 times.  (@ $90, that works out to $36 a meal for what could be a $14 meal).   We’re just doing our part to keep them from making obscene profits Smile