ABOUT MY FAMILY
A little about me and the family. We "try" to cruise often (3-4x a year if possible) and my little family that cruises all of the time, consist of me, the hubby and our daughter, Sakari. (Pronounced just as it's spelled SA-KAR-I) Sakari has been cruising since she was 3 years old.
"Most" of the time my oldest daughter, Kendra, and her fiance and my grandson, who is the same age as my youngest daughter, comes along with us. Recently, my granddaughter, Kambriah has started cruising as well.
My youngest son, Kolin (adult) sometimes cruises with us.
Then there's my oldest son, Kenny, has cruised with us once since becoming an adult and once as a teen. He had a major case of seasickness, so I'm not sure if he'll ever join us again.
MY CRUISING EXPERIENCE
As you can tell from my list of reviews, we mainly cruise with NCL and my goal has been to do the entire fleet....but they keep adding ships on me.
I have adventured out and tried Carnival several times and absolutely loved the ships we have been on with them so far.
I have started trying to sail with Royal Caribbean a little as well. We have nothing but wonderful experiences with them and great ships!
We did a Royal Caribbean back in the 90's and also NCL Seaward back in the 80's.
My goal is to not sail the same ship more than once for a new experience each time. (However, I did have to sail NCL Epic twice...only because that was one cruise that my youngest daughter did not come with us because she was too young, and she has insisted ever since that she wanted to go on it...so we did and also we sailed on the Breakaway again only because we had to use up some future cruise certificates up and the Breakaway seems to be the only ship sailing to the Caribbean during the summer months).
FOR THOSE GETTING TO KNOW ME:
We are a fun loving and goofy family that loves to have a good time. We make the best of everything even if it's a bad situation. Anyone who follows my reviews knows the "crap" I've dealt with on cruises from breaking my hand in St Maarten, breaking my toe on the Getaway, missing our flight due to my "dear daughter" Kendra...who is the most non-punctual person you will ever meet, to anything else that is thrown at us. We make light of the situation and we roll with it!
We crack a lot of jokes (and I have a quirky sense of humor...my kids do as well) and love adventure and trying new things. My youngest (Sakari) is an animal lover and if there's anything involving animals, we have to do it. We have done swims with the stingrays, dolphins, manatees, sharks and held so many things in the sea (yes, even those we didn't know better and paid the price for it). She LOVES to draw. She's actually really good at it too. Sakari would rather sit around drawing (mostly animals) than playing with toys. I include many of her "masterpieces" in my reviews because that's what she does in her "off" time on the ship. She was tested in 5th grade and labeled as "gifted in arts" and selected to attend ART SCHOOL. Last year she started her art school, and we are so proud of her, and she is currently in 7th grade. Sakari has been cruising since she was 3 years old (and has been on over 20 cruises...you're welcome daughter for us making you Platinum before you're 18) and she just thinks it's a way of life. She is a DAREDEVIL!!! She will do anything we do and doesn't think twice about it. She zip lined in the jungle, by herself at the age of 3, cave tubing, held tarantulas, jumped off 2 story decks into the ocean, went on the biggest water slides on the ships (and yes, even the ones that you stand in and the floor drops out from under you)...the list goes on. There's nothing she won't do. Now that she's a "teen" her love for adrenaline has increased and she's really into roller coasters and huge drop water slides at the water park. She's like having an extra adult with us. We LOVE LOVE LOVE the beach. So if I can find a beach or snorkeling...that's where we'll be. If you ask me some "touristy tour seeing the history" type of thing, forgetaboutit...because that's not me.
A few years ago, we took up diving and Sakari became a certified MASTER PADI SEAL at the age of 10. We try to dive in at least 1 port each cruise now for the last several years. Maybe some day we'll get certified...who knows. :)
I tell my story through my eyes and my take on things. Everyone may not agree or have the same opinion, and that's ok, but I'm honest with the way "I" see things. I'm a planner. I do EXTENSIVE research prior to any cruise. I read reviews, I look on the web, I take notes, copy maps, save websites, make spread sheets and everything has to be perfectly planned. That's just me. The family just "rolls with it". I crack up because I feel like a mother duckling and they follow...in a line and (seriously) if I turn one way, they do too, if I quickly turn back, they do too. Sometimes I start weaving back and forth in a "S" shape just to throw them off...then they'll catch on to what I'm doing and laugh. It's all a game and I have fun with it. (See what I mean? That's my quirkiness coming out). Don't worry, the hubby is the same and he pays me back. He's my personal GPS and he likes to throw me off too as a payback.
ORGANIZATION OF REVIEWS:
Many people have ask about the way I organize things for my reviews. The amount of work that goes into a review is actually quite extensive.
Here is my report on how I organize my reviews for the world to see.
IN THE BEGINNING: Everyone knows how much Sakari likes to draw. She always takes her notebooks with her on the cruise to occupy herself on both the plane and in the room at night before bed. I use the back few pages (and sometimes any pages I can find that she can spare) to write down my events and thoughts for the day. It’s kinda like my own little daily diary.
Since my reviews have gotten bigger and bigger over the years with so much more detail, let’s be honest, I’m not getting any younger and my mind is going, so these things must be wrote down for future reference. LOL
Every night after my shower I will sit in bed (or the balcony if we have one), while the hubby watches tv and after Sakari is done with her drawing and drifting off to her cruise dreams, I will jot down my thoughts from the day, what we have done and everything I can remember that I might have seen or wanted to make note of during the review. This usually consists of things that I have seen that might not be so good (like the shape of the ship or the service) or exceptionally good things that I might have encountered from the staff to exceptional service. I do this daily.
NOW: I have recently decided to carry my phone around with me and makes notes on it in the "notes" section. This helps out a little more than trying to remember everything we did that day and the possibility of forgetting a few things.
ARRIVING AT HOME: Once I get home, the first thing I do is to download my thousands of pictures. I usually take around 4,000 to 5,000 pictures…hoping to capture that “perfect” picture to describe what I want to say that will hopefully not even need words to express its beauty…but I still help it along with my (hopefully) funny antics. Just saying…
So, first I go to my desktop, right click, create a new folder and name it what the cruise was.
THE FOLDER PROCESS: The whole entire process is to make folder after folder to keep things organized. (You think I’m kidding? I kid you not…you will be sick of folders)
Once I have downloaded all the pictures from my multiple disk from the cruise, I will then start to create folders inside of that folder. I usually make the following folders for each cruise:
1) Before-this is the folder I will put little things in it usually building up to the cruise if I want it noted. Sometimes these are little things like a picture of my countdown clock showing “todays the day”, maybe a picture of Sakari’s countdown calendar we have made for the cruise.
2 Plane There- Obviously pictures of us at the airport or on the plane to our destination.
3) (Hotel name)-where we stayed for pre-cruise
4) Day 1-The morning we leave the hotel, heading to the port, getting on the ship, and the events of the first day.
5) Day 2----Day 7 (all for each day and if we are in port, I will name it that name as well)
6) Day 8 Home-us coming home on the way home
7) SHIP-all the ship pictures for just the ship review
As you can see, I will also pull my spreadsheet that I used for estimating the cost of everything into that main folder as well to keep track of it.
Now within each folder, I have additional folders again.
1) Within my HOTEL folder I will have folder for: The hotel grounds, the room, things we did there.
2) For the SHIP-This is where things get tricky…I will list each individual deck of the ship. Then there will also be a folder named ROOM for just my stateroom pictures only. I sometimes have a few “extra” folders that just don’t qualify for anything…such as a “bloopers” folder which I pulled things I seen around the ship that needed repairs into. (Of course after all the pictures are downloaded, you have to separate everything…oh the fun!)
a) Within the folders for each deck, you then have to create another folder of each PLACE.
So for instance Deck 6 has 8 different places for pictures. Once everything is downloaded, you will separate not only the decks, but the pictures of each individual place on that deck as well.
b) Within that folder, I create 2 more folders: One that is not stamped and one that is stamped.
Obviously the “stamped” photos are the ones that I will share during my review. The “no stamp” are obviously the pictures without my watermark on them and will be used for my social media site AND used when I have pictures printed off for my scrapbooking AND for my online book that I make using Shutterfly when they give you the great “free 8x8 online scrapbook” that I make for each cruise too.
3) The “Sea Day” folders are the easiest of course. You will just open them up and find everything from that day in there either in a stamped folder or no stamped folder. I guess I could go one step further by creating additional folders within that to separate each events we did (for instance swimming, a show, or whatever) but I think at this point I’m not too senile yet that I can’t remember what goes with what and in what order.
4) Port days-I make more folders for the places we went and what we did. So, for instance our first day in Bermuda there’s a folder for: Dockyard, Horseshoe Bay, To Horseshoe, Way back to Ship, then the “Stamped” and “not stamped” represent the rest of the day on board the ship that evening.
a) Obviously those folders have additional folders as well…using the example from above for the Dockyard folder, we went to the playground, snorkel park…things like that. Like I said, folders inside of folders inside of folders. Within this Port Day folder, I will also drag in any information regarding those places we went. Maps, website, spreadsheets I did, notes…you name it.
So once all of the folders are organized and made up, the fun task of looking at each individual picture and dragging it into the correct folder begins. This takes a LONG time. LOL It’s not always easy to determine the places and I sometimes have to do a search online to verify…yep, that’s the carpet for that room so it must be….la cucina. LOL See how much fun this is??
PICKING THE PERFECT PICTURE, RESIZING, STAMPING: Once the pictures are in their folders, it’s time to pick out which pictures you want to use, take each folder’s section of pictures that you are sharing into PS and I have an action set up (yes, I made this action and that’s an entirely different lesson lol) that all I have to do it click on the action to resize it, a few other clicks to make sure that PS will apply it to ALL of the pictures and hit the button. Bam, they are all resized from some ginormous picture to a more appropriate sized picture that is much easier and faster to download to your host. (I usually stick with around 1500 pixels on the biggest side)
After I have resized the picture, I will then do the exact same thing again, applying the entire action that I set up called “nostamp”, which means it’s going to save all the pictures to my no stamp folder for me to keep.
Next up, I open up my watermark from my desktop and pull it aside and just start dragging it on to each picture. (Now you can set up an action for this and also do it to each picture all at once, however, it will put the watermark in the exact same location on every picture. I have found that this location is not always the best location and sometimes hard to see, so I just pull it onto each individual picture myself so that it goes where I want it).
Once I’m done applying my watermark, I hit my next action I made that says “Save Stamped” and it will once again, save all of those pictures that are now stamped and it will automatically close out every one of those pictures because it is now done.
Then you do the next set of pictures until every picture in all the folders are complete. Whew!
HOSTING: Once all the pictures are ready to go, it’s time to host them. I use Smugmug. Yes, I pay for this service, although I think they may have a “free” part to this service, but for the amount of pictures I have, I pay for the additional pro account to use it as much as I want. I think it’s worth it to be able to host all my pictures on there for my reviews…and my love of photography from home as well. You pay once a year and be done with it.
MORE FOLDERS: I have folders set up in Smugmug for each individual cruise and if you notice, I also have a special folder called “Cruise Maps” and that is a folder that has multiple folders inside it with each individual port I have been to that has maps that I have found, maps that I have specially made for cruisers on cruise critic to show maybe a distance of something by taking google earth, zooming in, setting marker pins up on the map, taking a screen shot of it and then hosting it to explain a little better to the person asking questions on how to get somewhere or the distance, or the location, or what’s nearby. Just something I enjoy doing to help others out…why? Not because I have the time always, but because I think it’s easier to explain things visually with pictures and when people do this for me, I absolutely adore them…and who doesn’t want to be adored right? I love cruising, I love helping others. That’s just me. No question is dumb, no question can be asked too many times. We are all new once and we all can be overwhelmed with the “search function”…just putting that out there people.
You just set up your folders on your host, just like on your desktop. A folder for the ship name and within that folder are galleries with each individual day and events.
You just set up your folders on your host, just like on your desktop. A folder for the ship name and within that folder are galleries with each individual day and events.
So once the pictures are hosted, I will put them in order in which I want them to flow for the story, dragging each picture into the right place. Then…it’s time to start the review.
No, I do not pretype the review up in word or anything. I just start typing and adding pictures as I go along and hope for the best. As you can tell with this review (and others), I sometimes forget things or mess up. I’m far from perfect, but perfectly me. Hehe So, I make my own bloopers and add them in when I remember. Oh well…such is life.
Oh…and when I’m all done, I drag the entire cruise folder on my desktop to my external hard drive…because I want to make sure nothing gets lost if I have a computer failure and also because I just don’t have that kinda space on my computer hard drive.
I hope this helps some, but then again it might confuse some. LOL It’s just what I do and it’s what works for me.
Another thing I get asked a lot is "what type of camera do you use?" Well, I'll get that question answered right now before we begin.
I have 3 cameras. They are ALL Olympus Tough point and shoot cameras.
The models I have (which there are TONS of them out there and always being updated) are 620, 830 and the TG4. I feel they take excellent pictures. I use to carry my DSLR with me, but I felt that it hindered my fun a little. There's just too much equipment to carry with me. It's heavy. It's bulky. I found a camera that does a good enough job for me and that's all I use now. I find that I can enjoy my cruise more. Are the pictures always perfect? Nope...I do a lot of walking and snapping...sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and get blurry. It is what it is.
UPDATE: As if December 2019, I have purchased an Olympus Tough TG6!!! So, I will add that to my list of camera's at this point.
My "main" camera these days is the TG4 and TG6. The reason for this is because when they made this model, you can add additional lens to it. I currently have a fish eye lens and I use it about 50% of the time for my pictures.
The TG4 also has a lot more functions than the other 2 cameras and some of my favorite settings are the vivid settings that make a picture "pop". Adding the TG6 to the list continued to add additional features within the camera, which I really love. One of the settings is a "miniature" setting. This is something like the "tilt-shift" pictures you can do with a professional camera. If you take a picture in this mode of something that's not supposed to look miniature, you'll get a pretty cool picture.
I also love the macro functions...especially the underwater mode.
For the "most part", I try to keep the settings on some type of "sports" mode because I'm always in motion and that helps keep the blur down.
Now I have never really done video, other than with using my camera. However, we recently just purchased a cheap GoPro Hero 7 and I'll try to get used to making video's in the future.
WHY I DO IT:
These reviews are meant to be helpful to others, show you around the ship, places we go and give you some ideas.
I feel that a picture is worth 1,000 words, which is why you'll find my reviews very picture heavy.
I'm a site person and I know it really helps me to put a picture to something someone is trying to explain.
By no means do I ever try to influence you one way or the other to do the things we like to do, but merely give suggestions.
try to help out others on this board the way they have helped me so many times in the past and I am so grateful for that.
In my opinion, no question has been asked too many times. We were all new once and no matter how many cruises I have been on, I will still feel like a newbie with tons of questions myself. There's always some place new to go to that I haven't been and I love the thrill of researching and picking out something to do.
I do my reviews as honest as I can and I know everyone has a different expectation during a cruise and will have a different experience, even when on the same cruise.