MITSUGIRLY BREAKAWAY's 1 last time for the year-review/pictorial
Day 1: Heading to Newark NJ overnight for our cruise
ABOUT MY FAMILY AND OUR GROUP THIS TIME:
A little about me and the family. We "try" to cruise often (2-3x a year...which is often to us) and my little family consist of me, the hubby and our now 7 year old daughter, Sakari. (Pronounced just as it's spelled SA-KAR-I)
"Most" of the time (which has become all of the time) my oldest daughter, Kendra age 27, and her bf and my 7 year old grandson comes along with us.
My youngest son, Kolin age 20, and his girlfriend are trying to become "regulars" lately cruising twice with us last year and once this year (due to having me another granddaughter this year, they had to miss a few).
We have been missing my oldest son, Kenny age 29, from the cruises UNTIL NOW!!! This will be his first cruise since he was about 13 years old. :eek:
So yep, I had all 4 of my kids with me (and their families or significant other) on this cruise. I just knew it was going to be the cruise of a lifetime. :D But, I have learned that the more people you cruise with, the more hectic things get and the more stressful it is trying to organize things and get everyone together at the same time to GO. You would think I would learn my lesson but somehow they all manage to work themselves into our cruise plans each time. :p (I'm not the only one hooked you see).
We had our flights booked with Southwest for a departure time of 10:25 on Saturday morning, the day before the cruise.
Although the thoughts of a 10:25am flight sounded wonderful (don't have to get up as early), in reality...you STILL have to get up early. Sigh.
Flight leaves at 10:25, as in pulling out, which means they start boarding at 9:50ish, check in at least 1 hour ahead of time to allow for baggage check in, printing documents and getting patted down during the security check, puts us at an arrival around 8:45am. I always have to have my breakfast, allow 15 minutes to stop along the way for that (8:30), putting gas in the car because someone forgot to do that the night before (me) (8:15), driving time (7:45) and then parking and shuttle to the port (7:15am). See how things works? Not early at all now is it??? So, that pretty much put my alarm clock at 6:30am to shower, get ready, get the family up and throw in the last minute items into our luggage and off we went. Whew!
Since this is our first cruise with all of my kids, that meant I didn't have anyone to take me to the airport for a drop off. We decided to go ahead and drive my car there and park at the port, then ride the shuttle over. I had no idea what to expect, but it went well and was very well organized. (The kids decided to drive there to save money, so we would be flying alone).
Once checked in, we headed to our gate and had about 10 minutes to spare.
Sakari did her usual thing and insisted on getting in a last minute "sketch" before getting on the plane.
We managed to get pretty decent seats, despite me forgetting to do the on-line check-in 24 hours in advance the day before and got a crappy B28-B30 seating, well... decent enough meant we were right behind the wing and not in the last row, and this was our view
It was time for take off and Sakari grabbed my hand:
I ask her if she was scared and she said "No mommy, but I don't want you to worry". She is so sweet (and I highly suspect she was covering her own feelings).
It was a short 50 minute ride to Chicago, yes we had to change planes, and if you want to factor in the time change, it looks as though it was only a 10 minute ride. hehe
We land and head for the next gate to board. But, there was a delay of 1 1/2 hours due to traffic control. Oh well, I'm hungry again, might as well grab a bite to eat. (I'm practicing eating every hour or two for the cruise ya know? Might as well start now.)
Once they called for boarding, we were in the B section again...but not as lucky this time around. The only seats available TOGETHER for 3 people was THE VERY last row. But that's ok. I'm just closer to the bathroom with my small bladder. So, no worries and it was fine with us.
Up, up and away we went into the clear blue skis.
I finished off my sandwich and the hubby had his obligatory pretzels and he exclaimed with joy that the peanuts were now roasted!! (Although I'm not so sure this is new??)
The last time we flew, I discovered how to get the t.v to work on my phone while on the plane (I know, nothing new, but I had never tried it or brought headphones).
I found a show I liked and it passed the time by quickly. I felt that I was being watched, I turned my head abruptly to find my hubby breathing down my neck trying to see my show (he did NOT remember to bring his headphones). I decided to be nice and share mine with him...as long as he was willing to watch the same show, we had a deal. After all, sharing is caring right?
They had told us when we boarded that the ride was going to be a little bumpy. The Captain said he had just came from New York and the ride would not be a good one.
Honestly, I didn't think it was bad at all and had experienced a much worse ride on our last flight going to Boston in June. Or...maybe I was just really into the show we were watching.
I looked over at Sakari and ask if she was ok and this was the fake smile I got in return:
She loves flying, but does have a problem with getting her ears to pop going up. Coming down is usually not a problem. I come stocked with plenty of gum!
I was happy when I started to see water and knew we must be getting closer.
We landed with no problems and was off to find our luggage.
Now we had never been to New York before (other than driving a short distance headed to Niagara Falls in Canada). I was so confused as to where to go once you get your luggage in order to find where the cars pick you up for the hotel at. A nice lady pointed in the direction of the escalators and up we went only to discover we would be riding a mono-rail/subway type of thing that appeared to be hanging off the side of the building.
It didn't take long before it pulled up and Sakari was getting super excited.
We piled onto the people-mover-get.outta.the.airport-contraption and off we went. This thing was packed and somehow the hubby ended up at the very back and Sakari and I ended up by the doors.
We stopped several times along the way, but we were headed to the last stop.
On the second stop, I was looking down as passengers were getting off and noticed a luggage coming my way, just like the hubbys. As it started moving past me, being pulled by a guy also pushing a luggage in front of him, I thought to myself "Hey, someone else has luggage just like my hubby's." As the guy went past me, people in the area moving for him to get by, the name tag caught my eye...IT WAS MY HUSBANDS LUGGAGE!!! At first I thought the hubby was moving up toward me, but as I raised my head, I seen the guy pulling it along and...being a nurse, all I could think of was "save the luggage" and I went into action. The guy pushed his luggage off the tram, he stepped foot off the tram and just before they hubbys luggage also went off the tram, I grabbed the handle and yanked it from this monsters claws as the door shut! SERIOUSLY??? Someone just tried to get off with our luggage? What type of place is this? Who are these people? What did I get myself in to? I turned around, gave that disapproved look to the hubby...had a few choice words along the line of wth are you doing back there and not paying attention that someone just nearly walked off with your luggage???? Sigh!!
We finally made it out of the building with all of our belonging intact, called the hotel and they promptly arrived within 10 minutes of calling. I was relieved to know that we were at least on our way to the hotel and my nerves were settling down at that point.
Our choice of hotel was the Embassy Suites located at 95 Glimcher Realty Way in Newark NJ. After checking prices everywhere, since there were so many of us going, we needed to find something cost effective for 10 people.
After locating the Embassy Suites and finding out they could accommodate 6 per room, we knew this was a good deal. We split into 2 rooms with 5 people each. I was quick on my toes and snatched up the "paying" couple and gave Kendra the "non-paying" party. (Long story with my oldest son).
For $204 per room, that meant each family only had to pay $102. BINGO! We found a winner. Now we normally try to stay in places like Drury since they have the larger rooms with the small wall splitting the bed and the "living room", which has a sofa that goes into bed. We scored even bigger with this place that actually had a separate BEDROOM, with a door, than the living room. It was perfect for 2 families.
It was a free shuttle ride to the hotel and pretty quick pick up service I might say.
We arrived and quickly checked in and was given our room keys. We informed the front desk that we were the first to arrive and that the rest of our family would be arriving shortly. (Yes, we flew there and yes, all the kids drove...AND ARRIVED 1/2 HOUR AFTER WE DID!!!) LOL
My first impressions of the hotel is "Wow, this is super nice!" Let me show you around. (I swear no matter where I go, people always stare at me and act like I must be crazy because I'm walking around taking tons of pictures of everything...I'm sure they wonder why I have to have all these pictures.)
They had a huge dining area where you could sit down and order food and it would also be the area they had their nightly party and morning breakfast.
Made to order breakfast area:
Close up of the drinks served:
This is the area off to the side of the bar and "gathering" area where they were to serve "snacks"
They exercise room and pool area
The pool was small, but I guess it would get the job done if you wanted to swim. We decided there just wasn't enough time when we had arrived so late...food was the only thing on our mind.
The kids came in, checked in, then up to the rooms they went. Our room was on the 2nd floor, but for some reason, they put the other kids room up on the 6th floor.
Now to show you around our fabulous room.
As you entered the room, you walked into the small "kitchen" area with the microwave, refrigerator, sink and desk for your computer.
Straight ahead was the "living room/extra bedroom".
Off to the living room was a door leading into the bedroom, which had 2 beds.
From the bedroom, there was a door leading into the bathroom:
There's also a door leading into the bathroom from the main area as well. The bathroom was nicely decorated with neutral colors.
We were very pleased with our room, our service and choice of hotel and especially the location.
Now on to our adventures of the day/evening....
Since I have already showed you around the hotel, it's time to get into our fun filled night.
We had all checked in, the kids made it to their room and by this time it was "Happy Hour" or whatever new fangled name they had for it. (I believe they list it as a "complimentary evening reception with beverages and appetizers".
I have stayed at the Drury before and they had an evening reception as well. It was very nice and had some FOOD to nibble on and actually it was enough to make a small meal out of and fill the belly before retiring to the room in the evening. It also includes "tickets" for 2 drinks. Since this place had an evening reception as well, I fully expected it to be about the same thing (and so did a few of my budget-minded kids who was counting on this) as the Drury. Boy-was-I-wrong!
We arrived back down stairs and headed toward the dining area where it looked to be like a cafe setting. There were some people behind the counter and ask if they could help me. "Yep, where's the food?" (snicker). They pointed back toward the bar area. Um, ok, I did not see any food walking into here, but decided I'm getting blind in my old age and probably missed it. No biggie.
Around the corner we went....to find THIS as the appetizers:
Some kind of noodles with peppers or something in it (did not even look appetizing) and some crackers! Really? This was not going to make a mini-meal for any of us.
Wait up...I see more:
This block of something looked a little more interesting:
Ok, so I guess when you pay $200 a night, you are served crackers and a ball of something.
Oh hold on...what's that smell? POPCORN! Yep, the hubby could live off of this stuff (has it every night before bed when relaxing), but me? Nope, that's not going to do.
At this point my kids are looking at me in that shameful way I look at them when I scold them. :o"Really mom? This is what you thought we'd save money on dinner with?" Sigh. I hung my head in shame and reminded them "Hey, you get a free drink!!" :D (That did not earn me any points, but I thought I would at least try it as my excuse.)
So if you are going here thinking it's anything like the Drury (we went to in NOLA), get it out of your head. It's not.
We all headed to the bar to get our 1 free drink. Hmm, not much of a selection for sure. It was only the house drinks and none were any type of frozen drinks like I like. Darn! What a let down.
I did tell them lady at the bar that I only liked fruity frozen drinks and she said she would come up with something for me that she thought I would like. She made some type of mango something-or-other and crushed up some ice and said it was the best she could do. It wasn't half bad either. I was happy with her selection and give her an A+ for effort.
Courtney (my youngest sons finance) ended up with some kind of drink that was REALLY strong and she couldn't even drink it, but smiled through the situation like she was enjoying it, but the liquid wasn't getting any lower after putting it up to her lips. LOL
The hubby got a blue drink that gets an A+ for it's looks, but once again, none of us could drink it...WHEW! It was strong and just didn't taste as pretty as it looked.
He also smiled for his drink picture, but didn't fake that he was drinking it all night. He let it be known it was not going down his throat after the first sip.
Kendra ended up with a pretty red drink that was strong just like everyone else's drink. However, she wasn't one to let hers go to waste. She went up and ask for a glass of water and we found her off at a table doing this...
She convinced us that it taste much better this way and I could hardly stop laughing watching her, but did manage to give it a try...because I'll try just about anything at least once.
I have to say she was right...it worked and was perfect when you combine the two. Who knew?
After managing to get our drinks down, we all sat around in the side lobby deciding what to do about dinner.
We couldn't make up our mind if we wanted to stay there for dinner (a real dinner since they had a restaurant) or walk across the hotel lot to a restaurant. Now it's October and it's in New Jersey/New York and it's fricken COLD out there. The temps had been dropping and we knew we weren't going very far if we had to walk!
The great thing about the location of this hotel is that it's right beside some restaurants and a mall, but yet not out on a main road or anything. You just kinda walk the parking lot across to it.
We had seen an iHop on the lot and decided that it would be the best choice for all of us. I can eat breakfast just about any time of the day and that was making my mouth water.
Everyone agreed that we wouldn't turn into popsicles running across to the iHop and we all headed out.
We all sat down and ordered and had a great time at our meal cracking jokes and talking about the cruise the next day.
Our bellies were full and we were satisfied, then back to the hotel we went.
We wanted to go get pop to carry on the ship, so us girls decided we would head out on our own to find a gas station or grocery store. Kendra found a name of a local grocery store and the people at the front desk said it was just down the road. She put it into her GPS and I kissed the hubby goodbye and said it was nice being married to him and to please remember me if I didn't return. (After all, we are in a city we know nothing about and first and foremost, Kendra is driving).
Off we went, turn this way, turn that way, hey...didn't we just pass that? Wait, did this road just split off in 2 directions? I can't tell which way it's saying to go. Ok, this doesn't look like a good road to be going down. Where are we? Wait, I see something that looks familiar. Didn't we just pass that too? Sigh...
What should have taken probably 10 minutes to get to took more like 30 minutes, but...we made it!
We manage to get our pop and we headed back out to the suv that Kendra and her family drove in with. (My boys and their girls drove in using my oldest sons car). Crank, rattle, KNOCK...yikes! What the heck is that sound Kendra? "Oh my, I think it's the muffler." Um NO, "That's no muffler sound, that's more like a rod knocking in your engine". I'm praying that we don't break down in this neighborhood at this point and all kinds of thoughts are circling in my head now. Please just get us back Kendra...and NOT the way we came...the right way that goes straight there and not in circles. :rolleyes:
We finally made it back, she called her fiance out to hear the noise and of course it was not as loud this time around and made us look like we were lying. I went ahead and went back into the hotel, drop to the floor and kissed the ground. Well, not really, I headed upstairs to let the hubby know he would have a few more years to put up with me after all.
Kendra came in later to let me know that in fact the car did make the loud sound again the second time she started it up and I reminded her that I was just glad I flew in and didn't have to rely on riding back with them home. ;)
We retired to the room, had our showers and watched a little t.v. before bed time. As always, it was hard to sleep knowing the big day we had tomorrow, the excitement, sleeping in a different bed than my own and most of all...sleeping in a darn regular sized bed. I just can't do it. I'm use to my king sized bed and anything smaller, I can't sleep. Sigh But we'll call it "sleep" for the purposes of this review. wink wink
My thoughts on the Embassy:
It was a VERY nice hotel. Nicely decorated, friendly service, very nice rooms, a pool, a work out room and a small little area you could buy snacks and pop if you wanted. Just beware, the pop in the vending machines on the room floors cost $2.00. If you buy it here at the front desk, it's $2.75 or something like that. Yes, I reminded the guy at the front desk that they are cheaper in the vending machines and he laughed and said he knew.
One thing this hotel does NOT provide is free wifi. You have to pay for it, so you'll be using your phone if you don't want to pay for it.
It's in a great location with food within walking distance and the restaurant on the premises.
It's a short ride from the airport and a pretty short ride to the cruise port. I think it's the perfect location if you don't want to spend a lot of $$ on a hotel for your over night stay prior to a cruise.
They also let you PARK YOUR CAR FOR THE WEEK HERE FOR FREE!!! You can't beat that considering most of the hotels will charge for this service, even the hotels located on the same grounds as this charged.
Another plus, free airport shuttle to the hotel.
Would I book it again? Yep, sure would.