No Reservations Needed On The Reservation

Well, I guess it’s time for me to eat my words.  Texas finally has a casino.  It’s called the Naskila Casino owned and operated by the Alabama Coushatta tribe and it’s located in between Livingston and Woodville, north of Houston.  Actually there are two other casinos in Texas situated on Indian reservations – one in El Paso and one at Eagle Pass.  The one in El Paso is a Harrah’s Cherokee Casino on the western border of Texas and the Kickapoo Casino in Eagle Pass is in South Texas.  Texas is so big that the two casinos that existed were so far away from Dallas or Houston, that it wasn’t really a viable option.  It is a lot closer to drive to Louisiana or Oklahoma to play.

Texas has long since had horse racing and dog racing, as well as the lottery which included scratch-off’s, Mega Millions and Powerball games.  It would only seem natural that casino gambling would follow, which it did.  After Eagle Pass and El Paso opened casinos on Indian land, one would expect that the Indian Reservation at Livingston would follow suit.  In 2001 the Alabama Coushatta tribe opened a casino on the very site where the lawmakers in Texas would close it in 2002 and then reopen the casino in 2016.  John Cornyn was serving as Texas Attorney General at the time of the first opening and was still in office when the casino was closed nine months later.  It was decided that Texas law would override Federal law and that casinos were illegal in Texas.  Not only did the tribal members lose their jobs but were plunged into poverty for a second time.  The area surrounding and including the reservation is very poor and there is a scarcity of jobs. The casino is now employing around 200 people from the tribe as well as the surrounding area to work in the casino and restaurant.  Hopefully with success comes expansion and will lead to a larger facility and a hotel.

From my house the drive takes me about an hour and forty-five minutes.  And to Lake Charles and Shreveport, Louisiana takes me a little over four hours.  Not that Marie and I will trade in our preferences for Naskila, we will still make the trek to Louisiana and Oklahoma.  Naskila does not at this time have table games, only slots.  Which is fine with us since Marie doesn’t play the tables and I don’t always.

When you walk in the door you walk into the non-smoking section.  Toward the back to the left is the smoking section in a closed-in area.  Non-smokers will love it.  I actually kind of enjoy the smell of fresh cigarette smoke, just not stale smoke.  I quit smoking eleven years ago and still miss it.

I arrived at Naskila at 10 am and told my husband I would leave by 3 pm so I could get home before dark.  Plus the road between my house and Naskila is like so many roads in Texas – under construction.  As it turns out I was ready to leave by 3:00 because I had a very profitable day and wanted to leave while I was ahead.  I had several good hits on Dragon’s Heat and several other machines I had never seen before.  I had a ticket in my purse for over $300 so I decided to go back to the first machine I played when I first got there called High Voltage Blackout.  I was hitting bonuses and multipliers and all of a sudden I hit wilds all across the screen except for one square.  That spin paid $849 so with the credits I had in the machine I ended up cashing out $1400.  I took the ticket to the cashout machine and got in my car and left.

 

 

It was a very good day and I am anxious to go back and take Marie to see what she thinks about it.  I really had a good time and felt good about my wins.  I hope the Indians do well with Naskila and pave the road for more in Texas.  I have heard for years that Tilman Fertitta would like to develop casinos in Galveston, that since it is an island, it could legally happen.  I am surprised it hasn’t yet, but I continue to hope.

Next week Marie and I will fly to Biloxi courtesy of the Beau Rivage.  When we get back to Texas we will rest for one day before heading to the Artesian in Sulphur, Oklahoma.  They sent us an offer we couldn’t refuse.  Until our next trip report, the Slotsisters will be coming to a casino near you.

 

 

 

 

Dreaming of a White Christmas

In 2014 Marie, Chuck, their son Charlie, Jim and I went to Santa Fe, New Mexico for Christmas.  Marie and Chuck rented a Home Away house and we stayed at La Fonda Hotel on the Plaza.  We had such a great time we vowed to make it a tradition.  We broke our promise and didn’t make it in 2015, but we did go in 2016.  Marie and her family rented a house again because they prefer their own space and homey atmosphere.  Jim and I stayed at La Fonda again.  It is one of our very favorite places to stay, as we have stayed there numerous times over the years.  The La Fonda is a very busy place in Santa Fe.  Not only is it right on the plaza in the center of downtown, but visitors gather there for it’s excellent restaurants and bars and also to warm up from the cold or to use their very accessible restroom.

Marie and Chuck live about four hours closer to Santa Fe than we do, so they drove and we flew and met them there.  Plus Jim and I left home two days earlier in order to go to the Artesian Hotel and Casino in Sulphur, Oklahoma.  I thought it might get us into the Christmas spirit and it did.  Gorgeous boutique hotel with gorgeous Christmas decorations.  And I won a little money and came out $600 ahead.

Jim and I spent the night at the Artesian and had a wonderful dinner, played at the casino, slept like rocks, and drove back to Texas the next morning.  We spent the night at the Hyatt DFW so we could be close to the airport and not take a chance on missing our 11:00 flight.  You know that saying about the best laid plans.  Well, we made it to the airport just fine, got to our gate early, ate breakfast, and sat down to wait and people watch.

So we watched and sat and watched and sat and watched and sat.  There were several announcements about a flight being late arriving and calling passengers to check in.  But nothing about our flight and nothing calling us to check in.  About fifteen minutes before our flight was to depart, American Airlines flashed a notice on the screen of our gate that our flight had been moved from gate 4 to gate 40. In panic mode, we caught a transport to gate 40 and just as we arrived, the agent closed the flight.  Needless to say Jim was fit to be tied.  They were able to put us on another flight, but not until 5:00.  We were late getting to Santa Fe, but we made it and the rest of the week went smoothly.

We all got to do what each of us wanted.  Jim shopped and shopped and shopped.  He loves to shop.  Marie and Chuck walked and shopped.  Charlie and I sat a lot in the lobby of La Fonda, watched people and had drinks.  Charlie lives in New York City and I don’t get to see him very often so we had time to get caught up.

We had some lovely dinners during our stay.  We ate one night at Terracotta Wine Bistro.  We had a delicious meal with lots of attention from the owners and wait staff.  Don’t know why we deserved it, but it was lots of fun visiting with them all.  Another night we had dinner at Casa Chimayo.  This is one of the restaurants featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.  It is supposed to be known for its mole’ sauce.  I was not impressed with the mole’, but my enchiladas with red hatch chile pepper sauce was excellent as well as the posole I had.  Delish!  Jim had a goat soup which he liked, Charlie had goat stew, and Marie and Chuck had enchiladas with mole’ sauce.

Every morning Jim went to the Plaza Café in the square for breakfast.  It is his favorite place to eat.  He had mimosas and breakfast and sat for several hours and visited.  Marie, Chuck, and Charlie met him there most mornings, but not me.  I never made it to the Plaza Café this trip.  With all the travelling in November and getting ready for this trip and shopping for my grandkids Christmas, I did exactly what I meant to do – take it easy.  In La Fonda there is a restaurant called The French Pastry Shop and Creperie.  It is fabulous and I went there for breakfast instead of the Plaza Café several times.

After dinner at Terracotta, Charlie and I went to Buffalo Thunder casino for a few hours but there is nothing exciting to report.  It is about fifteen miles north of Santa Fe and there is a wonderful Hilton Hotel on the property.  It has lots of machines and plenty of the newer ones, but we didn’t have much luck.  I think we were too rushed.  In the past we have enjoyed it, but this trip was too rushed to really appreciate it.

On Christmas Eve, Marie, Chuck, and Charlie took the Canyon Road tour.  On foot is the only way one can take the tour because the roads are blocked off.  The museums and stores are decorated for the season and they offer wassail and cookies to all who visit.  It snowed on Christmas Eve so I am sure the tour was beautiful.  The beautiful churches in Santa Fe were open for touring and on Christmas Eve for midnight mass.  Marie, Chuck and Charlie went for the carols.

 

On Christmas Day we ate a late lunch at La Plazuela.  They have a traditional Christmas dinner every year that is very good.  I don’t remember how much it has been in the past, but this year it was $59.00 and worth every penny.  It was the best meal of the whole trip.  We had turkey with chestnut stuffing, lamb, roast beef, cheesy polenta, mashed potatoes with roasted garlic, salads, and lots of desserts.  It seemed to be more of a “Yankee” Christmas dinner, but it was all delicious.  This is a picture of the front of La Fonda from the movie “Any Which Way You Can”.

We were all leaving the next day, so after lunch Marie and Chuck went back to their house to get things ready to leave and Jim and Charlie and I retired to the hotel lobby to visit and sit and enjoy our last day in Santa Fe in 2016.  We met some very nice people, lots from Texas and others from as far away as Florida.  Lots traveled by car and one had a chauffeur.

 

The return trip went much smoother and we were super glad to get home.  Monkey was happy to see us.  We hadn’t put up a Christmas tree because we were afraid he might get hurt so on our first day home we put it up with a minimum amount of unbreakable ornaments on it.  As you can tell he was a happy kitty.  Marie’s cat Cinnamon worked an entire 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle while we were gone.

Also our son Greg and his family came to visit so we could have our family Christmas.  Tanner is 12 and fished every day.  Raegan is 10 and helped me in the kitchen.  Jim has a project he needed help from Ginger on and there will be more about that another day.

Until our next adventure, Happy New Year to all from Marie and Dianne

 

 

 

 

Road Trippin’

 

Marie and I didn’t set out to see how much we could cram into a short period of time or a car trunk, but that was the way it turned out.  We had booked a Carnival Premier Cruise which was to depart New Orleans on November 13. Our sister Cheryl and her husband Kerry purchased a condo last year in the Destin, Florida area.  We had not had a chance to see it yet and since we would be better than half-way there when we got off the cruise, it seemed like a good opportunity to combine our destinations.  Marie came to my house on November 10 to spend the night.  She lives south of Ft. Worth and I live about midway between Houston and Dallas.  Depending on where we are going determines where we start out from and how we get there and on this trip our first stop was in Houston.

On November 11, we headed to Houston to the Charity Guild of Catholic Women where the proceeds benefit Houston’s children in need.They carry jewelry, household items and furniture, clothing, art and designer bags.  We always find something we have to have and this time we bought costume jewelry.

     

The second consignment shop we like is called The Guild and benefits Episcopal charities.  Both carry pretty much the same kind of merchandise but I think The Guild has a little bigger store and more variety and more designer items.  But we didn’t have time for both since Houston wasn’t our only destination.  Here is a picture of the items I bought and the items Marie bought.

Our next destination was Lauberge Casino and Resort in Lake Charles, Louisiana where we had a room reserved.  The hotel and rooms are lovely, however our room was missing a safe which had been removed for repair.  It was a pain but we put our jewelry in our purses and went downstairs to play.  Marie went exploring to see what new machines had been installed since we were there last and I played close to the door where we went in.  A lot of my favorite machines were in that area like Quick Hit, Ultra Stack Lion, Super Wheel Blaster, Video Poker, Crazy Money, and my new favorite Cash Explosion.  I hit a hand pay of $1300.00 but my phone was not cooperating so sorry no picture.  This was my second hand pay of the year.  I am feeling particularly blessed.

 

On November 12, we drove to Biloxi to spend the night before our cruise.  We tried to stay at Harrah’s in New Orleans, along with several other hotels, but because there was a Saints game over the weekend, we couldn’t find a hotel we wanted to stay in.  Since Biloxi is only a couple of hours from New Orleans, we decided to stay at Harrah’s in Biloxi.  We still had some work to do on Marie’s Total Rewards Diamond status.  We stopped along the way to the Half Shell Oyster House in Lafayette.  It was hard to find because Lafayette has gotten so big and has so many new areas that aren’t on my GPS.  But we finally found it and was it ever worth it.  Marie had a fried shrimp po’boy and I had oysters on the half shell and fried shrimp.

        

         

     

Of course I had to have a Bloody Mary but Marie had an iced tea.  She was driving!!

We made it to Harrah’s in Biloxi with no problem.  Neither one of us had much luck at Harrah’s in the past, but we were on a mission.  We were trying to accumulate points for Marie.  We didn’t eat dinner since we had a huge late lunch and we had business to take care of.  I played Hot Shot, Buffalo Grand, and Walking Dead.  I think some machines are geared toward making you want to keep playing in the hope you will hit a big jackpot.  I really think the Walking Dead game is this way.  It will let you hit a few small bonuses while making you think a big one is coming.  Only it doesn’t happen that way.  Usually when you leave the game your money is gone.  Another one like it is Game of Thrones and Orange is the New Black.  I had all I could take and I actually beat Marie to bed but it’s usually the other way around.

The next morning we got up and checked out.  We drove to New Orleans with a stop at MacDonald’s for a breakfast sandwich.  We didn’t want to be starving when we boarded the Carnival Dream and not be able to wait for dinner.  The port terminal in New Orleans was so much nicer than Galveston.  We parked in the underground parking garage and took the elevator down to the terminal where we were met by a porter who collected our luggage.  In Galveston you have to drop your luggage off at the terminal building, park in the north forty and take the shuttle back to the terminal.  Like I said earlier, this was a Carnival Premier Cruise.  We started our journey by not having to wait in line, but because I had a wheelchair escort, we wouldn’t have had to wait anyway.  We went straight to the counter and showed our paperwork, got our room key/player’s card, and boarded the ship right on the third deck where the main bar is.  How convenient!

Our cabin was ready before long and we put our stuff away.  Then on to Muster (there’s no escaping it) and a Premier cocktail party.  They served hors d’oeuvres and your cocktail of choice.  This was a welcome party where we were told about upcoming events for premier cruisers like slot tournaments and drawings.  Every day we received a gift in our cabin.  The first day it was two insulated travel cups, the next was a tray of chocolate covered strawberries and candy.  Then came a box of bakery cookies, a bottle of champagne, and two insulated backpacks.  We also received free entries into the slot tournaments.  We were hoping for a spa gift card, but no such luck.  However we did get reimbursed with cash for our cruise.  The cruise cost about $350.00 each and  together we were given $1,000.00.

       

Even though we were full from the cocktail party, we decided to go to dinner so we could meet our tablemates.  We had a great group.  We had two Dianne’s, two Pam’s, Marie, Barbara, Roxanne, Jennifer, Becky, and Debbie.  There were best friends, co-workers, sisters, and a married couple.  We all had different interests, different relationships, but we all found something in common.  It was very enjoyable.

In the casino we met some really nice and fun people.  One couple from Ohio were Carla and A.B., which was short for Ambrose.  I think if I were him I would go by Ambrose all the time.  It is one of those cool names you never hear anymore like Asa and Maude.  Carla and A.B. spent almost as much time in the casino as we did.  Carla came by to check on me one day and my machine showed I had $145.50 in credit.  She was impressed until I told her that it was all that stood between me and prostitution. (Sorry Marie, I had to.)  She laughed so hard she had to sit down.  Of course I’m kidding.

Marie decided to go to the midnight Mexican buffet because of the strawberry shortcake they serve.  She had it last year and it really is good.  The fruit carvings are amazing and I know I really should make an attempt to attend.  I have been to Carnival’s chocolate buffet in the past and it is amazing.  Our next cruise is in April on Carnival’s newest ship the Vista, so maybe I can be more interactive.

           

       

        

 

On Tuesday we docked in Honduras.  I know you’ve heard this excuse before, but because we had been there before, we stayed on the ship and napped.  So by the time we sailed, we were good and rested and ready to play.  In the casino that night we heard several jackpot announcements, one for $33,000 (not us), $6,000 (not us) and $8,000 (not us).  And we tried really hard.  We both played machines we had never played before as well as our regulars.  I played the maximum bet most of the time and still had very slim payouts.  Marie did better than I did because she is much more patient.  The casino had one triplet of Hot Shot machines and she played them most of the time and bet the minimum.  She regularly hit the Diamond Line Bonus and at the end of the cruise she was ahead by $1,000.00.  I can’t say the same. These are her wins on a 40 cent bet.  I told her that if she was playing the max bet, the payouts would have been amazing.  She said that they probably would not have hit on the max bet.  We have decided her code name should be Fohty Cent instead of Fitty Cent.  The pictures below are on a “fohty cent bet”.

       

       

For instance, this one which if all had lined up correctly on a max bet would have paid $20,000.00.  And on a 40 cent bet, maybe a couple of thousand. But the difference between us is that Marie has money when she leaves the casino and I usually don’t.

When we docked in Cozumel, Carla and A.B. went with us to Pancho’s Backyard for lunch.  It was good as always.  The Margaritas were delicious, the service was excellent and the food is almost as good as we have in Texas.  I’m not sure I mentioned it before, but the waiter even brings a purse stand to the table for your purses, etc.  Their salsa is like pico de gallo and is very good.  Guacamole is very good, as well as fajitas and quesadillas.  Chile con queso is a white cheese with green chili salsa on top.  So far that is the extent of their menu we have tried and we loved it all.  Maybe next time something different.

The rest of the cruise was spent cruising back to New Orleans where we would get in our car and drive to Biloxi for 3 nights.  I know, I know but there is a method to all of this madness.  When we booked this cruise, we didn’t take into consideration the proximity to Thanksgiving and the distance from home and the need to be with family during the holiday.  So it was only natural we would put our minds together and figure out a way to cruise, make it to Destin, Florida, Biloxi, Mississippi and any other stops along the way.  Plus we talked our husbands into meeting us in Biloxi so we could all go to Destin together.  Ingenious, huh?

We feel like we are living the American dream.  Of the six of us (including Cheryl and Kerry), all but one of us is retired and that’s Chuck.  I have always thought that when a person retires, they should be so fortunate to be able to travel and enjoy life and see things they didn’t have the time or the money for when they were working.  Luckily we have been able to enjoy our retirement years.  Cheryl and Kerry have a lovely home in Georgia and now a beach condo for when the weather is unbearable in Atlanta.  My husband prefers to stay home a lot and Marie and I really enjoy traveling, so we do.

When we docked in New Orleans Marie and I drove to Biloxi.  We stayed at the Beau Rivage, our favorite hotel in Biloxi.  The hotel was decorated for Christmas and was gorgeous.   It is a M-life casino and we have decided to concentrate on our Total Rewards and M-life points for comps in 2017.  Of course there are always My Choice, Coushatta, Artesian and Winstar.  So many casinos, so little time.  I am torn.

The Beau is one of our absolute favorites.  So southern, so charming, so hospitable.  The casino is really nice, just not enough bathrooms or cashiers.  It has lots of new machines, tables including Caribbean Stud which not many still have, fabulous restaurants, a non-smoking section, a poker room and a high-limit room.  The Beau has high-end shopping as well as stores for necessities, a Haagen Daz ice cream shop and gourmet coffee shop.  The Beau is located on Beach Boulevard with gorgeous views of the gulf coast and MGM Park where the Biloxi Shuckers play baseball.

                

  

Next door to the Beau is the Hard Rock casino.  There are numerous other casinos up and down Beach Boulevard such as Harrah’s, Golden Nugget, and Imperial Palace.  Imperial Palace is a non-smoking casino.  I can’t not mention the obvious large amount of Waffle Houses, eight in Biloxi and eight in Gulfport according to the internet.  To date we have yet to eat in a Biloxi or Gulfport Waffle House because the Terrace Café in the Beau has a fabulous breakfast and we don’t have to leave to eat there.  I happen to like a Waffle House so maybe next trip.

Now down to business, the business of gambling.  I found some really fun Hot Shot machines.  One was called Hot Shot Revolution.  It was really a lot like the Hot Shot Platinum I played at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.  In order to hit the Hot Shot bonus, you needed to hit three reels of Hot Shot symbols.  When you did this, the wheel on top spun to see if you received the ice games or the fire games or the fire and ice games.  The ice game features sticking wilds and the fire game features exploding wilds and the fire and ice game is a combination of the two.  It was really fun.  Here is a video of a fire game win and a video of an ice game win.

 

I played Superman and hit a good bonus, hit a bonus on Dancing in Rio, and that was about it.  Then I figured it was time to try the tables so I went over to Caribbean Stud.  It is usually only open in the evenings and it was so I sat down.  Apparently I had the hot seat because I had pairs and trips and flushes and straights numerous times, but the dealer very seldom qualified which is not good when you are holding a progressive hand.  But at least I got ahead a little at a time.  I originally bought in for $200 in chips and cashed out over $400.  It made me remember how much fun the game is.  Marie hit a bonus on Dragon Fire.  She was playing a bonus game and a voice came on the machine saying, “Major Jackpot awarded.”  It was $489.00 but a woman came up and distracted her and she missed all the fun of it.  She didn’t even get a picture.  I think she went to bed after that.

The next day our husbands were coming to town and we were taking them out to eat at Half Shell Oyster House in Gulfport.  The oysters on the half shell were excellent.  Marie ordered fried shrimp, Chuck had the seafood platter, my husband Jim ordered fried crawfish, and I had an oyster poboy sandwich.  Marie said her food was very good.  Chuck’s crab cake was cold, my sandwich would have been good if they would have used fresh oysters instead of institutional frozen oysters.  Jim said his was good.  I don’t understand how you can eat at a restaurant three times like Marie and I did and then the fourth time it’s like a completely different experience.  Jim and I were just glad the raw oysters were good.

None of us played long after dinner.  We had another drive the next day to Destin, Florida and we all needed rest, especially the guys who had been on the road since 7:00 that morning.  So off we went to our fabulous beds.

The next morning we met for breakfast at the Terrace Café.  Chuck had pancakes that he said were very good.  I had French toast made with brioche, Jim and Marie had eggs.  After breakfast we were set until Destin.  Cheryl and Kerry’s condo is beautiful and right on the beach.

Cheryl and Kerry had planned for us to go to one of their favorite restaurants called Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House.  It was named after the owner’s black lab.  Everyone had seafood but me and I had a filet mignon.  It was fabulous.  Everyone liked their food.  Marie and Chuck and Jim and I treated Cheryl and Kerry to dinner because on November 19 they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

On Thanksgiving Day we did what every other person in Destin, Florida did.  We went to Cracker Barrel.  It seems that the whole town is comprised of vacationers and I guess the whole tradition of cooking Turkey and Dressing is difficult away from home so we think the whole town and all of the surrounding towns were at the Cracker Barrel that day.  Last year Jim and I went to the Cracker Barrel in Bryan, Texas about 3:00 PM and we were able to walk right in, sit down, and get served.  Apparently it doesn’t work that way in Destin.  Instead you walk in, put your name on a list where upon they tell you the wait will be one to two hours which turned out to be closer to two hours.  But man was it worth it.  Talk about good.  Not quite as good as if we had cooked it, but hey, we didn’t have to cook it.  Or clean up.

On Friday Marie and Chuck headed home and Jim and I headed to Biloxi.

This is how far it is from Destin Fl. to Mansfield Tx.

Neither Jim nor I wanted to make the long drive home all in one day, so we decided to stay at the Beau for one night and then drive home on Saturday.  When we checked in we asked the desk clerk to make reservations for us at Prime Steakhouse and we reserved for 5:30.  This was good because neither of us wanted to eat too late.  It turned out to be a good decision because the food was so good that we ate way too much.  It started out with an amuse bouche from the chef of a sweet onion soup that was delicious.  It was so good in fact that we were left wanting more.  We each had a salad, mine was Caesar and Jim had a wedge.  Next came our Filet Mignons with creamed corn and duck fat fries.  We ate every bite except for the fries.  Delicious, but too much.  Then for dessert we shared crème brulee.   And then our waiter Marvin brought over two chocolate truffles.  The service, the ambience, and the food was exceptional.

     

        

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

After dinner we gambled for a short time.  I played on the machines that Marie had hit the other day.  My machine was Vampire’s Embrace.  I did hit a good win, and recorded another low win with quite a few free spins.  Enjoy!

 

We slept like rocks even after eating too much.  The next morning we got up and headed home thinking we could make it in about 8 hours but it ended up taking closer to 12.  Traffic on I-10 was awful with a vehicle on fire ahead of us in Louisiana.  We detoured and the road was a dirt road so it took us much longer to get home.  Thankfully we made it safely and we were so happy to get there.

We are spending Christmas in Santa Fe this year like we did year before last.  We are staying at La Fonda on the Plaza which is our favorite place to stay.  Marie and Chuck and their son Charlie who is coming in from New York have rented a house just two blocks from the Plaza.  We are looking so forward to the trip.  Santa Fe is a favorite place for all of us – lots of great restaurants, beautiful scenery and the town goes all out decorating for Christmas.  Hopefully we will get a chance to gamble in Santa Fe at Buffalo Thunder.  Hopefully we will have a winning trip report.  And hopefully we will have lots of stories to tell.

We want to wish all of our readers a safe and merry Christmas and a very happy and prosperous New Year.

The Slotsisters who are coming to a casino near you, Marie and Dianne

 

 

 

 

 

 

“What’s New Pussycat?”

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I couldn’t believe the weekend had finally arrived.  We had reservations at Winstar Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma; reservations at Artesian Casino and Hotel in Sulphur, Oklahoma (both owned by the Chickasaw Nation) and the piece de resistance – wait for it – tickets to see Tom Jones in concert at Winstar.  We have had our tickets for two months and I thought it was never going to be time, but finally it was.  I don’t usually admit this to everyone, but Marie is eight years younger than me and she said Tom was before her time.  She was not as excited as I was to see him, but to be truthful I think she enjoyed it almost as much as I did.

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We checked in at Winstar on Friday.  Our room was comped on Friday, but we had a discounted rate on Saturday.  The hotel was pretty full and we had to share a room which was fine.  The Winstar is advertised as the largest casino in the world with three hotels, one and one-half miles of casino, lots of restaurants and bars, spa, golf course, and an entertainment venue.  It is the closest to Marie’s house at about an hour and a half away; straight up I-35 and it is at the first exit over the Texas border in Oklahoma.

The hotel is gorgeous, lots of glass chandeliers, 1500 beautiful rooms with unbelievably comfortable beds and luxury bathrooms with walk-in showers.  The rooms are always clean and smell so good.  Lots of room for two people so we were more than comfortable.

We went downstairs to get started on our “money-making” adventure.  We both headed for the Hot Shot Another Chance machines.  I tried three different machines and didn’t hit much.  But the neat thing about these machines is that when you hit the three Hot Shot symbols and they don’t produce a pay, you get another chance on all symbols and it keeps on until you get a pay.  Marie did good so she stayed on them awhile, but I went on to Buffalo Grand and hit the bonus several times, but I didn’t hold on to any of it.

Sometimes you just have to stop and make a change of plans and hope to improve the situation at hand.  I decided to sit at the bar and play video poker and order a Margarita.  I texted Marie and let her know where I was.  Because of the size of the casino, each section is named after a metropolitan city with the restaurants in each reflecting the theme of the city.  There is London, Paris, Rome, Madrid, New York, and Beijing.  This is the largest casino in the world, they say, and the walk is the size of a football field.   I was in London which is the closest to the casino entrance from the hotel.  Marie came over and suggested dinner at El Fenix which I was fine with even though it was three quarters of a mile away.  I would have walked a mile for Mexican food and a Margarita.  We each had fajitas and it was all very good.

After dinner we went our separate ways.  Marie wanted to go to New York because there were Colossal Reels Bierhaus machines there and I wanted to play some 3X4X5X progressive machines that I usually play hoping to hit the jackpot which was over $8,000.  The max bet is only $1.00 and I played for awhile but didn’t stay because the card table was calling me.  I made my way over to the Ultimate Texas Hold-em table.  I hit several flushes and straights, but the big money was in a straight flush or royal flush.  Even quads don’t pay that well unless you have big money on the table and I mostly play the minimum.

I made my way back to London.  Winstar has great machines.  I played the Hot Shot Frenzy machines and cashed out over $500.  I found the After Burn machines which I love and more Hot Shot.  I don’t know the name of the Hot Shots but they were pink and had two wheels for bonuses.  They were fun and again I cashed out $500.  It cost me my $500 win from After Burn to hit the next $500 so I decided to take the money and join Marie in the room, plus it was after 2 AM.  I don’t know who was in the room next door, but it sounded like a remodel was happening.  Things were hitting the walls and there was so much noise, that I had to bang on the walls.  It didn’t help much.  When we woke up, Marie hung her head out of the room to ask for more coffee from the cleaning crew.  They were next door and they said the room had four men in there and the room was trashed.

The next day was filled with excitement, that is after sleeping in.  We finally left the room around 3:00 and stopped at the Terrace Café for a quick “lupper”.  We each had the patty melt with fries and it was as good as it gets.  We really love the Terrace Café for breakfast and lunch, in fact they are open 24 hours a day.  It was 4:00 by then and the Tom Jones concert started at 8:00 and doors opened at 6:30 so we decided to get some play in.  Marie went back to Hot Shots Another Chance and I went back to Hot Shots Frenzy.  To my surprise and pleasure I hit a hand pay jackpot of $1314.04.  Anything over $1200 has to be reported to Uncle Sam, but it’s worth it.  Plus it was my first hand pay jackpot at Winstar and I am hoping there are more to come. (Sorry about the crummy pic.)

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A little after 6:30 we went in and found our seat.  We had great seats, middle of the row, directly in front of the stage, about 8 rows behind VIP seating.  It was perfect.  We spent our time before the show watching people and tweeting and texting our families, all the while running down my battery on my phone.  At exactly 8:00 Tom Jones came out on stage and began and I had a dead battery.  He sang for 2 hours including encore and sang everything we wanted to hear except “She’s a Lady”.  He started with some Elvis gospel songs because he said he and Elvis were good friends.  Then he sang some of his hits like “Help Yourself”, Delilah”, “Green, Green, Grass of Home”, What’s New Pussycat?”, “It’s Not Unusual”, “Mama Told Me Not To Come”, “Thunderball”, “Sex Bomb”, “You Can Leave Your Hat On”, and then he sang Prince’s hit “Kiss”.  Tom Jones still has it; he sounds good, he has the moves, and I think he looks more handsome with gray hair.  It was all wonderful, all except for the part about my phone being dead and Marie’s memory on her phone being full and we couldn’t take pictures.  One of these days we are going to get our act together and have our ducks lined up in a row and all that stuff, but so far not so much.

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The next morning we had breakfast at Terrace Café.  Then we got our car out of valet and spotted members of Tom’s Band.  We did take a picture, but I’ll warn you, it’s not great.  We looked online and saw where Tom Jones was playing the next night in San Francisco, so we assumed he was long gone.

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Oh well, we were on our way to Artesian Casino and Hotel in Sulphur, Oklahoma.  Another of our favorites and I know I say that a lot, but believe me there are some casinos that we can truthfully say were not our favorites.  We have been to some really dumpy, smoky, no-paying casinos but the Artesian isn’t one of them.  Well, smoky and cold, but other than that we like it.  The hotel is one of the nicest, the casino is small and the air conditioning is way too cold, but other than that we have done okay there.  Marie hit $500 one morning early and this last trip I hit pretty good on more than one machine.

The Artesian also has table games, but only Blackjack, Three-Card Poker and Ultimate Texas Hold-em and one table of each.  It is not a big casino and is not usually too crowded and not all tables are open all day.  The Artesian has some of the newer machines and a few of the older ones.

That night was the night of the Presidential Debate and we had plans to watch it. We figured that with the two controversial candidates, it would be better than Housewives.   Marie went to the restaurant and picked up finger foods.  We had adjoining rooms, complimentary, and I had brought a bottle of Jose Cuervo premixed Margaritas so we settled in for the debate.  We had chips and queso, fried zucchini strips, and we shared a club sandwich.  That was our dinner and we were fine with it.

The next day we skipped breakfast.  Really, the past few days we ate more regularly than we usually do.  We usually only have time for one meal a day on our adventures.  By the time I got down to the casino, I was ready for a Bloody Mary or two.  I had some popcorn and figured I could make it until dinner.  We ate at the Springs restaurant at the Hotel and it was okay.  I had chicken-fried steak which was tough, but they used a cutlet instead of round steak.  It came with mashed potatoes that were pretty much tasteless and honey glazed carrots, but I think they forgot the honey.  It’s unfortunate but I don’t think I have ever had a complete meal at Springs that was really good.  I think the club sandwich the night before and zucchini strips were about the best I have ever had there.  The town is small and there is not much to choose from as far as restaurants go, but someone should look into getting a real chef in town.

Marie went up stairs to call her husband, which I had already done, and I went back to the casino to play.  I decided to play the max and see if I could do any good.  I played Mirror Reels Winner’s Nights and Mirror Reels Fairy Blossom, both penny machines.  I did really well on both.  I then tried my luck on Triple Double Diamond and again did well, same on Gold Bar Sevens.  Then it was on to Dancing in Rio and Bull Elephant.  I cashed out $1,000 and went to the room.  All in all it was a profitable four days.

 

 

 

The next day as we headed to Marie’s house, we had to make one more stop-Bedre Chocolate Factory.  We had to stock up on their delicious candy.

 

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As a side note, there are eighty plus casinos in Oklahoma.  We have been to so few compared to the total number, but there are some things you need to know before you go.  Drinks are not complimentary, and in many casinos, are way too expensive.  In California, a Harrah’s operated Indian casino called Harrah’s Resort Southern California, in the Diamond Lounge where anywhere else the drinks would be free, you are charged for them.  Not only are you charged for drinks, but you are charged $.50 per hand on any table game as in Oklahoma.  Now I realize that not having casinos in Texas should make one more grateful for whatever we can get, but it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.

In November, we are cruising out of New Orleans to Grand Cayman and Jamaica.  And yes, in case you are wondering, I will try to stay out of jail.  When we get back into New Orleans we will stay at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi for a few days where our husbands will drive in to meet us and we will all go to our sister Cheryl’s condo in Destin to celebrate Thanksgiving.  We have our fingers crossed for warm sunny weather and Hurricane free sailing.  So, until our next adventure, we hope you all have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Ain’t Scared

 

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Marie and I are nothing if not thrifty.  Well, Marie is thrifty, but someone has to be.  I lean more toward the spend thrifty.  So when we found out we could book round trip airfare on our favorite airline, Virgin America, to Las Vegas on September 11, we jumped on it.  It seems very few people want to fly on 9/11, but when you can get round trip to Vegas for $136 each, what else can you do?  The plane was close to empty so we each had a whole row to ourselves.  First class was completely empty, but cabin stewards did not offer to move anyone up.  Guess they figured it was less to attend to.

We were on Flight 777 at 7:00 PM so we figured with all the sevens we would be safe.  We did almost have one little glitch, though.  As we were sitting at our gate waiting for our flight to be called, Marie noticed an unattended thermal bag on the seat across from us.  There was a woman sitting next to us.  Her husband had been sitting next to her but he got up and walked off and that was when we noticed the bag.  Because we were on high alert, Marie a vigilant citizen, went over and spoke to the gate attendant and reported the unattended bag.   The attendant called security, and two Dallas Police officers came and opened the bag examining it, unzipping the bag, opening Velcro sides and removing some items.   All of this time, Marie and I were watching the process and the woman sitting next to us was oblivious to it all.  She continued to read her People magazine and her husband still hadn’t returned.  There was a riveting story on Kim K. and Kanye I’m sure.

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Finally the “husband” came back and we heard him ask his wife where his bag was.  Of course we went into a giggling fit when we realized the bag was his.  His wife went over to the gate attendant who explained what happened and after a few minutes the woman disappeared and later came back with the bag.  I guess she had to go to Lost and Found.  I just can’t figure out why she had to go when her husband was the one who left it.  Go figure.

We had a smooth quick flight to Vegas.  Bravo on television and E-TV, plus CNN, ESPN and FOX, sitcoms, and on-demand movies.  So pleasant to fly with more leg room and entertainment too.  When we arrived in Vegas it was a short walk to baggage claim.  We packed light this trip since we were only staying for five nights.  We each had one bag to get and there were very few people waiting for a taxi so we were on the road to the Wynn Hotel and Casino very quickly.  Another little glitch was that our taxi driver decided to take the long way and it cost us $35 plus tip instead of $25.  But we’ll be more vigilant from now on and tell the driver which way to go.  When you leave the airport, take Tropicana to Koval and come in the back way to any casino.  Koval is not congested like Las Vegas Blvd, but some taxi drivers would rather take the freeway in order to run up the fare.

We had two complimentary nights at Wynn, one of our favorite hotels in Vegas.   The rooms are beautiful, the bed and linens are luxurious, the lights and drapes are controlled by remote control and the casino is very nice.  Marie once had a $1500 win there but I have never won much at the Wynn.  Still, it has most of our favorite machines.  We arrived at the Wynn ready to get checked in and play.  After enduring a sales pitch from the check-in desk clerk trying to sell us an upgraded room with a coffee pot and coffee (most Vegas casino hotels either have a coffee pot and you have to buy their coffee or they have neither one) we were shown to our room, beautiful as always, but with a crummy view.  We were told we would have a view of the golf course and the pool, but we had a view of the roof of the building next door. I literally had to press my cheek against the window to see a section of the pool. But as a bonus the people before us left clothes in one of the drawers.  Guess it all evens out.  Would rather they left money, but you take what you can get.  I did however check the pockets for money before I put them outside the door.  When we got back home and I told my husband about the clothes.  He said I should have brought them home because he might have been able to wear them.   He once found a red tee shirt in the hallway of a hotel and he picked it up.  It was one size too small but he wore it anyway.  Someday I’ll tell you about the pizza in the hallway.  What we didn’t want were the loud drunks next door banging on the wall and screaming and cursing about losing a thousand dollars.  I was certainly glad it was them and not us.

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We played from about 10 PM to 12 PM with no luck.  I tried Lord of the Rings, Willy Wonka, Hot Shot, Quick Time Progressive, Buffalo Stampede, Pink Diamond, Lightning Link, video poker – all with no success.  I guess the tip-off should have been that because the plane was empty, the casino would be too and therefore the machines would be cold.  It was a good night to enjoy the fabulous Wynn beds so we did.

 

The next day we caught a taxi to MGM.  We wanted to rack up some points and use our free play. Not only did we have free play, but we had comps to use for meals.  MGM is M-life, along with Bellagio, Monte Carlo, Mandalay Bay, New York-New York, The Mirage,  Excalibur, Aria, Luxor, Gold Strike in Tunica and Beau Rivage in Biloxi.  Wynn is Red Card and as far as we know is not affiliated with any other loyalty programs.  On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, we were working on our Total Rewards points.  Total Rewards casinos are all Caesar’s properties which include Caesar’s, Planet Hollywood, the Cromwell, Bally’s, Flamingo, Rio, Harrah’s and Horseshoe.  Good to have a plan and our plan was to rack up as many points as we could.  We have learned how important it is to play with a card.  The perks can be out of sight.  We have seen some people refuse to play with a card; others play with it for a while and then take it out and play without it for a while, thinking they are tricking the machine into thinking it has a new player.  Free rooms, free meals, free play, and free shows all add up to a lot.  They make up for some of the losses.  There are too many advantages to playing with a player’s card to not play with a card.

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We both really liked the layout at the MGM.  I had a few minor hits on Buffalo Grand and Quick Hit.  Not good enough.

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Marie came to find me and we were both starving.  Not all of the restaurants at the MGM were open all day, but the Grand Wok and Sushi Bar was open for lunch and dinner.  We went and were not disappointed at all.  We shared California rolls, lettuce wraps, Kung Pao shrimp, and fried rice.  All of it was fantastic and did I mention free.  It tasted hot, fresh, and so good.  I love Asian food, almost better than Mexican.  Marie likes Mexican better and we were going for Mexican later in the week as well as Italian, but we both thought the food at Grand Wok was excellent.

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After lunch, we went to another section of the casino and I found some really fun machines.  I got on a Hot Shot Platinum which has several bonus features such as regular Hot Shot bonuses, Locking Wilds and Exploding Wilds.  I did really well on it and hit lots of bonuses.  They were really entertaining and even though I didn’t hit a hand pay, I did get up to close to $1,000.

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I decided I needed to cash out ahead for a change and try something else.  While I was playing the Hot Shot Platinum, I saw people playing on a Tower Stack Lion machine and it looked fun.  So there was one open and I sat down next to Debbie from Virginia.  It was Debbie’s birthday and she is also a Diana Evoni fan and we agreed that we both wanted to meet her someday.

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The Tower Stack Lion was really fun.  It had good line pays but it took a long time for the free games bonus to hit.  When it finally did, the payoff was good with a retrigger on the free games.  I ended up with an over $500 win.  So our taxi ride to the MGM paid off for me.  Marie did well too on Davinci Diamonds and the Hot Shot Platinum machine.  We really enjoyed the vibe of the casino at the MGM and hope to get back there soon.

Then it was back to the Wynn for one more night of luxury.  Marie was at first thinking she would go back to the room and get some rest, but I convinced her to play for a while.  She found her Davinci machine and I went to a Super Wheel Blast.  There was one open machine and I decided to try it.  I had never played one before, but I loved it.  I hit the bonus over and over with free games and multipliers.  It gave me a lot of action, wins and fun.

The next morning we got up and checked out.  We had three nights comped at Harrah’s.  It’s not our favorite place to stay, but we do like to gamble there.  I usually do well on tables and Marie likes the machines .  Plus it’s next door to the Linq, which is the old Imperial Palace, and the Linq is next door to Bally’s and Bally’s is next door to Flamingo.  Directly across the street in the same block is Caesar’s and the Mirage.  So much fun in such a compact space.  Although Caesar’s sprawls across almost the whole block is one reason we don’t usually stay there.  You feel like you are walking for miles to get to your room and then back to the casino.  On the ride over we spotted Elvis on a scooter (Rascal) going down the street but we were stopped at a light and he was going too fast for us to get a picture.  It was funny because we could see his black shiny hair and long white beaded cape flapping behind him.  Only in Vegas.

Our slot hostess reserved adjoining rooms in the Carnival Tower which has recently been remodeled.  The old rooms were dark as a tomb and putting on makeup was a challenge.  Forget about shaving your legs.  You almost need a transfusion after.  So we were excited to see the new and improved rooms.  Since we only had one bag each, we let ourselves into our rooms.  We flipped light switches and not much helped.  Although we could see a change in furnishings, the bathrooms were still dark.  A walk-in shower and chair height toilet were nice but the only light in the bathroom was a mirror with low back-lighting around the edges.  No make-up mirror, lighted or otherwise.  No light in the shower so leg shaving would have to wait until we got home.  I met a man in the elevator and I asked him how he liked his room.  He said it was so dark that he almost needed a paramedic after he shaved his face.  We were already homesick for the Wynn.

We went downstairs starving for Mexican food.  The last time we were in Vegas we ate at a Mexican restaurant at the Linq called Chayo.  It was delicious and we had great Margaritas.  We went next door and found Chayo and got a table outside on the patio.  The sun was out, the weather was perfect and so would be a Margarita.  The Margaritas were delicious, but the food was not.  We each ordered Tacos al Carbon – I had beef and Marie had chicken.  They were pretty much tasteless.  Next time we’ll go back to La Salsa across the street.  It has always been good.

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Back to Harrah’s casino.  I hit $480 on a $1 Top Dollar.  That was really fun.  It was a double Top Dollar and I hit $120x2x2.  I then went to Lord of the Rings.  It was fun but didn’t pay off much.  Same with Lightning Link but I did have fun.  Marie said she was going to the Linq for a while and I decided to get my feet wet on the Ultimate Texas Hold-em Poker table.

In the courtyard between Harrah’s and the Linq there is usually a DJ and sometimes live entertainment.  While I was playing cards, Marie came over to the table and said that there were nude overweight women dancing in the courtyard.  They had bikinis painted on their bodies and thongs and nothing else.  In January of last year we brought my daughter Amber to Vegas for her 40th birthday and we decided to go downtown and check out what was going on.  Up ahead of us on the street was a nude overweight girl with a nude male wearing a thong.  Marie said the same girl was performing in the courtyard with other nude overweight females.  There was a guy sitting at my table who said, “No, no, no.  I saw them earlier and I almost had the vision out of my head.  Now it’s back!”  I continued to play until I was exhausted but my money lasted so it was good for me.  Marie and I had a scoop of ice cream for dinner.  It’s a wonder we don’t starve to death while we are gambling.  Usually we only have one meal, but on a good day we might have two.  The next morning I had a cinnamon roll in the food court at Harrah’s for breakfast and Marie got up earlier than me and had a real breakfast.  We usually go to Hash House A Go Go for breakfast but couldn’t work it in this trip.

That evening we had dinner in the Diamond Lounge at Harrah’s.  They had salads, fruits, chicken, and pasta and desserts.  We love the Diamond Lounge.  Of all the Diamonds Lounges we have been to, Harrah’s has the biggest.  We have so much fun when we go; lots of people to talk to and watch.  Free to get in, free to eat, and free to drink, except for a tip which some don’t do.  All it takes is being a Diamond Card Member which is achieved by playing with a player’s card.  The last time we were in Vegas we tried to go to Harrah’s Diamond Lounge but the line to get in was too long.  All Caesar’s Entertainment properties (Total Rewards) have a Diamond Lounge and it is a great perk.  That evening we met a large group of Latino Americans who were there celebrating Mexico’s Independence from Spain.  They were from Los Angeles and all worked at LAX.  They were a lively group and we enjoyed talking to them.

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The next day we both slept late.  We had reservations that night for Rao’s at Caesar’s Palace.  Rao’s is famous for it’s meatballs and we had already decided to share an order.  We had $200 to spend on dinner courtesy of Total Rewards and Diamond membership.  So we figured Rao was a good choice.  We had checked out the menu on line so we pretty much knew what we wanted to order.  The breads they brought out were wonderful.  I wanted mussels, but they were out.  We shared a roasted beet salad which was very tasty.  For our main courses I had Penne in vodka sauce and Marie had ravioli.  Dessert was Triple Chocolate Cake.  After dinner we didn’t play too long at Caesar’s because to be honest, we were too full.  I messed up because we went to the Diamond Lounge at Harrah’s before we went to Rao’s and since I thought I was starving, I ate the enchiladas they had on the buffet.  So then I couldn’t eat all of my dinner.  The portions were huge.  The meatballs were big as baseballs and I would have been better off just having the salad.  Actually I would have been better off not having the enchiladas.

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Sorry about the sloppiness of the dishes.  A funny thing about taking pictures of our food.  We always start eating before we realize we need to take a picture.  Maybe 1 out of 20 we remember, but that’s debatable.

Our last full day in Vegas we played.  Marie went to several casinos, but I stayed at Harrah’s all day.  No great luck to brag about, just maintaining.  We were both hungry for a good hamburger so we went next door to the Linq to Guy Fieri’s Burger Joint.  Huge hamburgers, crispy fries, and great atmosphere.  Especially with the nude dancers on the patio, but at least this time they were attractive.  At least our appetite wasn’t spoiled.

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Again, we cut the burger and took a bite, then the picture.  When will we ever learn?

And then it was time to go home.  On the plane, the man with the black thermal bag was several rows ahead of us.  He must have learned his lesson because he had his bag with him.

We had such a good time that we are hoping to go back after the first of the year.  Don’t know how we can get back before then.  October 8 we have tickets to see Tom Jones at Winstar in Oklahoma and will take a couple of days to go to the Artesian in Sulphur, Oklahoma.  It is a beautiful hotel with a small casino.  Then I am actually getting my husband to go with me to the Horseshoe in Bossier City, La. at the end of October.  I have some free play I don’t want to lose.  He likes to play but not as much as me, but he has an ulterior motive.  He wants to go to the Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum in Gibsland, Louisiana so there is something for both of us.  Then we have a Premier Cruise the week before Thanksgiving and we will spend Thanksgiving in Destin, Florida with our sister and brother-in-law.  Christmas will be in Santa Fe, New Mexico this year.  Such a lovely place to celebrate the holiday.  So I am hoping I can talk Marie into going back to Las Vegas early next year.  So far retirement has been very enjoyable, tiring at times, and always full of adventures.  Until next time, the Slotsisters are coming to a casino near you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catch Me I’m Falling

 

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No, I didn’t fall again.  But others did.  Well, I almost did at the poker table, but the pit manager and another player caught me.  The pit manager was pulling out my chair for to sit down and I didn’t know it, so when I went to sit down, I would have hit the floor if they hadn’t caught me.  Two people had nasty falls on the Lido Deck on day one of the cruise.  It was raining, there was standing water everywhere and the deck was very slick.  Both had horrible bruises on their legs.  One lady was in a wheelchair with her leg extended.  A lady was telling me about a Princess cruise she and her husband had taken some years ago to Hawaii.  It was a 14-day cruise out of San Diego.  The median age on the cruise was 78 and in the 14 days on board, there were 6 deaths and 13 broken bones.  Now you would think that the deck was stacked against the older passengers before it ever left port and it would be sad if it weren’t so comical thinking about the bodies stacking up and casts on legs and arms.  Ok, ok, I’ll be nice.

Our boat was set to sail at 4:00pm on August 21.  We were on the Carnival Breeze sailing out of Galveston.  After making a quick stop at the bar on Deck 3 where we entered the boat, and people-watching because everybody enters the boat on that deck,

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we made our way to the buffet (our last and only trip to the buffet) to grab a snack before Muster.  We thought we could hide and escape Muster, but no such luck.  No place is safe to hide from the Muster Nazis.  Luckily our station was in one of the theaters so we didn’t have to stand out in the rain.  One lady came in late like us and was having difficulty standing.  The theater was packed with every seat taken and people were sitting on the floor.  The Muster Leader asked if anyone would volunteer their seat for the lady and not one man responded.  However, a lady got up and gave her a seat.  Two guys asked if they could have a chair because their legs hurt too.  I could expound on this and the lack of chivalry, but I’ll leave it at that.

Because Marie and I both had birthdays in August, Carnival gave us gift cards.  Marie got a $50 card to the spa and I got one for $25 worth of pictures from our cruise (which I didn’t use).  We did make spa appointments for later in the week, Marie for a manicure and me for a pedicure.

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After getting settled in and unpacked, it was time to hit the casino.  We had to wait about thirty minutes for it to open up.  Marie sat down at Lil Red and I went to Gorilla Chief.  I had played it before on the Breeze and did pretty well.  It’s really fun when it’s active and today was no exception. I got several bonuses, fifty-plus free games and made some money on it.  I love it when the gorilla goes into chest beating mode and he did and drew a crowd.  Really fun.  Then on to one of the new machines on the Breeze called Diamond Storm.  I met a really sweet and beautiful lady named Indy.  She was on the cruise with her husband, father and fifteen other family members and they were having a great time.  I really enjoyed visiting with her.  But eventually we both gave up on Diamond Storm.

We were booked for the 8:15 dinner seating at the Blush restaurant, one of two fine dining restaurants on the ship and each has an early and a late seating.  We decided to go on over and get in line.  The doors are locked between the two seatings, so there is usually a line waiting to get in.  Plus it usually takes us several days to get our bearings and locate our restaurant.  We were anxious to meet our dinner companions and hoped we would like them.  We got lucky.  There were two other sisters from Texas, Opal and Judy;

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two beautiful young ladies who both had just taken the bar exam; two nurses from Louisiana; and a couple from Dallas.  The couple from Dallas were originally from New York, moved to Miami to retire, then moved to Dallas to be near their daughter and grandchildren, but were not happy with the move.  In fact, it seemed their unhappiness was overflowing onto the cruise because the first night they called the maître d over to ask for a table change.  The wife said she thought her husband would be more comfortable with a husband/wife couple to talk to, but I think she was the one who would be more comfortable.  He probably would have been just fine with a table of eight younger women to talk to.  As far as the menu on the first night in the dining room, it has gotten increasingly harder to give a positive critique.  It is the same menu night after night in the dining rooms – every Sunday on the Breeze is the same week after week, every Monday the Breeze has the same menu and so on.  To be fair I am sure it is quite the undertaking to replenish supplies if every week brings a new menu.  Plus many new passengers seem to enjoy the food.  After four or five cruises they will have a new perspective.

After dinner we went back to the casino, but good luck was not to be.  We went to bed about midnight.  It had been a long day with traveling three hours, boarding, unpacking, Muster, etc.  We had all day the next day to gamble so off to bed we went.

Marie got an earlier start than I did on Monday.  She went down about 9:30 and I went down about 1:30.  I planned to have a Bloody Mary for breakfast and a Bloody Mary for lunch and dinner, but I couldn’t wait.  I had to have Pizza Pirate which was as good as ever.  I had a Margarita pizza and Marie had a cheese pizza.  Yum!  We strolled through the casino where we saw something we had never seen before.  There were two Amish girls standing by the craps table watching.  And yes they were Amish; well they could have been Mennonite but we think Amish.  Maroon long loose fitting dresses with a gathered waist and elbow length sleeves, no buttons or trims of any kind.  Such a strange sight to see them in a casino, but more on the Amish girls later.

Dinner that night was prime rib and lobster tail.  We couldn’t not go, lobster dinners don’t come around very often.  It was very good.  In fact we had two each and probably could have eaten more.  The only thing about that is when you order a second entrée, they bring you the whole plate again, sides and all.  So I had one slice of prime rib with a baked potato and two lobster tails with sautéed shrimp and rice pilaf, plus dessert.  Between the entrée and dessert course, the waiters danced for all of us.

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It’s always fun and they do encourage audience participation.  A girl at a table behind us was really enjoying the show and decided to join in the dancing.  She stood up on her chair and mooned the other diners and began dancing and waving her napkin over her head.  Because she was standing on the chair in her high heel and short dress, it was probably not a good idea.  Suddenly she lost her balance and landed on the table, sitting on her plate of prime rib.  At the risk of sounding catty, it really was hilarious.  We were all so busy enjoying the moment that we forgot to take a picture.  However I did get her picture in the casino later.

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After dinner I sat down at a Sacred Guardians slot.  I had never played it before but the man next to me was doing quite well.  He was there with his wife who was on the other side of him.  He ordered a drink and unfortunately when he tried to set his drink down, he missed the shelf and spilled it.  I handed him my napkins and almost immediately an attendant came over and cleaned it up.  He mentioned he was legally blind and couldn’t see that he was going to miss the shelf.  I assured him it could have happened to anyone.  He pointed to his wife and said she was his fifth wife.  He said that he was retired from the Coast Guard and had five different wives in five different ports.  I wasn’t having much luck on my machine so I wished him luck and went on my merry way.  I was afraid he might be looking for Wife Number Six.

I had some luck on Super Fusion 7’s for $358.52.  I played it down to $300 and moved over one machine to Lucky Lines.  I won $477.60.  I had a good night for a change.  It was about time I had a change of luck.  Marie was still playing in the same area.  We felt like we had to stay for the big loot midnight drawing every night, but some nights it was struggle to stay awake for it and this was one of those nights.

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img_1726On Tuesday we docked in Cozumel.  We got off the boat and walked down the pier to the duty-free shop but decided we were hungry and would come back and shop after we ate.

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We passed all the shops and made our way to Pancho’s Backyard for lunch.  We were starving and looking forward to chips and salsa and Margaritas.  Pancho’s has a really good queso with green salsa.  We ordered the queso to share and each a Cadillac Margarita.  It’s a frozen Margarita with Grand Marnier on top.  I had beef fajitas and Marie had chicken quesadillas.  So good.  On the way back we went back through the duty-free shop planning to buy alcohol, perfume and jewelry.  Instead we bought a chocolate candy bar.  Shows where our priorities are.

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On the way back to the ship, there was girl who thought she was a great dancer.

 

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After a long nap we made it to the casino.  We had no plans for dinner since we had such a big lunch.  I decided to play Ultimate Texas Hold-em.  I bought in for $200, played three hours and cashed out $165.  I guess I didn’t do so bad.  Marie was still playing slots and doing good.  She can play the same slot for hours and not lose or make much money and not get bored.  In fact I don’t think she went above a 20 cent bet all cruise.  And with that bet, there was no way she would win a free cruise.  I have ADHD when I play slots but I can sit on a poker table for hours.  I have gotten Marie to play video poker a few times and she liked it but she doesn’t want to try table games.  Maybe someday.

On Wednesday, we docked in Belize.  Because we had both been there before and it was raining, we decided to stay on the ship.  We went out by the pool and enjoyed watching the other people and we watched a Bee Gees concert on the outdoor screen.  Marie walked over to the Italian restaurant on the ship named Cucina del Capitano and made reservations for dinner that night.  Then she made our spa appointments for Thursday while I watched the concert and drank a beer.

img_1732Our dinner at Cucina Del Capitano that evening was very good.  We had been given a bottle of red wine by Carnival so we took it with us to drink with our meal.  I had the Caprese salad for a starter and Marie had Eggplant Parmagiana.  I had the braised sort ribs which I did not like at all.  It wasn’t like any short rib I had had before.  It was more like a huge slab of roast beef, stringy roast beef.  Marie ordered Chicken Parmesan.  Marie skipped dessert but I had the apple tart which was the best part of my dinner.

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Thursday was a beautiful day in Honduras but since we had spa appointments, we stayed on the ship.  Plus we had each been there several times.  Marie decided to nap on the deck.  She kept waking herself up snoring and said “Sorry, Sorry.”  The deck was crowded.  She then fell asleep again and an hour later when she woke up the deck was empty.  I guess she snored everyone away.

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The spas was very popular spot.  Lots of people were using the sauna, getting massages, and taking a soak in the hot tub.  Marie’s appointment was first at 1:15 and mine was at 1:45 so I was able to sit in the lobby and watch the comings and goings.  While I was sitting there one of the Amish girls came in to make  appointments for a pedicure and a massage.  Yep, I was confused too.  She also said she had to ask her boyfriend if the time would work for him.  So I don’t know if they were going for couple massages or just making sure the time was okay.  Marie had seen them on the deck earlier and the boyfriends had on shorts and tank tops.  I did  read where because the Amish people have much better cash flow because of their business ventures (furniture and produce) they are taking vacations now.  I also read that young adults after the age of 16 can participate in Rumspringa which is when they can choose to see what life is like among non-Amish before they decide if they want to continue to live the Amish lifestyle.  Maybe this was what was going on.  I would have loved to ask, but I really didn’t want to be rude.  No, really.  There was a male Amish father type along and he was dressed in traditional Amish apparel also with a bowl haircut.  The Spa could have given him a more hip style.

That evening we ate dinner at the Sushi restaurant.  It was awesome, Tuna Tartare, California rolls and a Tuna roll.

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Afterward it was time to try our luck in the casino.  When the ship is in port, the casino is closed so after the ship enters International waters, only then is it open.  I don’t know if my heart wasn’t in it, but I couldn’t do anything but lose money.  We decided to spend a big part of the day in bed.  Both of us were tired and needed the rest.  The next morning Marie woke up with chills and stomach problems.  I didn’t have chills, but my stomach was a little messed up too.  I don’t think it was the Sushi.  I asked her if she wanted some Tylenols and she said yes.  I gave her three and she took them.  She asked me why I gave her three and not two like the directions on the bottle says and I told her that the bottle instructions were only a suggestion.  So then she said that I have an answer for everything and I told her she could take the high road but someone has to take the low road and that would be me.

I don’t know if we were tired of rich food, or we ate something that didn’t agree with us, or we had the Zika virus but I did have two mosquito bites so I guess it was a possibility.  We were moving pretty slow and enjoyed it.  We started thinking about how comfortable it is to be in your Pj’s and robe and that the cruise ship should have one whole day designated as Pj’s and Robe Day.  No other clothes allowed.  Eight straight days of hair and makeup and uncomfortable underclothes gets pretty tedious.

We managed to pull ourselves together and leave the room  We had two days left to hit the big one and accumulate points in hopes that Carnival would give us another free cruise.  We received in our mailbox outside the door to our room a coupon for four people to order off of the steakhouse menu.  We decided to invite Judy and Opal to join us at dinner and it was very good.  We all had lobster and filet mignon.  It was delicious.  After dinner the four of us went to the casino to play.  Judy played mostly video poker and Opal played the slots.  I don’t know if they won much money, but they both had accumulated a lot of points.  In fact, they each received a free cruise for two.  Carnival is good about that if you play a lot.  I don’t know if Royal Caribbean or Norwegian does the same, but it is nice to be appreciated.

As we were debarking the ship we took an elevator to deck 3 to head to Customs and Baggage Claim.  As we got on the elevator there was a young handsome deck hand getting on also.  His name was GianLucca and he was Italian.  He had a very thick black hair and beard.  On his dimpled chin he had a white streak in his beard, another one in his eyebrow and another one on his temple.  I told him he needed to get a flight out to Hollywood instead of docking in Galveston.  I think I still have a bruise on my arm where Marie punched me.

By the end of the night of the last day of the cruise I had accumulated 6900 points plus the time I spent playing poker.  But we did not receive a free cruise this time.  We were very disappointed.  When we got home I called Carnival and they said because we have two more cruises booked they were not able to offer another one until we had taken the ones coming up.  I actually thought that was pretty tacky on their part, but what are you going to do?  In November, we will sail out of New Orleans to Jamaica and Grand Cayman on the Carnival Dream and then in April of next year we are really excited to sail on the Carnival Vista, the newest ship in their fleet.

Next week we will be in Las Vegas for six days.  Hopefully we will have several success stories when we get back.  Catch up with you then.

 

Biloxi Bound

The day after I got back from my girls’ trip cruise with Ginger and Raegan, Marie and I got on a plane at Hobby airport and flew to Biloxi.  This was a complimentary flight with a free hotel room for three nights.  I know I have said it before, but we love the Biloxi/Gulfport area.  So beachy and laid back.  And for those of you hysterical types, there is plenty of history to check out.  It seems like so many adventures come to us and we are enjoying them all.  Leaving my husband at home to oversee the remodeling project was a no-brainer.  He loves a mission and I love for him to have one.  As before this chemo has not made him sick, and he can’t stand the thought of leaving our cats and would rather stay home.  And so it goes and so do Marie and I.

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We got seated and all comfortable.  A really nice couple from Conroe sat next to me.  As I got adjusted in my seat, I placed my purse under the seat in front of me.  This was fine for a few minutes until a woman in the seat directly in front of me chastised me for putting my purse under her seat.  She let me know that I was supposed to put my purse under my own seat.  Just as I was about to correct, a lady several rows up spoke up and said “No, it goes under the seat in front of you.”  Problem solved, except for the fact that her seat back was in the reclining position even during takeoff and landing.  I behaved and never said a word.  I’ll take that Brownie point now.

We really enjoy the Biloxi trip.  The flight is short, only about an hour and a half.  Free cocktails on the way to Biloxi but no cocktails on the return.  A bus picks us up at the airport, takes care of our luggage, and delivers us to the Beau Rivage where our luggage is delivered to our room.  As always, our room was lovely.  It overlooked the baseball field where the Biloxi Shuckers play.  We could have watched a game if they had been playing and oh yeah, if we hadn’t had gambling on our minds.

We went straight to the casino to check out what new machines were there.  There was a new Willy Wonka, The Walking Dead, House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, new versions of older machines, and lots more.  I think I tried them all, but without much luck.  I even tried my old favorites like Hot Shot, Double Triple Diamond, Three Kings – all with very little luck.

One day we took a taxi to Harrah’s to play and did okay, but not well enough to video any good wins.  There lots of casinos in Biloxi and Gulfport but it’s hard to get around to all of them with no car.  In the past we have driven to Biloxi from my house and it’s about a eight or nine hour drive.  We tried to hit as many as possible, but still ran out of time before our mission was accomplished.

We are headed back around Thanksgiving in combination with a cruise out of New Orleans and spending a few days during the Thanksgiving holiday with our sister Cheryl and her husband Kerry at their condo in Destin, Florida.  We will stay in Biloxi the night before the cruise, the three nights after, during which our husbands will show up, on to Destin, back to Biloxi and then finally home.  Such a crazy schedule, but so much fun.  Until the next adventure ……..

 

Jailhouse Rock, Jamaica Style

 

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I know we have been absent for awhile.  Things are crazy at my house.  We have a remodel going on in kitchen and bathrooms, my husband is going through chemo for the second time, the free cruise offers are rolling in, Marie and I going to Louisiana and Mississippi casinos, and just life in general.  I am going to try to shed some light on how crazy things have been as I sit and watch the news networks.  Notice I said networks, plural.  Just trying to be Switzerland because I am not ready to commit.

On June 10 my contractor started demolition and my husband and I began our journey to try all of the restaurants in Bryan/College Station.  Sounds like more fun than it was, but we ate out about every other day.  I have always wanted an outdoor kitchen and I finally had one.  We moved our refrigerator and microwave to the patio and plugged them in so we could warm up leftovers and frozen dinners.  On June 12 my daughter-in-law Ginger and granddaughter Raegan and I boarded the Carnival Breeze to Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel.  This was Ginger’s 40th birthday cruise.  Her birthday is not until September 30 but because she teaches school we had to schedule during summer break and we couldn’t go off and leave Raegan.  Her brother Tanner had baseball tournaments scheduled and he wanted to stay behind with his dad.  Plus we needed a girls’ trip.

So off we went, armed with Dramamine, mosquito spray, and sunscreen.  The weather in Galveston was overcast, hot and humid.  As we stood out on the Lido deck waiting to sail, Ginger was talking to a couple from West Columbia, Texas and learned that they were neighbors of her cousin.  Then later in the cruise she saw a little boy who was in her class in Floresville.  I told Ginger that she would probably run into either people she knows or people who know someone she knows.

Raegan is 10 and the first day she was a little overwhelmed by the crowd of people crammed into the tiny pools and decided not to go swimming yet.  We suggested Camp Ocean but she was undecided on it.  We had a while to wait to go to dinner but after muster and exploring the ship, we decided to freshen up and make our way to the dining room.  This was Ginger’s and Raegan’s first cruise so it took some time getting adjusted.  Marie and I would have gone to the casino when it opened or found a place to sit and order a drink and watch people.

Finally it was time for dinner.  We were led to our table in the Blush restaurant.  It was a table for nine and no one was seated there.  I was afraid it wasn’t going to be much fun with just three of us at such a large table.  I questioned the waiter about it, but he said to wait a few minutes.  Sure enough a family of three sat down.  It was a very lucky thing because they had a daughter named Gigi who was almost 10 and she and Raegan hit it off immediately.  Debbie, Tom and Gigi were from Round Rock, Texas which is about 30 minutes north of San Antonio.

It was so cute listening to their conversation.  Gigi told Raegan she loves horses and Raegan said she did too.  Then Raegan said her favorite color was blue and Gigi said hers was too.  Gigi told Raegan she loves Camp Ocean and that Raegan needed to go.  The girls had a blast together and Debbie and Tom were so nice and each night dinner was very pleasant.  The girls went to Camp Ocean on sea days and loved it.  They were really cute together.

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Our first day on land was Jamaica.  Ginger and Raegan wanted to snorkel and I just wanted to chill.  We took the bus to the beach and everyone got to do what they wanted to do.  They found a lot of shells, I found a lot of cocktails, we had bar food on the beach and it was a lovely day.  This was my first time to get off the boat in Jamaica and I really enjoyed it.  Instead of taking the bus back, we decided to take a taxi.  Really, I decided and it was a big mistake.  Our driver first noticed I was limping, which I often do, and offered to get me some botanicals.  I told him thanks anyway but no thanks.  He said he had some really tasty brownies in the back seat, but I again said no thanks.  He mentioned Jamaica has really good coffee and I said that sounded good.  He offered to get me a cup so I took him up on it not knowing what it involved.  He whipped the taxi across all the lanes of traffic and parked on the sidewalk in front of a store on the opposite side of the road.  The clerk came out and went back in to get me a cup of coffee and as we were waiting, a cop bicycled over with his ticket book.  The driver told the cop that I was drunk and he had to get me a cup of coffee.  I wasn’t drunk but I thought it might be best just to be quiet and let him handle it.  I turned around to look at Ginger and Raegan and their eyes were huge.  Then all I could do was laugh and say not to worry.  I think they were more afraid we would be late getting back on the ship.  Well, we got back on time, didn’t get arrested and the driver got a $50 ticket for parking on the sidewalk.

The next day was Grand Cayman and since Ginger had been there before, I figured she and Raegan would be fine without me.  They didn’t have much luck snorkeling because the water was cloudy close to the shore.  I enjoyed a day resting. Day three on land was Cozumel.  I got off the boat because I adore Mexico and wanted to do some shopping and get some good Mexican Food.  There is a fabulous restaurant there called Pancho’s Backyard.  The food is exceptional and service is great.  We made a few purchases.  I bought two bottles of Esperanto Tequila which is my favorite and I can’t find it in Texas.  It is so smooth and doesn’t have a charcoal taste like a lot of other tequilas.  We also bought some Amoxicillin to have at home.

The next two days were cruising days to get back home.  Time passed so fast but everything about it was enjoyable.  We ate at Cucino del Capitano Italian restaurant twice and it was excellent as usual.  We had several Guy’s Burger Joint hamburgers, more than several Pizza Pirate pizzas (yum) and made a few passes at the buffet, oh and room service.  I know I haven’t talked about gambling because it wasn’t anything to brag about.  I mostly played at night when the girls were busy with other stuff.  It was hit and miss, miss mostly.  But all in all and I think Ginger and Raegan would agree with me, it was a great trip, one we may have to make a tradition.

 

Rockin’ Ramen

Part II of the Slotsisters’ adventure started when we stepped off the ship.  Well, Marie did.  I rolled off in a wheelchair because Marie was afraid I would fall again.  I was still pretty sore from my less than graceful fall.  So she insisted I ride in a wheelchair which I must say was a relief.  It is a long walk from the dock to Customs and on to Baggage Claim and then to board the shuttle and after our rude awakening that morning, I was a little shaky.   But we made it and took the shuttle to LAX in order to catch another shuttle to Fox Car Rental off-site at LAX.  These are complicated logistics but there is a reason to this madness.   Yes it’s that time again when Albertson’s Monopoly Game is winding down and we wanted to make one last push for game tickets.  And we wanted to spend what little time we had to concentrate on the southern California area.  We were super excited about this part of our adventure, not only for our travels but also because we were flying high with the prospect of winning a big money prize.  We felt like we had a lot of people pulling for us including the fine people at WeirdUniverse.net.  If you haven’t already checked Weird Universe out, you should.  It is a riot.

Our cruise wound up on April 30 and we didn’t fly back to Texas until May 4 so we had three full days to collect and donate as much as possible.  The game was over on May 3 so we had to work fast.  The shuttle dropped us off at LAX.  We found where we were to wait to catch the rental car shuttle.  I sat down to wait next to a young man talking loudly on his cell phone.  I couldn’t help but overhear his conversation that his girlfriend was mad because she caught him making out with her sister.   We were to catch a shuttle to Fox Car Rental. When we arrived at Fox the line waiting for assistance snaked around the waiting room.  Marie found me a seat and she stood in line for a car.  An hour and a half later we drove off in a Jeep Compass.   Marie was tired from basically standing still for so long, but I made good use of my time.  The people watching was exceptional.  There were people who spoke no English, people in skimpy outfits – some who were justified and some who weren’t, lots and lots of tattoos and piercing and strange haircuts.  You have to remember Marie and I both live in small towns and have to get our kicks where we can.  I was sitting next to a really nice elderly lady with loads of luggage.  Her husband was in line for them waiting for a car.  She began to tell me that they were in California to visit their son and grandchildren.  She said that they had to come to California to visit because their son refused to fly.  I asked her why and she said he thinks it violates his Fourth Amendment rights.  I guess my face was blank because she said. “You know, freedom from search and seizure.”  I had no answer to that and just said something intelligent like “Huh”.  I figured he either was mentally imbalanced or had something to hide from TSA and hated to point out to her the obvious – that maybe it was better that her son stayed off of airplanes. My husband worries about me talking to strangers, but how else are you going to learn.  I say hello to everyone – adults, children and dogs.  Everyone has a story to tell and can impact your life, hopefully for the good, but you won’t know unless you talk to them.  And I really think I was safer talking to the nice lady than I would have been had I talked to her son.

Since it was early afternoon, we headed to our first Albertson’s in Calabasas where we exchanged 100 tickets and received 200 tickets back.  I was running low on some toiletries so while I took the time to restock, Marie bought several flats of Ramen noodles.  We got in the car and I proceeded to go to work opening tickets.  On to the next stops in Semi Valley and Santa Monica Mountain Range where we only exchanged tickets. We hadn’t had much to eat that day and decided to find a place to eat.  We found Casa Escobar in Westlake Village because it was time to refuel on Mexican food.  I am not a diehard fan of the Kardashians, but occasionally I tune in and the Kardashians went to Café Escobar to eat during one episode.  We figured if it was good enough for them it was good enough for us.  The waitress brought to our table chips and three different salsas.  The chips at Mexican restaurants in California are very different from what we eat in Texas restaurants.  Ours are very thin and light where in California (or at least the ones we have had) are thicker and a lot of the time are flour tortilla chips.  But hey, who’s complaining.  We had Mexican food and it was pretty good.   I had fish tacos and Marie had beef tacos.

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We enjoyed our meal and left in search of a place to stay.  We checked in to a Sheraton Agoura Hills in Westlake Village.  We stayed up for awhile opening tickets and got a good night’s sleep.

On May 1 we had an exciting day planned.  Seeing the beauty of California, our Albertson’s Monopoly game adventure, and checking into Harrah’s Valley Center for a little fun.  We were staying two nights and looking forward to settling into our temporary home.  At our first Albertson’s we exchanged tickets and bought donuts and two more flats of Ramens.  We were waiting to get to the San Diego area to donate to the food bank there.  Early in the afternoon we drove through McDonald’s for Egg McMuffins and Frappuccinos.  So good and so many calories.  We planned to grab something to eat at Harrahs later.

We did several drive-bys (where I sat in the car and opened tickets and Marie went in to exchange tickets).  We had lots of stops to make and it was much quicker for Marie to go in and take care of business.  We did drive-bys in Long Beach and Temecula and then took the scenic route to Harrahs.  I really think all routes in California are scenic, but this one with orange trees as far as we could see in any direction was beautiful.

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We arrived at Harrahs and it was very nice.  After we checked in we went downstairs to check out the Diamond Lounge.  We immediately went up to the bar and ordered a drink and thinking it was complementary, we were surprised when we found out it wasn’t which was after the bartender set them in front of us..  We were informed that because we were in an Indian casino, California state law requires the casino charges for alcohol, this from one of the two states that legalized marijuana.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, there were no snacks out, no chips and dips, no nothing.  So then the bartender asked if we would like to have a plate of meat pies and we asked if it was complementary and he told us it was.  They were good, but all in all it was a strange experience.

We headed to the casino, Marie to see what machines they had, me to the Hot Shots we had seen on the way to the Diamond Lounge.  I hit a few bonuses and got a little play money.  I played Crazy Money which was fun and again I hit a few bonus games and played for awhile.  Then on to Buffalo Stampede and hit a few bonus games and barely kept my head above water.  There is a lot to be said for familiarity and at this point I was missing the Horseshoe in Bossier City, Louisiana, but we can’t resist seeing what’s out there.  Marie decided to go to the room and work on game tickets.  I stayed a while longer to play tables, all for nothing.  I should have gone to the room.

The next morning of May 2, we headed out for Ramens and ticket exchange.  We decided to head toward San Diego so that when we were through buying noodles we could drop them off at the food  bank.  Plus our luggage was in our room at Harrahs so we had room to spare in the Jeep.   We came back through Temecula, Escondido, and then to San Diego.  We had a hard time finding one Albertson’s in San Diego.  Our GPS took us to downtown San Diego.  So odd because all the others were in wide open spaces with lots of palm trees, flowering shrubs and parking lots.  Now we were in a spot with concrete, cars and high rises.  We drove around and around looking for a parking space, nothing on the street, and finally found a parking garage that we thought was for Albertson’s shoppers and we were right.  So odd to think about shopping for groceries there and pushing out a cart full of groceries into a parking garage.  Marie took our 400 more tickets and got 2,000.  The manager was very generous. More work to do.

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By this time we were hungry.  I had seen a show called Food Paradise on the Travel Channel and it featured a restaurant in San Diego called Café Coyote which was voted one of the top ten Mexican restaurants in California.  We had less trouble finding it than the last Albertson’s.  It was in Old Town San Diego, a really picturesque area with shops, restaurants and hotels, reminiscent of many tourist towns in Mexico.  We loved the area and put it on our list of places to take our husbands.  Café Coyote was fabulous, the food, drinks, and ambience were great.

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We would have loved to spend more time in Old Town, but not this trip.  We needed to get back to Harrahs and decided to stop at the Western Eagle Food Bank in Temecula.  We unloaded our Ramen noodles and were on our way back to Harrah’s.

It was pretty much a replay of the previous night, less the Diamond Lounge, been there, done that.  Slots, tables and back to the room to open tickets.  I did play a slot called Zodiac Signs which turned out to be pretty fun and cashed out more than I had put in.  But I was through gambling for this trip and would have to wait until I was back in Texas to head to Louisiana for more.

The next morning we checked out and headed to Los Angeles to turn in our rental and spend one last night in California.  This was the last day of the Monopoly Game and the last day tickets would be handed out.  We went to Oceanside, Huntington Beach, Long Beach and one Albertson’s in Los Angeles.  We would not be able to receive tickets on May 4th or exchange any for more tickets after our last stop so we were almost through.  We would still be able to enter codes online to check to see if we were instant winners until May 25.  Marie had been entering ticket codes since the contest started and other than winning two more tickets numerous times, we hadn’t won anything online.

We decided to have one more adventure when we got to Los Angeles.  We went in search of Pink’s Hot Dogs, Hollywood.  Pink’s is famous with Hollywood celebrities.  Still looking for a celebrity, we went and all we got was a hot dog.  Marie reminded me that Guy Fieri loves a weiner that has a “snap” to it when you stick a fork in it.  In other words, a tough casing.  I’m so glad I got to experience that and I can cross it off of my bucket list.  I would so much rather have a Coney Island hot dog.  Much more appetizing, cleaner, and less “weiner snap”.

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We decided we were through for the day with everything but sleeping so we turned our rental in to Fox Rental and took their shuttle to our hotel. Marie booked us into the Sheraton LAX and we felt like we were in a luxury hotel.  It was very nice.  Our room was large, clean, quiet and lovely.  We opened the last of the Albertson’s Monopoly Game tickets and were glad of it.  To recap our Albertson’s Monopoly Game adventure, we collected 18,500 tickets, entered 15,500 tickets online (basically non-winners) received $246.46 worth of free products, and $40 in gift cards.  Last year we collected 40,000 tickets and this year we received roughly 1/3 of what we received last year.  It looks like on the list of Albertson’s winners that the $1,000,000 has not been given away since 2012.

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I remember when I was grown and Marie was a pre-teen, our parents and Marie took a trip to Gatlinberg, Tennessee by car.  Exxon (at the time was called either Humble or Enco) had a contest giving away prizes and our dad won a color television, RCA if I remember right, during the trip.  I think that memory gives us hope that maybe we will be lucky in our travels also, so until that time or until next year, we will be giving it a shot again.

 

 

Let Me You Take You On a Sea Cruise

On April 23, Marie and I embarked on another sea adventure.  The logistics of this trip were challenging, but it’s like anything else you want to do – you manage.  On the 20th, Marie drove down to my house under the guise of picking me up.  I think what she really wanted to do was make sure I packed right.  To be honest, she is a lot better at it than I am.  Marie has some OCD tendencies and I’m just the opposite.  I remember when we took our first cruise without our husbands and she insisted on carrying on all of her luggage.  And then there was the time when we went to our cabins right after we boarded to see if our luggage had been delivered.  Mine was there, but Marie’s hadn’t showed.  As we were walking out the door, the woman across the hall from us said that if she were Marie she would be worried.  I said, “Oh, don’t tell her that.”   Marie’s luggage came about thirty minutes later, thank goodness.    A big fear is that we would have to wear the same outfit we came on board with through the whole cruise.  At least Carnival supplies a nice comfy robe for the trip only.  Marie loved it so much she had to buy a new one on one of our previous cruises.

On April 21 we drove to her house with a quick stop at Casa Ole Mexican Restaurant in Bryan, Texas.  Had to make sure we had our quota of Tex-Mex because on the ship they rarely get that right.  We got up on the morning of April 22 and went to Dallas Love Field to fly out to Los Angeles on Virgin America, our favorite airline.  Roomy leather seats, no funky smells and Virgin has live television so a person can watch sports and news as well as Net Flix and On Demand movies.  We sat next to each other and watched Bravo and the Real Housewives for the duration of the flight.  It went by so fast.

We arrived in L.A. around 5 PM where we took a shuttle to a Hampton Inn near LAX.  It really is easy using a shuttle service.  The driver handled our luggage both at the airport and unloaded it at the hotel.  He even took it inside the hotel for us.  It was a very comfortable shuttle ride and because there are so many expensive cars in L.A., I was looking out of the bus windows to see if I could spot a celebrity.  We pulled up to the light next to a red BMW convertible.  Inside there was the driver who was male and a guy in the passenger seat and a girl in the back seat.  The driver didn’t look like any celebrity I would recognize and I doubt that he was anyone other than a nose picker.  It was so funny because he had the top down and was digging for gold.  It’s always funny when someone picks while driving like they think no one can see them, but hey, this was a convertible.  I imagine he thought he was cool in the red convertible and he might have appeared so if he wasn’t picking his nose.

On Saturday, April 23, we took another shuttle to the port in Long Beach where we boarded the Carnival Miracle.  We were sailing to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta.  New scenery, new destinations, different ship.

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We made it on board with no problem, hit the lounge on deck 2, and waited to sail.  I love to see the deck where we board the ship.  It is very pretty and each ship has its own theme throughout the ship.

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We were supposed to sail at 4 PM, but didn’t depart until closer to 5:30.  We endured muster which was tedious because our station was outside and it was quite hot and steamy.  On the past three cruises our muster station was inside in one of the theaters which made it much nicer.

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When we finally sailed, we had to wait for about 30 minutes for the casino to open.  We sat in the casino and staked out a machine and waited not so patiently.  Finally we were in business.  Marie sat down at Kitty Glitter and I had decided before hand that I was going to concentrate on video poker and Quick Hit slots.  I started with video poker and after awhile of no 4-of-a-kind, I gave up in search of Quick Hits.  I somehow got sidetracked by Hot Shots and I do love those.  I hit the bonus several times and the small progressive for $23.00.  Not enough to do me much good.

We decided we needed pizza, that maybe if we ate, we would do better.  I have always thought you couldn’t catch any fish on an empty stomach.  We headed to Pizza Pirate.  I had the Margherita pizza and Marie had the four-cheese pizza.  The Pizza Pirate only has five varieties including pepperoni pizza, prosciutto and arugula, and mushroom pizza , but they are all good with really crispy thin crusts.  Then it was back to try our luck on full stomachs.

Marie went back to Kitty Glitter and I decided to try my luck on Three-Card poker.  Marie can stretch her money much better than me and usually stays ahead by playing the minimum bet.  Her money lasts longer.  She hits smaller pots, but she goes further, recycling her wins and building up her points and not spending much money.  She did win a hand pay once on a 30 cent bet.   I keep hoping for a jackpot but those don’t happen often enough. There were some loud people on this cruise, you know the ones that bang on their machines and scream at each other across the casino.  One couple screamed “Honey!” at each other everytime one of them hit something or just wanted to communicate.  There is a funny story about “Honey” I will get to in a minute.

I sat down at the poker table and bought in for $100.  I noticed a man at the table had on a Huntsville Bearkats tee shirt and asked him about it.  Huntsville is only 45 minutes from my house and the home of the Sam Houston University Bearkats.  Of course he had heard of Iola. Crazy how you can go all the way to California and get on a cruise ship and meet a neighbor.  Even crazier is that it’s not the first time it’s happened to me.  Several years back Marie and I took a spur-of-the-moment cruise and there was a woman on the cruise who lives 15 minutes away from me and worked at a local restaurant I went to on an almost weekly basis.  Then there was the time in St. Thomas where my husband and I saw our daughter’s boyfriend’s parents shopping.  Also ran into another neighbor in Las Vegas at Harrah’s during Super Bowl weekend.  When I was still working in sales, I saw a customer and his wife at the Flamingo in Las Vegas.  Marie and I met a couple on this cruise from Kennedale, only a few miles from Mansfield.  So many coincidences.

Back to the poker table.  I had pretty good luck.  I hit several flushes, straights, and one three-of-a-kind.  I cashed out $430.  Maybe this would be my game this trip.  I heard of some straight flushes, but didn’t get one.  This was a 3 card bonus table where if you got a five-card winning hand and you bet the $1 bonus spot, the payouts were bigger.  I hit that several times with a full house and the 3-of-a-kind.  Fun game when you can at least get some winning hands.   Plus it’s a really social game.  People converse with each other and the dealers were all so outgoing.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for everything, and bonding with your slot machine can be very rewarding, but sometimes you need human companionship.

Sunday was an at-sea day and Marie went down to the casino early and played.  She went to the deck to see the ocean, but it was not as pretty as the Caribbean.  That warm breeze was just not there.  The Miracle is a smaller ship than some other ones we have been on, and it was easier and faster to get from one end to the other.  However, the casino was smaller, there wasn’t a Cucina del Capitano Italian restaurant on the ship and the pool was tiny.  But we are the Slotsisters and we had business to take care of.  I had slept in and she brought me some coffee and yogurt from the buffet.  I got dressed, headed down and went straight to the poker tables.  This time I decided to try Texas Ultimate Hold-em.  I didn’t do that well, so I ended up back at Three Card.  I had another good day and cashed out $485.  I was on a roll.

Marie switched between Kitty Glitter, Cats, Cleopatra and Hot Shots.  There were very few of the newer style machines, only the Asian-themed slots were new.  We saw several hand pays and we were holding out hope for one.  It was early yet and we made sure we had plenty of opportunity.  Sometimes I bet the minimum, but most of the time I bet the maximum.  On Hot Shots, max was $2.00, and $2.50 on video poker, but on the Asian themed slots, the minimum was $.88 and the maximum was $8.88.  That was just too much for me.  I have heard of people hitting some good pots on these machines, but not me and I don’t think Marie has played them much.  These machines were so popular that there were lines behind each machine waiting for one to come open……INSANE.

We had tried to get reservations for Sunday night in the steakhouse but they were booked so we instead reserved a table for Monday.  We had requested Any Time Dining and decided to take a break and try out the dining room.  Carnival must not change their menus very often because they offered the same items we had eaten on the last cruise.  Marie had a Caesar salad, sautéed pork belly, pasta and Crème Brulee for dessert.  I had a Caesar salad, fried oysters appetizer, lobster tail, and Creme Brulee.  It all tasted really good and it was good to get the dining room experience out of the way early because if you eat there every night, it gets very tiring and unappetizing.  I will share with you some pictures on the buffet one night.  Marie decided to go to the Mexican buffet which was not that great, but the star of the dinner was the beautiful watermelon sculptures the chefs carved.

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Monday we arrived at Cabo San Lucas.  It is a big rock.  All brown, no green.   Can I say any more?  We got off of the boat and decided to shop instead of going on an excursion.

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We had a sunset cruise scheduled for Puerto Vallarta and couldn’t decide on what else to do in the other ports.  In Cabo every store had tequila tastings in hopes of selling a bottle.  At one table of tequilas, we heard one guy say “no thanks, that’s why I have to go to the meetings”.   I purchased two bottles of Esperanto tequila.  I can’t get it at Spec’s in College Station and I had bought a bottle on a previous trip to Mexico.  It is better than any I have had because it is so smooth and has no charcoal taste.  We wanted to go to Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo bar, but decided instead on Senor Frog’s since we didn’t know how far away Cabo Wabo was.  We ordered chips and salsa and a Margarita.  The chips were flour tortilla chips and very thick and the salsa was like canned tomato sauce.  It was fun, though, watching the people take advantage of playing beer pong and doing tequila shots.  We were only spectators,  and never participants.   I was so concerned because the hose and shot glasses were passed around without any cleaning.   And it didn’t seem too hard for the waitresses to talk the customers into taking a shot.  If you have ever been to Senor Frog’s, you know what I am talking about.   If not, just check it out.  Senor Frog’s is in just about every port you can imagine.

Thankfully the Cabo port was the only one where we had to take a tinder from the ship to the dock.  It was horrible with an uneven step onto the boat as well as rocking back and forth.  I was really afraid it wouldn’t end well, but it did and we all got back without drowning.  I guess people in wheelchairs must miss out on a lot of sightseeing excursions.  I am not very sure on my feet and even though I have had better experiences with a tinder, I still may sit the next one out.

Back on the ship we went back to the casino to wait for it to open.  Off we went to play, Marie to the cat machines and me to find a loose machine.  I played Hot Shots, Quick Hits, Diamond Fantasy and Pink Diamonds, but ended up back on the poker tables.  I left the table even and went to find Marie.  It was time for us to go to our dinner reservations at Nick and Nora’s Steakhouse.  Nick and Nora were characters in the novel “The Thin Man”.  In the movie based on the novel, they were played by William Powell and Myrna Loy.   The restaurant had a New York vibe and offered a menu of beef and lamb entrees.  Marie had Tuna Tartare, Spinach Salad and a Filet with Béarnaise sauce.

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I had the pumpkin soup, lettuce wedge with gorgonzola cheese and bacon which I didn’t love because the gorgonzola was very overpowering.  I also had the Filet Mignon with a peppercorn sauce.  We each had Wasabi mashed potatoes but skipped dessert.

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Actually, the waitress boxed it up for us and we took it to our cabin.

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It was a very nice dining experience, excellent Kendall-Jackson cabernet, and attentive waitresses. We skipped dessert because we were anxious to get back to the casino.  Every night the casino has a drawing for cash – Hot Seat and Big Loot.  Our names were never drawn at night – more about that in a minute.

Tuesday we docked in Mazatlan and Marie decided to sleep in.  I think she had a food hangover.  Nick and Nora’s was delicious. It didn’t take any persuading me to sleep too.  We rolled out of bed about 2:00 and managed to get dressed and grab something to eat.  By this time we were sailing again and the casino was open.  I decided to play the BAM! machine (the only one) and I was able to hit over $200.00 and quickly got excited about the slot machines again.  It’s really disappointing to play and play and not hit enough to at least give a person hope, much less something to play with.  I thought the machines were really tight and I guess certain machines were just due to hit.  We just didn’t find any before someone else did.

Wednesday was Puerto Vallarta.

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We were looking forward to our sunset cruise shore excursion.  This was our late day in port and we weren’t rushed to get onto the dock. Stepping off the ship we found our excursion guide and we headed for the sailboat.  But first I couldn’t help but notice this sea lion waiting to have his picture taken.  Then after a long day of work he or she waddled onto a trailer and was put into a big truck.  Oh the Life.

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It was a gorgeous evening and even though the sail boat was not luxurious, we settled in with 18 other passengers.

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The sea was a little rough, but I took a Dramamine that morning.  Marie didn’t but she was fine.  The crew mixed Margaritas and served cold beer, cheese and crackers, guacamole, salsa and chips.  We were fine and it was a very enjoyable sail.  And the sunset was gorgeous.   Two male passengers however were not well during the cruise, in fact both had been in the casino every day, but we did not see them again until Friday.  They say if you wait to take Dramamine until you need it, it’s too late.  So I took it every day whether I thought I might need it or not.

We got back to the ship and I don’t know if I was a little loopy from sailing or the beer, (I just had a cup),  but I was playing cards in the casino and went to the bathroom and fell as I was turning the corner to go into the bathroom.  I went down pretty hard and I still have a bruise or two.  I went to bed and stayed in our cabin until Friday morning.  Even though my ribs were pretty sore I really enjoyed my relaxation time.  What was so crazy was that Marie was coming out of the bathroom and when she opened the door, she saw me on the floor.  Anyway it all worked out okay and I’m fine now.  The really bad news was that on Thursday morning while I was in bed they called my name for the big loot drawing and I missed out on $1,100. So not only my pride was hurt when I fell, but so was my pocketbook.

Friday was our last day to play on the boat.  We hit the casino running. Since I missed the day before, I had to make up for lost time and hopefully lost money.  I tried to find a hidden gem in a remote corner of the casino, but not so.  I did play some slots that I hadn’t seen earlier in the week and I did hit enough to give me money to play on but no hand pays.  I played Slingo, Wolf Run, Buffalo Stampede, Triple Double Diamond Hot Roll, and Spitfire Bonus – all with little results.  Played 3-Card poker, Ultimate Hold-em, and Let It Ride.  When we went to our cabin that night, there was a letter under the door saying that Marie had received another free cruise from Carnival.  So we will be off on another one soon, the next time out of Galveston.  The last night the casino also gave away a free cruise  and guess who won?  “Honey”!  Now first you have to picture a handsome gray-haired man with a neatly trimmed gray beard  wearing a gold Lame’ shirt.  He was with a pretty and well dressed lady, also called _”Honey”.  When his name was called, he was playing right next to Marie and I.  When he came back from getting his certificate, we heard him tell some other people that he was the “Most Interesting Man In the World”.  Pretty soon other people were calling him that and he was really enjoying it.  To be honest, Robert (his real name) did resemble the Dos Equis spokesman.

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We met some other interesting people and saw some we didn’t get a chance to meet like the woman who wore a Ship Captain’s hat the whole trip and pulled a suitcase behind her.  She also wore nautical themed clothes to match her hat.  Then there was an Asian family we saw at the buffet.  They were so sweet and cute.  The mom reminded us so much of our mother before she died.  She was thin with a new permanent in her hair and she smiled a lot.  So did our mother.  The couple had three adult daughters who were with them and took them on this trip. The daughters doted on them constantly and you could see how proud the parents were.  Our parents had three daughters and seeing them together made us miss our mom and dad.

The next morning was check-out time and was pretty much a nightmare.  We had to be out of our cabin by 8:30 and didn’t read our instructions and had filled out a room service request the night before for 9:00.  It was to be our wakeup call.  I’m really surprised at Marie that she did not have this under control.   I had to go to one of the showrooms and pick up my tequila.  Our stewardess Joanna started knocking at 8:30 and woke us up.  She was ready to clean our cabin for the next guests.  We finally left about 9:30, got to the dock and on our shuttle bus.  We were headed back to Los Angeles where we were renting a car and starting on the second leg of our trip.  Stay tuned for part 2 coming soon.