Monthly Archives: March 2012

Western Caribbean, Ft Lauderdale and New Orleans jumbalaya trip!

First of all, I want to thank Haley Bradbury at Cruise Holidays for organizing my entire trip. Her expertise and connections around the Globe helped me pick Celebrity as a cruise line. I was not disappointed.


My trip began on a flight to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I went a day ahead of the Celebrity Solstice leaving the Port Everglades so that I would have plenty of time to go through the Embarkation process. I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express that was across the street from Starbucks and down the road had plenty of retail stores and restaurants on 17th. The next day, I had transportation by Carey Transport International to the Celebrity Solstice. Carey is very professional and always on time as this trip has proven. Another great recommendation by Haley.


I had decided on this cruise, my second cruise ever, that I would be a part of Aqua Class on Celebrity. What this meant is the entire experience was improved and enhanced my numerous points of detail. There was no line up for me when I checked in at the Port – I was straight on the cruise and sipping a Mimosa provided as a welcome on board within 40 mins of arrival. The staterooms were ready 2.5 hours later which is not unusual and what a stateroom it was (see pic). I had fresh fruit and canapes every day plus free bottled water. My stateroom attendant David He was chatty and determined to talk to me every morning and evening in case I needed anything. He told me that my first name means Star in India.


The first night a huge bottle of Champagne was in my room that I sipped as the cruise left Ft. Lauderdale on my private glass balcony. I was in heaven. Not only was it warm in temperature but I had walk in access to the Aqua class restaurant Blu and immediate access to the Persian Gardens where you could lay on heated chairs and meditate after a steam room experience. The Spa was amazing. I decided to have Chinese Acupuncture treatment by Allison while I worked out in their fitness club. My body said thank you by deep sleep every night. I soon learned, however, that I felt too dizzy from the movement of the ship to stay on a treadmill but could handle the elliptical trainers no problem thanks to PT Elise Ioannou from Cypress. I’ve entered an Algae bath detox spa program and can feel the results physically already. However, in the Spa I was told my the Irish Spa Director that I was named after the Tara Stone in Ireland.


Then, I met a group from the southern states on an excursion that told me I was named after the plantation in Gone with the Wind.


Despite all of them being correct and I didn’t mention the other meanings to any of them we had a great time. Eating supper by myself is not unusual if I go to a restaurant but at Blu couples to my right and left quickly engaged me in conversation as we all enjoyed the organic food. The wine steward quickly learned what type of palette I have for dry wine and recommended new wines every night. Thanks to the pre-bought wine package I could enjoy wines up to $12 a glass.


I fell in love with Grand Cayman. I may never go back to Mexico even though we visited an island (Cozumel) it’s just not my cup of tea. And we visited Roatan but never made it to Costa Maya due to high wind not letting us into the docking area and officials closing it down.


For 7 days I had the most amazing vacation and great weather.


I then stayed in Fort Lauderdale for a few days and I have to say the Sheraton let me down a bit by placing me in a room that smelled like mold. They are right by the ocean however and have 2 pools. Still, I didn’t stay in my room much as when I complained they came in and aerosoled the air conditioning unit so that it smelled like Lysol every day in my room. The Holiday Inn that I stayed at previously had no such problem.


Next – Fantasy on the Bayou the RWA FF&P Sub-chapter conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. I’m not going to lie. The conference’s keynote speaker Maggie Shaye had us all shedding tears at her personal story and triumphant rise to publication after 4 years of rejection. She started on a typewriter that had no “e” key and had to fill them in plus cut and paste corrections with scissors and paper. She had an agent that was forcibly removed from being an agent by her native state due to shady dealings and yet all of this did not stop her from giving up hope or stop writing. She said “I hope this conference is for you what hearing the words “you did it baby” did for me.”


And guess what. It has been. I have one full request and 3 partials. Even if they all say no this has been an experience I was not prepared for. I was prepared for no. I was not prepared for yes. This is the first step in becoming a published writer by traditional means. I have a contract with Dellarte Press on a book I’ve been working on for 2 years (my epic adventure romance) which forced me to re-join the RWAC writers group and take part in Nanowrimo plus writing retreats. But, this… this conference has made me realize that it is possible with perseverance it is possible that your manuscript will be a novel one day.


I finished my New Orleans visit by walking around and then taking the New Orleans Movie Tour with Jonathan Ray who has worked on numerous sets. What a great tour! We got to see location sites from the van and saw movie clips showing us these locations in the films. We also munched on popcorn and bottled water as we were quizzed on movie trivia and who was in Hollywood South this month. We saw Brad Pitt’s house, Nicholas Cage’s burial site, Sandra Bullock’s house, John Goodman’s house and Anne Rice’s house along the way as well. With a 30% tax incentive New Orleans and the state of Louisiana are hopping with films.

I also met Nancy Knight who organizes Dragon Con each year and is an agent herself.  I sat with her during the amazing supper the FF&P organizers had for us at the Marriott New Orleans (lobster, snapper, turdunken, prime rib, pasta, dessert, tea, coffee…).  Please check out for more details.

Maggie Shayne Keynote Speaker FF&P Conference in New Orleans

Aqua Stateroom on Celebrity Solstice

Anne Rice House on New Orleans Movie Tour