Thursday, January 27, 2011

Costa Maya.....

Now We Are Talking…

It’s 76 degrees, 75% humidity and a slight breeze…

Costa Maya

I received a nice surprise today and actually ended up with another split shift. With that said I went ashore in Costa Maya.

Costa Maya Waterfront

Of course there is touristville where the pier meets the beach. On either side are stretches of sand beaches alternating with rock outcroppings. I made my way through the crowd and caught a bus into town for $3.

Once in town you are let off and directed to the malecon. It is small shops and vendors on one side and a beautiful sandy beach on the other lined with palm trees. The beach also is lined with row after row of lounge chairs and massage vendors offering their services.

Costa Maya Malecon Beach

Another familiar sight for me was the pangeros. Fishing here is $60-$75 per hour on the surface and maybe less once you get down to brass tacks. Apparently there is permit, wahoo, atun, pez gallo and groupa. I also saw it is more like San Carlos as the one of the pangeros I spoke with was rigging ballyhoo, something we don’t do in baja.

Pangas…Gotta Love Them

I even found at the far end of the malecon a small place selling breaded, not grilled taco de pescado. However they do not use white sauce like in baja. Anther difference is the michilada (sp). Instead of baja style of lemon juice, cervesa and sal it is spices similar to salsa, tobasco, lemon, cervesa and sal and very good for $3. Also beers are anywhere from $1-$2 for he usual stuff.

After a bite to eat I walked a block off the malecon to find the local tienda to buy a few odds and ends and then headed back to the ship on a $2 taxi ride.

Tequila Beach

As I have not been able as of yet to explore the interior of any place I’ve traveled I will say I enjoyed Costa Maya the best. It’s small, beautiful, great beaches, great food and drink that is very reasonable and only costs a couple bucks to get away from it all. I can’t wait to try fishing at some point and really feel like I’m back home in Mexico.

Costa Maya


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Come Sail Away...

Come Sail Away, Come Sail Away, Come Sail Away With Me Lads
Come Sail Away, Come Sail Away, Come Sail Away With Me-e-e-e-e-e-e

Styx had it right…of course they were singing about a “starship” and they might as well been speaking about the “Dream”. This ship IS a starship that travels through the clear blue water verses the clear blue sky.

From this point forward on my blog I will have two sections called Work Hard, Play Hard. Which is exactly how I’ve always tried to live my life.

“Work Hard” will focus on my experiences working on a cruise ship as an acupuncturist. I stated in my first post one reason I started this blog was to let other “acupuncturists at sea” know my experiences on a ship. My hopes are to get feedback from other acupuncturists on their experiences and also to let first contract acupuncturists like myself know what to expect.

“Play Hard” is exactly what it sounds like. It will be life experiences, ports of call and life on board. This is also what my blog has been up to this point for the most part.

For those of you that are friends and following my blog you may want to just skip to the Play Hard section, I’m not sure how much the Work Hard section will interest you.

Okay lets get started…

Saturday - Day One…Embarkation Day
I was initially told I could board the ship around 10am. I arrived at the ship around 9:20 after a short taxi ride from my hotel in Cape Canaveral. My thoughts were to get to my cabin early unpack and get somewhat settled before I had to report to the Serenity Spa at 1pm when the spa tour starts.

Well so much for my thoughts. I found it to be in one respect very much like the Navy, hurry up and wait. Most of other crew began to show up a little after 10 and the same was true…hurry up and wait. They started our security checks, scanning etc. and letting us board around 11:30.

As soon as I arrived and did a short amount of paperwork one of the spa members showed up to take me to my quarters. Once on board everything moved at the speed of light. I barely had enough time to iron my shirt and lab coat and get to deck 12 where the Serenity Spa is located.

The minute I arrived “at work” the first thing I noticed was how absolutely friendly everyone was. They all introduced themselves and throughout the day and the days that followed made a point of making me feel absolutely welcome and part of the family. I truly could go on and on about this as they have all been great, obviously I am impressed and thankful for their consideration and help.

I found the Spa Tour different then what I expected. It was not groups of people of maybe a dozen people at a time. It was more like people filtering through sometimes a few at a time, some times more. For the most part the guests were escorted by spa staff to various “stations”. They were introduced to the different services offered and to those that supplied those services. Everything was very professional.

As I am a “new sign on” after about 30 minutes I was taken to a required safety meeting that lasted about an hour. This was my first of a handful of safety and ship information meetings that I am required to take throughout this first week.

After the meeting I reported back to the spa to finish the Spa Tour and then to begin either consultations or treatments that I was able to secure. At this point I would also like to say I found there is a lot of cross promotion. The spa staff, at least on this ship, is very good about recommending services from one department to the other. That is absolutely a plus. Again it goes to the respect everyone shows each other, not only as a person but also as a professional.

I had 3 consultations, two of which were no shows and one that I spoke with for a short period. He seemed very receptive and stated that he did believe that acupuncture would help his condition. When we discussed the pricing structure everything took an immediate turn for the worse. I explained how buying a package it is actually less then on shore and that at sea acupuncturists have found quicker and better results. Still he really wanted no part of it at that point and I not wanting to press any further and offend the guest thanked him for his time and his interest. After he left I remember feeling “damn I hope is it not going to be how it goes” and began to ask myself what am I in for.

My day ended at 10pm and I headed “home” to deck 4. I was happily surprised as my room was bigger then I expected which was very small and it was well…small roughly 10’x15’. I have a desk, small dorm style frig, television, the Internet and ship phone. I also have a couple chairs, a small bed about the size of a massage table, a closet that measures 2.5’x2.5’ and 4 drawers. The bath is very small about 4.5’x6’ which is included in the above room measurement. Still what more do the need? Also I am supplied with a steward that cleans my room every day. I’ve met him a few times and he is very friendly. In fact everyone I’ve met on the ship is friendly. They all say hi, many introducing themselves asking are you the new acupuncturist etc.

Although I was very tired from a first long day I decided it was best to unpack. Being a sailor in the US Navy 40 years ago of course I brought a “sea bag”. Unlike the one I had in the Navy I found one through Bass Pro Shops that had straps on it like a backpack. I packed this with items that were relatively lightweight. I also had a duffle bag that looks like a large sports bag equipped with wheels that I filled with heavier items. The two bags were a bit of a pain but overall worked well very well for my purposes. I actually found I was able to find a place for everything I brought with room to spare.

Sunday - Day Two…First Sea Day
The day started with a spa meeting at 7:40am. It was brief and to the point and lasted about 10 minutes. As soon as the meeting was over everyone again set off at the speed of light preparing to tend to the needs of the guests.

For the first hour I didn’t have any appointments so I decided to go on the hunt. I went to an area of the ship where there were guests relaxing and introduced myself and handed them a flyer that showed some of benefits and invited them to a seminar I was giving later that afternoon. Everyone was very receptive and I did my best to be brief and to the point not wanting to intrude.

At that point I returned to the spa as I had four consultations, three I had scheduled from the previous day and one from the promotion I did that morning. I was very much pleasantly surprised when it was the exact opposite from my experience the previous evening. They were very interested in how I as an acupuncturist could help them and one booked five appointments, the other a package of three and the other two were interested only in the consultation.

I gave two seminars that day. The first one was very brief, about 20 minutes on Back Pain. The other was the Introduction To Acupuncture “Point of Wellbeing” Seminar that we were all told that we would have to give to the guests. I found both went very well and “Point” seminar was attended by approximately 15-20 guests. Of those I was able to book 4 consultations.

The minute I returned to the spa I was extremely busy until we closed for the night at 8pm. I ended up with two consultations and six treatments. The result from the six patients was I was able to book a total of 21 treatments for the week. I don’t know where that puts me in the grand scheme of things but I am very happy with those numbers for my first full day on the job.

Monday - Day Three…Port Day
Today started at 8am as it is a “port day”, Cozumel, and there is no spa meeting. I have two returning patients and two consultations from my seminar. The two from my seminar booked a total of 7 seven appointments between them. I have another treatment with a returning patient scheduled at 7pm. So what am I doing between my last patients at 10 am and then…Cozumel!

Docked in Cozumel
If it’s Monday it must be Cozumel at least from 10am to 6pm. Most of you that are friends know that I have spent years in and out of Mexico. It has been Baja for over 20 years and a couple in and out of San Carlos on the mainland.

I have never been to Cozumel. I found it very much like most tourist resorts in Mexico. I am also well versed enough to know the first thing to do is get away from “touristville”. So I caught a taxi and headed to el centro, downtown, where I wanted to see a little of the town, go to the super mercado and buy a few things. I was able to have a conversation with the taxi driver in Spanish and found where to go and get what I was looking for in town.

Touristville at the base of the pier

As I did not have the full day off it was not a good idea to go out and party. I basically walked around town where I found it still be very much geared to the tourist industry and found myself saying “no gracias” as I passed every shop.

I did stop and look at some of the local menus and drink prices and found them very high to what I was used to in La Paz, El Rosario, La Ventana and San Carlos but probably very much in line with Cabo. I was surprised to see no street vendors and I was looking forward to a couple fish tacos or carnitas.

Overall I was not overly impressed with Cozumel but to be fair not having a full day off and it being my first time here I was unable to really get to la playa and the outskirts or to the ruins which I’m sure would be great. Next time.

I did however stop and talk to one of the small local tequila shop owners a few blocks off the main street. He told me about the tequila tour that there is a few miles away. It involves a showing of how tequila is made and a tasting bar where you can drink shots “all day” as he put it and learn about the differences between blancos, resposados and anejos. I would definitely like to do this some day as tequila now days is my drug of choice. Oh yeah the cost of the tour is $14us.

Tuesday - Day Four…Port Day
Today started again at 8am as it is a port day. I am finding that my client load is well underway. I saw two new patients today and with my six returning patients I had another busy day.

I am finding that now that I have found my comfort zone having two treatments rooms I am only having one problem…paperwork. This is one area I believe that should be covered at the three day training seminar so you have a better understanding what is required of you as far as paperwork.

I am used to a receptionist scheduling my appointments, collecting payments and closing the books on my daily totals. I am slowing getting this together as there is a lot to learn and a lot of different reports to file. It seems as soon as I get one thing down there seems to be something new to learn. Again the “girls” that make up the spa staff have been wonderful and extremely understanding. They are there at every turn whenever I have a question or to show me what to do, sometimes more then once.

I had another split schedule today which allowed me to go to shore for a few hours to take photographs. I am looking forward to having a full day off while in port to explore an area further at some point. For now I enjoy being able to have a break and visit ports of call, even briefly. So what am I doing between my morning and evening patients…Belize!

On the Water Taxi – Belize City

Belize City Waterfront

I spent about two hours exploring the port city of Belize City by wondering back streets and getting away from touristville. In my former life as a photojournalist I used to love to do this even in the states. I mentioned this to one of my patients that I walked around Cozumel with a little yesterday and he asked me “didn’t they tell you not to go out of the “tourist zone”? I said no and that it wouldn’t stop me anyway. Maybe that is foolish but after spending so much time in Mexico and in the Orient it is something I am comfortable doing. And just like anywhere else pay attention to what is going on around you.

The Wet Lizard Bar in “Touristville”

I did look at some of the local prices just to see how they compared to Cozumel. Everything seemed to be a little less expensive here. T-shirts were as little as 3 for $15, polo shirts ran $15 and one thing that was a nice surprise the local beer is 2 for $5 verses up to $4 a beer in Mexico.

Entrance to the River

Further Back on the River

It was different out with the locals. A few blocks from the “tourist zone” I was approached and asked if I wanted anything from marijuana to girls. I just kept saying no, laughing at times, and continued my exploration. This is where I found Bada-Bings Pizza and the Food Cafe. I then headed back to the ship to relax before my evening clients.

The Food Cafe

Bada Bings Pizza

“In the Hood”

Laundry Day

Waterfront "Seaside Guest House"

Being a shallow water harbor I’ve been told today that Belize may not be on the cruise schedule in the near future as guests are complaining about not being moored to a pier. The ship is anchored a few miles offshore and about a 20 minute ride one way which means a minimum hour out of your day and possibly even longer if you have to wait for the boat to fill. This happened to one of my patients today and she had to reschedule her appointment.

A Little Out of Town

Wednesday - Day Five…Port Day
Today is another split schedule and after my morning patients I’m going ashore for a little bit to Isla Roatan. I do have a couple more patients, one returning and one new, this afternoon.

I stepped outside this morning in order to take in the view, which is part of my morning routine. The minute I did there was a sigh of relief as we were approaching Roatan and the view was amazing. It is a lush, green tropical island with beautiful white beaches that is begging to be explored and photographed. Roatan is what I’ve been waiting for…paradise!

Just Above Touristville

The spa is located on Decks 12 and Deck 14. Both of my treatment rooms are just steps away from a door that opens onto a veranda area called Serenity, which is an adults only, no kids allowed area of the ship. It is always quiet, has very few guests and the view is amazing from this height.

I only spent an hour walking around Roatan as I have another patient in the early afternoon and couldn’t stray too far from the ship. I also wanted to take my time and take some pictures of the island from the vantage point onboard. As in every port I can’t wait until I have more time off in order to be able to explore the island.
Various Views from the Dream in Port

Again I hope everyone is enjoying the blog and for you acupuncturists it is giving you some insight. Looking forward to your comments.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Here Today...Gone Tomorrow...

Well it was quite an adventure getting to Florida. Dean and I left Midpines and drove 3 hours to San Francisco on Saturday 1/15 where we watched the days football games before he dropped me at the airport the next morning.

Both of us are Greenbay Packer fans so it was a great day for us, except for maybe the $4 beers at the bar. We opted to watch most of the game at the hotel before heading out for one of the local bars and to dinner so it wasn’t too bad.

And here is where the adventure begins. I was flying standby and was already onboard the plane at 10 am when I got bumped from my flight to Tampa Bay. I ended up catching a flight to Denver where I found my connection 2 hours later had only one seat available. To make a long story short I was lucky to get on the plane.

I next found myself in Kansas City where instead of a 45-minute layover it turned out to be 3 hours. Well I just downloaded a movie, Salt, and watched it while I waited for my flight to Tampa where I eventually arrived at 1am. I rented a car and rolled into my moms place in Clearwater an hour later. This was suppose to be a 7 hour trip but ended up being closer to 13 hours...oh well life is an adventure and you roll with the punches.

The next day my mom and I took a road trip south along the coast towards St. Petersburg to see the sights as she remarked how much she loved Florida where she has been living for the last year.

On Tuesday we drove north to the Greek fishing village of Tarpon Springs for lunch at one of the waterside cafes. Next we stopped at a favorite place of hers Safety Harbor and walked the pier out into Tampa Bay. It was a beautiful day, warm and only a slight breeze.

Mom at Dimitri's in Tarpon Springs

Wednesday was another day trip an hour south to Apollo Beach to see the manatees. I’ve never seen these graceful mammals of the sea. They are very beautiful in their own right. We also saw number of fish including mullet, jack carvalle and a tarpon jumping out of the water. There was also a small lemon shark chasing fish trying to have lunch.

Female manatee and her calf

Manatee going solo

It is now Friday evening and I am at the Radisson at the Port in Cape Canaveral after driving 3 hours and 150 miles from Clearwater. Tonight I will relax and go over my presentation as tomorrow morning I board the Dream where it will be non-stop from the get go.

Pool and bar area of the Radisson at the Port, Cape Canaveral

Well I’ll be back next Friday or Saturday with my next update and after catching my breath from my first week at sea. I will be visiting Cozumel, Belize, Isla Roatan and Costa Maya.

See ya then…

Friday, January 14, 2011

Time to go...Goodbye California!

For the last week I have been traveling from Pacific Grove to Laguna Beach and then to Yosemite to visit friends, work on private clients and to see the sights.

Big Creek looking north - south of Carmel

Big Creek Bridge looking south

I started this leg of my travels heading south from the Carmel area through Big Sur along the coast. Hwy 1 follows the winding, rugged coastline through forests, windswept fields and lonely beaches. For those of you that have never made this trip it is absolutely beautiful. I’ve driven this route a handful of times over the years and it never ceases to amaze with its views of the rocky shore and the pristine waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Big Sur

Central California Coast

Rugged Coastline

It was an absolutely beautiful day as I drove south from Pacific Grove heading to the Los Angeles area as I had private clients in Hollywood the next day. Along the way I stopped to take hikes to various points and beaches to stretch my legs and to take pictures and watch the whales head south for the winter.

Coast Hwy 1 and bridge

Central California Coast Beach

Just north of San Simeon in the shadow of Hearst Castle lies Piedras Blanca Beach. This beach is known for its colony of elephant seals many well over 2,000 - 4,000 pounds. This time of year it is filled with hundreds of the seals along the beach. It’s birthing seasons, which begins in December so there were many pups here as well enjoying the beach and soaking up the sun.

Hundred of Elephant Seals on Piedras Blanca Beach

Bull Elephant Seal

A Mom and Her Pup

The next part of my journey brings me to my hometown, Laguna Beach where I will stay at my brothers for a few days, visit friends and again worked on private clients in the area.

Lifeguard Tower Main Beach

Main Beach and Downtown Laguna

Laguna is a small, for Southern California, beach community of 24,000 people. It is surrounded by a greenbelt and the only way to get to it is to either drive along coast highway from the north or south or through the 10-mile drive through Laguna Canyon. It is known for its art festivals, sandy beaches, rocky coves and Heisler Park that over looks main beach and the downtown area.

View from the house I grew up in on Arch Beach Heights

 View from "Top of the World"

My Alma Mater - LBHS Class of '72

After a few days it was time to leave Laguna and head to Midpines in the Sierra Nevada Mountains to visit a couple friends, Dean and Angie Sberna and their children. I’ll be staying with Dean and his family for a few days as I travel to Yosemite, 30 miles away, for a visit and to photograph Yosemite Valley. Then Dean will drive me to San Francisco where we will play tourist for a night and drop me at the airport the next day for my flight to Florida.

Half Dome from Camp Curry - Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Falls and the Merced River from Sentinal Bridge 

Dean and I have known each other for 30 years. We met when we lived in Yosemite National Park in 1982 where we were both lift operators at Badger Pass. Dean still works there and for years has been a waiter in the world famous Ahwahnee Hotel.

Ahwahnee Hotel dining room where I was a back waiter in '82-'83

A day in Yosemite many times is without equal. It’s been years since I have been there in the winter and I took my time visiting my old haunts and taking photographs. It is also an adventure just photographing Yosemite as the light changes, as does her mood.

Tunnel View Yosemite Storm

Sunset - what a difference an hour makes

I first came to Yosemite in 1965 with my grandparents. I spent my honeymoon at the Ahwahnee Hotel in 1972, lived there for approximately 3 years in the early 80’s, took my son the in the 90’s and my mother 2006. This summer I have plans to take my grandchildren there for a visit when I get off the ship for a vacation.

Valley View - Yosemite storm

Valley View - an hour later

El Capitan from Valley View

"El Cap" an hour later

Again I hope you enjoyed my ramblings about my travels and my photographs. Next stop….Florida!