Posts Tagged travel

Unexpected Party

I was on the Carnival Glory, and we had set sail (after an arduous safety briefing). Our group of Magic players and significant others were set to meet in the conference room (Green Room) on the 4th Deck. To get to it, I decided to walk through the bar on 4, the Ivory Lounge. When I came through the doors, my keen sense of observation immediately detected something amiss:

The place was packed with 200-300 men and women, all sitting, standing, talking, all of roughly college age.

I have never seen that many people packed together in one place on a boat, except maybe the first day on the top deck, and the safety drills. Baffled, I walked through until I caught a young lady’s eye. I asked, “So, are you all part of one group, or…?”

“Oh yeah,” she replied. “It’s this group of 300 singles, and this is our first meet-up.”

My jaw dropped a bit, but I recovered and made a cool exit. “Cool! Well, I’ll hopefully see you guys later!” I went through into the Green Room, met all of the Magic folk, and then went wandering.

After some hours at the martini bar (man, best bar ever), I went up to the top deck with friends for some 24hr pizza. Up next to the pool, about 100 of these singles had arrayed a circle of chairs and were playing some sort of crazy game. “Get in there, Dave!” said Amanda B and Lee. Yeah yeah, ok. I pulled up a chair, and immediately found out what was going on from my neighbors: Never Have I Ever Musical Chairs.

(Aside: What a wonderful merging of two well-known games! In Never Have I Ever Musical Chairs, there is 1 fewer chair than participants, so 1 person is always standing in the center. That person states a thing they have never done – “Never have I ever smoked pot” – and then each participant who HAS done the thing gets out of their chair and finds a new one to sit in. Whoever is left standing at the end states the next thing!)

It was during this game where I chatted a bit more with some of the friendly singles and found out that they were all Mormon. So, our ship had been invaded by a group of singles, which seems awesome, but they were all Mormon, which seems slightly less awesome in the drinking-and-debauchery sense. They were having a good time, though, and it was infectious!

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Port Authority

Now that I have been on a few cruises (this was my fifth Carnival cruise, so I leveled up from red to gold ship card :o) I feel I can speak with some reasonable knowledge of some of the cool and not-so-cool things I have done while off-boat in port.

  • Cool: Going on active excursions. I really enjoyed zip lining and rock climbing, and snorkeling as always (although I had the same drowning reflex I always have when I put my face underwater)
  • Cool: Doing literal anything with friends is 1000x better than doing any activity alone. Had a delicious lunch in Grand Cayman with folk and it was a ton of fun
  • Not So Cool: The extremely touristy town next to the piers. I mean, I get this, but after the true-city feel of Juneau and Victoria on our northerly cruise, I am sick of them.

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There and Back Again

Just got back to Seattle from a week-long trip on the Magic Cruise. It’s unsurprising that a combination of floating hotel, drinks with friends, dancing, Magic, other games and tropical vacation has been the best trip I have taken each year for the last 5 or so. Woooo! This post will be pretty stream-of-consciousness because maaaan I’m tired.

  • I found myself getting a little tired of Magic at points on this Cruise, but since tablets and phones are now ubiquitous, I could always get a game of Solforge or Stone Age in between drafts.
  • Martini bars are the best bars!
  • I should bring two suits next year, so that I can suit up at least twice as much. (So basically every day.)
  • Faceboat was a success! A moderate one, since the signal range was awful, but luckily the next project in the works (codename: Facebuoy) will be able to address these shortcomings.
  • I should probably take an extra day off after the cruise next year 😉

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#1: Kyoto, Japan

Japan – the perfect combination of distant, exotic and modern. It wasn’t until I started working at Wizards that I got an opportunity to visit, as part of doing event coverage for one of our big events (a Pro Tour) there. We stayed in Kyoto, which is kind of like “old” Japan in terms of history and general feel.

I had an amazing introduction to sake – our staff dinner was at a sake bottling plant where they gave us unlimited drink chilled in real bamboo shoots. I had an adventure through the suburbs – we tried to walk back from the venue and got lost in suburbs while Japanese schoolchildren pointed at us tall white foreigners and giggled. I had my first real karaoke experience, including the best Welcome to the Jungle performance I’ve ever heard, by a slender japanese woman. I saw an honest-to-goodness temple and castle, and toured through a good chunk of Japanese historical museum. And most importantly, I got to meet a huge number of extremely nice and very intelligent residents, Magic players and not.

I aim to return to Japan at least a few more times in my lifetime, and especially spend some time in the megacity of Tokyo!

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#2: Cozumel, Mexico

On the first Magic Cruise, we traveled to eastern Mexico and the beautiful port of Cozumel. I went on a bike ride with Bill and Jess from the port to a secluded beach area, where we snorkeled and then sat in the sun drinking and relaxing. It was amazing, and one of the big reasons I look forward now to this cruise each year (the other big reason is the people).

The water in Cozumel is the unbelievable shade of blue that I describe and the listener just doesn’t believe. Sure, it’s kind of an expensive tourist trap of an island, but the combination of tropical weather, super fun water adventures, relaxed and friendly people, and “small tourist town” feel is a home run for me.

If you have a chance to visit, especially as part of a leisurely trip like a cruise, do so!

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#3: Maui, Hawaii

For a long time, I gazed longingly at Hawaii on the map and envied my friends who traveled there – despite living in California, literally a hop / skip / jump away, I never had been there! Then I resolved to find a way to travel there, even if it was on my own, but luckily my family agreed to a week vacation there together a few Thanksgivings ago.

We stayed in a condo right on the beach in Maui, and ate delicious fish, sat in the sun, traveled up to the volcano to see the gorgeous heights, and generally enjoyed the laid back atmosphere. One thing that really stuck with me – as we drove our rental car from the airport to the hotel, it was extremely bright and clear, and looking out, I saw the ocean out to the horizon. Since it was so bright, there was a sharp cut at the horizon that made it look like the edge of the world. Just Hawaii and nothing else.

I would love to return and do some hiking adventures, especially on the big island. But Maui will always have a special place in my heart.

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#4: London, England

It’s funny – of the top places I’ve visited, London is the one I have the least specific memories about, but one of the strongest general “I really liked this place” feelings. I’ve been there a few times now, and I always look forward to returning. The city is enormous – it feels like a fusion of Manhattan and Seattle, scaled up a bit.

I love the Underground, the straightforward simplicity of getting from place to place. (Hilariously, this was my first real experience with public transit, so whenever I move somewhere new, I mentally compare it to the Tube and become disappointed.) The people are relatively kind to tourists, and I’m a sucker for an English accent. The city feels very old (and is!) but it also represents the height of technology and progress. Plus, just outside the central hustle and bustle is wonderful countryside/suburbs.

I’d consider living in London if an opportunity presented itself – one of the few places I’d want to live other than the good ol’ USA.

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#5: Las Vegas

This one isn’t too exotic, but it holds a lot of great memories for me and whenever I consider trips to take, Vegas is high on the list (independent of other stuff going on). My first trip to Vegas was in college (where actually, I was kidnapped with my roomie Jeremy and taken there to… have a fun weekend) and I have enjoyed taking trips there and bringing friends ever since.

I don’t actually gamble that much, nor did I drink much when I was traveling to Vegas, so what was it that was so appealing? I love the “oasis in the desert” feel, possibly because I spent my early years growing up in Phoenix. I love the staged elegance/opulence, and especially how many different kinds of “theme parky” places are next to each other. And I do enjoy staying away from home in nice hotels, which Vegas has a surplus of.

There’s also a bunch of fun touristy stuff to do, shows to see, nightlife to take part in. I recommend it, especially if you have friends to spirit away on a fun weekend vacation.

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#6: Sao Paulo, Brazil

My work recently started up a new worldwide tournament series, and part of the rollout was sending observers to see how it was going. My boss needed someone to go to Brazil for a long weekend, and I leapt at the opportunity. (Strangely, no one else in my department did – maybe they don’t love travel as much as me?) It did a take a couple stressful weeks to get my (10-year!) visa approved, but then I was off on a 20 hour airplane/airport adventure!

I have never been down to South America, although it’s been on my list. Due to my short time there, I was only able to see Sao Paulo, but wow, what a city! It felt like an enormous, old European city. The people, especially the Magic playing community in town for the event, were beyond friendly – they were amazing! During part of Sunday, I walked down the central financial district street that had museums, restaurants and a giant rainforest park. More than any other trip I’ve taken in recent memory, this one whet my appetite for seeing more of the country and hanging out more with the people. (Also, every kind of food – including pizza and sushi! – can be found as a rodizio, or as you may more commonly know it, all-you-can-eat buffet a la Brazilian Steakhouse churrascurias.)

It may be on the other side of the world, but it was so nice to visit that Brazil will be on my short list of places to return.

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#7: Lucerne, Switzerland

Svitzerland! I went on a three week tour of Europe with my high school European History class between my Sophomore and Junior years, and we visited a ton of amazing places – Germany, Austria, Italy, France, England and of course, Switzerland. Lucerne was basically right in the middle of our trip.

Lucerne was very peaceful – the kind of tourist destination where it feels quiet and calm and rejuvenating (as opposed to loud and in your face, like many cities do). The people were kind and walking everywhere felt like the correct speed (this is a common feeling I have when wandering in Europe). Our group spent a few days recuperating there, plus a couple treks to ski and to tour the mountainlands. The hotel we stayed in felt grand, like a mansion, with giant rooms that held at least 4 if not 6 of us (my memory on this bit is a little hazy).

It was great to have this de-stressing time, because the first half of this trip was kind of a nightmare for me. Although I enjoyed seeing Germany, Austria and Italy, there was this strange dynamic on this tour – my group which was all-girls-plus-me and another group that joined us, which was all-boys. I tripped into being an outsider on it and being in high school, this felt awful.

Luckily, Lucerne offered a welcome respite and a new beginning – the second half of the trip was much better!

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