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About FlyingFlip

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    Cool Cruiser

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    social dancing, photography, snorkeling

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  1. Those two questions have some overlap, but they're not quite the same. Some things are taken as "insurance" in case things go wrong (i.e. Imodium AD). It doesn't matter whether I manage to go two dozen vacations without needing it. It really came in handy that last vacation. The area where you can really economize is in clothing. My wife consistently over packs, because she'll start thinking, "I might want to wear that while I'm on vacation." At the end of the vacation, while she's trying to cram everything back into her bag, she keeps saying, "Why did I pack ____? I didn't wear it." You will have to get your laundry cleaned while on a really long cruise. I plan to take enough clothes to make it from one cleaning to the next, and cut myself off there. I handle weather shifts by layering. Also, given the choice between two pieces of clothing, look at versatility ... and how much space each takes up.
  2. In principle, I agree that screw top is easier, and that many of those wines are very good wines. However, I generally purchase my wine in the city of departure, rather than packing it in my luggage for the flight. (Especially after the time a full bottle of wine was broken inside my wife's luggage by the baggage handlers.) In order to keep my options open when shopping for wine in the port city, I pack some corkscrews.
  3. I'll second and add to topspot's recommendations. In St. Thomas, we went to Coki Beach, about 2 miles from Sapphire Beach, and had a wonderful time. Sapphire Beach was equally highly recommended. I don't recall what made me choose one over the other, but it might have been beach lockers. Coki Beach has them. I'm not sure whether Sapphire Beach does (or did). Both beaches are about a 20-25 minute cab/shuttle ride from the port. I've been looking at the Money Bar Beach Club (or the PalMar Beach Club next door) for our upcoming Cozumel port of call. The snorkeling is supposed to be excellent at both. It's even closer to the cruise terminal. 5 minutes or so by cab.
  4. When my wife and I did our Alaska cruise, we were on a fairly modest budget. Here were the areas where we saved money: May and September cruises are cheaper. We took one of the first cruises in May. Airfare is usually cheaper if you start and end in the same city, but cruise fare may be cheaper if you start and end in different cities. For us, the cheapest option was to fly in to Seattle, take the train to Vancouver, cruise out of Vancouver, cruise back to Seattle, then fly home ... even counting the AirBnB due to the extra overnight. We stayed in an Oceanview cabin, but interior would have been even cheaper. Perhaps the biggest savings was through the shore excursions. I researched through the CruiseCritic boards and through Tripadvisor, instead of going through the cruise line. It's a bit time-intensive, but results in the best value and the best excursions. Most cruise lines will allow you to each bring one bottle of wine aboard. Remember to pack your own (inexpensive) corkscrew (and one that lacks any kind of knife on it). I've heard of people having the corkscrews confiscated, so we'll pack a couple different ones into different pieces of luggage. So far, we haven't lost a corkscrew. Other than that, you can save money by avoiding drinking on board and avoiding specialty food options.
  5. I did online dating 11-12 years ago. Photo editing isn't the real problem. People using photos that were 5-10 years out of date, or 20-50 pounds out of date, or even someone else's photos....
  6. On our most recent cruise, we boarded a bit later, to avoid two obvious disadvantages for boarding early. Many people want to board early, so the lines are longer if you show up early. Lost opportunities: we were in Amsterdam, so we spent the extra hours touring the royal palace before grabbing our luggage, catching a cab to the terminal, and boarding. If I board early, there's a predictable set of activities that I can indulge in prior to the time we set sail. If the options near the port are less engaging, I'll board early. If the port city offers better opportunities, then I should use my time better by staying ashore for a few extra hours ... without pushing things to the very last minute.
  7. Given the lack of responses, I'll give you my general advice (which I used when snorkeling on the adjacent island, Culebra). Do a few Google searches like: best snorkeling spots in Vieques best snorkeling beaches in Vieques best snorkeling in Vieques After reading through several reviews/guides, you will start seeing some of the same beaches making most of the lists. Those are very safe bets.
  8. We visited last year during July/August, and the entire area was experiencing a heat wave. (Up to 33°C, or 91°F.) Other than the ship and the climate-controlled museums, no places had air conditioning. I had been watching the weather forecast, so my wife and I packed like we were heading to the Caribbean, not the Baltics. We were still somewhat uncomfortable, but we weren't suffering like most of the other passengers (or locals).
  9. Coincidentally, I was watching a video discussing this a couple days ago. (Tony & Chelsea Northrup - Is photo editing cheating?) A lot of it depends on how you're representing your photo. If you're a photojournalist, representing your photo as evidence of the truth of a story, the rules are very strict. If you're a fine arts photographer, representing a piece as your artistic creation and not at all representative of reality, anything goes. Many of my favorite photos are travel photos from my vacations. I'm representing them as such. In part, they're documenting what I saw. Therefore, the editing has to be minimal enough to represent what I saw. In general, I'm a lot more relaxed about things being edited out of a photo, rather than being edited in. For example, I got a nice photo of two barnacle geese dashing across the street, up close, at the geese's eye level. When I went to process it, there was a pole from a street light sticking out of the gosling's head. I cloned the pole out of the photo. I'm representing the photo as a travel/wildlife photo. This is what the animal I saw looked like. It is not an accurate representation of the (unnamed and out-of-focus) street behind the geese. On the other hand, I could add an element to the photo. Like a small, yappy dog chasing the geese. That photo would create a more compelling story. But if I did that, I should represent the photo as my own artistic expression. It does not represent what I saw, nor does it accurately represent the behavior of the geese. Regarding the sky, I've considered editing the sky in some of my oldest photos. I was inexperienced and using the cheapest digital cameras, so I ended up with a lot of skies that were completely washed out white. I don't remember what the sky looked like, so it would largely have to be my creation. If I edit in a sky, I'd go for something normal and representative (so the terrible sky is no longer a distraction from the subject of the photo), not something truly interesting, which would be unrepresentative of the sky at that time. However, that choice is still based out of my desire to keep the photo as documentation of my travels.
  10. A few hours into my first cruise, I was bored out of my mind. Now I plan better for downtime. In addition to the previous suggestions (minimize sea days, bring a laptop, etc.) have you considered taking a cruise based around a special interest? For example, my next cruise will be a dance cruise, organized by a professional dance instructor. On sea days, we'll have dance classes to attend. I'll automatically have a group of people on board who I will already know, or quickly get to know, who all share a common interest. I've heard of similar cruises based on other interests (authors, photography) where the sea days have workshops related to those interests. If you're interested in photography, it can provide a lot to do while on board. During my downtime, I can start reviewing my photos, sorting them, editing them.... That can consume hours of downtime. When cruising, I always keep a camera with me, just in case something photo-worthy catches my attention. When I have spare time, I'll wander the ship looking for interesting photography subjects.
  11. Could you clarify what your approximate budget for the camera is? Oakman58's recommendations cost in the $400-$450 range, which is fairly modest. (Photography can be a very expensive hobby, if you want it to be.) But when I first started, I was using cameras that cost a fraction of that. I own a TG-5 (predecessor to the TG-6), and it works well as a general-purpose camera, as well as being waterproof, shockproof, snowproof, etc. The Olympus TG line of cameras should outperform the GoPro Hero line if you want to do fairly standard photography. The Hero line should outperform the TG line for first-person action videos. If your budget is a little tighter, you could look at older models on eBay (new, used, or refurbished). In any case, you will need an SD card. (The GoPro might use a micro SD card instead.) You'll probably want spare batteries. I also highly recommend getting a wrist strap that floats. (The TG line is a little chunky, so compare the buoyancy of the wrist strap to the weight of the camera.)
  12. 1. My wife uses a Tribord Easybreath. I wear a traditional mask and snorkel, so I can get a mask with prescription lenses. 2. Any swim/snorkel shirt with a decent SPF will do the trick. I think ours are Ocean Pacific. As for reef-safe sunscreen, I would rely on the Hawaiian recommendations here: https://www.hawaii.com/blog/reef-safe-sunscreen/ 3. Unless you're super athletic with no body fat, you should float quite well on salt water. You'll be far more buoyant in salt water than in fresh water. But if you want the extra buoyancy, I'd recommend an inflatable snorkel vest. 4. I'm not sure what happened with your shoes. That sounds a bit atypical, but you might have stepped in something a lot worse than average (and a lot larger than plankton). I typically just rinse my gear in fresh water (mostly to get the salt out). 5. I've never felt the need to use ear plugs. If you have problems with your ears, they might be worthwhile, though. 6. Practicing in a pool is a good idea. For your husband (or anyone using a traditional mask) don't exhale through the nose. He'll fog up his mask. (If your full-face mask fits properly, you won't have to worry about it.) If he fogs up his mask, he can rinse it off in seawater to defog it. Try to find a good YouTube video explaining the proper way to kick with swim fins on. 7. Have you considered getting a waterproof case for your smartphone? Or for your regular camera? I think you'll be much happier with the results. Taking photos underwater is more challenging than normal, and the disposable cameras make it substantially more difficult. Look for a case that's good to at least 30' deep ... and get a floating wrist band to attach to it.
  13. I just wanted to follow up. I ended up spending less time in San Antonio (and much less time doing photography) than I had originally anticipated. But I spent a full morning photographing the missions. I caught Mission Espada under near-perfect conditions (right time, great light, great sky). Based on my initial review of the photos, I got some really special ones. Mission San Juan is a little plain, but some of the outlying buildings might become great photos. I also did some EV bracketing, which might result great photos in post-production. It at least allows me to attempt something new. Mission San Jose was closed, due to the shutdown. Unlike the other missions, it has a wall, which got in the way of most photos. Mission Concepcion was beautiful, though it was well past golden hour. I still think some of the photos will turn out well. I also got some practice with wildlife when a woodpecker caught my attention. I didn't bother with Tower of the Americas. Our hotel room was on the 35th floor, so I got some great shots overlooking the Riverwalk during blue hour, right after we got to our room the previous evening. After visiting the missions, I walked along the Riverwalk to the San Fernando Cathedral. Some fool was flying his drone in most of my photos of the cathedral, so I'll get practice editing it out. I had lunch at Casa Rio. While waiting for my wife, I got to practice "wildlife" photos on the ducks and grackles. After lunch, my wife spotted a red-shouldered hawk along the Riverwalk, which provided more practice. We went up to Menger Hotel. The architecture was definitely worth the visit. The bar, in particular, provided some great practice with low-light photography. (And my wife is a lot more patient with my photography when she's sipping on a beer.) We also wandered by the front of the Alamo. On a lark, I decided to do something different than the other tourists, so I pulled out the infrared filter for the older camera. One of the photos looks like it might work after the processing and post-processing are complete. There wasn't enough time for anything else, but thanks for all of the suggestions.
  14. I've been through the hill country a few times during wildflower season. Definitely no shortage of places to get fields of bluebonnets, Indian paintbrushes, etc. Gruene is an excellent suggestion. It's not much of a detour when I drive home. All of those are practically next to the hotel, so I'll keep them in mind. I can always grab a drink and work on my photography simultaneously at the Menger Hotel. For Casa Rio, why twilight? I'm looking at Google Maps, and it looks like the building next to it would put it into shadow ... and block any view of the sunset. I'm guessing there's something else that's not obvious from looking at a map.... It looks like a 15 minute drive ... so ... very little effort. Again, thanks for the suggestion. The "wildlife" should provide good practice for taking photos of actual wildlife later this year.
  15. I visited the Alamo about 30 years ago. While it was fascinating to visit due to the history, I recall that it wasn't the most picturesque location. Do you have any thoughts about particular spots in the Hill Country? It's definitely an interesting possibility. I might check out the Tower of the Americas if the weather is terrible. That might produce something a bit different than the average photo I've seen taken from the observation deck. Thanks for the ideas, everyone..
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