Heart of Iowa Tropical Wine Festival/Renaissance Savery Hotel-Des Moines

   Here it is the middle of February and the snowy cover of white appears to be anchored permanently at the 4 corner-posts of Iowa tighter than an ROTC’s recruits cot blanket.So what is an Iowa Traveller to do?? In my case, I decided to force the start of the season with an escape to the warmth of the Botanical Center(a place recently visited) and an overnight stay at the Renaissance Savery Hotel in Des Moines. Oh yeah and to ease the pain of a forced beginning…maybe a little wine tasting of Central Iowa’s finest wineries which just happened to be at the Botanical Center!! What are the odds?
  Many of you might recall the Savery Hotel from years gone by, but like much of downtown Des Moines and true to its name ,the Renaissance Savery is an experience of excellent  updatedurban accommodations .I would definitely recommend a stay for those who wish to enjoy a fine hotel with all the accoutrements.You already know my feelings about the "tropical twigs" at the Botanical Center.

Something New !!!

Caribbean Cruise Jan 2008 113

     In what might be considered a severe departure from the byways of the state of Iowa, a decision was made last spring to alleviate the cold of an Iowa winter and do something different and exciting. Hey how about accepting an invitation from our friends Tom and Brenda Nosbish and go on a seven day cruise of the Eastern Caribbean? The answer was an emphatic yes!! So with the indulgence of you readers I will attempt to relate the daily adventures of our travels punctuated with an occasional picture and a journal that I kept on the trip. You aren’t so Gulliver to believe that I wouldn’t !!!!

Day 1-West Branch to Miami

On January 12th the Messengers and the Nosbishes left in the predawn darkness to catch a flight from Chicago’s O’Hare Field and begin our cruise adventure. It was everybody’s first visit to Miami and the parking(Park n Jet $7.95 day w/coupon)baggage check, boarding pass etc and flight all went smoothly.

Upon arrival in sunny Miami at 5pm, temperature 80 degrees, the path got a little rockier. The marathon walk from our gate to the baggage claim required extraordinary conditioning, but the wait for the luggage seemed in"terminal". Actually it was 45 minutes but way too long for excited travelers!!Then came the wrestling of 11 pcs of luggage to the shuttle. By this time, the process of tipping and checking had cost a small fortune and we weren’t there yet. A small moving van wouldn’t have cost much more…Then our luck turned from bad to worse. We waited on shuttle row well over 1/2 hour for the nearby Holiday Inn’s shuttle driver to arrive. Finally I spy him coming and wave at him. He waves back or so we think, then we realize that he hasn’t seen us but is instead engaged in a heated conversation on his cell phone and gesticulating wildly with his free hand and keeps on driving. Tom N dashes across the street as he is in the far lane and pounds on the door and he stops and motions the rest of us across 2 lanes of traffic..me with a cart full of luggage and our wives enduring honking horns and dirty looks. We finally load up and by this time the Miami police have taken a dim view of this loading procedure and threaten the driver with a ticket. Needless to say the driver’s tip was severely affected. Now for the coup d’grace!!Upon arrival at the Holiday Inn,1 piece of luggage was missing (Nosbish’s)so Tom N had to jump back on the next shuttle to airport and after a search of the lost and found and a cab ride back we finally got checked into the NEARBY(1 mile) hotel at 8 PM..Needless to say the evening refreshments were greatly needed and appreciated!!!

Day 2-Boarding the “Freedom of the Seas” in Miami

Well Day 2 dawned and another shuttle ride awaited us; this time from the hotel to the Miami seaport. I was very impressed with the Miami beachfront! Places that you have seen on TV etc but not the same as seeing their beauty as they press against the ocean. Miami Skyline


However a near tragedy occurred for this blogger after I  took some pics from the back of the shuttle. I was overcome with the rush to embark our cruise ship and left my trusty z742 Kodak digital camera in the back of the shuttle. A mad dash and shuttle identification argument ensued, but ultimately the day was saved as we ran down the shuttle vehicle as it stopped at a corner and the camera was retrieved. Whew!

Boarding the world’s largest cruise ship involved passing many checkpoints, but it is a logistical miracle to take on 4000 passengers in such a short period of time. We boarded the ship successfully as our luck seemed to change back to the positive. We then proceeded to explore this shining example of a 21st century cruise ship(see photos) Pool Area


The ship departed right on schedule at 5 PM and again we marveled at the maneuverability as this 1100′ long ship has no problem with such tough moves such as parallel parking etc. This is one vehicle that you don’t just

drive around the block until a space opens up. Cruise ships seem to get priority!

As the evening progressed we met all the pertinent attendants most notably our stateroom attendant Anthony and our waiters Alex and Eugene all working hard for their journey’s end tips.The evening meal was excellent(I ordered the Shrimp ravioli)but I was not impressed with my portion, so I asked for a 2nd entrée (they said it was permissible), but of course I received the obligatory razzing from my dining partners(see photos) We polished off the evening with a theatre performance at the Arcadia Theatre and a parade down the Royal Promenade(more photos)which was right below our room.

Initial Promenade view

Day 3-Cruising on the High Seas

It must be the gentle easy motion of a big ship plying the waters of the ocean or the stressful nature of our journey but our first night at sea produced a 9 AM wakeup unheard of on land. That meant that we had to rush to make our 10 AM tee time at the ship’ s 9 hole golf course(mini) It’s big but not that big!! Fighting tough conditions,25 knot winds sweeping the decks , a balky putter and a tough course layout(everything breaks toward the ocean)I still managed a 3rd place tie. However that was just out of the money!!

Later in the day, we began the "obligatory sun worship" on decks 11 and 12.. Experiencing the various states of exposure being displayed by our fellow passengers…Also had to avail ourselves of the various hot tubs around the pool to sooth those aching muscles. All of this strenuous work produced the inevitable…….an intense need for a 2 hour nap..oh well it is a leisure cruise ship.Then the evening found us preparing for the captain’s dinner at the "Olive or Twist" martini bar at the top (15th deck)of the ship with a majestic view forward of this huge vessel.,Naturally, as per custom,the Captain’s dinner required everyone to get gussied up Colorado Companions #3 . This a big deal for the women so you play along with  the anomaly .It does provide an excellent group photo op (see attached).


Tom and Brenda Nosbish #2

The evening was concluded with a production of Broadway show tunes by a very talented cast of dancers and singers in the 1400 seat Arcadia Theater…At this point it was heavily debated whether we would be able to keep up this breakneck entertainment pace!! Certainly something to contemplate during slumbertime!!