The Hits

Here are the best pictures, artistically and nature focused. IMG_1147 IMG_1135 IMG_1134 IMG_1133

Horse Shoe Beach

Horse Shoe Beach

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Horseshoe Beach

Horseshoe Beach

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Norwegian Breakaway Pictures…

The Breakaway

THE ICE BAR

BERMUDA

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Norwegian Breakaway Review: Cruisin’

The Norwegian Breakaway…On a budget

This was my first cruise, ever. I had a great time – to say the least. This was the second sailing of the ship in world history. Let me break it down for you…

The Ship:

The ship is beautiful. The design by Peter Max itself makes it even more desirable. My husband and I chose this ship over the Celebrity Summit. These were our ONLY two options because we are Jewish, the ship left on a Sunday as opposed to a Saturday.  The Celebrity Summit would have cost us around $700 a person. The Norwegian Breakaway cost us about $1000 a person. The taxes to set sail from the NYC harbor were very high. The breakaway had the “newness” appeal, a ropes course, climbing wall, water slides and INCREDIBLE entertainment. We invested in our honeymoon, greatly. There were cheaper ways to do this…

Total: $2000

Our Room:

We spent most of our time in a room without a window. For late sleepers who really want to catch up on sleep, this was great. No light to wake our slumbers. Eventually we were upgraded to a room with a view. Eventually…this was a very hard task to achieve successfully. According to my husband, upgrading to our new and improved cabin took at least 2 visits to guest services, per day.

The upgrade however, was an AMAZING end to our trip – sitting at the window, watching the waves crash in silence…truly breathtaking. I will always want a window for now on.

Housekeeping was fast, clean, efficient and honest. One time we accidentally left our safe open and our lovable housekeeper called security to close it so nothing could be taken and no one would be accused. We always came home to cute towel animals and a friendly face in the hallways.

Getting Around The Ship:

Navigating the ship took some time, between the casinos, restaurants, clubs, gym and other amenities, there was a lot to learn. However, thanks to the updated technology on the ship there were interactive screens that gave you step-by-step directions to point you in the right direction. Wow factor. These screens were also used for booking shows, excursions and to view the daily schedule. Even more awesome.

Food:

This being my first cruise ever, I had no idea it was all about the food. Especially because we left from New York mid-may, the weather wasn’t so great until Day 2 or 3. It’s ALL about the food. However, keeping kosher on this cruise was hard. We ordered kosher food ahead of time but if we weren’t nauseous or sea-sick already – this food was enough to make you sick. It was disgusting, and I usually can eat everything. There needs to be a better way to eat kosher food on an cruise ship — and I will NEVER use Kosherica Cruises. Kosher cruises usually cost 2x the price. I have worked for Kosherica on a pesach program and they treated their staff horribly.

So we did it the old-fashioned way. The crew was very helpful in preparing separate salads and fish for us. It was embarrassing and difficult even to eat this way. There was even kosher maneshevitz wine. Didn’t they get the memo? No one likes manishevitz.

NCL – please get us some Bartenura and make it moscato.

Beside for our food, the food on the ship looked amazing. Pastas, salads, meats, fish, even indian food was served. The 24-hour O’Sheehans served fast food in a fancy way. Buffalo wings and fish and chips, French fries and mozzarella sticks. Needless to say, I thought people go on cruises to loose weight and exercise…I was wrong.

The Breakaway also had various restaurants you could pay for separately. Some were affordable, like sushi where the prices ranged from $2 to $12, to the steak house where the cover charge was $50 a person.

My favorite drink on the Breakaway was a mudslide, for around $7. This was a milkshake with chocolate liquor or Kahlua in it. Delish.

My husband bought beer to drink every so often. The most affordable way was to buy 5 and get one free, or whatever deal that had going on. The beers came in a bucket.

Amount spent on various drinks: $200
Total: $2200

GYM:

I am happy to report I went to the gym 6 times over my 7-day cruise. The cardio machines look out over the water. There were many and I never had to wait to use one. They also had touch screens, which could be annoying at times. There were classes but you had to pay for them. And the ones that were free (which were not many) were at inconvenient times. The weight room was well equipped with great machines, kettle balls, stretching mattes and more.

SPA:

I did not go to the spa. The prices for messages, rubs and even to use the facilities were insanely high. To have a pass to use the spa cost $200 for the extent of the trip. This was a nice idea, but for two people that’s $400. This was pitched to us at the beginning of the trip, and knowing we had more to spend later on and we didn’t want to feel pressure to always use the spa, we opted out. I wish I had bought it for my husband though, but sometimes seems silly to buy one pass on a honeymoon…

I was disappointed. The hot tubs they had for everyone else where often not even hot. The pool was hotter..

HANG OUTS:

Bliss lounge was the “night club” of the ship. Usually the music was incredible and upbeat. The “night club” at the back of the ship is called Spice H2O bar. We went to the GLOW party there for some dancing, but other than that we didn’t make it back until the fireworks show upon leaving Bermuda. Every night the events were recorded and shown again on the TVs in everyone’s rooms. Some of these events at Spice H2O looked fabulous. There is also a cigar and smoke room, where you can ponder life’s questions alone in a cloud of smoke, or meet other cruisers. There were more hangouts than this, but these are the ones we went to or saw. There was the fat cat’s blues lounge, headliners club, and many other bars and secluded areas on board.

The ICE BAR:

This cool attraction is well… cold. The $20 per person entry free gives you 2 free drink coupons and a jacket and gloves to borrow and keep you warm. This was fun, mainly because my husband Achi gave me his drink coupons and I downed 4 “yellow cab” drinks. It was a splendid evening. The drinks come in ice-cube shaped cups and the ice bar is decorated with ice sculptures like the statue of liberty and the Chrysler building and I believe the empire state building. We had the room to ourselves for a while too, after a big group of people left. We made reservations for the first night but due to the long wait before dinner we had to cancel a few times. It was fun and totally worth it.

Amount Spent: $40
Total: $2240

ENTERTAINMENT:

THIS was the biggest treat on the ship itself. The entertainment was INCREDIBLE. I will start with my favorite:

ROCK of AGES and  BURN THE FLOOR

I have never seen Rock of Ages on Broadway or even at the Movie Theater – but this trumps both of those options. The cast was phenomenal. The music director, Carlos Holmes did an extraordinary job. He not only keeps Rock of Ages inline, but also Burn the Floor. He kept everything on cue and moving, which is a hard task on an already moving ship.

The narrator Lonny (Tim Shea) was engaging, comedic, and well…perfect. He and Dennis (Matt Ban) were a beautiful team and played off of each other, adding in cruise jokes — and even working off the audience. Sherrie (Courtney Hammond), left you with chills, as her and Drew (Sam Dowling) fell in love and brought you down with them. The dancing and choreography were dynamic, challenging and extremely well executed. Regina (Sissy Bell) and Franz (AJ Hughes) left you wanting to just hug them tight and never let go.  Sissy’s voice paired with her character of Regina left you breathless. She is that good. And AJ’s impersonation of a Franz…hilariously cute…

For one that has never seen this musical, and I am a big Broadway buff – these actors were top-notch. Not something I have heard is normal for a cruise ship show. I would pay to see them again, on Broadway. The band interacted with the actors, and the actors with the band and the audience. Constance (Madison Turner) also brought her talent and character alive on stage, with intricate choreography and audience engagement. Stacey Jaxx  (Ryan Williams) of course was freaking hilarious – ripped…and brilliant. I would go in to the story line, but I don’t want to ruin the show for you.

Burn the Floor was almost literally what their title reads. These dancers and singers tore it up – it was amazing to watch their athletic abilities. You fall in love with them…there’s really no way to explain this show…you just have to see it. The singers were also incredible; they brought an extra energy to the show and performed without flaw. The lead female singer will switch between Courtney Hammond, Sissy Bell and April L. Nixon. Carlos Holmes was the musical director for burn the floor as well, and his expertise was apparent.

The best part perhaps, was getting to see the actors around the ship. They are movie stars, Broadway stars and oh-so talented…and we get to cruise with them. I have no doubt that they will all be Broadway Stars one day. Rock of Ages and Burn the Floor are a huge asset to the Norwegian Breakaway, and you can see that from their outstanding performances.

Cirque Dreams and Dinner Jungle Fantasy:

This show was breathtaking as we ate dinner and watched in awe as humans performed superhero like talent. Balancing each other, flipping one another and keeping us captivated. I feel it was a bit long and more geared towards kids, but every other act or so showed us just what the human body is capable of…

There were two options to choose from. This is the only paid show on the ship. You can sit farther away for $29.99 or a little closer for $39.99. Either is fine, we chose the $29.99 option and were very happy with our seats. If you eat kosher food make sure you pre-order and tell them to expect you. They serve dinner amidst all the craziness going on, on stage…be prepared.

Cost: $59.00
Total:  ~ $2300

Other Shows included improv comedy with the Second City group, and a magic/comedy show by Michael Finney.

BERMUDA:

Bermuda was beautiful. Made famous by the Bermuda Triangle and this Beach Boys song, there are lots to do if you schedule carefully. Since this was our vacation and only time to sleep in…we took advantage of that. We did not book excursions through NCL since we wanted to save money. If money were not an issue, I either recommend booking through the ship to get the most out of your time, or planning ahead intensely.

There is an ATM on the ship, but to avoid any bank holds or transaction fees, I took out $450 cash ahead of time. I did not spend it all.

We had three days to do stuff in Bermuda. We woke up early to see the ship dock around 7 am, then went back to sleep. The first day we went Jet Skiing for $160. It was well worth it. We shared a jet ski and took turns on our 70 minute ride. It had to be a guided tour since there are coral reefs around Bermuda and it’s easy to get lost. It was awesome. If you want your own jet ski, it cost around $140 a person. This location was right in the Naval Dockyard, so we had easy access and didn’t have to travel far.

After that we traveled to Hamilton and walked around. We met some nice locals but there wasn’t much to do in Hamilton. I heard there was a Zoo and aquarium  however. It’s the capital of Bermuda and it was nice to see what goes on there. It’s very british and men wear high knee socks…

Another thing my husband really really wanted to do was rent a moped or a scooter. I persuaded him not too. It’s very dangerous and you have to drive on the wrong side of the road. Even sitting on a bus is nerve-racking because mentally I couldn’t switch my mindset to think about driving on the right side…we heard that many, many people get in accidents. And we did not have travel insurance.

We got a bus and ferry pass for $15 each. This was stupid since we only both went there and back on the ferry and it was an all day pass. Each way costs around $4 each, so it would have cost us only $16. Instead we spent $30.

Spent: $190
Total: $2490

Bermuda Day 2: Horse Shoe Beach

Everyone was scaring us by saying how crowded this beach would be. We again made the mistake of buying two all day passes for the bus, thinking we may go elsewhere…so we spent another $30. We took the number 7 bus from the Naval Dockyard to Horseshoe beach. It took around 30 minutes to get there. Achi and I took a shortcut through the forest and climbed up a dune — a little wanted adventure — and we were there.

It was the most beautiful beach I have ever seen, in my life. And I have been to a LOT of beaches. I recommend it, %100000. There were rocks to climb and coves to explore to the right or left of the beach as well. One cruiser I met in the gym, a policeman from Canada, said he walked for hours along the coast of Bermuda past Horseshoe beach. I would do that again, right now. For now, I have pictures to remember this by, and a sunburned hand print of my stomach from when I fell asleep in the sun..

Amount Spent: $30
Total: $2520

Bermuda Day 3: Glass Bottom Boat

This was not worth it. There was not much to see. The boat ride was nice and we did get an explanation of what was going on around us — different things on the shore line, and etc. But expect this more to be like a tour and less of seeing things under water…This cost us about $60. Usually it was $45 per person, but we got the $25 special…

After that we walked around Bermuda a bit near the Naval Dockyard. We had to be back on the ship at 4 so we didn’t want to risk missing the send off . Also, it was Bermuda Day! Which made it even more complicated for public transportation.

There were other things like caves to explore, dolphins to swim with and more. I was happy with the things we did and the time we spent in Bermuda however. I just wish we had beaches like that, here…

All in all, we had a blast. We were together, relaxing and exploring. The best part was being away from phone and internet and phones for 7 whole days. You could pay to use wifi, but we wanted to be totally disconnected.

We gave our housekeeper a tip of $20. He did an amazing job. He even lined our shoes up for us and folded our clothes. NCL adds a charge of $12 per person, per day, for tips as well. That added up to around $170. You should also know that when you buy anything on board they automatically include gratuity.

We also spent about $15 trying to win an iPad in an impossible game where you have to put a key through a hole. In my dreams…Stay away from this game!

Spent: $243
Total: $2763

All in all, this was a good experience. Taking another cruise line would have been cheaper. I wish they gave us more free stuff, and I wish the kosher food was WAY better. The last stop on our tour was duty free, where we bought 8 liters of alcohol for around $180. Yeah, that’s right…I am not big into alcohol but I like to have it when people come over. This would have cost us WAY more in a regular store…

We used the ropes course, slides and climbing wall once each. This is a great cruise for kids, as I believe there is a camp called Splash Academy with great staff. The ropes course has a zip line and a VERY THRILLING AND SCARY plank, that comes out over the water. That was awesome.

Julie, the cruise director, was personable and friendly. She ran activities at night like the newlywed game and dancing with the breakaway stars that were HIGHLY entertaining.

So 1 week spent in honeymoon bliss, with 8 liters of alcohol and a glorious tan, and $2943 later…well worth it…

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Welcome (ME) Back!

I know I know, it’s been a while. First there was Shavuot in DC. Then, my honeymoon in Bermuda on the Norwegian Breakaway! And now, there’s a new storm a-stirring. My new photography business! Please come on by and check out what will be blooming quite shortly: Abbie Sophia Photography.

I will report on Bermuda and Cruising soon.

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The Wounded Healer

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This artist, Jackie Pykon, a fellow classmate as well — has embodied what my work means to me in this painting.

We are wounded healers.

We are like two trees, growing….and when we work together and intertwine, we strike gold. We are containers for sadness. Grief. Hardship. Self-esteem. Past struggles and current challenges.

As much as we try and separate ourselves and our lives from that of our clients, and act as a healer…we come out connected.

I believe this picture says it all. We are one tree, they are another. Their pain or struggles affects us, yet we keep growing and standing tall. Next to them. Supporting them. Thinking of them…yet seeing them grow in the distance into the strong and powerful.

They are empowered to stand alone. But we, as helpers, are forever empowered and enlightened by their personalities, their struggles and their stories.

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Next world

When we enter the next world we all have to pass through customs. The next world doesn’t accept visa or MasterCard. Just good deeds, midots and things that aren’t really material.

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I can relate! Keep it to yourself…

Peeking

Sometimes, it’s important to relate to people.

“Hey — you tore your ACL? Me too! This is what to expect….”

“Hey — you are in the same class I took last year? Here’s how I dealt with it…”

But the few times it’s unacceptable is when someone dies, or when someone has Cancer.

You cannot relate to the pain they are experiencing. You do not know how it has affected them, as everyone experiences death, loss and grief in their own way. Often people try and relate stories of their friends or loved one’s who have had cancer, too.

Oh — you have cancer? I know someone who had the same thing and died last year.

Oh — you have cancer? How’d you get it? Did you smoke?

Cancer is not something we can control getting! People who haven’t smoked EVER can get lung cancer. People who ALWAYS wear sunscreen can get melanoma. Often the “healthiest” of people get cancer — and sometimes it’s all genetic. Don’t ask how someone got their cancer — they don’t know themselves. And think about why you’re asking. Are you scared you might get it– or do you genuinely care about how the person is surviving such an awful experience.

When someone’s family member dies often the best things are to meet the person where they are. Just say “Hi, I am thinking of you. I hope you have a nice day.” If they bring up the death in their family, then go from there. Or if you knew the person you can say how great they were, or they will be missed. But do not say they are in a better place.

And do not say — “Oh, my Dad died last year.” This is their time — not yours. It’s sad your own family died, but when you were mourning we mourned with you. In this immediate instance, it’s not the right thing to say. Maybe in the future. Everyone mourns differently so its good to be aware of that. It may make them feel more alone.

And again, don’t ask “How Are You?” this puts pressure on the grieving to answer that they are good, when they are not.

I keep writing about this topic, of what NOT to say — since it’s so difficult for all of us. Even those trained in how to speak to people. We want to jump in and take away the pain but often don’t know how. We also are humans and want to be in the action. But take a step back for a second and realize it’s not about us right now. So refrain from relating to your friend in need. Just sit and recognize how hard it must be for them. Remember they may not want to be defined by cancer, death or illness. If you have something helpful to say that focuses on them — okay. But try not to bring it back to your own insecurities. It’s hard to recognize that in ourselves.

Cancer is deadly. Death is hard. It affects everyone differently.

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Leaving the Darkness of Grief

Leaving the Darkness

“I did not deny G-d’s existence but I doubted His absolute justice.” – Elie Wiesel, Night

Grief comes in many forms. Breakups, death, ending of jobs, friendships…

You do not have to believe in G-d for this quote to resonate. You can replace G-d with whatever you believe in — the powers that be, the nature of the world, the ebb and flow of what is and should be…

The three stages of grief are 1) shock and numbness, disbelief and disassociation, 2) Suffering and disorganization, and 3) Reorganization. Often, those in crisis mode will not be able to differentiate the journey and process towards the light. One can go back and forth between stages, shifting positions all the while. It looks somewhat like evolution.

If grief is inhibited, we risk disrupting the process needed to work through feelings and emotions that come with loss. There will be no such thing as “getting over it,” it is more like integration and learning how to cope day to day.

How do we surrender, and learn to live in the moment? Our feelings and emotions grab hold of us, often paralyzing our souls.

That is why processing is so important. It’s like physical therapy for a broken leg. It’s how to mend the broken heart.

How do you, or have you coped with loss in your life?

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Magnolia Madness

Using my new camera

Canon Rebel T4i

A lovely day with the blooming beauties.

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Grief is Like Blood.

Grief is to loss, what bleeding is to a wound.

The bleeding allows the wound and the pain to rid itself of harmful things, like bacteria and germs. If it didn’t expel this bad blood, it may immobilize the person. Bleeding is a process, as is grief, which hurts. It can allow for healing.

Do not push yourself to heal. Just like a wound, if you don’t properly let it sit, process and strengthen, it cannot heal. There is no time limit. There are no “shoulds.” Just breathe.

And remember every person heals differently.

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