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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Back from Celebrity 'Constellation'

Back home after two weeks on board the beautiful cruise ship Celebrity Constellation and, with the suitcases now unpacked, I wanted to start posting a synopsis of the trip and acknowledging some of the people that made it such a terrific experience. This 14-day, 3,400-nautical-mile cruise made nine ports of call, including Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Kralendijk, Bonaire; Oranjestad, Aruba(seen here is Constellation from near the port area); Willemstad, Curacao; Castries, St. Lucia; Bridgetown, Barbados; St. George's, Grenada; St. John's, Antigua; and Phillipsburg, Dutch St. Maarten (to see synopsis of all these ports of call, go to Cruising the Southern Caribbean on the Celebrity 'Constellation').

I served as one of the “Beyond the Podium” speakers on board the vessel, where I gave presentations on “Blockade Running During the Civil War,” “The History of St. Maarten,” “The ABCs of the ABC Islands,” “Exploring the Bermuda Triangle,” and “Ghosthunting Florida.” The other speaker, Chicago lawyer Peter LaSorsa, gave great talks on both baseball and forensics.

Thanks to the great staff and crew who made this cruise possible, including cruise staff Rich Clesen, Mike Gibbons, and Mike Siebenthal, and all the terrific passengers who have taken the time to chat, drink, and otherwise interact with me and my wife Diane! Thanks also to the many passengers who took the time to come to my talks and chat or have a drink with me after them; good turnout and attendee interaction are what make a program like this a success and we had plenty of that.

People we especially enjoyed spending time with included our tablemates Helmut and Gaby Proske and Frank and Mel (seen here with us in a picture sent to me by Gaby), our drinking buddies Karel and Koen, cruise commentator Richard Wagner, art auctioneer Tommy Varzos, comedian Jason Chase, our waiters Carlos and Nixon (the picture below by Gaby is of Diane harassing them), and the sommelier chicks at Cellar Masters and the main dining room!

Very special thanks are also due to Charles and Teresa Baltzell from the Acupuncture center! I injured my foot a few days before we headed out for the cruise and was in a lot of pain my first day on stage and their treatments made the rest of the experience much more enjoyable for me, both because I could stand comfortably and was able to easily walk around our various ports of call. They are also both terrific people, with a great philosophy of life and a generous nature, and Diane and I were grateful for the time we were able to spend with them. We certainly hope to cross paths with them again one day in Texas.

Varhola's Non-Fiction Books

A number of people on the most recent cruise on which I spoke, Celebrity Constellation, asked me about the various books I have written, chatted with me about them, etc. Following are the various non-fiction titles I have either authored or co-authored. For anyone who might be interested, most or all of these are available through online sites like Signed copies of some are also available through the retail site run by my own Skirmisher Publishing LLC and I have provided hotlinks back to them.

Everyday Life During the Civil War
Fire & Ice: The Korean War, 1950-53
Ghosthunting Maryland
Ghosthunting Virginia
Life in Civil War America
Shipwrecks & Lost Treasures: Great Lakes
Texas Confidential: Sex, Scandal, Murder & Mayhem in the Lone Star State
Armchair Reader: Civil War
D-Day: The Normandy Invasion, June 6, 1944 (co-author)
Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference (co-author)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Fort Lauderdale International Airport has Free Internet!

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA -- Always pleased to discover an airport that has a good free Internet connection! About half of them -- the best half -- seem to and Fort Lauderdale International Airport falls into that category.

Availability of free wi-fi is not usually the kind of thing that can be taken into consideration when making travel plans but, whenever travelers can, they should be sure to give positive or negative feedback about it! This is a good way to acknowledge the good airports that do offer this and might eventually start inducing some of the others to follow suit.