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My wife and I are staying up in Niagara Falls on the Canadian side to celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary. Today is our anniversary, and we wanted to go somewhere nice for dinner. We found a card for Suisha Gardens Japanese Restaurant at the tourism desk of our hotel. The card said "Your table is our kitchen". That sounded like fun. On our first Valentines Day together, we went to Benihana’s Of Tokyo back in Seattle. They cooked at our table, and we enjoyed ourselves. So I thought going to a restaurant like that for our anniversary would be fun and romantic. We didn’t know if the restaurant required reservations, or had a dress code. I asked the woman at the tourism desk of our hotel about the restaurant, and whether they had a dress code, or required a reservation. She said no reservations needed, and no dress code. Great!
We got our car, and headed off. The Suisha Gardens card had a little map, plus the lady at the tourism gave us a map. We found our way to the restaurant with no problems. At first I was not sure if we on the right street as it didn’t seem a restaurant would be there. But we saw the sign. We pulled into the parking lot. It was empty. Why was it empty? It was about 5:30pm. I thought maybe it might open a little later? We walked around to the entrance. The sign with the days and times announced they were closed on Mondays. What? What kind of restaurant closes on Mondays? Maybe they could have included this little piece of information on their card? So what sounded like a fun evening, turned into a complete disappointment! Suisha Gardens will be open tomorrow night, but they won’t get our business. We found another restaurant that was actually open on a Monday night.

My wife and I booked a room at the Marriott Fallsview in Niagara Falls, Ontario in Canada. It was our anniversary, so I got a room with a whirlpool and a view of Niagara Falls. When we arrived, we found the hotel did not have self parking. We could either park a block away, or use the valet parking. Either way it was going to cost us $20 a day. Ouch! We decided to go for the valet parking. The valet service was very efficient though. They gave us a card with a valet number on it. When we wanted to use our car, we just had to dial extension 4242 on the phone, type in a 6 digit number, and we would be told that our car would be available in 20 minutes. But our car was usually down there in less than 10 minutes.
Check in was smooth, and we went up to our room. The view of the falls was spectacular! The window in our room overlooked the Canadian falls, and we had a great view of the American falls as well.
I hooked my laptop and booted it up. There were two wi-fi connections available. One was from the Marriott Fallsview, and the other was listed as Free Public Wi-Fi. I tried the Marriott Fallsview connection. It came up with a page asking for a pin #. I called the reception desk and asked about it. I was told the internet cost $20 a day. OUCH! I told them I would think about it. I tried the Free Public Wi-Fi connection. I connected with no problem. I had a strong signal. But whenever I tried connect to a webpage, I would get server not found. I gave up. I decided I could get along without the internet for a few days. I wish I had done a search before I left home for free wi-fi locations.
I went down and used the fitness center. They had a couple treadmills, an elliptical trainer, a couple exercise bikes, and a weight machine. It was all high quality equipment. I ran 6 miles on the treadmill, while watching TV on the treadmill screen. I also got to watch the people in the swimming pool through the glass window.
After my workout, I head back to the room. I was hungry and so was my wife, so we decided to get something to eat. There were several restaurants near the hotel. There was an Outback and a Tony Roma’s right across the street, and a TGI Friday next door. We decided to go to the TGI Friday’s. Another ouch! The prices were pretty high! Even in US money! We ended up eating there anyway. I had a burger and fries, and my wife had a soup and salad. With a couple of soft drinks and tip, the bill came to about $45. Yeah that was Canadian, but even converted to US money, that was kind of expensive. Tomorrow we will try to find a few restaurants away from the falls for some less expensive food.
Something we have noticed in the room is the water controls are backwards. When you turn the knob towards hot, it gets cold, and when you turn it towards cold, it gets hot. It seems like this might violate some sort of safety code. Nonetheless the Jacuzzi tub was nice.
The view of the falls continues to be amazing. In the evening the falls are illuminated by ever changing color lights. Also visible is the Casino Niagara all lit up reminiscent of the Rio Casino in Las Vegas.
One annoying thing we encountered was that our card keys would not admit us to the pool/fitness area on the morning of the day we were due to check out. Check out time was noon. But when I went down there at 6:15am to run, my card didn’t work. A security guard let me in, and said my card might have been demagnetized. He suggested I go to the front desk to get a new one. After m run I went to the front desk, and they redid it. The card worked fine to get me into our room. But when we went down about 9:15am to use the pool, neither my card nor my wife’s card would work to get us into the pool area. We went to the front desk, and the girl swiped a 3rd card just to get us into the pool area. We got in, but it was kind of annoying to have to go through the extra steps to get into the pool and fitness room when we hadn’t check out, and weren’t due to check out yet for hours.

When going on a trip I always seem to have plenty or time leading up to the trip. I usually only start packing a day or two before the trip. Sometimes even the day of the trip. It is too easy to forget to pack stuff. You might be thinking ahead of time that you need to remember to pack this item, or that item. But it sucks to be on your trip, and realize that you forgot the item that you had thought about. That is why I almost always make a list. Then as I am packing my bags, I check stuff off of the list.
Be sure to remember all the small stuff. If you bring an mp3 player, remember to bring batteries.
Especially don’t forget the irreplacible stuff. Don’t forget your medications, extra contacts, and backup glasses. Don’t forget your identification, passports, plane tickets, etc. How about emergency contact information!
There are so many things to remember, big and small. Just make a check list. And as you think of stuff write it down. Then as you pack, just check stuff off. You will be less likely to forget stuff.

Costa Rica was one of three ports of call on an 8 day Carnival cruise we took last year. There were many excursions available, but I wanted to do the canopy tour (also known as zip-lining). My brother and his family also wanted to do the canopy tour. Unfortunately my wife had injured her shoulder, and opted for the sloth sanctuary instead.
The excursion started out with along bus ride on some really bad roads, including crossing a bridge with a giant hole in it through which we could see the river below.
One we arrived at the canopy tour location, we got in line. They fitted us with harnesses. The harnesses are like the ones worn by rock climbers. The attached to legs and waist. They attached a big pulley to the harness, as well as some dangling straps that fitted with karabiners. We also got leather gloves and helmets.
Then the people demonstrated how to safely go down the zip lines. They showed us how the stay straight, and how to slow ourselves down. They also showed us what to do if we got stuck in the middle. Now we were ready!
We followed the people down a dirt road, and then down a little side trail. We stopped to get a few pictures. When you are jungles like these, look at the ground. We watched fascinated by lines of leaf cutter ants carrying chunks of leaves to wherever they were taking them. Very cool!
As the line progressed, we approached some wooden stairs. Before we climbed the stairs, one of the straps on our harness was attached to the railing. As we made it to the first landing, another strap was tethered two the next railing before the first strap was detached. So we always tethered safely to the railing, or a to a tree or whatever.
The first platform was about 50 feet above the ground. The pulley on our harness was attached to one cable, and one of the karabiner straps was attached to a second zip-line. Only then were we untethered from the railing or the tree. So there was a safety factor there. Then all we had to do was lift our feet, and slide down the steel cable.
The first cable run was the shortest. I think they made it short to be less scary than seeing a line going hundreds of feet into the trees. This way people could get and idea of what it was.
They was always a guy on the destination platform ready to catch you if you lost control and were coming in too fast.
There were about 12 zip-lines. The longest was about 500 feet. The final zip-line took us down by the beach. Here we took off our equipment (helmets, harnesses, gloves, etc) and left them in a pile.
We made it back to the little restaurant where we got some fruit and drinks.
The Costa Rica canopy tour was a blast! But if you are afraid of heights, you will probably not like a canopy tour!

We debated long an hard about which excursion to do in Belize. They had a canopy tour (zip-lining), which we ended up doing in Costa Rica. My brother and his family wanted to go snorkeling. But my wife and I have been snorkeling many times on previous cruises and wanted to do something different. It was also our anniversary that day, so some alone time would be nice. We chose to go cave tubing in Belize.
The bus ride to the cave tubing location took a little over an hour. We stopped at a restaurant where we rented lockers to store our stuff. We were also issued headlamps. They were kind of weak headlamps, and I missed my Prince Tec Vortec with halogen bulb. I also put my digital camera in an Ewa-Marine camera bag. Then we were back on the bus.
After a short bus ride, we got off, got our tubes and life-vests, and began a half hour hike to the starting location. We actually crossed the river at the place where we would finish. There was a rope to use as a handhold. Along the hike we saw tiny fruit bats hanging from a cave ceiling. I also tripped on a rock, and gashed my hand on a thorny tree. I was a little concerned about what kind of germs I might have picked up in the Belize jungle!
Pretty son we reached the river. We floated our tubes, and climbed on to them. Then we were floating into a big limestone cave.
The Ewa Marine bag didn’t work very well. It didn’t work at all in the cave when I needed to use the flash (flashed reflected off the inside of the glass). Then my camera stopped working as the bag jammed the lens, and it would not extend or retract.. I thought my camera was toast! I did manage to get it working later on.
We floated casually through the cave, using our arms to move us along a little faster. It was a lot of fun. For a lot of the float, I hooked my feet onto my wife’s tube, and pulled her along while I paddled.

We continued to float down the river until we reached the point where we had previously crossed. I got out. My wife got stuck swirling around a whirlpool, and one of the guys had to help her get free.

I managed to get my camera working again, by turning it off and on repeatedly, and slapping it lightly on the palm of my hand.
We went back to the restaurant and got our stuff from the locker. We changed into dry clothes, and then were given a lunch of fried banana, rice and beans, roasted chicken, potato salad and a fruit drink. The fried banana was kind of gross, but the rest of the food was delicious! We relaxed here for about an hour, before board the bus back to the ship.
Our Belize cave tubing excursion was a blast, and I look forward to cave tubing in other ports of call!

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