13 Oct 2015
Surprising to me, Germans really understand relaxation, and much of it centers around the sauna. I’m talking about spending the day type relaxation, not just heating up for 15 minutes.
Since nothing seemed like a better way to chill for a major poker tournament, I searched online for a nice spa. Ultimately I selected Vabali Spa. After doing the double check with the concierge and taking a 10 minute taxi there we were; ready, but apprehensive, and all signs were in German. The employees spoke perfect English, though, and were quite accommodating.
Once inside, we felt as if we were on holiday in Shangri-La, with German customs. It is quiet, with lounges, waterbeds, sofas and silent rooms all over the place.
I think they have 11 different saunas in different temperatures and smells. There was an indoor and outdoor pool. Yes people like plunging in the outdoor pool in the winter. They claim it’s refreshing. The 85-degree indoor pool was cold enough for me.
They make it easy to spend all day and spend your money. When you get there you get a wristband for charging whatever you want (massage, food, robes, towels etc). Lockers are in a coed room and the entire place is textile free. People walk around generally in their towel or robe, but hang up the robe before entering the sauna and steam.
There is protocol. Always sit on a towel, never make loud noise, no phones anyplace and total courteousness.
Don’t worry about your body. You see all sizes, shapes and ages. If you are modest you can wrap the towel around you in the sauna. That is probably the easiest way to get people to ogle you though.
Let there be no mistake about it. They’ve got it right and Americans are just puritanically wrong. We felt like we had a four day holiday in four hours.
10 Oct 2015
Allyn and I are off to Berlin for the 2015 European World Series of Poker championships. Since we hadn’t been to New York this year, it seemed like a perfect time to overnight, allowing us an opportunity to take in a musical and visit her dress-maker.
We had great seats to Beautiful, The Carol King Musical. It is sensational. Allyn thought it was the best play she had ever seen.
Michael says I’m not supposed to call Kalinka a dress-maker. Given that her clothes are featured in the haute couture area of such places as Bergdorfs and Neimans, she is clearly a fashion designer. Regardless, she makes great stuff.
12 Sep 2015
It is quite a cultural shock coming off five weeks on the ultra exclusive Crystal Serenity to the 6,000 passenger Oasis of the Seas, but no way was I going to miss the annual Card Player Poker Tour event hosted at sea by Card Player Cruises.
As usual it was a blast. We had fun day and night in addition to the poker, and the poker was great. Can’t wait till next year. They are hoping for mid-September from Seattle.
Linda Johnson and Jan Fisher are the ultimate hostesses.
One especially great service is their “Luggage Valet”. They gave us boarding passes and baggage tags in our cabin. We then put our bags outside the door and did not have to see them or deal with them until we claimed them in Las Vegas.
We didn’t even need them for Customs.
01 Sep 2015
Long time JSW readers probably are tired of my saying how great London is, but it is.
We stopped by here just for two nights after the cruise to get our fix, to say nothing about our Virgin Upper Class flight using mileage.
We have been fortunate in staying in so many great hotels here, but we are set now. We are at the Covent Garden Hotel smack dab in the most fun part of town. It has all the plusses with none of the minuses. For example it is tiny hotel where they know everybody, yet they have a full gym and food 24/7. Our room, even though right on the street, is absolutely silent.
No stay in London is complete without theatre. Tonight was Gypsy. Imelda Staunton, who plays Rose, will win this year’s Olivier (London’s Tony) for Best Actress in a Musical. You heard it here first. I will report back, either way, in the spring when the official results come out.
29 Aug 2015
Most people left the ship for 12 hours or so to round trip Florence, a wonderful city. May others visited Pisa, also a fun day.
Since today was the last full day on the cruise anyway, and we have already done all that, we decided to hop on, hop off, around Livorno, which is always a good low-key way to get a city overview
The day way perfect for an open-air drive.
Beaches are scarce here. They do their best though.
They have a Venice canal thing going on here.
Jews thrived here in the 17th Century because the powerful Medici’s welcomed them, openly acknowledging how good they were for the community.
Unfortunately the old synagogue was destroyed during WW II. This new modern one was built in the 60s.