Oceania Riviera Alhambra

Oceania Riviera Cruise Day 3 – Malaga

The third day of our 2022 Oceania Riviera cruise had us docking at Malaga. We loved this not because of Malaga itself but because that was only an hour and a half from Alhambra – a gorgeous historic Moorish palace. So we reserved an Oceania bus ride to and from Alhambra, and then separately bought a timed tour entry into Alhambra itself. Oceania didn’t offer the Alhambra entry.

The bus tour left at 8:15am with a return time of 3:45pm. Even with the hour-and-a-half travel time, that would seem to give us plenty of time at Alhambra. My mom set us up with an entry time of 10am to give us the most time in the palace itself.

There were only 8 of us on the bus – three groups. Off we went. The tour guide gave us all sorts of information about Malaga, Andalucia, and more as we drove along. Mom asked several times to get information on Alhambra, so we’d be ready when we arrived, but he waved her off, saying we’d talk about that later. Part-way up we stopped at a rest stop which seemed to sell quite a lot of knives. Again, Mom asked the guide about Alhambra and he waved her off.

We finally arrived in the town near Alhambra and he got us off the bus. He started walking us at a slow pace toward the town center. Finally we stopped him and asked, why are you taking us on this slow walk? We need to get a taxi to get up to Alhambra so we can get our tour there! And he said: Wait, you’re going to SEE Alhambra? All of us in the group said YES that is the whole reason we just rode an hour-and-a-half. He was completely befuddled. He thought we just wanted to roam around the town at the base of Alhambra. Despite all the times we tried to talk with him about it. So he hurried to find us taxis and get us in them.

Our taxi driver asked if we had tickets, and we said yes. So he drove us right to the main entry area. When we showed our tickets there, we were told these weren’t actual tickets, they were vouchers. We had to go to our tour agency to have them ‘converted’ into tickets.

This is where we could have given up. It was about 11am now, so long past our 10am tour. But let me digress a moment.

Every week I draw inspirational tarot cards for my friends. This week, for myself, I’d drawn the Hanged Man. A card of patience and perseverance when things get challenging. I’d then asked my sister if she wanted a card. She did, and I drew her … the Hanged Man. She said this was ridiculous so I handed her the full deck. She shuffled, shuffled, shuffled, and drew … the Hanged Man. Clearly the Universe was trying to tell us something. So when we hit this hurdle, we knew we just had to persevere.

We tracked down the phone number of the tour group and gave them a call. They gave us their address and said to take a taxi over. So over we went. At first they said we had missed our 10am tour, but then they found spot on the upcoming 12 noon tour and stuffed us into it. Hurrah!

The tour guide was great, and the grounds were absolutely beautiful. In the palace, the tradition at the time was not to have any figurative images, but just beautiful calligraphy of words. There was latticework, stonework, fountains, gardens, and more.

We carefully watched the clock and as it got close to our bus departure time we had to leave the tour. We grabbed a taxi back to the town center, got on the bus, and soon we were heading on back to the ship. There were cool sculptures along the dock area.

We had the 4pm tea time with the classical music group, then at 5pm was my second calla lily art class. We worked more on shading and techniques. Then soon it was dinner time. We had reservations for Red Ginger, the ship’s Asian restaurant.

I adore all Asian food. I love, love, love it and eat it quite a lot. So I admit I had sort of high expectations for Red Ginger, with Oceania touting itself as having the best food on the high seas and with Red Ginger being a specialty restaurant.

Yes, it was nifty that they had a ‘choose your chopsticks’ selection and a hand towel that ‘expanded’ like a snake when they poured warm water on it.

But the food itself just wasn’t “special”. It was OK. The sushi tasted bland. The tuna tataki (a favorite of mine) was dry. My sister specifically chose a dish for its ingredients – and then the actual dish had other ingredients that she didn’t like in it. When she asked the waiter about it, he said in essence “they’re all vegetables”.

On the up side, they have DELICIOUS herbal teas here so I asked for a few to take with me so I could have them at the afternoon tea times.

Tonight the ship passed the Rock of Gibraltar. We very nearly missed seeing it. The captain had said we’d pass it at 9:30 so at 9:15 we got our gear and went out to set up – and we were already passing the rock. So we grabbed some quick photos.

All in all, I’m glad we persevered and were able to see some of Alhambra. I do wish the tour guide had listened to us beforehand so we didn’t waste the extra precious time we had. I’m glad we went to Red Ginger but I definitely didn’t want any more sushi from them after that meal. And it was fun seeing the Rock of Gibraltar.

Ask with any questions!

The next day was Day 4 –

Oceania Riviera Cruise 2022

Oceania Riviera Cruise Day 2 – Weather Cancelled Alicante

Here’s the summary of Day 2 of our Oceania Riviera Cruise. This was April 5, 2022. We were supposed to dock at Alicante, Spain for the day. Unfortunately, rough weather made it impossible to safely navigate in to the port area. So instead we had a sea day. As you might imagine, the sea day was a bit rolly. I don’t mind a choppy ride – I’ve been on a cruise ship during a hurricane in Hawaii where we were snapping lines left and right, and we lost power so the ship was wildly tossing. So anything mild like this I am fine with.

This gives me a chance to talk about the Oceania Riviera in general.

As I mentioned we were only maybe 40% full due to COVID and last-minute regulation changes and so on. So when we went up to the dining area for lunch, it was really very quiet. It’s a very odd sensation for people who are used to cruising and used to a bustling venue.

Yes. This is the actual lunch crowd.

It’s fair to say of course that with the non-smooth weather maybe people were curled up in their beds having crackers. I don’t personally think it was THAT bad, but again, we all have different levels of comfort. I will note that the vast majority of people who came on the boat are repeat Oceania cruisers – i.e. there were hardly any first-timers. I imagine this is in part because of the pandemic, that newbies are holding off right now while regular cruisers are chomping at the bit to get back out there again. So most of these repeat people are undoubtedly more comfortable with ‘cruise weather issues’ – at least probably more than a newbie would be. Still, there were very empty venues.

I took photos of every single dish at every single meal but I won’t deluge you with those. Food is a very individual thing. Some people might find this food “super special” while others find it “fairly ordinary”. I belong to the Chaine des Rotisseurs which is a food/wine group, so I’m comfortable with high-end dining. I’m also fine eating at Olive Gardens and such. I found the food overall on the Riviera good but not “mind-blowingly good” which their brochures seem to make it seem like. Sometimes the presentation was trying too hard to be pretty which then made it really hard to eat. Sometimes things like lobster bisque had no lobster at all in them. I’m from Massachusetts so I sort of expect lobster bisque to have actual lobster in it. The sushi didn’t seem high quality. I imagine they freeze it and store it a while. Again, things which you sort of just have to accept on a cruise ship, but when I think of this as being a “high end Boston restaurant” it doesn’t really hold up to that. We’ll say “nice enough most of the time”.

I will note that I was annoyed at their meal scheduling. Every day from around 2pm to 4pm there was a gap of only the limited-menu grill food. This made it really nasty for people who arrived after a long flight, or came back after a long tour, and all the main lunch places were closed – but the tea time hadn’t started yet. Sure you could order room service – and wait an hour for it to arrive. After that grill shut down at 4, you were now stuck until dinner, if you didn’t want to eat tiny tea sandwiches. They should have had SOMETHING more substantial reliably open all day long, period. Especially given the people coming in from tours etc. who were starving. There were several times we got back at a tour at 1:50 and were racing top speed to get to the buffet before they shut down. That is just silly.

My sister and I were in cabin 7021. It was perfectly suitable for us. There was plenty of space for our clothing and gear. It had both a shower and also a separate bathtub with showerhead in it. The balcony was lovely. NEITHER of us used their supplied soap / shampoo / etc. because we are sensitive to fragrances. We both brought our own supplies.

They have both US and European plugs in the room, so you can bring either type of device. My sister tried to bring a massive multi-plug power supply unit and it was confiscated. Also, they need you to unplug EVERY item when the room is empty, to avoid fire hazards.

We did not watch any of the entertainment, except the tea-time classical music group, which we went to every day at 4. That was quite lovely. Again not mind-blowingly great, but nice and relaxing. Tea, small sandwiches, and small desserts were served. I’ll note the only 2 herbal teas they had were chamomile and mint. I ended up asking for some of the delicious teas at the Red Ginger Asian restaurant when we were there, so I could then have them during the tea time.

The art on the ship is quite expensive art, in general. It’s like a floating museum. That being said, the person who selected the art (I think it’s the Oceania owner) has very eclectic tastes. A number of the pieces I find questionable to be out right next to a venue main entrance:

Plus there were paintings of men chasing down women, lots of bare-breasted women, and one seeming to show a man having carnal knowledge of a horse. Very very odd. And I love art in general. There were just a lot of pieces that made you look at them and go “Ummmm ….”

One of the highlights of the cruise for me was that it featured Noel Suarez as the art instructor. He’s a quite talented cubist painter originally from Cuba. His sessions were not Bob-Ross-Style “Come and paint a flower”. Instead, people signed up for the entire series of 11 sessions which went through various learning workshops building knowledge on shading, composition, the human form, and so on. They built on each other. It wasn’t clear from the material that the series was arranged like that, so there were a few people who tried to show up for session #9 for example to “draw a face” and were playing catch-up. So I do think they need to explain that better. Still, it was an amazing amount of information, about 22 hours or more in total, from a world-class artist who was supportive and encouraging. If you have any interest in art I highly recommend this.

Today was the first class. It was 2 hours. It was on “drawing the calla lily” but really it was all about composition, how to use graphite, how to shade, techniques, and much more. I did end up with a calla lily, and I learned quite a lot about technique along the way.

The Wifi was ATROCIOUS. Let me explain how it worked (or didn’t work). By default, every cabin comes with one single-device non-streaming account. The account actively blocks any streaming like YouTube, Zoom, etc. My sister and I both have busy jobs so I needed to get a second account. I also needed to upgrade it to streaming so I could run my teen writing classes on Outschool (Zoom). This did NOT make it any faster. It just meant Zoom wasn’t blocked. My sister went all over the ship trying to find where the best wifi signal was. It seemed to be in Baristas, the coffee shop near the internet cafe. So that’s where I set up for my teen classes. Even so, one class ended early because the wifi suddenly shut down without warning. There were other times that the wifi just completely vanished. It was REALLY REALLY slow. They absolutely should be doing better on their wifi access.

For our sailing, masks were required unless you were in your cabins or were actively eating / drinking. That meant many people hung out at the hallway tables by the casino with a drink in front of them just chatting away with random strangers for hours. No mask. If you think this was unwise, you might be prescient to what I’ll report in a few days.

All in all, I was quite happy that Day 2 was a ‘quiet day’. Given how wildly busy Day 1 was for me, I was glad to sleep in and take it easy. We had lunch, we explored a bit, we had tea with the classical musicians, I went up to my art lesson, we had dinner, and by then I was exhausted and ready to sleep.

The next day was Day 3 –

Oceania Riviera Barcelona Cruise 2022

Oceania Riviera Cruise Day 1 – Barcelona

My wonderful mother offered to take me and my sister on an Oceania Riviera cruise, to all spend some relaxing time together. We were gone from April 4 to April 19, 2022. It was delightful! Over the coming days I’ll post a day by day virtual vacation for you, to travel along with us. Let me know if you have any questions!

Day 1 was the flight from Logan in Boston, through Newark, and out to Barcelona. This was an adventure.

With the pandemic, first we had to get pre-flight COVID tests which, thankfully, all came back quickly and negative. As an added twist, Oceania announced just the day before the flight that they now required boosters. Luckily we all had boosters, but anyone who had not gotten them would be unable to sail, as they required the boosters to have been given at least 14 days prior.

On Sunday evening Bob drove me to Boston to get on the plane. The flight was delayed due to bad weather. I got to Newark late, but fortunately still in plenty of time for the connecting flight. I met my sister Jenn there! That was delightful. Soon enough we were boarding the plane.

But maybe not. After we were all boarded, they told us that there was a problem with the engine. They kicked us all back off again. By now we were hungry so we got some snacks. Then the airlines decided maybe they should feed us and gave us a $40 each voucher to buy food. By then, though, most of the restaurants were closed. So we had to scrounge to find things to eat. Now we were worried they’d cancel the flight, and our boat left the harbor the next afternoon. If we cancelled, we’d have to chase after the boat …

At last they got us onto the plane. We headed out! I had cycled my schedule and slept most of the way.

We landed in Barcelona, Spain and were met by Oceania crew at the exit. They wanted to gather ALL the people together onto one bus, so that meant now sitting and waiting … and waiting … for other flights to come in. We did meet a delightful British couple Nick and Mary who we talked with. Finally, all the people had come in and we were all led along to a bus. The bus took us through Barcelona and over to the dockyards.

Here is the ship! The Oceania Riviera!

It turns out that the ship was only at 40% capacity, maybe due to the last-minute booster requirement and also due to the ship going to high-risk locations like Spain and Italy.

We got into the terminal and were given another COVID test. We sat until that was approved. Then we were let onto the ship. We went right up to the top deck to get some food. FOOOOD!!!! Then down to our room. It turns out my sister’s power outlet was confiscated for being too large. On the up side, we didn’t have to do the standard ‘stand on deck with life preserver’ exercise. We just had to watch a video and go to our gathering location to check in. That was it.

We went down to the main dining room for dinner, but they were so empty that they offered us a free chance at a specialty restaurant. So we went to Toscana, their Italian restaurant. It was lovely. I had a caprese salad and porcini mushroom risotto.

The boat headed out into the seas!

You’d think I would sleep by now, but I have an Outschool teen writing workshop I run Monday evenings. In Barcelona time, that was 11pm to 2am. So I brought my laptop up to the quiet coffee area and I had fun talking with the teens. Finally at 2am I was able to go to sleep!!

Ask with any questions :).

Someone asked about the double COVID testing. Yes all three of us got tested in our home areas on Friday, then flew out Sunday and arrived on Monday a few hours before the boat left Barcelona. So we had to get those home tests to start with. Mine was free, supplied by my normal health care provider.

In addition, when we arrived at the dock area Oceania tested us there. It wasn’t charged as far as I can tell. So the sequence at the dock area was we went through security / xray machines, then we went to a testing area. Each person was swabbed and then sat in a waiting area with chairs. It took maybe 15 minutes. Once we were approved, we then went to the ‘registration’ area where we got our key cards. Then we got on the ship.

The next day was day 2:

Lisa Shea Did Not Write a Porn Book

Porn Book NOT by Me Lisa Shea Gone

Woo hoo! Remember how there was a 2022 porn book by an author who deliberately chose the pen name of “Lisa Shea” even though I have 500+ books on Amazon which are sweetly gentle for teens? And then Amazon sent a mailing out to all my teen fans telling them I’d just published a porn book? Well, that porn book is now mysteriously missing! It doesn’t show up on any search results, and going to the direct link for it generates a “page not found” error.

The pen-name-Lisa-Shea porn book is no longer on Amazon!

Did the porn author decide to change their author pen name to something other than Lisa Shea due to the backlash? Did they realize that my fans were going to give them one-star reviews for using such a questionable method of getting ‘free marketing’ for their new porn project?

Inquiring minds want to know.

I know the removal of a porn book claiming to be by “Lisa Shea” is good for my reputation!!

It shows sometimes perseverance pays off

I’ll note that there are still two hard-core porn books back from 2018 on Amazon, also claiming to be by “Lisa Shea”, but at least Amazon didn’t mail all my fans about those books and claim that I the teen-friendly Lisa Shea wrote those.

One step at a time …

Amazon Made a Mistake - I Did NOT Write A Porn Erotic Book!

Amazon Made a Mistake – I Did NOT Write A Porn Erotic Book!

Remember how Amazon mailed every one of my fans by mistake, telling them “Lisa Shea just published a hard core erotic porn book”?

Amazon still refuses to contact those fans with a retraction.

So my only option seems to be to publish this book and hope Amazon sends the notice of it out to everybody promptly.

Thoughts? Suggestions?

Ukrainian colors hair scrunchie

Ukrainian Colors Hair Scrunchie

Yup my Ukrainian colors hair scrunchie has arrived from Etsy! The scrunchie itself is two-tone. I double-wrap it, meaning each layer can get its own tone.

I’m also amused that at all the events I attended over the past two weeks, not a single person noticed that I’d cut my hair from being mid-thigh length to barely mid-back length 🙂.

Please keep Ukraine in your thoughts!

Here’s the etsy store for this scrunchie – https://www.etsy.com/shop/cottonmaskbyjewel

Sad Cat

Amazon Mis-Promoted a BDSM Book by Another Lisa Shea

I am SO frustrated by Amazon!!

Amazon just sent out an email blast to all my author followers claiming that “Lisa Shea” just published a BDSM book on doms and subs.

NO NO NO. That is not me!!

It would be one thing if they simply allowed another “Lisa Shea” to publish this stuff without disambiguation. I already have to deal with that problem.

But for Amazon to send a message to MY followers saying **I** wrote it and linking it to **my** author central page???

It is NOT ME!!!

I cannot believe Amazon still lets this happen. So frustrating. This seriously damages my reputation as writing young-teen-friendly content.

Lisa Shea ArtsWorcester Material Matters Show

ArtsWorcester Material Matters Show

Tonight Friday March 18th 2022 from 6-9pm is the opening reception for ArtsWorcester Material Matters show. This is a call-and-response show based on art from the Fitchburg Art Museum.

If you’re local, stop on in!

Mine is on top.

Inspired by: Safaa Mazirh, Aouchem

“The original image was by Safaa Mazirh from Morocco. She created a multiple exposure with her body overlaid with the shapes of her family tattoos. For my response, I created a multiple exposure with my own body overlaid with my family Ukrainian Easter eggs. I wore my pink nightgown because the image of the six-year-old girl killed during the War on Ukraine in her pink unicorn pajamas was just so heart-wrenching.”

Yoga Child Pose

Problems with Zoom Conference Call

Many people run into issues when trying to connect to a Zoom conference call. Here are some ways to fix that problem.

Launching the Zoom Link

To participate in a Zoom call, you should be given a full URL link to click on, to get you into the right meeting room. When you click on that link, you’ll be taken to a page which looks something like this (depending on your browser and device)

First, approve the cookies at the bottom by just closing the lower window, by clicking the little X in the top right of that ‘cookies’ windows. Zoom needs cookies to work properly.

Second, you want Zoom to use its app to run. So in the top center, click the box to “always allow” the app. Then click on “Open”.

Now the meeting should try to start. If the host hasn’t begun the meeting yet, you could get this waiting message:

If you get this message it does NOT MEAN YOU LOGIN. That login is only for the host who runs the meeting. It means you just wait. You have to wait for the host to start the meeting up.

If the meeting is in fact running, you could see a message like this:

That message means you are in the ‘waiting room’. The host is running the meeting and needs to click the button to let you in. If you get stuck in a waiting room for a while, maybe try texting or contacting the host in some way to let them know you’re waiting there. They might not have seen the alert that you are waiting.

Once the host lets you into the meeting, you should be able to use the Zoom options to mute and unmute yourself, show or hide your video, and other standard options explained in the Zoom how-to documentation.

What If Zoom Won’t Run?

If Zoom won’t run at all, it might be time to look at your computer. For Windows users, Zoom is supported on Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10, and 11. It’s a good idea to make sure your copy of Windows is fully updated. On Windows systems, the browsers supported include Edge 12+, Firefox 27+, and Chrome 30+. They recommend a dual-core 2GHz machine with 4Gb of RAM. Here are the full details:

Zoom system requirements: Windows, macOS, Linux – Zoom Support

If your computer is having problems:

Reboot. Often a reboot shakes loose random issues.

In your web browser, clear your cache and cookies. For example, in the Chrome browser, click on the vertical “dot-dot-dot” in the top right of the browser window. Choose ‘settings’. In settings, choose ‘security and privacy’. Go into the ‘clear browsing data’ area. Clear your browsing history, cookies, and cached images. Note this means your browser will forget EVERYTHING about where you’ve been and will make you re-log-in to sites. Still, if Zoom is not working at all, this may help.

Click ‘clear data’, then close everything and reboot for good measure. Start your computer up fresh and see if that helped.

Good luck!