[Editor's note: Ben Leigh, a SWCer from England, wrotethis report of his trip to various parts of the U.S. earlier this year.]
I'm having a fab time, after leaving San francisco we headed to Monterey for an overnight stop and did the 17 mile scenic drive, then it was down Highway 1 to Hearst Castle for another overnight stop,then 4 days at the CICI convention. I took a 4 day accessible cruise which was awesome, the food was very nice and there were loads of entertainment for the evening, I loved the late night comedy that was on one eve, the comic was hilarious! San Diego is a wonderful place, lovely shopping mall and the tour I went on was really good. In mexico, I saw the blowhole, apart from that nothing much else. Returned to LA for an overnight stop and a visit to Advanced Bionics company on Friday before flying to Miami for the start of my trek.
Understanding your Map - this covered the technicalities of mapping.
Hopes and expectations - Beverly Biderman gave a talk on her experiences and quoted parts of her book and invited members from the audience to talk about theirs.
Rap session, experiences and tips from other people.
Advanced Bionics talk on Adults and BTE's - this was a sneak preview of all the fab new technology that has been lined up for Clarion implant users.
Aural rehabilitation advanced users - a session on learning how to make sense of confusing sounds you may be getting through your implant, also learning to hear by listening.
I must thank Gary [the cruise organizer]. He did a terrific job with all the organising and ensuring it was accessible for us CI andhearing aid users. It's a shame it was so short!
The cruise ship was small in size compared to the larger ones I have seen. The fact I was on a cruise liner overwhelmed me. Do you remember the loud ship horn? it made us all jump! I couldn't stop laughing since the sound startled me so much!
The check-in was very speedy, as we were a special group and due to Gary's fab organisation of the cruise, we got VIP treatment. We were met off our minibus and directed to a place in the queue for check-in. A Viking Serenade Representative met us and helped us to register and gave us our supercharge cards. Another representative escorted us onboard the ship and directed us to our staterooms.
I was impressed with the food. You should have seen the midnight buffet: It looked too good to eat! the wait was worth it! The other meals were also nice. I liked the way you could order two dishes from the same section of the menu. i.e appetizer, starter, salad, maincourse and dessert.
The provision of ALD's (assistive listening devices) was excellent. The setup was very cleverly done! I liked the way the ALD's were connected to the main microphones. There was one big enemy though: INTERFERENCE. This happened on just two occasions. The root of the first problem was connected to a particular microphone that interfered with the ALD's. It was particularly distracting in the final bingo and the final comedy show. There was also interference on a couple of the tours. The first one was solved by my moving nearer to the front of the coach. I thinkI was sitting too far back.
This negative view doesn't affect the overall score for the ALD's. The cabins were nicely outfitted with the necessary equipment needed for our use such as the alarm clock, TTY and door alert. Gary and I found that our door alert system was a little too sensitive. The light would flash when there was no one at the door. The flash activated itself when someone knocked on our door or the phone rang. It even flashed when the loo was flushed!
The entertainment was tops! The ALD made a huge difference; I could hear at least 90% of what went on on stage, I imagine the others who used the system got similar benefits.
Has this report whetted your appetite to join myself and Gary on the next one? If you would like more information please e-mail Gary personally at Garykilb@aol.comfor more details.
Made it to Miami and overnight hotel with ease. I met John, our tour leader, as he saw me to my room. My roommate was Dan from Switzerland. I joined my group the following morning, and we set off to Orlando. We stopped at Coca Beach for lunch. It was so humid sweat ripped off us as if it was water! We visited the Kennedy Space center which was very very interesting. There was loads to see but only 2 hours to see what we wanted to see. We saw a recreation of the Apollo 11 lift off a jumbo rocket. We saw an IMAX film, "The Dream is Alive." This was ok, but a bit boring in places.
John cleverly got us air conditioned cabins for our 3 nights in Orlando, which he booked months in advance! We visited DisneyWorld on Monday. It was much bigger than the other two I have been to and had some different and new rides such as Splash Mountain. Space Mountainwas longer than the one in Europe.
On Tuesday we visited Universal Studios which was absolutely awesome. Have you ever wanted to experience what goes on in the world of movies? Universal is the place to be for this experience. Terminator 23D was very good; next down the line was the Back to the Future ride, followed by Jaws and Twister. Queues were between 30 minutes and 1 hour waiting time.
On Wednesday we headed for Panama City beach and went to a movie in the eve after a cheap buffet of pizza and pasta. On Thursday we went on a 4-hour self-driven speedboat which was awesome. A swim in the sea is a must since it was like bathwater! The beach looked wonderful with all that white sand.
Now in New Orleans, will be going on a Jazz paddle boat tour this evening. Everyone is fast asleep after being out all night partying, I went to sleep at 1 am feeling rather drunk after experiencing the Hurricane at Pat O' Brians!
Those few days were basically very laid back and uneventful, the time was spent driving from place to place. We passed through Shenandoah National Park, which was very nice, but the misty weather obstructed the view. The night prior to arrival in DC we had a Magnum which is a giant Pat O Brian's Hurricane. I only drank a little!
On arrival in DC, which was a very short drive away from Fort Royal Campground, we checked into the Washington Surprise which turned out to be a hotel, which meant no more camping WHOOO!.
The others in the group wanted to see the main sights of DC which I had already seen previously. The White House tour was branded a waste of time due to the long queues and short tour so we decided against taking it. I paid a visit to Georgetown, a delightful place in DC and brought a couple of much needed pairs of jeans.
We all went to the Hard Rock Cafe, so many of the group included me went to bed at 3 am, thus were shattered after the capitol tour which I elected not to do, since I felt that it wouldn't interest me. The following morning we went to the American Museum of Natural History. I went with Dan (a fellow trekker) to the Air and Space Museum and Newseum which we very much enjoyed. The Newseum charts the history of the news. We got a $5 pass and used the metro to get around.
In the eve we had a big final farewell party which included a BBQ and late night antics at a friend's house of John's (our tour leader).
Yesterday, Jazzy took us all on a trip into NYC, she showed us the Cloisters which I found ok, but not my fave of the day, then it was on to the Metropolitan Museum of Art which had some lovely paintings. This I found to be more varied than the Cloisters. We saw a bit of Wheel of Fortune being filmed outside on the steps of the Art Museum which was very interesting; Jazzy got a card with an e-mail address to write to, as she wants to try and get on the show, so we all await with baited breath to see the outcome of it all.
We dined at a restaurant across the river so that we could see the New York skyline light up before our eyes. I was worried what Jazzy thought about the day since she wasn't her usual self, but she told me that her hearing aid was on the blink which meant she wasn't hearing very well.
We arrived back home with everyone feeling very tired out. It was decided that the majority would stay in and have a lazy day. Jazzy said that I was welcome to take the bus into NYC if I wanted to, so I did!
The bus stop was only a 5 minute walk from Jazzy's house which was ideal. The bus journey only took 40 minutes to reach Port Authority Bus station. Port Authority was huge, it reminded me of Victoria Coach Station in London, but 20 times bigger. I chose to get a one-day subway pass which cost a mere $4 giving me unlimited rides on the subway. I decided to visit the Sony Lab in New York, one of the few places in NYC where you can get in free of charge
Being a hot day made the subway stations very humid, if it wasn't for the air conditioned trains, it would have been like murder! Getting around on the subway seemed an easy task since I have done it once before. There was a 30 minute queue for the lab and I spent 1.5 hours there.
I then proceeded to 5th Avenue for a bit of window shopping before heading back to Port Authority to catch the bus back to Jazzy's.
We are having a BBQ for supper tonight, so I'm off downstairsto see if Jazzy needs any help.
The people I met were great! Suzie was great fun, she loved a good joke and was fun to be with, Lisa (from Forum) and I got on like a house on fire, it was interesting to hear about her brain stem auditory mix up and the antics she gets up to whilst on her "runs". It was nice to see Nancy, another Clarion CI user. and Marianne was fun also. Jane from Queens was also great to meet, and I must not forget to mention Barb, wow what a woman, she was great to talk with. She and Mark D are staying at Jazzy's for a couple of days. Again it was a great party Jazzy makes a great hostess and it's not surprising why so many SWCers come back to her house again and again time after time. Good work, Jazzy.