Friday, October 31, 2014

The Reflection of Shadows: I Believe in Things Unseen

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments

Fall is my favorite season. I barely get to experience it, rarely see leaves changing colors, but I bask in it's beauty nonetheless and wait for it anxiously each year.

Wind and Time

Golden-red, the leaves are plenty
Hanging by a thread with care,
Waiting for the music’s rhythm
‘Till they dance with you in air.

Playing in a nearby meadow,
Lifting here and there a tune,
Rising up and plunging downward,
Dancing to a deaf man’s tune.

Branches creek as you blow by them
Knowing now it’s time to rest,
All their leaves have left them lonely,
Now they welcome snow and mist.

Children hurry off the playgrounds,
With your strength you bring the cold,
Tiny swirling crystal moments
Flutter down to those below.

All the shivers, all the moments,
First the fall and then the night,
All the whispers that you’ve stolen
Captured in the breath of time.

Dusk in the Valley
Society 6
Melia Metikos
With fall comes my favorite holiday- Halloween. Horror movies, haunted houses, dressing my dogs in costumes, the chill in the air, and the magic that accompanies it - all things I look forward to immensely. During this time I think of Edgar Allan Poe, who has always been my favorite poet. I love his dark thoughts and the way he can make a poem haunt you with his words. Many of the poems from my youth were inspired by him. I even won a poetry contest in school because of a pretty dark poem I wrote about a funeral (or something, I can't remember) that freaked my mom out and had her constantly explaining, "Well, she, uh, really likes Poe and uh, she's a really nice, normal kid, really...". Oh, Mr. Poe. Such great talent. I know he was a tortured soul, but he made the world beautiful from his darkness.


Ticking, ticking
Ticking, ticking
Ticking, ticking
In your mind.

Ticking, ticking
You can hear it.
Ticking, ticking
All the time.

Ticking, ticking
In your spirit.
Ticking, ticking
In your soul.

Ticking, ticking
You can feel it.
Ticking, ticking
Dark and cold.

Ticking, ticking
Your own time bomb.
Ticking, ticking
Going off.

Ticking, ticking
Not much time left.
With this ticking,
Ticking bomb.

Ticking, ticking
Best be saying,
What your mind
Is thinking now.

Ticking, ticking,
Now you’re playing,
Drawing out the
When and how.

Ticking, ticking
Getting closer.
Time is running
Out too fast.

Ticking, ticking
Inching forward,
Too long gone
For this to pass.

Ticking, ticking
One more moment.
Do you wish
To change your mind?

Ticking, ticking
Silence. Over.
No more ticking,
Ticking time.

I Believe

I believe in things unseen
And in the dreams I dare to dream,
In my mind, and in my visions
In a place where magic visits.
I believe in this, in you
In things I have not seen come true,
In silent whispers, stolen tears
In memories forged from prior years.
In other places, other worlds
Where death is lovely, yet a curse,
Where darkness beckons with a kiss
The innocence of tempted lips.
In sunsets rising, stars that shoot,
In places that are dark with soot,
In death and shadow, love and light,
Where my imagination lies.

I believe in strengths unknown
Buried deep within our souls,
In depths within yet undiscovered,
In learning to trust one another,
In simple truths we have not found,
That silence is the greatest sound,
That there is more to everything
If only we would just believe-
In the unseen and the unheard,
In things that are misunderstood,
In long lives and the fountains youth,
In searching for the hidden truth-
That once we welcome in the light
There will be nothing left to fight.

I believe that what we dream
Is more than just imagining,
It’s more than our revolving mind
It’s secret words lost over time.
It’s places that we long to see,
It’s everything that we believe.
Its every thought, idea, hope
That’s living out there, still unknown.
It’s undiscovered, blind to eyes
That veil what they wish to spy.
It’s stories told but long forgotten,
Myths and legends, memories haunted-
For I believe in things unseen,
In all the daydreams that I dream.
I believe in this, in you,
In things I wait to see come true.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Whew, it's Wednesday! What's for Dinner? - Quinoa Sausage and Veggie Pasta

Hi Friends - Sorry for the delay in posting something this week for Monday. I had some dear friends in town these last few days with an adorable two-year old who requested my attention. When someone that tiny and cute and heart melting wants to spend time with you, everything else gets pushed back.

This is a dinner favorite at our house and one that I consider quite the victory since it passed The Boyfriend Gluten Free Flavor Test. I'm a big fan of quinoa in general, but I particularly like this version because it's also corn free and it cooks wonderfully. Those of you who've made other gluten free pastas will know what I mean when I say that some of them come out sticky after you've boiled them. This beauty doesn't have that problem. It cooks clean, comes out smooth, and has a lightness to it that I adore. The sauce is killer good and ties the whole thing together nicely. The best part? This takes hardly any time to make. A quick, healthy dinner? Perfecto!

Quinoa Sausage and Veggie Pasta

  • 1 box Andean Dream Quinoa Pasta - Fusilli 
  • 2 yellow zucchini
  • 1 jar Cucina Antica Marinara Sauce - Garlic
  • 1/4 White onion diced
  • 1 package of Aidells Sweet Basil & Roasted Garlic sausage 

  • Seasonings for sprinkling: sea salt, pepper, basil, oregano, thyme
  • Olive oil for cooking veggies and sausage
Note: We tried a different sausage this time (in photo below) and found that it didn't work quite as well as the Aidells version 

1. Dice up onion, slice up zucchini, and cut up sausage while bringing a large pot of water to boil (add a little sea salt to the water).

2. While water is still preparing, put diced onions in pan with some olive oil set on medium heat to get them started.

3. Once water is boiling, add package of pasta and cook for roughly 10 mins until pasta is easy (but not too easy!) to break in half. You want a soft but still solid texture.

4. Once the pasta is in the pot, add zucchini and sausage to pan with the onions. Sprinkle on (to your liking) the seasonings: sea salt, pepper, basil, oregano, thyme. Start with a little of each, taste, and add more as needed for your preference.

5. Take marinara sauce and heat in a smaller pot on medium heat.

6. After 10 mins or so, take pasta pot and drain. Make sure you get all the water out. Add the pasta to a large serving bowl. Then, add in the veggies and sausage. Finally, pour the marinara sauce on top. Mix everything together and serve!

Here's a pic of the sausage I recommend using for the mix. The flavor goes perfectly with the dish.


Friday, October 24, 2014

The Reflection of Shadows: Why He Loves Me, I Don't Know

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments

When I wrote this poem, I didn't know where I was going with it or what I was trying to say. The words simply poured out of me onto the paper and I was left pondering exactly what I meant. Looking at it now, I see how it clearly ties to Secret #4, to the path I'm always on, seeking, seeking, seeking... and to what I always used to think was failing, failing, failing. I see how it ties to the divine presence I believe in and how, many times, I've felt that I have let Him down in my journey here on earth trying to live this humble human life. How He's always been there to pick up my pieces and carry me on.

Why He Loves Me, I Don't Know

Why he loves me, I don’t know,
What has made his fondness grow?
Through the turmoil and the pain,
Through my darkness he remains.
How did he survive the moments,
Filled with silent, distant torments,
When my mind left spinning, turning,
Made me wanting, needing, yearning.
I’ve abandoned and denied him,
In my darkest moments tried him,
Pushed him further than his limits,
And never once has he resisted.

When my taste in love is changing,
When I question what I’m craving,
He’s the farmer planting, seeding,
Quickly growing what I’m needing.
Never yielding, always loving,
Even when I take off running,
Never leaving bread crumbs showing,
Where I’ve gone, he’s followed, knowing.
He’s my balance when I’m falling,
In my deafness he’s still calling,
When I’m breaking, crumbling, dying,
In my blindness he is guiding.
When my numbest moments hit me
In my solitude he’s with me.

Through my self destructing phases,
When my thoughts are blurred and hazy,
When self-hate has caused me damage,
He’s the threading to my bandage.
In those hollow, silent moments,
When my heart was fearful, frozen,
When I showed my demons rising
All he saw were angels crying.
What I’m thinking, he’s erasing,
Banning my self tortured hating,
Imprinting the best and brightest,
Showering my soul with kindness.
Why he loves me, I don’t know
Till this day his love still grows.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday Mantra: Secret #4

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: What you seek, you already are
Society 6
Giovanni Da Re
Secret #2 was one heck of a lesson for me. Especially given the course of my crazy life these last few months. To be completely honest, it finally sank in this last week. The world is in me - I. Create. Everything. And I'm in a very creative mood these days. One of my very favorite things in life is decorating. Taking a house and making it fresh, new, different. I'm reflecting how I feel about my life. I'm creating how I want it to look - in my house. Every room is different, every space is comfortable. Every wall color is cheerful, happy, bright. This is a place of love and light. 

Before we move on, let me explain why I've skipped over Secret #3 for now. Well, um, I didn't mean to. I had the page bookmarked, I had the bones of this post all ready for #3, and somehow after all of that I still ended up reading #4 instead. I even tried to go back to #3, but I couldn't. Everything in #4 felt applicable to me right now. It was exactly what I needed to read and I can't recommend this chapter enough. There are times when the Universe (or God or whatever you believe in) points you where you need to go, and doggone it, you better pay attention. 

This is me paying attention. 

Secret #4: What You Seek, You Already Are

Seeking is a word often applied to the spiritual path, and many people are proud to call themselves seekers. Seeking is doomed because it is a chase that takes you outside of yourself. Whether the object is God or money makes no difference. Productive seeking requires that you throw out all assumptions that there is a prize to be won. 

You are starting from yourself, and it's the self that contains the answers.

Pitfalls of the Seeker
Knowing where you're going
Struggling to get there
Using someone else's map
Working to improve yourself
Setting a timetable
Waiting for a miracle 

If you avoid these pitfalls of spiritual materialism, you will be much less tempted to chase after an impossible goal. 

...Creation is thoroughly tangled, with every possible quality given some outlet for expression. People need to accept once and for all that there is only one life and each of us is free to shape it through the choices we make. Seeking can't get anyone out of the tangle because everything is tangled up. The only thing that will ever be pure and pristine is your own awareness, once you sort it out. 

Seeking is really just a way to win yourself back. If you strip away all the distractions of life, something yet remains that is you. 

The fourth secret is about meeting your real self.

On every page I found myself nodding along, found myself admitting that I've been seeking wrong. I've had a carefully mapped self-improvement course with a specific time in mind that I wanted to be "done" working on myself.  I've allowed myself to struggle with it, to follow what others have told me instead of my own inner voice, and I've definitely had my moments of giving up and waiting for something divine to just happen already. I've been so wrong. It's exhausting, you know? Sometimes I just want to call it a day and nap myself to where I should be. Turns out, I should be doing that. Kind of.

Inside of all of us is what we shall refer to as The Witness. It's that place I've talked about before where you are separated from your own thoughts. Where you act as more of an observer. I've reached that place on and off, but I've never fully lived in it. In the moments I've most needed to be The Witness, I've run the opposite direction and acted on The Ego.

To meet your real self through Secret #4, you're shown ways to avoid the pitfalls and learn how to truly seek within. You're also asked to recall situations where you felt confused or scared and to relive them by allowing the The Witness within to observe the situation, allowing the ego to run it's emotional course as needed, and then letting go. It's designed to allow you, slowly but surely, to meet your real self.

I'm going to stop seeking the way I have been. This is going to take some time and patience, but everything I need to do instead is laid out nice and neat for me to follow. As hard as it is for me to not work on a time driven goal, I now better understand why I shouldn't. At least, not for this.

How have you been seeking and what will you do differently to meet your genuine self?

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Reflection of Shadows: Despite the Walls You've Built

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments

There's a certain wisdom that comes from living day after day, year after year, experience after experience. You cannot skip ahead to this place of knowing. The only path to it is a slow one, filled with the stepping stones of this thing called Your Life. The path moves forward as your knowledge continues to expand. As soon as you learn one lesson, it'll be time for you to learn another...and another...and another. 

From the time I was a teenager all the way up through my young adult years, I had to learn the art of Letting People In. If someone hurt me or if something went wrong, I knew all too well how to build a wall to keep them at just the right distance. This, I found, worked as much against me as for me. Over the years I can see the change in myself. The fortress collapsing, the walls coming down, the hope that others will bring down their walls too.

The Fortress
I live in a fortress, strong and powerful. Nothing and no one can get through its walls.
I have been here a long time.
I sit high up in a room with one window.
From here I can see for miles.
Below my window is a moat filled with venomous water snakes that circle the waters, day in and day out.
Surrounding the moat is a wall, thicker and taller than any wall created. A wall not meant to be overcome.
Beyond the wall is a field, long and wide, filled with invisible yet deadly mines.
Past the field is a fence, electrifying for those who dare touch it.
Outside of my fence is the world.
I see blurred images of people, love, hopes and dreams, fear and failure, waiting for me to let them in.
From my window I can see all of this, yet I do not want to leave or to allow them entry.
From my window I am safe from everyone and everything.
No one can reach me.

I live in a fortress, dark and cold. Nothing and no one can get in.
I have been here a long time.
I sit up high in a room with a window that has a view.
From my window I can see for miles.
I see a moat, murky and black. The snakes have drowned in its pity.
I see a wall, old and crumbling. The green of the vines breaching its cracks stands out against its dark palette.
I see a field overgrown with daisies.  The mines are old and rusted, weary from waiting to be set off.
I see a fence bending over, tired of being on guard. Empty of energy for shocking all who were brave enough to touch it.
Beyond my barriers I see the sun rise and fall.  I see colors. I see life.
I see chance, opportunity, dreams.
I see people.
They are waiting for me.
Even after the shock, the pain, and my determination to keep them out, they wait still.
From my window I see all of this and my heart aches.
No one can reach me.

I lived in a fortress where I grew lonely and bored.
Nothing and no one could ever get in.
So I had to walk out.
I lowered my drawbridge to cross over my now empty moat.
I climbed over the broken stones of my wall that had crumbled.
I walked through my field picking daisies, burying mines, covering
them with mounds and mounds of flowers.
I walked to my fence that was no longer whole, no longer intact.
I saw the people outside waiting for me.
I felt the sun on my skin, the wind in my hair.
I took a breath and I climbed over, walking to them and to everything I had kept out.

I once lived in a fortress, big and tall.
I sat in a room with a window where I looked out at the beauty of the world, the adventures of life.
I had walls to protect me from this beautiful world because I was afraid.
I let my passion be overcome by fear and I let fear take me.
I longed for the golden rays of sunshine on my skin, the essence of flowers in the air, the feeling of being alive.
I began to fade away for the lack of living and I became a shadow in my fortress until one day, one day, when I finally realized…
I had built myself a prison.

I'm Here

Despite the walls you've built, I'm here.

You don't have to disappear.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Reflection of Shadows: Things That Cannot Be Replaced

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments
Melia Metikos

When I was in high school I was quiet, reserved, shy and awkward. I had a great and very loving circle of friends, but I lived in my mind a lot. At times, I felt very alone with who I thought I was and who the rest of the world wanted me to be. I felt out of place. I was most comfortable in my own thoughts and with the quiet peacefulness of books. Poetry was my choice of poison. I loved everything about it, every thought and word and puzzle that came with what the poet was trying to say.

In the back of my AP English class was an Edgar Allen Poe poster with his poem, "Alone." I read that poster every day, over and over, until I had it memorized. At that particular time in my life, I felt like Poe was the only person I could relate to.

From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were - I have not seen
As others saw - I could not bring
My passions from a common spring -

Ever since I discovered poetry, it's all I've wanted to be - a poet. Of any dream I've ever had (and as you know, I've had a lot), this has been the greatest. This is the one that never dies. I originally started this blog to do just that- write my poetry, be a poet. But it turned into something else for me, something that I've really enjoyed in a different way. But now I want to bring it back home. I want to add back in the thing I love the most. I want to work on my dream.

Once a week I'll post a poem - new or old - and work on my dream.

Whatever your dream is, I hope you keep working toward it. Even if you have reached it, keep at it. Keep your dream alive.

Pastel Sunsets
Melia Metikos

Things That Cannot be Replaced

Things that cannot be replaced, 
Moments lost through time and age, 
Taken quickly, taken slow,
Regardless if you let them go.
Shades of memories haunt their place, 
Flashes of your loved one's face, 
Laughter ringing in your ears
Reducing you to stifled tears.
All things change, all things end
Some things just can't start again,
Some things have a final stage-
Things that cannot be replaced.

P. S. I started a Tumblr page a while ago for my poetry and other random thoughts. Here it is if you want to browse through it before I shut it down and move it all over here.

Monday, October 6, 2014

All Around the World: Royal Caribbean vs. Holland America (and which one does gluten free better)

Wanderlust: A very strong and irresistible impulse or desire to travel the world.

I've been on a few different cruise lines and the two that stand out for me in service and food are Royal Caribbean and Holland America. Having a gluten allergy, the food piece is extra important. Keep in mind that cruising is just one way to see the world and I recommend seeing it in every way possible and in whatever way works for you. However, since cruising is an expensive way, the service, food, and accommodations should all be well worth your money. For those of you looking to book a trip with a cruise line and who may be considering either of these, I hope you find the below information helpful in making your choice.

Royal Caribbean

Boat Accommodations

Adventure of the Seas
My most recent trip to Iceland and Norway was with Royal Caribbean on the Adventure of the Seas. Having taken a cruise from them before that stood out in my mind as fantastic, I had those same expectations. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out that way. The boat is older, however, it was supposed to have been remodeled and updated not that long ago. I honestly have no idea what updating they did because the whole floor we were on, six, smelled like a weird combination of hospital and rotting fish. Our room smelled the same. The bed in our room was as hard as a rock and the toilet broke several times over the course of the trip. We weren't the only ones with these problems, however, we were the only ones that seemed to have gotten the haunted house room. For the first few days/nights the room made awful squeaks and squawks and ka-thuds so loud that no sleep was possible. Eventually, they discovered that the window in our room overlooking the promenade was loose. To me, that sounded very dangerous for all the people walking below. That fixed most of the noise, except for the ka-thudding. They had to check the areas all around and above us for any loose equipment/storage items. I'm not sure what they found, but one day the noise was gone. I will say our room attendant, Bobby, did the very best job he could of making things comfortable, but this experience is not up to par with how Royal Caribbean should and used to present themselves.

Entertainment and People

When it comes to boat entertainment, I expected more than I got. While there were plenty of things to do outside (rock wall, golf, basketball court, pools) none of those things could be used in the weather that accompanied Norway and Iceland. That was fine and understandable, however, it's what we could've done on the inside that I'm referencing. They had a movie theater, but the chairs were uncomfortable, there was no popcorn, and they played the same doggone movies over and over and over. They had games you could play, but only in special conference rooms  - no checking out and taking them back to your room. They had TV, but hardly. Outside of the spa and gym, which were both very nice, there wasn't a whole lot you could do inside the boat aside from drinking at the variety of bars and pubs or gambling at the casino, which are cruise ships staples. Even the shopping promenade, while very cute and fun to walk through, was boring after a day.

The nightly entertainers were good in the sense that they were geared more toward the UK clientele and so much of what they joked about or discussed were things Americans were unfamiliar with. This too is understandable, as the cruise departs from England and the majority of the folks on the boat were English. We often talked about this with our dinner friends who were from England and Scotland and who, for the record, were some of the coolest people I've ever met. One gentleman we met was so much fun to talk to that we skipped a show just to chat with him. He's from Whales and loves America, The Beach Boys, and is dying to go on a Route 66 vacation one day. I told him I'd swap lives for a bit and we could each pretend to be from the country we loved so much. All in all, the boat crowd was amazing. We are, generally, some of the youngest people on the cruises we pick (we have old souls, what can I say?) but we always end up in the company of great people. Don't let the potential age gap stop you from picking a particular line or trip.

Gluten Free Food and Service

The service overall on the ship was good, but in the dining room it was incomparably awesome. For most of the trip we had the same two servers - Wilfredo and Olexandra - who are hands down the best, most kindest people I've met in the cruising world. Olex's grandmother baked the gluten free bread and she was always finding me and bringing me my special slices. Wilfredo made you feel like you'd been friends for years. The two were an amazing combination! Outside of them, the overall ship service was good.

As for the food, it was equal parts disappointing and great. We were on the boat for two weeks and the first week it seemed like the food was being recycled day after day. I say this because one thing that you can rely on when cruising is good food, lots of it, and new options every day. The main dining room that first week was just plain, well, plain. The second week - amazing. It was like day and night. This, too, applies to the gluten free options.

Each night at dinner they would bring be a menu for the upcoming evening so I could pick my gluten free dinner. This was nice, but it also felt a little rushed and interrupted my dining experience a bit. On the menu it already listed which dishes were gluten free, however, they said they could make anything I wanted gluten free. This turned out not to be the case, not really. Instead of actually making a plate gluten free, they would leave off the gluten item and my dish would end up boring or empty-ish. They didn't actually substitute ingredients or alter it. That was hugely disappointing, especially since week 1 was so bad in general. Week 2 made up for a lot of that, as the gluten free options seemed to double. There was a cafe in the promenade that was open 24 hrs a day that handed out Udi's gluten free cookies like they were going out of style. That was pretty awesome.

Holland America

See that big boat on the right? That's us.
First and foremost, I have to admit that Holland America has ruined me in the sense that I compare absolutely everything they have to every other boat/line out there. Because yes, they are just that good. In almost every way possible.

Boat Accommodations

I've been on the Oosterdam and the Amsterdam boats and both completely blew my mind. The boats are well maintained and that's easy to see at first glance. The staterooms are spacious, elegant, and modern. The beds are super comfy, there is tons of closet space, and both boats are about equal in age to the Adventure of the Seas (which is why I was so surprised by the differences of how well each were maintained/updated). Best of all? No haunted house noises so you can sleep peacefully through the night! 

Entertainment and People

The two boats I've been on didn't have anything in the way of rock climbing walls or zip lines, but they had plenty to do overall. The movie theater had big, cushy seats with popcorn available, which led to the feel of a real theater. If you didn't like what they had playing, no problem. The boat had an extensive line of DVD's you could check out and watch back in your room. This, hands down, was one of our most favorite things ever. They also let you check out the games, so we'd get our favorite, Rummikub, and take it wherever we wanted to play - back to the stateroom, outside, anywhere. I didn't know how much I appreciated that until it wasn't an option. The library was spacious and they has this amazing lookout point with giant leather chairs where you could sip some tea, watch the view, or take a nap. They offered afternoon tea time that I simply adored and which, oddly, was not offered on the Adventure of the Seas with it's very English occupants. The nighttime entertainment was great, but it was more geared toward an American crowd so much of what the entertainers joked about or did was familiar. Holland America is one line in particular that tends to draw an older crowd, but again, don't let that stop you. It's a helluva line to cruise with.

Gluten Free Food and Service

When you book a cruise with Holland America they send you a gluten free meal planning sheet to complete prior to your cruise. This lets you tell them if you might want bread, pasta, brownies, waffles, etc., so they can plan ahead and get those items/ingredients for you. Once on the boat the crew seemed a little confused about where I should eat due to my gluten allergies, but eventually we all got straightened out. For this, I have to give Royal Caribbean credit for having a better educated staff overall. However, Holland America makes up for that in their flexibility. The nightly dinner menu's do not list which dishes are gluten free but that's because it doesn't matter. They will make anything gluten free! 

Every day a menu was delivered to my state room, which was perfect because I had the whole day to ponder what I might want and I wasn't bothered in the middle of my meal. I would circle my options on the menu, bring it back to them, and I'd get exactly what I wanted, but made gluten free. Only one time did I run into an issue where I couldn't get something because it was mass produced. Otherwise, the world was my own personal gluten free oyster. That never happens in "real life." Any of you suffering from gluten allergies or Celiac disease know this. You have limits, they tell you they can only do so much, so on and so forth. So to be able to select anything and get the same version, just gluten free, was truly expectational on their part and made my vacation that much more special. You do have to eat in the dining rooms for your meals (you can't go to the buffets offered at breakfast, lunch, and dinner), and this applies to both cruise lines, but hey, it's all included in your price anyway, so why not make the most of it?

The food, in general, was amazing. Each menu was a new creation, each meal was better than the last, and you were actually provided a four course meal instead of the three course that Royal Caribbean had. As for the service, Holland America knocks it out of the park every time. The wait staff, the room attendants (you get two of them), the front desk - you can't ask for better service. This is what Holland America is about: Offering the best service they possibly can to their guests. 

All in all, Holland America is my pick for the best cruise line and it has been for years now. I've yet to encounter a similarly priced line that offers the equivalent amenities and services that can compete to the bar that Holland America has set. Especially when it comes to gluten free accommodations. 

Per my great friend, Brian, who made the great point that I should share some personal pictures with everyone, here you go!

At Thingvellir in Iceland.

Being attacked by an obviously dangerous wooden crocodile. 

At my favorite place from the trip, Lake Loen.

My boyfriend, who is the second biggest ASU fan next to his best friend.