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Simply Cyn by Simplycyn - 3d ago

When I received the email about U River Cruises, I didn’t know what to expect, but I was definitely intrigued. My prior cursing experience was limited and left me with some conflicting feelings.

About 9 years prior, I went on my very first cruise, it was on a mega ship, a large ocean cruise liner. I had planned and was super excited about the prospect of seeing so many places and all the many activities on the boat. By the end of it, while the experience was mostly positive, I found that the cons made m less eager to book another trip.

To quickly round up what those were, I’ll say it really started with the seasickness- ocean waters can get rough and for a very long time- the boat never quite settled and neither did my stomach. So while there was more food than was humanly possible to consume, I enjoyed very little of it. And then there were just so many people, so many crowds to deal with each day either during embarkation or disembarkation at a port. Found a favorite corner of the ship, but it was always occupied, had a preferred corner for breakfast, but there was always someone there. Also, when there are so many people on a ship, it gets harder not easier to meet and connect with folks. Cost of the cruise quickly ran up – for additional $$ for everything from drinks to excursions, from the internet to basic necessities (like toothpaste).

So yeah- I had some reservations but this was different- this was a river cruise. What did I know about river cruises: (1) they were much smaller boats (2) they skewed older (3) they were probably bumpier than small ships because they are smaller and can’t sustain as well as a big ship can. In spite of it, the allure of the destination- a cruise down the Rhine river with stops in Amsterdam, Haarlem, Cologne, Bonn and Frankfurt to name but a few were too enticing to let up.

So I packed up and got ready for my trip.

We landed in Amsterdam at 9 am in the morning- and headed to a meeting point, a known point at the train station for folks to meet and often for travelers to meet their tour groups or tour guide. U operates much more differently than other river cruises and had created a WhatsApp group to share messages and updates. We quickly found out that we could wait a little for an escort or we could head to the port quite easily by Taxi. We decided to keep our head start and jumped into one of the many Tesla cabs available at the Amsterdam Schipol airport and headed to the port. 

U River Cruises is unique in many ways, the first of which is that they also happen to be the only Back Ship (haha Black Sheep) on the river. So identifying them was plenty easy- we literally told the driver that we were looking for a black ship and we spotted it from a distance. 

Unlike a big cruise ship where embarkation can be as convoluted as airport travel- the check-in process was less than 5 minutes, we walked the plank, we handed our passports, and got our keycards with barcode stripe which we used to check in and check out the ship. U is working on being completely paperless and does an excellent job in using email, messaging and even the In-room TV to convey and share messages about activities and schedules. 

There are 3 room categories, room without balconies, rooms with balconies and larger suites with balconies. We were in a balcony suite and I was pleasantly surprised but the size and design- updated, modern and minimal- but the highlight was the white marble bathroom that doubled (maybe even more) the size of our bathroom in the mega ship. There was more than enough room to put away our 3 suitcases and fully unpack everything we came in. Double sinks in the bathroom, with under sink cabinets. 2 hangar rows (his and hers), nightstand table with drawers, pull out desk and a bar section that included coffee/tea set-up, mini fridge, and stemware. It just felt very thought out – like every single space or thing we could possibly need was incorporated into the space. The balcony while narrow perfectly accomplished its purpose. It became my favorite spot over the course of the trip.

And here’s where it gets interesting- a river cruise is significantly more intimate in every way. Capacity maxes out at 130 passengers as compared to 6000 on a mega ship. Soon we knew our neighbors who hailed from the globe- Australia, UK, Atlanta, Seattle, South Africa, Colombia, Hong Kong, Costa Rica and more. We would meet and see each other in one of 3 main shared spaces: The lounge where we would gather for itinerary updates, games and late night get-togethers; the Dining room, where we would convene over breakfast, brunch and sometimes family style dinners; and the top level deck where they would host morning yoga, afternoon Bbq’s, Drum sessions and Sail-away LIVE jazz Sessions. During those moments and the moments in between, we would laugh and chat, updating each there one which activities we chose for the day and what we would do next.

As part of your ticket, there are a vast number of included activities (walking tours, bike tours, castle hikes)- and in addition to those, there are additional special activities (wine tastings, forest zip lining, Holland Tulip gardens) that would come at an extra fee. Point being, you could go as hard or as relaxed as U choose to go. It was clear to me that a big reason for the flexibility and varied activities was to encourage a younger crowd that river cruising (often thought to be only for the old) was also for them. My cruise had a healthy mix of 20,30, and over 40’s, probably an even third for each segment. 

The moment it hit me  that I was really enjoying this, was when I was sitting at the top deck, listening to our Sax player, as we sailed past green hilltops, old Germanic castles, as we made our way down the Rhine river, and I turned to my husband and said, when are we doing this again. Seriously, when do I get to do this again- if it’s up to me – Very very soon. 

P.S.: The staff and service were excellent- from housekeeping to the restaurant crew that knew our names from Day 1 and quickly familiarized themselves with our faves, allergies, and dislikes, our hosts who really felt more like co-guests and personal friends rather than hosts.

You can visit www.ubyuniworld.com. to book your own cruise that includes three daily meals, Wi-Fi, select shore excursions, onboard local hosts and more starting at $1,499.

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Ok I’m guilty- I made some assumptions, assumptions of what Charlotte Cardin looked like when I heard her voice. It’s just always funny to me how we all have preconceived notions, whether we choose to admit them or not.

I really enjoy her voice and was additionally surprised to find she’s French Canadian from Montreal – one of my fave cities. 

Charlotte Cardin - Double Shifts (Official Video) - YouTube
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Simply Cyn by Simplycyn - 3d ago

As luck would have it, my U River Cruise began in one of my fave cities in the world- Amsterdam.

It’s so easy to see why Amsterdam is extremely popular – the canals, the cultural freedoms, the diversity of people and food, the history, art and design, and a much envied bike culture.

There’s many cities I love to visit, but there’s only a handful that I could actually imagine, packing up all my stuff and moving to. 

So what does a girl do with an Afternoon in Amsterdam- well she walks, she watches, she shops, she eats, she keeps it simple. Amsterdam is one of those cities that doesn’t really require an itinerary- just being there is fun enough.  So I’ll simply leave you with some images and 5 must do’s. Scroll down for the list. 

  1. Don’t just walk along the canal, get into a boat and get the full experience and views from the water
  2. Rent a bike, but only if you know what your’e doing. Cycling here is so much a way of life, I promise you it’s not like anywhere else. So I recommend for comfortable cyclists who can deal with cycling traffic, cars, pedestrians and trams
  3. Hop on a tram and get lost a little. They almost all end at Central, so take it from Central to any other stop to see some more of the city and then head back when you’re done.
  4. Eat Surinamese food and Stroopwafels for dessert. The little island country of Suriname is a former Dutch colony- and due to movement of slave laborers across Dutch Colonies, Surinamese food is an interesting mix of Dutch, Indonesian, Indian, Chinese, African, and Caribbean influences. Some of the best Surinamese food can be found in Amsterdam. Once you’ve had your fill, try Stroopwafels- these chewy crispy waffles are a must and come with a variety of fillings- from Caramel to chocolate and more.
  5. Coffee Shop visit: You know you wanna- so just do it. There’ll be no judgment here. 

Amsterdam Does it Better!

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Simply Cyn by Simplycyn - 3d ago

30 minutes, but it felt much shorter- the ride from Cancun Airport to Chable Maroma. We had lucked out in so many ways, beautiful weather, perfect car rental at great price in little to no time, I had almost forgotten the really long line at the airport. That was the only thing we weren’t so lucky with. Our plane landed at the same time as several others and the immigration line for visitors wrapped around more times that a snakes and ladders game. So just when I thought I was beyond the point of exhaustion, we stepped outside to clear skies, the car rental had just the ride for us and the hotel was a straightforward, no traffic – 30minutes away.

Many of the popular or luxe resorts are often tucked away, sometimes too tucked away. During my last visit, it was a 90 minute drive to where we stayed. Chable Maroma definitely wins massive points for convenience. If you think the convenience means you’re missing out on location or beach or vibe, then you’ll be sorely mistaken.

The last 5mins off the Cancun Highway take you past a windy path, lush greens, narrower roads, you feel like you’re definitely going to some kind of hideaway. This is confirmed when you pull up to the open reception area, wooden beams, rope chandeliers, lounge chairs in the form of swings, all accompanied by the gentle hum of the soft ocean breeze.

We spent a quick few minutes checking in and getting both the lay of the land, a little history (the hotel is new- only opened a few months, September 2018) and a quick rundown of available activities (yoga, cooking, snorkeling, kayaking). The resort is mostly flat and designed in a way that gives each villa ultimate privacy. It takes only 5-7minutes from each point on the resort which coupled with the flat terrain makes it perfect for walking. Bikes and golf carts aren’t needed and interestingly enough aren’t provided. I balked at that for a quick second until I realized that if anything a golf cart would not save anyone any time and might actually be an inconvenience.

Eat:

I always joke that a huge part of why I travel is to eat. I don’t know why I say “joke”, cos I’m pretty serious and good food to me is no laughing matter. Chable Maroma has 2 restaurants on site. Kaban- which is the more casual of the two- although I know plenty of places that wouldn’t classify Kaban as casual (not in terms of the menu options or the service)_ it was all top grade.

Buul is the high end option and it’s rooftop bar is where you want to be at sunset or generally grabbing drinks as the views are the best on the property.

Another interesting way to feel more connected to the food here and Mexican food in general is to take the cooking class. Which tuned out to be a true highlight for me. Hosted by one of the Exec chefs, we learned how to use local and simple ingredients to make true Mexican classics the way the best chefs who all learned from their abuelas (grandmas) make it. An afternoon of such Mexican delights like Some, tortillas, fresh crushed green tomatillo and onion sauce and roasted tomato sauce.

Design/Decor: I am a firm believer in pictures speak louder than words. So I’ll share the very many images from bath to bed, to reception, to restaurants to property. They definitely hit the nail on the head in capturing a sense of place. It also doesn’t feel overly done or overly designed. Sometimes, its best to describe a place in terms of how it makes you feel. And I can say that it felt very much like home- every decision it seems was made to ensure utmost comfort. The size and feel of the bed, the position of the daybed in the bathroom, the dual everything-  his and hers shower, sinks and even toilets- this should be a must in every hotel of a certain category. No wonder they are part of the leading hotels of the world.

Service: There’s often 2 things that can happen at a new hotel/resort when it comes to service. It can be underwhelming or overwhelming. Underwhelming when staff aren’t yet properly trained, don’t know how to follow-up on requests, miss small things, don’t pay attention to the detail. Overwhelming when they are overly eager to please, aggressively responsive, always touching base, doing too much generally. Chable Maroma strikes the right chord- the right amount of “are you Ok? May I help?” with leaving you alone to enjoy your time.

Other highlights:

  • If you’re celebrating a special occasion like birthday, let them know, they’ll go all out
  • Wake up to the eye-opener- choice of pastries and choice of drink (coffee, tea etc)
  • Order guacomole with everything- theirs is oh sooo good.
  • Hang out on the swings in the guest welcome area- surprisingly good space to read
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Simply Cyn by Simplycyn - 2w ago

I love multi-purpose, super functional clothing and accessories. I love that so much of my workout wear can also serve as everyday clothing. If I’m actually honest, I’ve been wearing a lot of my sneakers that were initially intended for working out, as the perfect compliment to my non-workout outfits.

I’ve always been also pretty easy to please- or at least I think so. My sneakers of choice just need to be fun (and by fun- I mean look good) and comfortable (and by comfortable- I mean allow me to walk up and down, back and forth across several NYC blocks for most of the day) which does happen sometimes. While it’s hard to stick to it during the cold weather months, it’s always important to me Spring/Summer and Fall to do a lot of walking to make up for any cardio I might not otherwise be doing. And I can assure you, there’s no bigger deterrent to getting in your steps than uncomfortable shoes. The return on investment of the right shoes is so massive that I very rarely wear the cute but uncomfortable pair of shoes. I’ve experienced enough frustration and pain to know that it’s never worth it.

Case in point, these Adidas Nite Joggers from Finish Line. They are fun, add several fashion points to my outfit while still keeping my feet happy. These are from Finish Line and I like shopping with them as they offer a variety of brands at competitive prices.  I’ve included a few of my fave kicks, so you can see where I’m at on this.

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See you at the Finish Line. Post is sponsored by Finish Line. 

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It happens to all of us- that feeling when you walk into your closet and you’re just so bored with it all, you say those words -“I have Nothing to wear”.  Someone; (your man, your partner, your friend, your mum) may give you the side eye- why then is the closet and wardrobe overflowing. 

It sometimes goes beyond just the wardrobe and sometimes extends to the shops you often frequent. You walk in and it feels like you’ve seen it all and you leave uninspired. You visit the website and throw one or two things into your shopping cart, but nothing truly excites you enough for you to checkout.

So here’s something new, something to get you excited again, some new Australian labels you may not be quite as familiar with. Now you’ll not only get some new pieces, you’ll also be less likely to run into your outfit on the train or at that event you were so looking forward to and hoping to standout at.

Check them out below:

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It happens to all of us- that feeling when you walk into your closet and you’re just so bored with it all, you say those words -“I have Nothing to wear”.  Someone; (your man, your partner, your friend, your mum) may give you the side eye- why then is the closet and wardrobe overflowing. 

It sometimes goes beyond just the wardrobe and sometimes extends to the shops you often frequent. You walk in and it feels like you’ve seen it all and you leave uninspired. You visit the website and throw one or two things into your shopping cart, but nothing truly excites you enough for you to checkout.

So here’s something new, something to get you excited again, some new Australian labels you may not be quite as familiar with. Now you’ll not only get some new pieces, you’ll also be less likely to run into your outfit on the train or at that event you were so looking forward to and hoping to standout at.

Check them out below:

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Simply Cyn by Simplycyn - 3w ago

She’s got some new music all by herself again. She’s made waves with Shea Butter Baby with Jay Cole, the track was featured in Creed II which definitely helped its popularity soar. I hope she doesn’t get lost in the shuffle as her new music shows this lady has got the pipes and the hits. I actually love her latest track “Up Late” even more. And the Live bluesy jazzy version below shows she’s no fluke.

Ari Lennox - Up Late (Live @ Blue Note) - YouTube
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The other day, I was sitting on my couch, I new I had a long long list fo things to do. But I just couldn’t and I knew that I was going to be productive- it was just one of those moments where I needed an escape and I didn’t care if it was warranted or not. I didn’t care if I would regret it first thing in the morning when I would of course stare at my non checked off list. And that’s how I found myself watching Netflix’s Someone Great.

In so many ways, it reminded me of a time when everything in my world revolved around my girlfriends, I miss those days, I miss having them near, this is before most of them started their own families, started their high intensity jobs or simply moved away.

And while there was much to love about the cute little movie and lots to relate to, there was nothing that made me quite as happy as the soundtrack- taking me through old hits and newer ones, through heartbreak tracks and club bangers, through pop rhythms and hiphop gems.

So yup- I’m listening to this on repeat now and I recommend you do the same, there’s definitely something for everyone. 

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Simply Cyn by Simplycyn - 3w ago

Spring and Summer mean you can have a little or a lot of fun with your bags. For me this means you’ll be more prone to seeing more playful bags including knits, woven raffia, see-through, colorful and so much more.

Here are some of my current faves:

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