Caravan Sonnet

1/16/18

Viking Eir [Viking Cruises] Stateroom 203 Review

Today I am so excited to share about our Viking Eir stateroom because it was a lovely room that we definitely enjoyed. If you are scheduling a trip with Viking Cruises on the Viking Eir and are looking for a room, I hope that you will find this review helpful! 
Viking Eir Room 203 is a Veranda stateroom B category. The room is 205 sq. feet and comes with hotel-style beds (that you can request into a twin-bed configuration). 
Room 203 (as you can see in the map below) is on the main floor (level 2 of the three level ship) and is the second stateroom on the left when you are coming in from the lobby and main reception area of the ship. 
So as I said at the beginning of this post, the room was simply lovely and was the perfect size for two of us for the trip. A couple of things that I feel are fair to mention to those who are looking at this room is that first, the room felt smaller than the 205 square feet that you may expect. My guess is that is because of configuration and the way that they have designed the room but I feel that is important to mention. (As a side note for those who are considering the French Balcony versus the Veranda which is located on the opposite side of the hallway on the 2nd floor on Viking Eir- choose the Veranda. The French Balcony room is only 135 square feet and I heard from several guests that they wished that they would have paid the extra bit for the veranda room for the extra square footage.)
Second, as you can see in the pictures the beds are in a twin bed configuration but were still so close together that when one of us got out of our beds we would knock the other bed. It was literally only a few inches separating the two beds. Some new friends that we made worked and worked to put more space between (by moving the beds) and were finally able to but others that I spoke with, were like us, and were unable to move them any farther apart. Just a heads up on that as many times with cruising when you have a twin bed configuration your mattresses are not touching but in this case that is not the situation you will encounter. 

Third, as I mentioned in my post about the most frequently asked questions about the cruise, was that the wifi in our room was not good. I spoke with tons of passengers on the cruise about this topic specifically and it did seem that those who were on certain third floor rooms had better reception than those on other floors. 

Fourth and finally, a downside that I feel is only fair to mention is that where the room is located (so close to the reception area and in a location where people are constantly walking by to get to their rooms) it is probably one of the least quiet section of rooms on the ship. In saying that it was still quiet, but for those who are looking for real quiet you may want to consider a different room. (This last point is one that I debated on even mentioning as I felt the room was incredibly quiet but perhaps not the quietest one on board?)
BUT, in saying that the room was lovely and both my mom and I said that we would definitely pick the same stateroom again if we had the choice. It was a wonderful room and here are some of my absolute favorite things about the room:
(1) The ability to store your suitcases under the bed.
There is tons of room to fit even a full size suitcases (two of our full size suitcases and both of our carry-ons!!) fit under our beds which was wonderful because it allows you to get them out of the way after you have unpacked.
(2) The TV Connection for Information
We didn't watch any TV (there was no time because there was so many incredible things to explore and do!) but one thing that we loved as we were getting ready in the mornings was the ability to interact with the maps, find out the up-to-date weather for the day, and we even had the ability to see a webcam from the front of the ship and connect into talks and activities that were going on in the lounge. I loved this little but brilliant way that Viking kept you extra informed on the cruise without being intrusive.
(3) Heated Bathroom Floors
Several years ago I gifted my parents with a stay at a southern resort and my mom came back and wouldn't stop talking about the heated floors that the resort had. I laughed because I thought it sounded nice but didn't understand all of the hype. Well, shut my mouth y'all because after this cruise I can't tell you how many people I have talked to about the heated bathroom floors! Hahaha! It would be lovely at any time of the year that you sail but during a winter cruise heated floors were something that just gave you an extra little gift. It was lovely! 

(4) Amazing Water Pressure and Shower
The water pressure in the shower was amazing and the shower was a great size! Often times in cruise cabins there is only a teeny tiny shower but this was a near full size shower and it was a wonderful treat with a bit of extra luxury for the room.
(5) The Ample Drawer and Dresser Space
Many times in cruise cabins it can almost become a race to see who can unpack first (*smiles*) to make sure that you have enough space for your clothes and other belongings. It was totally the opposite with this stateroom. There was so much drawer and closet space that everything fit perfectly with some left over space. 

(6) Refrigerator in the Room
There is also a mini-refrigerator in the room. We didn't need to use this but it was a lovely addition for those who may be interested. 
(7)  The Balcony
I know I have said on the blog that I wouldn't want to cruise again without a balcony (I am kidding- sort of- *smiles*), but I honestly wasn't sure if we would want one since it was a cold temperature cruise. I was wrong and totally stick with my original comment. *smiles* The balcony was lovely and we actually did spend a lot of time out there. One of the neatest experiences was on New Years Eve as we stood and watched all of the fireworks surrounding us. It was amazing and definitely one of my favorite parts of the room! 
(8) Full Length Mirror on the Back of the Door
Girls everywhere on the ship were talking about the fact that we all loved that there are full-length mirrors in the staterooms on the back of the door. I can't tell you how many different cruises that I have been on where you can only see part of you at a time. This may sound silly, but it was brilliant and definitely a lovely aspect of the room.
And some final additional notes about this wonderful room: 

(1) The Gift We Received at the Beginning
We loved the extra touch of receiving the fruit bowls and the bottle of wine, along with a handwritten letter in our stateroom. It was an extra touch that quickly showed us how Viking goes above and beyond in all of the little details on their cruises. 

(2) Unlimited Bottles of Water
I mentioned in my frequently asked questions post about Viking Cruises that not only was their unlimited house alcohol but also unlimited bottled water. The water came in these beautiful glass bottles and it was delicious. When our stateroom attendant (Sara) heard we were water drinkers she kept bringing those bottles and we were never thirsty. It was wonderful!

(3) AMAZING service 
Our rooms were constantly kept clean, replenished with any and all supplies, and things were constantly prepared in a beautiful way. Sara, our stateroom attendant was amazing and we heard this from everyone we talked to about their stateroom attendants. We would be at a meal or out on an excursion and at least 2-4 times a day our room was attended to. I was amazed at how much time and attention to detail there was. One of my new friends shared that she had laid a bunch of her clothes out on her bed (to hang up and put away after dinner) and she returned to find everything neatly hung up or folded. It was just incredible.

If you are interested in learning more about all of the different staterooms that are available on the Viking Eir (along with seeing a video of the ship) you can do so on the Viking Cruises website HERE. Also on this page are the exact details and breakdowns of the differences between all of the different rooms! Again, you can find the information HERE!

As I said at the beginning, Viking Eir Stateroom 203 was a lovely room and I hope that this review has been helpful! Please let me know if you have any questions! I would be happy to answer them!

A HUGE thank you to Viking River Cruises who collaborated with Caravan Sonnet for this trip.  All opinions are my own.

1/14/18

espoir

Happy (belated) New Years friends!! Since I was traveling over New Years I am just now catching up on some blog posts related to the new year, including sharing my word for the year post! 

This is the fifth year that I have joined in on the "pick a word for the year train". Every year in the summer and fall as I start to pray about the upcoming year and ask the Lord for a word and for some scripture verses for the year I am always amazed at how the Lord leads. As the coming year unfolds I am continuously amazed at how uniquely this word will come into play in encouraging me, reminding me of God's unique grace and love, and the way that I see His plan unfold in specific ways for a variety of different seasons and situations. 

As a new year begins we never know what will be coming in front of us. We don't know the unique and difficult challenges we may face along with the beautiful highs and blessings that are yet to be seen. And yet as I think and pray about a word for the year I am constantly surprised at the way that I see God in His tender mercy reflect the promise and hope of the word that I have chosen. 

My words for the last four years have been: 

Rachat (2017)
Anew (2016)
Mettle (2015)
Valor (2014)

Over the past few months as I have prayed about 2018, the Lord kept bringing to mind the themes of hope and expectancy. These are two words that I have been specifically praying as I continue to heal in this health journey and have been challenged to examine the ways that I consider present and future moments.  In the last few months I truly felt the Lord impressing upon my hear these two themes for this coming year. So as I continued to pray I felt the Lord bring these two words together into one perfect word:

Espoir is a french word that means: 
(1) expectancy
(2) hope
Granted, it is not a word that is "common" or used everyday but the definitions sum up exactly what I pray for for this coming year. You may be wondering why I chose the french word for this year and I can't wait to share more with you in the coming weeks a few of my goals for this upcoming year and will explain the unique reason I have chosen the french word. 

This word is perfect for many areas of my life, but as this battle for my health continues to be very difficult and demanding and I want to meet this challenge with the expectancy and hope of what is coming and the full belief that the Lord is at work. I want to persevere and yet live fully in this season. As I lean on the Lord's strength to conquer the "unknowns" of what lies ahead with my health, healing, relationships, my professional life, my shop, my writing, and some personal circumstances I can rest fully in the knowledge that His strength is going to give me the joy to face these demanding and difficult situations and bring about a victory that I could never imagine. 

As I pick and consider a word for each year I also work to memorize 12 key scripture verses throughout the year (one for each month) that relate to my word for the year. I also pick a verse that is a key verse for the whole year. This key verse this year is from 

"In the morning I lay my requests before you and watch expectantly."

-Psalm 3:5-

A lot of time as a young sick gal I find myself facing the truth that I struggle with this concept due to the season of illness. To be honest I have come to realize that after this season I often expect the worst instead of the best in big and small things. Instead of believing for joy and hope I often question, doubt, and wonder behind the scenes. I was hit with this fully when I was examining a situation in my personal life. A dear and trusted friend said to me, "but Rebecca, what if the best case scenario happens"? several months ago and as the situation has played out it has been consistently a story of the best case scenario happening. I was humbled by this and as this new year approached I knew that I wanted to live fully expectant with hope in all areas of my life. 

The Lord brought about so much redemption and restoration this past year. He truly brought Rachat into the deep crevices of my life. I can't wait to see what the Lord has in store for this year! 

So that is my "word" for the year friends! Did y'all pick a "word" for this year? I would love to hear about it and what the significance is to you!!

"Everyday you preach to yourself a gospel of your loneliness, inability, and lack of resources or you faithfully preach to yourself the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ."
 -Paul David Tripp-

1/12/18

Viking River Cruise [Rhine River] - Answers to Your Most Frequently Asked Questions

Today I am so excited to start sharing about the recent trip to Europe that I took with my mom through Viking River Cruises (and about our days in Switzerland before the cruise). It was definitely a trip of a lifetime and one that I would recommend everyone take at least once in their lifetime. It was just simply amazing. In many ways it still feels like a complete dream that it even happened! 

In the next couple of weeks I am going to be sharing about all of the different places we went to, activities that we did, restaurants we ate at, places we stayed, and our entire Rhine River itinerary for those of you that may want to do this exact trip in the future. (And just a side note- right now through January 31st Viking is offering a special 2-for-1 deal on many of their cruises and some even include FREE airfare! You can check out this incredible deal HERE!) 

To start things off I wanted to spend a little bit answering the most frequently asked questions that I received prior to the trip, during our cruise, and since I have returned. Some answers to questions I was asked you can find on Vikings Frequently Asked Questions Page (HERE) so I am not answering those but am trying to answer questions that aren't covered on their page. If you still have questions after this post please feel free to leave a question in the comment section below and I will answer it! So here we go... 

1. I heard that Viking River Cruises are just for seniors or those who are 60+ in age- is this true?
This is probably the #1 question that I received across the board from so many people. In fact when I posted on Instagram this picture HERE and this one HERE I received so many messages from people shocked that there were people younger than 50 years old. To be honest before I went I wasn't sure what to expect myself. Before I left I had one nurse say to me, "isn't that the gereatric cruise line?" when I shared what I was doing. And I smiled because I assumed that she may be correct in her statement. After going on this particular cruise I walked away thinking a couple of different things. 

First, in general Viking River Cruises don't have a predominately young crowd but that doesn't mean that there wasn't a lot of variety of age on the cruise that we took. I would say that about 1/3 was over 60 years old on our cruise, 1/3 was in their 40s through 60s, and a 1/3 were younger. On our cruise specifically we had a wide range and I think that this had to do with the fact that it was over the holiday season. One of the reasons that I believe that Viking looks like it is for an older generation is because most people who are working and are not retired can only travel at some specific times of the year. I think that if you are looking for a mix of ages that the holiday cruises would be the surest bet, but think you will find at least some age variety on each cruise.

Second, while Viking has not marketed themselves as a "college cruise ship" many people of all ages are starting to realize the wise investment that Viking actually is compared to some of the ship offerings of other cruise lines that appear to be cheaper. I will talk about this more in a minute! 

Third, I think the real question is whether or not younger people will be bored on the cruise ship if it is for those that are older. That could not have been farther from the truth. Let me answer that question next... 

2. Since it appears to be for those of an older generation will I be bored if I take this cruise?
My answer to this question is two-fold. First, I think that it depends on what you are looking for in a cruise. If you are looking for a party ship and want to just head to the Caribbean and escape and not think about anything than you may find this to be a bit overwhelming. Not boring- the exact opposite. Second, the days are so busy that if you are bored it is simply because you picked the wrong type of cruise to come on. 

I think it is important to note going into a Viking Cruise that when they say it is a trip of a lifetime filled with amazing sites, amazing culture, and amazing learning they are not being flippant with that statement. This is definitely not the cruise to take if you don't want to learn a ton and see a ton of things. 

The days are PACKED full of excursions and opportunities to really delve into the culture of where you are. I studied abroad in Germany when I was in college, but I walked away feeling like I had truly seen the heart of Germany through this cruise. I participated in every single excursion that was included (plus an additional one that we purchased) and my day often started at 6 am to get ready for the day, then breakfast, then an excursion, then lunch, then an afternoon activity or excursion, then dinner and then there was the option for after dinner activities. 
It was full. 
It was non-stop. 
It was just amazing.

 Now many people flexed the schedule and chose to relax or not join in on every excursion (choosing to see the town that we were in at their own pace) but either way bored was never a word that was said. 

3. Viking Cruises look wonderful but they are so expensive that I could never afford one. Is it really worth the investment?
Yes. Yes. Yes. 

Honestly as I started to do a comparative cost rate on Viking versus other cruises that I have been on I was shocked to realize how cost effective Viking actually is. On the Rhine River Cruise that we were on we had included excursions for every single day that we were on the boat. While there was the option to purchase additional excursions most people did not and those that did paid at most $79 (we paid $49 per person for our purchased excursion to Colmar which I can't recommend enough!). 

Compared to other cruises that I have done where each excursion ranges from $69 to $200+ the fact that all of the excursions were included is a HUGE selling point to me immediately. In my opinion most people go on cruises to see different places and typically you have to purchase the things that you are doing on top of the cost of the cruise that you have purchased. That quickly adds up and pretty soon you are spending a lot of money simply to get off the boat. That is not the case at all in this situation since these excursions are all included. 

Another thing that is very cost effective about the Viking Cruises is the included alcohol and drinks. On many cruises you have to purchase alcohol packages or drink packages. This is simply not the case with Viking. At every meal (and sometimes even when you got back from excursions!) you have the offering of the house wines and beer that are simply a part of the package. This includes soft drinks and juices for those who are not drinkers. And for those who love water like me there is an unlimited supply of bottled water in your stateroom. Absolutely wonderful! 

I think one of the main things that is an amazing selling point also for Viking Cruises is the fact that there are so many deals that they constantly are offering (like their 2-for-1 sales that I mentioned above). As one couple who was on their honeymoon said to me - as they compared all of the costs for where to go on their honeymoon and did the statistics of all inclusive resorts they realized that they could fly to Europe for free through Viking and get to see Europe together on their honeymoon (something that they thought they would have to wait 5 or 10 years to do) for under $2000! They said that they started saving and it was the best investment that they could have done at the beginning of their marriage. They were so sweet and they truly made a good point. 

3. Did you have access to the internet?
I am giggling a bit as I write this because this is definitely one of the negative parts I do have to say about the Rhine River Cruise. Technically, yes you have wi-fi. If you are planning to be dependent on it for work or for staying connnected... I would caution you that it may not work as well as you hope for it to. 

I needed to use the wi-fi as part of my job and I often spent more time trying to connect to it then I did actually have the opportunity to be on it. So as a word of warning - yes, there is wi-fi- but it is spotty at best. 

4. Do I have to know a different language to be able to go one of Vikings Cruises?
The simple answer to this is no. Everything on Viking (including the local tour guides) will speak in English to you so you wouldn't have to worry about this. During your free times to explore in different cities you may run into needing to know some simple phrases but most people got by just fine with English. 

5. Are most of the other passengers on board stuck up travelers?
This question (and a variety of versions of it) made me smile because I understood where it was coming from. I think that the advantage of the Viking Marketing team is that they have stayed with their consistent message to show that you will be on a 5-star resort vacation on their cruises, but perhaps the disadvantage is that it doesn't show a variety of ages on board. And, maybe that many people, like myself, are hard-working people who viewed this trip as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

As I talked with almost every single passenger on board I do admit that there were a few who were proud to just share all about their previous cruising experiences and where they had traveled to (and looked a bit down on you if you hadn't traveled as much), BUT 98% of majority of people on board were sweet and kind people who were excited to have the experience with loved ones and friends. 

At the end of the day I think that this is like any cruise or vacation experience- I think you choose who you hang out with and what you take away from any experience- the good and the bad. But if you are looking for the bad you will be hard pressed to find it as it was just amazing. 

I hope that these answers helped! If you have any additional questions that I didn't answer please let me know in the comments and I will be happy to answer them for you! I can't wait to start sharing next week pictures and details from the cruise. It was amazing!!

Happy Friday friends! 

1/11/18

adjusting back

I shared on instagram yesterday that I am adjusting back to a treatment schedule, book deadlines, and writing and shop orders while dreaming of the beautiful Europe adventures...and fighting the flu (*ugh*) 

Thanks so much for your sweet notes and checking in! Can't wait to connect more with y'all in the coming days! 

1/8/18

When The Alphabet Runs Green (Releasing May 1st, 2018)

I am so excited to share a BIG secret that I have been keeping!! My new book, "When The Alphabet Runs Green: Practical Tips from A to Z for Living Well with and Healing from Lyme Disease" will be released on May 1st, 2018!! 

This book, "When the Alphabet Runs Green" is the first and only Lyme patient specific book that focuses on practical tips and encouragement for living well with and healing from Lyme Disease. Here is the back cover description of the book: 



A definitive and approachable guide for living well with and healing from Lyme Disease.

Rebecca VanDeMark never envisioned her life to be so radically changed by Lyme Disease or hearing the words that she had this complicated and medically debated diagnosis. Beyond the diagnosis she never foresaw the long and winding journey that this illness would take her on. When the Alphabet Runs Green is an inspired reaction to her personal story.

This A to Z guide to living well and healing from Lyme Disease draws on personal stories from Rebecca’s journey and easy-to-follow tips and ideas from not only herself but Lyme patients and doctors around the world.


Written from a research stand point and a desire to live fully and heal from Lyme Disease, Rebecca shares practical tips to help those who are newly overwhelmed diagnosed patient to the seasoned weary veteran Lyme Warrior. 


"When the Alphabet Runs Green" will release on May 1st, 2018 and you will be able for purchase where books are sold and on Amazon. 

If you are a Lyme patient or love someone with Lyme Disease and would be willing to read an advanced copy (for free) in exchange for an honest review please contact me to become a part of the "When the Alphabet Runs Green" marketing family. You can email me HERE

1/6/18

Home!

We arrived back in the United States after a long flight from Amsterdam yesterday morning. These past 10 days have been a whirlwind adventure of covering countless miles (by plane, car, boat, train, and ferry), seeing four different countries, visiting more than 20 cities and towns, seeing tons of beautiful and AMAZING places that are in this world, meeting incredible people, and spending these days adventuring with my mom. To have dreamt about a trip like this when I was extremely sick and to see it come to fruition at this stage of healing has been a gift that has left me speechless. What an absolutely amazing adventure of a lifetime! 

Thank you to so many of you who have prayed, encouraged, and been so excited about this experience for me. As I return to treatment this coming week I am left speechless with gratitude at the goodness and the timing of this experience. Thank you again to each of you. I can't wait to start sharing more on the blog in the upcoming weeks pictures and stories from our amazing adventure! 

I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

12/24/17

Merry Christmas

“Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair shall not go on forever.”
- Isaiah 9:1-

Warmest Wishes for a Wonderful Christmas and Prayers and Love for a Beautiful New Year! May you be abundantly blessed by His love, joy, comfort, and most of all His peace this season and in the new year to come!

With Lots of Love,