Six Ways To Hold Down College Costs

A mother recently told me about her son, a first-rate student who was accepted by Cornell University and by New York's City College for the upcoming fall term.

The mother wanted her son to get the Ivy League experience that Cornell offered. They are a family of modest means, but she was prepared to help her teenager as much as she could, though it would have meant taking on considerable debt.

Unlike Cornell, which offered only a partial scholarship, City College promised the young man a full ride to enroll in its honors program. As part of the City University of New York system, City College does not have Ivy League prestige, but it has provided high-quality educations to generations of upwardly mobile young people - and it costs far less. Attending City College would mean that the woman's son could live at home if he wished, and he could get his undergraduate degree at minimal out-of-pocket cost.

The young man chose to enroll at City College. He told his disappointed yet admiring mother that he saw no reason to begin adult life under a pile of debt. I think he made a wise and mature decision.

Expensive colleges can be like designer jeans. They are nice to have, and you should expect high quality (which you will usually, though not always, receive), and people will respect the label even if they know little about the product. But they don't necessarily do the job any better than a workaday pair of denims. Sometimes the best decision is to forego the name brand.

College costs and student debt levels have finally spiraled high enough to trigger some serious soul-searching among students, parents and educators about the real value of higher education. The fact is that buying a college education is a lot like buying a car. If only one model and color will make you happy, you have no bargaining power. If you are willing to consider any vehicle that can take you where you want to go, there are many opportunities to save money along the way.

Here are some ways students can keep college costs affordable and avoid starting life deeply in debt:

1. Make schools compete. Admissions officers are obsessed with college rankings. Almost any high school graduate - not just the class valedictorian - represents an upgrade for some schools, and just a run-of-the-mill candidate for others. Schools seeking an upgrade will offer generous discounts, without any demonstration of financial need and often without even being asked. They must compete on price to attract stronger students. Be prepared to take advantage.

2. Use advanced placement credits and graduate early, if possible. Simple math: The less time you spend at a school, the less you pay - and the sooner you start working. Take advantage of advanced placement and similar college-level classes while in high school and consider which colleges will give you the most credit for those classes. Don't pay for more college than you need.

3. Be prepared to transfer strategically. You get the same degree from Designer U. whether you spend two years or four on its campus. If money is tight, and if you can start someplace less expensive, give this option serious consideration. Yes, it might get in the way of Greek or other extracurricular activities; consider how much this is worth to you in dollar terms. Also, if your first school proves to be stingy with AP credits, a transfer might be your best bet.

4. Avoid early decision. Early decision programs, which require applicants to commit to a school before receiving competing offers, are designed to benefit college admissions offices - not students. (Early action, which allows students to consider several offers, is more evenhanded.) Early decision may help you get into a school that you absolutely insist on attending, though it is no guarantee, but the price of this advantage can be high. If you want good educational value for your dollar, assert your right to comparison shop. Remember, some college out there is going to want you - and when you get there, it will become your school, and you will probably love it.

5. Combine graduate and undergraduate education. The sooner you get through school and start your working life, the better off you are likely to be. If you have a strong career direction that requires graduate school, look for a program that will get you all the education you need as quickly as possible. If, like many teenagers, you really do not know what you want to do with your life, consider deferring college for a year or two while you get some work experience. Freshman dorms are not the only place from which you can launch a voyage of self-discovery, but they are probably among the most expensive places to do so.

6. Live at home and work while you study. This is the old-fashioned way to go to college: Study when and where you can, work when you must, and live where it is most economical. Do you really want to borrow money to pay for a residence halls meal plan, when Mom and Dad have a perfectly good kitchen and a fully stocked fridge? You can also get a part-time job, on or off campus, to cover a lot of your costs while you are still in school. Like early decision, unpaid summer internships have become a gimmick that disadvantages students, but you don't have to follow the herd. Traditional student summer jobs range from waiting tables at resorts to parachuting into forest fires as a "smokejumper." Those jobs are not always easy to get, but they are still out there - and nobody expects you to jump into a forest fire for free.

There is nothing wrong with expensive colleges, prestigious colleges, freshman dorms or student loans. They all have their place, and if your family can comfortably afford these things, there is no reason not to avail yourself of them. But you should treat college as exactly what it is: one of the most expensive purchases you are likely ever to make. You can get the best long-term value for your education dollar if you consider your options with an independent attitude and an open mind.

Things to Consider While Choosing a Wedding Dress

Every girl has a desire to look at her best on her wedding day. As you're the bride-to-be and this is one of the most auspicious occasions, you will be the center of attention. Your guests will look at and talk about every detail in you. You got to make sure that your wedding dress is the most fabulous outfit you have ever bought.

There are many things you got to keep in mind before choosing that marvelous bridal gown. You need to decide on what style of wedding dress you wish to wear. Bridal dresses are available in various styles like vintage, casual, princess like or absolutely unique. You can check few fashion magazines and refer the latest bridal gown collection. This will give you an idea of what is the latest trend this wedding season.

You got to ensure that the wedding dress fits you well. Even if you have a perfect choice, try various styles and check what suits you the best. Dresses look different on mannequins, than on you. Choose a wedding gown that expresses the best features in you. This will not only make you feel comfortable but you'll definitely look more beautiful. If size matters, get your dress customize

Make sure the style you choose is comfortable and you can carry yourself well throughout the wedding. There are various cuts, styles and patterns available online. You will look graceful in a mermaid style beaded satin train wedding dress or may be a one shoulder sweet heart neck dress will look very elegant.

Color and embellishment are also very important elements while choosing a wedding gown. Wedding gowns come with several embellishments like beads, laces, frills and bows. If you're getting it customize ensure that the embellishments you opt for get along well. You can try some knife pleats on the top bodice and a bow sash; this will look very classy and sophisticated.

If you would like to keep it a little simple, you can check out the A line strapless bridal dress with beautiful lace. This will give you an elite look.

If you're worried that a Bridal dress is going to cost you a fortune, you will be amazed to know that you can get cheap wedding dresses online now. You can either buy the ready wedding gowns or made to measure cheap wedding dresses. Cheap wedding dresses, with latest style for your most auspicious occasion, what more can you ask for!

Pair your wedding dress with silver, diamond or gold jewellery, a crystal tiara with a sexy pair of shoes and you're all set for the big day.

What to Consider When Shopping for Golf Shoes

Golf is an elite game and would not be complete without its share of fancy accessories. Atop the wish list of many golfers is a new pair of stylish and comfortable golf shoes. So, if you are serious about improving your golf game and your fashion sense at the same time, you will not want to be stingy about investing in a new pair of shoes. If you look around, you will find the prices of golf shoes will range anywhere from $50 - $250 and up. This is no easy decision.

When shopping for a new pair of shoes, you should look for the same things that you look for when you are shopping for your regular shoes. You will consider style, comfort and of course, the price. Generally, the shoes made of the finest leathers will be more expensive, but they will also provide the best comfort.

Here are a few additional features to consider when shopping for a pair of golf shoes.

Metal spikes were very common just a few years ago. Today, a more golf course friendly trend is to wear the softer spiked shoes. Golf courses prefer golfers to wear shoes with the softer spikes as they do less damage to the greens unlike the traditional metal spikes. You should also consider buying the ones that have removable spikes as the spikes will need to be replaced due to everyday wear and tear.

The times are changing and so are the manufacturers' product lines. Many brands including FootJoy and Ecco have come out with less formal shoe lines which are extremely popular right now. Examples of these would be the FootJoy Contour Casual Series or the Ecco Street Premiere. These shoes come with a more retro look and can be worn off the course as well as on it. Today, golf shoes can be fun, stylish and functional all at the same time.

Make sure to buy your shoes from a golf pro shop or purchase them from a reputable online golf shoe retailer. These online shops have closeout sales on many shoe product lines and generally will have the best prices around. The shoes will also be delivered to your front door. These retailers have access to the latest golf shoes and many other golf products like golf balls, gloves and bags at lower prices.

The right golf shoes are essential for your style, comfort and performance. Be sure to select a pair that will give you the traction, style and support you need to walk all 18 holes and finish strong while looking good. You can spend top dollar if you want, just remember there are plenty of great deals out there on Discount Golf Shoes.

Why Learning to Sew Means Never Having to Wear Something Badly Fitting Again!

We've all done it, ladies - and gents too, I suspect - that is, bought a garment we love the look of in the fitting room, while overlooking one small but annoying fact: it doesn't fit properly. Just the other day I bought a dress, knowing the straps are too long, so that it gapes at the sides, showing things it shouldn't. This is more obvious on one side of my body, because in common with most of the population, one of my shoulders is higher than the other. But clothes manufacturers are cutting garments for the perfectly symmetrical body, perfectly proportioned... which sadly, 99.99 % of us do not have... so there will always be some point where a commercial garment doesn't quite fit. So do we need to put up with badly fitting clothes? In fact, we don't.

One way out is to pay someone to do sewing alterations for you. But I doubt many women can be bothered to find someone good, who will actually do what you want, quickly and - keyword - cheaply. Otherwise it's not going to get done.

The real solution is to learn how to sew yourself - not even that well, necessarily - and then you can say to yourself, as I did in the changing room, 'I can easily alter this dress so that it actually fits me... ' or even, 'I could make this dress myself, for half the price, and in a fabric I really like..'!

A lot of us learned to sew at school, making some hideous elastic-waisted skirt which we never wore, or even worse, a shoe-bag, and have happily since forgotten the ins and outs of hand-sewing. Maybe you also learned how to use a sewing machine 20 years ago, but have forgotten. And modern machines are different -the good news being that they are a great deal easier to use, with buttonholes, for example, being sewn in just one operation. The things your Mum's old black Singer couldn't do, like zigzag seam neatening, are now done quickly by every inexpensive sewing machine.

It really is worthwhile to re-master or master for the first time how to sew by machine. In the case of my dress it's a quick job to take up the straps, but in a few lessons you can also easily learn how to add darts, or take in the side seams, to make a top fit better if it's too big, how to take up trouser and skirt hems, or add extra pieces to customise a garment, or just renew some dodgy elastic in your Mum's favourite skirt waistband. Before you know it, you have a new 'career' making your children fancy dress outfits from bits you've bought in charity shops, and your friends who are getting married on a shoestring budget are popping round with their internet bargain wedding dresses pleading for you to take them in...

And then... when you're feeling confident, you could start to make clothes from commercial patterns, in fabrics you really love. There's something very satisfying about making a unique garment, which no-one else has, - and which fits you properly, because you can adjust the pattern as you're making it.

In order to really understand how patterns work, and fit together, it could be worth going the extra mile (or two) and taking a course in how to cut your own sewing patterns. This is, to me, the ultimate craft secret, the technical knowledge which is used by fashion designers, and also by those who realise their designs in the atelier or mass-production workshop. Once you have grasped the basic principles of altering a basic shape, you can then make a garment from scratch, either adapting a commercial dressmaking pattern, or creating your very own pattern which will fit you exactly. It's like having a bespoke suit or tailor-made garment made... by you, at a fraction of the price.

So, next time you try on a skirt that's a bit too big in the waist but fits on the hips, or a dress that's too long... don't put up with it. Learn to sew!

Let The Spirit Move You

After so many sailings on Silversea cruises, I struggled with what to say about our 14-night transatlantic sailing that has not already been said. If you want to read about incredible Silversea service, you could go all the way back to our first sailing on Silver Whisper in 2002. Fast forward to 2009 if you want to read about a memorable birthday dinner at Le Champagne on my birthday during our cruise on Silver Wind in Africa. And if you want to know how we feel about Silver Spirit, we were just on her in 2010 when we sailed from Santiago, Chile, to Acapulco, Mexico. What can we possibly say about Silversea that we have not already said before? But, cruise reviews are snapshots in time. A cruise line or ship can be great one year, and not so great the next. As ships get older, crew members come and go and the dynamics can change. So, when a cruise line like Silversea continues to "get it right" year after year, it's more than noteworthy, it is historic. And let's face it: some things just bear repeating.

When we arrived at the pier in Bridgetown, Barbados, to board Silver Spirit, it truly does feel like we are coming home. We see crew members that we remember from past cruises over the years, and many remember our names. Even some of the other guests look familiar and we know we have sailed with them before on Silversea. So, we were not too surprised when Roland, our excellent butler on Silver Shadow last year in China, greeted us when we arrived at our beautiful Silver Suite (1106) this year.

Embarkation is always smooth as glass on Silversea. Why doesn't every cruise line welcome you onboard with a glass of champagne? I don't know, do you? Anyone? Well? Just know that Silversea does, and always has. Within five minutes after we stepped on board, we were being escorted to our Silver Suite. Coming "home" could not be any easier.

THE SHIP

Silver Spirit is the newest and largest ship in the Silversea fleet having entered service in 2010. We initially wondered if Silversea was going to able to deliver the same level of service on a ship with 540 guests. Not to worry, Silversea delivers excellent service regardless of the ship. The ship is masterfully designed to not "feel" any larger than their other, smaller ships. Public spaces are roomy and comfortable. The interior decor of the ship reflects an art deco design and features more works of art than other Silversea ships. Silver Spirit is elegant without being ostentatious.

ACCOMMODATIONS

Silversea has always had a reputation for spacious and luxurious accommodations. Even the most modest accommodations on Silversea deserve to be referred to as "suites". However, the Silver Suite on Silver Spirit raises the bar for great design and comfort. Even though not the largest suites on Silver Spirit, at 742 sq. ft., the Silver Suites are more than twice the size of the basic Verandah Suites.

The 26 Silver Suites on Silver Spirit dominate decks 10 and 11 forward and give occupants the feeling of being on a concierge level of a luxury hotel. Even the Observation Lounge located on Deck 11 forward feels like a private retreat for Silver Suite guests, but of course, it is available to every guest.

Entering the Silver Suite, guests walk down a hallway to the living room where there is a round dining table capable of seating four comfortably. The table appears to accept a leaf making it larger and capable of accommodating more. A very comfortable work desk was soon consumed by my MacBook Pro, iPod and other gadgetry. The desk has four drawers and two large shelves. The only thing lacking is more electrical outlets, a common oversight by ship designers. There is only a single 110 US outlet at the desk. A small desk lamp and direct dial telephone are the only items occupying the desk space.

A mini-fridge/bar/television cabinet sits on the outside wall of the living room with two large sliding glass doors on either side. A sophisticated espresso machine and accoutrement takes up most of the tabletop space on this unit. Not being an espresso drinker, I soon discovered that the machine and tray holding espresso cups fit perfectly into the two shelves of the desk unit. More space for my electronic gear!

Opposite from the dining table is the suite's large sofa (which also makes into an extra bed), two chairs and a glass-top coffee table. A small end table holds the high-tech Bang & Olufsen CD player/stereo system. A beautiful fresh flower arrangement decorated our coffee table.

Two large sliding wooden doors can be closed to completely isolate the master bedroom from any activity in the living room. This comes in handy for early mornings when I want to work on the computer, have my coffee and watch Fox News while Rickee sleeps in. I say "master" bedroom since the living room can be converted into a bedroom via the sofa bed. The bedroom is spacious, elegant and very well laid out. The comfortable king-sized bed is flanked by two end tables with lamps. A sizable makeup/vanity table with large mirror resides next to the bed and out of traffic areas. Across from the bed is another flat-screen television and storage unit with several shelves hidden behind doors..

Storage is the Silver Suite's strong suit: the huge walk-in closet is nothing short of amazing and will even have Owner's Suite occupants envious. You will never have to worry about running out of storage space in the Silver Suite. There are shelves everywhere, drawers and lots of hanging space. A digital safe sits inside of a shelf unit that was a perfect place for all of my camera and video gear, and I have a lot of it.

Everything about the bathroom design is near perfect. We can overlook the clumsy operation of the vessel sinks and just be happy with the fact that there are two of them, not to mention a third in the powder room! A large shower stall lined with rich Italian marble is spacious and features a hand wand sprayer (my favorite) as well as a rainshower head (Rickee's favorite) mounted in the ceiling. The shower even has a seat! A full-sized Jacuzzi bathtub can be used for a relaxing bubble bath, and it was. We had a choice of Ferragamo, Neutrogena, or Bvlgari bath amenities.

A separate "powder room" with toilet and vessel sink is accessible from the bathroom and the suite's hallway. Since the powder room is accessible from the hallway, it can be accessed by guests visiting your suite, or others sharing the foldout sofa bed, without invading your private bedroom space.

From the living room, there are two large sliding glass doors leading to a very spacious and well-furnished 118 sq. ft. verandah. Our verandah was outfitted with a reclining lounger, three wicker chairs, a large wicker ottoman and small glass top table, perfect for al fresco breakfast service.

After 14 days and nights in a Silver Suite, I would have to say it would easily rate a 5 out of 5 on my rating chart for comfort and design. It has more going for it than virtually any other suite we have enjoyed. In fact, the Silver Suite is so comfortable and spacious that it truly feels like a home-away-from-home.

DINING

Rickee and I are what you might call "seasoned" cruisers. After all, it is our business. We no longer feel it necessary to eat everything in sight when we are on a cruise. In fact, we try to maintain a fairly normal dining routine, not unlike the one we have at home. There are nights where don't even go out to dinner, opting to stay in our suite and have a light room service meal. Fortunately, that is possible on Silversea. I can call Roland, our butler, at 7:00pm or so and order a Chicken Caesar Salad (one of my favorites) and a bowl of soup and Rickee might get an order of Asian Spring Rolls, and a salad, and that's it! I know it sounds boring, but it's what we like and Silversea makes it possible.

Our breakfast usually consists of Roland bringing me hot water for my coffee and Rickee getting extra sleep in lieu of food. While most guests are enjoying everything La Terrazza's amazing breakfast buffet has to offer, we are in our suite, in our pajamas. On port days, since we have to get up early for an excursion, we will go to La Terrazza and have eggs made-to-order, English bacon and Rickee likes pancakes. She also loves fresh fruit, and it is plentiful at La Terrazza. I have to rush past the mountains of breads and pastries to appease the low-carb Master I reluctantly serve. We always have breakfast in The Restaurant on disembarkation day. It is our tradition, and we aren't going to change it.

For lunch, we usually go to La Terrazza and Rickee often enjoys nothing more than the excellent selection of salads. I tend to spend some quality time at the meat stations with special attention given to the Oriental dish of the day. Of course, they have everything that anyone could want on their beautiful buffet: a carving station that changes to a new roasted meat every day; fresh, made-to-order pasta station; and yes, the mountain 'o bread... my evil temptress.

THE RESTAURANT

The Restaurant is the traditional "cruise ship" dining venue on Silversea ships. However, the 'traditional' term ends with the practice of providing three meals per day with lunch and dinner menus changing daily. The Restaurant on Silver Spirit has a very inviting decor and offers a lot of seating options for two, for those times when you want a little personal space. Guests can dine whenever and with whomever they wish (within the posted service hours) and no reservations are required.

The majority of guests bypass The Restaurant at breakfast and lunch, opting for the enticing choices offered at La Terrazza and the convenience of buffet-style dining. Plus, dining out on deck is a powerful draw when the weather is nice. So, if you prefer dining in quiet solitude, check out The Restaurant during these times. Service in The Restaurant, like all Silversea dining venues, is crisp and efficient. A complimentary red or white wine is offered with lunch or dinner. If the one offered is not to your liking, the wine steward will gladly try to find another to your liking. Rickee and I like a semi-sweet Riesling, and after day one, the wine stewards on board knew exactly what to pour for us. Now that's Silversea!

The lunch and dinner menus change daily with a focus on contemporary, wholesome and regional cuisine. There are vegetarian options, wellness options and an Oriental choice each day for lunch. And, don't let the menus constrain you. If there is something you like that is not on the menu, just ask. I like fried onion rings with my hamburger, but they are not on the menu. No problem, all I had to do was ask and a plate of hot onion rings magically appeared! One evening, a small group of us wanted an Indian dinner. Again, not a problem. We made the request through our butler, Roland, and he set the whole thing up for us.

Le Champagne is the only Relais & Châteaux restaurant at sea and can be found aboard every ship in the fleet with the exception of Silver Explorer. The menu at Le Champagne continually changes to reflect the voyage destination and provides guests with an enhanced experience of authentic regional flavor. Guests can enjoy complimentary wines or choose from the Connoisseur's List of rare wines for an additional charge. On Silver Spirit, Le Champagne is an intimate, dark and elegant space on Deck 4 across from Seishin and next to The Restaurant. A floor-to-ceiling wine tower is the centerpiece of Le Champagne's decor. Certainly, Le Champagne is Silversea's most elegant and sophisticated alternate dining venue. The dress code in Le Champagne is reflective of the ship's daily dress code.

Reservations are required. Per guest reservation fee is US$30.

La Terrazza offers guests a selection of Italy's best cuisine. During the day, La Terrazza is the ship's breakfast and lunch buffet restaurant. Each evening, it is transformed into an intimate, romantic Italian dining venue. One of our favorites is the fresh, home-made pasta. And, no visit to La Terraza is complete without trying the Antipasto sampler platter. La Terrazza is the expression of Silversea's distinctive Italian heritage and partnership with Slow Food Promozione. La Terrazza's dress code is always informal or casual depending on the evening dress code (no shorts or jeans, however), so for those who are looking for a casual alternative on formal nights, La Terrazza offers a delicious refuge.

SEISHIN RESTAURANT

Seishin Restaurant takes its name from the Japanese word for "spirit". This intimate restaurant aboard Silver Spirit is located on Deck 4 across from Le Champagne and next to The Restaurant. Seishin specializes in Asian fusion cuisine including regional dishes from Japan as well as from China, Thailand, Vietnam and India. The centerpiece at Seishin is the open Sushi preparation station where diners can watch their artful dishes being created by the masterful Sushi chefs. Seishin begins serving dinner each evening at 7:30pm and offers a choice of three set menus.

Seishin Teaser 1 is a 4-dish degustation menu for seafood lovers. Teaser 2 is for those who prefer meat (fowl and beef) over fish. There is also an 8-dish degustation menu that combines seafood and meat choices. All Seishin menus begin with a Sushi sampler platter. However, we were able to make a special request in place of the Sushi platter (a Spicy Tuna Roll for me and California Roll for Rickee). On our sailing, there was a $20 pp reservation fee for Teaser 1 or Teaser 2 and a $30 pp reservation fee for the 8-dish menu.

During days at sea, Seishin offers a complimentary sushi and sashimi bar for lunch. The dress code for dinner is reflective of the ship's daily dress code but guests can dress informally and dine here on formal night.

STARS SUPPER CLUB

We first dined in STARS in 2010 during our South American sailing on Silver Spirit. Even though I remain confused as to the culinary point of view of STARS, I continue to be impressed with what it delivers. STARS is one of the most unique dining experiences you will find on any cruise ship, or land-based restaurant for that matter. Silversea attempts to re-create the atmosphere of an art deco-inspired big city supper club where jazz musicians and singers entertain diners as they enjoy an elegant meal. To that end, STARS delivers. The menu is a set, multi-course collection of regional and seasonal delicacies to be enjoyed in tapas-style "bites."

The atmosphere in STARS is understated and elegant, not unlike the rest of Silver Spirit. The jazz duo of Michelle Yap and Seandrea Earls does give STARS a retro supper club feel and provide a show worthy of a visit to STARS even without a meal. Service is crisp, polished and efficient and the food preparation and presentation is without rival. STARS is Silver Spirit's best-kept culinary secret.

THE GRILL

Formerly referred to as "Hot Rocks Grill", The Grill may have a new name, but the hot, volcanic stone method of meat preparation remains the same. The Grill is one of most popular alternate dining venues on Silver Spirit. The Grill's dress code is always casual and meals are served al fresco on decks 9 and 10 poolside (weather permitting). The Grill menu is a meat-lovers paradise. Thick rib-eye steak, filet mignon, veal, pork, lamb, prawns, and salmon are all on the menu.

On our most recent visit to The Grill, the meal begins with a basket of tortilla chips and guacamole dip. Complimentary wines are offered with dinner (as in every Silversea dining venue), so we chose a Cabernet from Chile. After a salad course, my rib-eye steak was a thick slab of marbled, tender beef served on a 700-degree chunk of volcanic stone. The interactive dining experience allows guests to cook their meat to their desired degree of doneness. The easiest way is to cut the huge steak into smaller chunks to increase the surface area contacting the stone. Once the meat reached medium (my preference), I began moving the pieces to the wooden base where consumption soon followed. All meat dishes are accompanied by a baked potato and a skewer of veggies. A trio of dipping sauces add additional flavor to the meat, which really needs no such help.

I am pleased to report that our most recent visit to The Grill reveals that this popular venue is a good as we remembered.

ROOM SERVICE

As I mentioned earlier, there are many times on a long cruise that Rickee and I will just stay in our suite, relax and enjoy room service. Unlike most cruise lines, room service on Silversea is something to look forward to. It starts with our calling Roland, our butler, to place the order. He arrives with a tray of food and converts the dining table into an elegant table setting with white tablecloth, silver flatware and china. It is just like eating in The Restaurant, but with a TV! In fact, during dining hours, you can order from the Restaurant menu and have items delivered to your suite course-by-course if you desire.

Probably the most popular room service item is breakfast. Silversea provides cards that you can fill out and leave on your suite door the night before so that your breakfast will be brought to your suite the next morning at the requested time. If you forget to fill out the card, just call your butler. We did enjoy room service breakfast one morning and everything was delivered hot, fresh and delicious.

If you wish, each afternoon your butler can deliver a selection of canapes to your suite. You can even order afternoon tea to be served in your suite. Nothing is impossible on a Silversea cruise!

PUBLIC SPACES

As the largest and newest ship in the Silversea fleet, Silver Spirit is capable of catering to 540 guests with a crew of 376. Even when sailing full, the staff-to- guest ratio is one of the highest in the industry. The ship is designed so that even when sailing full, guests will never feel crowded or cramped. Standing in line is an experience that Silversea guests rarely, if ever, have to endure.

THE BAR

One of the most popular meeting spots on Silversea ships is The Bar. Typically located just behind the show lounge on other vessels, The Bar on Silver Spirit departs from this tradition and is positioned amidship, almost as part of the reception area. Decorated in cool blue and gold, The Bar invites guests throughout the day to socialize and enjoy complimentary cocktails, soft drinks or specialty coffees. There is a small dance floor, and musical entertainment is offered throughout the day and evening.

BOUTIQUES

Located forward on Deck 8 are the boutique shops. The collection of duty-free shops offers guests a wide selection of designer jewelry, perfumes, watches, fashions and clothing. Silversea logo items have been expanded and there is also a small selection of sundries in case you left home without sunscreen, or in my case, a toothbrush!

LIBRARY/INTERNET CAFE

The well-stocked Library is located aft on Deck 7, just forward of La Terrazza. There are hundreds of popular hardback titles neatly arranged behind glass doors. Unlike some other ships, you are not required to "check out" a book. Simply choose your book, take it with you and return it when you are finished. What you won't find in The Library is a DVD selection of movies. Silver Spirit is the only Silversea ship with an interactive movie-on-demand system making DVDs unnecessary. There are more than 190 movies on the menu to be enjoyed in your suite and all are complimentary!

Integrated into The Library is the Internet Cafe. There are seven workstations where guests can log onto the Internet to check email, browse the web, etc. Internet rates are competitive with other cruise lines and can be purchased in discount packages:

  • By the minute $.50 cents
  • 100 minutes for $45
  • 250 minutes for $85
  • 1000 minutes for $25

For those on longer cruises, the 1000 minute plan gets the per-minute rate down to $.25 cents, the lowest we have seen on any ship. Internet service can also be accessed via the ship's Wi-Fi wireless system and we had no problems getting a good connection from our Silver Suite on Deck 11.

FITNESS CENTER AND SPA

The Fitness Center located on Deck 8 is a great place for guests to work off those extra pounds that come from indulging in all the excellent dining on Silver Spirit. There is a very nice selection of treadmills, upright and recumbent bicycles, elliptical trailers, free weights and weight machines. Complimentary classes in yoga, stretching, aerobics and Pilates are conducted by the onboard fitness trainer. A personal trainer is also available for an additional charge.

The 8,300 square-foot Spa is a sanctuary of personal bliss. The nine treatment rooms, indoor/outdoor relaxation areas, and outdoor whirlpool make this the most elaborate spa in the fleet. Guests can indulge in a wide range of therapies including facials, body wraps, massages and even acupuncture.

Men and women's saunas and steam rooms are are a great way to relax before or after your spa treatment or after a workout. An outdoor relaxation area offers bar service so you can enjoy a complimentary fruit smoothie, champagne or cocktail while soaking in the expansive spa whirlpool.

OBSERVATION LOUNGE

Located all the way forward on Deck 11 is The Observation Lounge. This lounge is just steps away from our Silver Suite (1106) and is a great place to enjoy scenic sea days. Cocktails and canapes are served here each evening before dinner making this a relaxing alternative to The Bar on Deck 5.

PANORAMA LOUNGE

Every Silversea ship features a Panorama Lounge and they are always popular gathering spots for taking in expansive views of the ocean or the day's port-of-call. Often used for Afternoon Tea or as the evening disco, The Panorama is an excellent place to enjoy a cocktail before or after dinner. On our cruise, team trivia is held each day in Panorama.

SHOW LOUNGE

No day would be complete without at least one visit to the Show Lounge on Deck 5. The large stage is flanked by two movie screens that bring you up-close to the action. The Show Lounge is an excellent venue during the day for Silversea's extensive lecture series, cooking demonstrations and big-screen movies and, in the evening, production shows and performances by guest entertainers. The seating is comfortable and there really is not a bad seat in the house.

CASINO

The Casino on Deck 8 features roulette, blackjack, poker games and slot machines. Gaming tournaments were held and the casino staff offered gaming lessons several times during the cruise. You have to be 18 years of age to play in the casino.

MEDICAL CENTER

There is a Medical Center onboard staffed with a doctor and nurse who are available 24 hours a day. Some medications are available. Opening hours are printed in the daily Chronicles. Be sure to have travel insurance as a visit to the doctor on a ship is never inexpensive. Rickee developed what she felt was a cold about three days into the cruise and visited the onboard Medical Center where the doctor examined her and prescribed three medications. The total charge was $195.40.

LAUNDERETTES

Even though Silversea offers laundry, pressing and dry cleaning services for a fee, there are also complimentary self-service launderettes located next to the forward staircases on Decks 5-11.

ACTIVITIES & ENTERTAINMENT

Shipboard activities and entertainment become even more important when you are at sea for several days in a row. One reason some cruise enthusiasts shy away from transoceanic sailings is the fear that they will be boring. If there is a line between boring and relaxing, Silversea is firmly on the correct side of that line. Cruise Director, Don Fluke, and his team did an excellent job of keeping guests occupied with a variety of activity and entertainment options. Silversea arranged for a gentleman dance host to be onboard to dance with the ladies.

LECTURES

Silversea has always had an excellent enrichment program, and this cruise was no exception. We have really come to enjoy the lecture series over the years and leave every Silversea cruise feeling that we have learned something new. Silversea obviously emphasizes enrichment on sailings with several days at sea. On our sailing, we really enjoyed lectures by Morton Dean, former CBS and ABC correspondent. We especially enjoyed his video clips from his assignments as a Vietnam war correspondent. He and his wife Mary also joined us on our 13-hour tour to Marrakech, Morocco.

In addition to Mr. Dean, there were three other informative lecturers on this voyage. We had previously sailed with Ambassador Adrian Sindall during a Silversea cruise in the Middle East a few years ago. It was nice to see him again and hear his excellent series on diplomacy and Middle East politics. Biologist Dr. George Losey educated us about all things ocean and Dr. Jerry Labriola enlightened us on crime and why criminals do what they do and also analyzed some famous trials.

You probably won't find this anywhere else on the Internet. Below is the actual prize list and number of points required for each. And of course, this is subject to change at any time.

THE ARTISTS OF SILVERSEA

Silversea has revamped their entertainment program with a series of concert-style productions created exclusively for Silversea by Choozi Entertainment. The Artists of Silversea feature a cast of classically trained vocalists, and the new shows offer a unique variety of musical styles including Motown, opera, pop and rock.

Evening entertainment on Silver Spirit begins in The Show Lounge at 10pm most evenings. The Artists of Silversea, the ship's cadre of classically trained vocalists, performed four shows during our cruise: "FABBAlicious!" was a tribute to ABBA; "Signed, Sealed, Delivered", featured the music of Motown; and "Decades", was a musical extravaganza that brought famous stars to life. One production was held al fresco around the pool: "Voices... The Billy Joel Songbook." Individual members of the troupe were featured in their own shows. For example, James Martin starred in "Broadway's Best and More" and the graceful Dian Meechai took the stage in "An Evening With Dian Meechai." In addition, The Artists of Silversea can be found performing at other venues around the ship. We were entertained by the jazz duo of Michelle Yap and Seandrea Earls while dining at STARS Supper Club. Michelle and Sonny performed poolside during our dinner at The Grill. Other entertainers who appeared in different venues around the ship included: pianist, Alfredo; pianist Eric O'Bach; The Silver Spirit Trio; and DJ Oskar.

Silver Spirit featured several guest entertainers in The Show Lounge. Piano showman Kyle Esplin entertained and international violinist, Ralph Allin impressed all with his prowess on the violin.

MOVIES AND TELEVISION

As mentioned previously, Silversea offers more than 190 movie choices through the ship's interactive video/TV system. All movies are complimentary and you can even save, pause, rewind, etc. when watching a movie. As for television programming, it mostly involves international news channels. CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, Fox News, Sky News and BBC are all available. There are also several channels of closed-circuit TV showing various ship-related information such as the view from the bridge camera, shore excursion information, a Wine and Food channel, Spa & Boutique information, as well as a channel where you can view replays of the enrichment lectures.

THE SILVERSEA EXPERIENCE

We met a couple at lunch on the Marrakech tour. Mike is a doctor in Kansas traveling with his wife Patty. Mike is not your "typical" cruise enthusiast. He could not care less about formal nights, trivia, Silversea points or even lectures for that matter. Mark is after one thing and one thing only: relaxation. His idea of the perfect vacation is relaxing by the pool with his favorite book. He does not want to "have to" be anywhere at any particular time. He gets enough of that in his every day work life. I think Mike exemplifies the "Silversea Experience." On Silversea, you can do pretty much anything you want, or nothing at all, and do it in unequaled style.

Silversea is being greeted with a glass of Champagne at embarkation. Silversea is having a butler that can figure out how to hook up your iPod to the television to play a movie. Silversea is making new friends from around the world. Silversea is 5-star dining, even in the comfort of your suite. Silversea is visiting exciting and exotic destinations. Silversea is having staff that call you by name. Silversea is never having to sign a ticket for a bottle of water, glass of champagne or soft drink. There are other great cruise lines, but there is only one Silversea.

Palladium Ring for a Matchless Wedding Band

For many couples who want a different wedding band that will get them envious stares and appreciative glances from all corners, platinum remained their preferred option. An extremely precious and hardy material, platinum is the white metal that can stand the torture of a century to remain the same. However, not many can buy an exorbitantly priced platinum ring crafted with diamonds as an ounce of platinum usually trades at more than $2000.

Keeping these requirements of the people in mind, jewelers have come up with different white metals such as titanium and white gold. Though white in color, they are not actually the fitting alternatives of platinum. Gold is yellowish in nature and to make it white, it is mixed with nickel to get a whitish color. Then the ring is coated with a layer of rhodium, a different white metal. Titanium cannot be at any level compared with platinum as it is often used as fashion jewelry. Hence, palladium ring has become a well-admired alternative option for platinum.

Palladium rings exhibit the same characteristics of platinum as it belongs to the same family of Platinum Group Metals. Sharing nearly the identical physical properties like platinum with durability, hardiness, and tarnish-proof glossiness with hypoallergenic qualities, palladium is a white metal that comes with a less expensive tag. You can find a comprehensive assortment of excitingly beautiful wedding bands in premium white metal of palladium. This metal is way whiter than white gold and much less pricey than the costly platinum. Palladium is the best choice when you consider the best properties and values of the available white metals in the market.

While you choose a palladium wedding band, ensure that you opt for the most prominent jewelers in the industry who will offer you the perfect and best worth for the money you will invest. Go for the best jeweler using the latest technology to create the palladium rings. The best thing about well-known jewelers is that they will offer you guarantee and warranty for a specific period of time. You can opt for the basic design of a simple wedding band for yourself or for your sweetheart. These collections are designed enviably beautifully for men as well as women. With so many designs available in palladium wedding rings, you can be sure of finding the best suitable and unique wedding band to seal the everlasting vows for the years to come.

Responsive Web Design Is The Future And The Future Is Now

Websites designed only for a desktop computer become unusable for a mobile device.

Change! It's Always There

The Internet is an ever-evolving culture. And so are the devices that are used to access it. Gone are the days when the giant desktop was used in a corner of a room to browse through pages over the web. Even laptops are getting less used and favored over tablets.

Websites designed for a desktop computer become unusable for a mobile device, and vice versa. In such a scenario, it is not ideal to design different web pages for different devices. The entire user experience will become extremely cumbersome and inefficient. The user having to enter different addresses to access the same pages in different devices will just be the final nail in the coffin. The correct idea is to think mobile first.

Today's generation is happy surfing the Internet on their iPads, iPhones and Android phones, windows phones, tablets, netbooks and laptops.

One for All, All for One

A very simple solution to this dilemma was brought on by HTML5 and CSS3 and the genius that thought of designing a basic template that would go with all displays and automatically adjust itself with whatever display size the user is packing, the system being hailed as Responsive Web Design. The concept is similar to a white shirt in fashion; it goes with everything, every time.

The main target audience in today's world has to be users of mobile devices, like Apple and Android devices, be it tablets or smartphones. Everyone loves to stay connected, all the time, every time. However, a majority of them still feel that the ease and sheer size of a desktop is more comforting.

Google recommends webmasters follow the industry best practice of using responsive web design, namely serving the same HTML for all devices and using only CSS media queries to decide the rendering on each device.

Besides, in most developing countries, a desktop is the main mode of Internet browsing. Responsive Web Design gives you the power to cater to all your customers, irrespective of their device, to browse seamlessly on your Website.

Reasons to Implement Responsive Web Design:

  • One Website for every screen
  • Overall shorter site development cycle
  • Performs well in Google's search results
  • Provides the correct screen size Website resolution for visitors
  • 1 billion- number of global mobile Internet users by 2015

Why the Mobile Market?

With mobile data traffic rate doubling every year, it is definitely not a segment to overlook, because this is where a large percentage of Internet traffic is going. The numbers of mobile tablets are tripling every year, and they are responsible for almost twice the amount of data an average smartphone generates.

Even smartphones are growing every year. In fact, 2012 may be the year that Android overtook Apple's iOS on the amount of data transferred. Needless to say, today's world is totally dependent on the Internet, and it is reflected by people's addiction to mobile devices.

In conclusion, if you are thinking of getting a Website designed and developed you should really consider integrating a Responsive Website into your plans. By not doing this, you will be leaving out a mobile market that is growing at a rapid pace and therefore leaving out new visitors and/or potential customers. If you do already have a Website for your company, then planning a responsive web design upgrade, might be the plan for you.