Michael Cavacini

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Archive for the tag “Travel”

I’m Back From Mexico

My girlfriend and I are back from Mexico and it was a great trip. The weather was beautiful almost every day except for the last – but I’ll take a rainy day in the 60s over a chilly snowy day in Philly anytime. We went snorkeling with sea turtles and fish and visited Mayan ruins in Coba and Tulum. We also ate a ton of food, including a chocolate cake I couldn’t seem to get enough of at the “Cupcake Cafe” (i.e., Starbucks) on the resort. All in all, it was a great vacation and a fitting way to celebrate being in a relationship with my girlfriend for one year. For those interested, I highly recommend checking out Mexico; it’s a beautiful destination worth exploring.

We stayed at Sandos Playacar in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

We stayed at Sandos Playacar in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

Our room was very nice and featured a jacuzzi.

Our room was very nice and featured a jacuzzi.

This was a great spot by the pool to relax, read or take a nap.

This was a great spot by the pool to relax, read or take a nap.

Here's a view of the beach from 5th Avenue in downtown Playa del Carmen.

Here’s a view of the beach from 5th Avenue in downtown Playa del Carmen.

I was convinced to partake in a Fish Spa treatment where small toothless fish remove dead skin from your feet. You could also refer to it as a nautical pedicure.

I was convinced to partake in a Fish Spa treatment where small toothless fish remove dead skin from your feet. You could also refer to it as a nautical pedicure.

Here's a closeup of the fish in action. It just tickled and felt like small vibrations. While the end result wasn't nearly as smooth as a pedicure, it wasn't bad for $10.

Here’s a closeup of the fish in action. It just tickled and felt like small vibrations. While the end result wasn’t nearly as smooth as a pedicure, it wasn’t bad for $10.

Here's a photo of us with a Shaman after he performed a ceremony asking the spirits to allow us to enter a Mayan cenote.

Here’s a photo of us with a Shaman after he performed a ceremony asking the spirits to allow us to enter a Mayan cenote.

And here's the cenote, which featured sea turtles and bats.

And here’s the cenote, which featured sea turtles and bats.

We had the opportunity to visit a Mayan family's home during our tour of Coba.

We had the opportunity to visit a Mayan family’s home during our tour of Coba.

Here's an inside shot of the home. They live very simply, and seeing this and learning how the community is economically and educationally deprived, made me more grateful for what I have here in the United States.

Here’s an inside shot of the home. Seeing this and learning how the community is economically and educationally deprived, made me more grateful for what I have here in the United States.

Here's that chocolate cake I mentioned earlier - it was amazing.

Here’s that chocolate cake I mentioned earlier – it was amazing.

There were several pools throughout the resort.

There were several pools throughout the resort.

There was also a mini-golf course that we took advantage of. While I lost to my girlfriend multiple times while playing air hockey in the game room, I won at this activity.

There was also a mini-golf course that we took advantage of. While I lost to my girlfriend multiple times at air hockey in the game room, I won at this activity.

In addition to monkeys, donkeys and lizards, the resort had approximately 10 cats that lived there. They had their own area called "Cat Cafe." One of these adorable felines became attached to us - we name her Rosa and she visited us a couple times in our room.

In addition to monkeys, donkeys and lizards, the resort had approximately 10 cats that lived there. They had their own outdoor area called “Cat Cafe.” One of these adorable felines became attached to us – we named her Rosa and she visited us a couple times in our room.

We climbed a massive ruin in Coba - I did it on all fours to avoid falling because it was so steep.

We climbed a massive ruin in Coba – I did it on all fours to avoid falling because it was so steep.

Here we are at the top of the ruin - it may not be obvious but I was frightened to go down.

Here we are at the top of the ruin – it may not be obvious but I was frightened to take this photo … and climb back down.

Thankfully I made it to the bottom of the ruin by sliding down, step by step, on my butt and clinging to the rope going down the middle.

Thankfully I made it to the bottom of the ruin by sliding down, step by step, on my butt and clinging to the rope going down the middle.

Here we are getting ready to snorkel for the first time.

Here we are getting ready to snorkel for the first time.

The best part of snorkeling was the cute sea turtles - they would pop their heads above water every few minutes to breath.

The best part of snorkeling was the cute sea turtles – they would pop their heads above water every few minutes to breathe.

We also saw a stingray. Thankfully these photos were taken by the instructor, not us.

We also saw a stingray. Thankfully these photos were taken by the instructor, not us.

And, of course, we were surrounded by fish, which was a surreal and somewhat scary experience.

And, of course, we were surrounded by fish, which was a surreal and somewhat scary experience.

We also visited Tulum where there are Mayan ruins and a beautiful beach.

We also visited Tulum where there are Mayan ruins and a beautiful beach.

The gorgeous beach in Tulum.

The gorgeous beach in Tulum.

In between holes on the mini-golf course, we got to see a monkey up close.

In between holes on the mini-golf course, we got to see a monkey up close.

And here's an iguana named Poncho - he lives on the resort in a tree.

And here’s an iguana named Poncho blending in with the bottom left root of his tree house.

I’m Off To Mexico!

MexicoThis Saturday my girlfriend and I are flying to Mexico. We’re staying at an all-inclusive resort for a week, which should be great for a variety of reasons – one of which is it’s supposed to snow (again) here in Philly. During this trip I plan on eating a lot, snorkeling, exploring Mayan ruins as well as cenotes, and of course, lounging on the beach and by the pool while reading a great book. I won’t be posting anything until I return, but I’m sure I’ll have great photos and stories to share when I come back. Talk to you soon!

KISS Kruise III – A Wild Time

Meeting KISS on KISS Kruise III.

Meeting KISS on KISS Kruise III.

I’m now home from KISS Kruise III, my first cruise and, of course, my first vacation with KISS. Simply stated, it was an excellent trip that exceeded my expectations. Below is a day-by-day run down of all the crazy fun that took place during my vacation – including a plethora of photos and videos for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

KISS Kruise III: The Pre-Party 

Meeting Sophie Tweed Simmons at The Pre-Party.

Meeting Sophie Tweed Simmons at The Pre-Party.

Meeting the exceptionally talented KISS studio musician, Bob Kulick, at The Pre-Party.

Meeting the exceptionally talented KISS studio musician, Bob Kulick, at The Pre-Party.

I got to Miami on Sunday, October 27, a day before setting sail with KISS to get the festivities going at a pre-party hosted by the KISS Kruise fan group, KISS Kruise Maniacs. It was an awesome all-day affair filled with food, drink, music, and a handful of celebrities, including Gene Simmons’ daughter, Sophie Tweed Simmons – who I got my photo with (see above). While all the musical acts at The Pre-Party were entertaining, as evidenced by the videos below, the best was the KISS tribute band Mr. Speed:

KISS Kruise III: Day One

Photo by Will Byington.

Photo by Will Byington.

Day one of KISS Kruise III was kicked off with an acoustic, unmasked concert by KISS. As you’ll see in the clips below, KISS sounded awesome and was in great spirits. Below is a photo of the planned set list but the fans were yelling out additional songs, and KISS wasn’t afraid to shake things up, which made for an intimate and unpredictable show.

IMG_0255KISS fans love merchandise, so I headed straight for the store on ship after KISS’ concert. At first, I bought one t-shirt but then I quickly succumbed to the urge to buy two more. I think all three (see below) look great. Aside from t-shirts, there were beach towels, autographed photos, drumsticks, etc. for fans to buy – and buy they did. By the end of the cruise several of the items were sold out.

photo 1

In addition to KISS, there were multiple concerts happening the first night, including shows by Vintage Trouble, Leogun and a midnight performance by PRISS – the all-female KISS tribute band the fans voted to be included on KISS Kruise III. While I didn’t catch every act on Monday night, I did see these three and I was most impressed by Vintage Trouble, a fantastic new band that’s best described as a fusion of classic rock and R&B. Below are a couple songs from their debut album, The Bomb Shelter Sessions.

 

KISS Kruise III: Day Two

Key West

When I awoke on the second day, the boat was docked at the port in Key West, Florida. Having heard only good things about Key West, I quickly grabbed breakfast and headed for the beach, which, as you can see from the photo above and video below, was gorgeous. In the future, I’d love to come back to Key West so I can spend several days exploring what it has to offer.

Night Ranger's lead guitarist, Brad Gillis, rocking out on KISS Kruise III.

Night Ranger’s lead guitarist, Brad Gillis, rocking out on KISS Kruise III.

When I returned to the ship, I cleaned up, got something to eat and headed to the Night Ranger concert. My cabin mate, Carey, loves Night Ranger, so he was pumped for the show. At the time, the only song I knew by the band was Sister Christian, which I thought was overplayed. Nevertheless, I went with an open mind and hoped for the best. I was delightfully surprised by the guitar-heavy performance and lead singer’s (i.e., Jack Blades) excellent stage presence. In addition to the hits, Night Ranger performed a couple songs by Jack Blades’ former supergroup, Damn Yankees. The band also did Crazy Train by Ozzy Osbourne since Night Ranger’s lead guitarist, Brad Gillis, used to be in Ozzy’s band prior to joining Night Ranger. My favorite song from the set, which I’ve included below, was “When You Close Your Eyes,” a fantastic, upbeat ballad I kept singing hours after the concert ended.

While checking out the ship after the Night Ranger concert, I came across the body paint artist who was busy at work painting hordes of KISS fans so they looked like their idols. As you can see from the photo below, one woman took body paint to another level by having the name of a KISS song, “Strutter,” painted across her chest.

KISS Kruise III - Body Paint

With a KISS fan who decided to show her support for the band through body paint.

KISS performed the first of its two indoor, in-makeup concerts and Carey was headed to the show. My ticket was for the following night, so I, along with the other fans who were seeing the second show, congregated in the Crystal Atrium to watch a simulcast of the concert on a large digital screen.

Fans in the Crystal Atrium watching a simulcast of the first indoor KISS concert.

Fans in the Crystal Atrium watching a simulcast of the first indoor KISS concert.

After the KISS concert, Carey took part in the drum-off qualifier. The winners of the qualifier would go on to compete against one another to get the chance to have a drum-off with KISS drummer Eric Singer the following day. While Carey didn’t make it to the finals, I was very impressed by his skills. Check out the video below to see him beat the skins:

KISS Kruise III: Day Three

Meeting Doc McGhee.

Meeting Doc McGhee.

Day three was a big day. I met and had my photo taken with KISS and got to see the band perform. I also met the band’s manager, Doc McGhee, an icon in the music industry who’s managed everyone from James Brown to Mötley Crüe. In addition to meeting Doc, I had the chance to ask him a question during his Q&A session on the pool stage (see the video below).

I also decided to attend the Gene Simmons Pick Throwing Contest. Here’s how it worked: Fans with superior guitar pick throwing skills competed against one another to determine who would go up against the guitar-pick-throwing God of Thunder, Gene Simmons. Staff was holding buckets of varying sizes throughout the crowd and each one was worth a certain amount of points. The person with the most points won. Well, when Gene Simmons came on stage something interesting happened. Check out the video below to see what I mean:

Meeting KISS was very cool but, as expected, it was a rushed affair. With thousands of people on the boat that need to get their photo with KISS, the staff needed to keep things moving swiftly. I got a photo with the band 10 years ago when I met them at a meet-and-great for the release of the KISS Symphony: Alive IV album, so I knew what to expect. That said, I think the organizers of the cruise should extend the amount of time people have with the band to make it a more personalized experience. I’m sure many fans would forgo other activities to make this happen. Being fully prepared for a brief encounter with the band, I made sure my hair was perfect and thought long and hard about where to stand when I got to the front. Since I’m tall, I decided not to stand in the middle, where I would, more than likely, block the drummer’s face. Instead, I headed straight for my favorite band member, Paul Stanley, put my arm around him, and gave the cameraman a big smile. Thankfully, the end result was a great photo that I’ll treasure for years to come.

The set list from the indoor, in-makeup KISS concert I attended.

The set list from the indoor, in-makeup KISS concert I attended.

After meeting the band, I headed straight to the Stardust Theater for their concert. The set list was almost identical to the previous night’s concert, no doubt because KISS wanted to treat all the fans to the same great show. While KISS performed some of its mainstays like “Shout It Out Loud” and “Lick It Up,” the band also played several obscure songs fans normally never hear but love, including “Almost Human” and “The Oath.” As always, the hour-and-a-half concert was closed out with a rousing rendition of “Rock and Roll All Nite.”

KISS Kruise III: Day Four

On the last full day of the trip, I woke up in the Bahamas – Great Stirrup Cay to be exact. Despite it being an island owned by the cruise line, it was a beautiful destination with white sand and gorgeous water. Even better, a stage was set up on the beach so everyone could enjoy live music while basking in the sun or floating in the ocean. Both bands, Radiolucent and Big Rock Show – a classic rock cover band – kept the day lively and enjoyable. This may have been the most relaxing part of the entire trip – I loved it.

IMG_0448After getting back on the ship, Carey and I grabbed dinner and headed to the KISS Q&A on the pool deck. Since we got there early, we were very close to the stage, and I was able to record several of the questions asked by fans. Check them out below:

Meeting the hilarious Craig Gass.

Meeting the hilarious Craig Gass.

After the KISS Q&A, Carey and I quickly headed to Craig Gass’ stand-up comedy show, which was hilarious. It being KISS Kruise III, Craig, who performed on the first KISS Kruise, spent the majority of his routine focused on KISS-related jokes, including impersonations of Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. For a taste of his excellent sense of humor, check out his roast of Gene Simmons below:

We closed out the night with two concerts: Vintage Trouble and Night Ranger. This time around, Carey and I were against the stage for Vintage Trouble, and they were amazing. As an added surprise, Evan Stanley, the son of KISS lead singer Paul Stanley, joined the band on guitar for a cover of a classic Ike and Tina Turner song; thankfully, I filmed this moment and you can check it out below, along with another great Vintage Trouble song, “Gracefully.”

Night Ranger capped off the trip with a blistering performance, and KISS’ lead guitarist, Tommy Thayer, joined the band for its final number, “(You Can Still) Rock In America.” And since it was Halloween, many of the fans in the crowd were dressed up in a variety of outfits – everything from Smurfs to Freddy Krueger.

Night Ranger performing on the last night of KISS Kruise III.

Night Ranger performing on the last night of KISS Kruise III.

IMG_0621

Comin’ Home.

KISS Kruise III was an excellent vacation that’s best described as an annual music festival on a ship. In addition to celebrating the impressive body of work that KISS has created over the past 40 years, KISS Kruise celebrates the bands of tomorrow. It’s not about nostalgia, it’s about the power and evolution of music, and its ability to unite fans from 33 countries for a week of pure bliss.

KISS Kruise III Is Almost Here!

KISS Pic

Meeting KISS in the summer of 2003 right after their new album, KISS Symphony: Alive IV, was released.

This Sunday I head to Miami for KISS Kruise III. KISS is my all-time favorite rock band, and as you can see from the photo above, I had the honor of meeting them 10 years ago. So spending five days at sea with KISS is naturally the only way to top that first experience. Not only will I get to see them perform twice – an acoustic set without makeup and a show with makeup and the whole nine yards – but I’ll also get to meet and get my photo with the band, see other concerts on the ship, including Night Ranger, and engage in numerous fun activities, not to mention all the standard fare that comes along with cruises. Simply stated, it’s going to be an awesome trip I’ll be talking about for years to come. You won’t hear from me until I return, but when I do I’m sure I’ll have plenty of stories, photos and videos to share.

Until then, here are some clips from previous KISS Kruises:

KISS Kruise III – I’ll Be There!

KISS Kruise III

This October I’ll be boarding my first cruise, but it won’t be just any cruise. It’ll be KISS Kruise III. What is a KISS Kruise, you ask? It’s a five-day luxury cruise with the “Hottest Band in the World,” KISS. This is the third year the band is setting off on this rock and roll sea voyage, and I felt the need to experience it at least once in my lifetime.

KISS Kruise III - What You GetThe cruise itself is a round trip from the Port of Miami to Key West and Great Stirrup Cay. It includes admission to two KISS concerts, one of which is an acoustic sail-away show without makeup. Everyone also gets a photo with the band and a pre-autographed commemorative item. Members of the “KISS Navy” also get to participate in a KISS Q&A and engage in group activities with the band members in between concerts.

KISS Kruise III - DestinationsIn addition to KISS, other bands will be providing a steady supply of rock and roll concerts for people to enjoy. As of right now, three bands are scheduled to join KISS on this year’s cruise: Night Ranger, Leogun and Big Rock Show.

And just like regular cruises, all meals and non-carbonated beverages are included in the ticket price. Of course, certain activities and items come at an additional cost, like gambling, spa services and various off-board activities in Key West and Great Stirrup Cay.

Considering all the great music, activities and food that’s covered by the price of admission – not to mention the vacation itself – I think this is a great deal. It’s going to be an amazing trip filled with wild stories and crazy experiences that I look forward to sharing with you on my blog.

Until then, check out the acoustic sail-away show and Q&A with KISS’ Manager, Doc McGhee, from KISS Kruise II in 2012:

Book Review: Now You See Her

James Patterson is arguably America’s most popular author. He’s sold 260 million books worldwide and holds the record for most hardcover fiction titles to appear on The New York Times Bestseller list: 76. Needless to say, he’s everywhere – even my shore house.

During my trip to Ocean City last week, I found a copy of Now You See Her in the living room. This title caught my eye last summer when it was first released, so I was determined to finish it before coming back to Philadelphia. Like many of Patterson’s books, it was a gripping adventure filled with unpredictable twists and turns.

Here’s the book’s official description from James Patterson’s website:

The perfect life
A successful lawyer and loving mother, Nina Bloom would do anything to protect the life she’s built in New York–including lying to everyone, even her daughter, about her past. But when an innocent man is framed for murder, she knows that she can’t let him pay for the real killer’s crimes.

The perfect lie
Nina’s secret life began 18 years ago. She had looks to die for, a handsome police-officer husband, and a carefree life in Key West. When she learned she was pregnant with their first child, her happiness was almost overwhelming. But Nina’s world is shattered when she unearths a terrible secret that causes her to run for her life and change her identity.

The perfect way to die
Now, years later, Nina risks everything she’s earned to return to Florida and confront the murderous evil she fled. In a story of wrenching suspense, James Patterson gives us his most head-spinning, action-filled story yet–a Hitchcock-like blend of unquenchable drama and pleasure.

Similar to his previous works, Now You See Her started off with a bang and didn’t let go until the last page. It moved at a break-neck pace and featured over-the-top action. Moreover, the characters were believable and the villains’ dialogue was delicious. While Patterson’s prose would never be confused with Stephen King’s, if you suspend your disbelief and give Now You See Her a shot, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Below is an interview with James Patterson about Now You See Her:

Summer In The City

Reading “Now You See Her” by James Patterson while on the beach in Ocean City, NJ.

Many of you may not know this, but I work two jobs (one part-time and one full-time) and I’m in graduate school at Temple University. I also just started a novel, produce this blog and contribute to Examiner.com. Needless to say, I needed a vacation, which is why I’m writing this from Ocean City, NJ.

I hope all of you take some time this summer to relax, unwind and do something you enjoy. Whether you decide to go camping, rock climbing or to the beach, have fun. Life is about balance. It may be hard to find, but we all need it.

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