Mac Mania: Cruising toward home

As I write this, we are on the penultimate day of the MacMania 8 Mediterranean cruise - five countries and eight ports of call in ten days.

This was my first MacMania Cruise and my first time on a cruise ship so I had little information to go on as to how this would all come together - and, for the most part, it has gone about as well as can be expected.

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MacMania 8: At sea at last

Macs at sea!

Going on your first cruise is exciting, fun, scary, challenging, frustrating, aggravating… And sometimes, all of that within moments of each other.

We boarded the ship (and what a ship it is - almost 300 meters or 320 yards long, 86 thousand tons with 900 crew members, 12 decks and a top speed of 22 knots or more than 25 mph and built in Helsinki, Finland in 2000) on Wednesday. According to several MacMania veterans, the boarding process on this particular ship took much longer (4 hours) and was much more disorganized than previous cruises on the Holland America line.

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Mac Mania 8: The journey begins

The author and an Italian beverage.

And so the “Trip of a Lifetime” Mac Mania 8 cruise, co-produced by InSight Cruises and Macworld, begins with a (much-delayed at JFK) flight into Rome’s Fiumicino Airport bright and early in the morning.

This particular cruise is in a part of the world I’ve always wanted to visit so when my wife (Lesa Snider King, author of the Photoshop CS4: The Missing Manual) asked if I wanted to go with her as she teaches Photoshop classes on the cruise, I jumped at the chance.

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Curacao, canals, and converting video

Hello again from the Caribbean! This is the second of two reports from MacMania 7, the latest installment in a series of Mac conferences that take place aboard a cruise ship on the move between various exotic ports of call.

In my previous dispatch, we had already visited Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas and Aruba in the Netherlands Antilles. Since then we’ve logged well over 1,000 nautical miles and visited even more ports, and onboard we’ve spent a lot of time talking about Macs and talking with our fellow Mac users.

On Wednesday our destination was another Dutch possession, the island of Curaçao. The island seems to be much wetter than Aruba, and it was definitely a warm and humid day. Our visit to Curaçao coincided with my daughter’s sixth birthday, so we splurged on a visit to the Curaçao Dolphin Academy so that we could all spend some time in close proximity to the dolphins. Suffice it to say that they are much, much bigger in person than you might expect from seeing them on TV.

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Leopard looms off Aruba

Hello from the Caribbean! Yes, it’s that time of year, when Macworld editors write about what's going on at the latest MacMania cruise —where dozens of Mac users (but not you) are mixing a fantastic, exotic vacation with the latest and greatest Mac info from a team of expert speakers.

This installment, MacMania 7, is a 10-day cruise in the Caribbean aboard the MS Volendam with the highlight of the trip being a passage into the Panama Canal. I say into and not through there because this isn’t one of those two-week, start in San Diego, end in Florida type itineraries. Instead, we depart and return to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. But in between those two stops, not only do we pass into Gatun Lake in the center of the Panama Canal, but we visit numerous Caribbean destinations.

Being mindful of the fact that the calendar is slouching toward the holidays, I have to point out that it seems to be 80 degrees and sunny everywhere we go. Today I met a guy from Chicago who pointed out that temperatures were in the 40s when he left home—good timing.

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Cruising for cameras

Many years ago—back when “digital camera” meant your images had the date and time stamped on them in that lovely LED font —I owned a 35mm single-lens reflex film camera. While I loved the picture quality, I grew tired of the work involved in setting up the camera to get those great shots. I also didn’t like lugging around all the gear—spare lenses and film, primarily. So at some point in time, I migrated to a “consumer” 35mm camera that had only a couple of modes to choose between and no lenses to swap.

When digital cameras came out, I stayed with the same “consumer” type cameras, preferring the small and light pocket digital cameras over their full-sized cousins. As of late, my camera of choice has been the Canon PowerShot SD400 (   ). It’s so small and light, it goes nearly everywhere with me, and it takes what I thought were decent pictures. However, the small digital cameras are generally limited to a 3x optical zoom, and I’ve often found myself wanting a better zoom. I also enjoy landscape photography, and wanted something that would let me get some better macro shots of the flowers in our garden. Because of these issues, I’ve been mulling over returning to the SLR world for a few months, but hadn’t actually done much about finding out which camera I’d like to buy.

Then something very lucky happened: Ken Smith of Glazer’s Camera arranged to bring a bunch of rental camera gear on the recent Mac Mania / Aperture Geek Cruise. Even better, Ken was making the equipment available to the Geek Cruisers for free , and he brought a lot of really nice stuff. As much as I was tempted to request the $4,500 EOS-1D Mark III, I figured my actual budget was going to be substantially lower than that when I did my post-cruise shopping.

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