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Cookier-A-Go-Go: The Tale of an Itinerant Teacher Continues with Cookie Cruise 2015 (Part One)

OK, so I lied. Last week, I said the Saturday Spotlight would resume as usual this week, and I honestly thought it would at the time . . . But as I sat down to sift through the various photos on various hot lists, it dawned on me that I never did write a proper Cookie Cruise recap.


Even if you're okay with that oversight, I'm not . . . while my trip recaps can be a little self indulgent (yes, I admit to liking to reflect on good times past), they are also the best way I have of publicly thanking those who made these communal cookie experiences happen. So I hope you'll humor me (again) for a bit . . .




Let me start this recap by thanking Ginny McCormick-Levack of Creative Cookier and her husband Doug Levack for masterminding and executing this first-ever cookie event on the high seas! As if prepping over 1,000 cookies for 50 Cookie Cruisers wasn't enough, imagine schlepping all of this cargo onto a cruise ship! Further imagine suffering zero cookie casualties with 2,700 other non-Cookie Cruisers buoyantly sharing tight deck and cabin space. Yes, Ginny and Doug were the ultimate organizers, dampening every possible ripple and ensuring nothing but smooth sailing the entire way. (I know, I know, enough with the nautical metaphors . . .)


Wednesday, January 21, 2015


The cruise officially began for me and most of the others cruise-goers on solid ground on Wednesday evening. We gathered in Galveston, Texas, the launching point for our Carnival Cruise Line jaunt to Cozumel, for a meet-and-greet followed by dinner at Bubba Gump's at the Galveston Pleasure Pier.


At the meet-and-greet, cruise-goers blinged out their name tags (prizes would be given out later for the best bling) and also got their first glimpse of the event sponsors'* incredible generosity. Whoa - get a load of what was in just one swag bag!


One of the gals Swag bag bounty!

The bounty from one swag bag! Thanks, sponsors!



Galveston Pleasure Pier, site of our kick-off dinner.



Ginny McCormick-Levack and Doug Levack, our able event organizers, at dinner. (Sheesh, by now, I was hoping you'd be able to appreciate the virtues of my new iPhone camera . . . I'm beginning to think my perennial photo issues might just be my fault! No, Ginny and Doug aren't usually this dark and blurry. )



About one-third of the night's dinner guests.


Boy, was the pier ever true to its name. "Pleasure" was definitely the watchword of the evening! In addition to meeting a lot of cookiers I had only known through Facebook, which was a blast, everyone got to witness the generosity of the event sponsors* for the second time. Sometime around mid-dinner, Ginny launched the first of the cruise's never-ending giveaways - and the crowd went mad! 


But the dinner revelry eventually did come to an end. The instructors had marching orders from Ginny to report to her hotel room at 8:30 pm sharp to review the loading plans for the next day. With 1,000 cookies and roughly five large cartloads of supplies to get on board, we all had to be on our A-game.


It was during this briefing from Ginny that I first fully internalized the abundance of love and care that she, Doug, and her Dream Team of fellow organizers put into every aspect of the event. Below are just 11 or so of the 50 total boxes that housed the cookies for my heart box class. Each box had been double- and then triple-wrapped in plastic by Doug to make sure the ocean humidity would not dampen the cookies before the class. Now that's attention to detail!


Knowing that my class and I were in good hands, I rested soundly that evening, as I rarely do the night before a big event!



In Ginny's room, some of the carefully wrapped boxes for my class.


Day One (Officially): Thursday, January 22, 2015


Today, my roomie (Pam Sneed aka CookieCrazie) and I awoke bright and early, ready to assist with the cookie and supply load-in on the cruise ship. While most cruise-goers would enter the boat around noon, Ginny, Doug, instructors, and Dream Team members were granted early morning "priority" check-in access to avoid the madding crowds.


As much as we had agonized about bureaucratic security checkpoints and cart-unfriendly stairs and escalators, getting our stuff onto the ship went without a hitch. (Mind you, this was in no small part due the careful choreography of packing boxes, bungee cords, and collapsible carts all pre-engineered by Doug.)



Doug, outside the Carnival Cruise entrance, unloading boxes from the cars and re-loading them onto collapsible carts for the long journey into the cruise line terminal.



Once inside the terminal, we had some chilling to do before security opened. Pictured here with three of our five carts: fellow instructors Cristin Sohm of Cristin's Cookies (in pink, of course), Pam Sneed of CookieCrazie (looking down), and Monica Holbert of Cookie Cowgirl with friend (aka cookie minion) Rachel. 



There was more waiting once we were beyond security, before we could board the boat. But note the relaxed looks on our faces; by this time, we had gotten past our most feared checkpoints. Pictured far left: Pam Sneed and Cristin Sohm.



Some five hours after we started the day, we finally boarded the boat. Wow, it was Vegas-like in its grandeur!



First stop was for late afternoon sustenance - a lunch at the well-stocked buffet on Deck 9 - with Pam, Monica, Cristin, and Shannon Heupel of Artfully Designed Creations, pictured left. 



Next stop was my cozy cabin, where I was greeted by this somewhat startling towel art. Whaddya think? Monkey or skinned turkey?! Yikes!


Phew! What a production! Who knew it would take the better part of a day to get all of the class supplies and instructors on the ship?! But we made it with no cookies overboard!


The boat ultimately left Galveston for Cozumel around 4:30 pm, and even with "the patch" behind my ear, it took me some time to get my sea legs. We had rough waters, so while all of the cruise-goers broke bread later that night, dinner conversation was tenuous at best!  


I returned to my cabin early to check my supply suitcase (fortunately, no food coloring explosions!) and to review my notes for the next day. According to Ginny's schedule, I needed to be in the London Dining Room on Deck 3 at 6 am sharp on Friday to set up for my all-day class starting at 8 am. Better get to bed, because tomorrow was going to be another busy day!

Day Two: Friday, January 23, 2015


Eager to get a jumpstart on setting up for my class, I arrived at the London Dining Room at 5:45 am to find Ginny and Doug already there unloading supplies. (Bless their hearts!)


Truth be told, I'd never done a hands-on class for so many people as I would today (all 50-plus cruise-goers), so the work stations would need to be masterfully organized to avoid chaos. I quickly set to work. Minutes later, Tammy Colitti of 2 T's Stencils and her husband Todd (part of Ginny's Dream Team), Pam, Cristin, and the other instructors arrived to help out. This was how it was all weekend -  a true team effort, for which I was immensely grateful.


I don't have many pictures from the day, as I was too busy teaching how to make cookie heart boxes, natch! All I know is that the 6-hour class flew by in no time flat, and at the end, there were 50-plus amazing cookie boxes to show for it. I was truly impressed with everyone's work. Pictured below are some highlights. For more great student boxes, be sure to check out the album on my Facebook page.



A view of my classroom (sans students) from my demo station.



A view of my demo station from my classroom! All set up and ready to go!



One of 14 student work tables in action!



Pretty box lid displaying stenciling, stamping, and piping techniques.



Another gorgeous cookie box lid!


With the exception of a swaying demo table, a pastry cone that followed suit (the waters were still rough on Day Two), and some misbehaved frosting sheets, the class went as smoothly as I could have imagined - thanks to my many helpers! As sad as I was to see the class come to an end, I was eager to kick back and grab a drink at the late-night cookie swap in a few hours. And milk wasn't exactly what I had in mind to go with my cookies! 



A  sampling of cruise-goers' cookies at the late-night cookie swap.



More yummy cookie swap selections!


*Before I end this day, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out some key people - namely the event sponsors! Their generous donations led to several more giveaways during my class. All of the sponsors are listed below, but I'd like to personally thank a couple who went above and beyond the call of duty to help me. First, a huge hug to the lovely Tammy Colitti of 2 T's Stencils for custom-designing stencils to fit my heart box project. (She made four different designs, each equally beautiful, and every student got one!) And, second, a big shout-out to Taygun Basaran of Chefmaster for contacting me and offering to supply all of the food coloring for this event. I was - and still am - floored by their generosity!



Thanks to all of the Cookie Cruise 2015 sponsors!



And that's not all, folks!


I realize I'm only halfway through the cruise and this post is already very long, so let me end - for now - on this upbeat note.


But stay tuned . . . details of our day in Cozumel and classes by Pam, Cristin, Shannon, and Monica are yet to come in Part 2, slated to post sometime next week!



Images (21)
  • Cookie Cruise 2015 Banner: Courtesy of Creative Cookier
  • Swag Bag Bounty: Courtesy of Creative Cookier
  • Galveston Pleasure Pier, Site of Our First Dinner: Courtesy of Julia's New iPhone
  • Ginny McCormick-Levack and Doug Levack of Creative Cookier: Courtesy of Julia's New iPhone
  • About One-Third of the First Night Dinner Guests: Courtesy of Julia's New iPhone
  • Cookie Boxes for My Class, Wrapped with Love and Care: Courtesy of Julia's New iPhone
  • Doug Loading Carts Outside the Cruise Line Terminal: Courtesy of Julia's New iPhone
  • The Instructors Chilling, Waiting for Security to Open: Courtesy of Julia's New iPhone
  • Relaxing, Now That We're Past Security: Courtesy of Julia's New iPhone
  • Palatial Bar in Cruise Ship Entrance: Courtesy of Julia's New iPhone
  • Shannon and Cristin at Lunch: Courtesy of Julia's New iPhone
  • Startling Towel Art in My Cabin: Courtesy of Julia's New iPhone
  • A View of My Classroom from My Demo Station: Courtesy of Julia's New iPhone
  • A View of My Demo Station from My Classroom: Courtesy of Julia's New iPhone
  • A Student Work Table in Action: Courtesy of Julia's New iPhone
  • A Beautiful Cookie Box Lid: Courtesy of Julia's New iPhone
  • Another Gorgeous Cookie Box Lid: Courtesy of Julia's New iPhone
  • Cookies at the Cookie Swap: Courtesy of Julia's New iPhone
  • More Cookie Swap Selections!: Courtesy of Julia's New iPhone
  • Cookie Cruise 2015 Sponsors - Page 1: Courtesy of Julia's New iPhone
  • Cookie Cruise 2015 Sponsors - Page 2: Courtesy of Julia's New iPhone

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Comments (2)

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Thanks so much for your very kind words!  Doug and I feel more than a little bit lucky to have had such dedicated "Framily". (Friends that are like family). We had a great time!  I am so enjoying this recap!  We were a little busy while on board so this is a great look back!  I can't wait to read the rest!

Looked like such a fun time!  Julia, thanks for the recap - it was great to see the "behind the scenes" and the amazing work that went on.  Sweet Stackers was honored to be a sponsor for this event!  Looking forward to Part 2!!

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