Arrived in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii…Photos…

The city of Honolulu has grown into quite a metropolis.

It’s been 26 years since I’ve been to Hawaii. In my old life, BT (before Tom), I’d visited the islands on many occasions, each time enthralled by its beauty, reveling how each island offers its own unique environment and

Skyscrapers, office complexes, restaurants, hotels, and shopping line every major boulevard in Honolulu.

The Honolulu/Waikiki Beach area is a mass of people, vehicles, noise, and exorbitant prices, considerably more than I recall from many years ago. Nothing about this overcrowded area bespeaks the magic of Hawaii. The pace serves to remind us of why we prefer more remote locations.

The sky view is constantly changing when each of the islands has unique weather systems.

On October 5th, after visiting other islands by way of this cruise ship, as shown on this list below, we’ll return to Honolulu where we’ll disembark the cruise to stay for 11 nights: (See the list below for the dates we’ll stay in the islands)

Mon Sep 29 Honolulu, Oahu, HI 1:00 pm 

Tue Sep 30 Honolulu, Oahu, HI 8:00 pm 

Wed Oct 1 Kilauea Volcano, HI (Cruising) 

Wed Oct 1 Hilo, Hawaii, HI 11:00 am – 8:00 pm 

Thu Oct 2 Kona, Hawaii, HI 11:00 am – 8:00 pm 

Fri Oct 3 Lahaina, Maui, HI 8:00 am 

Sat Oct 4 Lahaina, Maui, HI 6:00 pm

Sun Oct 5 Honolulu, Oahu, HI 7:00 am  

Blue sky, blue sea, and vegetation depict Hawaii even in densely populated areas.

Here are our scheduled dates to remain in the Hawaiian Islands over the next
several months:

  • October 5 to October 16 – Waikiki Beach, Oahu
  • October 16 to December 1 – Maui
  • December 1 to January 15 – Big Island
  • January 15 to May 15 – Kauai
  • May 15 to May 24 – Honolulu, Oahu
Not unlike any other major city by the sea.

These extended dates on US soil will provide us with the opportunity to be with our family at Christmas on the Big Island, get medical checkups, have our teeth cleaned, do our taxes for 2014, renew our second
passports and any other necessary “paperwork” awaiting us. 

By the time we leave in May, we’ll be ready for the next exciting leg of our journey where we’ll spend over a year in Australia and the South Pacific.

They say driving and finding a parking spot in Honolulu is a nightmare. We’ll take taxis and buses while in Honolulu/Waikiki for twenty days, eleven on the front end, and nine on the back end of our almost eight months stay in the islands.

In all, we’ll be spending 20 days in the Honolulu/Waikiki area in the next almost eight-month resulting in a decision to avoid any tours during the ship’s short stays in the various ports of call. This island is the only one of four islands where we won’t have a rental car.

Several tourist boats were at the pier where the ship docked.

Surely, we’ll enjoy time on Oahu, seeing the sites and leisurely visiting points of interest with our condo in Waikiki as a base. Once we’re settled next week, we’ll be able to assess our location and means of public transportation which is readily available in the area.

Yesterday afternoon after the passengers disembarked for their tours, we found ourselves comfortably situated in chaise lounges by the pool. For once, it was easy finding a good spot for some fun in the sun.

Back at you tomorrow with more!

                                         Photo from one year ago today, September 30, 2013:

Flowers at the restaurant on this date one year ago. For details, please click here.

Hawaiian Islands, here we come…

Sunset from the Sky Lounge through the window glass.

By the time this post appears, we’ll be only hours away from a noon arrival to the island of Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands.

We chose this cruise as a means of transportation for us to get to Hawaii rather than flying. Why not have a place to live with meals prepared, entertainment, and every amenities at our fingertips? Add the opportunity to
meet many wonderful people and it sure beats the commotion at the airport.

Another sunset from our balcony.

As a result of that reality, we don’t feel compelled to do what other passengers may be choosing to do with their time, trying to “pack it all in” on a once or twice a year (or more for many) vacation/holiday.

By the time we arrive at our final destination at our vacation home in Waikiki Beach on October 5th, it will have been 35 days since departing Harwich, UK to board Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas and nine days later on Celebrity’s Solstice (which we’re on now). Of those 35 days, we’ll have spent 26 days at sea, 3 days in Boston, and 6 days in Vancouver.

We love the easy life of cruising, the ability to choose to do exactly that which appeals to us in a time frame we find pleasing. Although we’ve stayed busy most days, we’ve also enjoyed quiet time relaxing, visiting with other guests and each other.

Lounges in the Sky Lounge for a catnap, if needed.  We don’t ever lay down or nap during the day. It’s a nice thought, just not for us.

Yes, the seas have been rough but, it’s finally settled down and we barely feel the movement of the ship. Yes, we’ve had constant WiFi issues using the ship’s poor signal but later today, we’ll be able to use our MiFi for
a clear signal for the bulk of the remaining days on the ship. 

Yes, we would have liked to sit by the pool but, when people grab all the chairs by 9:00 am which we’d rather not do, we figured we’ll have plenty of time to sun and fun soon enough. 

Over the remaining six days of the cruise, most passengers will be partaking in ship sponsored excursions.  Since we’ll have rental cars on Maui, Big Island, and Kauai, we’ve decided not to go on the excursions when we
can create our own road trips over the many months on the islands.

The Sky Lounge is located on the 14th deck at the bow of the ship, an ideal quiet spot for us while posting. We’ve attended a few parties in this area.

We’ve already booked an almost all-day private tour to Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Oahu on October 13th
and surely others will follow. Oahu, a short 11-day stay is the only island where we won’t need a rental car with easy access to most venues and handy bus service outside our door.

That’s not to imply that we haven’t enjoyed many ship organized tours. We have immensely. They’re usually well planned, safe, and comprehensive. At times, the prices are reasonable. But, the 60-people-on-a-bus thing just doesn’t appeal to us. 

An art auction transpired in the Sky Lounge. Tom’s thrilled that we don’t own any walls” and can’t buy art on cruise ships.

As a result, we’ve resorted to smaller group tours of the same ship offered sites, often at a lower cost making the small group tours a no-brainer for us.

Over the next several days while most passengers are off the ship on excursions, we’ll be able to find chairs by the pool, relaxing at our leisure, knowing that our upcoming over seven months in Hawaii (10/5/2014 to 5/24/2015) will provide us with sufficient time to do everything we’d like to do, documenting every step along the way.
A photo of a painting at the art auction.
However, we will venture off the ship on our own into the various ports of call for exploration and photo-taking, all of which we’ll share with our readers over the next several days.

We’ll be back tomorrow morning with not only a better signal but, also some photos we’ll have taken of Honolulu, our first port of call in the islands, where ultimately, we’ll return to disembark on October

Stay tuned, dear loyal readers, it’s going to get exciting and colorful from here on!

                                        Photo from one year ago today, September 29, 2013:

A year ago, out to dinner in Diani Beach, Kenya. For details from that date, please click here.

Food on the Celebrity Solstice…High expectations…

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean in calmer waters.

This is our third Celebrity cruise of 10 cruises since January 3, 2013. From past experience we feel comfortable stating that Celebrity is our favorite cruise line for several reasons:

1.  Service: There is one staff member for every two passengers, making service over the top. Each time, we pass by an employee they smile and say hello, from the cabin stewards to the captain.

2. Cleanliness and general condition: No other cruise line we’ve experienced has this high level of perfection in maintaining every area of the ship, from the spotless common restrooms to the lounges and dining areas.

3.  No pressure to purchase extras: Many cruise lines have photographers constantly harassing the passengers to have their photos taken, others pestering for attendance at art auctions, and others annoyingly promoting spa services. The sales staff in the myriad shops are respectful don’t try to make a sale unless asked for help. We appreciate this.

All of these desserts in the  Al Bacio Bar are included in the fare., no purchase necessary. However, there is a charge for specialty coffees also available in this area.  Oddly, Tom wasn’t interested in anything in this case.

4.  The amenities:  Larger bathroom and showers, larger balconies, and larger cabins in this category. Robes are included in balcony cabins as well as shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion as opposed to cheap gels for hair and body. There are more areas where one can snack at no cost although specialty coffees and drinks are an extra charge. And, the desserts in the cases are included at no extra cost (those shown in photos).

5.  Parties are included for loyalty members (we’ve attended two so far) which include better quality cocktails and beverage options and upscale appetizers.

6.  Food: The food is of a higher quality including more menu choices and variety each evening in the dining room. 

No charge for a piece (or two) of this lovely strawberry cake.

As our readers are well aware, my way of eating can be tricky for staff to manage. With literally a few thousand diners to feed each evening in the main dining rooms, it’s hard for us to believe the special care given to my dietary needs. 

Natasha, one of the dining room managers, has paid such special attention to me, its almost embarrassing how often she checks to ensure I am happy during each evening at dinner.

I ended up ordering a second serving of this fabulous Pistachio Duck Terrine. 

For breakfast each day, we dine in the Oceanview buffet, an enormous buffet to accommodate everyone’s tastes and desires. Each morning, I order three fresh eggs over medium made to order and pile my plate with smoked salmon, bacon, cucumber slices, cream cheese, capers, and sautéed mushrooms, a satisfying meal that holds me all day until our usual 8:00 pm dinner.

For dinner, we dine in the Epernay Main Dining Room for those that choose “My Time” dining at whatever time we prefer. For us, a late dinner is ideal since we’re often still full from breakfast. Since many passengers eat at the earlier seating starting at 5:30 pm, our later dining results in a less busy, more relaxed environment.

Tom’s escargot was green due to the use of spinach in the buttery sauce. If I told him the green was spinach, he probably wouldn’t eat it.  He did!

We always request a shared table for no less than six away from the kitchen (too much commotion near the kitchen doors). This has worked out perfectly over the past five nights, each time resulting in meeting no less than
four new people. This couldn’t be more enjoyable.

Have they got my food right so far? Without a doubt, they haven’t given me a single item on my plate that I am unable to eat. Has the food been good for most of the meals? Overall, yes. Although there’s been a bit of inconsistency in taste, portions, and variety. Am I complaining? Not at all.

My dinner consisted of salmon and steamed vegetables which with the addition of a side dish of Hollandaise sauce was fine.

Without flour laden sauces, some of the meat portions have been dry, and let’s face it, steamed veggies leave lots to be desired. But, they’ve made homemade salad dressing for me each night that are delicious, that I often keep after eating my salad, for dipping the otherwise dry protein. 

Plus, they’ve been making Hollandaise sauce for me, the authentic, from scratch recipe that I am able to eat:  egg yolks, real butter, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and salt. This adds a fabulous flavor to anything on my plate, keeping in mind my diet consists of almost 80% fat and almost no carbs. (I know. 

It’s hard to believe I never gain an ounce eating this way. But, fat doesn’t make one gain weight. (Its the combination of carbs, fat, starch, and sugar that are the culprits).

Overall, I am very happy with the attention and care both the waiters and lovely Natasha have paid to my diet. At least on this cruise, I haven’t still been hungry after dinner, when they freely provide me with adequate portions.

Tom, on the other hand, able to eat whatever he likes (yes, gaining weight on cruises), has enjoyed his food on this ship, a considerable step above our recent Royal Caribbean cruise with more options, more flavor, and more unique dishes. 

Is the food as good as on our first cruise on the smaller Celebrity Century? No, but, he’s more than satisfied. Although we never eat lunch, Tom may occasionally have an ice cream cone that is available at no cost in the Oceanview café.

Tom’s dinner of Beef Cheeks over Parsnip Puree, Carrots, Broccoli, and Demi Glace Sauce which he found to be excellent.

As for cocktails, Tom orders Brandy and Sprite on the rocks at a usual cost of US $9.20 including tip. Our cruise fare included gratuities for all staff but, we’ve found that he is served a “better” cocktail by adding a tip to each check. On most nights, Tom doesn’t order more than two cocktails.

I rarely order a beverage for which there’s an additional charge, other than occasional sparkling water. On the worst of the rough seas nights, I ordered two club sodas with lime, each at US $3, in an effort to settle my bit of queasiness which along with eating, seemed to help the cause.

We brought along several bags of raw nuts, none of which I’ve yet to open having no room for anything after dinner.  After an 8:00 am breakfast this morning and it now after 6 pm as I write this, I’m still full from breakfast, wondering how I’ll be able to eat dinner. 

But, then, when one is on a cruise, one is less inclined to miss more than one meal per day, considering that meals are included in the fare. I’m sure that by the time, my special meal is in front of me, close to 9 pm, I’ll eat most of which I’ve been served.

The lively conversations at dinner with new people each night only add to the enjoyment of dining and ultimately in cruising in general.

In one more day, we’ll arrive in the Hawaiian Islands.  We’re as excited as we could be!


Photo from one year ago today, September 28, 2013:

Due to a high risk of crime in Kenya, the house we rented was enclosed by an iron fence and guarded 24 hours a day inside the fence and also at the entrance gate to the group of homes.  Overall, we felt safe but many horrific crimes occurred in Kenya while we were there.  For details of this date, please click here.

The rough waters continue…We keep having fun!…A year ago, more photos of the Indian Ocean…

Please click this video for the swimming pool’s reaction to rough seas on the Pacific Ocean.

In two and a half days, we’ll be in the Hawaiian Islands hopefully in calmer seas. The rough seas have continued for four days although much less so than on the second day which was very unpleasant for most people
onboard (except Tom).

The rolling seas seem to affect me more than the slamming waves on the Norwegian Epic 18 months ago when I was never affected (nor was Tom). On this cruise, I spent only a few hours on the second day laying in bed in our cabin, napping off whil the storm was at its worst.

During a ship sponsored a party for Captain’s Club members for passengers who’d experienced multiple Celebrity cruises. Free drinks and appetizers were served.

We haven’t missed a beat other than during that one afternoon. We’ve been to two parties, done three Pub Poker Crawls, one Slot Pull lasting a few hours of outrageous laughing and fun, attended one late-night comedy show, attending four friendly shared table dinners in the main dining room, attended one interesting class on the history of volcanoes in Hawaii, had breakfast in the buffet each morning.

Most of all, we’ve met dozens of amazing people of all ages and have had a variety of enjoyable and meaningful conversations. No grass grows under these feet, rolling seas or not.

We laugh, we giggle, we cajole one another, never failing to enjoy and appreciate one another, knowing that in no time at all, it will be just the two of us once again and we’ll be each other’s main source of
entertainment barring any good fortune we may have, making new friends while in Hawaii.

Posting here continues to be a challenge but, somehow we’re managing to stay in touch with our appreciated and devoted followers all over the world. Please note that on the right side of our page, there is a link for
both Tom’s and my email. If you have a comment or question you’d rather we not post, please write to us there. 

Twenty-eight of us participated in the Slot Pull in this Cruise Critic event. We each contributed US $15 and received 15 pulls after which the winnings or remaining money was paid out. We each lost US $6 but had so much fun it was well worth it over the two-hour event.

If you’re comfortable sharing your questions or comments with all of our readers please feel free to comment at the end of each post. bou may do so easily and anonymously if you choose. Please keep in mind, that we receive and review each comment before it is posted. We do not post comments from “haters” or “nasty” critics, feeling that the nature of our site doesn’t include “shouting” matches or an arena for anger and hostility. 

We have received a handful of hateful comments and we’ve chosen to send them to the “spam” file rather than post them and engage in such unnecessary banter. However, we are open to suggestions, ideas, and thoughtful
critique. Kindness prevails in all areas of our lives.

We apologize for our inability to post many photos using the ship’s WiFi. It just won’t allow the upload of more than two or three photos at a time. However, cruising in the open ocean is not particularly a great environment for photo taking. It took a few hours of WiFi time to post the rough seas video on Thursday. 

The waves were rolling and the wind was blowing but, a few of us ventured outdoors to see the first sunlight in days.

It’s hard to believe that with modern technology, cruise ships don’t improve the quality of their signal. It all boils down to their unwillingness to spend the money to make it more efficient and based on demand by their clientele. 

We doubt that most senior passengers on cruises have a huge need for WiFi other than for email and
Facebook entries whereas, we are data hogs when posting with photos each day. We’ve met some equally frustrated business owners/managers/professionals in the senior age range that are unable to conduct business as needed.

We’ve had three-time changes since we boarded this ship. So far, so good. We’ve been sleeping enough and sleeping soundly through all the noise in the cabin from the rolling seas.

So far we’ve attended two classes on Hawaii, during which time I’ve taken notes on my laptop of which we’ll share as we build our stories about Hawaii’s over the next eight months. Hawaii has a fascinating history that hopefully with peak the interest of our readers when we’re able to add photos to supplement the

Never a day passes that we don’t think of our readers and how we can add photos and information appealing to the senses in one way or another.

Have a lovely weekend. Waves or no waves, we plan to do so.

                                            Photo from one year ago today, September 27, 2013:

A year ago in Diani Beach, Kenya, we visited this resort/restaurant for lunch on the Indian Ocean. For details of that date, please click here.


Windy, rough seas continue…Having fun anyway!…Year ago photo, a favorite…

Tom is happy as a clam, even in rough seas.

Itinerary:  Celebrity – Celebrity Solstice, departed 9/23/14, 12 nights
Tue Sep 23 Vancouver, BC, Canada  5:00pm

Wed Sep 24 At Sea 

Thu Sep 25 At Sea 

Fri Sep 26 At Sea 

Sat Sep 27 At Sea 

Sun Sep 28 At Sea 

Mon Sep 29 Honolulu, Oahu, HI 1:00 pm

Tue Sep 30 Honolulu, Oahu, HI 8:00 pm

Wed Oct 1 Kilauea Volcano, HI (Cruising) 

Wed Oct 1 Hilo, Hawaii, HI 11:00 am 8:00 pm

Thu Oct 2 Kona, Hawaii, HI 11:00 am 8:00 pm

Fri Oct 3 Lahaina, Maui, HI 8:00 am

Sat Oct 4 Lahaina, Maui, HI 6:00 pm

Sun Oct 5 Honolulu, Oahu, HI 7:00 am

Yesterday morning after breakfast in the Oceanview buffet restaurant, we walked the long distance to the Sky Lounge for the first Cruise Critic “Meet and Mingle.”

As always, we met a fabulous couple we sat with during the entire event, both doctors who’d traveled the world, providing relief for doctors in many remote areas. The stories they shared and their enthusiasm and support for our way of life were inspiring and uplifting. We hope to see them again soon.

The most pleasing aspect of cruising is meeting people, many of whom also seem to have a love of cruising and traveling. Although many other cruisers are our age or older, we find that many have a craving for the wanderlust life as well as a sense of adventure, not unlike us.

Celebrity Central, mid-ship, is where a lot of activities transpire. We’ve been sitting in this area during the day since the waves aren’t as noticeable as in our cabin which is located between the bow and mid-ship.

However, few people we meet, after lengthy conversations ensue, feel they could live as we do, unable to conceive of the concept of freeing themselves of “stuff.” We fully understand their curiosity as to how we could do this. Some are curious as to how we could leave our loved ones for the fulfillment of a dream.

Everyone’s needs and life desires differ. We spent all of our lives up until two years ago, near most of our family. As do many Minnesotans, leaving Minnesota for warmer climates, we too felt we couldn’t continue living in a cold climate as we age. No longer could we shovel snow, slip on ice, and staying hunkered down in the long cold winters.

Instead of the typical Minnesota seniors. who often move to Florida or Arizona, we chose the world as our home, for however long it works for us. If and when that changes, we’ll figure it out. For now, we don’t worry about the future. In a few short months, we’ll be together with our family, and in a matter of minutes, it won’t feel as if we’ve ever been away. 

For now, as we cruise on unnerving and unsteady seas across the Pacific Ocean toward Hawaii, we’re reminded of how vulnerable we all feel in these circumstances. 

Yesterday, we attended a private party for Captain’s Club members for those who have been on multiple Celebrity cruises. The more we cruise, the more benefits we’re entitled to receive including free cocktails and laundry service.

Feeling queasy is debilitating for the most part. But for us, like many other determined cruise participants, make the most of it, continuing  to partake in both preplanned and spontaneous activities, all of which we find

As I write this at the moment, we are sitting at the concierge desk, third-floor level while a ping pong tournament is occurring beside us. We’d love to participate but our bad right shoulders prevent us from doing so. 

We all have limitations of one sort or another as is clearly evident on this mostly over 55 cruises. A few manage with wheelchairs, canes and walkers and others are dancing at the disco late at night. A few are young newlyweds and fairly inexperienced travelers. We love meeting them, regardless of their situation. Each has their own unique life story to share.

Americans occupy only about 20% of this particular cruise.  Most often we find ourselves visiting with Canadians and Australians. Few non-English speaking people are on this cruise, although we encountered a few.

Please bear with us during these five days sea. The storm coupled with the poor WiFi signal has made posting extremely difficult, especially when adding photos. It’s taking as long as 30 minutes to upload one post with three photos. Bear with us. Once we arrive in Hawaii, we’ll easily be able to post photos.

In the Hawaiian Islands on Monday, we’ll be able to use the XCOMGlobal MiFi for a strong signal and we’ll add many photos of Hawaii as we cruise several of the islands, many of which we’ll be living on over the next several months.

Once the seas settle down, I’ll be back to my “overly bubbly” self which does, even in my somewhat queasy state, is forefront in my demeanor and much to my delight, is evident in the smile on Tom’s face, content as he could be.

Who’s to complain? Not us!

Photo from one year ago today, September 26, 2013

We loved this photo we took a year ago today, as we walked along the Indian Ocean in Diani Beach, Kenya. For details from that date, please click here.

Big storm…Raging seas..Bad Wifi…Video of storm…

Statue on the ship.

The past 38 hours have been comparable to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride from my childhood memories of Disneyland. The ship’s WiFi is the worst we’ve seen. I can hardly upload a photo.

Up until yesterday morning, I’d never been hit with any amount of seasickness until Tuesday our first night at sea as we made our way into the Pacific Ocean from Vancouver, British Columbia.

The pier in Vancouver.

After breakfast, Wednesday morning, in the not too crowded buffet (many passengers were sick in their cabins), a wave of nausea washed over me remaining throughout the entire day and evening.

Much to our disappointment, it was a formal night. On our prior cruise ending on the 14th, the formal night dress code allowed casual dressy which is easy for us to accommodate. Whereas, the formal attire rules on the Celebrity Solstice require more dressy clothes including a long sleeve shirt with a collar for the men and a skirt, dress, or pants suit for the ladies.

With the raging seas and my queasiness, I hardly felt like dressing in anything but my jeans and tee shirt.  However, my special food was already ordered the prior night and we felt there was no other good dining option for me. 

Tom has two long sleeve shirts, one, a khaki BugsAway and two, a white BugsAqay shirt, neither of which was ideal. He opted for the white shirt and hung it in the bathroom with the shower turned to remove the wrinkles.

In any case, we made it to dinner and were allowed inside for a nice dinner at a table for six where once I ate a little, I began to feel better and enjoy the conversation and dinner.

As for the storm at sea, it quickly began to work its way up to the caliber of the extreme storm we experience in April 2013 on the Norwegian Epic when we crossed the Atlantic Ocean with 50 foot swells for three days.

The sails at the pier in Vancouver.

Tom, having spent years on the railroad traveling on wobbly trains never felt nauseous for a moment, although I did notice him losing his footing on a few occasions when no one could have remained on their feet the way the ship violently heaved to and fro.

Included today are photos from the sailing away from Vancouver and of course, the video of the wild ride at sea.  Hopefully, by the time this post uploads the storm will have ended and our usual fun will be in full swing.

Hopefully, we’ll be back tomorrow with our itinerary, updates, and photos of this beautiful ship as our journey continues on.

                                                Photo from one year ago today, September 25, 2013:

Signal too poor to post more today. 

New post tomorrow morning with rough seas video…

Yesterday, when we finally arrived on the ship in the late afternoon and into our cabin after a painfully slow check-in process, our luggage arrived. By the time we unpacked and put everything away, it was time for our 8:00 pm dinner reservation.

As a result, we had no time to post. Today, with many new photos and a video of the rough seas we’re experiencing, we’re safely tucked away in our cabin with time to prepare our post that we’ll upload early tomorrow morning. 

Please check back first thing tomorrow morning! Thanks for your patience!

Goodbye, Vancouver!…Hello, Hawaii!…Excited for the new cruise on our favorite cruise line…

St. Andrew’s Wesley Church in downtown Vancouver.

The “to-do” list is complete. We did it all; the laundry filled the pill cases, did the mani/pedi, packed everything, and, notified the family. This morning we’ll grab a taxi for the short drive to the Port Metro Vancouver where the Celebrity Solstice will be prepared for boarding.

As on our prior nine cruises, we prefer to arrive at the pier an hour or two earlier than suggested in the documents, allowing us plenty of time to become familiar with the ship, meet with the maître ‘d regarding my restrictive diet, sign up for the ship’s WiFi, and relax for a while in the buffet dining room for a casual bite to eat.

The church across the street from our hotel. Photo is taken through the glass on the 30th floor.

In most cases, gaining access to the cabins is restricted until around 1:30 pm, allowing staff to prepare and clean the cabins from the last cruise that most likely arrived the same morning, making way for the new passengers.

Tom says this was a Ferrari we spotted in downtown Vancouver.

Checking in for the cruise is usually relatively quick and painless especially when our early arrival allows us to avoid long lines. A few days before each cruise, we check-in online in a similar manner as when flying. 

Vancouver is often a starting point (and often ending point) for cruises to Alaska which we’ll definitely book sometime in the future.

It’s unnecessary to print the documents when passengers are able to show the bar code from their tickets on their smart phone. With no cell service, until we purchase SIM cards, we’ve printed the documents although we’d always prefer to use digital documents.

Fountain, outside our hotel.

Later today, once aboard the ship, we’ll post again with photos of the ship, our cabin, and any special features that may catch our eye. Once the muster drill (emergency procedures) is completed, we’ll attend the Sail Away Party, hosted by the cruise line. Usually, there’s another party that we’ll attend, the “Meet and Mingle” which is intended for members of, many of whom Tom has met online.

On the first day on the ship, we check out the main dining room’s reservation process. This avoids waiting in line to be seated. On this last Royal Caribbean cruise, we’d selected 8:00 pm, primarily due to the fact that we often have breakfast and aren’t hungry until later.

Much of the produce was imported as is the case in many major grocery stores in the US. This is unlike the organic produce we’ve enjoyed in many countries throughout our travels.

Most cruise passengers (during the school season) are senior citizens as opposed to families with children.  Many seniors prefer to dine by 6 pm. We’re still full from breakfast by 6 pm and prefer to dine at 8 pm. 

With “My Time” dining, we can select dining times that work best for us allowing us the opportunity to meet new people each night at “shared” tables. Other passengers may sign up for fixed dinnertime, sitting with the same group each night.

We’re also able to choose to dine with people we’ve met when we’re arranged a time to meet in the dining room. On this last cruise, on three evenings, we dined with new friends in the specialty restaurants but, could easily have dined with them in the main dining room.

We were surprised that prices on produce were less than we’d seen two years ago in the US.

The social frenzy of cruising is the aspect we enjoy the most. As social butterflies we love meeting new people, learning from their travel experiences, and sharing our own. A cruise is the most appealing social venue we’ve encountered in our travels.

We’re grateful for all the fabulous friends we’ve made from all over the world on our most recent cruise and also, those on the past eight cruises in 2013, many of whom we happily remain in contact.

Tom eyeballed the baked goods, especially the doughnuts but decided against trying any when the cruise is imminent, a virtual food fantasy on Celebrity.

Look for us tomorrow morning which will include the itinerary for this cruise. Hopefully, we won’t have the WiFi issues we’d experienced on Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas when I was unable to get online. We’ll be out to sea for the first five days of this cruise making it necessary to access to the ship’s slow connection. As always, while in port we’ll be able to use XComGlobal’s MiFi for a strong connection and ease of use.  

Happy Day to all!

                                    No photo was posted one year ago today, September 23, 2013:
Ironically, we posted the cruise itinerary for the cruise we disembarked on September 14, 2014. For details of the post, please click here.

Tomorrow’s cruise to Hawaii…Total expenses for Vancouver…Worrying?…

Sunset in the Vancouver bay.

The departure checklist begins once again:

  • Do laundry – We found a laundry near the computer store that will do it for us for US $1.83, CAD $2 per pound in two hours.  Today, we’ll drop it off, picking it up later in the day.
  • Fill pill cases for the next two weeks
  • Do manicure and pedicure
  • Pack everything except Tuesday’s clothes and toiletries
  • Notify family that we’re leaving Vancouver – We do this each time we’re on the move
Sunny day skyline.

Gosh, this list is much shorter than in the past. We’ve already printed out cruise tickets. The hotel checkout is electronic with a copy coming to my email which I’ll save in a folder. It gets easier every time we move.

Colorful sky at sunset.

Our total expenses for Vancouver are estimated at US $2050.86, CAD $2247.35 including the hotel bill, airfare from Boston (one way), taxis, meals, laundry, and tips. At this total, our daily cost was approximately US $341.81, CAD $374.56. We’re actually pleased it wasn’t more costly than this. 

Lonely looking boxer waiting for his family who was inside the restaurant where we had lunch.

We’ve made every effort to keep our costs to a minimum during this six-day stay and the three days in Boston to offset the WiFi and beverage fees on the upcoming cruise which are typically close to US $900, CAD $986.  We’re actually, $600 under budgets expenses for Vancouver

The South Tower on the Sheraton Wall Centre where we’ve stayed since last Wednesday, with a blackbird in the photo.

There’s never a day that passes that we aren’t in tune with our expenses. It is this diligence that allows us to continue on our journey without financial stress. For homeowners and renters worldwide this type of diligence may serve them well in keeping living costs within one’s means.

Dining outdoors on an upper floor in the Sheraton Wall Centre South Tower.

Of course, there’s also the painful reality for those who’ve lost their jobs in this precarious economy or are unable to work due to illness. It’s difficult to commit to budgeting when there’s little to no income. 

On a walk, we passed by this Cannabis shop.

At some point in our lives, for some of us, we recall the angst and worry associated with not generating sufficient income to cover one’s living expenses, a dreadful state of being. For those of our readers in this precarious position we hope and pray that you find a resolution.

Distant small marina.

We always hear that good health is the most important aspect of our lives. And, unquestionably, it is. In our minds, freedom from worry is next in line. Worrying is disastrous for one’s health and sense of well being. Worrying is a roadblock to happiness.

Community garden.

That’s not to say that we don’t worry at times. Either of us can awaken during the night wrought with worry that is often exacerbated at night in the dark. Tom worries about the little things. I tend to worry about the big things. Together, we’re an “efficient worrying machine.” That’s teamwork!

Photo from one year ago today, September 22, 2013:

The table was set on the well-manicured lawn. With the balmy breeze and the fire roaring, the mosquitoes stayed away, although we were well-armed wearing our BugsAway clothing. For more photos, please click here.

Finally, sunshine!…Vancouver is a beautiful city!…

Overlooking the South Tower of the Sheraton Wall Centre with the bay in the background.

Yesterday, we were thrilled to get out on a sunny day. The first stop on the agenda was a trip to a computer repair store to have Tom’s files transferred to his new laptop. His old touchscreen was severely cracked from dropping it months ago, made worse by another fall at the cruise terminal. When touchscreens go bad there is no way to manipulate the cursor, even using the keyboard, making it impossible for us to do the transfer.

We were in awe of the sunset views over the bay.

The cost for the transfer and loading Outlook (which he prefers to use) was a total of US $120.92, CAD $132.50, a bargain considering that included purchasing Office and Outlook. Tom’s relieved, to say the least, especially when all of his contacts in Outlook are all intact.  

The job only took a few hours. While we waited, we found a local restaurant, Joe’s Grill, where we had a decent lunch for under US $30, CAD $33.00, a bargain in Vancouver.

Sunset has been amazing now that the clouds have cleared.

As our time in Vancouver, winds down and as much as we “should” go out sightseeing, we just don’t feel like it.  Lately, we’ve done so much sightseeing, a reprieve is in order. 

Tom, deep in thought in the Member’s Lounge, listening to his favorite Minnesota radio podcast, Garage Logic

For us, this lovely city is a stopping point to prepare for our upcoming cruise to Hawaii to sail across the Pacific Ocean (in part) to our upcoming home for almost seven months on four of the Hawaiian islands. I suppose it’s comparable to one going “home” to repack to prepare for another “vacation.” For us, it’s just our lives, not a vacation.

What a rose!

We have no home to return to for repacking more weather-friendly clothes. We’ll wash and dry what we have, neatly folding it and placing it right back in the same, now well-worn luggage to be prepared for the next adventure. As difficult as this may sound, it is not. 

Tom purchased two bottles of Brandy from a local government-owned liquor store in Vancouver for our arrival in Hawaii where the cost will be considerably higher. The cost was US $56.71. Usually, he drinks Courvoisier(cognac), but one small bottle was US $63.88, CAD $70.

Although the past almost two months have required an enormous amount of moving about, we giggle over how often we’ve moved in such a short time which includes:

  • Madeira to Paris – flight, two weeks in Paris
  • Paris to London – Eurostar train, two weeks in London
  • London to Harwich to a transatlantic cruise – shuttle to Harwich, two-week cruise with several excursions
  • Cruise ending in Boston – three days in a hotel in Boston
  • Boston to Vancouver – flight, six days in a condo in Vancouver
  • Vancouver to Hawaii (upcoming in three days) – 12 days at sea, ending in Honolulu, Oahu where we’ll stay for 11 days, then on to Maui for six weeks, Big Island for six weeks, Kauai for four months
The green cast was generated from taking photos through the tinted windows.

This is a lot of packing and unpacking over a period of only 10 months. Surprisingly, so far, we haven’t minded. Both of us can now pack or unpack in less than 30 minutes, making the comings and goings relatively low stress.

More fountains in the hotel gardens.

We’ve developed a routine that when it’s time to leave, each of us easily slides into our unspoken part with ease and coordination. Once in a while, Tom gets grumpy on packing and moving day. I ignore him and go about my share of the tasks. Invariably, once on our way, he settles down, smiley and happy. It goes with the territory. I doubt he’ll ever change.

Neatly trimmed pavers in the hotel courtyard.

A long time ago, I learned that “we are who we are” and unless something profoundly inspires us to change, we don’t. We’re both found that in this relationship, we accept each other’s peculiarities and eccentricities. People never change as a result of nagging, complaining, or whining which neither of us is inclined to do.

As the clouds began to clear we were able to see the houses on the hills.

Don’t think for a minute that I’m easy to live with. Although I’m cheerful and calm most of the time, I have particular ways of doing things. Tom is extremely tolerant of me, never complaining about my eccentricities. Mostly, his frustrations are as a result of “things” not happening as planned or expected.   

Flowers blooming everywhere in Vancouver.

Once again, we’re in the Member’s Lounge, overlooking the city of Vancouver on a perfectly sunny day. The views around us are all the more unreal on a clear day.

Life is good.

                                              Photo from one year ago, September 21, 2013:

One year ago on this date, we dined at a local restaurant in Kenya, the Blue Marlin, located on the beach of the Indian Ocean. We were the only diners in the entire restaurant from the time we arrived until we departed a few hours later. We had a fabulous time. For details, please click here.