Day 8…Cruise to South America…Part 1…Manta, Ecuador…

Photo of me wearing a Panamanian hat while in Manta, Ecuador. Tom insisted I finally post a picture of me by myself as the primary photo, which I’ve never have done (not that we can recall).

“Sightings from the Veranda while Cruising”

Hazy day view of Manta, Ecuador.

Late yesterday morning, we boarded the shuttle bus from the pier for a ride into Manta, Ecuador. Once we were dropped off at the local park and shopping area, the sights, the smells, and the sounds left us reeling with excitement, and we decided we wouldn’t take a taxi tour of the city. 

La Merced Catholic Church in Manta, Ecuador.

The weather was perfect, and after a week on the ship, the outdoor air was refreshing and invigorating.  Plus, everything we wanted to see was within walking distance of us. Here’s some information about Manta below:

Hat-making in Manta at the flea market.

From this website:

“Manta is a mid-sized city in Manabí Province, Ecuador. It is the second-most populous city in the province, the fifth most populous in the country. Manta has existed since Pre-Columbian times. It was a trading post for the Mantas.

A vendor with a bicycle cart selling beverages.

According to the 2001 census, the city had 192,322 inhabitants. Its primary economic activity is tuna fishing. Other economic activities include tourism and the chemical industry with products from cleaning supplies to oils and margarine.

The Panamanian hat is a popular tourist purchase in Ecuador.

Manta possesses the largest seaport in Ecuador. The port was used by Charles Marie de La Condamine upon his arrival in Ecuador when leading the French mission to measure the location of the equator in 1735. From Manta, Condamine started his trip inland towards Quito.

Farmacias in Manta, Ecuador.

Manta has an international airport, Eloy Alfaro International Airport with passenger airline service, and a substantial military base (known as Manta Air Base or Eloy Alfaro Air Base).

View of the market in Manta.

Between 1999-2009 Manta Air Base was used by U.S. air forces to support anti-narcotics military operations and surveillance flights against Colombian drug trafficking cartels. The lease was not renewed by the Ecuadorean government.

Manta has recognized thanks to its international film festival featuring groups from different places in the world. The Ecuadorian actor, Carlos Valencia, once invited to Cannes Film Festival for his performance in Ratas Ratones y Rateros (1999), directed by Sebastián Cordero, born in the capital city of Quito.”

Colorful handmade jewelry for sale at the market.

I was practically squealing with delight as we wandered about the vibrant city so full of life and energy it was intoxicating. Although there was an endless number of vendors pushing us to purchase a variety of pointless trinkets, we politely made our way through the crowds, having a great time.

An iguana, among dozens, hanging out in the park.

We ran into passengers we’ve met from time to time who were on an equally enjoyable outing in this quaint oceanside town. It couldn’t have been a perfect day.

A variety of trinkets may appeal to tourists.

Knowing we had to be back at the ship by 2:00 pm to sail away, we stayed focused on photo-taking, which we’ll share today and again in tomorrow’s post. We had no idea we’d encounter dozens of iguanas in the central city park, easily finding ourselves entrenched in taking their photos.

Colorful scarves for sale in the market.

The iguanas seemed to pose for us. They appeared relaxed and at ease in the presence of humans in the busy park, exhibiting perfect poses and a willingness to cooperate with tourists, like us, hungry to include their photos in our repertoire of unusual animal shots.

This vendor sold the white rabbits in the cage and the two white puppies that tugged at our heartstrings.

We continued on our walk through the town, stopping from time to time to chat with other cruise passengers and admire the crafts of locals. At the craft fair/open market, I purchased a white “senorita-type” dress and shawl for tonight’s “evening chic” attire aboard the ship.

An ice cream man with a cart.

Both the dress and handmade shawl/scarf were a total of US $27 after a bit of negotiation. I haven’t owned a dress in the past four out of five years, and I was thrilled to have the festive ensemble, which most likely I’ll wear again on my special birthday, upcoming in Marloth Park on February 20th.

A man was peeling oranges to sell.

We rarely purchase anything at these tourist shopping sites, but I couldn’t resist when I saw the dress hanging in a shop.  It’s sleeveless, so I purchased the shawl to keep me warm in the evening. They keep the AC cold, and I’m generally shivering while indoors. Even outdoors, it’s been cool since we left Fort Lauderdale a week ago today.

Iguana climbing a tree in the central park in Manta.

It’s hard to believe a week has already passed since we sailed from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We’re having such a great time meeting new people while passing out hundreds of our business cards and subsequently adding new readers to our site. 

Iguana is posing for a shot.

Sharing our story with readers worldwide means the world to us. Thank you for being on this journey with us

Photo from one year ago today, November 30, 2016:

One year ago today, huge Colony Club was also packed for our second presentation aboard the ship. For more details, please click here.

Day 7…Cruise to South America…Part 2, The Panama Canal…A repeat of an outstanding experience…Today? Hola Equador!

Some freighters can carry as many as 18,000 20 foot containers. This freighter was being guided through the Panama Canal at the Miraflores locks.

“Sightings from the Veranda while Cruising”

Panama City, which we spotted toward the end of the transit through the canal.

The concept of transiting the Panama Canal beginning at the Atlantic Ocean/Caribbean Sea to ending up later in the day in the Pacific Ocean is an engineering feat we can hardly wrap our minds around.

Target practice for the “rope throwers” who toss the cables to the ship to guide them through the channel.  Contests are held for the workers who compete using this target with big monetary prizes.

Transiting the Panama Canal was as exciting for us the second time as it was the first. Although we didn’t transit the newly built locks, which are reserved for much larger ships, we were able to glimpse it at a distance at a few points.

It was a rainy, cloudy day and visibility was limited. In any case, we were equally in awe of this breathtaking manufactured waterway with locks and dams, a true feat of engineering built in 1914 after 10 years of construction and the loss of many lives.

Another container ship in the lake waiting to enter the channel.

For more details:

Panama Canal
Canal in Panama
The Panama Canal is an artificial 77 km waterway in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. The canal cuts across the Isthmus of Panama and is a key conduit for international maritime trade. Wikipedia
Length48 mi
Date of first useAugust 15, 1914
Original ownerLa Société internationale du Canal
Did you knowThe Panama Canal has listed 11 marine safety measures in the form of codes which are in operation since the
A Silver Seas luxury cruise ship in Miraflores Lake.

We’re still reeling from yesterday’s great day at sea, which proved to be filled with many interactions with fine people who surprisingly knew us from our site. We’re still in a state of shock over being approached by people who “happen to know us.”

A barge with a tugboat is used for moving materials that have been dredged in the channel.

After everyone wandered off for lunch, we finally finished the post in the cabin when my laptop battery died.  Afterward, we visited the Future Cruise on deck five to book four more cruises since they had a “Black Friday” cruise deposit sale.

This meant we could book several cruises for a deposit of only US $25 per person instead of the usual US $450 per person (when off the ship). We booked four cruises knowing full well, and we’d never actually take those specific cruises.

“Herman, the German,” one of the giant floating cranes in the world at 208 feet high, stays in the Panama Canal region. See here for details.

Instead, we have the right to move the deposits to any other Celebrity cruises we’d like at any time in the future. Although we won’t be going on any cruises in 2018 while we’re in Africa (after the Antarctica cruise), we’ll certainly be planning for future cruises in 2019 and after that, for which we’ll transfer these deposits.

Private water crafts pay fees from US $800 to US $3,200 (depending on size) to transit the Panama Canal.

After the cruise booking process was completed, we headed back to the cabin to shower and dress for the two-hour Captain’s Club in the Constellation Lounge, where the free drinks flow with abandon.

Another wonderful couple we’d met a few nights ago joined us, Annwyl and Ted, from Canada. The time passed quickly as we engaged in animation chatter. Finally, we headed to the Trellis Restaurant for dinner, where, once again, we had a delightful dinner sitting at a table for 10. Gosh, it couldn’t be more fun.

The crew aboard the sailboat was transiting the Panama Canal.

Finally, by 10:30 pm, we headed back to the cabin when there was little activity on the ship. This ship has no specific “Centrum,” which makes after-dinner entertainment scattered throughout several bars. Having had good cocktails and wine, we wandered off to our cabin, not falling asleep until after midnight.

Few homes are located in the area.

I’ve been nursing one glass of red wine each evening which seems to have no ill effect. It certainly tastes good.  I’ll order a bottle of Perrier along with the glass of wine and sip back and forth between the two making the wine last through the evening. 

I wish I could have a second glass, but I’m not going to push my luck when I’ve started feeling so much better.  Above all, we must always consider maintaining good health. 

The Miraflores locks as we entered.

Tom’s been amazingly cautious in what’s he’s eating and drinking to avoid a significant weight gain. After all, this is a 30-night cruise, and we’ll be eating out every day until we get settled in South Africa around February 10th. 

Our ship, as it ends its transits through the third and final set of locks.

This morning, our ship docked at an industrial port in Manta, Ecuador. As soon as we upload this post, we’ll walk off the ship to awaiting shuttle buses to take us into town to check things out and take photos. 

The opening of the gates to the locks.

We won’t have a lot of time when we all have to be back onboard by 2:00 pm for an early “set sail.” We’ll be back tomorrow with what we’ve discovered. This cruise, like most, provides us both with a high level of socialization and memorable times together. We continue to be grateful for every day.

May you have a memorable day!

Photo from one year ago, November 29, 2016:

Portable hotspot devices for various countries.  In many countries, we haven’t needed to use these. In others, they were our only means of Wi-Fi. The two black devices’ top centers may be used in many countries but often don’t work, and each country’s device.  For more details, please click here.

Day 6…Cruise to South America…Part 1…The Panama Canal…A repeat of an outstanding experience…

With his back to the first locks, Tom was surprisingly alert during the 12-hour stint in the Constellation Lounge, where we watched the events unfold.
A little worse for the wear after getting up before 4:00 am.  It was a fun but long day.

“Sightings from the Veranda while Cruising”

At a public viewing area, Tourists watched our ship pass through the final set of locks of the Panama Canal.

In January 2013, we sailed through the Panama Canal on the first cruise for either of us. Here are our links to that particular transit (before us taking many photos):

We neared the entrance to the first set of locks.

The photos from the two above links will clearly illustrate how far we’ve come in our desire to take photos to include here each day. Regardless, our images over these next few days aren’t perfect either. 

For the ship to stay in the center of the narrow channel through the locks, workers tie ropes/cables to the ship to maintain its center position to avoid damaging the ship’s sides.

The reason for this was that we opted to sit comfortably in the front row, center, closest to the windows in the Constellation Lounge located at the bow of the ship on the 11th deck. The bluish tint of the glass had an impact on each of our photos.

Notice how close this cargo ship is to the walls of the passageway.

After little sleep the previous night, neither of us felt motivated to stand outdoors in the rain. And, after the day began to clear, we didn’t want to forgo our great seats by getting up and heading outdoors to the deck.

The Constellation Lounge was packed with passengers trying to see the transit through the canal.

Tom had set his phone’s alarm for 5:00 am but, worried about getting up, he awoke at 3:30 am yesterday, concerned about us getting good seats. After a quick shower and dressing, he dashed out the door carrying our laptop bag with a plan for me to find him after I got up and ready for the day.

Frigates sitting atop a light fixture at the canal.

No more than a minute after he left the cabin, I was out of bed on a mission to get out the door in less than 25 minutes. Mission accomplished. By 4:30 am, I found him “front row center” in the Constellation Lounge with two comfy chairs and a small cocktail table for our use, the perfect setup for the long day ahead.

The canal operates with gravity, with water flowing from the lake to the locks, moving in and out again, raising and lowering the ship to the appropriate heights to traverse through the many locks. There are three sets of locks on each end dividing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The first set of locks raises the ship to the lake level since the Atlantic side is lower. On the Pacific side of the lock, the ship is lowered to sea level.

Luckily and somewhat surprisingly, few others were waiting so early for the upcoming day’s events. It was raining hard, and we’d expected many other passengers to plan as we’d done.

Cables are attached to these vehicles, called locomotives, aka “mules,” to pass through the channel. There are three of these vehicles on each side; one on the bow, one at the center of the ship, and the last at the aft section for a total of six. Each of these vehicles costs over $2,000,000. These are the third generation of mules since the locks opened in 1914.

By 8:00 am, when we entered the first set of locks, the vast room was packed, some in chairs, others standing, and many sitting on the floor bound and determined to have an opportunity to see what was transpiring on the rainy day transit.

It was interesting to watch a massive freighter pass through the locks.

Conversations rolled out with passengers sitting near us as I busied myself getting yesterday’s post completed and uploaded, let alone answered dozens of comments and questions we’d received via email in the last 24 hours.

On the left is a huge chemical/petroleum freighter.

We love hearing from our readers, making every effort to reply in 12 hours and certainly in never more than 24 hours. Having our readers “travel along with us” is an indescribable perk to our world travels.

Now, on this ship, the Celebrity Infinity, we’ve had countless opportunities to chat in person with many readers who’ve followed along with us over these past years. This always surprised us, and we never take these visits for granted.

As we entered the first set of locks at Gatun Lock at the Caribbean/Atlantic side.

How’d we get so lucky?  Many have explained our openness, vulnerability, and generally, the positive mentality has kept them interested in reading our posts year after year.  A few have mentioned that our occasional worry, a concern along with a bit of “whinging” (whining), also adds to the value of reading our site, making it more realistic.

Nothing is “perfect” in this life. As the day wore on, sitting in those chairs, from time to time, I found myself nodding off, unable to take one more photo or even get up from my chair except when necessary.

The control house from which the mules/locomotives pass around and through.

By 4:00 pm, after almost 12 hours seated in the chairs, we both ran out of steam, although at that point, we begin the transit through the third and final lock. We decided we could watch the balance from our veranda.

We needed to shower and dress for Captain’s Club Happy Hour, which generally is held in the Constellation Lounge and was still packed with the viewing audience. Instead, the daily event was moved to the roomy Rendevouz Lounge, where we headed at 5:00 pm for free drinks for two hours.

Sign on the outside of the control house.

While there, we met a lovely couple, and the two hours passed in a flash, and finally, it was time to head to the Trellis Dining Room for dinner. Again, we were seated at a “sharing table” for yet another good meal with other passengers we’d yet to meet. How fun it is…meeting new people each evening and sharing our mutual travel stories.

Everyone has a unique story to share and our lives, although often provoking lots of questions, is not so special to the world travels of many other cruise passengers, some of whom may embark on eight or ten cruises a year.

Mule/locomotive exiting the control house at Gatun.

We’ve yet to meet a homeless couple like us, but we’ve many who have no fixed home in their home country but travel by RV from area to area. We love the ability to travel from continent to continent, country to country. But, this type of travel, although thoroughly enjoyed by many, is not for us.

This morning, we’re late in posting. We met John, a retired airline pilot, who stopped by a four-person table at Cafe al Bacio for a lengthy visit, every moment of which we both thoroughly enjoyed. Later, one of the fabulous guest speakers joined the group of us.

Many passengers stood on the helipad to watch the events roll out.  We were content to be seated indoors out of the rain and wind.

And later, Sue and Bob, long-time readers of our site, planning on traveling the world shortly, stopped by with the warmest of hugs and attention for yet another lively and meaningful few hours of conversation. Wow!

Afterward, after everyone headed to lunch, we were alone to get back to the pleasing reality of our lives. We had a post to write and get uploaded to the Internet before our worldwide readers began to worry if we haven’t forgotten about them. We haven’t. We love having YOU with us on this journey and all others.

Photo from one year ago today, November 28, 2016:

As we began to wind down our 33-night cruise, we spotted this stunning sunrise over an industrial port in New Zealand. For more photos, please click here.

Day 5…Cruise to South America, Part 2..Fabulous Day in Grand Cayman with new friends…Transiting the Panama Canal with live cam…

On Saturday, we had lunch at Morgan’s Seafood Restaurant in Cayman Island with new friends Susan and Blair.

“Sightings from the Veranda while Cruising”

Not entirely from our veranda, but this photo of our ship, Celebrity Infinity, was taken from the shore when we disembarked the tender in Cayman Island.

We’re quickly breezing through today’s post since we’re heading through the Panama Canal within the next few hours. Tomorrow, we’ll share our photos and videos of the transit through the canal.

This is an intelligent item…these little wine glass protectors that absorb moisture in humid climates.

Right now, it’s raining in buckets, and visibility at the locks is limited. Hopefully, by the time we soon enter the locks, we’ll have better visibility and, hopefully, be able to take some videos and photos of our transit through the canal.

A bird on the railing at the restaurant.

In the interim, here’s a live webcam which we’ll post again tomorrow for those who may be interested in seeing our transit through the locks and dam:

My lunch, mussels, and clams in a butter wine sauce.  Delicious.

In January 2013, we transited through the Panama Canal on our first cruise, one of Tom’s lifelong dreams. I had no idea how much this experience would mean to me, and I loved every moment. 

Susan’s stir-fry.

We accept today’s overcast sky and fog as one more reality of traveling the world. We have no control over the weather, and we aren’t going to let us disappoint. We’re both still excited to be here.

Tom’s club sandwich was a real treat for him.

This morning at 3:30 am, Tom got up to shower and head to the windows at the bow of the ship, to the Constellation Lounge, to secure our seats for the crossing, the same thing we’d done on the Celebrity Century in January 2013, the last time we were here.

Here are a few of our links from that crossing in 2013:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

We had intended to focus on Part 2 of our visit to the Cayman Islands, but somehow, we were sidetracked (in the flurry of fun activities) that we’d be going through the canal today. 

Blair’s quesadillas.

Thus, we’re sharing our final photos from Cayman Island and thank Susan and Blair for picking us up at the port after a bit of commotion when the ship decided to dock in a different location where the sea wasn’t quite as rough first intended location.

Long driveway to a massive mansion on Cayman Island.

We figured it all out and could connect at the correct landing to enjoy several hours together taking photos, having lunch, and sharing stories of mutual world travels. Without a doubt, we’ll stay in touch with Susan and Blair, hoping our paths will cross again sometime in the future.

As for the moment, we’re still in the Caribbean Sea, and we just sailed under the newly being built Atlantic Bridge at the Atlantic Canal entrance to cross into the channel to the locks and then on to Gatun Lake.

We’ll be back with more information, perhaps yet today and in the worse case, tomorrow.

Have a fabulous day! We sure will!

Photo from one year ago today, November 27, 2016:

Boats in the harbor in Tauranga, New Zealand. We have such fond memories of the three months we spent in this beautiful country. For more photos, please click here.

Day 4…Cruise to South America…Part 1, Fabulous day in Grand Cayman with new friends…

Susan and Blair, originally from Canada, have lived in Grand Cayman for the past 15 years and are about to spread their wings further, by beginning a world journey in many ways similar to ours without a home, without “stuff,” and with no end in mind. 

“Sightings from the Veranda while Cruising”

A yacht in the harbor at Grand Cayman.
Yesterday, Grand Cayman was our first port of call since leaving Fort Lauderdale on Thursday. Here’s a little information about Grand Cayman:
“Grand Cayman
Island in the Cayman Islands
Grand Cayman is the largest of the Cayman Islands, a British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean. George Town, its capital, is home to the Cayman Islands National Museum, dedicated to Caymanian heritage. The city is also a major cruise-ship port and site of the ruins of colonial-era Fort George. Beaches and vibrant coral reefs are the island’s hallmarks.
Area75.68 mi²
Population52,601 (2010)
Largest settlementGeorge Town (pop. 27,704)
Pop. density224.6 /km2 (581.7 /sq mi)
Ethnic groupsmixed 40%, white 20%, black 20%, expatriates of various ethnic groups 20%.”
The indoor seating at Morgan’s Seafood Restaurant.
On a previous cruise, we’d visited Cayman Island, but this time we had an entirely different perspective, both from having had more experience traveling, with a  resulting keener eye. Also, meeting new friends and upcoming world travelers Susan and Blair added considerably to our second visit.
Check out this fish chandelier!

About ten years my junior, five years for Tom, this lovely couple are blessed with the opportunity to begin traveling at a younger age, already possessing considerable travel experience instead of our being relative neophytes when we started in October 2012.

A tour boat under tarps at the marina

As avid and expert scuba divers, they’ve visited some of the finest waters in the world as well as spending the past 15 years living in the Cayman Islands, a scuba divers paradise. Originally from Canada, years ago, they made the difficult decision to move to this tropical island which we found to be exquisite and enticing.

A social event was conducted on the beach.

Again, this year they made yet another life-changing decision…to sell everything they own and travel the world.  Humm…sounds familiar. Although their travel goals may differ from ours with their passion for underwater scenery and wildlife, we found we have many similar interests in common as we’re inclined toward water scenery.

Recently, with the help of a competent local real estate agent, their home in Grand Cayman sold, and they’re expected to leave at the end of December to begin, which may prove for them, to be a year’s long journey as well.

A sprawling lawn at a luxury estate.

Sharing dreams, hopes, and logistics with them at lunch at the excellent Morgan’s Seafood Restaurant at the Cayman Islands Yacht Club was both refreshing and exciting.

As it turns out, Susan and Blair found us online when searching for world travelers. Over the past few years, as the decision was rolling out, they’ve discovered other world travelers researching for valued information about how to embark on such an adventure.

View of a small portion of Cayman Island from the ship.

As the baby boomer population ages, many decide to do something similar to us, each to their personal preferences, to fulfill their dreams of world travel.  

It’s interesting to see how world traveler’s goals may vary. Some may prefer to spend considerable time in Europe when they begin, as is the case for Susan and Blair, while others may choose an entirely different path, as in our case.

A pretty house on the shore as our tender approached the dock.

Whichever path they choose, challenges and obstacles line the way that savvy people can handle dignity and grace. The ability to navigate online, along with good problem-solving skills and a high degree of patience and tolerance, can make this life possible for some.

Susan and Blair seem to possess these skills, and we look forward to following their adventures at their site found hereWe wish them the very best in safety, good health, and extraordinary experiences.

Tom just returned from a morning seminar, joining me at a comfy table in Cafe al Bacio where we’ll stay until we’re ready for the next activity, another meeting this afternoon.

Tomorrow, we’ll back with more photos of our time in the Cayman Islands with Susan and Blair.

Have an enjoyable day!

Photo from one year ago today, November 26, 2016:
I love the look on Tom’s face in this shot. It was one year ago today that we did the seminar on the ship. A few days later, we were asked to conduct a second seminar. For more details, please click here.

Day 3…Cruise to South America….Life aboard ship is often surprising….Final photos from embarkation…

View of lovely home on the channel out to sea.

“Sighting from the Veranda while Cruising”

Tugboat assisting with the ship heading out to sea.

It’s 3:00 pm Saturday. We just returned from lunch with Susan and Blair, who found us online and picked us up after the tender ride from the ship to the shore and recently returned us to the tender boat. More on that tomorrow when we included photos of our new friends and beautiful Grand Cayman.

The past 24 hours have been a whirlwind of delightful conversations with many passengers, many of whom have engaged in extensive travel throughout their lives. 

Bridge in Fort Lauderdale.

The rapid-fire questions and answers we all share sitting at a table in either the Cafe al Bacio, the Oceanview Cafe, or the Trellis restaurant have been as entertaining as they could be.

Cargo ship at the port.

Oddly, we’ve met several passengers who know us from our site, many who’ve been following us for years, some finding Tom on Cruise Critic and others who’ve heard about our world travels.

We’re in awe each time someone approaches us and starts speaking as if they’ve known us for years. After all, we’ve revealed so much about ourselves, our lives. We’re humbled and in awe of their attention and interest. 

More stunning homes on the channel.

Who knew that Tom and I, everyday people like us, would experience a tiny touch of celebrity in this life?  Each time we’re approached, we almost feel a little embarrassed (as much as we appreciate it and please, continue to do so), knowing the people we’re meeting already know so much about us. 

View of the channel in Fort Lauderdale.

And yet, we know so little about them, and with much pleasure and anticipation, we love hearing their stories as well. At times, we feel as if we’re hogging the conversation when the level of curiosity many people express puts us both in a non-stop chatter mode, excited to answer their questions and satisfy their curiosity.

We must admit, we revel in sharing our favorite morsels, especially after the almost four months in Costa Rica when we seldom spoke to an English-speaking person other than one another. (Not that we minded that!)

City view.

How did we get so lucky? Simply put, we shake our heads in wonder from the warm reception and lively conversations we’re experiencing at every exchange. Neither of us ever dreamed of nor imagined people whom we don’t know would be so welcoming.

View of houses on the channel.

The warm hugs, the genuine laughter, the easy flow of conversation, whether it’s a table for four or 10, leaves us reeling with wide grins on our faces. I think I fell asleep last night with a smile on my face. And Tom, equally blissful after several cocktails and the fun with fellow passengers, slept like a baby, smiling all the while.

And today, I find my health rapidly improving with my newest eating regime, feel a powerful sense of return to my former “overly bubbly” self which at times wafted away after the injuries in Bali in 2016 and the onset and escalation of gastrointestinal issues that now appear to be declining in intensity. 

People are standing on the shore waving as the ship sails past.

The 18 months of discomfort are almost behind me, and I’m rearing to go. I started working out yesterday and will continue for the remainder of the cruise and also during the 30 days in Buenos Aires, in each case having access to fitness centers.

View of houses on the channel.

The upcoming Antarctica cruise requires a degree of fitness and sure-footedness. Tom, without a doubt, is masterful in this regard, but I’d fallen behind in the past 18 months. 

By January 23, 2018, I’m anticipating that I’ll be fit and ready to trek on trails on the various islands in Antarctica, easily getting off and on the almost daily excursions on the Zodiak boats in the bitterly cold weather.

People were waving to ships as they make their way out to sea.

We’ve come so far. We have so much more to go. Each day presents new opportunities, new challenges, and new relationships while nurturing the existing and robust relationship. Lucky? Perhaps. Determined?  Unquestionably.

Thank you to all of our readers whether we’ve ever had the opportunity to meet you, to shake your hand, to hug you, and, most of all, to carry you in our hearts as we continue.

Photo from one year ago today,  November 25, 2016:

We were in awe of the sky view awaiting us from our balcony on the ship circumventing Australia. For more photos one year ago, please click here.

Day 2…Cruise to South America…Of course, we’re having fun!

As we rode the shuttle from the Fort Lauderdale Hilton Hotel, we spotted our cruise ship. Check-in was a bit slow, but by 12:30 pm, we were checked in and aboard the ship.

“Sightings from the Veranda while Cruising”

We saw the Royal Caribbean Empress of the Seas in port, ready to head out to sea from our veranda.

We’re taking a risk offering “Sightings from the Veranda while Cruising.” There may be days while out to sea that we don’t see a thing other than the vast horizon of rolling seas. 

However, whenever a time arises with several photo ops, we’ll share them over several days. Would you please bear with us if some of the photos aren’t of major significance or interest? We’ll do our best as usual. 

 This US-decorated fuel tank is located at the port of Fort Lauderdale.

At the moment, at almost 11:00 am, I’m running a little behind. After breakfast in the dining room (I had herbal tea with coconut cream and Tom had bacon and eggs), we attended the first Cruise Critic get-together. After the meeting, Tom decided to participate in a lecture on the Panama Canal at the Celebrity Theatre while I worked on preparing today’s post at El Bacio cafe.

Over the past many Celebrity cruises, we’ve always worked on the post in this same-named cafe, most of which are similarly designed with comfortable seating and premium coffee drinks.

Tom was watching the Minnesota Vikings game before we had to leave for the muster drill.

We don’t have a drink package on this cruise (at a minimum of US $60 per day per person), an outrageous expense based on the fact we have free drinks every night from 5:00 to 7:00 pm as Elite members of the Captain’s Club, we don’t order beverages while in El Bacio Cafe.

Fortunately, one doesn’t feel obligated to purchase something to spend time in any of the areas of the ship. If we want a beverage, at any time, we can take the elevator to the 10th floor to the Oceanview Cafe, where we can fill up on coffee or tea at no charge. 

Our tiny 170 square foot cabin,

Since I remembered they don’t carry any herbal teas I like, I brought along plenty of tea bags of a favorite organic cinnamon tea I found in Costa Rica. The Oceanview Cafe is a short ride up the elevator from our cabin, and it takes only a few minutes to grab some hot water for my insulated mug.

Last night, when the complimentary cocktails weren’t offered for members on sail away, Tom never ordered a cocktail. Having lost all the weight he’d gained in Costa Rica from eating fruit every day during the first few months, he’s avoiding fruit, bread, starches, and dessert or, in this case, too many cocktails, all of which contribute to passengers gaining as much as 10 or 15 pounds on a 30-night cruise.

Not too luxurious but adequate for our needs.

For me, it’s easy. Last night I had a romaine salad with prawns, grilled salmon, avocado, and my usual full-fat sour cream as a dressing with a side of steamed vegetables…no appetizer, no dessert, and I was satisfied I’d had plenty to eat.

Last night before dinner, our bags arrived at our cabin, including the smaller box of clothing and supplies.  With our cabin much smaller than on most cruises, once the bags were inside and with limited cabinet and closet space, we wondered how we’d manage to unpack.

There’s our yellow Costco bag, still surviving after all these years.

Tom busied himself watching the Minnesota Vikings game at the casino bar while I tackled the unpacking. In no time at all, I had all of my bags emptied and decided to tackle Tom’s as well. 

By the time he returned to the cabin to collect me for the “muster drill,” I had a massive handle on it. Unfortunately, the muster drill required so much time, and he missed the second half of the game.

In most balcony cabins, we have a full-sized sofa which we rarely use.  In this case, we left our open supplies suitcase since there wasn’t enough room in the cabin to remove many of its contents.

Once we returned to the cabin after the drill, I encouraged him to continue to try to stream the game’s balance on NFL GamePass, which he hadn’t been able to stream on past cruises. With a high degree of patience and sheer will, he managed to get the game to stream on the ship’s slow Wi-Fi signal and watch the exciting finale.

I continued to unpack, finding little nooks and crannies where I could put things. The result was surprising.  We had a spot for everything we needed and still had room to walk in the little cabin. 

On other cruises. The Celebrity Infinity is an older ship built in 2001 (remodeled in 2015), and balcony cabins are typically around 170 square feet, compared to many we’ve had over 200 square feet. , we included these photos to illustrate the size of the cabin.

The clouds rolled in before setting sail at 5:00 pm when the rain began to fall.

It’s all fine for us as long as we can fit our belongings and empty luggage, which somehow we managed to do.  Tom pushed most of the bags under the bed except his suitcase, which didn’t fit. No worries, we found a corner spot for it.

After dressing for dinner, we headed to the Trellis Dining Room for our usual “My Time Dining.” Part of the pleasure of cruising revolves around the opportunity to meet new people at every meal. We don’t like being locked into any specific time or sitting with the same people every night.

Last night, I had the privilege of sitting next to Angie (and her husband, Rick). She was a US Navy nurse stationed in Antarctica. Wow! The conversation flowed freely when we discussed the mysterious part of the world along with many other topics. 

Royal Caribbean Empress of the Seas took off shortly before our ship.

Tom, who sat to my right, was engrossed in conversation with the couple sitting next to him at our table for ten and, at times, the entire rest of the table. It was a purely delightful evening. By 10:00 pm, tired from the busy travel days, we headed back to our cabin for what proved to be a much-needed good night’s sleep.

Tom just found me here, and he’ll spend some time online too. Soon, I’ll go work out, which I’m planning to do frequently during the cruise, and again at the hotel in Buenos Aires, which has a fitness center.

So far, so good! The day will unravel as it often does to our liking and sheer enjoyment of a lovely day at sea.  Tomorrow, our first port of call will be Grand Cayman Island, where a lovely couple we’ve met from our site, residents of the beautiful island who also plan to travel the world. More on Susan and Blair’s story with photos in a few days.

Be well.  Be happy. 

Photo from one year ago, November 24, 2016:

Our ship, Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas, was taken while walking to the train station in Adelaide, South Australia. For more photos, please click here.

Happy Thanksgiving to family and friends in the USA…Yesterday’s travel day…Mr. Overly Grumpy came to call…But, he’s gone now…

We stopped to take this photo on the way to the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica. This is a Northern Crested Caracara: “The northern crested caracara, also called the northern caracara and crested caracara, is a bird of prey in the family Falconidae.”

Everyone has a boiling point. Mine was evident on Tuesday when I was attempting to check-in online and pay for our bags for yesterday’s flight from San Jose, Costa Rica to Miami, Florida, only to discover it couldn’t be done online, only at the airport.

With no direct flights from Costa Rica to Fort Lauderdale, the port’s location for today’s cruise embarkation, we opted to fly to Miami and take a taxi to Fort Lauderdale. That decision was a mistake, but one we knew was a risk based on the anticipated crowds at the airport in Miami and the traffic we’d encounter at rush hour on this popular US holiday, Thanksgiving. 

By the way, Happy Thanksgiving to all of our friends and family in the US as they celebrate with all the traditional foods and festivities commensurate with this day. 

Surprisingly, the check-in process at the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica, was seamless. We hurried through check-in at American Airlines using a kiosk where we paid for our bags and received boarding passes. 

Our porter escorted us to the counter to weigh our bags. Luckily, none were overweight. In no time at all, we breezed through immigration and security in a matter of minutes. After a long walk, we made it to our gate to wait 90 minutes for boarding, while we busied ourselves online while comfortably seated in a cafe.

The flight was good, only a little over two hours with minimal turbulence. Since we’d booked the flight a little late, we were seated in the second to last row on a 737 plane. It was fine. We waited to board last to avoid standing in line and did the same when deplaning. We weren’t in a hurry. So far, so good. We were both cheerful.

Again, most surprisingly, once we were off the plane in Miami, everything at the airport went smoothly; immigration, customs, collecting our bags, and making our way to the taxi area.  

The cab driver explained that the drive to Fort Lauderdale would be tough with tons of traffic. We opted against the extra US $10 fee to use the express lane when we saw that this too was backed up.

Barely out of the airport, we noticed the meter was already over US $20. Ouch, this was going to be one pricey taxi fare. Tom, who’s Mr. Frugal with everything except what I want for which he never flinches, became frustrated watching the meter and the outrageous often standstill traffic on the freeway. 

With horrible traffic, Tom can easily get worked up into a tizzy. In our old lives, we arranged outings before or after rush hour. Sometimes, it was unavoidable. For whatever reason, certain drivers get stressed and angry during traffic.  Although Tom was consoling me when I got frustrated trying to check-in online, I don’t get it. We all have our boiling points.

Well, anyway, $100 in cab fare later (with tip), we arrived at our hotel, grabbed a bellman to haul the bags to our room, asking him to bring us the two packages which had come with all the stuff. By 5:00 pm, we were in our somewhat tiny room at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, and Mr. Overly Grumpy was long gone with Tom’s usual good nature and good humor fully intact.

When the bellman brought the 75 pounds (34 kg) box and the smaller box with the camera battery charger, we wondered how we fit it all into our bags. In 90 minutes, we needed to be downstairs at the entrance to meet friend Carol (retried Delta Airline pilot/captain) to go to dinner. We hadn’t seen her since we stayed at her home for a few nights in 2013, having stayed in close touch via email and Facebook over the past five years.

I have a confession. Yesterday, I didn’t take photos. Not at the airport. Not on the car ride to the hotel. Not at the excellent restaurant where we dined last night with Carol. No gorgeous food photos, no smiling faces. Sorry. 

Awakening at 4:00 am yesterday, and I couldn’t get into the camera thing. The only photos I took were in Costa Rica, of these two birds as shown, which our friendly taxi driver pointed out on the drive to the airport, stopping long enough for me to take these two shots. That explains more bird photos from Costa Rica, not necessarily from the veranda, but bird photos, nonetheless.

At the same spot, we saw this Black Vulture feasting on remnants of a food wrapper.

Before leaving for dinner, we opened the huge box and began piling everything on the bed, including the clothing and cold weather gear we’ll need for Antarctica and a year’s worth of supplies for Africa. That’s not to say we won’t need supplies again in 2018, but for the time being, we’ve got it covered.

Much to my delight, my three prescriptions were in the box, enough to last for the next six months. My new laptop was intact in its original box, which I won’t open until a quiet day on the cruise or perhaps not until we get to Buenos Aires. No rush. This one, three years old, is still chugging along.

The dinner with Carol was great, although pricey at around US $150. Tom’s one cocktail was US $17.50. I ordered a Caesar salad (no croutons) with one shrimp and two scallops at the cost of US $44. That’s what we’ve found in the US… it’s more expensive than in most other countries.

The conversation was lively and animated, and we hated to wrap up the evening. But, by 10:00 pm, we were back at the hotel, determined to work on the box before we’d get some sleep.

This morning after about only five hours of sleep, we bolted out of bed to get back to work on unwrapping and repacking 75 pounds of “stuff.” We fit everything in our existing luggage, ending with a smaller box Tom found in the hallway filled with the taped clothing and labeled. We can’t believe we got everything to fit. 

Most people have a home and are easily able to pack for the Antarctica cruise. We had no choice but to add everything to our already “everything-we-own” inventory, making it incredibly challenging. We’re relieved to have this handled and can relax on the cruise…duh, once we unpack everything in the cabin for today’s cruise. 

In the next half hour, we’ll head downstairs to take the shuttle to the port at the cost of US $6 per person. Tomorrow, we’ll be back with many new photos as we get settled in for the next 30-nights of fun out to sea.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, November 23, 2016:

The Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide has a lot to offer the art enthusiast. For more photos, please click here.

Packing, planning and pool…Favorite photos begin…Could we ever settle in Costa Rica?…Two days and counting….

Beautiful scene from the veranda.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

This is a Rufous-naped Wren sitting atop the African Tulip Tree, captured from the veranda.

Two mornings from today, we’ll be on our way to the airport to fly to Miami to board our cruise the following day, Thanksgiving Day. This morning, I packed all of my clothes, leaving out a swimsuit, tee shirt dress, and underwear for the next few days. 

Frog visitor on the bumper of the rental car while at Supermercado Coopeatenas.

A few minutes ago, Tom and I weighed my packed suitcase, and it weighs 48 pounds (22kg), well within the maximum allowed by American Airlines of 50 pounds (23 kg). It seemed so heavy, and I’m thrilled it all worked out well.

Ulysses was working in the yard…no lawnmower…weed whacker instead.

Last night, we watched the final two episodes of the final season of Mad Men. It was a peculiar thought-provoking finale that could be interpreted in many ways. We opted for a more optimistic perspective.  If you haven’t watched this series, we highly recommend it.

Giant iguana at Zoo Ave.
Green lizard in the courtyard.

Today, we’re using all of the remaining food in the fridge for a mishmash two-night dinner; tuna salad, salmon salad (using the remaining eggs), sausages, bacon, salad, and steamed veggies. Soon, I’ll start chopping and dicing.

Stunning blooms, Pine Cone Ginger.

Boiled eggs are hard to peel here. I don’t know why. I’ve tried every trick I’ve found online, yet I still ruin half of each egg trying to remove the thin shells. That will keep me busy for a while.

Closer view of Atenas from the veranda.

In reviewing our photos for favorites, I struggled a little. With thousands of photos, it could take me all day to go through them, which I’d prefer not to do. Instead, I uploaded a handful to post today. 

Butcher at the Friday Farmer’s Market.

Tomorrow, we’ll write a detailed review of this lovely vacation home with photos, and on Wednesday, the final day, we’ll include the final expenses and favorite bird photos. That will wrap up our final posts from Costa Rica.

An Owl Butterfly we spotted in the courtyard with what appears to be a large eye to scare off predators.

How are we feeling about leaving? We’ve loved it here. The house, the people, the grounds, the wildlife, and the scenery has been over-the-top. Will we return someday? It’s improbable. As I always say, there’s so much more world to see and let’s face it. The clock is ticking.

Graffiti on a wall in Atenas.

We’ve asked ourselves, “Could we ever settle in Costa Rica?” For us, due to a lack of desire to “settle,” the answer is “no.” Costa Rica is a relatively affordable place to live. It possesses lovely people, scenery, and wildlife, appealing to many ex-pats from all over the world, but we can’t see ourselves settling anywhere at this point. 

Juan Ramon was showing us around the museum.

The ex-pat lifestyle isn’t for us. Buying or renting a permanent home, buying furniture and household items, and a car are so far removed from our radar, we can hardly even imagine the possibility. 

Old railroad bridge after a long walk from the railway station.

Sure, at some point, we won’t be able to continue. We accept this reality. At one point long ago, we mentioned here that we’d begun to peruse real estate options in various countries to get an idea of where we may live when that time comes.

It was roasting coffee beans at the El Toledo Coffee Tour.

But, the longer we’ve continued, we’ve lost interest in pursuing such a premise. We have little interest in looking at houses for sale in any country unless we’re doing a story for a property owner/landlord, helping them to promote their property, or out of curiosity to share details here.

Inside the antique cafe at the El Toledo Coffee Tour.

This morning it dawned on us that in six days, we’ll be going through the Panama Canal for the second time. Tom reminded me that we’re currently “living in the moment” and shouldn’t “think that far ahead.” Good grief!  Six days isn’t too far ahead. 

 A babbling brook in the mountains.

And yes, we are living in the moment. As soon as I upload today’s post, Tom proofreads it for errors, I’ll peel eggs, finish making dinner, and we’ll head out to the pool for yet another fabulous sunny afternoon in Costa Rica.

Mom and calf in the neighborhood.

May you have a fabulous sunny day wherever you may be!

Topiary at Zarcera Topiary Garden
Elephant at the topiary garden in Zarcera.

Photo from one year ago today, November 20, 2016:

It was a bright and sunny day as we exited the ship one year ago today in Adelaide, Australia, to walk through this port building. For more details, please click here.

Camera issues and safari luck…Another beautiful recovery of an injured bird…Three days and counting…

Tom captured this Sierra Birdbum after being stunned from hitting the window, dropping to the top landing steps leading to the ground level. He called out to me to come to see her, which I did, but he stayed in place, taking photos of her eventual recovery. 

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

This appears to be a Tropical Kingbird spotted sitting on the roof above the veranda near the master bath.

Last night, as Tom often does, he replaced one of the batteries we have for the camera charging in the plug-in charger. The camera only requires one battery at a time, but we have four to ensure we never run out of juice when taking photos almost every day.

When he removed the battery from the charger, inserting another for a charge before we depart in three days, he noticed something was wrong with the charger. The charging light wouldn’t stay on even when he tried multiple outlets. 

Inserting the batteries into the camera, we noticed the recent replacement wasn’t fully charged. Gosh, we’re dependent upon our equipment! Immediately, we pulled out all of the possible cables we had, searching for one that was a USB.

It was quite a while before she began to regain awareness.

What a dilemma! With the thought in mind that we’d purchased the camera in New Zealand in 2016, the adapters and plug-ins were not suitable for our universal adapter set up for US plugs to accommodate outlets worldwide. But, it wasn’t ideal for New Zealand plugs to accommodate worldwide outlets.

After monkeying around with every possibility, for which both of us are pretty adept, we were left with only one alternative…order a new charger from Amazon with two-day delivery, having it sent to our hotel in Florida where we’ll be on Wednesday for a total of only 18 hours. Tricky. 

Hopefully, Amazon’s usual trusty delivery dates will be as accurate as they’ve been for us in the past, and the charger will arrive on time. It’s scheduled to arrive on Tuesday (two days before the US holiday Thanksgiving) when the hotel will hold it until we reach the following day, Thanksgiving Eve.

Finally, she began checking out her surroundings.

If we hadn’t had enough time to order and receive this essential item and, with stores all closed in Florida for a holiday, we’d have found ourselves aboard the ship, unable to recharge the camera. It was a case of “safari luck” that happened last night, allowing sufficient time to receive a replacement.

Cruise ships generally have a camera shop but carry few accessories other than those for the expensive cameras they sell. If we couldn’t receive a replacement charger, we may have had no choice but to purchase another camera from the ship. (We plan to buy another camera before the Antarctica cruise anyway but prefer to have more options than what’s usually available on the boat).

We’d planned to look for another camera in Buenos Aires, certainly a big enough city to accommodate our needs. We weren’t disappointed with the current camera we’d purchased in New Zealand, never anticipating this issue when we thought we had all the adapters we needed.

We both waited patiently until finally, only seconds after taking this photo, she was able to fly off.  Whew!

Oh, the trials and tribulations of world travel never cease to amaze us! It’s not uncommon for us to be searching for a variety of products when we don’t have access to the well-supplied stores in the USA with vast options for brands and specifications. 

Online purchases, although handy, require exorbitant shipping fees to most locations outside the USA with customs checks and subsequent tariffs and fees. Many US-based online suppliers don’t ship outside the US. In Costa Rica, many items cannot be sent into the country or are not worth the added expenses.  (See this link for details on importing items to Costa Rica).

Often, we pay more for necessary supplies, such as the added cost of US $450 (CRC 255,277) for shipping and insuring the heavy box of cold weather clothing and supplies to Florida from Nevada. It’s the “nature of the beast” that we accepted a long time ago and is always considered when planning our budget. 

Today is another gorgeous sunny day which we’ll enjoy poolside. The pool is heated using solar panels and is pleasantly warm on sunny days and icy cold. Tom decided to wait until later in the day to watch the Minnesota Vikings Football game on NFL GamePass since he doesn’t want to miss the prime sunshine while we “play” in the pool.

Have a delightful Sunday watching your favorite sports team!    

Photo from one year ago today, November 19, 2016:

There was a “future cruises” presentation in the Centrum. For more details, please click here.