Antarctic – Sunday, January 28, 2018…Elsehul, South Georgia…Morning cruise on Zodiac boats…

This elephant seal on Steeple Jason Island didn’t care for our photo taking antics.

It was an early start to the day when we had to be dressed in our heavy gear in order to embark upon a 75 minute Zodiac boat cruise of Elsehul Island located on South Georgia Island.  Originally, the plan had been to leave a little later in the morning but with bad weather on the horizon, the captain decided it was best to go out earlier rather than later.

About one in 1000 seal births results in this light color which is a result of low melanin production.  Although not albino, the offspring of these seals may also be the light color or, not.

Awakening at 5:15 am, we showered and dressed in our multiple layers to keep us warm in the potentially high winds and colder temperatures than we’d experienced in over five years.  We had no trouble getting up and ready, heading to deck three lounge to wait for our designated color “blue” t0 be called to board the boats.

A male fur seal keeping watch.  We were warned not to get too close to the males.  They can readily become agitated and can attack.  Their bite can be dangerous.

One of our readers wrote asking how hard it is to board the somewhat wobbly Zodiac boats, especially in rough weather.  As a part of our training in safety procedures during an expedition cruise, one section consisted of getting on and off the boats and also in ensuring we don’t tip overboard on the fast bouncy rides if we’re in rough seas. 

This Elephant Seal didn’t look so happy.

There are thick ropes surrounding the perimeter of the Zodiac we can hang onto in rough seas.  But, as shown in our photos, sitting on the outside edge of the boats doesn’t feel particularly stable. It would be awful to plunge into the ice-cold seas in this part of the world.  Getting off and on has now become second nature, even with my injured knee.  

Lounging fur seals, adults, and pups.

In addition, we’ve continued to go through a series of decontamination procedures each time we board and disembark the 10-person boats.  Keeping Antarctica free of germs and contamination from outside areas is vital to the preservation of wildlife and vegetation in this protected area.

Basking in the warmth of the sun.

Prior to boarding the boats, while wearing our boots (provided by Ponant) we are required to walk through a disinfectant liquid that clears any bacteria or organisms we may have picked aboard the ship. 

A watchful eye for the family…

After our expedition, we not only walk through the liquid again, but we stop at a station where there are large pans of disinfectant and long handled scrub brushes in order to clean the boots from any residual guano or vegetation. 

King Penguins standing by the shore at Steeple Jason Island.

In addition to the above, yesterday afternoon, each deck was scheduled at a specific time to bring their parkas, boots, gloves, scarves, and hat to the third deck lounge to vacuum each item to remove any residual items that may have become attached to our outerwear.  

An affectionate family interaction.

We appreciate and respect the diligence with which the cruise line honors these actual eco and conservation laws as a part of the honor of being a visitor to this majestic place.

Four King Penguins contemplating their next move.

Over these past five days, since we’ve boarded the ship, we’ve become a part of a 10-person group of passengers with whom we hang out, meet for happy hour and dine each evening.  

We observed a total of three of these rare light colored fur seals.

The instigators of these great group of people have been perpetrated by new friends and US citizens Marg and Steve with homes in Montana and Arizona.  Marg’s bubbly and charming personality certainly designate her as the most competent of social directors.

Penguins lining the shore.

Our group consists of five couples; two from Australia, and three from the US.  It’s a perfect mix of varying ages (from 30’s to 70’s) and lifestyles, making the conversations and laughter flow with ease.  On most cruises, we tend to single out English speaking people (duh, makes sense, right?) and as always, we’re having a great time with our new friends.

A pretty scene in Steeple Jason Island.
I asked guest services to print a copy of the countries from which the 194 passengers hail and it reads as follows:
Australia               37

Canada                 29

China                    2

France                  55

Germany               3

Hong Kong            12

Luxembourg          3

New Zealand          1

Spain                    2

Switzerland            23

United Kingdom     11

USA                      16

Total                    194

King Penguins hanging out on a hill.

Most of the passengers from Canada, Luxembourg, and Switzerland speak French.  Adding those citizens to the French group accounts for 110 passengers who speak French.  This French ship starts all announcements in French but is accommodating in providing information shortly thereafter in English.  It’s working out fine for those of us English speaking passengers.

Tom noticed a “face” formation in these rocks.  Do you see this too?

I have to rush and wrap this up.  In less than 40 minutes, we have to be dressed in the warm weather gear and ready to go for our next excursion in Stromness in South Georgia.  Due to bad weather conditions, the actual “port of call” has been changed to a small historical town with plenty of wildlife. We’ll be back with more soon.  Stay warm.  Stay well.

Closeup of King Penguins.


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Photo from one year ago today, January 28, 2017:

There were many carved statues overlooking the Huon River in Tasmania.  We stopped to read about each of them.  For more photos, please click here.

Antarctica- Friday, January 26, 2018…More from the Falkland Islands…Saunders Island…

A small group of Gentoo Penguins heading out to sea for a morning swim and hopefully a bite to eat.
Each day, during this exciting Antarctica cruise, we’ll be attempting to post activities from the prior day’s expeditions including wildlife, scenery and ship photos. 
The temperature was above freezing but the heavy gear kept us warm and protected from the harsh winds.  Tom, like all of us, was wearing a life vest which is mandatory while riding on the Zodiac boats.  There are two Gentoo Penguins in by the shoreline.
Soon, we’ll start posting some food photos but right now we’re thinking less about our luxurious cabin and meal and more about nature is sharing with us in this stunning winter-like wonderland, so far removed from any world we’ve ever known.

Me and a few Gentoo Penguins on Saunders Island in the Falkland Islands.

Currently, our world revolves around getting outside on the Zodiac boats to see the treasures of this most unusual place on the planet, leaving us with memories we’ll treasure until the end of our days.  Getting enough rest to be able to partake in all of the activities has been a bit of a challenge with my still recovering infected knee, not yet 100%.

We enjoyed seeing the interesting markings on the Magellanic Penguins.

Although, my FitBit has been smoking as we’ve managed to do over 10,000 steps a day over some rough terrain; hills, rocky patches amid steep climbs and inclines.  No doubt, the knee is sore but I’m hopeful it will continue to improve now that we’ll have two days at sea to rest and recoup.

Two Gentoo Penguins figuring out how they’ll spend their morning.

This cruise is less social for us than many other cruises.  Half the passengers don’t speak English, many came together in groups, leaving but a handful with whom we can engage.  As it turns out this cruise is less about socialization and more about learning about this majestic environment. We’re doing fine amid this social structure.

Two Gentoo Penguins rushing along the shore deciding if they’ll head into the sea for breakfast.

We’ll have plenty of time for socialization upcoming in South Africa when invitations for social events have already started rolling in.  In the interim, Tom and I, in our usual manner, are having lots of fun together every moment of the day and evening.  Even the setback of my knee hasn’t hindered the quality of the time we’re spending together.

A King Penguin parent feeding its newborn chick.
Closer view of the newly hatched chick.
This small ship, Ponant Le Soleal, (Soleal, meaning “the ship that shows the way), is bright white and varying shades of grey in a calming and pleasing contemporary design.  Only five years old, it sails along with the greatest of ease. 

This photo if carefully examined illustrates a King Penguin, near the center of the group (slightly to the left) with a newborn chick which she/he was feeding from time to time, next to another penguin who’s chick had died.

Every so often the mom/dad with the live chick gets into a scuffle with
the parent with the dead chick.  So sad to see.

Of, course, we’ve yet to experience the Drake Passage in its entirety, where the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans meet for the roughest waters in the world.  We’ll see how that goes on this small vessel.

Finally, the anguished parent with the dead chick turned away.

The fact that we’ve been able to post a few times has given us great hope that we’ll be able to stay in and out of touch as we continue for the two remaining weeks until we disembark in Ushuaia to fly back to Buenos Aires for two nights before we make the two day flight to South Africa.  We’ll definitely need to be rested for that.

King Penguin parents overseeing the feeding and safety of their chicks.

The ship’s Wi-Fi is very expensive at US $250 for 18 hours giving us approximately one hour a day of use.  Tom has stayed offline except to send his blind brother Jerome the daily post as they occur minus the photos. 

This is a Brown Skua,

The remainder of the metered Wi-Fi time consists of me preparing posts as quickly and as error-free as possible offline then uploading them with photos and with as many corrections as possible. 

These Magellanic Penguins were headed out for breakfast.

Unfortunately, I simply don’t have enough time online to conduct research and provide links (other than our own) to share with you as we often do. A half of the 17-day cruise will be spent visiting islands, glaciers and ice floes while the remainder will be out to sea, such as today and tomorrow. 

A well padded King Penguin.

Our intent is to share every aspect of this cruise including photos from every outing on the Zodiac boats, the essence of this type of expedition cruise.  We’ll make every effort to ensure all of our readers will share in this adventure with us from their armchairs at home or desks at their office; minus the cold; minus the rocky ground and; minus the steep inclines. 

A Gentoo Penguin swooning toward the sky.

For us to be able to do this with all of you means so much to both of us, adding an element to our experiences that feels as if you are right beside us

Due to the cold climate plants such as this may take decades to grow to this size.


Last night was a formal night and as always we did our best to fit in with dressing appropriately  Some women wore evening gowns but only a few men wore tuxedos.  There was a fixed menu in the dining room which the chef accommodated to my diet which worked well and was the best meal we’d had on the ship to date. 

More beautiful slow growing vegetation.  It’s imperative that humans don’t touch or disturb any plants of vegetation in Antarctica which may take decades or even centuries to grow.

After dinner, we headed to deck three to watch the most lively group of dancing passengers we’ve seen to date.  Most were French and they sure knew how to “boogie” to the music.  What a lively group!

Many seabirds are killed as a result of humans fishing in their waters.

Tom and I love to dance together.  Last night we danced a few times, with me basically dancing while standing in place.  One can do a lot while wildly flailing their arms on a dance floor.

A hard reality in the animal kingdom…they don’t always survive the elements.

Thank you for your patience as we stumbled through the at-times-challenging Wi-Fi connection which we anticipate will only get worse as we sail further south to the “real” bottom of the world.  Stay tuned, folks.  We’ll be back with more

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Photo from one year ago today, January 26, 2017:
Tom standing next to the Australian flag at the entrance to the Australia Day festivities in the town of Franklin, Tasmania.  For more photos, please click here.

Day 15… Cruise to South America….Tom’s special homemade Irish Cream recipe…

 

Tom and I and Lisa and Barry, our new friends.

“Sightings from the Veranda while Cruising”

Boat in the harbor in Arica, Chile.

Each year at Christmas time, we receive many requests for Tom’s Irish Cream recipe which is comparable to Bailey’s Irish Cream, without all the chemicals and artificial ingredients used in commercial production. 

For those who may want to give bottles of this delicious concoction, glass bottles of this holiday beverage make perfect gifts, generally costing around US $12 a bottle. 

Bottles with corks can be purchased at any winemaking store or at such home good stores at TJ Maxx where they usually carry very decorative glass bottles.  Tom used to make about 150 bottles each year that we gave to friends and family, including a non-alcoholic version.

Some years we saved wine bottles as we used them, washing them in the dishwasher and storing them in bottle boxes from any liquor store.  This avoided the cost of the bottles.  In those cases, we only had to buy the corks.

Now that some wineries use screw-top caps, avid wine drinkers of those varieties can save those bottles and caps for future use as long as they’re sterilized in the dishwasher or hot water before filling them with the mix.

Also, using our at-home printer’s label making feature, we made labels to ensure all recipients were made aware that the product needs to be refrigerated and keeps only 30 days.

The stick-on label would read something like this often with a decorative jpeg of your choice :

Image result for holly jpg
 Lyman’s Irish Cream
From our home to yours…
Have a happy holiday season!
Please keep this product
refrigerated and store for
no more than 30 days.
Tom Lyman’s Irish Cream (Comparable to Bailey’s Irish Cream)1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 pint half & half or real whipping cream

3 pasteurized eggs (important for safety)

1/8 teaspoon coconut extract

1 tablespoon chocolate syrup

1 cup Irish Whiskey or other bourbon or whiskey

Blend all ingredients in a blender for 2 minutes, then add 1 cup whiskey, measuring into the empty can of sweetened condensed milk in order to remove every last drop of the creamy sweetened condensed milk.

Blend for another 30 seconds. Pour into a glass bottle with a tight-fitting cork.

Keeps refrigerated for 30 days.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions regarding the preparation of this recipe.  We’re happy to assist! Enjoy!

After many years of making these bottles, in 2011, our last Christmas in Minnesota, we stopped making them.  The cost for such large and continuing-to-grow numbers of recipients became prohibitive.

Although neither of us drank it, we always kept several bottles to share with guests visiting during the holiday season.  It was always a welcomed addition to a cup of fresh French pressed coffee. 

Speaking of French pressed coffee, yesterday for the first time since we embarked on this cruise on November 23rd on Thanksgiving Day, I ordered my first cup of low carb (my version) of Caramel Macchiato.  I requested decaf espresso using whole cream (instead of milk) and sugar-free vanilla syrup (instead of sugary caramel syrup) which they had on board much to my delight.

Last night at dinner one of our tablemates had the roasted duck.

It was the first coffee I’ve had in a while and it was such a treat!  This morning as we’re sitting in Cafe al Bacio, I’m sipping on my usual turmeric tea with cinnamon, unsweetened coconut cream, unsweetened cocoa, and a touch of my usual sweetener.  Actually, this drink is almost as tasty as the above-mentioned coffee drink.

In the afternoon, after we uploaded yesterday’s post, we played Five Crowns card game with Lisa and Barry and had a blast.  This afternoon, we plan to play one final time since their portion of the cruise ends tomorrow while we’ll continue on for the second leg of the back-to-back cruise.

Tonight after happy hour, we’re all going to dine in the specialty restaurant, The Tuscan Grill and no doubt will have another delightful evening.  We’ll take photos to share in tomorrow’s post.

May you have a delightful day and evening!
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Photo from one year ago today, December 7, 2016:

View from our vacation home/holiday home in Penguin, Tasmania, Tom’s favorite town in the world.  For more photos, please click here.


 

Boarding Celebrity Solstice today…Boarding issues…Waiting until the last minute never pays for us…Final expenses for two nights at hotel…

  I ordered this Cobb salad during the two nights at the Showcase Restaurant located in the Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Hotel.

Yesterday, we received an email from Vacations to Go to inform all of their cruiser passengers regarding today’s boarding on Celebrity Solstice’s Alaskan cruise as to the following:

“We are writing to provide you with important information regarding the Celebrity Solstice out of Vancouver, Canada on May 17, 2017.

Celebrity Solstice will be docked at Canada Place along with two other vessels.

Due to the increased number of guests from all three ships, port officials are estimating the disembarkation process will take longer than usual.

Check-in for your cruise will take place from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the cruise terminal. In order to facilitate the check-in process, we kindly ask that you complete online check in at www.celebritycruises.com/onlinecheckin if you have not done so already. Since there are three cruise ships at Canada Place on May 17th, all guests will need to meet at the Convention Centre Hall C (over Canada Place) where they will be organized into small groups prior to proceeding to the cruise terminal. Once at the terminal, guests will proceed through security and then through U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) prior to boarding the ship. Please note that guests from all three ships will be processed through a single security and CBP area. Guests may experience delays.”

On this morning’s Vancouver news, warnings stated to expect over 13,000 passengers at Canada Place (the port) with long delays.  Subsequently, we’ve decided not to head to the pier until after 2:00 pm.  By then, half of the crowd, which are the disembarking passengers, will have been processed out of the terminal.

Tom also enjoyed his turkey sandwich with bacon and chips two nights in a row.

Now, as I sit in the hotel restaurant with my cup of hot peppermint tea, I see dozens of passengers being instructed to head to the pier at 10:45 am.  We imagine most passengers will decide to go earlier rather than later. 

We’re comfortable having decided on the later boarding.  Check-in ends at 4 pm and the ship sails at 5:00 pm.

The pier is walking distance, but we’ll have to take a taxi on the road leading to the pier is all downhill.  I can only imagine how that would go with our heavy bags!

During the last boarding process in Vancouver on September 23, 2014, we were waiting, standing, sitting, standing and sitting for over three hours while we were herded like cattle from one check-in area to another.  We’ll never forget that day.  


This morning’s cloudy view of the street below.

Today, with three ships in the port at once, it will most likely be as chaotic as it was in 2014, if not more.  However, we’ll have our phones fully charged with books to read and games to play that will help pass the time.  Knowing what to expect helps keep the frustration at bay. 

We remind ourselves that such processes “go with the territory.” Who are we to complain?  We’re forever grateful for our lifestyle and a few inconveniences along the way are to be expected and, tolerated with grace and dignity.

Over the past two days in the hotel in Vancouver, with a better Wi-Fi signal, we knew it was time to get some things done that we hadn’t been able to accomplish on the last 24-night cruise with the poor signal.

It never pays for us to wait until the last minute.  The deals are seldom better, the options and selections become sparse and we find ourselves scurrying and somewhat stressed in booking that which we waited to do for whatever reasons.

Two situations occurred in the past 24 hours; one, renting a car for Minneapolis; two, checking in online for today’s cruise to Alaska., both of which we’d hope to complete on the past cruise.  The poor signal prevented us from completing these two tasks.

Yesterday, while attempting to finalize the car rental transaction the hotel’s Wi-Fi wasn’t working well with many guests online in the morning.  We had a heck of a time booking a car at a decent price for the six weeks in Minneapolis.  Prices were high and availability limited.  When we hit “submit” to complete our order, nothing happened.  I kept trying.

As it turned out, we received three email confirmations for three cars!  Luckily, a credit card number wasn’t required to book the cars although we’d have been able to cancel two of the transaction which we did promptly. 

Vancouver is comparable to many cities with lots of skyscrapers and business centers but is impeccably clean and friendly.

We’re were left with one confirmation for one car, a Ford Explorer SUV, which will be ideal during the six weeks.  Tom had been an Explorer fan having purchased a new version in fall of 1998.  He was thrilled to try a new model. 

Next, we were unable to do the online cruise check-in.  We missed the window of time required to check-in online which we’ll have to do once we get to check-in processing desk at the terminal.  We called Celebrity to confirm it was OK for us to do it at that time which they confirmed. 

Tom had tried checking in while on the last cruise (ending two days ago) but it was impossible due to the ship’s poor signal.  We had no other option other than to try once we checked in to the hotel.  Alas, we were unable to do the online check in.  No worries.  It will all work out.

Sorry, we don’t have many photos today. With the cold rainy weather after walking almost five miles on Monday, we were both needing a quiet restful day indoors.

Here are the final expenses for the hotel, drive from Seattle, shopping and meals for our two nights in Vancouver:

 Expense   US Dollar 
 Hotel – 2-nights   $                     317.86
 Driver – Seattle to Vanc.                          792.00
 Airfare    $                          –
 Taxi to Pier    $                        20.00
 Pharmacy (probiotics)   $                     310.42
 Meals in Hotel (incl. tips)   $                     105.92
 Additional tips   $                        20.00
 Total   $                  1,566.20
 Avg Daily Cost    $                     778.10

These costs were higher than we’d hoped but we chose the “easy” type of transportation from Seattle to Vancouver with the private shuttle.  With our three checked bags and two carry-on bags, it wouldn’t have worked to find other passengers to share the vehicle.
That’s it for today folks,  In a few hours we’ll be on our way by taxi to the pier, Canada Place, with the hope our later arrival will serve us well.  We’ll be back tomorrow to report if our assessment of the situation was correct.
Back at you soon on our way to Alaska.  If at any time you don’t you don’t see a new post come through on any of the nine days on the ship, please know that it’s entirely due to a poor signal.  We’ll be taking plenty of photos that we’ll be anxious to share as soon as possible.
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Photo from one year ago today, May 17, 2016:

This is the exterior of the photo shop in Bali where we each had visa photos taken for a nominal price for our visa extensions.  For more photos, please click here.

Our travel map and how to view it…Winding down the cruise…


A view of Honolulu from the ship.

During the remainder of the cruise which ends on May 15th, we’ll be posting the balance of our photos from this 24-night cruise.  How quickly the time has flown as we near the end of this glorious sailing in returning to North America from the South Pacific.

Kona-Kailua, Hawaii swimming area.

After almost two years in the South Pacific (we arrived on June 11, 2015) we’re sad to say goodbye but feel confident we had a thorough sample of what this part of the world has to offer. 

When we walked along the shore in Kona after our visit to the town.

When we look in detail at our travel map on the right side of the page under the photo of us in Petra, Jordan, you’ll see the words “Map our Travels.”  Below that, click on “Travel Map” on the line reading, “View Full-Size Travel Map at Travellerspoint.”

Passengers o the beach in Vanuatu.

Upon doing opening the link a full-size map will show everywhere we’ve traveled since the onset of our travels beginning in 2012.  We’re amazed when we review this map, which Tom keeps up-to-date as we move from location to location.

View of Kona-Kailua from the ship.

In reviewing the map it’s evident we still have a lot of worlds left to explore including China, India, South America (soon) and Antartica (in eight months). In a week from today, we’ll begin the cruise to Alaska which we’ll be adding to the map upon the completion of our foray into this exciting part of the world.

View of our ship, Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas, from Lahaina, Maui.

There’s no doubt the timing was right to head out of the South Pacific to journey to these many other parts of the world.  The continent of Australia is so huge one could conceivably spend a lifetime exploring it’s outback, cities and rural areas in between.

Mountain view from Lahaina on a cloudy day.

In the South Pacific there are many islands that peaked our interests but after lengthy stays on several islands, we were ready to move on. Although, tropical island living will always remain of great interest for its pleasing lifestyle in our way of living in the world.

Ships in the harbor in Honolulu.

At this point, we don’t anticipate returning to the South Pacific but one never knows.  Tom favorite place to date, Penguin, Australia may someday result in our return for an extended visit.  I loved it as well but areas rich and abundant in wildlife will always remain at the top of my “favorites” list.

Inside the courtyard at a shopping center in Lahaina.

In a mere nine months, my passion will once again be fulfilled.  From there we’ll seek to book the above-mentioned areas/countries we’ve yet to explore.  No, it’s not a marathon to see the world. 


Shopping area in Kona during a port of call stop a few days ago.

Instead, it’s a leisurely walk, predicted by good health and well-being.  To this point, there’s never been a lack of interest or lack of desire to continue on regardless of stumbles along the way.  Life is good, actually great, and the passion continues…Continue along with us!

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Photo from one year ago today, May 10, 2016:

This photo was taken from the second-floor veranda of high tide in Bali.  For more details, please click here.

An unanticipated opportunity thanks to Captain Rick!…

Yesterday, Captain Rick Sullivan chatted with us in Dizzy’s Jazz Bar.  His warm demeanor and superb sense of humor have made sailing aboard Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas a sheer delight.

With plans to take the tender to Kailua-Kona, we busily prepared the day’s post while seated in the Diamond Club Lounge on deck 14, our favorite morning spot on this 24-night cruise.

After Tom stepped out to head back to the cabin for a few minutes, I stayed behind with my fingers flying across the keyboard in an effort to get the post uploaded so we could take off for a walk at the cruise port of call that requires a ride on the tender.

The group of dignitaries from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii came aboard to present Captain Rick with a plaque welcoming the ship to the city.

At the time I was the only passenger in the Diamond Club, keenly aware of the quiet and serenity, usually lacking aboard this particular venue.  A cloudy day, we weren’t in too huge of a hurry to go ashore but, in typical Hawaiian style, a cloudy day could easily and quickly turn into bright sunshine.

Stopping to contemplate my next line of type, the door to the Diamond Club opened with a key card and in walked our ship’s Captain Rick Sullivan.
Having heard him over the loudspeakers, enjoying his lively and humorous demeanor and, seeing him wandering about the ship engaging so freely with passengers, I had no doubt it was him.

During the presentation…the official from the Mayór’s office and Captain Rick.

Let me clarify…we aren’t Captain or otherwise groupies.  After all of our years of world travel, we’ve come to realize and embrace the fact that us humans are all alike in many ways regardless of ethnicity, celebrity, financial status or notoriety. 

We’ve never attempted to dine with a ship captain, meet with a ship captain or engage in any particular conversation with a ship captain.  We always felt we could leave that up to those who found it most appealing and vital to their personal experience.

A representative from the Mayor’s office in Kailua-Kona and Captain Rick.

For us, we are always able to glean the best experiences from engaging with anyone of any culture, whether it be a local carrying a basket of fruit on her head or a local taxi driver scurrying us around.  They all matter to us.

As he entered the room with a wide and warms smile on his face, he suddenly fell into the category of another kindly human open to engaging in conversation with a fellow human in his path.

Hotel Director Michael Landry, Kailua city official, and Captain Rick accepting the plaque

Easily, the conversation flowed and in no time at all, we were sharing personal anecdotes.  Moments later, Tom entered the room and without missing a beat, in Tom’s usual welcoming manner, stepped right into sync into our discussion.

After a chat, Captain Rick, upon hearing about our website, invited us to attend the upcoming presentation by local officials, marine and city staff to present Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas with a welcoming plaque for its first destination port of call in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

Plaques and gifts exchanged between the city and the ship.

The presentation was scheduled within the hour in the bar/lounge Dizzy’s Jazz Bar located outside the door of the Diamond Club.  Captain Rick suggested we sit and chat in the bar while we wait.

Captain Rick also presented a plaque to the city of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

The conversation flowed with ease as we shared our story of world travel, our site and the reasons we decided to travel the world.  In turn, Captain Rick shared his story including his vast experiences at sea, all of which further exemplified the fine details of the life of this special man.

When the guests arrived, Captain Rick reminded us, as he stood to greet his guests, to stay put and embrace the experience taking as many photos as we desired and joining in conversation with the group.


The gathering took place in Dizzy’s Jazz Bar on deck 14, outside the Diamond Club Lounge.

In respect for the event, we stayed back a little but in no time at all we were approached by a few visitors, not hesitating to share in the conversations.  What a pleasant surprise to our day in Kailua-Kona, unanticipated and surely serendipitous, as are many of the memorable events in our lives.

We enjoyed speaking to Mark one of the representatives from the city.

It never seems to be about the tourist sites, the organized tours, and old buildings.  The best moments are always about the creatures God placed upon this Earth, both human and animal.  We’re grateful…forever grateful..and eternally humbled by that which crosses our path on this worldwide journey.

Be well.  Be happy.

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Photo from one year ago today, May 8, 2016:


The two Katuts and Ribud (the pool and landscape guy) holding up the three kilo Blue Fin tuna for our next meal.  After it was cleaned and filleted there were two huge portions which we’re sharing each night.  Such wonderful people!  Such fabulous fish!  For more details, please click here.

Last full day aboard Celebrity Solstice…Packing day…Saying goodbye to new friends…

At the end of the day on Mystery Island, Vanuatu, the workers return to their homes at neighboring islands.  There are no homes or overnight accommodations on this island.

Today is the last full day aboard the ship.  Its been an absolutely delightful cruise, one in which we’ve been socializing with other passengers day and night.  As soon as we mosey off from one venue to another, whether its to dine, buy a drink at a bar or lounge in the cafe, we’ve often and easily found ourselves engaged in lively conversation.

Close the islands, scenes from the ship are particularly beautiful

It continues to fascinate us how often passengers express such a degree of curiosity over our lifestyle.  Many are shocked and surprised by the length of time since we left Minnesota (almost 53 months) and others applaud us for our commitment and bravery.

Then there’s everyone in between, asking many questions that, regardless of their nature, we answer with the utmost of honestly and candor.  Its not always easy explaining how and why we’re emotionally able to live “in the world” as opposed to the comforts and security of living near family and friends, rooted in one or even two locations.

Tower on a hill in New Caledonia.

We’d spent the first 60 plus years of our lives doing just that and with my improved health due to a massive dietary change five and a half years ago, we happily continue on in our journey feeling confident this has been the right choice for us, although definitely not for everyone.

During this cruise we’ve handed out no less than 200 business cards.  We don’t push them on anyone but are asked for our web address which is too lengthy to spell.  We both keep plenty of cards in our pockets, wherever we may be at any given time.

These ship cabanas are for rent at AU $265, US $200 per day on sea days, less on port days.  Very few of these were rented during the cruise.

Making friends aboard ship is the true highlight of our cruising experiences. Hearing about their lives and travel stories continue to inspire and enlighten us to new opportunities, often providing an entirely different perspective than our own. 

Its these very differences that have a tendency to interest us the most which may include never-considered locations for future travel and new insight into areas we’ve previously visited.

Mystery Island, a tourists only uninhabitied island staffed by sellers and servers when cruise ships arrive in the area.

Ironically, we discover over and over again, that in essence we are all alike in many ways; we revel in quiet unexciting times almost as much as our adventures; we embrace people we meet along the way; we consider good health of the utmose concern as we age.

Many can’t imagine how we can travel the world with my restricted diet nor how Tom has resisted eating bread, toast, cookies and cakes during the cruise.  When we explain that we’ve come to accept “eating to live” not “living to eat” they often shrug at how much a sacrifice such a philosophy entails.

Sun glare on the sea at the day’s end.

In reality, for us, its just the opposite…without this year’s long philosophy, I may be like my dear elder sister spending 24/7 for the past 12 years suffering from the same painful spinal condition I’ve had for the past over 25 years.  

Now pain free (except for last June’s injury, since healed) since 2011 when I adopted this way of eating, I’ve been given the opportunity to travel the world with my love, companion, husband and best friend.  Who’s to argue with this way of life?

Cruising passed islands on a cloudy day.

When we often read the blogs or articles by other world travelers including many comments from “haters” on their social media, we are in awe of how we don’t hear such negative comments.

On only a few ocassions in the long ago past did a few readers write negative comments or email us.  In both cases, we chose not to respond.  As we always say, this is not a place for us be “right,” “to prove a point” or “espouse controversial views.” 


An old building in Noumea, New Calendonia.

For us, this place continues to one of sharing love, joy and wonder.  After each cruise, we’ve added another layer to our continuing awe of this world when so many wonderful people embrace us, accept our personal choices and then, when back home, begin to “travel along with us” on our day to day journal of our lives on the move. 

For this, we thank each and every one of our readers and each and every one of of the new friends we’ve made along the way.  And, dear folks, hang on, much more excitement is yet to come..an upcoming 40 nights in Sydney/Manly; a 24 night cruise to Seattle (via Hawaii); an Alaskan cruise; a nine week USA visit including Minnesota and Nevada; holiday home in Costa Rica; Antarctica cruise; a month in Buenos Aires; several South American cruises; and a much awaited return to Africa and so much more.


Grafitti on the side of a building in New Caledonia.

Thanks to new friends Sam and Phil for inviting us to “High Tea” in their Penthouse Suite yesterday afternoon.  It was a beautifully presented and hosted special event for us and seven others, adding to our diverse cruise experiences. 
Whether its a special event such as this or dinner in the included Epernay Dining Room with a couple from a small farm in Wollongong, AU, we’ve loved meeting all of YOU! 

Tomorrow’s final cruise post will include all of the expenses we incurred on the 12 night cruise including cruise fare and extras as we make our way off the ship to our next destination.  Please check back!

________________________________________


Photo from one year ago today, March 12, 2016:


Trish and Neil named this cria after Minnesota  in behalf of Tom since we”d watched over his birth while they were on holiday during our three months stay on the alpaca farm in New Plymouth, New Zealand.  For more photos, please click here.  In February, they named a girl Miss Jessica after me, a female birth we’d also observed, as shown in prior posts.  What a glorious experience!
 

A new future booking…A change in our itinerary…It pays to be frugal…

?

It’s great that we can make itinerary changes whenever we deem it necessary, for cost-saving or befits our desires. The exception in doing so is often predicated by the fact that we may have already paid non-refundable deposits or full payments such as for flights, vacation homes with a no-refund policy, and cruises after paying the final payment 90 days prior to sail date (partial refunds may be applicable).For the remainder of our itinerary, we have the option of changing our minds, finding better deals, and instituting price reductions, particularly on cruises. So far in our travels, we haven’t made any major changes, other than for a few cruises.

As Tom continually peruses our existing booked cruises, of which we currently have seven (with more to come), he’s always hoping to find price reductions that may suit our needs. After considerable research over these past few days, he found a change for a cruise we’d considered changing at some point anyway.

We spotted these flowers in many areas of Tasmania.

We’d booked a cruise from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Santiago, Chile while aboard a prior cruise in order to lock up the offered low down payment of AU $274, US $200 (for two), including several perks and cabin credit. 

When booking onboard a ship, our cruise rep still gets “credit” for the transaction and continues to handle the booking. At any time prior to final payment, we can transfer the low down payment to any future cruise, with the same cruise line.

When we booked the above-mentioned cruise, at the time we anticipated we’d never keep the booking for two reasons; one, it was the reverse of an itinerary on which we’ll have already sailed; two, the total cost for the cruise was more expensive than we preferred. Tom watched and waited.

Wildflowers along a country road.

Finally, in the past few days, as more and more cruises became posted, Tom found a replacement for the more expensive, “reverse repeat” cruise that will be much more suited to our future plans to try to visit family in the US every two years.

The fare for the cruise we canceled yesterday was AU $10,960, US $8,005, as mentioned, way more than we prefer to pay for a 14-night cruise (the exception to this is the upcoming pricey cruise to Antarctica in less than 13 months).

Instead, after speaking with our cruise rep Shanon, aka Brooklyn, at Vacations to Go, we moved our deposit over to the following cruise in its place (see below for itinerary):

Charges

Cruise (includes port charges) 3,198.00
Price Match – 200.00
Government Taxes*    452.68
Pre-Paid Gratuities    405.00
Total Sale (US$) $ 3,855.68


*Subject to change by the cruise line.

Payments

Paid To Type Amount



Celebrity Paid Direct 200.00

Total Payments (US$) $ 200.00
Balance Due (US$) $ 3,655.68


Final payment due January 1, 2019.

The total fare for this new cruise, including prepaid gratuities and taxes, is AU $5,278.90, US $3,855.61 which based on the above other cruises, constitutes a savings of AU $5,681.16, US $4.149.39. 

We didn’t have to think twice about this, especially when this new cruise is an easy means for us to return to the US for a visit slightly less than two years from our upcoming visit in May 2017. 

Here’s the itinerary for the new cruise:

Celebrity – Celebrity Eclipse, departs 3/24/19, 15 nights

Day Date Port or Activity Arrive Depart
Sun Mar 24 Santiago (Valparaiso), Chile 9:00pm
Mon Mar 25 La Serena, Chile 10:00am 6:00pm
Tue Mar 26 At Sea
Wed Mar 27 At Sea
Thu Mar 28 Lima (Callao), Peru 7:00am 5:00pm
Fri Mar 29 At Sea
Sat Mar 30 Manta, Ecuador 10:00am 6:00pm
Sun Mar 31 At Sea
Mon Apr 1 Puntarenas, Costa Rica 7:00am 4:00pm
Tue Apr 2 At Sea
Wed Apr 3 Huatulco, Mexico 10:00am 8:00pm
Thu Apr 4 At Sea
Fri Apr 5 Puerto Vallarta, Mexico 9:00am 5:00pm
Sat Apr 6 Cabo San Lucas, Mexico 9:00am 5:00pm
Sun Apr 7 At Sea
Mon Apr 8 San Diego, CA 7:00am

Once we arrive in San Diego, we’ll begin the process of visiting family in San Diego and Los Angeles, California; Henderson, Nevada, and then on again to Minnesota.

We noticed these wildflowers on the roads from Hobart to Penguin.

Those of you familiar with our upcoming itinerary may ask, “Why are you going back to South America, after spending many months in Africa?” The answer is clear for us…we’ll return from Africa to head to South America since the proximity makes sense (although it’s still very far away).

This plan provides us with about a combined year to spend in Africa and South America (during the second visit to the continent) which we’ll continue to plan as we go along. While in Tasmania at this time we don’t feel any pressure to pin down specific details. 

Once we have pinned down more of the above plan, we’ll update our itinerary and post it here accordingly.  Overall the last itinerary we posted while in Bali, still is accurate except for the change of cruise and time spent in Africa and South America. Please click here for the link to our most recent itinerary which was posted on October 14, 2016.

Bushy looking plants.

In any case, we haven’t booked this new cruise a lot earlier than many other cruises we’ve booked in the past.  Using cruises for transportation has always been our objective when neither of us cares for the commotion at airports, baggage issues, and uncomfortable seating on flights.

This morning, as we reviewed the figures we’re posting today, Tom discovered price reductions on other upcoming cruises. Once our rep returns to work on Monday in the US, Tuesday here in Australia, we’ll call her and update our pricing to save even more. 

So maybe today, we aren’t out sightseeing on this cool and windy day (8.3C, 47F) but instead we’re staying indoors saving money. That’s not a bad way to spend a day!

Happy day to all!

Photo from one year ago today, December 17, 2015:

There are rows upon rows of exquisite colorful Hindu gowns in a store in a mall in Sava, Fiji, worn by Indo-Fijian women on special occasions. For more details, please click here.

 

Day 11…Circumventing the Australian continent…Quite a day in US politics…Interesting email from a loyal reader…Medical emergency one year ago!

A small rescue boat anchored to the side of the ship.

“Sightings on the Ship in Australia”

Not sure what this display is about…footballs of some sort?

With the election behind us, we can now return our focus to life aboard ship.  That’s not to imply that our focus has diverted from having a great time. But it has been on the minds of most Americans and others worldwide for some time. and often the topic of conversation among our fellow passengers, both Americans and Australians.

I’m looking forward to being able to read the posts and see photos of family, friends and readers in Facebook without the toxic vitriol espoused by those expressing their personal views of either candidate. 

At times over this past year, I’d considered giving up on FB but its also been a great means of seeing family and friends photos and staying in touch across the miles of sea between us. 

Clothing for sale in one of the ship’s shops.

Hopefully, now and in the future, opinions will be focused on our own efforts to make the US and the world a better place with love, understanding and compassion in the forefront.  Amid that, supporting our new President’s efforts will surely unite our country whether we agree with his plans and ideas at this time.  Time will tell.

Speaking of our readers, yesterday we received this letter from a long time loyal reader Tom met long ago on another cruise.  Of course, I asked her permission to post her letter to which she happily agreed.  I’ve also included my response.

Please see below:

“Jessica, you and Tom have been our inspiration. 
 
We just sold our house and our things are about to be given away/stored for now.  We have taken a severance package from our employer. 
 
Our plan is a 2 year adventure for now.  I have been reading your blog since we briefly met Tom on Brilliance of the Seas TA (I have written before) a few years ago now.  We begin in January.  Our plan is similar to yours, avoiding flying, cruising to destinations and Air Bnb etc monthly stays in cities we like, along the cruise repositioning routes.  (Continued below).

Men’s clothing.

have learned a lot from your site.  I still have not decided which direction we are going yet.  I couldn’t plan as this all happened rather suddenly (sold our house while cruising to Australia lol).  Any advice about direction?  Follow the sun for warm weather..(Australia, New Zealand first, then Singapore to Dubai, then Suez canal to Europe) or do
 
South America followed with a Transatlantic with summer in Europe?
 
I hope you enjoy your Transpacific on Explorer of the Seas in April.  We did it both ways this year.  If you ever make it to Pt Vila Vanuatu you must tour with Atmosphere tours and ask for a guide named Alfred – he is passionate about his culture and a fabulous guide.  Best guide we have ever had.
 
In closing I wish you and Tom all the best and continued happy and healthy travel.  The memories of the life you are leading mean more than all the “stuff” people have.
 
I hope we run into each other on a future cruise.  Would love to chat.
Elaine”
Logo wear.
We replied as follows in bold type:
 
“Elaine, how excited we both were to see your message.  We’re so excited for both of you embarking on your own adventure.
 
Its not easy answering your questions when so much is predicated by what appeals to you both to see over the next two years.  Our desires may be entirely different than yours.
 
We both believe your best guide is to make a list of where you’d like to visit and then using the world map, map it out so you don’t waste time and money jumping all over the globe. (Continued below).

Perfume and cologne shop.

We don’t like big cities but you may.  We no longer care if weather is ideal.  We’re looking for the experience.  We don’t care to live in apartments.  You may find this works for you.

 
Since our focus is wildlife and nature, you may find historic buildings more interesting.  If we never enter another old building, we’ll be fine.  But, Africa is calling us for another visit in 15 months.  Antarctica in on the schedule for 14 months. 
 
You see, how its so hard to say where and when to go.  Our tastes are all so diverse and unique.  But, I will say we’ve love NZ and AU.  By the time we leave the South Pacific for a 9 week family visit, we’ll have spent almost two years in this part of the world.
 
Thank you so much for reading our site.  You have no idea how much it means to us if we’ve inspired you even one iota.  We’d love to hear what you decided to do and wish we could be more helpful.
 
May I copy and paste your email to our site.  We won’t use your names but what a great story to share!
 
Warmest regards,
Jess & Tom

Tourist trinkets.

Then, Elaine responded again:
“Sure go ahead and post my email Jess and Tom.  Thank you for your responses.  They actually do help a lot.  We want to do Antarctica too and the Northwest passage.  We must see the pyramids in Egypt.   Two years probably won’t be enough, but as long as finances hold and we don’t get tired of travelling (not likely for us) we probably keep going.

 
One more question for you.  Which are your favorite booking sites?  Vacations to Go?  For cruises…VRBO for bookings (have you had any bad experiences with bookings?)  Favorite Airlines (sometimes a necessary evil)?   Any favorite ways to save money…ie Airline Miles plans etc.  Diamond status is lovely isn’t it.  We just hit it on our last cruise and I expect it’ll be great.
 
Quote “You have no idea how much it means to us if we’ve inspired you even one iota”  (Continued  below)

Bargain tables with handbags.

Our whole idea for doing this began with the posts by Tom made on Cruise Critic which led us to your website, talking briefly to him and reading your words each morning before I go to work.  We always intended to travel, as we do already now, but not to just cut loose and go.  That cutting loose is what is enabling us to finance this trip by investing our money. 
 
The next 7 weeks are going to be crazy!  We love Australia too, but have never been to New Zealand. I’m not sure what our focus is yet.  We’ve seen many historic buildings already.   I love art and sculpture.  My husband loves history.  Wasn’t Petra amazing, but I could do without that walk in the heat!   I think we just want to go everywhere and see and experience as much as we can, while we can, make memories for when health fails us and have no regrets.  So exciting to see all the wonders of the world we’ve heard about all our lives.
 
I’ll email our choices once I figure them out!  Wish I had more time to plan, but what a wonderful conundrum to have!
 
So, Thank you both once again.  You are changing our lives.
 
 Elaine”



Scuba, beach and snorkeling products.
Our dear reader posed some excellent questions as shown in blue above from her most recent response.  Due to space and time limitations today, we’ll answer the above questions in blue in tomorrow’s post.  Please check back.
 
Have a beautiful day!
__________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, November 10, 2015:
One year ago, we visited the dentist in Fiji when Tom developed an abscessed tooth. The bill for the dentist visit was surprising at FJD $6, USD $2.76, AU $3.60.  The two antibiotic prescriptions were “free’ when we walked across the parking lot in the local hospital’s pharmacy.  For the full story and photos, please click here.


Comments regarding Angkor Wat and….Ho Chi Minh Memorial in Hanoi…Photos and more…

Can you even imagine safely navigating these steps at Angkor Wat?  (Not our photo)

It was impossible for me not to feel badly about missing Angkor Wat, one of the most revered temple sites in the world.  It would have been foolhardy to risk any further injury, we stayed behind.  We watched a special presentation on the describing the unbelievable site and its enchanting history.


It was very hot and uncomfortable on the long walk to and around this site, The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. 

 
If you’re interested in information about Angkor Wat, please click here.  The historic site is rich in history and content attracting visitors from many parts of the world, anxious to see it in person and tackle its massive stairway.

Kong, our knowledgeable Viking Cruise guide, explained that visitors climb the step and cry when they can’t figure out how to climb down. The above photo clearly shows how tough that would be. Also, a several mile walk is necessary to get close enough for good photos, which I was unable to do based on my current condition.

The Presidential Palace on the ground of the Ho Chi Minh Memorial Park.



The many tours in Vietnam with hours of walking with many steps threw me into a tailspin back to where I’d been in the recovery process a few weeks ago. In Singapore, most days I lay flat on my back in our hotel room taking hot baths three times a day hoping for a little relief.

Gorgeous grounds and fountains in the surrounding parklands.

As my situation improves once again, its no longer necessary to be lying down and we’re able to stay out of the hotel room as we are at the moment, sitting in a luxurious bar in the Hotel Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort in Siem Reap, Cambodia. 

Fortunately, a portion of the long hike was on smooth roads such as this.  The heat was at 98F, 37C with 80% humidity.

The only way I’ve been able to make some headway in this recovery has been keeping the walking and steps as indicated on my FitBit under about 4000 steps a day.  That would have been impossible on any of the tours of the past two days.


Jack fruit grow prolifically in the park.

Although Ho Chi Minh is revered as a modest man with little desire for opulence, he owned these cars, one of which was bulletproof.

Instead, we joined our group again last night for the second dinner in Cambodia and will do so again tonight for our third and final dinner together until checking out of the hotel tomorrow for a five hour bus ride through the countryside to the river boat docked in Kampong Cham, via the provincial capital of Kampong Thom. 

A glass partition prevented a clear photo of the interior of Ho Chi Minh’s first home on the property.

Ho Chi Minh never had children or married.  As a result, he was referred to as Uncle Ho.  From History Channel: “Ho Chi Minh first emerged as an outspoken voice for Vietnamese independence while living as a young man in France during World War I. Inspired by the Bolshevik Revolution, he joined the Communist Party and traveled to the Soviet Union. He helped found the Indochinese Communist Party in 1930 and the League for the Independence of Vietnam, or Viet Minh, in 1941. At World War II’s end, Viet Minh forces seized the northern Vietnamese city of Hanoi and declared a Democratic State of Vietnam (or North Vietnam) with Ho as president. Known as “Uncle Ho,” he would serve in that position for the next 25 years, becoming a symbol of Vietnam’s struggle for unification during a long and costly conflict with the strongly anti-Communist regime in South Vietnam and its powerful ally, the United States.”

Barring any unforeseen delays, its expected we’ll arrive at the boat on the Mekong River at 4:30 pm to begin the actual cruise portion of the cruise/tour.  With such a small group, boarding should be as fast and easy as other processes have been on this cruise thus far. 

Peaceful lake scene in the center of the park.


Once boarded and settled in our cabin, we’ll continue to travel through Cambodia for a few more days.  Its during this time we’ll have an opportunity to share the beauty of the small villages and points of interest as we travel along the Mekong River and eventually the Mekong Delta.

Although it was a Saturday, it wasn’t overly crowded at the park.

Although we’ll have missed out on a few temple tours, we’re no longer disappointed.  How else would we have weathered this unanticipated injury to my spine?  We had no where to stay for two months while I healed nor were we ever able to find a heating pad.  We made the best of it. 

This newer house was built for Ho Chi Minh by his beloved people, referred to as “Khmer” and completed on May 17, 1958.




The house stands today as it was built including the furnishing, a contemporary Asian influenced architectural style.  It isn’t a huge house but is well built and functional.

And, for Tom and I, the patience and compassion we have for one another has kept the situation from ever feeling like a burden or inconvenience.  Wherever we find ourselves our love and fortitude drives us to continue this exquisite journey that we pray can continue for many years to come.


We all walked on this footbridge over a Koi pond.

Roots grow like weeds in many areas of Vietnam.

At the end of this month, we’ll reach our 45th month since the day Tom retired and we left Minnesota on October 31, 2012.  At this juncture that seems like it was a “world away.”

This is referred to as “One Pillar Pagoda” as described from this site: The One Pillar Pagoda (Vietnamese:Chùa Một Cột, formally Diên Hựu tự  , which litterally means “long lasting happiness and good luck”) is a historic Buddhist temple in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. As you visit Hanoi, you may come to various other monuments, parks and historical places. Yet, the One-Pillar Pagoda reflects the architectural splendour that the country has grown.

Where is it located? The unique pagoda is located in the western part of the city, near Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, Ong Ich Khiem St., Ngoc Ha, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi. The Legendary story: According to legend, ageing Emperor Ly Thai To of the Ly dynasty, who had no children, used to go to pagodas to pray to Buddha for a son. One night, he dreamt that he was granted a private audience to the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, who was seated on a great lotus flower in a square-shaped lotus pond on the western side of Thang Long Citadel, gave the King a baby boy. Months later, when the Queen gave birth to a male child, the Emperor ordered the construction of a pagoda supported by only one pillar to resemble the lotus seat of his dream in the honour of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. According to a theory, the pagoda was built in a style of a lotus emerging out of the water.”


 

Be well and be happy.

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Photo from one year ago today, July 12, 2015:

We fell in love with pelicans for their beauty, grace and movement in Trinity Beach, Australia.  For more details, please click here.