Out to lunch with dear old friend and business partner…Where will we go next?…

Remembering Norman and his young son Noah from two years ago before Noah started to change to look like Norman. Now, he is full-grown and looks like his dad.

Before too long, Tom will drop me off for lunch at Champps Restaurant in Eden Prairie. My dear friend and former business partner (2004 to 2008), Theresa, will meet me there at 11:45. She will drop me back at the hotel when we’re done. I can’t wait to see her.

I don’t have any new photos for today, but once I return from lunch, I’ll have some photos to add to tomorrow’s post. Tomorrow afternoon, we’ll be heading to BIlly’s Bar and Grill in Anoka to meet Tom’s family for happy hour and dinner, and we will also take photos then.

In the interim, we’re thinking about what we’ll do once we’re done with the house in Ecuador. For a long time, Tom has wanted to sail through the upper Amazon River, and thus, we’ve been looking into some options after January 8, 2024. At this point, we aren’t interested in sailing on big ships due to the risk of COVID-19 and other viruses, which recently impacted Tom for many weeks. He tested negative for Covid-19 when he first got the virus on the second cruise to Greenland.

Only now that he’s coughing less after a visit to urgent care a few weeks ago when he was prescribed antibiotics, prednisone, inhalers, and cough medicine in pill form, he says he’s feeling much better but coughs in the evenings more than during the day.

I got that same virus but only had it for a few days while on the ship and was left with a slight cough from time to time. As a result, we are rethinking sailing on cruises other than on small ships with fewer passengers. This makes a lot of sense to us. We never got sick on the 586-passenger Azamara cruise to Norway.

But, on the Celebrity cruise with 2000 passengers, we heard people coughing and sneezing days before we got sick. The worst was when we arrived in Minnesota after nine nights in Nevada, where it seemed to be gone. Once in Minnesota, where the pollen is terrible, we assumed it was allergy-related.  I was even feeling a little pressure in that bad spot on my head and face where I suffered with long Covid-19 for so long.

Once we arrived in Scotland on July 29, my symptoms totally disappeared and hadn’t returned until we arrived in Minnesota, again allergy-related. However, as it cools down, the pollen count goes down. Today, weed pollen is high, but grass and trees are low.

Back to upcoming plans, we’re looking into a cruise with 31 passengers that sails on the upper Amazon. We’re checking into details and will report back here when and if we book that cruise that sails out of Peru. That would mean that once we leave Ecuador on January 8, 2024, we’ll fly to Lima, Peru, where we’ll spend five nights in a hotel and sail away on the small houseboat On January 13.

That cruise also ends in Lima, and we’re considering a few holiday home options of holiday homes in the suburbs where we might stay until it’s time to fly back to South Africa on June 15, 2024. Peru allows US citizens to remain with an upon-entry visa, suitable for 183 days. That works for us.

Today, we’ll do further investigation into this potential plan and report back with details in the next few days. We are enthused about this option.

I’m off to lunch with Theresa. We’ll be back with more tomorrow.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, September 28, 2013:

These pods in the garden in Kenya are fascinating. They look like pea pods, but no one knows if they’re edible. We won’t be using them in a stir fry anytime soon. For more photos, please click here.

Day 9…Greenland…Still in the Labrador Sea on our way to Newfoundland…

We are having a great time. This is us in the Rendezvous Lounge on Deck 4.

Note: Yesterday, I made an error and didn’t upload the post. Thus, we heard from several readers last night asking if we were okay. Gosh, we appreciate the concern. And yes, we are fine. In the flurry of activity aboard the ship, I simply got distracted and failed to upload the post that I am loading now. Tomorrow, we’ll catch up, but today will be an easy day for me since I’ll only upload this one post instead of doing another.

This cruise ends in four days. There will be two more sea days over the next four days until we disembark in Boston on the 30th. We don’t mind sea days. It gives us plenty of time to relax and enjoy lively conversation with other passengers. Some days, we take a nap; others, we do not. It all depends on how late we got to bed the previous night.

Last night, after dinner with Laura and Les,  a couple we met early on and another couple. We had a lovely dinner, and then Tom and I headed to the Rendezvous Bar and spent time chatting and rocking to the music. By about 11:00 pm, we decided to make it an early night. We nodded off by midnight but woke up very early this morning.

There have been several time changes, including a few 30-minute changes, which is odd. I can’t get my broken Fitbit to show the correct time. I’ll have to wait until we get to the US and buy a new device since mine broke on the last cruise, and it can’t keep recording sleep time and the correct local clock time. When the WiiFi works well, I may consider some options online, but I haven’t purchased anything yet.

This morning, as always, we’re comfortably situated in Cafe al Bacio at our favorite table for four, which somehow ends up available for us each morning after Tom has breakfast. He gets up early and heads to the Oceanview Cafe, where he orders bacon and eggs.

Afterward, he heads back to the cabin to collect the laptops and races to the coffee shop to ensure he can get our favorite table. At that point, I get up, shower, dress for the day, and do whatever little projects I may have on the agenda before departing the stateroom. Usually, by 8:30 or 9:00, I join Tom at the table. Often, passengers ask if they can “share” the table with us, and we’re always happy to do so, especially when an interesting conversation ensues.

During these conversations, I get sidetracked and stop writing the post to participate in the conversation. Often, it takes me the better part of the morning to get a post uploaded, especially with the slow loading of photos, which is much better on this ship but still a challenge at times when so many passengers are online.

We love our little routine on the ship in the same way we relish routines we establish wherever we may be living at any given time. There’s a pleasing sense of comfort in having habits in our nomadic life, unlike most people when they aren’t traveling. We never feel bored or disinterested in our routines, providing us with a great balance in our peculiar lifestyle.

It”s a pleasant feeling knowing we’ll be visiting family and friends when we get to the US in only five days. This will be the longest period (one month) we’ve stayed in Minnesota since our travels commenced almost 11 years ago (as of October 31). It will be fun to spend extra time with our kids and grandkids. During this stay, we’ll have enough time to see many of our friends while in Minnesota, which has been tough to do on shorter stays in the past.

Sorry, we don’t have much exciting news today. Tomorrow, we’ll be at a port and take photos and share experiences after returning to the ship. On these quiet sea days, there’s little to share other than to say how much fun we’re having and how much we like cruising.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, August 25, 2013:

In Boveglio, Tuscany, on this date, it almost looked like smoke, not clouds. But we were so high up; we were in the shadows. For more, please click here.

Gloom and doom about the cruise industry…Worst-case scenarios…

Gosh, our porcupine is becoming quite a regular. Next time we shop, we’ll purchase some root vegetables for her.

The worst-case scenario of cruising during the pandemic is getting the virus and becoming seriously ill during or after a cruise. However, the next situation would be, after becoming infected, with or without symptoms, and being forced to quarantine in the small cabin for several days, missing all or part of the cruise.

At this point, some cruise ships are requiring all positive-tested passengers to remain collectively on one particular deck, unable to attend regular dining, tours, or activities. It’s entirely possible an infected passenger may be required to forgo their upgraded cabin, such as our usual balcony cabin upgrade and moving to whatever other cabins may be available on the quarantine deck.

For instance, we could be moved to an inside cabin which, without a window or sliding door, would be awful for us. Neither of us feels comfortable in a window-less room. We’re always willing to pay considerably more for a balcony cabin which offers some upgraded options for which we are also willing to pay an additional charge.

Imagine our upcoming 13-night transatlantic cruise with either or both of us infected, spending seven of those days in quarantine. This is not appealing to either of us. As of today, we are scheduled to board the Celebrity Silhouette in 91 days. Will this Omicron thing be eliminated by then? Most likely, it won’t be.

When we went indoors to make dinner, Little was in the garden looking for the last remnants of pellets.

We ask ourselves this question? What happens if we board the ship and in two days it is forced to return to the port of embarkation, in this case, back to Florida, due to too many cases onboard the ship? This could be the case if all of the cases were staff, let alone passengers. This has been occurring regularly, especially in the past few days as per this article below:

“Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise cancel voyages amid omicron spread

It comes after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised people to avoid cruise travel after launching investigations into cases on more than 90 ships.

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line on Wednesday canceled sailings amid rising fears of omicron-related coronavirus infections that have dampened the nascent recovery of the pandemic-ravaged cruise industry.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd called off its Spectrum of the Seas cruise for Jan. 6 after nine guests on its Jan. 2 trip were identified as close contacts to a local Hong Kong Covid-19 case.

The contacts have tested negative, but the cruise ship will return to Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in Hong Kong on Jan. 5 to test all guests and crew who must take a second test on Jan. 8, the company said.

A similar decision to cancel trips by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd was made against the backdrop of the United States reporting the highest daily tally of any country for new coronavirus infections on Monday.

“Due to ongoing travel restrictions, we’ve had to modify a few sailings and unfortunately have had to cancel,” the 17-ship strong cruise operator said, with the embarkation dates for a few canceled sailings as far out as late April.

The cruise line, which requires everyone on board to be vaccinated, has also had to cut short a 12-day round trip from Miami on its Norwegian Pearl ship, citing “Covid related circumstances.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had last week advised people to avoid cruise travel after launching investigations into onboard cases on more than 90 ships. The health agency starts a scrutiny if at least 0.1 percent of the guests test positive.

Norwegian Cruise said guests, who were supposed to embark on the canceled sailings on the eight ships, will receive full refunds and bonus credits for future bookings.

The omicron-led travel uncertainty is also causing guests on other sailings to cancel their bookings as a few ships have also had to skip ports due to onboard infections.

“We booked the cruise last March and assumed that things would be getting back to normal… by mid-December, I was mentally prepared for a change of plans,” said Holly Bromley, a consulting arborist. She canceled her booking on Norwegian Epic.

Meanwhile, bigger rival Carnival Corp said it had not canceled any upcoming voyages, but its shares fell on Wednesday to close down 2.6 percent. Royal Caribbean lost 2.1 percent and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings 3.6 percent.”

Miss Duiker stopped by for pellets. We were happy to send some her way.

I should mention that Royal Caribbean owns Celebrity Cruise Line.

We can only imagine the inconvenience of being stuck in Florida if the ship returns to port or never sails at all due to Covid cases. We will have spent a fortune on airfare from South Africa and quarantining in a hotel, plus meals, for at least a week before we even board the ship. We don’t want to take a risk that we won’t be able to board coming directly from South Africa. (But, we’ll check prior to booking the flight and hotel).

Yes, sure. It’s all up in the air. The third year of the pandemic continues to impact our travel plans. Today we sent the law firm in Cape Town all of the required documents to process our extension. If we get it, it will be good until April 22, 2022.  If the cruise scheduled for April 8th cancels, we’ll have to figure out what we’ll do at that point.

Challenging times continue. If good health supersedes it all, we’ll have no complaints.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 7, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #288. An artfully designed temple was built over 1000 years ago in Chennai. For more photos, please click here.

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 to embark upon a 75 minute Zodiac boat cruise of Elsehul Island located on South Georgia Island. Initially, the plan had been to leave a little later in the morning, but the captain decided it was best to go out earlier rather than later with bad weather on the horizon.

About one in 1000 seal births results in this light color resulting from 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 part of our safety procedures during an expedition cruise, one section consisted of getting on and off the ships and 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.

Thick ropes are 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 exceptionally 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 were 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 were 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 were 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.

It was 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                    2France                  55
Germany               3Hong Kong            12
Luxembourg          3New Zealand          1
Spain                    2Switzerland            23
United Kingdom     11USA                      16
Total                    194
King Penguins were 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 after that 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.

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

Many carved statues were 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 previous 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. Like all of us, Tom was wearing a life vest which is mandatory while riding on the Zodiac boats. There are two Gentoo Penguins 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 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 were 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 were 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 was 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 they were feeding from time to time, next to another penguin whose 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 tiny vessel.

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

A well-padded King Penguin.

We intend 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 my diet, which worked well and was the best meal we’d had on the ship to date. 

More beautiful slow-growing vegetation. Humans mustn’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. What an enthusiastic group! Most were French, and they sure knew how to “boogie” to the music.

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 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.

I appreciate 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.

Photo from one year ago today, January 26, 2017:
Tom is standing next to the Australian flag at the entrance to the Australia Day festivities in 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!

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 necessary 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 estimate 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. 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 before proceeding to the cruise terminal. Once at the terminal, guests will proceed through security and then through U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) before boarding the ship. Please note that guests from all three ships will be processed through a single security and CBP area. As a result, 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. Unfortunately, the poor signal prevented us from achieving 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 vehicles, 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. So 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, 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.

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 we visited 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 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 many worlds left to explore, including China, India, South America (soon), and Antarctica (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 its outback, cities, and rural areas in between.

The mountain view from Lahaina on a cloudy day.

Many islands piqued our interest in the South Pacific, but we were ready to move on after lengthy stays on several islands. 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’s 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 areas as mentioned above/countries we’ve yet to explore. No, it’s not a marathon to see the world. 

The 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!

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 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 we 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, stepped right into sync into our discussion in Tom’s usual welcoming manner.

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 were 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 why 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.

Regarding 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.

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

The two Katuts and Ribud (the pool and landscape guy) hold up the three kilo Blue Fin tuna for our next meal. After it was cleaned and filleted, there were two huge portions that 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. Unfortunately, there are no homes or overnight accommodations on this island.

Today is the last full day aboard the ship. It’s been a 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 quickly found ourselves engaged in lively conversation.

Close the islands, scenes from the ship are stunning

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 we answer with the utmost honesty and sincerity regardless of their nature. It’s 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.

A 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 in our journey, feeling confident this has been the right choice for us, although not for everyone.

During this cruise, we’ve handed out no less than 200 business cards. We don’t push them on anyone, but we are often 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. Unfortunately, very few of these were rented during the cruise.

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

These same differences tend to interest us the most, including never-considered locations for future travel and new insight into areas we’ve previously visited.

Mystery Island, a tourists-only, uninhabited 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 utmost 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, it’s 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. So 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 a few occasions in the long-ago past, few readers wrote negative comments or sent us negative email messages. In both cases, we chose not to respond. But, as we always say, this is not a place for us to 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 beautiful people embrace us. They seem to accept our personal choices, and then, when back home, begin to “travel along with us” on the day-to-day journal of our lives on the move. 

For this, we thank every one of our readers and every one 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 it’s 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 on 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!