Late posting from Vancouver, British Columbia…Travel day behind us…

Tom’s photo of this unreal scene of sailboats in Seattle.  Wow!

It’s 5:30 pm Monday. After dropping off our bags after the three-hour drive from Seattle to Vancouver, we took off on foot in the rain in the same manner typical for Vancouver residents, hoofing it to the next location.

We were searching for a pharmacy and a vitamin store to replenish my fast-dwindling supply of probiotics and supplements, now that I’m totally committed to treating my condition with a more natural approach as opposed to traditional medicine.

Ships in the harbor in Seattle.

Getting off the ship to meet the 9:00 am SUV driver at pickup location #2 at the Port of Seattle was relatively seamless. Our disembarking #4 allowed us easy and quick access to the baggage area, where we quickly found our awaiting checked bags.

Since we weren’t flying, we’d actually filled the yellow Costco bag with our recently washed and folded laundry we’d had done on the ship. With a plan to do more laundry in Vancouver, we’d be in good shape clothes-wise for the upcoming Alaskan cruise, which boards in less than 48 hours.

Last photo of RC Explorer of the Seas on which we had an exceptional cruise.

In Vancouver, there are several hotels with the word “Pinnacle” in their name. Due to my error when ordering the driver, I’d accidentally selected the wrong “Pinnacle,” and our driver ended up delivering us to a hotel we’d hadn’t booked.

With the help of a staff member at the wrong Pinnacle, we were given a map with directions to the 20-minutes-away correct Marriot Pinnacle Downtown. Apparently, they’d encountered this situation in the past.

Lopsided photo of the Seattle Space Needle from the SUV as we maneuvered through traffic on Monday morning.

By 1:00 pm, we reached our hotel, checked in after being given two upgrades, including a large corner junior suite and free WiFi in the room that usually requires a US $7.95 a night charge. We couldn’t have been more thrilled.

We’d booked the two nights using “free” credits we’d accumulated on the Hotels.com link on our site. The only out-of-pocket expense we’d bear for the hotel would be meals and tips.

Tom managed this better shot of the Seattle Space Needle when there was an opening between skyscrapers.

Tom moaned a little when he had to reach into his wallet for US cash to pay the bellman for delivering our bags to the room. After almost two years in and out of Australia, where tips aren’t tendered or expected when employees are paid a “livable wage,” it wasn’t easy for him to accept the huge tips paid for services in North America.

As per the agreement for the driver that delivered us from Seattle to Vancouver, a 20% tip was added to the bill. At the cost of US, $550 for the three-hour ride, another $110 was tacked on. George was an excellent driver, and we could hardly flinch over the excess fee.

Zooming along the freeway in Seattle.

After speaking with the concierge, we concluded that doing our laundry at a laundromat in Vancouver would not be an option. The only such facility would have resulted in close to $100 in taxi fares for the distant location.

We investigated the cost of having the laundry done at the hotel, but that is $8.50 per shirt, more than what we paid for shirts I purchased at the Gap Outlet store in Lahaina, Maui. 

Cloudy and rainy with fog rolling in.

We decided to do our laundry in Vancouver and wait to have it done on the upcoming cruise. As Captain’s Club Elite members on Celebrity, we’re each allowed one 20 item bag of laundry at no cost. That works for us. 

Most likely, we’ll be bringing dirty laundry to Minnesota to wash in the laundry facilities located in our hotel. The availability of laundry facilities will be a big plus for us during the six-week stay.

Fluffy clouds rolling through the hills and forests in Seattle.

After we were situated in our hotel room and deciding not to unpack other than clothes for the next two days, we took off for the pharmacy and supplement stores, each of which we huge distances apart.

Preferring not to spend more money for transportation after sitting so long in the SUV, an umbrella and a very long walk was in order. My Fitbit easily surpassed 10,000 steps today. 

Desperately needing new shoes offering some support (which I’ll purchase in the US soon), the walking uphill in the rain for a few hours wasn’t particularly enjoyable. I hadn’t even brought the camera along, figuring I needed my hands to be free to hold the umbrella in the fierce winds and rain.

Overhead signs at the border crossing from the US into Canada. The border agent checked our passports, asking us numerous questions, and finally, let us be on our way.

The last time we were in Vancouver was in September 2014 for six nights; it rained each day except for one.  Nothing has changed since that visit. The beautiful city is shrouded in clouds and rain for most of the year. It’s nice to see all the locals out and about embracing their weather conditions, but for the long haul, it’s not for us.

Tonight at 6:00 pm, our reader Sheila will meet us at the hotel for a visit. It will be fun to meet her, and I appreciate her efforts in coming downtown to meet us. Within an hour, Sheila arrives to meet us.  


I need to get the show on the road and freshen up for the evening after being seriously soaked in the rain. We’re meeting Sheila in the highly-rated bar/restaurant located in the hotel lobby, where we’ll chat and have dinner together.

Have a lovely evening, and we’ll be back at our usual time tomorrow!


Photo from one year ago today, May 15, 2016:

Rambut Siwi Hindu Temple (Pura Rambut Siwi) in Negara, the largest of three traditional temples located in each town in Indonesia. For more details, please click here.

Day 16…Circumnavigting the Australian continent…Consecutive cruising instructions…Super Moon from sea…

Tom’s final photo of the sunset as we board for our next destination.

“Sighting on the Ship in Australia”

This interpretation of the artist in the ship’s art gallery reminded us of Halloween, the day we got this ship in Sydney, our four-year anniversary of traveling the world.

Yesterday at 1 pm a special meeting was held for the under 500 passengers on this 2500 capacity ship who are continuing on the back-to-back portion of the 33-night circumvention of the Australian continent. 

Although it may seem staying on the ship may be as simple a process of receiving a new SeaPass card, it’s much more complicated for both security and immigration purposes.

In parts, hot Port Hedland felt like the Mohave desert in the US.

Luckily, we don’t have to change cabins as some passengers do when they booked too late to stay in the same cabin. However, we either have to be off the ship by 9:00 am to be out of the way of the final disembarkation of the remaining 2000 passengers, or, we have to stay onboard tucked away in a lounge until the ship is cleared several hours later. 

The Woolworth’s grocery in Port Hedland could have been a market anywhere in the world. We noticed Christmas products already for sale.

We understand and appreciate the need for these strict regulations to ensure no one gets onto the ship that shouldn’t be doing so. Plus, the ship’s immigration staff has made the immigration process easy for those of us continuing on this second leg ending in Sydney on December 3rd.

Once again, safari luck prevails, and new friends, Michelle and Carlo, whom we met on RC Voyager of the Seas this past April are picking us up tomorrow to spend the day with them in Perth/Fremantle.  We’re so appreciative and excited to spend the day with this lovely couple in their beloved home city.

Industrial salt mining in Port Hedland.

When we return to the ship in the afternoon, we’ll be able to avoid the usual checking in process for the cruise or going through customs or immigration, other than to pick up our new SeaPass cards awaiting us at a designated area for those on the consecutive cruises. 

Huge freighters at the port soon to depart.

Our new friends aboard this ship, Lois and Tom and Cheryl and Stan, are also continuing on to Sydney with us.  The nightly activities will continue. And, although there will be a totally new group of 2000 passengers boarding in Perth, all of us have agreed we want to continue to enjoy our evenings together both at happy hour in the Diamond Club lounge where we partake of the free cocktails nightly and later at dinner in the Cascades dining room.

With two empty dining room seats opening up at our standing table for eight, after Kat and John will disembark in Perth tomorrow, and with the addition of all these new people, we’ve agreed to find two new table mates, if possible, for this remaining 17 days. 

More enormous freighters.

It won’t be easy to replace Kat, John and little William but we’ll see how it goes. We plan to see them when we spend the upcoming 40 days in Sydney beginning on March 13, 2017. Here again, it adds so much to the upcoming stay knowing we have new friends nearby.

Equipment at the port used in the mining business.

Recently, we’d both read dozens of reviews written by Amazon readers regarding a book written by temporary world travelers. A comment made over and over again by the readers was how annoyed they were when the authors constantly described their gatherings with friends they met in their travels or, had previously known.

Many tugboats were ready to assist.

We apologize if we’ve been a bit “overly bubbly” about our new friends. After four years of travel, most of it has been spent blissfully alone together. However, without access to friends with whom we may have some common interests, cruises have proven to be a refreshing adjunct to our lives on the move. 

Please bear with us. Within 18 days we’ll be in Tasmania, setting up housekeeping once again in two separate locations at six weeks each, and living life on our terms, always hopeful of making new friends but often not in an ideal scenario to do so. We’ve easily become adapted to “just the two of us” but it’s certainly enhances our experiences when we make friends along the way

The sunlight reflecting on the sea.

We’ve arrived in Geraldton, Australia. The queues to board the tender boats appear to require a four hour wait. Based on the few sites in the small town of under 30,000, we may stay on the ship today knowing tomorrow will be a busy day in Perth.

Have a busy day doing that which brings you bliss! 👫

Photo from one year ago today, November 15, 2015:

Beautiful tree hanging over the inlet, we spotted when we visited the village of Vuodomo in Fiji.   For more photos, please click here.

Part 3…New Darwin photos…Staying entertained, educated and entranced…

No sooner than we stepped off the shuttle bus, we spotted this local zoo staff person promoting the venue to the ship’s passengers while holding this baby crocodile.  ts mouth is wrapped in a rubber band as shown.

There’s some form of mindlessness that transpires for both of us when we’re cruising. Somehow we get into a mode of a series of pleasing routines interspersed with idle chatter with an endless stream of people that takes us to an almost abstract state of mind.

As we walked on the pier in Darwin toward the shuttle bus.

Don’t get me wrong. We love this state of being, in part since we know it will never last for the long haul. It only lasts as long as the cruise itself. Perhaps in part it’s the total lack of responsibility; no bed to make, no dishes to wash, no food to cook, no laundry to hang outside in the breeze.

But then, we’re not inactive. Since wearing my newly purchased FitBit a few days ago, although I haven’t yet made the 10,000 hoped-for steps a day, I’m working my way up to higher and higher each day as I take stairs instead of elevators and walk the “long way” around the ship when possible. 

The port of Darwin.

Even Tom seems to be moving about along with me in my mission to stay as active as possible on the ship. It’s so easy to eat and sit too much when many activities seem to involve both. 

Turning back to glance at our ship, Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas.

I must admit I feel a bit overstuffed with the good meals the chef has managed to make for my way of eating, often putting way too much food on each plate, twice as much as I’d normally consume.

Once we settle in Bali in five days, we’ll both resume our lower consumption healthy diets. In part, I’m a little concerned it may be tough to stay active with a household staff of four who’ll make the bed, wash the dishes, cook the food, leaving us only with the option of doing our own laundry.

Tom busied himself chatting with the friendly driver on the shuttle to town.

Most likely we’ll want to do the laundry mainly to ensure we’re doing “something” to get us up and off of our butts. It doesn’t appear we’ll be doing a ton of sightseeing in Bali based on our distant location and lack of a rental car. 

We assumed this was the entrance to a mall but found this entrance had yet to open in this new building.  Walking around the next corner we easily found the huge outdoor mall.

Parts of Bali are unsafe for road trips which we’ll definitely keep in mind with safety always a top priority. However, we’ll find plenty of fodder for our Bali experiences both in our immediate environment and when we get out to explore every few days with the driver that’s available at the villa.

Do we feel like a holiday/vacation is ending?  In a funny way, the answer is yes. No, we don’t go “home” to unpack, go through a pile of mail, catch up on bill paying and daily tasks. None of that applies to us.

Surprisingly, there was a fair amount of traffic in Darwin, not unlike what we’d experienced in New Plymouth, NZ.

We pay our credit card balances, deposits for rentals, cruises, and flights online wherever we may be.  No such task is ever awaiting us at the end of any one experience. We pay as needed in any given time period regardless of where we may be.

But, the end of a cruise, always remains the end of yet another type of pleasurable event unlike any other in our day-to-day lives. Many times, passengers we’ve met have asked us if we’d like to cruise indefinitely. The answer is “no.” 

A part of the mall was covered providing shelter from the heat of the sun.  Darwin has a tropical climate.

The novelty of cruising would be lost if it was a daily or long-term commitment. Soon, the days and nights would blend into one another and the uniqueness would be lost to the mundane.

For us, nomads that we’ve become, the joy of our lifestyle seems to center around the constant change in location, lifestyle, and surroundings keeping us entertained, educated, and entranced.

With only four more nights aboard the ship, we’re winding down and beginning to focus a little attention on the future. With an upcoming whirlwind of travels over the next several months, visiting five countries in the next four months to include: Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand, we’re enthused and looking forward to an endless variety of stories to tell and photos to share.

Hang on, dear readers.  We’ll be back with lots more!


Photo from one year ago today, April 26, 2015:

A year ago on this date, we posted photos of our guide in Africa on a photo safari. Tom and Anderson really hit it off.  This was within moments of arriving at the dirt runway airport in the Maasai Mara. For more of these photos we reposted a year ago, please click here.

How do we handle tonight’s dress up night?…Old dress-up photo with Tom in a tuxedo!…

This photo was taken in 2000 at a formal dinner we’d been invited to by Ruth and Bruce Dayton when I worked at the Marsh (5 years). We sat with them at the US $10,000 a plate charity event (they paid for our plates!) Recently, Bruce passed away. He was a kind and generous man who will be missed by many.

Tonight is a “dress-up” night. Long ago, we parted with all of our dress-up clothing, unable to continue to haul a sport coat, dress pants or suit, tie and dress shirts for Tom with dresses, jewelry and heels for me. With only one suitcase of clothing for each of us, carrying anything dressy is impossible.

As time goes on in this casual world, more and more cruise ships are getting away from dress-up nights instead of sticking to the “smart casual” concept for all the nights, during which “designer” jeans are accepted with nice shirts and tops.

However, no one is prohibited from entering the dining room, specialty restaurants in wearing “smart casual” on “dress-up nights.” We no longer dread dress-up nights, although we’re unable to do so with our limited clothing contained in each of our single suitcases with clothing.

The Michael Kors store aboard the ship.  These handbags range from US $400 on up. Since I don’t own a handbag this store is of no interest.

Tonight, we’ll ask a passenger to take our photo wearing the few options we have for such an occasion, which we’ll post tomorrow. Some passengers still wear evening gowns, diamond jewels, and tuxedos. 

Others wear lots of costume jewelry and fancy outfits that aren’t necessarily in the formal wear category but serve the purposes. We’ll even spot a few passengers still wearing blue jeans and casual short sleeve shirts. 

No tee shirts with words or shorts are allowed at dinner in the main dining areas, nor are flip flops, which neither of us owns. At breakfast, it’s more casual in the dining rooms and upstairs in the buffet, the Oceanview Café, anything goes except robes and swimsuits.

In our old lives, getting dressed up would have been a thrill where now, it doesn’t phase us at all, nor do we feel out of place among all of the other passengers dressed in formal attire.

The men’s Nautica store had nothing that appealed to Tom although he liked this brand name in our old lives.

As much as I enjoyed clothing in my old life with every closet in the house filled with seasonal items, my single bag suits me just fine. On the other hand, Tom has never been a “clothes horse” with no interest in shopping, although he takes special care to look good on each occasion.

As we wander along with the decks where the shops are located I keep an eye out to purchase a new watch when they’ll have the “two for one” sale close to the last day. Today, a big sale was promoted, but after checking the “bigger sale” has yet to begin. 

I definitely need a few new clothing items but have a hard time finding pants, long enough for my long legs, the equivalent of men’s 35 inches (.89 meter) inseam. 

Most women worldwide aren’t as tall as I am, and it’s problematic finding pants. Other than the two pairs of blue jeans I ordered once in the past three-plus years from the US. Also, I’d like to purchase a few warmer shirts and sweaters, disposing of other older items in their place. 

Another store with relatively high-priced merchandise.

I’ve been feeling cold arriving on this ship. With five more upcoming cruises around Australia and the South Pacific, slightly warmer clothing may be advisable. I don’t own a single warm top other than two jackets which I don’t want to wear indoors day and night.

As for today, a sea day, we’re totally content sitting here in the Café al Bacio, watching a glass auction (they blow glass on the ship) sipping coffee and tea as we wrap up today’s post. As mentioned earlier, it takes almost an hour for four or five photos to upload aboard the ship with the slow wifi resulting in keeping the number of photos at a minimum.

We found the above photo of us on Dropbox (a cloud) where Tom had scanned and stored all of our old photos before we left Minnesota. We’re thrilled to be able to reference old photos.

That’s it for today, folks. We’ll be back tomorrow with dress-up night photos of us in our smart casual and hopefully others in formal wear. It’s lobster night and we’re looking forward to it.

Be happy.  Be well!

Photo from one year ago today, January 16, 2015:

Notice Tom’s red face and forehead from too much sun on Tuesday when visiting with the new neighbors the prior day. This is the lobby of the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel where we stayed overnight before our flight to Kauai. For more details, please click here.

We’ve reached the first of three fiords in New Zealand… Milford Sound…Photos!

Milford Sound, New Zealand, although cloudy and rainy was an extraordinary place to see including the rainbow.

The anticipation we’re feeling over reaching the beautiful country of New Zealand is indescribable. With many Kiwi passengers and experienced travelers in our midst aboard this ship extolling the virtues of this country, we’re reeling with excitement.

This morning’s flurry of activity with everyone racing to the decks by 7:30 am to witness our entry into the first of three New Zealand fiords we’ll visit today, Milford Sound, loaded up with cameras, iPads, and cell phones in hand on a cool, windy day.

The sun peeked out for a moment, enhancing the scenery.

Milford Sound is described as follows:

“Milford Sound (Māori: Piopiotahi) is a fiord in the southwest of New Zealand‘s South Island, within Fiordland National Park, Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) Marine Reserve, and the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site. It has been judged the world’s top travel destination in an international survey (the 2008 Travelers’ Choice Destinations Awards by TripAdvisor) and is acclaimed as New Zealand’s most famous tourist destination. Rudyard Kipling had previously called it the eighth Wonder of the World.”

There are numerous waterfalls in the sounds.

As the day continues, we’ll travel through two more major fiords, Doubtful Sound and Dusky Sound, for which we’ll share new photos tomorrow.  As has been typical this past year in our travels, it was cloudy and raining for most of the 90 minutes we sailed through this breathtaking area.

Inclement weather or not, we’re grateful to see these amazing sites, especially when we caught a glimpse of a rainbow and a large pod of Bottlenose dolphins. As often, my photo-taking skills aren’t quite perfected enough to get the quality shots of active marine life although I continue to try. In part, I think I get so excited seeing wildlife, I can barely hold the camera!

We wore long sleeve safari shirts with jeans, the warmest we’ve dressed since we were in Vancouver in September 2014.

And here we are again, after breakfast, back out to the open sea, situated in the Café al Bacio, sipping on hot beverages, content as we can be. We find sitting in this “Starbucks” type café an excellent spot to work on our site and meet new people.

Last night’s dinner with two English couples was as entertaining and fun as always. One of the couples actually lives in the village of Highclere where the popular TV series, Downton Abbey is filmed in the exquisite castle which we visited in August 2014. How fun it was to hear about their lives in the countryside in England!

At each meal, we meet new people, occasionally encountering a couple from a past meal reveling in the good time we had last time around, embracing the new meal together with enthusiasm. 

The time is flying as we’re now only one week from disembarking in Auckland, New Zealand to make our way via rental car to our new home for the next three months. 

Lots of clouds and a ray of sunlight.

We imagine that when most passengers are facing a cruise at the halfway point there’s a certain sense of disappointment anticipating that soon it will all end. We’re grateful that we don’t bear any significant disappointment in it coming to an end when the next leg of our journey will be equally as interesting and meaningful. 

We can’t help but feel a bit of disappointment that we won’t be able to chat with new people at every meal, easily enjoying the friendly companionship. Then, again, we’ve made new friends aboard the ship with whom we’ll surely stay in touch.

Posting has been difficult during this cruise due to our inability to upload more than a few photos each day. The Internet staff has explained that using the wifi mainly works for Facebook and a few email messages. We’re pleased to have been able to do as much as we have as we continue to make every effort to upload more photos each day.

What a view!

I suppose part of the difficulty is taking the time to complete a single post when people frequently stop by to chat. To avoid being rude, I stop looking at my laptop while we chat. Picking it back up 20 minutes later often results in my losing my momentum and flow. 

So, if it’s been scattered, we apologize and will get back on track once we’re living in NZ as we begin an entirely new adventure after settling into our new house on the alpaca farm and start exploring both the north and south islands. 

We’ll return tomorrow with more photos of the two other “sounds” we sail to today. Back at you later. Happy day to all!

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

Ironically, one year ago today, we booked another cruise on this same ship we’re on now, the Celebrity Solstice, for March 1, 2017. For more details on that upcoming cruise in 14 months, please click here. (Unable to enlarge photo).

Another possible medical emergency a few hours before boarding the ship…Thank goodness for a previous posts saving the day!

The ship is still decorated from Christmas.

Yesterday morning, shortly after I uploaded the post, Tom told me his tooth abscess had returned overnight.  While in Fiji we’d decided dealing with it other than with the use of antibiotics was not necessarily the best course of action after our visit to the dentist’s office. We feared their equipment may not have been up-to-date and the most sanitary.

In November, when Tom was treated for the abscess at the dentist office in Savusavu for a fee of FJD $6, USD $2.78 with two free antibiotic prescriptions and a dose of Ibuprofen, we thought if he could last until we arrived in New Zealand, he’d visit a dentist shortly after we arrived.

Most likely we’ll find a good dentist in the nearby town of Taranaki which appears to have several dental offices.  Of course, we’ll ask the owner of the house we’re renting for a recommendation.

This wonderful chemist saved the day!

With only two hours until we had to vacate the hotel room, after requesting a late checkout, we knew we’d better come up with a plan. An abscessed tooth could become serious while on a two-week cruise. We didn’t have enough time left in Sydney to make an appointment to see a dentist and follow up with any treatment or prescriptions.

The previous day, we’d visited a local chemist for toiletries and a variety of preventive over-the-counter meds, meeting Peter, the most friendly chemist on the planet. 

Yesterday, after Tom finally told me about the abscess returning we decided to go back to see him, a short walk in yet more rain, a few blocks from the hotel. Our plan…ask him to refill the same antibiotic prescriptions Tom had taken in Fiji which seemed to work within a few days.

The tiny chemist shop had more products than one could imagine would fit in the tiny space.

Our plan to get him to agree to refill the prescriptions without a new prescription from a local dentist was simpler than we anticipated. Once we arrived at the store, we’d ask him to bring up our website in November 10, 2015, where we’d posted a photo of the pills he’d received at the Savusavu dentist. Click here to read that particular post if you missed it. 

Below is the photo we showed Peter which he accepted as a valid prescription worthy of being refilled. We couldn’t have been more relieved. Immediately, Tom said it was “safari luck” that we had the photo on the post to refer to in order to show the chemist we had a valid prescription. 

Luckily, Peter was able to read the labels on these two antibiotics enabling Tom to take another emergency round to last until we arrive in New Zealand in a few weeks.

This photo would never have been accepted in the US as valid proof for a refill. But, in Australia which is still relatively strict with prescription laws, this case precipitated a solution with kindly Peter accommodated since we’d already built a connection with him on the previous day’s visit. He knew we weren’t buying the medications to resell them.
 
Practically jumping for joy with relief we quickly made our way back to the hotel, prescriptions in hand, to load up our gear and head out the door to the ship.  Oddly, we could see the pier across the street from the chemist but, it was too difficult a walk with all of our bags in the rain and attempting to maneuver down a steep flight of stairs.

The doorman hailed a taxi and for a fare of USD $14.33, AU $20, the driver dropped us off at the Port of Sydney with our two large bags, one medium bag, one duffel, one Costco bag, rolling cart, and computer bag. (We’re able to maneuver the load a short distance on our own with careful stacking and use of the rolling cart). 

Busy Sydney Harbour.

Somehow, in these past months, we’ve lost our bungees making securing the rolling cart difficult. Once at the pier, we had a relatively long line in which to handle the bags were normally at most ports, the moment we step out of the taxi, our bags are tagged with our cabin number and whisked away by port personnel too much later be delivered to our cabin.

In less than an hour waiting in various lines for check-in, customs, immigration, and security, we were on the familiar ship, the Celebrity Solstice, excited for the 14-day journey itself to New Zealand, and for the upcoming three months we’ll spend living on an alpaca farm.

By 2:00 pm, we’d dropped off our carry-on bags in our cabin, our hands were free and we roamed about the same ship we sailed on September 23, 2014, when we cruised from Vancouver, British Columbia to Oahu, Hawaii.  That seems so long ago in one way and like yesterday in another.

The ship was being fueled, maintained, and dumping sewage.

The day and evening were even more enjoyable than expected.  We met many other passengers, mostly from the US and the UK. There seem to be considerably fewer Aussies than anticipated. As a result, there are no “Shed” meetings for Tom to attend, but he’s rather content with all the people we’ve met so far, engaging in lively conversations. And, as always, we’re having lots of fun together.

The abscess is already improving from a few doses of the antibiotics. We’re not thrilled he has to suffer any potential ill effects of taking antibiotics twice in such a short time span. But, we had no alternatives other than to cancel the cruise or risk a more serious infection, building over the upcoming few weeks. 

Last night’s dinner was OK. Since it was my first meal in the Epernay Dining Room they had few options available for me other than a tiny plain shrimp cocktail (no sauce), a Caesar salad without dressing, a steak, and a few steamed veggies. I ordered sides of New Zealand seasoned butter and full-fat sour cream, dipped everything on my plate for added flavor. 

All other entrees had been prepared in advance using vegetable oil, sugar, soy sauce, starches, flour, and other items I can’t have. Last night, I ordered my meal for tonight and this morning’s breakfast of two hard-boiled eggs, smoked salmon with capers, and crispy streaky American bacon. It was fine.

Last night we experienced rough seas during dinner subsiding later in the evening. As always, it had no effect on either of us, although it certainly was noticeable.

When we returned to our cabin for the night we noticed Tom’s suitcase hadn’t arrived yet. We’d received all the other bags in the late afternoon. 

We spotted a message on our phone. Within minutes, we headed to Level 2 to security to respond to their request to show up if we wanted his bag which had been confiscated due to a power strip. They tagged it, made him sign for it, stating we could have it back at the end of the cruise. This wasn’t the first time this has happened. We’ll manage just fine in the interim.

Tom’s busy “trying new things” which we’ll share in our photos to come.  With the slow WiFi on the ship, we’ll only be able to post four to six photos per day. He always surprises me when he suddenly decides to be adventurous with food and beverages. After all, his inclination toward adventure is certainly pleasing to me regardless of what he decides to eat!

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, January 6, 2015:

One year ago, daughter-in-law Camille and granddaughter Madighan had a chance to pet one of the chickens at a local resort where they stayed for one night when Madighan had an allergic reaction to something in the house we were renting. The next day, they left for Kona to get ready for their upcoming flight to the mainland. For more details, please click here.

We made it to Sydney!…What a city!…

He’s so happy. Gosh, we love this life!  I took this photo in the rain when we found an overhang on the sidewalk on George St. in Sydney .
OK, my hat was lopsided, but it made it possible for me to take a few photos in the rain. Fashionable? No. Functional? Yep.

OK, here’s how it went. On Sunday afternoon, we checked in for our flight using a bad wifi signal, from Suva, Fiji to Sydney, Australia, a four-hour non-stop flight.

Our flight confirmation paper documents stated our flight on Monday, January 4th was at 11:15 am. We booked several flights in and around Fiji using a local travel agency while we were living in Trinity Beach, Australia last June to September. 

It was the first time we’d used a travel agency to book any of our travels, other than Vacationstogo.com which we use to book cruises, mainly for their great prices and service.

The first four flights were fine. Yesterday’s fifth flight was “confirmed” in writing for the above date and time. As soon as we were online at Fiji Airway’s site to check in on Sunday, there was no flight listed at 11:15 am as stated in our documents, only one flight at 8:35 am with the same flight number as indicated on the documents. 

We were able to check-in thus affirming that somewhere along the way either the agency gave us the wrong information or the flight was changed and we weren’t notified. They had a record of our email and phone numbers for both Fiji and the US.

Immediately, we hustled to change our shuttle to Suva, Nasouri Airport from a 7:45 am pickup to a 5:15 am pickup which for us, is a bit challenging. Although we get up early most days, getting up at 4:15 and out the door, an hour later is not our thing.

No problem on the shuttle. They’d arrived at our door at 5:15 for the 90-minute drive to the airport. Hoping to arrive by 6:45 am, we’d have time to go through customs and immigration and an expected huge queue at the international flights when we realized it was the first Monday after the holidays and the tiny airport would be swamped

If we didn’t get checked in and dump our checked baggage by 8:05 am they’d literally “close” check-in and we’d miss the flight.

Awakening at 3:45 am, I bolted out of bed without the alarm on my phone never going off, and jumped in the shower, bleary-eyed after only about four fitful hours of sleep. Minutes later, Tom was awake and we dashed around the house, tidying up, closing our bags moving everything back to where it was when we arrived. 

When the driver appeared at 4:55 am we were ready to leave. Good timing.  Arriving any later we’d have had a problem at the tiny airport, which was more packed than we expected with mostly Fijians heading back to their homes in Australia. Oddly, we spotted only one person that appeared to be Caucasian among the hundreds waiting in line.  We were right at home. 

Taxidermy croc for sale in a shop window. My lower legs and feet are also shown in this photo. In the rain, I wasn’t particular about getting good shots.

(For some odd reason, wherever we may be, we always feel as if we belong. What’s the deal with that? The acceptance and welcoming we’ve received worldwide have been astounding).

When our turn popped up, we were hardly surprised to discover our luggage load was severely overweight. We didn’t have to step on the huge old-fashioned scale this time, only the bags.  We were presented with a bill over and above the already paid cost of the flight for FJD $936, USD $438! Even the rep winced when he told us how much it would be. 

Yesterday, we took the elevator to the hotel’s rooftop for a few photos in the rain. This was not our ship which hadn’t arrived yet.

At this point, we’ve come to accept that this is “the nature of the beast.” That’s why we love cruising so much (among other reasons)…no baggage fees. Sure, our readers may cringe and say, “Oh, I could get that load lightened enough to avoid excess fees.” 

Please, dear friends…walk in these shoes…these few pairs each, and see what you’d be willing to get dispose of. Not much. It’s bare-bones. I don’t own a bathrobe, a dress, or a bathing suit cover-up. Tom doesn’t own a suit coat, a pair of dress pants, or a robe either, which we both love wearing after a warm shower.

This is the Metcalfe Bond building.

We each have two pairs of jeans, several pairs of shorts, and a variety of tee shirts along with a few casual dressy shirts for dinner on cruises and otherwise. I have two lightweight casual skirts that I can dress up with one of two scarves and a belt. It’s truly bare-bones.

So…we pay the price, accepting the reality that we care enough that we look presentable in many situations with what we may have on hand. We’re not backpackers. We’ll never be backpackers. 

Finally, we were seated and buckled in on the fully packed 737 jet. Sitting next to me at the window was a man who had to weigh at least 400 pounds, 182 kilos, tall and burly. His thighs were the size of two of Tom’s. 

The Sydney Harbour Bridge. While taking this photo Tom suggested I zoom in for the people walking across the top of the bridge, as shown in today’s photos.

He occupied his seat and half of mine. I was in the middle, Tom on the aisle. Heavy breather. Poor guy was cramped. I did everything I could to contribute as much of my seat as possible to allow him to be somewhat comfortable. Instead, I was cramped and uncomfortable for the entire four hours sitting almost sideways on my seat. Tom offered to switch with me. I refused.

Instead of thinking about it, we played Gin. I wound up winning for Fiji. That helped. They served breakfast. I ate the scrambled eggs when they said were gluten-free but nothing else. It was fine. We were fine. There was no turbulence over the vast sea. A baby in the seat in front of us cried and fussed a lot.

Finally, we landed in Sydney. The plane had to wait 40 minutes for a gate. It was raining hard and we were glad there would be a “tube” instead of the usual steep metal steps outside the plane. It was worth the wait. We didn’t complain.

Brave souls, walking across the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, known as the Bridge Climb. Please click here for details. This might be fun for those that don’t mind heights. 

We breezed through immigration and customs after a long wait for the bags. Once out the door, we grabbed a van and made our way to the hotel, the Old Holiday Inn, a very nice hotel with mixed reviews. Very close to the port of Sydney, we were happy. Free WiFi with a strong signal. 

Tom was chomping at the bit to watch the Vikings game which was live on Aussie TV.  The TV wouldn’t work, nor would the phone in order to report it.

Mr. Overly Grumpy himself reappeared as I dashed off to the front desk to report the two issues. In no time at all, a maintenance guy appeared in our room, removing the bad phone replacing it with another, and got the TV working. 

Tom was so worked up he had to take off his shirt. I never take my shirt off when I get worked up. It must be a guy thing.

Notice the cruise ship in the background.  Our ship hadn’t arrived yet but is certainly there now.  How exciting! This building only had the letters “ASN” listed on the building.

Soon, the game was on and he was happy again, with a bit of tail between his legs. I stayed unruffled but gloated a little over my (mostly) continuing “overly bubbly” demeanor, weird in its consistency. How could I not?

In essence, we balance each other. When I was fussing over the prospect of getting up so early after our oddly discovered flight time change, Tom was calm and cool, making every effort to ease my concern over the prospect of having a bad night’s sleep. When all was said and done, I was fine, certainly eased by his ongoing emotional support and reassurances.  We each had about four hours of sleep.

We needed a number of preventive items for the cruise, just in case, and had to find a nearby chemist and an ATM.  We needed hand sanitizer wipes, (we already have those for cleaning surfaces in the cabin and elsewhere), nasal spray (specifically for travelers to prevent infections which we’ll report back if that works), cough medicine with codeine like an ingredient legal in AU, Benedryl, a mascara (mine was empty), and a few other odds and ends.

Our ship has arrived!  Tom took this photo a few minutes ago when he went back up on the roof.  So close but so far away with our luggage.

After the chemist, a several-block walk in the pouring rain, with success in finding varying degrees of the list on my phone, we found an ATM. It wasn’t working. Tom was worried. I wasn’t. We went back to the room to call Wells Fargo to find out the problem with our debit cards. We’d already notified them where we’d be traveling over the next year.

Calling Wells Fargo on Skype, there was no problem with the card.  We had to find another machine. Tom headed out on his own leaving me in the room while he dashed back out in the rain.  Within 10 minutes he was back with a handful of Aussie dollars. He was happy now.

Sailboat entering the harbor.

Not wanting to go back out in the pouring rain, we dined in the hotel’s restaurant, a fixed price menu that proved perfect for me; Caesar salad minus croutons or dressing;  salmon filet and steamed broccoli and spinach with butter. Tom had leek onion soup, steak, potatoes, veggie, and rolls. He especially liked the roll. His cruise dining habits have begun. Lips zipped here.

Soon, we’ll be off to the ship. Tom had hoped we could walk our bags using carts to the port but the hotel doesn’t have carts or porters, plus we’re way too far away and also the pouring rain continues and there’s no way that makes sense. We’ll get a taxi to take us the distance of four or five long blocks.

Thanks, dear readers, for following us to Sydney and now onto the Celebrity Solstice. We hear the seas are rough!  Sounds exciting!

Photo from one year ago today, January 5, 2015:

Longs Drugs, permanently closed and boarded up due to pending lava flow on the Big Island, close to where we lived for six weeks. We’d shopped at this store the day they closed for some huge bargains but felt bad for the employees who’d be out of jobs.  For more details, please click here.

documentswriting that provides information (especially information of an official nature)More (Definitions, Synonyms, Translation)

Booked three more cruises…Returning to US for a family visit…New beach photos…

Surfboard menu at a local restaurant in Trinity Beach.

There was no doubt in our minds that sooner or later we’d return to the US to visit family. We visited my cousin and uncle when our cruise ended in Boston staying for three days last September. We’d chosen that specific cruise in order to see them with my uncle who’d recently turned 95 years old. Who knows when we’d ever be back in Boston? It was a wonderful visit and then we were on our way once again.

Holloways Beach.

At that point, we didn’t stop in Minnesota since most of our kids and all of our grandchildren were coming to see us in Hawaii for Christmas, only seven months ago. 

A two week stay in Minneapolis can easily run over US $5000, AUD $6734 with the high cost of hotels, rental cars and meals. With the cost of bringing 12 family members to Hawaii, we had to tighten our belts and stick with the budget and the itinerary (as we always attempt to do) preventing us from any other stops along the way at that time.

House on a hill in Yorkeys Knob.

It will be wonderful to see our family and friends and most assuredly, our stay will be a flurry of non-stop activity however long we may stay. As time nears, we’ll pin down the dates we’ll be in Minnesota, Nevada and Los Angeles.

Planning this far in advance is crucial for us when we notice cruises posted as “sold out” or cabins we may have wanted to book already taken. Early booking is vital, especially around the South Pacific, where all of these newly booked cruises will be sailing. Aussies love to cruise.

A sunbather on the beach.

Not counting the upcoming Vietnam cruise next year we have six cruises booked in the South Pacific. After considerable research, we discovered that Australia is too huge to tour by car with visa restrictions preventing us from staying more than 90 days. 

With Australia the size of the US with the major points of interest around the perimeter, driving for foreigners like us is not a likely nor affordable way to see this massive continent. Cruising is the ideal way to see it. Two of these cruises we booked over the weekend, visit the entire perimeter of Australia.

A camping area in Trinity Beach.

We’ve seriously investigated renting an RV but the cost, is outrageous, more than the daily cost of cruising.  And, honestly, driving an RV for months no longer appeals to our way of life. We don’t liked feeling locked in for so long.

As much as we prefer not to bring up expenses as often as we do, the reality is clear…there’s no way to do what we’re doing long term without constantly being aware of the expenses. 

Camping and caravanning is popular in Australia.

There’s no way we’d want to put ourselves in a position of “worrying” about finances. Currently, the way we budget and carefully follow that budget, we have nothing to worry about. We remain concerned and diligent neither of which elicits a sense of worry in our case.

Rather than list the finite details of each cruise here, which can be less interesting for those who don’t cruise, tomorrow we’ll post a brief synopsis of these three new cruises. 

This sign is posted outside a restaurant in Trinity Beach.

Soon we’ll be posting our general upcoming itinerary which encompasses over 600 days, including two gaps we’ve created by booking these cruises which we’ll fill in time, most likely staying in Australia or its surrounding islands. 

The interior of Lunico restaurant in Trinity Beach.

Tom has been busy for weeks planning all of these cruises busily typing away on his laptop on Cloud 9.  He loves doing this. On the other hand, I have little interest in booking cruises. Point me in the direction of a cruise ship and I’m content.

This reminds us that we could dine out on occasion.  But, with my restricted way of eating its not so appealing.

Thus, the total number of cruises we have booked at this time, including the Mekong River cruise is a total of seven. This reminds me of our early days when we had eight cruises booked right out of the chute even before we originally left the US. 

Sitting outdoors at the restaurant overlooking the ocean is appealing now that it’s not raining almost every day as it has since we arrived one month ago.

We’ve loved every single cruise each with their own unique merits, including the experience of three days and nights of raging seas, on the Norwegian Epic in 2013.  It’s all been a part of our vast experiences of traveling to see the world.

There are lots of pizza and pasta restaurants along the beaches.

What better way is there to see a lot at one time than cruising? Yes, there are crowds, germs, mediocre food and occasional periods of waiting to board and disembark. 

We always giggle over seniors partaking in “early bird specials.” Now that we’re in that category, we totally get the benefit of early dining, often finding ourselves at the dinner table by 6:30 at the latest. We’ve haven’t tried the 5:30 dining time yet but most likely its in the future.

Overall, cruising has provided us with many memorable experiences of making new friends and seeing so much of the world which far surpasses any potential annoyances. Plus, we had a blast with the Aussies on this last cruise to Sydney and we can’t wait for more social interactions with these warm and friendly people in this highly conducive environment.

The sky will be blue as shown in some of these photos and in a short period its raining again. Many days, I’ve put on my swimsuit in the morning, hoping the sunny day will continue and we can sit outdoors for 30 minutes (sun too hot here for longer) for a dose of Vitamin D. Invariably, by the time I upload the post, its cloudy or raining and I change into my clothes.

This afternoon, we’ll head back to the doctor for my test results and then get to work on Tom’s upcoming exams and tests. Hopefully, all will be good and we can continue on with added peace of mind.

We’ve been here over a month and how the time has flown. We like it here.  It’s an excellent place to live and we’re content. What more could we ask for?

                                               Photo from one year ago today, July 13, 2014:

Tom always says I don’t post enough photos of myself. I’m not your basic “selfie” type person obsessed with photos of myself. There’s a lot more interesting scenery than me posing for one of Tom’s less than stellar photos, many of which I’m compelled to delete. Here I am in front of a decorated tree trunk in Ribeira Brava, Madeira last year. For more details, please click here.

The second cruise we booked on Friday…

Red berries growing on a palm tree.

It’s odd how we often book two cruises at once or I should say, Tom books two cruises at once. I suppose he decides to book two cruises when it’s related to the fact that particular promotion is taking place at the time of booking.

Celebrity has a promotion at this time, called, “1, 2,3 Go!” which includes: one, cost of gratuities; two, value of an onboard cabin credit; and three, which is the drink package for two, valued at roughly $60 per person per day.  If one chooses the “concierge class” (an upgraded cabin and location), all three promos are included. If you choose certain balcony classes, a traveler may choose one or two of the three options.

Celebrity Solstice, which we sailed on our way to Honolulu in October is the same ship for these two recently booked cruises.

We weren’t able to choose the “1,2,3 Go!” package when booking the cruise, we posted yesterday when it wasn’t available for that particular sailing.

Tom always tries to make it work that we get all three when the cost differential is worthwhile since the upgraded cabins have a higher cost. The big issue for us is that I don’t drink alcohol, juice, or sugary beverages, making it redundant for me to end up with a “free” drink package.  How much included bottled water can one drink in a day?

Here’s a link that further explains the “1, 2, 3 Go!” package.

Plus, Tom has to factor in that he only drinks a few cocktails each day. Does having a “free” drink package make him drink more? Perhaps. It would be hard to resist for any cruise passenger. Tom’s fun when he drinks, never sloppy, never drunk or embarrassing, so I don’t mind a bit.

As it turns out, based on Tom’s calculations, it made sense to upgrade to the concierge class for the cruise described here today, as opposed to the cruise info we posted yesterday where it made no sense financially, although we did book a good balcony cabin in a good location at an increased price.

Below are the many features of the Celebrity Solstice, the ship for both of these two recently booked cruises: 

 Ship Statistics 
Year Built 2008
Tonnage 122,000 tons
Registry Malta
Length 1,033 feet
Beam 121 feet
Passenger Capacity 2,850
Crew Size 999
Total Inside Cabins 102
Total Outside Cabins 1,323
Cabins & Suites w/ verandas 1,177
Suites 56
Maximum Occupancy per room 5
Age Restrictions One person must be 21 or older
Dinner Seatings 2
Seating Assignments
in Main Dining Room
Assigned
Dining Hours 6:15 p.m. & 8:30 p.m.
Dining Room Dress Code Dining
Tipping Recommended? Yes
Tipping Guidelines Added to onboard account. $12.00 per person, per day in staterooms, $12.50 per person, per day for Concierge/Aqua class, $15.50 per person, per day for Suites. 15% tip included on beverage orders.
Onboard Currency US Dollar
Services & Amenities
Bars/Lounges 14
Beauty Salon/Barber Shop Yes
Casino Yes
Chapel No
Disco/Dancing Yes
Elevators Yes
Hot Tub 10
Cell Phone Service Yes
Internet Center Yes
Wireless Internet Access Yes
Note: Available in certain areas
Laundry/Dry Cleaning Yes
Library Yes
Movie Theatre Yes
Outdoor Movie Screen No
Onboard Weddings Yes
Self Serve Laundromats No
Shops Yes
Showroom Yes
Spa Yes
Video Arcade Yes
Fitness & Sports Facilities
Basketball Court Yes
Fitness Center Yes
Golf Driving Net No
Golf Simulator No
Ice Skating Rink No
Jogging Track Yes
Mini-Golf Course No
Rock Climbing Wall No
Swimming Pool 3
Tennis Court No
Water Slide No
Water Sports Platform No
Cabin Features & Amenities
24-Hour Room Service Yes
Hair Dryer Yes
Safe Yes
Telephone Yes
Television Yes
Kids Facilities
Babysitting Yes
Children’s Playroom Yes
Kiddie Pool No
Supervised Youth Program Yes
Teen Center Yes
Special Needs & Requests
Adjoining Cabins
(private connecting doors)
Yes
Kosher Meals Yes
Single Occupancy Cabins No
Single Share Program No
Wheelchair-Accessible Cabins


Soon, we’ll figure out where to live in the South Pacific during this gap in time. While living in Kauai, we’ll continue the process of figuring out where we’ll spend this period of time. The options are many based on our location at the time.

Our total cost for this cruise is $4820 which includes all taxes, gratuities, and subsequent credits. On top of this expense is the cost for the “bill” we receive at the end of the cruise including (if no drink package); alcoholic and other beverages, bottled water (tea and coffee are free),  the ship’s WiFi fees (cost per minute), purchases in the shops, visits to the doctor and cost for spa services or any other services not included in the fare.

Here’s the cruise information for this later cruise on the same ship, the Celebrity Solstice, three and a half months after the cruise we listed yesterday. We continue to book all of our cruises with vacationstogo.com:


FastDeal
12360
12 nights departing March 1, 2017 on
Celebrity’s Celebrity Solstice
Brochure Inside $3,398
Our Inside $1,699
You Save 50%
Brochure Oceanview $3,798
Our Oceanview $1,824
You Save 52%
Brochure Balcony $4,098
Our Balcony $1,949
You Save 52%
Brochure Suite $6,098
Our Suite $3,049
You Save 50%
$$$ Book select oceanview and balcony categories, and choose one of the following offers: a $300 per cabin onboard credit, FREE pre-paid gratuities (a per cabin value of $288), or a FREE beverage package for two, which includes select alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages onboard (a per cabin value of $1,176). Book select suite categories, and receive all 3 offers:  a $300 per cabin onboard credit plus the pre-paid gratuities (a per cabin value of $372) and beverage packages listed above.
Promotions may not be combinable with all fares.
The prices shown are US dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. They include port charges but do not include airfare or (where applicable) airport or government taxes or fees.
Important Note: Visas are required for this itinerary.
ITINERARY
DAY DATE PORT ARRIVE   DEPART
Wed Mar 1 Sydney, Australia 6:30pm
Thu Mar 2 At Sea
Fri Mar 3 At Sea
Sat Mar 4 Noumea, New Caledonia 8:00am 5:00pm
Sun Mar 5 Lifou, New Caledonia 8:00am 5:00pm
Mon Mar 6 Mystery Island, Vanuatu 8:00am 5:00pm
Tue Mar 7 At Sea
Wed Mar 8 Suva, Fiji 8:00am 5:00pm
Thu Mar 9 Lautoka, Fiji 7:00am 4:00pm
Fri Mar 10 At Sea
Sat Mar 11 At Sea
Sun Mar 12 At Sea
Mon Mar 13 Sydney, Australia 6:30am

Considering all of the above, our usual bill at the end of each cruise for 14 days, runs around $1100, most of which is for WiFi. Also, we always have XcomGlobal’s MiFi with us when cruising, at an additional cost of about $400 per month with a limited amount of data per day only working on the days we’re in port. 

Out to sea, we have no option but to use the ship’s Internet which is expensive and unreliable. I’m a cheap date on a cruise and Tom doesn’t charge more than his drinks. My drinks are all free when I only drink iced tea and coffee and the ship’s reverse osmosis purified water. I don’t care for massages or spa services and I rarely buy anything in the various overpriced shops. I do use a fair amount of WiFi when writing our posts each day but then again so does Tom, helping with research and entertaining himself while I work on the photos and stories to post.

We won’t book any additional cruises until after we purchase more “deposit vouchers” onboard our next cruise this upcoming May enabling us to pay only $100 per person deposit as opposed to $450 per person deposit. To purchase these, we don’t have to have a specific cruise in mind and these vouchers have no end date.

Yesterday, we’d mentioned listing our five booked future cruises, costs, dates, etc. However, as long as today’s post proved to be, we’ll wait and post these tomorrow. We apologize for changing this plan last minute. 

Have a restful Sunday!

                                           Photo from one year ago today, January 11, 2014:

One year ago we posted this photo we took from the veranda in Marloth Park. Oh, how we loved the visits from the gentle friendly zebra often arriving in all-male herds. For a funny zebra video and more, please click here.
Day #161 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Mad about this…Are you, too?

Arrived on the ship…Excited to sail away…

 

This afternoon’s view from our balcony. It’s good to see the ocean once again.

It’s hard to believe we’re finally aboard Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas for a 14-day cruise from Harwich, England to Boston. Earlier today, we posted the ship’s itinerary. 

On our way through London to Harwich, we spotted a number of popular attractions including this church.

As I write this, it’s 3:30 pm and soon we’ll be called for the muster drill, which for those of our readers who’ve never been on a cruise, is a mandatory safety procedures drill during which names are taken to ensure each passenger has attended this drill.

Buckingham Palace.

Several cruises ago, we missed the drill when we were told we didn’t have to attend when we were on a “back to back” cruise. The next day we were required to attend a private session for others like us who hadn’t attended.

Big Ben was to the right in this shot, but I had no way to get the photo in traffic.
Another Ferris Wheel referred to as the “Eye.”

After the muster drill, we’re headed to a party for CruiseCritic participants. Tom is an avid follower and made many new friends on the site, many of whom we’re joining on several private tours. That will be fun, thanks to my socially engaged hubby. 

A fast shot of the Tower of London.

Embarking on this cruise feels as if we’re we’re embarking on an entirely new leg of our years-long journey.  We’ve had an unbelievable number of experiences in these past almost two years. And, with the next two years almost completely booked, we’re looking forward to the future as well as living every moment as it comes.

Not sure as to the name of this memorial as we zoomed past.

The drive from the hotel in London to the pier in Harwich flew by as we chatted with our driver Tony who was delightful and charming. As soon as we met, he welcomed me with a kiss on the cheek, a common greeting in the UK. 

A memorial near Buckingham Palace. With WiFi restrictions, we’re unable to look up the names of these monuments.

Whoever said Brits are stuffy hasn’t been to the UK in a while. They are warm and kind people with big hearts and a great sense of humor. We loved that fact about London more than anything.

At last our ship, Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas.

After the party at 4:45, we’ll return to our cabin to change for dinner, and mosey our way to the main dining room for what we expect will be an enjoyable evening sharing a table with six or more passengers.

We always appreciate having a sofa in the cabin as opposed to lying on the bed when relaxing.

Tomorrow morning at 8:00 am, we’re off on our first tour to Le Havre/Normandy, France for an all-day excursion to see WWII Omaha Beach, Utah Beach, and American Cemeteries. As mentioned earlier, we’ll post a short update with photos as soon as possible upon our return to our cabin, prior to heading for dinner. 

Our balcony cabin.  The queen-sized bed seems comfortable.

Our MiFi device is working. The ship’s WiFi is working. We’ll alternate between the two sources depending upon our location; out to sea, we’ll use the ship’s WiFi; in port, we’ll use the MiFi. 

Tiny cabin bathroom.

Unfortunately, we both had to spring for the ship’s WiFi service at US $399 each. However, we have several onboard credits we can use toward the final bill which we’ll post as the cruise nears the end.

A roomy safe is also appreciated.

Happy Labor Day tomorrow to our family and friends in the US and thanks to all for joining us as we head out to sea for our second Transatlantic crossing, our first westward.

                                               Photo from one year ago today, August 31, 2013:

There was no post on this date one year ago as we headed to Venice to spend the night in a hotel to prepare for the next day’s very long flight to Kenya.