Day 8…Celebrity Xploration…The Galapagos Islands…Disembarking day…Back up to Quito for two more nights!…

A pair of iguanas sharing a little love.

Note: our naturalist, Orlando, took all of today’s photos, which he sent to me each day via WhatsApp. Thanks, Orlando, for thinking of me!

In one hour, we are heading out on the Zodiac boat (the panga) to return to the pier in The Galapagos Islands. Our cruise has ended, and by 2:00 pm this afternoon, we’ll be on the return flight to Quito, where we’ll spend two more nights, and then fly to Manta, where we’ll spend one night to avoid driving in the dark.

From there, as mentioned, we’ll drive to the holiday home in Mirador, San Jose, in Manabi Province, on Tuesday. We’ll stop for groceries on the way, considering how much room we have in the rental car. By early afternoon on Tuesday, we’ll enter the gated community to make our way to the holiday home.

Black naked stil at Dragon Hill, Santa Cruz Island.

As much as we’ve enjoyed this spectacular cruise, even considering my limitations, we’re looking forward to the next step in our journey, spending 76 nights at the oceanfront property with a large pool and modern property. It even has a washer and dryer, which we desperately need to use at this point, after two weeks away from laundry facilities.

At the moment, all of us, 14 passengers, are waiting in the lounge after watching the fantastic video naturalists Juan Carlos and Orlanda made for us, handing out flash drives for all of us to keep as a memory. It may be too large to post on our site, but I will try to create a link we can use for those interested in watching it.

A great blue heron at Dragon Hill, Santa Cruz Island.

We still have photos from this journey and will post them over several days. With little time until we depart for the airport, we only upload a few photos today.

Although our flight back to Quito is only two hours long, we likely won’t get back to the hotel in Quito until about 5:30 tonight. Tonight’s dinner and tomorrow’s breakfast are included in our cruise package, along with the one night in the hotel, and the following night, we’re on our own for dinner and breakfast the next day.

Fur seal at Rabida Island.

Our fight to Manta isn’t until Tuesday at 7:24 pm. We will make arrangements with the hotel for a late checkout, a benefit of being an Expedia VIP member, and then spend the remaining time in the hotel lobby awaiting our ride to the airport, arranged through the cruise line.

Last night was extraordinary when the 12 staff members arranged a special toast and presentation before our final dinner of giant prawns with many side dishes with wine flowing as it always has each evening since we boarded this ship a week ago. But, last night, when the seas got rough again, I headed off to bed, never finishing my glass of wine when the rocking and rolling made me queasy.

Baby flamingo at Rabida Island.

Most nights, I suffered from seasickness, which neither of us had ever had after 34 cruises until this one. We can only attribute it to the fact that a catamaran is known to cause seasickness in the most sturdy of sailors unused to this means of sailing in the ocean.

I’m looking forward to being on dry land, but hopefully, I won’t face much upset with the high altitude again. It hit me when we were there a week ago, improving after the second day. Surely, we’ll look forward to returning to sea level again by Tuesday night. Whew! Some of the ups and downs required on this cruise may not be suitable for some. I barely squeaked by.

Lava heron waiting for a little fish.

That’s it for today, dear readers. Thank you for your thoughtful and supportive comments, most recently and always. You all mean the world to us.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, October 21, 2013:

No, this was not a creature we found in our bathroom at night. It was my delectable entrée, delicately grilled calamari with an octopus topper at dinner a week ago Saturday at the divine The Sands at Nomad in Diani Beach, Kenya. For more photos, please click here.

Part 3…Unpublished photos from the Azamara cruise to Olden, Norway…

As you can see, there isn’t much of a population in Ollden, Norway, with only 479 residents.

Following are the photos of our visit to Olden, Norway. Captions are added when possible.

To visit Olden, Norway, we had to go on a tender (lifeboat) since the port didn’t have suitable docking space for large ships. We took this photo of our ship and the tender once we arrived on land.
There wasn’t a lot to see in Olden, a sleepy fishing village.
Boat houses along the water in Olden.
Our ship, the Azamara Journey, while waiting in the bay for passengers to see the village.

Here’s the post we published after visiting Olden, Norway, without photos due to the poor WiFi signal on the ship.

Day 5…Norway Cruise…Olden, Norway…Cruise demographics…Dancing while “rocking and rolling”…

Part 1…A shocking and totally unexpected situation…We aren’t in Seychelles on the cruise…What???…

I don’t know where to begin to tell this convoluted story of sheer travel frustration and dismay.

In many ways, the details of this story only compare to the fiasco of attempting to find a place to stay when we ended up in lockdown in India when Covid-19 hit. That resulted in our being trapped in a hotel room in Mumbai in March 2020 for ten long months, indeed a somewhat awful travel memory.

Now, this new harrowing experience is more than a correlation between our determination to continue traveling and our intent to maintain an optimistic attitude during one of the most complex travel situations over the past ten years. But. this current situation could have been the straw that broke the camel’s back had we been considering putting an end to our travels.

After ten years of highly experiential travel, we pride ourselves in being well-prepared and knowledgeable on most potential challenges we may encounter.

So here’s how it all began and ultimately played out starting Thursday. November 24, a mere three days ago.

The drive from Marloth Park to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport was relatively smooth and uneventful. We dropped off the rental car and wheeled our two well-stuffed duffle bags into the lovely little airport, checked in with our two duffle bags looking forward to a pleasant, albeit long 19-hour trip, including layovers, until we’d land in Mahe, Seychelles, with a one-night stay at an oceanfront Hilton Hotel.

We didn’t anticipate any problems. Our documents for our arrival in Seychelles and our subsequent return to Marloth Park 12 days later were in order. Or…so we thought…

When booking the Seychelles cruise with Intrepid Travel months ago, we asked countless questions and conducted extensive research on immigration and Covid-19 requirements. Our online research verified that we’d receive a Seychelles visa upon arrival to the country.

Nothing in the comprehensive documents and instructions from Intrepid Travel over the past months stated that any additional documents would be required than the requested copies of passports, vaccine certificates, and my food preferences.

We verified what Intrepid needed via multiple email messages and a chat module on their website.

Once we completed the usual easy flight on Airlink to Johannesburg Tambo Airport, around 7:30 pm,1930 hrs., we checked in at the Ethiopian Air counter. The rep gave us all the boarding passes we needed.

The agent asked to see the border authority’s approval for arrival and departure for Seychelles. We were dumbfounded. We’d never heard of such a form.

The rep firmly stated, “You need to have approval from the Seychelles border authority that you’ve been approved to enter the country.” She gave us a link to begin the application process, which we could do online right then and there. At this point, we had four hours until our flight, and we weren’t concerned. Surely, we’d get the form completed and processed on time for our flight.

At first, we thought it was no big deal. It was just a minor inconvenience. We found a good place to sit and began the process. The WiFi signal at Tambo was very poor. I could get online on my phone with the weak signal but not on either of our laptops. While we started the application, we were approached and asked by other passengers if they’d been informed of this requirement. They, too, had no idea about applying for this border authority permit.

Fast and furiously, we scrambled on our phones with the awful signal trying to get the forms for each of us submitted. The application kept shutting down due to the poor signal, and we didn’t get our forms submitted until about two hours before the flight. We had options to choose from as to how it would cost for various expediency, based on the urgency of the approved documents. We choose the most expensive option for the fastest approval at Euro 78 per person, US $81.23.

We waited and waited. One of the other couples going through the same process got their approval, but the others, including us, did not.

We all asked if we could board the flight to Addis Ababa, the next leg of our flight which was five hours, with a three-hour layover, before our last flight to Seychelles. Nope, this was not allowed. We either got on now with the approval or…this was it…we weren’t going. By the time we were supposed to board, while we were still at the Ethiopian Air counter, we still didn’t have the approval. The Ethiopian Air agent told us we were too late to board and weren’t getting on the flight.

At this point, I should mention there was not another available flight to Seychelles that would allow us to board the ship in time for the sailing.

But, here is the clincher. All this occurred at 10:40 pm, 2240 hrs, November 24, 2022. At this point, we had less than 26 hours to get out of South Africa, or we’d become “undesirables” and couldn’t reenter South Africa for five years.

Instantly we knew we needed to have a Plan B. In tomorrow’s post, we’ll share Plan B and tell you what transpired.

Be well.

Part 1…You can run, but you can’t hide…We couldn’t escape it!…

The chef was generous with my lobster portions, considering that’s all I ate, no starters, no salad, no starchy sides, and no dessert. It was delicious.

No, we didn’t wear a mask while aboard the ship. But, we never went into an elevator with more than a few people. We never attended the nightly entertainment shows or daily seminars. We sat at the dining tables for two. However, we did converse with other passengers nearby.

We made many friends and sat next to them at night in the bars, often deep in conversation. We danced, laughed, and engaged in fascinating and often lengthy discussions. We had a fantastic time. We were about to classify this cruise on Celebrity Silhouette from Fort Lauderdale to Southampton as one of our most socially fun and memorable cruises in the past 9½ years since we began our world travels.

It was cruise #25, indeed a worthy milestone, but now, with great disappointment, we’ll remember it as our first cruise as the pandemic was losing ground. Would you believe that we tested positive for Covid on the final day at sea yesterday?

We had a few warning signs but dismissed them, thinking, “Oh no, we don’t have Covid.” First, Tom was eating a lot of bread and often gets acid reflux when eating any foods with gluten. At night, his coughing would stop when he took an antacid, so we never associated it with Covid. He quit eating bread and seemed to improve significantly. We never gave it another thought.

We both often get allergy symptoms with repeated sneezing and occasional runny noses. Again, we thought nothing of it. We felt fine otherwise, especially when it would stop after a few minutes, as it often did.

After dancing at the silent disco on Monday night, we headed to our cabin around 1:00 am. I felt shaky, as if I had high blood pressure. Most people don’t get symptoms when their blood pressure is high, but I do. Plus, recently, Dr. Theo in Komatipoort, South Africa, put me on a newer medication that didn’t keep it as low as my prior medication, which I’d taken for 20 years.

I shouldn’t have switched to the new drug until after we returned. I started it about a month before we left, and all seemed fine, but I was experiencing occasional spikes and planned to discuss this with him upon our return. When I checked my blood pressure on Monday night, it was through the roof, and my pulse was very high.

I tried to relax to get the numbers down, but they were too high for comfort, even after a few hours. Luckily, I’d packed my old medication and took my old dose. Everything was normal again a few hours later, but I didn’t feel like myself. I barely slept a wink that night.

Of course, I was anxious about this weird event and attributed it to an excess of dancing and the two glasses of red wine I’d had that night. In South Africa, I only drink very-low alcohol wine produced in South Africa, none of which they had on the ship. But I’d spaced myself and hoped it would be ok. Apparently not, I surmised. Later, I read that Covid can cause a spike in blood pressure and pulse rate in those with cardiovascular diseases, such as me.

Tom’s Baked Alaska made my mouth water, but I didn’t taste it. He enjoyed every morsel. I am always content to “look at it,” so Tom calls me a “food voyeur.”

I awoke early after the awful night, feeling exhausted from not sleeping, attributing my lackluster demeanor to sleep deprivation. On Tuesday evening, I only drank Sprite Zero, and we headed straight to our cabin after enjoying dinner with a lovely couple at the following table, three feet (one meter) from us.

My Fitbit indicated I slept for eight hours on Tuesday night which generally would be sufficient to make me feel great. Wednesday morning, I awoke with a horrific sore throat. It was then that I told Tom I needed to get tested for Covid since the sore throat was a red flag. I headed to the doctor’s clinic on deck 2 wearing my mask.  When the nurse spotted me and asked what my issue was, I explained I needed a Covid test. She sent me back to our cabin and told me to wait until the doctor contacted me by phone.

A short time later, Tom arrived, and I explained we both needed to be tested. Shortly after, the doctor called, asking how we were feeling and our vaccination and booster status. Since July, we’d had both when we returned to the US for a month to see family and be vaccinated.

A few months ago, we were able to get boosted in Komatipoort at the booster station outside the Spar Market. We both felt at ease that we were well protected. But were we?

The doctor arrived at our cabin, fully decked out in PPE, and took the painful swabs of our nasal passages. Tom had the antigen test, and I had the PCR test. At this point, Tom had no symptoms, but I was feeling quite unwell. The doctor called to tell us we were both positive and stay in the cabin an hour later. Guest relations would contact us next with instructions.

They called, telling us to pack everything in our cabin within the hour. We were moved to quarantine level six with all the other Covid patients. I was feeling awful. Packing wasn’t easy, but I muddled my way through it, and an hour later, three fully protected attendants arrived and moved us to another balcony cabin. We walked through the “bowels” of the ship to avoid being near any passengers. It felt weird.

Once situated in the new cabin, which was sparse with the usual toiletries and items we enjoyed using in our prior cabin, the challenge of food and beverages began. It was a total fiasco. They said they didn’t have any Sprite Zero left on the ship. We even had trouble getting sufficient water bottles and ice to get us through the night.

This morning, the coffee and food orders were wrong. Room service couldn’t get our food orders right, and we were sorely disappointed. I wasn’t hungry but knew I needed to eat. Tom was feeling fine. His food order was also a mess. We were ready to get off the ship and to our hotel in Southampton.

Tomorrow in Part 2, we’ll share what we plan to do if we still test positive on Saturday, the day we’re required to take a Covid test before boarding the Queen Mary 2. If that’s the case, it will be quite the challenge to see if and how we can change everything. Oh, dear. This situation is indeed a challenge.

We plan to spend the next few days in our hotel room in Southampton (hmmm…sound familiar?) while working on our recovery, eating good food, drinking lots of water, resting, and staying in touch with all of you. We are sitting in the hotel lobby waiting for a possible four hours to get checked into our room. Almost two hours have passed so far. But, as always, we are hopeful.

I am looking forward to lying down. But I put the time to good use, writing today’s post.

We avoided Covid for over two years. Considering the amount of travel we’ve done, we’re lucky it didn’t get us when it was the Delta variant. Now, with Omicron, whichever variant we may have, we hope to recover soon.

Be safe. Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, April 21, 2021:

Many zebra butts were facing us this morning as they clamored over the pellets Tom tossed into the garden. For more photos, please click here.

We’re off!!!…Sail day has arrived…The road trip to Fort Lauderdale begins…

Celebrity Silhouette Itinerary, Current Position, Ship Review | CruiseMapper
Our ship, Celebrity Silhouette, which we’ll be boarding later today.

The two weeks in Florida passed in a blur of good times, good food, great weather, and gorgeous scenery with our thoughtful hosts, Karen and Rich, who were married in February. We were sad to miss their wedding due to Omicron, but they shared many details and photos, almost making us feel like we’d attended.

Their lovely home on the waterway, known as Flamingo Canal, was the perfect soothing and pleasant experience we were seeking before all the commotion begins for our next several weeks of cruising, visiting family, and then returning on the long and exhausting flight back to South Africa starting on May 22, arriving on May 23.

This trip is not like a typical vacation/holiday for us. It’s simply another leg in our continuing world travels, this time, once again, returning us to our favorite place in the world. But, don’t get me wrong…we’ll be on the move several times during our one-year booking of the new house we’re moving into upon our arrival.

One never knows what the future holds. At one point, we’ll be gone for about 45 days, and another time, for a few one-week trips for visa reasons. Also, we may add even more cruises to our itinerary as more cruise options are posted online.

We’re excited to board the ship this afternoon and then the next cruise on the Queen Mary 2. But we are also excited to see family members and then return to live in our newly remodeled house in Marloth Park.

Surely. Louise will have everything perfect awaiting us. We will give her a short grocery list so we won’t have to leave to grocery shop for a few days. (This morning I got a message from Louise that the lions were seen near our upcoming new house. How exciting!)

Once we unpack our bags and the boxes we left behind, we will settle in for a few months until we need to get a new 90-day visa stamp. We may travel or apply for an extension. We can decide on that in the months to come.

Funny thing. While I was preparing today’s post while still in Florida, the power went out during an electrical storm. They hadn’t lost power here for a long time, and it was only for 30 minutes. It was out for about two hours, and we were all happy to see it restored by 3:15 pm. Ironic, eh? Ironic, eh?

We stayed in for dinner, deciding against going out on a rainy day when most restaurants are outdoors. The remainder of the day and evening was lovely with Karen and Rich. We are sad to say goodbye, but we’ll see them again soon. They are planning to visit us in Marloth Park in August this year. How wonderful it will be to return the hospitality to our dear friends.

The next time you hear from us, it will be on Saturday, long after the ship set sail on Friday evening. We’ll have plenty of photos and stories to share about how the embarkation and check-in process worked during times of Covid with an outrageous number of precautions. It could prove to be very chaotic.

Thanks for staying with us, dear readers, through this waiting period. Your continued interest and support mean the world to both of us. We will be back with you soon.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, April 8, 2021:

Zebra traffic on the main road in Kruger National Park. For more photos, please click here.

Day #257 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Plan B is in place if South Africa won’t let us enter…

This pelican was trained to entertain tourists as the man passed around a cup.

Today’s photos are from this date in 2017 while visiting Pisco, Peru, as a port of call on our cruise along the coasts of South America. For more on that day’s post, please click here.

Previously, we discussed the possibility of a Plan B if we can’t board the flight to South Africa for any reason on January 12, 2021, and what we’ll do from there.

Locally harvested seashells for sale along with a few pairs of flip-flops.

A few days ago in this post, in case you missed it, we’ve booked flights from Mumbai to Dubai to Johannesburg to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger on January 12, 2021 arriving in Marloth Park on January 13, 2021. But, as mentioned in prior posts, we had booked such a flight on March 20, 2020, arriving at the Mumbai Airport at 2:00 am, only to be turned away when South Africa refused to let us enter the country due to their imminent plan to close the borders due to COVID-19.

In no way are we confident that this won’t happen again, especially as cases continue to rise in South Africa at a very high rate. We’ve carefully reviewed and will continue to review all the conditions under which we will be allowed to enter, and of course, we’ll be diligent in every aspect.

Ship sculpture made from bones.

However, typical for us, preferring to leave no loose ends in our travel plans, we knew we had to come up with an alternate method, thus Plan B, in the event for any reason, we aren’t allowed to fly on that or a similar flight in its place. We hope we don’t hear from Emirates Airline informing us that the flight has been canceled with bated breath.

This could easily happen, especially when we see the number of flights canceled worldwide daily, including many in India. The worst-case scenario in this travel plan, other than contracting COVID-19 or other health issues, is that we are turned away once again and have to return to this or another hotel in Mumbai and continue to wait.

Activity on the boardwalk in Pisco.

At this point, we’re in no state of mind to allow that to happen. The thought of returning to such a hotel room makes us cringe. Instead, after considerable research online over the past few days, we’ve decided we’ll book a flight to Seychelles. This popular island resort country certainly isn’t as far away as South Africa.

With a 90-day visa available at the Seychelles Airport upon arrival, we can easily find a place to stay. We’re considering, just in case, booking a room under the pay-at-the-hotel option, canceling it once we know we’ll be able to fly to South Africa. If need be, we can book a week in a hotel and then go to work to find a holiday home to see us through the next almost three months.

Various feathered friends were resting on a moored fishing boat.

Of course, we can’t book a holiday home now since doing so requires partial or complete payment upfront, and we would lose our money. It’s easier to book a hotel, allowing us to pay upon arrival. This is a common practice available at on our site with no penalty for canceling.

Plan B gives us peace of mind. Seychelles is a beautiful country with the sea. The main focal point is described at this site: it is an archipelago island country consisting of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean at the eastern edge of the Somali Sea.

A boat tied up on the beach near the pier.

“Today, Seychelles boasts the highest nominal per capita GDP of any African nation. It is the first African country with an HDI score exceeding 0.800, and therefore the only country in the continent with a very high Human Development Index. It is one of only two countries in Africa classified as a high-income economy by the World Bank, Mauritius. Despite its relative prosperity, poverty remains widespread as the country has one of the highest levels of economic inequality in the world and markedly unequal wealth distribution, with the upper and ruling class commanding a vast proportion of the country’s wealth.”

A pelican was proudly posing for a photo.

Of course, our intent is always to maintain a positive attitude, and now, with this plan, we feel we can do so. Otherwise, we’d face a sense of panic at the airport in the middle of the night, as happened on March 20, 2020. We don’t want to repeat that situation under any circumstances.

So there it is folks, a backup plan, a Plan B, a peace-of-mind maker, and a solution to a problem that may never transpire. We’ll see how it all rolls out in 39 days. Please stay tuned.

Stay healthy!

Photo from one year ago today, December 5, 2019:

While visiting family in the US last year at this time, we didn’t often take photos. Subsequently, we posted photos from older posts, as has been the case in our year-ago photos. While in Penguin, Tasmania, in 2017, we took this photo on our way to the town of Ulverston. Tasmania never disappoints! For more, please click here.

Antarctica – January 31, 2018…Rough seas…Balance of photos from Grytviken, South Georgia…

The sun is reflecting on a glacier with King Penguins at the shore.
It isn’t easy walking about the ship, more than we’ve encountered since the 17 meters, 50-foot waves on the Norwegian Epic in April 2013. For details on that wild Atlantic Ocean crossing, please click here.
View of the sea from Grytviken, South Georgia.
During breakfast and lunch today, the staff had quite a time keeping glasses and dishes from flying off tables and trays. Our own chairs and table were sliding across the floor while we all laughed at the drama. 
Doorway to the Carr Maritime Gallery (museum).
In a meeting this morning when the Captain Patrick Marchesseau announced that weather conditions are expected to improve which will enable us to get to Elephant Island by tomorrow. Also, he mentioned, weather providing we may have an opportunity to go where few cruise ship ever go…the Antarctic Circle.
Whaling boat and a variety of whaling equipment.
However, in this part of the world weather is highly unpredictable so we can only wait and see what happens over the next several days. The cruise doesn’t end until February 8th, so that we may have ample time for many more exciting adventures.
Hand-cranked air pump for divers.
With today as yet another sea day and with more photos we’d yet to post for Grytviken we decided to extend yesterday”s post with more photos from this unique settlement. Grytviken is a plethora of historical information regarding the whaling industry from many decades ago.
Cooking apparatus and boots with nails to stabilize walking on ice, whale oil, and debris.
With our passion for wildlife, it was sad to see all of the boats and equipment used in the slaughter of these magnificent animals. The heart-wrenching experience of walking through the settlement only softened the shock by the playful Fur Seals we encountered as well as the many lounging Elephant Seals in our path that made us laugh with sheer delight. 
Navigational device.
As the cruise continues, we find ourselves entrenched in our little group of new friends, spending meals and happy hour together. The commonality we all possess of being experience world travelers allows for some exceptional conversation.
Vertebrae from a whale.
Amid all the story-telling, the laughter flows with ease from comments made by both our new friend Marg and of course, Tom who is always quick on his feet with humorous interjections. Add hysterically funny Marg to the mix and we’re all rolling on the floor throughout the day and evening.
Various preserved specimens.
Marg wanted me to mention that she kisses our cabin door leaving a lipstick print when she passes by to her and husband Steve’s cabin down the hall from us. Each day, the cleaning staff washes it off, only to have a new imprint the next day. We howled. We couldn’t be having more fun!
Books and local wares in the Grytviken shop.
The staff goes overboard to ensure we’re all having the utmost experience on this luxury cruise. Unfortunately, based on their high prices for luxurious accommodation, I doubt we’ll be able to cruise on Ponant in the future.
Ropes and pulleys for the whaling boats.
Let’s face it, traveling the world full-time, now for five years and three months, does leave us in a constant state of minding the budget. Luxury cruises such as this, although quite pleasurable, leave us in a position of having to strictly tighten our belts for extended periods. This doesn’t appeal to us over the long haul.
Grenades and harpoon heads are used to kill whales.
We’d rather live within our means and be able to choose quality experiences, including vacation/holiday rentals, dining out from time to time, renting cars, and overall living a little more relaxed lifestyle.
Tom thought this rock formation appears to be a turtle.
This cruise held so much appeal to us due to the itinerary, which included being able to board the Zodiac boats for many landings along the way.  There are several other cruises to the Antarctic but most of these don’t allow the passengers to disembark the ship.
An empty Zodiac boat ready to load to more passengers to take ashore.
This aspect alone was enough motivator to prompt us to book this expensive cruise, and we’re glad we did. Fortunately, we both accept that this upscale type of cruising isn’t the norm for us, and we’ll continue to be content on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruise Lines’ many smaller ships. 
Example of the interior of local housing during the whaling days.
On all of our past 21 sailings, we’ve had an opportunity to visit many stunning ports of call and meet equally beautiful people, many of whom we continue to stay in touch, building lifelong relationships.
King Penguins were standing in shallow water.
Last night, after dinner, we headed to deck three lounge for another fine evening with our friends, dancing (not me so much), sipping beverages (I’m still not drinking wine due to the antibiotics I’m still taking for my knee). What a night! The captain and many other crew members joined in the wild dancing on the dance floor.
The Grytviken shop with various equipment on display outdoors.
Speaking of my injured knee, yesterday I started another antibiotic, a French drug for staph infections. Voila! Within six hours, the redness and inflammation began to subside. I have to take them for two more days and then I’ll be done, hopefully fully recovered. It’s looking good.
What a face!
In the next hour, we all have to bring all of our outdoor clothing, gloves, and boots to the main lounge to vacuum everything to remove any potential contaminants or bacteria that may be on our clothing we might carry from one landing to another.
Two adorable Fur Seal pups enjoying the warmth of the sun.
Afterward, we have one more Antarctica seminar today and then we’ll shower and change for yet another fun evening. Need I say, we’re having a fabulous time surrounded by that which we love: wildlife, nature, scenery and good friends.
Wi-Fi permitting, we’ll be back with more tomorrow! Stay happy! Stay well. 

Photo from one year ago today, January 31, 2017:

Cute.  We took this photo through the glass of the window in the living room in Huon Valley, Tasmania when we happened to see this rabbit on the shore of the Huon River.  For more photos, please click here.

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

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

“Sightings from the Veranda while Cruising”

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

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

A tour boat under tarps at the marina

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

A social event was conducted on the beach.

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

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

A sprawling lawn at a luxury estate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have an enjoyable day!

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

Cruise final expenses including shopping at port and extras…Finalizing details…Favorite photos…

Mystery Island scene.

Rather than wait until we disembark the ship tomorrow, I decided to post the final expenses and favorite photos today. 

Tomorrow, when we disembark by 8:30 am with a 9:00 am shuttle pickup at the Port of Seattle, we’ll have time to post until after we arrive in Vancouver later in the day.

The sun was shining on the sea.

Once we’re settled in our hotel, we’ll prepare and upload a post with scenic photos of the three-plus-hour drive from Seattle to Vancouver, which we expect will be stunning. Neither of us has ever driven this route by car. It should be interesting.

At 11:30 am now with another time change occurring at noon, we decided to pack earlier than usual and get it all behind us. Tonight, the staff will collect all of our checked bags, leaving the newer duffel bag and computer backpack behind for us to keep in our possession during the disembarking process.

Mystery Island, Vanuatu beach.

Once we’re off the ship, we’ll find the remainder of our luggage in the cruise terminal and make our way to the pickup area, where an SUV driver will be waiting for us for the US $550 AU 744.95 drive over the US border into Canada.

We hedged at this high cost for transportation but after careful consideration decided this was the least stressful means of travel. We always keep in mind that keeping stress at a minimum has always been our goal and our motto.

A reminder of cannibalism in the South Pacific.

It always falls upon the fact that we can only control what “we know” in our world travels, not which “we don’t know,” which would include unforeseen circumstances over which we do not influence our diligent planning.

Sometimes, that includes paying a little more, planning ahead and leaving ourselves free and unencumbered to relish in our surroundings and experiences along the way.

Situated in the Diamond Club lounge for the last morning of this 24-night cruise, we can relax knowing everything is in place: we’re fully packed with clothing left out for tonight and tomorrow. 

King Neptune poolside celebration after crossing the Equator.

We’ve calculated our total expenses for the cruise, as shown below entering the figures into our main spreadsheet; we’ve reviewed our cruise bill for accuracy, handling any necessary adjustments; we’ve paid cash tips to our fabulous restaurant manager Belic who oversaw meticulous handling of my special meals and, over-the-top cabin steward Mira, the best we’ve ever experienced after 18 cruises.

Here are the final expenses for this 24-night cruise aboard Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas from Sydney to Seattle:

 Expense   US Dollar   Australian Dollar 
 Cruise Fare – 24 nights   $              5,955.26  $                    8,068.18
 Cabin credit   $                (280.00)  $                        379.28
 Airfare    $                                 $                                     
 Taxi    $                    50.20  $                          68.00
 Laundry aboard ship   $                    49.98  $                          67.70
 Ship Shop Purchases   $                    94.78  $                        124.38
 Tips not inc. in fare   $                   188.17  $                        254.87
 Lahaina Gap purchases   $                   106.00  $                        143.57
 Total   $              6,164.39  $                     8,349.44
 Average Daily Cost    $                  256.85  $                        347.89

We’re please with these totals. The daily calculations are slightly higher than our usual average daily costs. Using this cruise for transportation back to the US actually saved us money when the airfare alone would have been around US $2,000, AU 2,708.93.

During the 24-day period we would have been paying for a vacation home, groceries, transportation, etc. Adding the pure joy of spending this extended period of time with other passengers, it’s definitely money well spent.  Also, we avoided a horrendously long 14-hour flight from these distant locations.

We’ve made many new friends on this cruise and look forward to hearing from them in the future. Who knows?  Our paths may cross again sometime in the future.

Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii.

As we enter North America by early tomorrow morning, we’ll no longer include Australian money exchange rates for our expenses. All expenses during our time in North America will be posted in US dollars only. For our Australian readers, as you know for one US dollar, it is $1.35 for Australian dollar.

We won’t be posted a foreign exchange rate until August 1st when we enter Costa Rica as we continue on our world journey.

Thanks, dear readers, for your continued love and support during this lengthy cruise. We’ll continue to post daily during the Alaska cruise beginning in three days when we’ll be visiting many ports of call for a hopefully good signal which has been lacking during this cruise.

Goodbye, Australia, New Zealand, and islands in the South Pacific for the gifts you bestowed upon us in this exquisite and fascinating part of the world.  We’ll remain eternally grateful for the experiences.

Happy Mother’s Day to Moms all over the world! May your day be as unique as YOU!

Photo from one year ago today, May 14, 2016:

This dog walked up to our villa in Bali and wandered around the pool. We stayed seated and didn’t say a word. Soon, he wandered away. For more photos, please click here.

March 7th…Our 22nd wedding anniversary…History of New Caledonia…Two fun photos from one year ago…

Do you see the rainbow in the background in this shot of New Caledonia?
Today is a sea day.  The Wi-Fi signal is marginal due to the number of passengers on their phones, tablets, and laptops. I attempted to speak to my sister on Skype, but I could not hear anything on this end, although she could hear me. 

Having ended the antibiotics last night while increasing the dose of the PPI, which I’ll continue to take for two months, I’ve definitely had a good result. 
I’d been suffering from Helicobactor Pylori for the past 15 months. Still a little sluggish from the meds, I’m not missing a beat of the varied activities we enjoy aboard ship, often hanging out with our new friends.

We inquired as to the cost of renting one of these little vehicles in Noumea, New Caledonia, the capital city.  At AU 132, the US $100 per hour, we decided to walk, which certainly was more beneficial.

Speaking of not “missing a beat,” last night, we danced the night away. Tom was doing his usual “dancing to the music” for a solid two hours standing by me while occasionally I had to sit down to recover. 

The boat harbor in Noumea.

After lounging for many months to get well, my energy level wasn’t my usual 100%. On the other hand, Tom never ceases to amaze me with his relentless enthusiasm and high energy when it comes to any activity.  For a guy that likes to lounge, he sure can kick it up a beat when needed.

Tomorrow, we’ll share a video on the post, including photos and stories of an exceptional night we’ll always remember, spent with many of the new friends we’ve made during this cruise.

Freighter in the port in New Caledonia.

Today is our 22nd wedding anniversary. In actuality, we’ve been together almost 26 years. What a fabulous way to celebrate…on a ship with my renewed health as I continue to build back my strength more each day.   Happy anniversary to my lively, energetic hubby, who never fails to make me laugh, smile, and feel in awe of our great relationship.

Local catamaran.

With a one-hour time change last night (loss), little sleep from staying out late, we’re glad to have a sea day. We missed breakfast in the dining room but will soon head in for a light lunch. Now that I can eat a little more, having two meals a day is appealing, especially while on the ship with someone else preparing it.

Last night, the pastry chef made me a almond sponge cake made with eggs, almond flour, vanilla, cream, and chopped nuts. It was absolutely unbelievable.  It was the first time in over five years I had a “cake feel” in my mouth with ingredients acceptable to my way of eating. I wonder if I can get the recipe from him.

Our ship, Celebrity Solstice, after we returned from walking through the small town.

Tonight, I’ll bring the camera to dinner to take photos of our meals and my dessert. Alfredo, a restaurant manager, has gone over the top to ensure I’m happy with my meals, typically salmon or chicken, prawns, spinach, and mashed cauliflower. 

Views out to sea from Noumea.

I’ve avoided beef and salads while recovering to keep the volume of food and digestibility under control. Perhaps soon I’ll be able to add a small green salad with a steak.

Below, we’ve included some information about New Calendonia and photos we’d taken both on and off the ship for our history buffs in cyberspace. As always, thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you again tomorrow with our fun video and photo of us on anniversary night.

New Caledonia consists of several islands in the archipelago.

Happy day to all!
New Caledonia (French: Nouvelle-Calédonie) is a special collectivity of France located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, 1,210 km (750 mi) east of Australia and 16,136 km (10,026 mi) east of Metropolitan France. The archipelago, part of the Melanesia subregion, includes the main island of Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands, the Chesterfield Islands, the Belep archipelago, the Isle of Pines, and a few remote islets. The Chesterfield Islands are in the Coral Sea. Locals refer to Grande Terre as Le Caillou (“the pebble”).

New Caledonia has a land area of 18,576 km (7,172 sq mi). Its population of 268,767 (Aug. 2014 census) consists of a mix of Kanak people (the original inhabitants of New Caledonia), people of European descent (Caldoches and Metropolitan French), Polynesian people (mostly Wallisians), and Southeast Asian people, as well as a few people of Pied-Noir and Maghreban descent. The capital of the territory is Nouméa.


The earliest traces of human presence in New Caledonia date back to the Lapita period. The Lapita were highly skilled navigators and agriculturists with influence over a large area of the Pacific.

Two Kanak warriors posing with penis gourds and spears around 1880. Duh, not our photo.

British explorer Captain James Cook was the first European to sight New Caledonia, on 4 September 1774, during his second voyage. He named it “New Caledonia,” as the northeast of the island reminded him of Scotland. The west coast of Grande Terre was approached by Jean-François de Galaup, Comte de Lapérouse, in 1788, shortly before his disappearance, and the Loyalty Islands were first visited in 1796. However, from then until 1840, only a few sporadic contacts with the archipelago were recorded.[ Contacts became more frequent after 1840 because of the interest in sandalwood from New Caledonia.
As trade in sandalwood declined, it was replaced by a new form of trade, “blackbirding,” a euphemism for enslaving people from New Caledonia, the Loyalty Islands, New Hebrides, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands to work in sugarcane plantations in Fiji and Queensland. The trade ceased at the start of the 20th century. The victims of this trade were called “Kanakas,” like all the Oceanian people, after the Hawaiian word for “man.”

The first missionaries from the London Missionary Society and the Marist Brothers arrived in the 1840s. In 1849, the crew of the American ship Cutter was killed and eaten by the Pouma clan. After that, cannibalism was widespread throughout New Caledonia.”

For more historical information, please click here.

Photo from one year ago today, March 7, 2016:

Tom was holding a gold Oscar statue look-alike at Everybody’s Theatre in Opunake, New Zealand. Click here for the story and more photos of this quaint movie theatre.
Sitting in the “photo booth” on our first visit.  Shortly after our first visit, we returned for a second visit on a special movie night with photos we’ll share shortly as the one-year-ago post approaches.