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 Hotels.com 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 dessert..an 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.

History

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.

Part 1,…Oh, What a Night!…Surprising private dinner…Who knew?…

Baby Grand player piano in the living area of the Penthouse Suite on Celebrity Solstice.
“Oh, What a Night” it was indeed! Click here for the song.” We feel so fortunate for the wide array of experiences in which we embark along the way, especially those we least expect.
Cruise Critic members lounging in the living room of the Penthouse Suite.

Yesterday at 2:00 pm, we joined a group of Cruise Critic members for an activity called a “cabin crawl.” This event is made available by Cruise Critic members who are staying in a variety of staterooms at varying prices, willing to show them off to the members.

52 inch LCD flat-screen TV and sound system with a second smaller unit in the bedroom.

We were more curious to see the higher-priced cabins than those comparable to ours (mid-range) or the inside cabins, which to date, we’ve never booked. However, we like to have access to the outdoors and are willing to pay the added fare required for balcony cabins.

Appetizer spread on the dining table in Penthouse Suite.

It’s never been on our radar or a longing desire to book a penthouse suite. Although we found yesterday’s experience of viewing the luxury cabin, not for one moment did we long for or consider doing so at any time in the future. Based on our continual world travels, such an expenditure would be highly impractical, especially when priced anywhere from US $2,000 to US $3,000, AU 2,633 to AU 3950 per night.

The kitchen/bar area in the Penthouse Suite is well equipped for the tour.

With the enjoyment of meeting passengers throughout the day and evening, we only sleep in our cabin, shower, and dress for the day and the evening. It’s a rare occasion we’ll spend more than one hour a day lounging in the cabin.  If passengers can afford such a luxury suite, one might feel obligated to spend time inside rather than exploring and meeting others throughout the day and evening. But, no doubt the experience would be outstanding.

King-sized bed with sliding doors to the veranda.

Those who are easily able to afford the expensive accommodations often choose the Penthouse Suite for a variety of reasons;  the lush comforts; inclusive butler and food service from any of the specialty restaurants; avoidance of dining and mingling in often crowded venues and also the vast number of inclusive amenities that we’re sharing here today including the following: 

“Penthouse Suite

Category PS

Floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors; master bedroom features a king-size bed, 52″ LCD TV, vanity, walk-in closet, marble master bathroom with whirlpool tub, shower stall with dual shower heads, double washbasin, and 26″ LCD TV; separate living room with dining area; baby grand piano; sofa queen sleeper; full bar; lounge seating; Surround sound entertainment system with 52″ LCD TV; full guest bathroom; veranda with whirlpool and lounge seating. (Stateroom: 1,291 sq. ft.,(120 sq. meters) Veranda: 389 sq.ft (36 sq. meters).
Walk-in closet in the bedroom.

When the group of approximately 30 Cruise Critic members finally gathered to explore the various cabins, we were on our way to the 11th deck, where the first is our tour was the Penthouse Suite.

Shower stall with dual showerheads.

Of course, we were in awe as the lovely engaged couple graciously welcomed us at the door. Not only had they generously offered to show their suite, but they also had an elaborate display of appetizers, beverages, and champagne. It couldn’t have been more well planned and beautifully presented.

Jacuzzi tub for two with leather headrests in master bedroom en suite.

Mulling around the suite, we chatted with other passengers, many of whom firmly planted themselves on the comfortable furnishings with food and drink on their laps. 

The veranda is huge at 389 square feet (36 square meters), as shown in this photo and the photo below.

In taking our photos, we intended to accomplish two things: maintain the privacy of the suite occupants. Two, take as many photos as possible without other passengers impeding the view. We did our best, and with a bit of editing, we avoided most shots with the 30 plus people in the suite at one time.

Alternate view of the veranda.  I wonder why Tom was looking down.

As we were about to leave, we stopped to thank the host and hostess, and a short conversation ensued during which they invited us to a private dinner later that evening in their suite.

We were delighted by their thoughtful invitation assuming we’d be part of a larger group attending dinner in the luxury accommodations. Little did we know we were the only couple attending.

This is quite a plus…a jacuzzi tub on the veranda. This appealed to me the most of all of the amenities.

The evening was delightful and memorable. More on this story in tomorrow’s post, including photos of us with our new friends. Right now, we have to get moving while the ship is docked in Nuoma, New Caledonia. So who visits New Caledonia, and what possible treasures might it behold?

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago, March 4, 2017:

Kitty-corner crosswalks are legal in many locations in New Zealand. A year ago today, we purchased our current camera. For pricing and information, please click here.

Well, it’s not far down to paradise, at least it’s not for me…Late posting unavoidable when having too much fun…

The clock tower of Lands Department building in Sydney city center. (Photo taken a quite a distance..please excuse the blur).

We’re obviously not on a sailboat, but we’re on a ship that “sails the seas.” This song came to mind last night as we gushed with enthusiasm at being on yet another cruise.

Here are some of the words from the song by Christopher Cross, “Sailing,” popular in 1980 (click here for video):

“Well, it’s not far down to paradise. At least it’s not for me
And if the wind is right, you can sail away and find tranquility
Oh, the canvas can do miracles. You wait and see
Believe me”
Commuter train crossing on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
It was 10:00 when I began writing today’s post. Tom was participating in Cruise Critic’s “slot pull” in the casino while I was comfortably seated in the Cafe al Bacio in our usual spot on this particular cruise. 

This morning we attended the Cruise Critic Meet & Greet, and then each took off for our plans for the rest of the morning. But, of course, I got sidetracked with people stopping by to chat, and by noon when Tom returned, it was time to go to lunch.

Sydney Harbour Bridge.

We do most activities together. This morning, realizing how late it was getting after breakfast in the Epernay Dining Room, engaging in interesting and diverse conversations with other passengers, and afterward attending the Cruise Critic event, I suggested that I hang out in the cafe preparing and uploading today’s post.

Please don’t think that for one moment I’m not enjoying doing the daily posts while aboard a ship which in this case happens to be the beautiful Celebrity Solstice, our 17th cruise since we began, our third time on this ship. 
The bars were all packed with passengers getting their drinks on embarkation day.

This month on March 15th, we’ll have been posting for a total of five years. Once we transitioned to posting daily on March 1, 2013, we’ve never missed a day except when we had no WiFi signal or a power outage. In most cases, we could get back online and post later in the day, the evening, or a day or two later, even posting on travel days from the airport.

Last night, the Solstice embarked from Sydney Harbour at 6:30 pm as soon as we were settled at our shared table for 10 in the dining room. We were so busy having fun. We hardly noticed we were headed out of the Sydney Harbour to the Tasman Sea. 

There are several of these unique benches on the upper decks.

It’s no wonder we love cruising. The commonalities that cruise passengers possess are astounding. At times, we meet people who’ve been traveling all of their lives, resulting in as many, if not more, experiences as we’ve had to date.

The flight from Hobart to Sydney was quick and easy, arriving in 90 minutes. The cab ride from the airport to the cruise terminal took less than 30 minutes. Our bags were whisked away (we always keep the carry-on bags with us), and we found no queue required to check-in for the cruise.

Packed ocean-front buildings on the Sydney Harbour.

From the time we arrived at the cruise terminal to be entering our cabin was only 45 minutes, one of the quicker check-ins we’ve had. We were pleasantly reminded of the value of the upgrade when we entered our cabin on the 10th deck. We purchased the upgraded Concierge category on this particular cruise since it was priced better than our usual veranda category. 

With this category, we received several perks, which we’ll share in a future post. But, for now, we love every moment. I’m eating small meals twice a day and my protein smoothie in place of breakfast.  

Visitors walking toward the Sydney Opera House.

This plan seems to help, although I’m not as free of symptoms as I’d expect after nine days of taking two types of antibiotics and the PPI. Maybe I’ll have “safari luck,” and this medical issue will be resolved by the end of the cruise. If not, more doctor appointments may be required during the 40 nights in Sydney. 

I was almost finished with the post when heading to the dining room for a light lunch. After getting wrapped up with more fabulous people, we only recently returned at 2:00 pm to our favorite spot in the cafe on this ship, and I was able to complete today’s post. Sorry for the delay. Please expect our posts to be available three or four later than usual. Once we’re on land after March 14th, we’ll return to our usual time.

Sydney Opera House. We’re thrilled to have reservations for an opera on March 18th, only weeks away.

We’ll have more to share as we cruise along, including many photos at ports of call we’d yet to visit.

Have a great day, “sailing” with us on this latest journey!

Photo from one year ago today, March 2, 2017:
It was such fun to hand feed the alpacas their special grassy feed. Unfortunately, some were too shy to participate. For more photos, please click here.

Off we go to the ship…Long drive through the Cambodian countryside…Mode of transportation

Local danger and musicians greeted us with a ceremonial dance as we entered the hotel.
In Cambodia, US dollars are tendered for most purchases, receiving Cambodian money, the reil for change which can be confusing especially when one US dollar is KHR 40,973.50. The cost for the drive back to our hotel was US $3. The driver was so grateful when we gave him a US $5 bill. Tipping isn’t expected in Cambodia but greatly appreciated based on low wages.
Fountain in the lake at the hotel, taken last night in the dark.

As much as long drives in cars, vans and buses are not our favorite mode of transportation, I’m looking forward to the almost five hour drive through the Cambodian countryside as we make our way to the awaiting boat on the Mekong River.

As we approached the entrance to the Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra in Siem Reap, Cambodia, another five star hotel.

These past tour portions of this cruise/tour have been rich in history and highly entertaining including the extra three days we spent on our own in advance of the cruise in Hanoi when we arrived from Singapore over a week ago. I did my best to keep up, only missing a few days of touring, having participated in the remainder.

The first night in the hotel in Cambodia we were entertained by local dancers performing in the dining room.

Last night, the final night at the Hotel Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort in Siem Reap, Cambodia it dawned on me that we’d yet share any photos of this five star hotel and its surroundings. It’s been a glorious hotel stay once again, with the past two Sofitel Hotels providing the utmost in both ambiance, amenities and service.

Upon entering our beautifully decorated hotel room with a full veranda overlooking the river, the table was set with fresh flowers, complimentary linen napkins as a gift to keep, baby bananas and cookies (all of which Tom consumed).

I’d never paid much attention to Sofitel Hotels other than occasionally dining (in my old life) at the hotel’s restaurant in Bloomington, Minnesota for business type lunches. 

It was a long walk from the lobby to our hotel room down several long bridges such as this over the lake on the hotel property.
Each walkway to the various buildings provided a lovely view of the hotel’s massive grounds.

Now that we’re signed up as members, we’ll certainly pay the Accor hotel chains a little more attention when we’re wondering where to stay for a night or two on occasion.

A portion of the hotel’s lake.

We had the opportunity to chat with one of the hotel’s managers, Sam Sorn who, along with the remaining staff have provided exemplary service and attention to detail. 

This sign is posted along one of the walkways in the hotel.

From the complimentary handmade linen napkins left in our room as a gift from the hotel, to the baby bananas, fresh flowers and chef’s perfection in seeing my menu, the hotel nor the other two restaurants where we dined in Siem Reap, left a stone unturned. 

Its unfortunate the mosquitos are so bad and the heat and humidity uncomfortable or many guests would have spent more time outdoors.  Instead, everyone stayed inside the air conditioned comfort. 

From the gentle-hands-clasped-bow elicited by each Cambodian we encounter, whether it was the pool man or the tuk tuk driver, each individual made us feel supremely invited as guests into their country. I could easily return here for an extended stay, although, practically speaking, it may not be possible with so much world left to see.

A bicycle rickshaw on display.

Last night’s dinner for 54 guests at Malis Restaurant, ranked #4 of 622 in TripAdvisor, excelled beyond most restaurants when they prepared entirely different meals for me than those offered on the menu. They went as far as making a totally sugar free mousse/flan dessert than surprisingly was quite delicious without any form of sweetener.

These gorgeous flowers are commonly seen on display in hotels and restaurants in Cambodia.

Of course, the conversation was indescribably delightful as we’ve continued to get to know one couple after another, never disappointed, always enlightened by the stories of others as they freely ask question after question about our peculiar lifestyle. I suppose if it was the other way around, we’d be curious as well.

One of several seating areas in the hotel’s lobby.

We try to temper our enthusiasm and ask about their lives. Most of the participants on this type of cruise are well traveled with equally fascinating stories to tell. Most of the passengers are within our age range with a few much younger and equal number, a bit older. 

A shrine in the hotel lobby.  Most Cambodians are Buddhists.

Age seems to be no barrier in keeping these adventurous folks from continuing to travel well into their 70’s and 80’s. Some have obvious disabilities and yet forge ahead with the excitement of 20 year old, seeking to fill their lives with new experiences. 

This talented young man played peaceful music in the lobby.

A few stayed behind like us on the more difficult excursions over the past few days while others returned exhausted and hobbling with aching joints, hips and knees commensurate with older age. 

Fresh flowers are frequently replenished.  This humid climate in Cambodia is a perfect environment for growing flowers.

As for my continuing recovery, its still a work in progress. In reviewing the calendar we tried to recall the exact date of the injury and we believe it was around June 1st. Most likely it’s been almost six weeks. If I blew out a disc (or two)  or whatever, it could be several more weeks until I’m pain free once again. 

A humidor with a variety of cigars for sale including Cuban.

My only fear is that the pain won’t go away and this will be my lot in life, not unlike my life before I started this way of eating. I will no longer be pain free as I’d been two months ago. Could I continue on at this level of discomfort? I think so. 

Elaborate desserts such as these are offered in the buffet as well as at “high tea” in the bar where we worked on the posts. Tom was only interested in the doughnuts on the bottom right.

As we mentioned in the post on July 11th, “In the past two weeks we moved into four different hotels in four different countries, flown on three international flights, taken over 1000 photos and posted each and every day.

We sat at the left corner of this banquette in the bar each day while posting.

As you’ve seen, we’ve been able to continue on. If we were living a “fixed” lifestyle and this injury occurred, I’d still have the discomfort and life would go on. It’s not a whole lot different now other than the hours of moving from one location to another which generally isn’t quite as often as its been lately.

Sam Sorn, the hotel’s second in command, worked his “way up” after 16 years of employment at the hotel, originally working in maintenance. His kindly demeanor and interest in each guest is delightful.

However, we both remain hopeful that soon I’ll be back to my “old” self once again, able to walk longer distances and manage more steps and rough terrain. I remind myself how grateful we are that it wasn’t totally debilitating where I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) get out at all. Sheer will and determination have kept me moving. 

With rain each day, we never took advantage of the hotel’s enormous pool.  We have plenty of pool time upcoming over the net several months.

As soon as we upload this post, we’ll head back to our hotel room to leave the already-packed and ready-to-go three checked bags outside our hotel room door to be picked up by staff and delivered to the two buses for both Group A and B (we’re A) and off we’ll go at 11:30 am for the long journey to the ship awaiting us in Kampong Cham, Cambodia. 

Last night on our way to dinner on the bus, we tried to take a few photos through the glass.

Once we’re all onboard and checked in, we’ll be offered complimentary welcome aboard cocktails (along with cocktails included  at no charge at both lunch and dinner) and be introduced to the ship’s captain, other officers and support staff. Then, we’ll set sail.

Siem Reap is filled with a multitude of shopping options from expensive galleria type malls to strips centers such as this.
Many building copy the design of the Angkor Wat temple.

We’re as excited as always to be back on the water, this time on our first river cruise which so far the land portion, has proven to excel our expectations. Back at you tomorrow with photos and updates! Stay tuned!

The entrance to last night’s restaurant, Malis. It was absolutely exquisite for me although Tom found some of the unfamiliar spices less appealing to his taste buds.

Have a glorious day!

Bob and Tom having a great time, sitting across from Tina and I We arrived at the restaurant at 5:45 while it was still light.  At 8 pm, some of the group were headed to a local circus with bleacher-type seating.  , there was no way I could sit on bleachers for any length of time. Instead, we had a fabulous time returning to the hotel in a local tuk-tuk.

Photo from one year ago today, July 13, 2015:

Holloways Beach, near Cairns Australia. For more details and photos, please click here.