Day #261 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…”Cruise to Nowhere” fiasco…

Christmas tree in Colon Park in Arica, Chile, with St. Mark’s Cathedral (San Marcos) in the background.

Today’s photos are from the 30-day cruise (two 15-day cruises, back-to-back), partially sailing around South America on the date in 2017 when we visited Arica, Chile. For more photos, please click here.

The cruise, as mentioned above, seems to have been a lot longer ago than three years. Life was so different then. Cruising was purely predicated by one’s ability to afford it and the desire to be out to sea for socializing, myriad adventures, and sightseeing. Now, we wonder if cruising will ever be possible in the future.

Buses arrived at the port to take passengers on tours.

From today’s news story here, Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas four-day “Cruise to Nowhere,” available only to residents of Singapore, had to turn back due to an onboard case of Covid-19, forcing the ship to return to Singapore on day #3.

The article reads as follows:

“A Royal Caribbean ship has returned to Singapore on day three of a four-day “cruise to nowhere” after a passenger tested positive for Covid-19.

The city-state’s “cruises to nowhere” – starting and ending at the same port without stops – launched last month.

Government building in Arica, Chile, near the port.

They attempt to revive the hard-hit industry, which largely ceased worldwide after outbreaks on board but has since resumed in a few places. Singapore’s special cruises were only open to its residents.

The Royal Caribbean cruise ship Quantum of the Seas departed Singapore on Monday for a four-day round trip as part of a “safe cruising” pilot program announced by the country’s tourism board in October.

From this site: “History goes that during the War of the Pacific (1879-1880) the Morro de Arica was taken by Chilean troops in a heroic deed after only one hour of fighting against the Peruvian-Bolivian army. This historical feat took place on June 7, 1880, and ever since has marked the northern territorial boundaries of the country. Today, over one century after such an epic event, visitors only need to go up almost 200 meters rising from the sea to behold the enormous City of Arica. Whoever hit the summit of this morro in those days would immediately gain control of the city. There were many casualties. In a matter of minutes, almost 2 thousand soldiers from both sides lost their life.”

The cruise company said it had turned the ship around after one guest tested positive for coronavirus after checking in with the onboard medical team.

“We identified and isolated all guests and crew who had close contact with this guest, and each of those individuals has subsequently tested negative for the virus,” it said in a statement.

A view of the Morro of Arica from the Plaza Colon, where we wandered around the park.

It said guests would be allowed to disembark “after a review of contact tracing is completed.”

A raft of safety measures was introduced for passengers on the special cruises to nowhere, including coronavirus tests before boarding and after disembarking. The ships were also running at half their usual capacity for safe distancing purposes.”

In part, these cruises are intended to “test” how numerous precautions may prevent onboard cases of the virus and how they can safely be handled in the event of passengers becoming ill. But, at this point, it appears their “system” isn’t working as well as hoped.

A pond in the park is occupied by dozens of seagulls.

All passengers were tested for Covid-19 before embarking on the cruise. However, as those of us who’ve followed Covid-19 scenarios, getting a negative test result today doesn’t necessarily indicate it won’t be positive a few days later. Upon exposure, one may not exhibit symptoms or test positive for several days.

Until a more accurate/earlier test becomes available, the cruise industry is SOL in offering safe cruises anywhere in the world. Currently, we have four cruises booked beginning on November 30, 2021. The others are well into 2022, none of which we may be able to embark upon, as long as this virus continues to impact cruising.

We stopped to see a nativity scene in the park.

At this point, we are waiting for the cruise lines to cancel our cruises as they see fit and ultimately necessary. I imagine, in the future, all guests may be required to have taken the vaccine and provide a recent antibody test upon boarding to ensure their documentation isn’t fraudulent. Antibody test results are available in minutes. There are now black-market negative Covid-19 tests floating around.

Disappointing? Yes, but under no circumstances would we want to be on one of those cruises where we end up in quarantine. If we think this hotel room is small, a cruise cabin 30% smaller would be worse. Hum, 35 days and counting…

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, December 9, 2019:

After arriving in Nevada to visit family, we were on our way to the Vegas Golden Knights game, guest of son Richard, a super fan. 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 25…Cruise to South America…Ushuaia…”End of the world, beginning of everything”…

Ushuaia is a seaport and resort town.
We were bundled up in Ushuaia in the cold air. 
The sign reads, “fin del mundo,” the end of the world.

Sightings from the Veranda while Cruising”

In Ushuaia, this was the first loon we’d seen since our old lives in Minnesota.

In 37 days, we’ll be returning to Ushuaia to board Ponant’s Le Soleil to begin our 17-day journey to Antarctica.  As we perused the colorful and unusual city known as the “end of the world” we found ourselves particularly interested in the seaport community.

An expedition ship preparing to set sail to Antarctica.  Soon, we’ll be on such a ship.

We couldn’t stop smiling as we wandered through the town, entranced by its unique beauty and charm. At times, I found myself squealing with delight while Tom reveled along with me in a more sedate manner. Guys don’t usually squeal. But, I found doing so irresistible.

It’s almost summer in Ushuaia but it was cold and the mountains are still snow-capped.

We didn’t need a specific ship’s tour to get the flavor of the port city as we walked the level and hilly streets of the town, stopping to peer inside unique shops, restaurants, and businesses.

“Construction of the national penitentiary in Ushuaia began in 1902 when there were already a dozen prisoners living in wood and tin huts. The convicts sentenced to the penitentiary in Ushuaia were dangerous repeat offenders and political prisoners sent down from jails in Buenos Aires province.”

The local people are friendly, never failing to nod and smile when passing us on the street. The workers at the port were equally friendly and accommodating while passengers walked past, often interrupting their work in loading and unloading food and supplies for various seafaring ships preparing to set sail.

Mountains surround the town.

With both of us possessing an affinity for the sea, this outing was of the utmost interest. For a moment, I fantasized about staying in this town for a period of time but the winters are bitterly cold and snowy.  Even now, with their summer looming in a few days, it was outrageously cold. I guess this type of weather isn’t for us for the long haul.

Most of the town is centered around seaport enterprises.

Here is information about Ushuaia from this site:

“Ushuaia (/ˈʃw.ə/Spanish pronunciation: [uˈswaʝa]) is the capital of Tierra del Fuego, Antártida e Islas del Atlántico Sur Province, Argentina. It is commonly regarded as the southernmost city in the world. Ushuaia is located in a wide bay on the southern coast of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, bounded on the north by the Martial mountain range, and on the south by the Beagle Channel. It is the only municipality in the Department of Ushuaia, which has an area of 9,390 km2 (3,625 sq mi). It was founded October 12 of 1884 by Augusto Lasserre and is located on the shores of the Beagle Channel surrounded by the mountain range of the Martial Glacier, in the Bay of Ushuaia. Besides being an administrative center, it is a light industrial port and tourist hub.

Country  Argentina
Province  Tierra del Fuego
Department Ushuaia
Founded 12 October 1884
Founded by Commodore Lasserre ARA
 • Type Municipality
 • Mayor Federico Sciurano
 • Total 23 km2 (9 sq mi)
Elevation 23 m (75 ft)
Population (2010 Census[1])
 • Total 56,956
 • Density 2,500/km2 (6,400/sq mi)
Time zone ART (UTC−3)
CPA Base V 9410
Area code(s) +54 2901
Climate ET

The word Ushuaia comes from the Yaghan language: ush and waia (“bay” or “cove”) and means “deep bay” or “bay to background”. The act creating the subprefecture in 1884 cites the name “Oshovia”, one of the many orthographic variations of the word.[4] Its demonym is “Ushuaiense”.

Another ship, preparing to head to Antarctica.

The name is often pronounced “u-sua-ia” (Spanish pronunciation: [uˈswaʝa]), an exception to the orthographic rules of Spanish, since the ‘s’ forms a syllable with the following ‘u’ despite the intervening ‘h’.The pronunciation”Usuaía” (accented on the ‘i’) is erroneous: the prosodic accent is on the first ‘a’, which is why the word is written without an accent mark.”

Ushuaia’s motto reads: “Ushuaia, end of the world, beginning of everything.”

An exquisite albatross sculpture.  We especially enjoyed seeing many albatrosses in the port.

The above-listed website has considerably more information should you desire to learn more than we’ve listed here.

A totem pole depicting distances to various cities in the world.

What’s on the agenda for today? With only six days remaining until the end of the cruise, today, we’ll continue to socialize with people we’ve already met and others we’re yet to meet. As always, the cruise has been an ideal venue for us to make new friends.

Lupine flowers are commonly seen in springtime in Ushuaia. Soon, on December 21st, summer will begin in this part of the world.

Of course, our new friends Lisa and Barry with whom we spent the first 15 days on the cruise are staying in touch as we’re all anticipating being together again in the near future.

The bust statue of Argentina’s beloved Evita.

Tonight, we’re dining in Qsine, an upscale specialty restaurant for which we’ll be writing a review and sharing photos tomorrow. After meeting with Chef Chantal a few days ago, I have no doubt the meal will exquisitely perfect for my way of eating.

The long walk from the ship to the town was highlighted by the many sights and sounds of the bustling port.

See you tomorrow, dear readers, and our heartfelt thanks for you continuing with us through yet another 30-night cruise.  

Photo from one year ago today, December 17, 2016:

Wildflowers blooming along a country road in Tasmania. For more details, 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.

A fun video on “silent disco” night!…The unreality of life on a cruise…Routines become all encompassing…

 This was a “silent disco” so you won’t hear much
in the way of sound.
Living aboard a ship is comparable to living in a world far removed from day-to-day reality, not unlike that for other passengers who have left their homes to travel on a ship for weeks or more.

Having spent 198 days cruising since the onset of our travels, beginning on October 31, 2012, it served us well to roll into the comfortable routine. Moreover, doing so provides us with a sense of a home during these extended periods.

The ease with which we move from activity to activity, area to area, and a variety of dining and drinking venues become somewhat of a routine for other passengers and us as well.

Christina hung out with us on disco night along with many other new friends we’d met aboard the ship.

This becomes particularly evident when we visit areas we tend to frequent each day or evening at certain times. As a result, our daily routine looks like this:

6:30 am – One of us gets out of bed to shower and dress, with the other immediately following behind. 

7:30 am (8:00 am on sea days) – Arrive in Epernay dining room for served breakfast at a shared table from six to 10 passengers.

The lighting was not conducive to taking photos, but it’s evident that not everyone listened to the same channel.

9:00 – 9:30 am – Return to the cabin to collect laptops and head to Cafe Al Bacio to begin posting. Often, I’ll go directly to the cafe to secure a seat at one of our favorite of three tables situated along the railing overlooking the centrum while Tom dashes to the cabin to get the laptops and the camera.

12:00 – 12:30 pm – Return laptops to the cabin to recharge. If one of us didn’t eat breakfast (I’ve had smoothies most mornings), we might wander to the 14th deck to the Oceanview Cafe, a buffet, where each item offered lists the following, if applicable:  gluten free, sugar-free, vegetarian, lactose-free. This only helps me choose items to a degree since nothing is notated for “low carb” or “starches,” neither of which fit into my diet.

Sorry for the blur; I couldn’t resist including this dancing photo!

1:30 – 2:00 pm – On sea days:  Return to the cabin, collect laptops, and return to Cafe Al Bacio to work on the next day’s photos and post, respond to email and of course, chat with an endless array of friendly passengers.  Some passengers have giggled with us when labeling our seats in the cafe as our “office.” So true. On port of call days: It’s during this period, we may walk off the ship (or take a tender) to explore the port we’re visiting.

4:00 pm – Return to the cabin to relax a bit, later dressing for the upcoming evening’s activities. Most nights are “smart casual,” with no dressy clothing required. However, when “chic” is listed, people tend to wear dressier clothing, although it’s not required.

5:00 – 5:30 pm – Wander to the Sky Lounge for “Elite (or higher) members free happy hour during which we always sit with other passengers shooting the breeze while we share our collective travel experiences as lovely appetizers are servers by wait staff along with cocktails and beverages of our choice.

Our adorable new friend Christina (of Harold and Christina) also “rocked the night away.”

6:30 – 7:00 pm – Happy hour in the Sky Lounge ends at 7:00 pm, after which we wait in what is usually a short line to be seated for dinner. Since we enjoy dining at a shared table, arriving later than 7:00 may prevent the opportunity to dine with others since most passengers dine early to make one of the two shows presented at 7:00 and 9:00 pm. We rarely attend the shows when variety-type shows hold little appeal to either of us.

9:00 – 9:30 pm -Leave the dining room we make our way to one of the many bars where we’ll listen to music, chat amongst ourselves and others to relax and enjoy the remainder of our evening.

The “Ice Bar” is just that, covered in ice. I couldn’t resist making this heart shape as a remnder of our 22nd anniversary the following day.

11:00 pm to ???? – Head to our cabin for the evening hoping for a good night’s sleep, only to begin the same highly enjoyable routine all over again the next morning. 

A few nights ago, a disco event was listed on the program, referred to as a “silent disco.” This is the point when each passenger dons a lighted headset with three channels, each colored coordinated for three types of music being broadcast.

With all the party-goers wearing their headsets, those not wearing them didn’t hear a sound. This is a hoot, especially when a good song is playing and we all go nuts encouraging each other to change the channel for the better dance song via the use of a little button on the side of the headset.

More new friends from Australia, Corinna, and Beau, with whom we’ve had a great time.

As it turned out, at times, Tom and I were dancing together with each of us listening to a different song. This was hysterical. And proved to be more fun than we can describe. 

Tom danced for two hours non-stop, standing next to me at the “Ice Bar” while I joined him in dancing as often as I was reenergized, later sitting for a short recovery period only to begin again. (After all, I’d been sick for the past three months and hadn’t yet had quite enough time to recover after months of lounging. Now, vigorously walking through the ship each day, I’m beginning to feel a slow return to my old self).

We both had messy hair from taking the headsets on and off throughout the night. Tom’s was especially messy from sweating. His shirt was soaked by the end of the evening.

Gosh, we had so much fun. We were reminded of our “hay days” of carrying on in our younger days dancing in a variety of bars and discos. Wow! What a fun activity, especially when we were with friends we’ve made aboard during the entire evening.

Today, the ship is docked in Suva, Fiji. Having spent four months in Fiji over a year ago, plus considerings its where I contracted the infection, neither of us has any desire to get off the ship. 

Eventually, Tom had to remove his glasses. He was sweating so much!  I love this photo!

No offense intended for Fiji. We had a good experience on both the islands of Vanua Levu (Savusavu) and Viti Levu (Pacific Harbour) during the extended period. Today we’re content to stay on board in air-conditioned comfort, continuing to revel in our highly pleasing routine and visiting with the wonderful people we’ve met along the way.

Have a pleasing day, hopefully, spent in the presence of YOUR wonderful people!

Photo from one year ago today, March 8, 2017:

The sun was peeking through the clouds casting this glow at the beach in New Zealand. But, of course, the scene would have been more impressive had it not been so late in the evening. For more photos, please click here.

We made it to Cambodia…Angkor Wat, a hard reality we’ve had to accept…More Hanoi photos…”The Hanoi Hilton”

Hỏa Lò Prison, aka Mason Centrale (meaning central house in French) was nicknamed the “Hanoi Hilton” during the war in Vietnam. Hỏa Lò Prison was a prison used by the French colonists in Vietnam for political prisoners, and later by North Vietnam for U.S. Prisoners of War during the Vietnam War. During this later period it was sarcastically known to American POWs as the Hanoi Hilton. The prison was demolished in part during the 1990s, though the gatehouse remains as a museum.”

Yesterday morning, we toured the Old Quarter in Vietnam riding in a small golf cart-like six passenger vehicle, through the narrow streets too tight for cars or buses. We took many photos we’ll soon share.

General information at the prison.

By 12:30 pm, we were on the bus on the way to the Hanoi Noi Bai airport where Kong, our leader, host and guide from Viking Cruises had every aspect of the flight and eventual arrival at the hotel in Cambodia covered. He’s so good at what he does, he even negotiated with Vietnam Airlines to waive our excess baggage fees. 

Broken glass atop this wall as added security. This type of glass was cemented into the top of the walls of our villa in Kenya. (See our link for details and photo).

From the baggage handling, to immigration and customs processing everything was prearranged and handled seamlessly. Our little group of 54 passengers shuffled along  with our carry-on as we made our way to the newer comfortable airplane.

A painting currently on display at the historical site.

In less than two hours from boarding, we landed in Siem Reap, Cambodia. It’s funny how we’re still so excited entering a new country, especially as beautiful as Cambodia, a lush green plethora of flowers, trees and dense rainforest.  

A painting of the prison.

Vietnam had its own unique charm and appeal, but Cambodia is an entirely different environment, covered in water and rice paddies in many areas in what appears to be vast lowlands. It’s the rainy season here now and the Nazis are on a frenzy for fresh meat, making our group ideal targets.

A drawing of the map of the prison.

After a short 20 minute bus ride we arrived at yet another luxurious five star hotel, Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort. Unlike the Sofitel in Hanoi this hotel complex is nestled among the trees in the rainforest. It, too, is exquisitely appointed with some of the finest service we’ve seen anywhere in the world.

Massive gates to the main prison area.

Our spacious room (we didn’t upgrade this time) was perfect, again with every amenity we can possibly need or want.  Photos will follow, of course. The grounds are breathtaking. 

An architectural representation of the prison prior to parts of it being demolished in the 1990’s.

Last night’s included dinner buffet and this morning’s breakfast buffet were over the top. The chef met with me before dinner pointing out which foods fit my strict dietary criteria. 

Rendition of prisoner’s shackles.

I was practically squealing with delight when so many dishes were suitable including the most delicious side dish I’ve had in five years, a cauliflower cheese gratin made without sugar, starch or grain.

Statues of how prisoner lived.  Horrifying.

Rarely do I ever return for a second plate at a buffet but last night Tom went back to the buffet to bring me a second plate of the cauliflower gratin. It was comparable to eating a fine dessert minus the sweetness. Guess I’ll be adding this dish to our repertoire of side dishes as soon as we get to Phuket, providing we can find cauliflower, whole cream and cheese.

This word translates to “dungeon” since this was the solitary confinement area.

Anyway, one of many reasons I was particularly attracted to the Viking Mekong River cruise and tour was my interest in visiting Angkor Wat (see below from this website):

“Angkor Wat is a temple complex, indeed the largest religious structure in the world, and part of the capital city of the Khmer Empire, which controlled all the area in what is today the modern country of Cambodia, as well as parts of Laos and Thailand, between the 9th and 13th centuries AD.

The Temple Complex includes a central pyramid of some 60 meters (200 ft) in height, contained within an area of about two square kilometers (~3/4 of a square mile), surrounded by a defensive wall and moat.”

The tiny solitary confinement cell.

Supposedly, visiting Angkor Wat is comparable to visiting Petra in Jordan (see our link here) for its profound effect on each visitor its in own special way. Of course, this appealed to both of us.

Few prisoners escaped from the prison through the sewer system. 

But, reality of daily life prevails and as hard as I tried to make this morning’s arranged four plus hour walking tour suitable for my current painful condition, it just wasn’t worth the risk. 

Example of how prisoners chipped away at the stone in the sewer system in order to escape.

There’s no way it made sense to walk the long distances, required at the historic site, climb the many flights of steps without handrails and not exacerbated my slowly recovering condition.

Artistic rendition of a part of the prison.

We considered just going and doing what I could but I know myself…I would have pushed beyond reason forcing myself to “tough it out” without complaint. Essentially, I could have reversed the progress I worked so hard to attain over this past almost six weeks since the injury. 

The guillotine in the Hanoi Hilton.

Then, we wouldn’t be able to do anything on the cruise itself which begins in 54 hours. We just didn’t want to risk it. Its the nature of our lives. If we lived like most of the world, if we had such an injury we’d have stayed home, canceling the trip and taken the time necessary to heal.

Side view of the guillotine.

For us, we continue on in our travels as long as we get on a plane, into a hotel or next vacation home, all of which I’ve somehow managed to do over these past busy weeks. 

This area ensconced in artwork may have been the prisoner’s exercise yard.
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. 

I can’t beat myself up over not choosing to visit Angkor Wat or, as a matter of fact, a few more temples in the next few days, all of which require hours of walking and climbing steps. 

Artwork in yard.

It is what it is. Personal strength not only comes from “doing” but also from “accepting” when one can’t “do” when a situation requires holding back. I’m there today, in acceptance mode. With smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts we’ll participate in everything I can do instead of focusing on what I cannot. 

Today, we’re sharing more photos from Vietnam and soon will start uploading many photos we’ve already taken of Cambodia including those we’ll be adding over the next few days until our departure.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, July 11, 2015:

Spoonbill, rightfully so named. For more photos, please click here.

Memories come to mind…Readers, thank you for the inspiration!

We often encounter unknown flower varieties when we walk in the neighborhood.

When we recall our first foray outside the US on January 3, 2013, when we embarked on the classic old-style Celebrity Century, the first cruise for both of us, the level of anticipation and excitement was indescribable.

At the time I was a little fearful of heading out to sea on such a big ship. The first few nights I lay awake from the creaking and rolling, wondering if something was wrong with the ship. 

By the time the Century made its way through the Panama Canal with the new locks being built beside it, I felt like an old ship’s hand, comfortable and at ease.

The pebbly road we walk in the neighborhood.

After 11 cruises all fear had long since dissipated as I embraced the wild seas, the rocking and rolling and what became familiar ship sounds both during the day and at night. 

When we sailed on our first Atlantic crossing in April 2013 to experience our roughest seas ever, 50 foot (15 meters) waves on the Norwegian Epic, we both wandered about the ship excited and amazed by the rough seas with nary a hint of seasickness while most passengers were tucked away in their cabins on medications and patches for seasickness.

The infirmary was packed with ill passengers while we visited with others like us, who enjoyed the excitement and for whatever reasons, don’t suffer from seasickness. 

Many homes are tucked away in the neighborhood, down long driveways, difficult to see beyond the dense vegetation.

For three days, the same few of us wandered about the ship thoroughly relishing in the unique experience while the remaining staff members who hadn’t become ill helped carry our coffee and beverages to a table. The pools were closed, as were many of the activity areas and some restaurants. 

We all managed to stay busy for the three rough days and nights at sea, watching movies in the rolling theatre, playing cards slipping and sliding on the outdoor tables, and dining in the main dining room as our plates and drinks slid across the table if we didn’t hang onto them. 

When it was finally over, the passengers began to quietly exit their cabins, all a little pale from being unable to eat and drink for three days. Within a day of smooth sailing the flurry of activities including drinking, eating, and socializing was once again in full force.

A wide array of plants and flowers are found in the neighborhood.

We treasure these memories, especially when we can look back at our over 1000 archives not only to refresh our memories in our telling of the stories but in seeing those memories in our photos. What a treasure to have this journey documented to this degree! 

We never stop appreciating our readers for being the catalyst and the inspiration to continue posting day after day. Had it just been a personal travel journal with a collection of photos, we may have made excuses day after day not to write the experiences, both big and small. 

In our old lives, I seldom wrote anything on the back of a photo describing who, what and where the photos were taken. Now, an entire story and multiple photos accompany every memorable experience.

The river winds through the area.

Knowing 1000’s of our readers throughout the world has spurred us on, day after day is life-changing. Those bringing up our site day after day to see what’s happening, at times finding only our mindless drivel or gentle ramblings over a sometimes simple life and at other times, finding an exciting memorable experience. 

No excuses are needed here to avoid posting. The only potential reasons we don’t post are due to a total lack of available WiFi service or during long travel days. Even on those days, we attempt to get something uploaded.  We’ve continued to post on sick days even if only to whine about being under the weather.

Last night, as we watched Episode 3 of Season 6, the final season of Downton Abbey, tears came to my eyes, not over a sad episode but due to the fact that we’d visited Highclere Castle in August 2014, home of the filming of this fine BBC series and its series end upcoming at Episode 9. 

Our photo. We held our breath as we approached Highclare Castle, home of the famed BBC Downton Abbey TV series. No interior photos were allowed.  Please click here for interior photos of the house

With only six more episodes to watch, for us, it’s the end of an era. Having walked the grounds and the familiar rooms of the castle, we became entrenched in its rich history and exceptional design and the very way it fit into the exceptional series.

Please click here for the first of two days of photos and stories from our visit to Highclere Castle, the filming site for Downton Abbey.

Please click here for the second of two day’s photos and story of the village of Bampton.

Last night’s episode showed several scenes in the village. The sleepy town of Bampton, England was used in the filming of the series including the interior of the church and a few other buildings. Having been inside that church, in that village, the memories brought huge smiles across our faces and for me, tears to my eyes, tears of joy for having had the experience.

This is the altar inside the church where the Mary and Matthew of Downton Abbey were married. To be able to visit this village, take this and other photos inside of this church and village, shown many times on the series, including last night’s episode (spoiler alert), was a memory we’ll always treasure, among others in our journey.

The long time span between series seasons was due to the show’s producers wanting to give the owners of the castle and the villagers time to recover from the last disruption of filming which sends their lives into total upheaval. 

The notoriety of this series has brought new revenue streams to both the villagers and castle owners along with the commotion which they seem to have appreciated and enjoyed.

Now, as we countdown to departing Fiji in five days with more upcoming memorable treasures behind us and more awaiting us, we’ve kept the TV tuned to a combination of BBC news and Fiji’s own channel 18 for Nat Geo Wild with one episode after another of places we’ve been, the wildlife we’ve seen up close and personal and of course, places we’ve yet to visit.

The river is lined with houses many with docks and boats, able to head out to sea from this waterway.

All we have is the moment in which to live.  In another moment, it becomes but a memory. It’s those moments and memories we treasure whether it’s a face-to-face encounter with a crocodile, a visit to a world-renowned castle, or a warm and unspoken wide grin to one another… it’s all worthy of a memory!

We carry on, hopefully with humility, grace, and ease…May you continue to do so along with us.

Photo from one year ago today, December 30, 2014:

From left to right; Sarah, TJ, me, Tom, (front) Vincent, Jayden, Nik, Tracy, and Tammy, a photo we took yesterday of our remaining family members.  Tammy, Tracy, and Vincent remained in Pahoa for four more days while the others had headed home. For more details, please click here.

Crossing the Equator in a few minutes…Hilarious King Neptune Celebration poolside…

King Neptune is getting ready to start the Equator crossing ceremony.

Soon we’ll be crossing the Equator and the ceremonies poolside is about to begin. We’re sitting at a table near the pool with new friends with Pat and Charles from Missouri, USA and having a blast.

The dancers heading out to the main area.

From Wikipedia, here’s info on the crossing of the Equator:

“The ceremony of Crossing the Line is an initiation rite in the British Merchant Navy, Dutch merchant navy, Royal Navy, U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, Russian Navy, and other navies that commemorates a sailor’s first crossing of the Equator. The tradition may have originated with ceremonies when passing headlands, and become a “folly” sanctioned as a boost to morale, or have been created as a test for seasoned sailors to ensure their new shipmates were capable of handling long rough times at sea. Sailors who have already crossed the Equator are nicknamed (Trusty/Honorable) Shellbacks, often referred to as Sons of Neptune; those who have not are nicknamed (Slimy) Pollywogs (in 1832 the nickname griffins were noted.”

There he is, King Neptune, the festivities have begun.

Soon the polliwogs will participate by the swimming pool as a celebration of our crossing the Equator. I’d never heard of a pollywog until this cruise which refers to those who’ve volunteered to be indoctrinated through a ritual that includes breaking eggs on their heads and tossing them fully clothed into the pool.

The human resource manager getting “egged.”

As the participants kneel to have the raw eggs broken over their heads the crowd is roaring and laughing over the fun antics. It couldn’t be more fun. At the moment, the hosts of the party just dumped cups of flour on top of the heads of those that had been egged. The crowd roars some more.

One of the hosts of the ceremonies, the Cruise Director.

The inclusion of various staff members in the festivities only adds to the frenzy of the crowd; the human resources manager and various ship officers. It makes us all laugh at how it must have been Roman times when people were mocked in the square especially when the staff members are being beaten with wet pasta.

It appeared that every passenger was watching the festivities.

Why is it we humans get a kick out of such festivities, I’ll never know. Perhaps, part of our humor is over the fact that we’re just happy it’s not us out there being egged, floured, and beaten with wet noodles. In any case, it’s rather humorous and neither of us is exempt from this good humor.

The “kiss the fish” ceremony.

Now, the environmental managers are having to “kiss the fish” which is hilariously followed by more egg breaking and flour dumped on their heads and down their shirts, and finally, full bowls of cost red pasta sauce dumped over their heads.

The second cruise director getting egged.

Now, passengers are volunteering for the final part of King Neptune’s Equator ceremony as a dozen seniors and a few younger passengers kneel on the floor to be indoctrinated as “pollywogs,” as those who are experiencing crossing the Equator for the first time in their lives. 

Getting “floured.”

Again, the broken eggs, the flour and the wet pasta, and finally, the red pasta sauce and the crowd is going wild.

Getting “pasta noodled.”

Today, we share these photos, tongue in cheek, admiring the brave souls who volunteered to be spectacles of themselves. The final volunteer was one of the cruise directors who are hilarious and a great sport.

Pasta and pasta sauce on the head of a brave passenger.
The Cruise Director getting floured.

As of this moment, we have crossed the Equator and are in the southern hemisphere for the next almost two years to come. The adventure has just begun!

What a brave guy!

Photo from one year ago today, May 28, 2014:

An ocean view in Madeira, Portugal one year ago.  It was at this time one year ago we began making some new plans for the future. Please click here for details.

Sailing across the sea…

Rain and clouds as we cross the ocean.

The threat of rough seas has subsided for the time being. The ill passenger was dropped off by tender in Bermuda. Within hours the ship was back on course for the Atlantic crossing. We sighed with relief.

When returning from dinner each night we find these little towel characters on our turned down bed.

The Norwegian Epic, rated a five out of six stars by Cruise Critic, lives up to its reviews as a quality vessel with the utmost of amenities and services.  A few items we’ve observed in the three days on the Norwegian Epic include:

1. There are only two banks of elevators resulting in very long walks getting from one end of the ship to the other.
2.  One of the two pools is currently under repair. This is located in an area where hundreds of passengers could conceivably relax on lounge chairs with no pool in which to cool off, weather providing.
3.  The evening meals, in the “included” restaurants, is mediocre at best. Is this a ploy to encourage  passengers to use the “cover charge” restaurants ranging from $10 to $40 per person? Breakfast in the Garden Cafe is quite good, cafeteria style, food is fresh with real eggs upon request and they have smoked salmon, a favorite of mine.
4.  Our prior four cruise ships since January 3, 2013, have had traditional long decks on both the port and starboard sides of the ship, suitable for walking and lounging. The picture we’ve always had in mind, was of crossing the sea, in expected inclement weather, covered in a blanket while lying on a lounge chair reading a book. That’s not possible on the ship.  Lounge chairs are near the pool areas only.
5.  No indoor daytime movies which would be a treat with the cool, windy weather.  Few educational classes are available (although Tom will attend a WWII seminar this afternoon).  Big push for the “pay for” services:  gambling, shopping, spa and cocktails.  None of this is unusual by cruise standards. 
6.   Limited evening entertainment as compared to our experience on the Celebrity ships when each night there was new entertainment options.  We went to the “Blue Man Group” on our first night aboard the Epic, which was quite enjoyable but it repeats every night in the main venue, leaving only two other shows with are included in the cruise fare plus,  one “pay for” option, a Cirque de Soleil type show at $40 per person including dinner for which we won’t partake.
7.  Poor Internet connection, slower than old fashioned “dial-up.”  Price for the Internet at $.40 per minute is outrageous, highest we’ve paid thus far.

This morning we attempted to attend a seminar entitled, “Running a Floating Hotel” presented by three top officers, including the captain.Without a seat available after arriving 15 minutes early, we only stayed a few minutes when Tom was unable to hear the presentation and I preferred not to stand for over an hour in a crowded area. With the older crowd aboard this ship, we will need to arrive at least a half hour early for events in the future.

Some items we like about the Norwegian Epic:
1.  Our cabin steward, Arnold, is absolutely among the finest.
2.  Our cabin has tons of storage space, a huge shower, with a comfortable bed and exquisite bedding with extra pillows.
3.  The entire ship is impeccably clean and organized.
4.   All of the staff is friendly, saying hello when passing, ultra courteous when providing service, referring to us as: Ms. Jessica and Mr. Tom
5.  Last night when dining with yet a new batch of four delightful passengers in the Taste Restaurant, the Assistant  Maître D, Steven Metzger, immediately tended to me when I had requested a gluten free, starch free, low carb, grain-free, and sugar-free meal. He couldn’t have been more helpful, checking back several times during the carefully prepared meal and showing me the next night’s menu to order in advance to ensure my order complies. I didn’t mind ordering in advance when doing so results in less attention drawn to my complicated diet while others are trying to order.  Tonight, when we meet our new friends for dinner, my order will already be posted with the chef, listed under of cabin number, streamlining the process.
6.   Due to the sheer size of this 6000 potential passenger ship (including crew) there’s less sensation of movement. With five days remaining crossing the sea until our first port of call in Funchal Madeira, Portugal, we expect rough seas, as warned by the captain over the loud speaker.  Yes, doors sway open and closed, along with the endless creaking and cracking sounds, day and night. One may feel they’re losing their footing when walking as the ships rocks to and fro. None of this bothers either of us, nor have we had a moment of seasickness thus far.  We shall see how it progresses.
Mr. Penguin.
Overall, we’re pleased to be aboard the Norwegian Epic for the this cruise.
Breakfast this morning in the Garden Café.
Embarking on our next cruise on May 6th, we’ll sail through the Suez Canal to the Middle East, ending aboard Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas. We’ll visit Jordan and Egypt ending in Dubai, United Arab Emirates where we’ll stay for 13 nights. 
Next time there’s a seminar, we’ll arrive a half hour early to ensure we are able to find seats.

We’re doing well, meeting interesting people, relishing in our pleasant surroundings, living life one moment at a time, happy to be together and totally in awe of the world around us.  At times, we look at each other, shaking our heads one of us saying, “Can you believe we’re
doing this?”