Booking for the future…St. Petersburg…Hard to imagine life beyond the bush…

When capturing this hippo and cattle egret in the bright sun from quite a distance, we didn’t realize there was a croc in the photo until we loaded the photo on my laptop. 

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

A new warthog visitor with an injured left wart. He’s since been back a few times in the past two days. It didn’t appear to be bleeding or oozing. There are several ways this injury could have transpired.

Today, we’d tentatively planned to go to Kruger. Still, when deciding on what to cook for tonight’s dinner, I realized a trip to Komatipoort to shop was more critical when we ran out of fresh vegetables and other household goods.

Instead, weather permitting, we’ll head to Kruger tomorrow after getting a head start on the day’s post early in the morning. That’s the magic of this life we lead…we can do whatever we’d like, whenever we’d like, and change plans at the last minute if we’d like. 

Mom and baby are on the banks of the Crocodile River with the remainder of their parade nearby.

But changing BIG plans in this life presents several obstacles, mainly due to money with deposits (or full fares) paid for holiday homes, flights, hotels, and cruises we’ve already booked.

Having control over the smaller daily plans is a beautiful part of being retired and free. Often, we awake with a project in mind we’d discussed the previous day or evening to find ourselves simply “not in the mood” to do what we’d discussed. 

Elephants are frequently found by the river when viewing from Marloth Park.

Fortunately, neither of us minds the other suggestions. We change plans for the day, even for no reason at all, if we so choose. Of course, we don’t change the social plans we’ve made with friends, always adhering strictly to the date, time, and location.

As we look to the future, we realize it’s imperative we make plans for several time slots and events arising after we left Kenya in March 2019. This sounds like a long time away, but in fact, it’s only a mere eight months from now. 

This giraffe was on the opposite side of the river, far from view without zooming in or viewing through Tom’s binoculars.

The two of us are always counting on our fingers to figure out how long it is until the next adventure, not because we want the time to fly quickly but more to gain a perspective of how much time we have left wherever we are at any given time.

Recently, when Tom was perusing, which he does quite frequently, he noticed a posting from a booked passenger for the Baltic cruise we’d booked for August 11, 2019, from Amsterdam to Amsterdam on Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas.

Two waterbucks on a sandbar in the river.

The passenger couple sought participants for an upcoming two-day tour (not overnight) when in port overnight in St. Petersburg, Russia. We’ll sleep on the ship but head out each of two days for the nine-hour tours both days of the majestic city.

We jumped at the opportunity to participate in the tours, which will include a maximum of 16 people, which is a lot better and less costly than the tours offered by the cruise line. 

A short time later, an elephant leisurely walks past the two waterbucks.

Most cruise-line-arranged tours are on huge buses, often with as many as 60 passengers per bus, hardly our cup-of-tea making this smaller group option much more appealing.

We committed to participating in the two-day tour from what appears to be a highly reputable company based on reviews, telling the passenger/organizer to let us know when and how to pay the combined around ZAR 7994 (US $600) plus tips for the tour guide.

Zooming in for this scene with many elephants on the river.

After conducting some of our research, we felt this pricing was reasonable for the two nine-hour tours, especially after reviewing the itinerary on the tour company’s website here

Here’s the itinerary for the St. Petersburg Russia tour:

2-day Deluxe Tour

16 person max or private | 19hrs. with guide and driver | Includes two lunches | Very active
Our most popular tour–and the most comprehensive tour at the most competitive price on the Baltic–the 2-day Deluxe Tour in St. Petersburg includes two full days of visits to the most sought-after sites, traditional Russian lunches, and an expert but also a personal presentation of the city. This tour is for those who want to make the most of their two days in St. Petersburg.

Guided Visits:

Hermitage Museum (Winter Palace) – Enjoy a guided tour of the museum’s most famous halls, including major highlights such as the Jordan Staircase, the Raphael Loggias, the Pavilion Hall with the famous Peacock clock, and many others, along with the world-class collection of artworks. Our tour is designed to give you a thorough introduction to truly one of the most excellent museums in the world.
Church of our Saviour on the Spilled Blood – The iconic Orthodox church where Alexander II was fatally wounded, the richly decorated exterior, and the exquisite mosaic interior are a must-see for any visitor to St. Petersburg.
St. Isaac’s Cathedral – This is the largest cathedral in St. Petersburg and the fourth largest in the world. This is an awe-inspiring structure from the outside and the inside.
Peter & Paul Fortress and Cathedral – First established in 1703, the original timber fortress was one of the first structures erected in the city. This area has since played an essential role in the history of the town and the country, not only for its military significance but also as a political prison and the burial site of the Russian Tzars.
Peterhof Fountain Park and Gardens – The summer residence of Peter the Great, this estate features meticulously maintained gardens and a collection of gold statued fountains that is unlike anywhere else in the world. The Grand Cascade (the park’s centerpiece) contains 64 sprays alone, with the Samson statue at its center shooting a powerful jet 20 meters into the sky.
**Catherine’s Palace with Amber Room – This Rococo palace was once the summer residence of the Russian Tzars and represented the peak of imperial opulence. A visit wouldn’t be complete without seeing the Amber Room, which has been completed reconstructed in great detail, some say even more exquisitely than the original.
Yusupov Palace – Although not of royal lineage, the Yusupov family was exceptionally wealthy and had significant influence in Russia. Their residence, seated on the bank of the Moyka River, showcases ornately designed rooms, stairwells, and a stunning private theatre. A visit to the room where Rasputin was murdered is also included on tour.

We’re excited about seeing all of these venues but also in having this arranged in advance by a generous passenger who’s chosen to take on the task of organizing it, instead of trying to figure out tours during the cruise itself when WiFi is sketchy and many of the best options are sold out.  

The mom to the right climbed atop a big rock, and the baby tried to follow suit.

In this case, we wouldn’t care to venture off on our own, as we often do, taking a taxi or finding a driver. Also, it’s an excellent opportunity to meet other passengers we may not have met on this 2500 passenger ship.

Mom and baby crossing the shallow water in the river.

We do realize we need to spend more time fine-tuning our itinerary for 2019-2020 and are conducting some online research now. But, it’s pretty hard to tear ourselves away from living in the moment, thoroughly treasuring the gifts Mother Nature presents to us each day.

Another mom and baby as they reached the river bank.

May you experience those gifts of nature as well, whether it be a bird, a flower, or a sunset.

Photo from one year ago today, July 18, 2017:

Dust storm gathering in the desert in Las Vegas. For more photos, please click here.

Living aboard a ship long term…More food photos…

When I asked to be served one avocado a day, they always bring this huge portion which I’ve shared with tablemates.

We hear story after story about seniors living aboard a ship rather than an assisted living facility when often the cost differential is minimal. Many of these stories appear to be “Internet legends” although there have been several actual reported cases.

Here’s a link to a USA Today news story I spotted online about a widow who’s lived on a cruise ship for the past several years. 

After perusing several articles we’ve come to the conclusion that living on a cruise ship permanently is impractical for most of those seniors who may be able to afford the US $5,000 to $15,000 a month cost (depending on the ship, the cabin choice, the itineraries and the cruise line). 

The realities of a long-term life aboard a ship are discouraging for most seniors primarily due to the lack of available appropriate medical care, insurance, and space limitations. Grandma can’t bring along her favorite recliner or special bed when “renting” a cabin on a ship.

The sauce under this delicious garlic and shallot encrusted lamb chops is a flour-less reduction sauce, the chef made for me.

There are a few ships worldwide that are permanent residences for those of all ages as shown at The World, a 165 “unit” residential ship that travels throughout the world with varying size and amenity cabins all with views to the passing world’s treasures. 

Prices aren’t listed at their site but some time ago, out of curiosity we investigated and most were priced well over US $1,000,000 depending on the size of the “condo” plus ancillary fees comparable to association dues one would pay in an upscale condo or townhouse.

What brought this topic to mind was an inquiry from a couple we met while in the Café al-Bacio who were curious if this type of life would appeal to us. Upon contemplative discussion, we have no interest in living permanently on a cruise ship. 

This is the entrée I ordered for the past four nights, seafood on a bed of cooked cabbage and vegetables.  Excellent!

Why not?  For several reasons, including the following in no special order:

1. Boredom: We love the variety in our lives of moving from location to location with a new (to us) property on each occasion. 
2.  Cost:  As much as many of these news stories and “legends” extol the virtues of living aboard a ship, the cost is actually much higher than one reads when all the ancillary expenses are included.
3.  The food:  There are only so many dishes a cruise ship prepares meal after meal. It would be easy to tire of them and plus, for my dietary needs, it would become cumbersome and repetitive.
4.  Exposure to illness: A cruise ship is a sailing petri dish. As seniors, our immune systems may not be as robust as in our youth and we can easily fall prey to many viruses and infections.
5.  Medical care: Many doctors choosing to work aboard a ship do not necessarily have specialties in more than one or two areas, leaving them unable and unequipped on a ship to handle more complicated illnesses beyond basic care. Most seriously ill passengers are airlifted to hospitals, at times to less than desirable hospitals and locations.

Of course, each cruise passenger would have their own list of reasons why long-term or permanent cruising may not work for them. For us, the novelty of cruising a few times each year remains interesting and fulfilling with the pleasure of meeting so many wonderful people in one easy setting along with the opportunity to see many parts of the world as the ship travels from port to port.

Neither of us has any interest in getting off the ship when it’s in port when we’re already scheduled to live in that country, or in ports we’ve already visited in the past. 

Cruising “our way” has many benefits. However, for us, the ultimate experience in cruising is the opportunity to interact with others from all over the world in a relaxed setting. Add, the aspect of “using cruising for transportation” avoiding the stress, commotion, and rush of airports, cruising total fulfills our preferences and expectations. 

Today, we’re attending a special lunch at noon with over 100 passengers in the main dining room. Tom just returned from watching the  Minnesota Viking’s lost game but we both look forward to another great day aboard the Celebrity Solstice on day 6 of the cruise with 8 days remaining until we reach Auckland New Zealand.  Baah…

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

The clouds continued over the Big Island as we wound down our few final days on the island.  The family had long gone back to the mainland as we began packing and organizing our belongings for the upcoming short flight to the island of Kauai. For more details, please click here.