Changes of our future plans…Covid-19 rules the travel industry…

A helmeted guinea-fowl and her chick, looking for pellets at the edge of the veranda.

This morning we received email notifications from Celebrity Cruise Lines that two booked cruises in and around Japan in 2022 have been canceled. The first sailing and the third of these three cruises we’d booked in this area will be canceled shortly. Now, we are down to five booked cruises instead of eight, all due to Covid-19.

We had planned to fly from Florida to Singapore a few weeks after our friends Karen and Rich’s wedding on February 11th. With all three of these cruises canceled, we’ll need to find where we’ll go when we leave Florida. Tom is currently researching our options., considering other potential cruises to fill the gap.

A giraffe was taking a rest.

Here again, Covid-19 is the determining factor on where we’ll go and what we’ll do. With the Schengen visa, we are only allowed to stay in most European countries for 90 out of 180 days. Also, we’ve already spent a lot of time in Europe in our past travels. Our current interests don’t necessarily lead us in that direction.

For now, our inclination is to travel by sea as much as possible, so that is the path we are researching at this point. But, due to Covid-19, many countries have instituted many restrictions impacting ports of call during cruises. There’s no doubt in our mind that the Japan cruises were canceled due to fears of infection in and around a country of such a vast population.

A male duiker, photo taken during the summer when the vegetation was lush and green.

Are we worried if continuing our world travels makes sense at this time? Not really, However, we must consider the risks each country presents whenever and wherever we travel, including our upcoming trip to the US, which has the worst Covid-19 statistics of any country in the world.

As of yesterday, here are the stats for the US from this site:

Total Cases: 42,479,780

New cases: 164,509

Total Deaths: 685,023

New Deaths: 2282

A dung beetle pushing his ball of dung on his search for a mate to join him.

Statistics show that 54.7% of Americans are fully vaccinated, the highest globally. Yet, they have the most, newest cases and deaths of any country in the world, based on information from this site.

You may ask, why are we going back to the US right now? For several reasons. But our biggest motivator is attending our friend’s small wedding in February. Since we were going back for that, we decided to spend more time with Tom’s siblings in Arizona and for me to meet up with my sister Julie who lives in Los Angeles, in Scottsdale, Arizona.

A few months ago, a mom and baby bushbuck when there was still some green vegetation in the bush.

During this US visit, we won’t be visiting Minnesota. It will be winter there, and neither of us cares to tackle the cold, the ice, and the snow. Once we know more about upcoming cruises, we’ll plan another time to be in Minnesota and Nevada to visit mine and Tom’s family, which surely will be during fall, spring or summer.

For now, we continue to consider where in the world we long to visit and how and when it will be possible based on current travel restrictions due to the pandemic. We’ll have plenty of time while in Arizona to work on this further.

Enjoy the day!

Photo from one year ago today, September 16, 2020:

This photo is from the year-ago post while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day # 177. Sunset view from the third floor of Hans’ house (owner of the house we rented next door) in Diani Beach, Kenya, in 2013. We were thrilled to take photos of the progression of the sun’s setting on the horizon. For more photos, please click here.

Fantastic new cruise bookings…

 Azamara
10 Nights – Azamara (Athens/Piraeus – Lisbon)
Cruise Line: Azamara
Ship Name: Azamara Journey Star Rating
Cruise Length: 10 NightsDeparture Date: 11/19/2022
Embarkation Port: Athens/Piraeus, GreeceReturn Date: 11/29/2022
Disembarkation Port: Lisbon, Portugal
Sailing Itinerary
Date Port of Call Arrival Departure
11/19/2022 Athens/Piraeus 05:00 PM
11/20/2022 Cruising
11/21/2022 Valletta 08:00 AM 10:00 PM
11/22/2022 Trapani 11:00 AM 07:00 PM
11/23/2022 Cagliari 08:00 AM 06:00 PM
11/24/2022 Cruising
11/25/2022 Cartagena/Spain 08:00 AM 05:00 PM
11/26/2022 Malaga 08:00 AM 10:00 PM
11/27/2022 Gibraltar 07:30 AM 02:00 PM
11/28/2022 Lisbon 01:00 PM
11/29/2022 Lisbon

When we booked the cruise listed below, and Tom noticed the above cruise for a back-to-back, starting in Athens on November 19, 2022, a mere 14 months from now, he suggested we also book this cruise, adding 10 more days to our itinerary.  It may not seem like adding 10 days is a significant benefit, but with our desire to cruise as much as we can afford over the next few years, added some cruise ports we’ve yet to visit, it made all the sense in the world.

On this same ship, on 11/29/2022, we’ll change cabins and continue on the even more exciting second leg of this cruise, Lisbon to Cape Town, enabling us to return to South Africa and Marloth Park for a possible six more months with one visa stamp required for each of us, after the first three months.

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, this cruise, which we’d booked in the past and was canceled due to Covid-19, now has a slightly different itinerary but still fulfills our goals of visiting more countries in Africa and, above all, ending in Cape Town, South Africa on December 20, 2022, where will stay for a few nights and then head back to Marloth Park.

Here is the price summary of this first cruise. Notice the high amounts for taxes and fees.

Price Summary
Traveler 1 Traveler 2 Total
Cruise Package $3,439.00 $3,439.00 $6,878.00
Taxes and Fees $175.97 $175.97 $351.94
Total Package Price $3,614.97 $3,614.97 $7,229.94

Based on previous bookings, we’ll need to change cabins between the two cruises. This isn’t a problem for us. We can pack and unpack in a matter of about 30 minutes. Below is the itinerary for the second cruise on the same ship:

 Azamara
21 Nights – Azamara (Lisbon – Cape Town)
Cruise Line: Azamara
Ship Name: Azamara Journey Star Rating
Cruise Length: 21 NightsDeparture Date: 11/29/2022
Embarkation Port: Lisbon, PortugalReturn Date: 12/20/2022
Disembarkation Port: Cape Town, South Africa
Sailing Itinerary
Date Port of Call Arrival Departure
11/29/2022 Lisbon 05:00 PM
11/30/2022 Cruising
12/01/2022 Funchal 08:00 AM 06:00 PM
12/02/2022 Tenerife 01:00 PM 10:00 PM
12/03/2022 Cruising
12/04/2022 Cruising
12/05/2022 Dakar 08:00 AM 08:00 PM
12/06/2022 Banjul 07:30 AM 03:00 PM
12/07/2022 Cruising
12/08/2022 Cruising
12/09/2022 Abidjan 01:30 PM 07:00 PM
12/10/2022 Takoradi 08:00 AM 06:00 PM
12/11/2022 Cruising
12/12/2022 Cruising
12/13/2022 Cruising
12/14/2022 Luanda 08:00 AM 04:30 PM
12/15/2022 Cruising
12/16/2022 Cruising
12/17/2022 Walvis Bay 06:30 AM 10:00 PM
12/18/2022 Cruising
12/19/2022 Cruising
12/20/2022 Cape Town 06:00 AM

Here is the price summary of this first cruise.

Price Summary
Traveler 1 Traveler 2 Total
Cruise Package $7,439.00 $7,439.00 $14,878.00
Taxes and Fees $351.04 $351.04 $702.08
Total Package Price $7,790.04 $7,790.04 $15,580.08

This second cruise is more expensive, based on its 21-nights as opposed to the first cruise’s 10 nights.

Also, for each of these two cruises, by booking through Costco, using our US $60/year (ZAR 878) membership card we’d purchased while in the US only a few months ago, we are receiving the following Costco gift cards: the first one for  US $545 (ZAR 7743) and the second for US $1210 (ZAR 17192).
So far, after booking five cruises through Costco, we’ve accumulated US $4390 (ZAR 62047). We still get all the perks offered by the cruise line as if we’d booked directly through them or another agency. The gift cards are added perks only offered by Costco. As mentioned in an earlier post, gift cards cannot be used for future cruises, rental cars, and airfare, although some package tours may be possible. We have no doubt we won’t have trouble finding products for which we’ll use the gift cards. Also, customers won’t receive the gift cards until a few weeks after each cruise has sailed for obvious reasons.
These two cruises each offer US $1000 (ZAR 14137) cabin credit to be used at our discretion during the cruises. Premium drinks are included, along with taxes and gratuities. Most likely, we’ll use a portion of the cabin credits for unlimited  WiFi for two devices.
Of course, all of the above is subject to the status of the pandemic at the time of sailing. One never can plan anything for certain during times of Covid-19.
There they are, folks, our two new bookings. At this point, we have eight cruises booked, but we are questioning if the first three cruises around Japan, upcoming in February 2022, will be canceled due to Covid-19. As always, only time will tell.
Dare to go for the adventure! We’ve all sat around too much!
Photo from one year ago today, September 9, 2020:
This photo was posted one year ago while in hotel lockdown for 10 months in Mumbai, India, on day #170. This batch of vegetables was KES (Kenya Shillings) $150, US $1.72. The more we travel, the more we are amazed by the lower cost of food in other countries compared to the US. For more photos, please click here.

New bookings…We’re excited for the future!…To vaccinate or not…

Flowers blooming in the front garden on a cloudy day.

Right now, there is nowhere in the world that appeals to us more than the countries we’ll see on cruises we’ve never sailed on in the past. For us, visiting new countries adds so much to our worldwide experiences. During the pandemic, seeing countries via cruises might prove to be easier and more sensible than flying all over the world.

The long delays at airports, layovers, and packed airplanes seem riskier than mingling about a cruise ship, especially if every passenger must be vaccinated. Although some cruise lines are allowing a certain percentage of unvaccinated passengers, looking at the future, that option may be a thing of the past. No vaccination? No cruise!

In essence, whether we agree with this philosophy or not becomes irrelevant in today’s world. The bigger question is; how badly do we want to participate in certain venues allowing us to experience a wide array of travel options? Or, would we rather stay put and let this pandemic dictate what we can and can’t do regarding travel?

These look like gladiolus. Spring is in the air.

If we wanted to continue with our journey, we had no choice but to be vaccinated. We weren’t going to deny ourselves the opportunity to continue with our travel dreams to make a social point that no one would care about anyway. As many stand firm, avoiding the jab, they may just be preventing themselves from engaging in the world’s vast offerings. And for what? To rally for personal freedoms?

We’d feel more like prisoners if we weren’t allowed to fly on an airplane, attend a concert, or, in our case, keep traveling the world. Life is short. We are old. We don’t want to spend the “golden years” locked down, in quarantine, and unable to participate in the activities we’ve chosen in the past.

Are there risks in getting vaccinated? Yes, most certainly. But the risks for us are no greater than the risks we’ve taken over our almost nine years of world travel, being vaccinated (along with boosters) for dozens of potentially lethal illnesses that could befall us while traveling from country to country. Yes, although minor, we had a few reactions to some of them that never required medical care. We never felt the government of anyone else was trying to “control us.”

Peculiar bulbs growing out of a cactus plant.

As my favorite motivational speaker, Anthony Robbins, always stated in his seminars and books:

“THE POWER OF REFRAMING

Perspective is a powerful thing. When you can reframe a particular experience or interaction, you can often change what happens as a result.” 

This message hit home with me when I attended many of his seminars in the 1980s and 1990s. It’s not always easy to change our perspective, but when we’re seeking a different outcome, it becomes our only option if fulfillment and happiness is our main objective.

So, as world travelers, we decided to toss aside the temptation to surround ourselves with conspiracy theories and do exactly what makes us the most fulfilled and happy. For now, it was being vaccinated and continuing our exquisite world journey.

These look like inpatients, which are popular for shady areas in the US.

With our changed perspective, we’ve decided that cruising provides us with the highest degree of satisfaction during times of Covid-19 and, as we’ve done most recently, spend precious time in one of our favorite places in the world Marloth Park, South Africa.

Thus, in achieving this perspective, yesterday we booked two more cruises, the second of which sails to Cape Town, South Africa, arriving on December 20, 2022, a mere 15½ months from now. From Cape Town, where we’ll spend a day or two, we’ll fly to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport and drive the 90 minutes back to Marloth Park.

No words can express how thrilled we are with this new plan. Yesterday, we informed Louise we’ll be back before Christmas in 2022, and to save this house for us. We hope to stay another six months, with only one side trip required to renew our visas. No, we don’t know how the pandemic will roll out over the next few years. But we choose optimism. We choose hope. We choose to not allow this pandemic to hold us back any further.

Spending ten months in lockdown in a hotel room in Mumbai, India taught us something that remains profound today…seek to live every day to the fullest, seek to accept situations over which we have no control, and seek to embrace each other and the gift of travel we’ve chosen as our fate during these waning years of life.

Tomorrow, we’ll share the pricing, itinerary, and information on these two new bookings. Thank you for being here with us.

Photo from one year ago today, September 8, 2020:

This photo was from Almanara Resort’s restaurant in Diani Beach, Kenya, in 2013, posted one year ago while in lockdown in Mumbai, India, on day #169. This amazing array of seafood was all grilled and seasoned to perfection. It contained lobster, prawns, octopus, squid, snapper, and a few chewy wormy-looking items I didn’t recognize but ate anyway. Need I say that I cleaned this plate as well? For more photos, please click here.

A new cruise booking…

Detailed map of voyage route
The cruise itinerary, beginning in Leith, Scotland in August 2023, will end in Amsterdam, 16 days later.

Right now, for us, it seems cruises are a logical choice for much of our future travels. That’s not to say we won’t stay in various countries along the way. The plan is again to use cruising to get from location to location, enabling us to stay in holiday homes near the embarkation and debarkation points.

We both have been interested in spending time in Scotland. For example, this newly booked cruise beginning in Scotland will be an excellent place to stay before the cruise. The UK allows us to stay for 180 days without a need for a visa extension. However, Norway and Europe are all a part of the Schengen visa, which only allows us to stay for 90 days.

As for the cruise ending in Amsterdam, it was in August 2019 that we were there for three or four days before a cruise. And had time to do some sightseeing. We were there six months after I’d had open-heart surgery and subsequently two surgeries on each of my legs due to an infection. I had an awful time walking the streets of Amsterdam, but somehow we managed to see quite a bit of the lovely city, including a boat ride on the canals.

We doubt we’ll stay in Amsterdam based on that visit, but many other exciting locations are within a short flight. In the future, we’ll begin booking vacation homes on either end of this cruise and the other five cruises we currently have booked.

Tom has always shown interest in this particular cruise, and as our official cruise planner, I didn’t hesitate when he suggested we book this cruise, although it was more expensive than most cruises we’ve been on in the past nine years. Once again, we booked this cruise through Costco and will receive a gift card for booking through them for over US $1280, ZAR 18451. We can use the gift cards tfor online and store purchases at any Costco store.

These gift cards cannot be used for future travel but certainly may be used to purchase any other products they carry, such as phones, laptops, and much more. I am sure we won’t have any trouble finding products we’ll need somewhere along the line.

The total cost of this cruise for the two of us is US $16,275, ZAR 234,559 (based on today’s value of the rand).  The cruise includes an upgraded balcony cabin on the Azamara Journey, tips, drinks, and WiFi for one device. Once we board we’ll pay for WiFi for a second device. Shore excursions are extra.

Following is the full itinerary for this cruise:

Sailing Itinerary
Date Port of Call Arrival Departure
08/01/2023 Leith 08:00 PM
08/02/2023 Cruising
08/03/2023 Stavanger 08:00 AM 08:00 PM
08/04/2023 Haugesund 08:00 AM 02:00 PM
08/05/2023 Olden 08:00 AM 08:00 PM
08/06/2023 Alesund 08:00 AM 10:00 PM
08/07/2023 Cruising
08/08/2023 Svolvaer 07:00 AM 05:00 PM
08/08/2023 Trollfjord 06:30 PM 07:00 PM
08/09/2023 Tromso 12:00 PM 10:00 PM
08/10/2023 Honningsvag 01:00 PM 08:00 PM
08/10/2023 North Cape 11:59 PM 11:59 PM
08/11/2023 Alta 09:00 AM 05:00 PM
08/12/2023 Harstad 10:00 AM 08:00 PM
08/13/2023 Bodo 08:00 AM 05:00 PM
08/14/2023 Trondheim 01:30 PM 10:00 PM
08/15/2023 Cruising
08/16/2023 Cruising
08/17/2023 Amsterdam 06:00 AM

We are excited about this cruise. This booking added to our other cruise bookings provides us with a total of six cruises booked at this time. However, some of the cruises scheduled for 2022 may be canceled due to Covid-19. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.

This smaller ship, the Azamara Journey, carries a total of 690 passengers, as opposed to thousands on many other cruise ships. We both enjoy smaller cruise ships much more than the huge ships on our other preferred cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean and Celebrity.

Of these six upcoming cruises, three are on Celebrity Solstice, two on Azamara Onward (also 690 passengers) and now the one on the Journey. These Azamara cruises will be our first experience with this cruise line. We’ve sailed several times on Celebrity Sol, which has a passenger capacity of 2850 but has always had great experiences.

It feels good to be booking plans for the future, although we accept the reality that anything can change with cruising during times of the pandemic. We continue to pay attention as to how cruising is going throughout the world in light of Covid but only time will tell.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, September 3, 2020:

DSC03394
These photos were posted one year ago while in lockdown in Mumbai, India on day #164. Tom at Stonehenge in England in 2014. For more, please click here.
DSC03395
Me, at Stonehenge England in 2014. These photos were posted one year ago while in lockdown in Mumbai, India on day #164. For more, please click here.

Part 2…We’re back to booking future travels!!!…Building a new itinerary…

Azamara Onward, with a capacity of 692 passengers.In yesterday’s post, we wrote about building a new itinerary, as shown at this link. We are excited for the future after a long travel hiatus due to Covid-19, as more and more cruises and countries open up. Also, we have now been vaccinated with the two-week window of increasing protection from the virus; our spirits and enthusiasm are growing exponentially.

It’s been a long time since we were busy logging information into our  Excel spreadsheet with all the information relevant to each particular cruise. Yesterday, it was fun for us to work together compiling pertinent data on these two cruises to plug into the fields on the “cruise sheet” in our travel data workbook.

We have three cruises in and around Japan, beginning on February 27, 2022, the first leg departing from Singapore, before these newly booked Azamara cruises. The Japan cruises are all on Celebrity Solstice, one of our favorite cruise ships on which we’ve sailed many times. It would be fun to experience that ship once again. However, we’re anticipating those cruises will be canceled.

Why are we surmising the Japan cruises will be canceled? With the Olympics starting on July 23, ending on August 8, 2021, it will be interesting to see if there’s been a spike in Covid-19, although spectators aren’t allowed. If there is a massive increase in cases in Japan, we expect these cruises will be canceled. Once again, we’ll be watching the stats on cases from Worldometer at this link.

Japan is currently in the #34 position worldwide, with the USA in the #1 for most cases and deaths. South Africa has moved up the list from the #20 position a few months ago to the #17 position. To see the stats for the numbers of vaccinations given worldwide, check this link.

Staying informed about the Covid-19 stats is very important to us now. It allows us to see where, most likely, we’ll be able to travel in the future. Then again, we’re heading back to South Africa with abysmal stats, with only 2.5% of the population vaccinated thus far.

Fortunately, Marloth Park is less populated and currently has a program in place to vaccinate residents. The question here is: How many residents will agree to get vaccinated when many have negative opinions of the safety and efficacy of the vaccine? That remains to be seen in months to come.

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, here is the pricing information for the two new cruise bookings for next June and July.  Also, see that post here for the many perks we got from booking with Costco:

CRUISE PRICING

Istanbul to Istanbul on June 29, 2022

Price Summary for 2 Travelers

Cruise Package $6,749.00 $2,699.00: Total $9,448.00

Taxes and Fees $345.06 $345.06 Total $690.12

Total Package Price $7,094.06 $3,044.06 Total $10,138.12

Payment Details

Total Package Price $10,138.12

Payment(s) Applied ($1,100.00)

Balance $9,038.12

Final Payment Due Date 02/15/2022

The second leg of our back-to-back cruise from July 10 to July 20, 2022 itinerary is as follows:  (See yesterday’s post for the itinerary for the June 29, 2022 cruise from Istanbul to Istanbul):

Date Port of Call Arrival Departure
07/10/2022 Istanbul 06:00 PM
07/11/2022 Cruising
07/12/2022 Kavala 06:30 AM 08:00 PM
07/13/2022 Thessaloniki 08:00 AM 08:00 PM
07/14/2022 Volos 07:30 AM 06:00 PM
07/15/2022 Mykonos 08:00 AM 06:00 PM
07/16/2022 Rhodes 08:00 AM 10:00 PM
07/17/2022 Thira/Santorini 08:00 AM 10:00 PM
07/18/2022 Heraklion 08:00 AM 08:00 PM
07/19/2022 Nafplion 09:00 AM 06:00 PM
07/20/2022 Athens/Piraeus 05:00 AM

Istanbul to Athens on July 10, 2022

Price Summary for 2 Travelers

Cruise Package  $5,199.00  $2,079.00  $7,278.00

Taxes and Fees  $201.57  $201.57 $403.14

Total Package Price  $5,400.57  $2,280.57  $2,280.57

Payment(s) Applied ($1,100.00)

Balance $6,581.14

Final Payment Due 02/26/2022

Yesterday morning we visited dear friend Sue and had a fantastic time!.  Later Tom went to his sister Mary’s home for their usual Thursday evening barbecue while I went with Greg and the three grandchildren to dinner at Champs, followed by a movie, “Black Widow.” We all had a lot of fun. When Greg dropped me back at the hotel, Tom had returned to the hotel and came outside to say goodbye.

The time in Minnesota has come to an end. Without a doubt, this was one of the best visits we’ve had to the US over the past almost nine years. Everything fell into place, and we had continuing opportunities to spend with family members. Now, as I wrap up this post to upload in a few minutes, we’re heading out the door to drive to Milwaukee to see Sister Beth.

On Sunday night, we’ll return to Minneapolis to take our flight to Las Vegas, Nevada. We decided to return here to save on the cost of the car rental fee by returning it to the same location and better flights and times for Las Vegas.

The next time we write will be tomorrow morning from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Be content.

Photo from one year ago today, July 16, 2020:

Please note: all of our year-ago photos are reposts we utilized while in lockdown in India for ten months. At this point of this post, we’d been in lockdown for 115 days—a view of the cemetery in Boveglio, Italy, in 2013, from the iron railing. For more photos, please click here.

Part 1…We’re back to booking future travels!!!…Building a new itinerary…

Yesterday, we not only booked the cruise on the Black Sea but also booked the “back-to-back” (the next cruise, on the day of arrival), which we’ll share in tomorrow’s post. Tomorrow is a travel day for us as we make our way to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to see Tom’s sister, Sister Beth, where we’ll spend two days in a hotel.

I will certainly use the workout facility.

As for the itinerary for this ship, see below:

Azamara

11 Nights – Azamara (Istanbul – Round Trip)

Cruise Line: Azamara

Ship Name: Azamara Onward Not Yet Rated

Cruise Length: 11 Nights

Departure Date: 06/29/2022

Embarkation Port: Istanbul, Turkey

Return Date: 07/10/2022

Disembarkation Port: Istanbul, Turkey

Sailing Itinerary

Date Port of Call Arrival Departure

06/29/2022 Istanbul 06:00 PM

06/30/2022 Varna/Bulgaria 08:00 AM 08:00 PM

07/01/2022 Burgas 08:00 AM 08:00 PM

07/02/2022 Constanta 07:00 AM 08:00 PM

07/03/2022 Odessa/Ukraine 09:30 AM

07/04/2022 Odessa/Ukraine 08:00 PM

07/05/2022 Cruising

07/06/2022 Sochi 08:00 AM 09:00 PM

07/07/2022 Batumi 08:00 AM 05:00 PM

07/08/2022 Cruising

07/09/2022 Istanbul 08:00 AM

07/10/2022 Istanbul

Once we arrive back in Istanbul, Turkey, we’ll move to another cabin on the same deck but on the opposite side of the ship for better viewing for the upcoming itinerary on this ship’s next leg for another ten days, July 10 to July 20, 2022, ending in Athens, Greece. We’ll include our costs for the balcony cabins for both cruises and the second leg’s itinerary in tomorrow’s post.

The theatre for nightly shows.

As for today, our last family day in Minnesota, Tom will be joining his family for the Thursday barbecue at his sister Mary’s home, while tonight, I’m going to a movie with Greg’s family. At 11:00 am this morning, we’re heading to visit our dear friend Sue, former neighbor and widow of our beloved, since deceased friend Chip, who passed away five months before we left in 2012. We hadn’t seen Sue since we were here in 2017 since she spends the winters in Florida. It will be wonderful to see her again.

This morning, Tom took our vaccination certificates to Office Max and had them make copies to be laminated and kept the originals to be amended for boosters in the future if required. Oddly, Office Max didn’t charge to do this. Go figure.

That’s it for today, folks. We’ll be back with more tomorrow, perhaps later in the day, completed after arriving at our hotel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, July 15, 2020:

Some flowers are continuing to bloom through the summer season, as is the case in this Alstroemeria. For more photos, please click here.

Memories from long ago…Boat ride on Lake Minnetonka…

It was wonderful to spend time with my son Greg and daughter-in-law Camille on the dinner cruise on Lake Minnetonka.

However, we decided it would be best to split up, and Tom would go with Tammy, and I’d go with Camille and Greg. It’s the way it is when we visit family in the US. At times, we have to split up to be with our respective family members. Of course, it would have been fantastic for both of us to attend both events. But, with their schedules, doing so doesn’t always work out that way.

Tom dropped me off at 5:15 pm at the Port of Excelsior at the Excelsior Commons, a beautiful park in the town of Excelsior on Lake Minnetonka, our former downtown area, when we lived in the area nine years ago. So many memories flooded my mind as we drove down Water Street in the sleepy, charming lake town. So much had changed and yet, so much was still the same.

Having lived in the area for 26 years and close by, in the city of Minnetonka for the prior 14 years, it was all so familiar. Years spent boating on the lake as a boat owner left me reeling at the thought that it was in 1977 when as a single mom and business owner, I purchased my first boat, later upgrading to larger boats.

Camille’s sister, Penny, joined us on the dinner cruise.

I remember being one of very few women in those days that drove a “twin-screw” (twin engine) boat on huge Lake Minnetonka, able to easily maneuver in and out of tight docks without a problem. In those days, that was unusual. With numerous restaurants located on the lake, my sons and I and often friends spent many weekends over the years on that lake, having the time of our lives.

Later, in 1991, when I met Tom, he, too, was a boater. As of 1986, I owned a house and lived on another nearby lake, Lake Minnewashta, where he and I enjoyed many years boating on the smaller lake, again enjoying every moment. Those days are long behind us.

There are countless estates on Lake Minnetonka, often valued in the tens of millions.

When we “boat” now, it’s on massive cruise ships. We’ve been on 27 cruises since the onset of our world travels in 2012 and have dearly missed being on the water during the past 18 months or so due to Covid-19. Hopefully, we’ll get our “sea-legs” once again soon when we can cruise again.

On a newer-looking, well-maintained houseboat, yesterday’s boat ride brought back memories from that life long ago. But, as we always say, we have no regrets. We chose to implement our lives on an entirely different path over the past almost nine years, and we’ve never looked back and regretted our choices or wondered “why” we did such a crazy thing.

It was fun chatting with Greg, Camille, and Penny, Camille’s sister (who took Tom’s place), during the two-hour dinner cruise. As expected, the food was mediocre, but the experience was pleasant and worthwhile and filled with memories as we sailed past houses I’d sold on the lake many moons ago and houses that had been re-built into massive mansions.

We were busy chatting, and I failed to make an effort to take many photos through the boat’s windows.

Close to 8:00 pm, I called Tom to see if he could pick me up at Greg and Camille’s house when he was done with dinner with Tammy and Tracy. As it turned out, they were wrapping up their get-together. We visited with Camille, Greg, and the kids for a little while, and then we were on our way back to our hotel for what proved to be a good night’s sleep.

Today, we’re heading to Tom’s sister Patty’s home to play “dice” and stay for dinner. However, Tom will drive me to a local pub and drop me off to see my dear old friend and business partner, Theresa. I’ll spend a few hours with her, and Tom will pick me up later when I call him at Patty’s. With our busy schedule, we have to double up on a few events to see some of our friends and the family.

There are many stunning properties on lakes in Minnesota.

We’ll then head back to Patty’s and finish the evening with his siblings, spouses, and other family members. No doubt, it will be another good day, filled with fun interactions with people we love and have missed over the years we’ve been gone.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with more when we have another action-packed day as we celebrate Camille’s birthday at a favorite restaurant from our past.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, July 12, 2020:

In Queensland, Australia, Double Island made us curious about what it would be like to visit. Here are the details of visiting Double Island. We posted this photo on Day #111 in lockdown in Mumbai, India. For more photos, please click here.

Day #270 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Replay of fabulous food photos from cruise…

This window box display was a part of the “Favorites” choice on the menu at Qsine on the Celebrity Infinity in 2017.

Today’s photos are from our post on this date in 2017 while sailing on the Celebrity Infinity along the coast of South America, and dining in the fantastic specialty restaurant, Qsine. For more photos not shown here today, please click here.

Sharing these food photos for the second time, under our current situation, is certainly going to be a mouth-watering experience. To think in less than a month, we’ll be preparing and dining our own meals, one of the many highlights of getting out of here.

Tom dined on one of these “Lava Crab” dishes which I avoided due to the flour content. He described it as outstanding.

As we are reminded of the exceptional dinner we had on that cruise in 2017 and how much fun specialty restaurants are on cruises, we wonder when we’ll ever be able to cruise again. The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine may be influential in re-starting cruises in some countries, but many poor countries won’t offer such a luxury.

If any of the cruise lines with whom we have five booked cruises into 2022, requires evidence of a vaccine, we may be out of luck. Africa will be one of the last continents to have access to the vaccine. We’ll see how that rolls out in time. If we were to fly to another continent at some point to receive the vaccine, we’d have to stay three weeks for the second dose.

Tom was holding his menu tablet while deciding what to order at the Qsine specialty restaurant while at sea on Celebrity Infinity. There were nine Celebrity ships offering this exceptional dining experience.

Perhaps in time, they’ll come up with a single dose vaccine that will make it easier for those in similar situations to ours. If we decide to continue on our world travels for considerably longer, we’ll have no choice but to return to the US to receive the vaccine. Maybe we can do so next time we visit family, which we’ll do once the virus settles down in the US.

From this report, updated daily, the USA has 23% of the world’s cases and 19% of the deaths. Considering that statistics are being recorded in 220 countries and territories, this is an outrageous number. As we’ve mentioned many times in past posts, returning to the US at any time in the near future is entirely out of the question.

From the “Sushi ” choice were these “lollipops.” Although we didn’t order this option, we loved this gorgeous presentation.

As for today’s photos, our topic returns to food. Yesterday, while I was working on the errors in past posts, of which I’m only one-third of the way through the over 3000 posts, I encountered comments I’d made about a reader commenting that they were sick and tired of my food comments and recipes. Hum, isn’t traveling in part about dining in one way or another?

When most of us travel, one of the first things on the agenda is checking out the local cuisine, booking reservations from highly rated TripAdvisor reviews, visiting local food trucks, cafes, and diners, and also the possibility of the safety of eating street food? How many of us while dining out during a holiday/vacation has entered a grocery store to check out the cultural differences in food, pricing, and at times, to purchase snacks, liquor, or treats?

Many items from the “Soup & Souffle” menu were served “tapas” style, small servings such as these two souffle chefs Chantal prepared for me.

That’s a big part of the enjoyment of traveling. And even me, with my limited options due to my way of eating, it’s still quite enjoyable to dine out, purchase groceries, and to prepare our own meals while living in holiday homes. Oh, well, that was only one reader and I’m sure by now, they no longer read our posts at all, especially after our boring content over the past nine months.

If they thought “food” was boring, how about our frequent comments, whining, and observations about living under these most peculiar circumstances? As our long-term and new readers know, we strive to “tell it like it is” and not pander to those who may prefer a more “fluffy version” of our lives.

The “Taco Royale” presentation could easily have been a full meal for me with its make-your-own guacamole and beef taco salad.

Sure, this meal we’re sharing today in photos, looks stupendous, and we’d love to be able to savor such a meal now. But, we can’t. Instead, we focus on the fact that soon enough, we’ll be preparing big juicy rare/medium-rare steaks on the braai with a cocktail or glass of wine in hand, sweating up a storm on the veranda, batting off the flies and mozzies, and smiling from ear to ear. Hopefully, in a little over 25 days, when we depart India for South Africa.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, December 18, 2019:

From this site: “The famous fountain in Fountain Hills, Arizona: Built-in 1970 by Robert McCulloch the fountain is one of the largest fountains in the world! The fountain sprays water for 15 minutes every hour at the top of the hour. The fountain uses 7,000 gallons per minute and at its full height, it can reach 560 feet in the air. The plume rises from a concrete water-lily sculpture in the center of a man-made lake. At its full height of 560 feet, the fountain in the center of Fountain Hills is higher than the Washington Monument. It is 10 feet taller than Notre Dame Cathedral, 110 feet higher than the Great Pyramid of Cheops in Egypt and three times as high as Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park. The white plume of the world-famous fountain is visible far beyond Fountain Hills. It can be seen from as far away as the Superstition Mountains, Carefree and even from aircraft. The fountain is the focal point for community celebrations and the pride of its residents. If you happen to visit during the St. Patrick’s Day celebration, you’ll see the fountain transform to emerald green. The Fountain is extended to its full height on special occasions, for every day viewing the Fountain reaches a height of 330 feet! The World Famous Fountain runs every hour on the hour for 15 minutes from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. every day of the week! This fountain is a celebration of life and water where it is most appreciated – in the middle of the desert.” For more from the year-ago post, please click here.

Day #269 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Ushuaia, the most southerly city in the world…

The sign reads, “fin del mundo,” the end of the world.

Today’s photos are from this date in 2017 when our ship was sailing the coast of South America and docked in Ushuaia, Argentina for the day. For more photos, please click here.

It was quite a day when our ship docked in Ushuaia, Argentina when only a little more than a month later we flew back to this amazing city to board our cruise to Antarctica for a fantastic expedition to see the wonders of our seventh continent we’d yet to see.

We were bundled up in Ushuaia. It was cold!

We decided to stay in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where the cruise ended on December 23, 2018, for a month while awaiting the Antarctica cruise, staying in a boutique hotel in the lovely Palermo district where we were able to go sightseeing and dine out on a daily basis. As we continue here through the holiday season, most likely we’ll repost photos from that month while spending Tom’s birthday (December 23rd), Christmas eve and day, and New Year’s eve and day in Buenos Aires.

We stayed in that hotel from December 23, 2017, until January 24, 2018, to then fly back to Ushuaia, the most southerly city in the world, to board Ponant Le Boreal (a luxury French ship/cruise line) to sail deep into Antarctica. It’s funny how we recall how challenging it was to be stuck in that hotel for a month, especially during the holidays.

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

It’s ironic, that now after nine months in this hotel how much we appreciated going out for walks, to dine, to see the sights in the fantastic area. Little did we know at the time, we’d be in a hotel with no freedom of movement, 10 times longer. Wow!

This morning while walking I encountered a man coming out of his room, asking him to pull his mask over his face. He was very kind and we began chatting. He is an executive on a two-month stint in Mumbai opening a new location for his worldwide company and he, too, was appalled by how few Indian people wear masks.

It was almost summer in Ushuaia, but it was cold and the mountains were still snow-capped.

It was nice chatting with someone after all these months and made me realize how hungry we’ve been for companionship and conversation with others. No offense intended for each other. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our daily interactions between the two of us. But, it will be nice to chat with others.

Many of our friends in Marloth Park mention on Facebook about getting together once we arrive. It will be an entirely new experience for us. Of course, we’ll exercise the utmost of the usual precautions, wearing face masks, no hugging, social distancing, and most likely not dining together, as we’d done in the past.

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

Customarily, in South Africa, when people get together, they each bring their own beverages in a “chill box,” whether it’s a happy hour gathering or a dinner party. In these cases, it’s helpful that no one touches one another’s beverages and glasses, further reducing the risk of infection. I am sure we’ll figure it all out, especially by ensuring we gather in small groups only.

On the agenda today? We are going to book two more months for the rental car, so by the time we arrive at the Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger airport, we’ll sign all three contracts, paying in advance,  providing us with insurance on the rental cars included on our credit cards (in increments of one month). If this works, we’ll avoid the two-hours (round trip) driving time every 30 days to return the car and get a new contract. We’ll see if this works and report back later.

Most of the town is centered around seaport enterprises.

As for the remainder of today? It will be the “usual.” We’re really enjoying watching the series, “The Crown” on Netflix after dinner each night. One of our thoughtful readers sent us a message suggesting we watch, “Call the Midwife.” We’ll give that series a try this afternoon when we wind down for the day and of course, wind down to the 26 days until we depart India!

May your day be safe and pleasant.

Photo from one year ago today, December 17, 2019:

Tom and I and Jerry and Vicki in Arizona last year. It was amazing to see them so many years later. We met them in January 2015 in Kauai, Hawaii. For more, please click here.

Day #268 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Another day in the life…

This rock formation connotes where the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans meet at Cape Horn.

Today’s photos are from this date in 2017 while on a cruise along the coast of South America, where we sailed around Cape Horn on our way to the most southerly city in the world Ushuaia. For the story, please click here.

In the above-mentioned post, we wrote: “It was only 6:00 am when we were situated in Cafe al Bacio drinking our favorite coffee. The ship is humming with announcements over the loudspeaker with the enthusiasm of the passengers palpable as we sail from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean via Cape Horn, South America.”

Evening photo. The sun didn’t fully set until almost 11:00 pm.

It was another of those great adventures that some may dismiss as interesting and moderately eventful, but for us, it was another of those profound, memorable milestones as a part of our world travels. Many such experiences befell us when we had never even considered such possibilities.

Alas, our travels at any time could bestow upon us, yet another experience that we carry into the future. Each day, as we search for the repeat photos from past travels to share in the newest post, we continually encounter many such events that make us smile and feel grateful for what we’ve encountered during the past eight years.

Tom said he was nearly blown away by high winds when he took this photo in the early morning as we approached Cape Horn.

We wonder, what will we remember of these 10 months in this hotel room, by the time we leave in January? What did we discover? About life? About ourselves? About confinement such as this?

Ideally, we’ll walk away from here with a plethora of new perspectives, emotions, and insights. At the moment, it’s difficult for us to embrace such thoughts when the majority of our daily lives center around telling other guests to wear a face mask. It’s absolutely outrageous!

Rock formations at Cape Horn.

Our frustration is palpable. Tom does most of his exercises in one fell swoop so he deals with it during that 40-minute segment. I walk every half hour, occasionally longer to accomplish my 5 miles, 8 km, throughout the day. I realize this issue might be less annoying if I finished all my walking at one time. But, I’ve found getting up and moving around at least once an hour, has a better health benefit for me, helping to reduce pain and stiffness from sitting too long.

This morning, when our room was being cleaned, we both took off some exercise in the corridors. Immediately, we both encountered a group of three guests blocking the corridor. None of them was wearing a face mask. From a distance of about 15 feet, 5 meters I kindly said, “Please put on a face mask!”. They didn’t move. Tom was ahead of me. They didn’t respond, move, or put on face masks.

Map of the most southerly tip of South America, Cape Horn, where we sailed.

Behind us were several cleaning carts blocking the corridor, making turning around nearly impossible. When they didn’t respond, Tom, in dire frustration, faked a massive sneeze accidentally knocking his glasses off his face. He was hoping they’d learn to want to protect themselves from others. He managed to get past them. Next, it was my turn. But as I passed, one yelled out to me, “Hey, this is yours!” The man handed me Tom’s eyeglasses which had flown off his head during the fake sneeze. Apparently, Tom hadn’t noticed this.

My first concern was I was holding Tom’s glasses in my left hand, my phone with earbuds in my right hand. Yuck! I had touched something from the hand of a person who didn’t and wouldn’t wear a face mask, possibly the most likely COVID-19 carrier. I chased Tom down. He wasn’t even aware that his glasses were gone! I suppose the face mask on his face prevented him from feeling that his glasses had flown off.

Many rock formations are named but with the slow Wi-Fi right now we’re unable to do much research.

As I caught up with him, I handed him his glasses and immediately turned on my heels to head back to our room to wash my hands. I encouraged Tom to do the same, but when we reached the room, the cleaner was on his hands and knees washing the bathroom floor. I didn’t care. I kindly asked him to leave so we could wash our hands. He complied.

Ah, we’re only 27 days from leaving this hotel room to head to the Mumbai International Airport for South Africa. The days can’t come soon enough. In Marloth Park right now there are daily power outages resulting in WiFi outages (load shedding from the electric company), horribly high temperatures, zillions of insects, including malaria-carrying mosquitos, snakes (commonly seen in the summer months, often entering houses), and from the comments we’ve seen on Facebook, occasional water outages. Bring it on, baby! We’re ready to take it on!

Cape Horn is not one single spot. It’s a series of islands and rock formations.

Stay safe, please.

Photo from one year ago today, December 16, 2019:

Even those residents with RVs in the park in Apache Junction, Arizona, may have fruit trees such as this orange tree in their front yards. For more, please click here.