Part 1, Iceland 4×4 rough roading tour…A geothermal hot bed…

We apologize for the poor quality of today’s and tomorrow photos of Iceland. It was pouring rain, the windows in the vehicle were fogged up on the inside and rainy on the outside. 

The highlight of the day was when the driver took us through the river traversing back and forth, water splashing up the sides and even the truck. It was a rough ride but fun, none the less. I couldn’t take a photo of the water splashing, which wasn’t visible with the windows closed. I quickly took this shot out the window when he stopped for a moment. We were deep in the river at points. Bouncy!
This was the 4×4 vehicle we used on the off-road tour of Iceland. Excuse the black lines on the edges. It was raining so hard the automatic lens cover got wet and wouldn’t fully open.
As we drove away from the port we spotted this KFC sign which read, “Svoogott.” Could that translate to “so good?

It was hard to believe that nine seniors, some older than us, decided to partake in the 4×4 off-road rough riding excursion up the high volcanic hills of Iceland.

Few trees grow in Iceland, most of which were destroyed during volcanic activity millennium ago.
Iceland felt barren in parts.  We could only imagine what winter would be like.  No thanks.

The vehicle, a souped-up combination of a Ford F350 with the back portion welded together with a Ford Excursion. The tires were huge with a “lift kit” making the vehicle so high, it was challenging for some passengers to get up and into.  

The view of Reykjavik from atop a high hill that we reached off-road. Lots of bouncing!
Another view of Reykjavik in the rain, fog, and clouds.
Final view of Reykjavik from our high vantage point.

Of course, after all of our various physical challenges these past few years it was a breeze for us. The idea of bouncing in the vehicle for three and a half hours didn’t intimate us after the roads in Africa including off-road riding on safari. 

It was raining hard when we took this photo of three fat or fluffy sheep.
Had it been a sunny day, a rarity in Iceland. It is clear or mostly clear only 14% of the days year-round. For the weather in Iceland, please click here.
Geothermal activity in Iceland is unbelievable. See this link for more information. The country/island of Iceland uses this energy to heat their homes and as a source of power in many other aspects.

It was pouring rain when we took off, the nine of us and guide/driver, a tall, fit 20-something, good looking Icelandic man with good English and thick accent. He shared many stories about Iceland with us including the fact that the island is a geothermal hot spot, considering the world’s most active volcano lies therein.

In many areas, the steam rose from the ground due to the activity of the tectonic plates. Overall, Iceland is an island where earthquakes and volcano eruptions are expected.
Evidence of volcanic activity is everywhere in the terrain.
Many of the hills are covered in green vegetation in summer and snow in the winters.

I’d had some preposterous notion that we’d see the volcano but it was too far away and the government wasn’t allowing anyone near it. It could erupt at any moment decimating miles of life in its path.

I asked the driver/guide to stop the vehicle for photos of Icelandic horses. They have short legs and a gentle disposition. No other types of horses are allowed on the island to avoid disrupting the purity of the species. Once an Icelandic horse leaves Iceland, it can never return.
Please click here for more information on Icelandic horses.

Had it not been pouring rain and so cold, we’d have more enjoyed this experience. The windows were fogged so badly it was nearly impossible to see the sites he pointed out as we drove off-road to various points of interest.  

After the first few hours on the tour, we stopped at a local shop for a break. These light fixtures are certainly appropriate for Iceland.
I caught Tom off guard at the shop. He was actually very cheerful.
Us girls are picky about the photos we share. Had Tom not badgered me, I wouldn’t have posted this one.

I was frustrated when I couldn’t take good photos while hindered by the fogged up windows on the inside and rain on the outside. On a few occasions, in desperation, I opened the window for less than 30 seconds to take a shot, aware that the people behind us were annoyed by the draft. 

While we were in the river. This reminded us of crossing over rivers and creeks when to rode from the Masai Mara in Kenya to Tanzania to see the tail end of the Great Migration a year ago October.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with photos of downtown Reykjavik and interesting landmarks that surprised us.

While we were moving fast on the river after Tom wiped off the window for me.
For a minute we were on land only to return to the river a moment later.
After we left the river, we headed back to the highway to return to Reykjavik. Tomorrow, we’ll share better photos of the city.

Photo from one year ago today, September 9, 2013:

Dining out at Sails Restaurant in Diani Beach, Kenya. This platter was for Tom only. For details of the date, please click here.

We’re in Iceland…The Arctic Ocean.. Iceland facts…Today’s exciting 4×4 adventure in Iceland…

We approached Iceland at noon on Sunday.

Few of us think about visiting Iceland. With its cold weather and long distance from most major cities, one may not make it the first choice when considering a vacation/holiday. We haven’t been this cold in almost two years.

Dense fog and cloud impeded the view upon entry into the port.

Reykjavik, located in the southwestern part of Iceland, is the capital and, is the largest city in Iceland making it the world’s northernmost capital of a sovereign state. Reykjavik’s population is roughly 200,000 with only 320,000 in the entire country.

Currently, we are at the port of Reykjavik. The city was founded in 1786 as an official trading town and grew steadily over the next decades as it transformed into a regional and later, national center of commerce. 

The Videyjarstofa house, where a restaurant is now located, was built in 1755 and is thus the first construction made of stone and cement in the country. The church was consecrated in 1774 and is the second oldest one still standing. The island became the seat of the first Icelandic treasurer and later the first Icelandic sub-governor. At the beginning of the 20th century, the country’s first harbor for ocean going vessels was built on the eastern past of the island from which a hamlet developed.

As we’ve all heard on the news of late, Iceland has the most active volcano in the world, the largest waterfall and glacier in Europe, the northern most botanical garden and golf course in the world. It is amongst the cleanest, greenest and safest cities in the world.

Most often, the view from the pier of any city isn’t as appealing as when touring inland.

Its population has the longest life expectancy in the world. Also Iceland had the first democratically elected female president in the world, Mrs. Vigdis Finnbogadottir. 

Yesterday, when we docked in Reykjavik, we noted that the sunrise is at 9:26 am with sunset at 11:22 pm. The temperature has been a cool rainy 50F, 10C, degrees. Over a half million tourists visit Iceland each year and numerous cruise ships such as ours visit the port of Reykjavik. Our layover has been for  29 hours until back out to sea at 5:00 pm.

We walked to an upper deck to take these few photos from the ship. Tomorrow, we’ll post photos from our 4×4 adventure, rain or shine.

Originally, Tom had booked a tour for us in Iceland, the private 9:30 pm Northern Lights tour with a small group of eight. Unfortunately, with the rain, dense fog, and clouds yesterday, the tour was canceled. There was no point in driving around in the dark and the rain until the scheduled 2:30 am return to ship.

Our preplanned tour of the Northern Lights was cancelled when the cloud stayed clouded and dense fog hung in the air.

In addition, we’d planned to catch a cab or shuttle to take us around the city and surrounding area. As it turned out, we didn’t choose to do so when Saturday night we booked a 10 passenger 4×4 photo “safari” tour to see many of the wonders of Iceland. The cost for the tour for both of us is US $379.50.

In our travels, we’ve learned that missing an opportunity for a particular event is no cause for frustration or disappointment. There are many magical unexpected treasures that surely make up for the loss of any other. 

Another view from the ship to awaiting transportation for ambitious cruise passengers who wanted to tour the city of Reykjavik.

We missed the Great Migration in Kenya by one week seeing only the tail end but, we had the best possible safari in the Masai Mara in Kenya, seeing the Big 5 in the first 10 hours. Our lives of travel is a matter of trade offs which we’ve come to expect and accept.

Today’s adventure on rough terrain is not for everyone. For us, after months of bumpy roads all over the world, we have no concern for the rugged nature of this outing. Hopefully, we’ll return to post tomorrow with many exciting photos and stories to share.

Fishing is huge industry in Iceland. Below is various fishing equipment.

Yesterday, we remained on the ship attempting to get caught up with some of our posts from my many days without connection to the Internet. The MiFi is working well and our signal is reasonably strong as I fast and furiously attempt to prepare many upcoming posts anticipating five full days at sea, beginning tonight at 5 pm with no working WiFi for my laptop. By using Tom’s laptop I’ll be able to continue to post over those five days.

The capital city of Reykjavik commonly known as a city where President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev met for talks at the former French Consulate in  October 1986.

We’ll be departing soon for the 4×4 tour excitedly anticipating a great day, rain or shine. Please check back tomorrow for our new photos of the city of Reykjavik as we make our way to the countryside on supposedly the rough terrain of Iceland.

No pier is particularly attractive from what we’ve seen on the past nine cruises.

In the interim, we’re having a fabulous time on this cruise. We’ve had one stunning moment after another meeting people, dining, watching live entertainment in the theatre and roaming about the ship checking out every nook and cranny. 

Please check back tomorrow for more on Iceland and perhaps a few unexpected surprises we hadn’t anticipated after all.

                                              Photo from one year ago, September 8, 2013:

This is the vegetable stand we visited a few times each week to purchase produce. The motorcycle in the photo is the means of transportation used by the farmer to deliver the produce daily. Organic and cheap, we enjoyed making purchased here although walking on the road from our house had its risks. For details of the story from this date, please click here.

Part 1, The journey continues…Itinerary additions…

Please see below for details of itinerary changes as we’ve filled in a four month gap in our planning.  Part 2 continues tomorrow.

Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas

Ship Rating: 

This ship will satisfy vacationers with the most active of interests as well as those who just want to relax and take it easy. Sports-minded passengers will love the two uppermost decks, which feature a putting green, a rock-climbing wall, a multi-purpose sports court and the ShipShape fitness center. At the Indian-themed solarium, relax in the whirlpool or take a swim while three 16-foot stone elephants stand guard. After being pampered at the full-service spa, head to the Pacifica Theatre for a star-studded show. Enjoy a variety of meals on board the Brilliance, served in the Minstrel main dining room, Chops Grille and the open-air Windjammer Cafe. Pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read and grab a cup o’ joe at the ship’s coffeehouse and bookstore, Books, Books and Coffee. In the Colony Club, you’ll find four theme clubs in one: The Bombay Billiard Club, Jakarta Lounge, Singapore Sling’s and the Calcutta Card Club. Brilliance of the Seas
 Ship Statistics 
Year Built 2002
Last Refurbished 2008
Tonnage 90,090 tons
Registry Bahamas
Length 962 feet
Beam 106 feet
Passenger Capacity 2,501
Crew Size 859
Total Inside Cabins 237
Total Outside Cabins 813
Cabins & Suites w/ verandas 577
Suites 64
Maximum Occupancy per room 8
Age Restrictions One person must be 21 or older
Dinner Seatings 2
Seating Assignments 
in Main Dining Room
Dining Hours 6:00 p.m. & 8:30 p.m.
Dining Room Dress Code Dining
Tipping Recommended? Yes
Tipping Guidelines Royal Caribbean will automatically add a $12.00 USD gratuity ($14.25 USD for Suite guests) to each guest’s onboard SeaPass® account on a daily basis. 15% tip included on beverage orders.
Onboard Currency US Dollar
Services & Amenities
Bars/Lounges 10
Beauty Salon/Barber Shop Yes
Casino Yes
Chapel Yes
Disco/Dancing Yes
Elevators Yes
Hot Tub 3
Cell Phone Service Yes
Internet Center Yes
Wireless Internet Access Yes
Note: Available in certain areas
Laundry/Dry Cleaning Yes
Library Yes
Movie Theatre Yes
Outdoor Movie Screen No
Onboard Weddings Yes
Self Serve Laundromats No
Shops Yes
Showroom Yes
Spa Yes
Video Arcade Yes
Fitness & Sports Facilities
Basketball Court Yes
Fitness Center Yes
Golf Driving Net No
Golf Simulator Yes
Ice Skating Rink No
Jogging Track Yes
Mini-Golf Course Yes
Rock Climbing Wall Yes
Swimming Pool 2
Note: 1 Heated
Tennis Court No
Water Sports Platform No
Cabin Features & Amenities
24-Hour Room Service Yes
Hair Dryer Yes
Safe Yes
Telephone Yes
Television Yes
Kids Facilities
Babysitting Yes
Children’s Playroom Yes
Kiddie Pool Yes
Supervised Youth Program Yes
Teen Center Yes
Special Needs & Requests
Adjoining Cabins
     (private connecting doors)
Kosher Meals Yes
Single Occupancy Cabins No
Single Share Program No
Wheelchair-Accessible Cabins 15


14 nights departing August 31, 2014 on Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas. Older ships typically have a lower star rating when in fact we’ve often found them to be come of favorites with the old Hollywood décor and ambiance.

As you can see, the cost for cruises increases substantially when adding taxes and tips. Plus, we’ll have additional charges for Internet access, alcohol and non included beverages (of which we have few). Iced tea, coffee, and hot tea are free.

As always, we’ve booked the balcony cabin, receiving the Past-Guest Rate. Here are our actual costs including taxes and tips.


Cruise (includes port charges) 3,978.00
C&A Member Discount – 200.00
Government Taxes* 282.70
Pre-Paid Gratuities 336.00

Total Sale (US$) $ 4,396.70

*subject to change by the cruise line.


Paid To Type Amount

Royal Caribbean CC 900.00

Total Payments (US$) $ 900.00
Balance Due (US$) $ 3,496.70

Final payment due June 10, 2014.

Cheapest Inside $1,549
Past-Guest Rate $1,499
Cheapest Oceanview $1,739
Past-Guest Rate $1,639

Cheapest Balcony $1,989
Past-Guest Rate $1,889
Cheapest Suite $4,199


Sun Aug 31 London (Harwich), England 5:00pm
Mon Sep 1 Paris (Le Havre), France 7:00am 9:00pm
Tue Sep 2 Portland, England 7:00am 4:00pm
Wed Sep 3 Cork (Cobh), Ireland 10:00am 4:30pm
Thu Sep 4 At Sea
Fri Sep 5 Klaksvik, Faroe Islands 9:00am 6:00pm
Sat Sep 6 At Sea
Sun Sep 7 Reykjavik, Iceland Noon
Mon Sep 8 Reykjavik, Iceland 5:00pm
Tue Sep 9 At Sea
Wed Sep 10 At Sea
Thu Sep 11 At Sea
Fri Sep 12 At Sea
Sat Sep 13 At Sea
Sun Sep 14 Boston, MA 6:00am

Filling in the gaps in our travels gives us an added sense of contentment and whole lot of peace of mind.  After all, isn’t that what all of us are striving to achieve in our lives whether we’re working or retired?

Some have said, “Wing it!” or “Wait until the last minute and see what deals you can get!”  Yea, try having no home, no car, no stuff other than what would fill a grocery cart and “WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE!!!” 

That might feel like being homeless with a bank account, thinking “Oh my, where am I going to stay tonight?”  For one of two nights that might work.  But, that’s not for us.

Besides, part of the fun in life is “anticipation,” the joy of plotting and planning, imagining the experience along with a sigh of relief when the event finally has begun to occur.  We love that part, too.  We love it all.

Shopping for “good deals” in advance becomes a vital element in the planning stages and later when the event is in process as we delight the good deals and time well spent.

As we’ve mentioned here in the past, we aren’t backpackers. Good for you brave souls out there who are! We don’t stay in hostels which usually works better for younger travelers.  We like creature comforts, many of which may be forfeited if waiting too long to book into the future. 

The gaps in our schedule:
Our time ending in Madeira, Portugal on August 1, 2014 to arrive in Hawaii on December 1, 2014, (where our kids will visit at Christmas), a gap of four full months.

Purposely, we’d left this time open, giving us the option to decide where we’d ultimately want to spend these four months while we’re still in Europe, hopefully ending in a transatlantic cruise as we’ll work our way back toward the US to Hawaii, a long haul.

How could we best expand our travel horizons while maneuvering our way toward Hawaii while seeing more of our amazing world in the process?  How could we make this leg of our journey meet our budgeting requirements?

We decided on one distinct fact:  We love to cruise as a means of transportation, giving us an opportunity to visit more ports of call.  Doing so, enables us to see more cities where eventually, we may chose to return for an extended visit. 

(I can’t get Mykonos, Greece or Dubrovnik, Croatia out of my mind after they were amazing ports of call.  For the reasons why, please type these city’s names, one at a time, into the “search” field on the right side of our main page and you’ll see our attraction to these cities when our posts and photos pop up).

After much discussion, along with Tom’s persistent online searches at Vacations to Go, with endless questions promptly answered by our loyal and knowledgeable rep, Joaquin, on Saturday we finally booked our 9th and 10th cruises since January 3, 2013.

As we’ll wind down our 2 1/2 month stay in the house overlooking the ocean on the island of Madeira from May 16, 2014 until August 1, 2014, here is a portion of our new plans:

  1. August 1, 2014:  Fly from Madeira Portugal to London, England (one way, under US $200 each!)
  2. August 1, 2014 to August 31, 2014: Stay in a vacation rental close to a train station away from the hustle and bustle of the city, preferably a house with character near the sea.  We’re searching for this now and will report back once we lock it in.
  3. August 31, 2014 to September 14, 2014:  Cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas from London to Boston, MA, USA  (see cruise information at the top of this post: the route, pricing and cruise details)
  4. September 14, 2014:  Stay in a hotel in the Boston area for 3 nights close to where we have family members that we are anxious to visit, our beloved cousin Phyllis and almost 94 year old, Uncle Bernie.

Another aspect of this cruise from London to Boston is the opportunity to see Paris, although only for a day.  Most likely, we’ll participate in the ship’s planned excursion to Paris which is easier than planning this short period piece by piece.  Also, Iceland has a particular appeal for both of us. 

And of course, Cork, Ireland which has a particular appeal for my Irish guy, Tom, who prior to our meeting had traveled to Ireland on two separate occasions, once to take his beloved Mother in 1989, who passed in 2008, for an entire month to go to Rome to see the Pope and travel Ireland, prior to her going totally blind.  This fact alone was instrumental in my falling in love with him, over 22 years ago.  Any guy who’d take his Mother on a month’s vacation, was my kind of guy. Now, look at him dragging me all over the world, never to disappoint!

At the moment, the rain is pelting.  We’d hoped to walk to the vegetable stand today. As is typical here in Kenya, the rain will stop but the sun will return in a short time. Soon, we’ll be on our way.

Thanks for stopping by, once again.  Much more to follow.