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Posts Tagged ‘cruise’

We had 5 days of amazing sunny weather, calm waters, blue skies – perfect vacation weather. And then Sandy decided to crash the party. The storm was north of us and headed towards the Bahamas. The captain announced that he was keeping a safe distance and was watching it closely. We followed it north and as day 6 came around, the clouds rolled in and we had some drizzles. The waves were minimal at this point. People were keeping an eye on the news – it was now a category 1 storm moving north and would pass Florida the day before we were supposed to dock in Port Canaveral.

Sure enough, on Friday afternoon, the captain announces that we won’t be docking Saturday morning as planned due to the rough waters. We would have another day at sea and hope to dock Sunday morning at 8am instead. Now, this announcement caused everyone on the ship that had flights Saturday to scramble to change their flights. We tried the phone in our room but all the lines were busy. We went for dinner, then went to Guest Services, stood in line for an hour and finally got to a working phone to change our flight.

While in line, we were hearing stories from various people and their airlines – Southwest had no flights leaving Orlando on Sunday, Delta was full…there was talk that flights to the eastern seaboard would be risky since that’s where Hurricane Sandy was headed. We kept our fingers crossed, finally spoke to an agent who got us on a flight with Air Canada on Sunday, the only space left was in Executive class, but we took it anyway – if we didn’t get home Sunday, who knows when flights would be landing in Toronto with the winds and weather coming their way…

Anyhow, $900 later, we had a new flight and all was well. We went to see the show and the boat was pretty rocky.

The next day, our extra day at sea, turned out to be sunny, a bit rocky, but WINDY! Before breakfast the wind was so strong we couldn’t even open our balcony door. At about 10am, the wind quieted down and we enjoyed the rest of the afternoon on the balcony enjoying the sun. It was still windy and the sea got progressively rougher as we sailed north towards Florida. I took a few pics of where things stood Saturday afternoon:

Circling off the coast of Miami

This was when the winds were still pretty tame – that’s about 54 miles per hour

Around and around and around….

We saw another ship (maybe circling like us) and noticed how it was rocking and dipping – our ship must have looked the same to them… There’s a video of it at the bottom of the post.

The Norwegian Sky passing us – she was rocking pretty bad

We laid down waiting for the motion sickness to pass, while listening to the wind and things sliding and clanging in the room and the hallway. Glasses slid back and forth on our shelf, hangers were banging in the closet, our shower door kept rattling, you heard the stewards out in the hallway with glasses and other things making a racket and falling over… It would have been funny if we didn’t feel so crappy. And to top it off, we still had to finish packing and put our luggage out for the porters…. Anyway. We didn’t sleep much that night and we finally docked the next morning, got off the ship, and I’ve never been so happy to be on land before.

Funny – even now, I still feel the sway of the ship and my motion sickness headache comes and goes. It was a good cruise, just bad timing with Sandy making her appearance.  If we were a day later, we probably would have been ok. We’re seriously considering avoiding that part of the world during hurricane season going forward though…

Here are some videos on YouTube of what it was like being on a cruise ship in the wake of a hurricane:

Watching the Norwegian Sky from the Carnival Dream:

We got to the airport, boarded our flight, there was a bit more turbulence than usual but we enjoyed our first class amenities and landed, glad to be home even though it was rainy and cold. The effects of the rough seas still lingered but it was nice to be home. 🙂

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During our cruise I vowed to never drink the same cocktail twice. Good plan eh? Ya, I thought so too. 🙂 Here’s some evidence of my quest:

Frozen Margarita

 

Frozen mango dacquiri

 

Cosmo!

 

A very minty Mojito

Frozen strawberry dacquiri

 

For dinner, we chose one of the wine packages (5 bottles for the week for $114) and we enjoyed wine every night. We chose a pinot noir, a shiraz, a pinot grigio, a merlot and a cab sauv. All very good.

As usual, there were several ships in the same ports as our ship. Now…with 4,000 passengers aboard., I thought our ship was pretty big. Then we saw this thing docked next to us in Nasssu that literally dwarfed all other ships:

Our ship is the one with the red funnel on top. Check out the beast which is the Oasis of the Seas – crazy!

When we docked in St. Thomas, I thought it was cloudy before I opened the curtains and realized it was just the Oasis next to us blocking the sun. Ha!

We’re very intrigued by that ship – it’s enormous!

And it wouldn’t be the same without a pic of the company logo of the firm I work at – we have offices all over the world and it’s always fun to see it:

I wanted a picture of the sign in the background…

 

BDO! Woohoo! 🙂

 

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Our first stop was in Nassau in the Bahamas. The weather was beautiful and we were looking forward to a relaxing beach day. We spent the day at the Blue Lagoon, relaxing, reading, drinking margaritas. We also had lunch there – very good start to our vacation. 🙂

Here we are on the ferry on the way to the Blue Lagoon:

Paradise 🙂

Love the colors…and the sun…

Our second stop was in St. Thomas where we did the Helmet Dive at Coral World which was AWESOME!!! I didn’t have an underwater camera but did buy the pic they took of us underwater. They basically put this helmet on you, it just sits on your shoulders and creates that negative air pressure (kind of like when you put a cup upside down in water – it creates an air pocket) and they pump air into each helmet so you can breathe normally – no scuba gear, no mask, nothing. Your hair doesn’t even get wet, you can wear your glasses, you can reach inside your helmet to move your hair out of the way or pinch your nose to unblock your ears – it was totally cool. So you go down this ladder then follow a handrail along the bottom of the ocean floor, about 15-20 feet down. The guides are there as well and led us around, picking up some of the sea life to show us. We got to hold some as well – it was a very cool experience. Walking down there with all the fish and then looking up to see the sun shining through the water – spectacular. Highly recommended.

Arriving in St. Thomas

That’s the Marriott resort (above).

After our dive, we were relaxing on the patio when Chris’ animal magnetism struck again. He can now add Iguana-Whisperer to his repertoire.

Chris the Iguana Whisperer…

Our third stop was St. Maarten. Since we did the yacht race the last tie we were here, we wanted to do some sightseeing this time. We boarded a semi-submarine and got to see lots of fish, sea turtles, sea ucrhins and coral. A diver actually swam beside the boat and fed the fish so we could get a close-up look. 🙂

I absolutely LOVE the water in St. Maarten

Pics of sea life:

We then headed over to the french side of the island and spent some tie in Marigot. We stopped at a cafe and had a croque monsieur, a chocolatine (chocolate croissant) and chocolate mousse with a tasty icy mojito smoothie. Yum!!

Our excursions were more tame than our usual adventures but we enjoyed all stops. The helmet dive was definitely our favourite.

More posts coming!

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I’ll start from the beginning., when all was calm, skies were sunny, everyone was having a good time visiting ports, enjoying the sun and cocktails…what a vacation should be. I’ll get to the craziness a little later.

We flew into Port Canaveral with little fanfare – smooth flight, smooth airport transfer, empty embarkation lounge (we walked right onto the ship – no lines woohoo!). Actually a small group of us boarded right in the middle of the security briefing so we were quarantined in one of the bars and watched it on video. 🙂 We then went to our cabin and our bags arrived shortly thereafter. I took some pics of our Ocean Suite while we waited.

The Ocean Suite comes with a separate seating area/pull out couch in front of the bed, next to a desk and bar area:

There’s lots of storage next to the bed (this was Chris’ area with drawers and a closet to the right):

There was a walk-in closet area (that was mine :)) with a vanity and drawers on one side and a closet on the other.

There was a full bathroom with double sinks and whirlpool bath with shower.

It was the first time we got a suite and we definitely enjoyed the extra space and storage.

For dinner, we had the early seating and shared a table with 4 other couples, one of which we only saw one night. We were lucky to have an awesome table and we all clicked from the get go. Great table, lots of fun and laughs throughout the cruise. Great wait staff as well.

More posts to come!

 

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We’ve been busy planning ahead for our next few trips coming up in 2012, 2013 and beyond. As I’ve posted about before, in October 2012 we’ll be sailing to St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Nassau aboard the Carnival Dream and enjoying an Ocean Suite. We’re looking forward to a week of peace and quiet to enjoy the sun. The life list items I’m planning to cross off on that trip include:

  • Adding another cruise to the tally – this will be cruise #8. My life list item is “Go on 10 cruises” but I know that once I hit 10, I’ll be adding another item (15, 20, 25, etc.). 🙂
  • Try snuba (already booked in St. Thomas).
  • Read in a hammock (there are hammocks on the beach at the Blue Lagoon in Nassau).
  • Stay in a suite on a cruise ship.
  • Play minigolf on a cruise ship

Snuba!

The next trip on the horizon is in April 2013. My husband’s family (his dad is Greek) is planning to spend Greek Easter in Kalymnos, Greece and we’re going as well. Since we don’t make it over to Europe very often, we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to tack on a Mediterranean cruise before or after Easter. After scoping out all the options, the one with the best itinerary that matches the dates we need is the one below from NCL:

12-Day Grand Mediterranean

Port   Arrival Departure
Day 1 Barcelona, Spain 7:00 PM
Day 2 Provence (Toulon),   France 9:00 AM 7:00 PM
Day 3 Florence/Pisa   (Livorno), Italy 8:00 AM 7:00 PM
Day 4 Rome   (Civitavecchia), Italy 8:00 AM 7:00 PM
Day 5 Naples, Italy 8:00 AM 7:00 PM
Day 6 At Sea
Day 7 Mykonos, Greece 7:00 AM 2:00 PM
Day 8 Istanbul, Turkey 9:00 AM 6:00 PM
Day 9 Ephesus (Izmir),   Turkey 1:00 PM 7:00 PM
Day 10 Athens (Piraeus),   Greece 8:00 AM 6:00 PM
Day 11 At Sea
Day 12 Venice, Italy 2:00 PM Overnight
Day 13 Venice, Italy 9:00 AM

The great thing about spending a day in each port is that it gives us enough time to explore different places and we can then determine if we want to return for a longer stay on a separate vacation.

For 2014, we’re considering this tour to finally get our butts over to Machu Picchu. 🙂 We’ve talked about it for years and we’re not getting any younger so it’s time to start planning and make it happen!! This 7 day tour sounds fantastic. It includes time in Lima, Cusco, then over to Machu Picchu on the Hiram Bingham deluxe Orient Express train.

Good times coming. 🙂 Stay tuned!

 

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What a beautiful place! As we experienced Alaska and saw things we’ve never seen before, on many occasions Chris and I just looked at each other, shook our heads and said WOW!

The sheer size of the mountains, the quiet in the wilderness, the barrenness of the tundra, all the different wildlife, the history of the gold rush, the people, the water, ice and snow. Even the way of life in these “remote” areas were amazing (to us). In Skagway, there are about 850 year-round residents. A doctor visits from Juneau once a month. A vet visits once every 3 months. Our tour guide put things into perspective for us when we stopped at a lake to take some pictures and he joked that we’ll never see anyone out on a boat on the lake. With so few residents, he told us to imagine a place the size of Manhattan having only 2 residents – the odds of running into someone is very low.

There are no roads into Juneau or Ketchikan – you have to fly in or arrive by boat. There are lots of seaplanes in the area. Supplies arrive on a barge. If a store is out of a product, you have to wait for the next shipment.

We were lucky that we got to see quite a bit of wildlife: a bear munching grass on the side of the road, a moose trying to cross the road (twice!), mountain goats, a porcupine, humpback whales, an orca (we even saw the tail!), seals, eagles, ravens (these guys are huge!) and lots of other birds.

As we traveled further north, the sunrise and sunset times changed.

  • May 18 Seattle – Sunrise 5:27am, Sunset 8:44pm
  • May 20 Ketchikan – Sunrise 4:27am, Sunset 9:00pm, Weather high 12C (54F), low 8C (46F)
  • May 21 Tracy Arm/Juneau – Sunrise 4:18am, Sunset 9:32pm, Weather high 17C (63F), low 9C (48F)
  • May 22 Skagway – Sunrise 4:11am, Sunset 9:46pm, Weather high 11C (52F), low 8C (46F)

Although there were drizzly moments, most days were simply overcast with the occasional shower and it wasn’t as cold as we thought it would be. Layers are good. Due to the longer days, their gardens are in great shape due to all the extra sunlight.

We tried to shop at stores run by locals as much as we could (instead of the stores owned by the cruise lines). They have truly wonderful artists.

We purchased dolls for our nieces and a White Pass train car for our nephew (it says “Klondike River” on it):

Chris bought a honey comb/spoon, I got a little jade bear with a salmon in its mouth. I also got dream catchers for my mom, my sister and myself (they were so nice I couldn’t resist). I wish I could have bought so much more but time and budget helped restrain me. 🙂

And since this trip was so amazing, we decided to choose an Alaskan-themed Christmas ornament for our 2012 ornament. We picked a handmade black cottonwood bark carving trimmed with beaver and reindeer. The mask has been carved by hand from the bark of the Black Cottonwood tree, which occurs in the lowlands of Alaska’s southcentral and southern coastal forests. The bark comes from trees that have been dead for 5 to 6 years. It is then possible to remove bark that is up to 6 inches thick.

We’re also planning to get some of the pictures blown up and hang them along one of our hallways that contains other trip photos. The scenery was just spectacular. Truly a trip of a lifetime – we’re so glad we went!

So – that being said, I was able to cross off multiple Life List items with this trip. More on that in the next post! 🙂

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Since we were set to arrive in Victoria, BC at 6pm on day 7, the next two days were sea days and we did a lot of relaxing, reading, eating (!) and vegging.

We attended two more of Brent Nixon’s nature talks – we learned about eagles, seals and sea lions. Again, he was just fantastic – what a find!

We also participated in a guided wine tasting of old world wines.

Beginning with champagne, then a tempranillo from the Rioja region of Spain, a French bordeaux wine, a wine from Portugal, and ending with a tawny 20-yr old port. The Spanish wine was our favourite. We also found out that Celebrity will have wine cruises stating in the fall – very interesting indeed!

We spent a short time in Victoria. During dinner we got to see some seals in the water. 🙂 Since we were only in port for a few hours, we took a short bus ride into town and walked around exploring. It’s a beautiful town and it felt very Canadian. It was comforting to see some familiar things – the flag, the Fairmont Empress hotel with familiar architecture, the easily recognizable parliament building, the Bay, Birks and the Royal Bank. 🙂 It was nice to see the sun again too – and a blue sky! We got to see the “Mile Zero” sign of the Transcanada highway as well which is where it begins – that was cool! Maybe we’ll go to Newfoundland one day to see the other end. 🙂 Victoria is home to a lot of seniors mainly due to the very mild climate. Our senior bus driver joked that they’re known for newly-weds and nearly-deads. 🙂 Chris and I agreed that we’d gladly return to spend more time visiting – it’s a beautiful place.

The Empress hotel

 

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