Cruises I have known

Cruises I have known: 208 days on the seas
Ncl cruise may 2004?  12 days Hawaii
Carnival Mexican riviera, 13 women, 7 days
Holland America alaska with Steve 14 days
Holland America alaska with mom 7 days
River cruise with Scenic River Cruises 7 days Europe 
Carnival Hawaii 12 days with mom 
Princess 7 days Caribbean with Cari
Princess one day to Seattle
Hal one day from Seattle to Vancouver
Holland America 21 nights Hawaii, 30 guests, hosted
Azamara 5 days, five women Womens Travel Club Italian riviera
Azamara ten days with Steve Europe
Azamara with mom ten days Greece
Royal Caribbean 7 days Med with Steve / Greece and Turkey 
Cunard 12 days Greece with Penny
Cunard transatlantic with Steve 7 days
Cunard back to New York, 8 days with Steve
Cunard Baltic 12 days with Women’s Travel Club and Steve
Oceania 17 days transatlantic
Oceania 10 days Caribbean 
Oceania Regatta 21 days from 7 to 28 March 2015 women’s travel club / Amazon
PLANS FOR NEXT CRUISES: Oceania etc 2015-2016 
Oceania 15 with Deb from Miami to Barcelona starts 1 April 2015
Oceania Italy 15 days with Womens Travel Club 1 June 2015 
Oceania 8 Greece Women’s Travel Club 27 Sept 2015
Oceania 10 day Caribbean November 2015 Women’s Travel Club
Oceania Marina 14 days New York to Lisbon / May 2016 with Women’s Travel Club
Azamara 17 night cruise October 2016 Rome to Dubai with Women’s Travel Club
Oceania 7-8 night October 2016. Barcelona to Rome, Women’s Travel Club

Anticipating the next cruise

Anticipation of next cruise adventure while on flight home from Amazon cruise, 28 March 2015.

I am imagining my next cruise adventure with Oceania.  The cruise begins on 1 April 2015, just two short days after I arrive home from the Amazon cruise.  Back to the tropical heat of southern Florida.  
The cruise will set sail from Miami and head to Hamilton, Kings Wharf, Bermuda on our way to Barcelona Spain.  Two more weeks, this time aboard Oceania Riviera.  My first time on this larger and newest of the Oceania cruise ships.  Up to 1200 guest, I expect many of the cabins remain vacant as the single supplement has been reduced for the cruise.
I have been upgraded to a Concierge Veranda this time, so will have free internet access, as well as access to the spa deck, with thalassotherapy pool, priority embarkation and more dining options.
On Riviera there are four different specialty restaurants, so I will get to try each one.  As well, I will enjoy seeing the Artist loft and having a chance to do some painting on board this time.
This is the same ship I will cruise on again come 1 June 2015 with the Women’s Travel Club in Europe.  Sounds very exciting to me, another cruise adventure and new ship to explore.  This will be my fourth Oceania cruise.  The cruise in June will be my fifth and I will advance to a different color card to commemorate my experiences with cruises loyal to Oceania.  

Miami, Florida

Miami, Florida 

I recall last being in this port in December 2014 after flying in from St Lucia after that fire on board Oceania Insignia.  This time we arrive in early morning aboard Oceania Regatta, as scheduled.
A lovely safe arrival.  Breakfast in Terrace Cafe.  Very busy morning as crew, as well as guests getting off in Miami.  In fact over twenty guests have been on for past 71 days also disembarking.  Some of the crew got off a few days ago to work on board Oceania Riviera. I will be seeing them when I join that cruise on 1 April Miami to Barcelona.  
Three of us met up to share a taxi to Miami airport, however, we ended up with a shuttle, $10 usd per person.  Very convenient.  Several of our friends took an Oceania arranged hop on off bus through Miami city before coming to the airport.  
We have all met up now and are sitting and waiting for the gates to open.  Many of the people we met on this flight are here, waiting for boarding the is lovely to keep these friendly relationships going.  
My dear trend and travel buddy Janie was able to secure a bulkhead seat with leg room.  I was not so lucky.  So she has offered me to take her seat and she would sit in my place.  I have the BEST friends!  The Air Canada agent arranged for us both to sit in bulkhead on the first leg of this flight.  Yeah!
I just heard from travel buddy Adrienne that the temperature in Toronto is minus 5 with minus 20 with wind chill.  Crazy weather!  After more than three weeks in the hot tropics, close to the equator …  I hope it is hot in Victoria.  I will be there for a few days before I fly back to Miami.  I am already praying to the luggage spirits, trusting my bags will arrive.
The flight departs just a wee bit behind schedule, five of the Women’s Travel Club women on same flight.  The rest left earlier today it seems, some via Montreal.  Our flight is via Toronto.

Nassau, the BahamasĀ 

A Sea day, Nassau, the Bahamas and disembarkation in Miami

Nassau the Bahamas….. Busy port.  Throngs of people, mayhem of activity, children’s laughter, music pounding …. As we exit the quiet peaceful lifestyle of our cruiseship.  With the exception of Oceania and Regent SevenSeas which shared the pier, there were at least 5-6 large to very large cruise ships.  Carnival, NCL, MSC, Celebrity, Disney Wonder and more.
When we tried to take pictures all we could see were many heads bobbing along, many hands clasped with young children.  
Our original plan was to window shop, people watch …. Enjoy the sunshine and great  colonial buildings throughout the shopping district in Nassau, Bahamas.
We decide to wander down the street, sauntering between Diamonds International outlets to pick up our freebie gifts, charm bracelets and three charms … 
What caught our eye were the white straw hats, adorning manikins all dressed in white, a few black accents.  The whole shop made of white cotton clothes … And so the gals enjoyed trying on the various styles.  Many purchases were made.
Gals tried on diamond rings, precious stones set in pendants … Earrings, bracelets.  In EFFY store, a topaz pendent went from a stud to a stiletto, on silver chain.  Oh my … What fun!  Scarves of bamboo silk.  Brilliant  colours.  
Four or five hours of walking.  Laughter and greetings as we recognized our travel mates, even through the crowds from other ships.  Special promotions offered for ship passengers.  A few friends made major jewel purchases.  One found a local fabric shop where screen prints are designed and sold.  
And it seems most of the other cruise travellers may have ventured to Atlantis, on Paradise Island for some beach time.
Back on board, some packing, a music show with Eric Christensen, and then dining up on Terrace Cafe outside under the stars.  Many fond goodbyes and hugs with new friends made on the cruise.  Bags outside the room packed and labelled by 10 pm.




San Juan Puerto Rico

Today we receive our passports and clear security before going ashore.

Again we met at the reception desk area, relaxing on the couches, chatting with the Destination Desk support and reviewing maps while waiting for all the gals to arrive.  We have hats, sun glasses, a bag for shopping treasures, some camera equipment or iPad to capture the special port … Sandals on feet donned with painted toenails … Ready to go!
Some want to walk to capture the views from the various forts in town.  Some are content to walk the blue cobblestone streets and shop in the many artsy boutiques in search of treasures.  I am the latter.  We do often meet up with other gals during the morning.  Two heading for an iced Cappucino at Starbucks!  Gotta love San Juan!
Six cruise ships in port today, MSC, Disney, Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam, SilverSea, and two Oceania ships, the beautiful Riviera and our temporary home, Regatta.

A pre organized bridge visit to see who and how the ship is steered, our group of gals met and enjoyed over an hour of the Captain and crews time.  They allowed us to take photographs and ask questions of interest.  It was my first time on a bridge of a cruise ship.  I found it very interesting.  The Captain said we could take some extra time in port … So we went back out to the port, did some shopping together. 
We had found a specialty shop called The Butterfly People and we all purchased scarves and other small items of interest.  The shop keeper was so pleasant.  His staff had to keep folding scarves as we tried on all the beautiful bug related fabrics.  What fun!
After returning to the ship we changed for dinner but decided we would like to take pictures of the ship sail away from outside deck ten.  It was stunning and beautiful to capture the sunset.  
We decided to all dress in clothes representing or displaying butterflies.  What a beautiful sight on deck!  
Dining with some friends in the main dining area, scallops for me … And the maitre D offers to bring me a few more of these treasures of the sea.  Yumm.
A show with a former Russian pianist.  Wow!  It was a fantastic show, and the audience loves her.  The quality of her playing is confirmed by one of our accomplished pianists and member of our Women’s Travel Club, Adrienne.  
Only a few days left on this ship, we are enjoying our precious tine together.  Tonight we talk about our family, of origin and our created families, our careers and a few fun stories.  It is good to learn more about each other.  What a beautiful group of women.  Hard to believe we have met in the last year.  How lucky I am to get to travel with such wisdom and beautiful new friends!
Ciao for now.




Gustavia, St Barth’s

New day, Gustavia St Barth’s, West Indies …. A French speaking port of call, and they use Euros for currency, although usd also accepted.

A new day for the beach!  There are a few of us meeting to get together for a beach day.  It appears this is an expensive island.  Perhaps a place where the rich and famous vacation? Over 15 beaches on this exclusive island paradise.  
Later:  we walked along the boardwalk by all the beautiful big yachts!  We enjoyed the boutique shops.  A Sea Dream small Boutique luxury cruise ship was also in the bay, as well a SilverSea ship with tenders transporting guests on shore.
The town is lovely, well organized, and full of beautiful homes, shops, trees and flowers.  We passed two schools where children laughed and played.  Strange to see so many cars on what looks like a very small island and this very small touristy port where parking was at a premium.  Rush hour seemed to happen when Bmw and other high end cars pulled up and parked, stopping in the middle of the street, to pick up children from school.  We smiled and commented on how strange this seemed.
The prices were way out of reach.  Hundreds for the most part.  We found treasures of scarves, small jewelry and some wine from a French wine store.  
We went to Shell Beach  which really was a shell beach cove.  There was steep rock cliffs on both sides.  Out in the bay were yachts and jet skis and sailboats.  People swimming.  Many of the gals and others from the cruise ship met there and enjoyed the crystal clear green blue sea water.  It was cool and refreshing.  A friendly four inch green iguana stopped by, and ended up finding refuge under a large rock nearby.
Back on board from a full day of shopping, swimming and being out in the hot Caribbean sunshine, dinner at Polo Grill with friends and an early bed to rest up for San Juan Puerto Rico tomorrow.
The Captain advises we have travelled over 6000 miles since Rio … Phew.

Bridgetown Barbados

Good morning, Barbados

We had a wonderful sea day and the amazing captain of the ship arranged for an early arrival and late departure from Barbados.  Pretty special.  
Most of the group got off the ship at the pier and shared a taxi van for the day.  Their itinerary included the Harrison Caves, Plantation Homes, a tour and shopping at the chocolate factory and some fabulous gardens.  They report a day well spent.  The taxi driver went with them, stayed on site and was part of their experience all day.  It is important to negotiate the terms of the taxi ride prior to getting in the vehicle.  There  were apparently many taxi drivers trying to get this fare.
I was here in December, with my friends and some of the Women’s Travel Club when we were on board Oceania Insignia.  This was one of my favorite stops, primarily because of the easy access to the beach by walking and enjoying the park, Boardwalk, the shops along the way … And the beach itself.  Carlisle beach is the name.
And so four of us decided to do the walk together.  It  was a beautiful hot sunny day in Bridgetown Barbados.  Some big white fluffy clouds offered some relief from the sun, however the sky was a beautiful shade of blue for the most part … And the sea was Caribbean turquoise.  
Taking the same route and noticing hat the cars here drive the same as England and Australia do.  There was a beautiful park with lovely big trees providing shade and cooler air as we walked.  The same artist, a man working on his craft, painting scenes of the Caribbean and selling originals, prints and bookmarks to the passers by.  I love his work and am reminded of the beautiful postcards and book marks in a white mat.  This time I did not purchase anything.  I have some of his brilliant watercolour and black ink drawings of Palm trees and surf at home now.  Lovely to see him again.
We walked further and again found that ladies shop, a local artist as well.  She starts with a beautiful 100% cotton fabric, sews ponchos, dresses, long shirts, short shirts and scarves, she then dyes to beautiful colours and then applies fabric paint, bright colours, gold, white, black and vibrant green, turquoise etc.  Really lovely.  Also she makes jewelry using seeds, painting them in unique shades and then stringing them into unique creations.  I love her shop and the fabulous colours and textures.  
Onward to the beach, passing great squares and walking over pedestrian bridges.  I am reminded that Christmas decorations adorned the area when I was here in December.  
We stopped at a bead store and one of the gals made a purchase.  Onward down the side roads, passing craft malls where local artists have set up shop.  Beautiful vibrant and pastel coloured buildings are a delight, and the ever present view of the surf and warm Caribbean water surrounds us.  
The sand is like icing sugar, soft, white, cool and stretching for miles.  I quickly get to the waters edge and soon am swimming in the salt water, enjoying this beach and the coolness and relief from the warmth of the sun.  
A few swims, a long walk along the sandy beach leaves me completely satisfied.
Later we meander home to the ship passing again shops and boutiques.  Great fun and a fully satisfying experience.  We meet up with the other gals about quarter to four, and have a late lunch at the Waves Cafe, beside the pool deck on the ship.  
Later I attend a Captains invite to the Oceania Club cocktail party.  Then dining with friends at the Terrace Cafe, under the stars, enjoying the warmth of the Caribbean breeze.  We then went to the entertainment variety show hosted by our cruise director and followed by dancing up in Horizons Lounge.  
A full and enjoyable day all around.  Grateful for travel friends!  
Missing my family back home, just a few days left of this cruise.  

Devils island, French Guiana

Solar eclipse, Devils Island

Greetings all, yesterday was a wonderful hot sunny stop at famed Devils Island.  Teeming with wildlife, monkeys, birds, large rodent looking things with no tails hopping about and a scarlet macaw.  It was perfection.
In the morning before we landed at the port of call, we saw a Discovery Channel documentary about the island, the prison and escape strategies.  Although very interesting, with my prior work in the custody center and in probation and parole for almost thirty years, I found much of it very disturbing.  
How a country treats its prisoners is a strong indication of the ethics and values of that country.  I saw some parallels of how things are done in modern day with how they took place in the barbaric system under French government in the French Guiana country and colony of Devils Island.
We walked the prison section, the museum, the children’s cemetery,  the convent, church and barracks for the staff as well as the home for the warden.  And in modern day most is left to disrepair, however there is a place in the bay for tourists to land their water craft, come ashore and visit, have lunch in the small cafe and possibly a hotel on sight.  
Our Oceania Regatta ship tendered a short distance to land in this place of historic significance.
We went to shore as a large group and soon separated based naturally on who wanted to walk the distance around the island, and who wanted to start with the buildings more centrally located.
  In several spots we encountered the wildlife.  Monkeys playing and frolicking in the trees, swinging on branches, watching us intently, likely looking for handouts of food.  The forest was alive with bouncing branches and squealing noises as monkeys played and communicated with each other, and us.  On the ground hopped and or walked these rodent type creatures, the size of a large rabbit, small ears like a mouse or rat, no tail, dark brown with white under belly fur, nose wiggling.  Not too bothered by the guests invading their otherwise quiet existence on this isolated and for the most part abandoned island.
Fragrant and brightly coloured flowering bushes and trees were plentiful.  As well within the area of the prison, some very old gnarly trees with exposed roots, reminding me that the trees may carry the painful memories and tragic stories of previous inhabitants held against their will in this place.  Large bumps, twisty branches and rough bark markings seemed to say, “I am holding the pain of this place”.  I take a moment of quiet reflection to honour the lives lost.  
Story after story of escape attempts from this treacherous place, rough salty water seas, and dense jungle, hot hot sun, limited supplies and physical personal body challenges, as well as being chased and hunted would all be factors against the strongest of human positive emotions, hope.  
I was left with questions of how the human spirit could resist the call of the seas while trapped within the walls of the prison?  Apparently escapes were attempted every day and by every prisoner at some point, and for some multiple attempts were the only way to eventually find their way out.  
I saw butterflies flitting through the floral and cotton bushes.  There were circadas, large winged insects, making loud noises in the trees.  A solo macaw was hanging about, flying and resting, begging for handouts in the cafe / bar.  Beautiful bird reminding us of the wildlife on this tropical island.  
The vistas of beautiful Caribbean Sea waters crashing up on shore can be seen from almost anywhere on the island.  Large Palm trees full with fruit, coconuts laying on the ground.  This was the most picturesque stop so far, for me.
That is it for now.  Today a sea day.  I have been out for my morning walk around the decks jogging track, then breakfasting with the gals and now sitting in a window seat in Horizons lounge.
We were here last night for Happy Hour, then dining in Toscana at a table for six.  Dinner was fabulous.  After, a brilliant show by the assistant cruise director, featuring the songs and stories from the musical sensation group, The Four Seasons including Frankie Valley.  Amazing.  After, an hour of Karaoke with our group and some new friends … And a bit of dancing, women in a circle to the Jukebox / iPad music arranged by one of the crew.  The guests steadily left the lounge area and by midnight it was all over.  Time zone change gave us an additional hour of sleep.  Lovely times, being enjoyed by our group of 14.  


Alter do Chao, Brazil

Wow, Alter do Chao!  

That was the highlight of our trip to the Amazon.  An early morning tender arriving in a picturesque little community.  Sandy beaches, long grasses and trees growing from deep in the swollen Amazon River.  Spectacular arrival.
  I fell in love immediately with the town.  Not pushy, the venders were selling local artifacts, items of clothing, jewelry, masks, whistles, stones and beads, tapestries and other works of art.  A walk through town revealed some beautiful homes, a hostel, low rise apartment looking hotel arrangements and stunningly beautiful flowers and trees growing in gardens and wild.

Homes well kept.  People living harmoniously with one another and bird song filling the tropical air.  Hot, sunny, and fragrant.  Coconuts and fruit high in the tall tropical trees.  And the lagoon was decorated, surrounded by thatched roof buildings and small boats.  
I could return to this place!  I found some beautiful Caribbean pearls at a great low price so I could spend the last of my Brazilian Reals in this town.  Emptying my small change purse I made a great deal.  
We walked up and down streets, then enjoyed the central square in the town, encircled with local shops.  Then we walked the boardwalk along the shore, and with great views and vistas of the mighty river and seasonal huts on a sand bar, used by tourists in the dry season.  Today this area is only accessible by boat.  And many people paid a small currency to be taken to the sand bar and enjoy some moments on a beach area.  I wanted to photograph it from many angles.  Wow!
I so enjoyed this stop and somehow it was the highlight of the trip to Brazil and the Amazon.  I stopped and spoke to a gentleman who spoke some English and works with thenTraditional peoples of Brazil.  His home was charming, along the water front and thatched roof, stunning gardens surrounded it.  Carved benches and chairs, and art work.  He explained all created by local artisans and given in exchange for whatever.  He attends many meetings and when he heard about my work as an agent he wanted to be in touch to see if we can do some business together in future.  He comes to Canada and travels around the world.  It was fun to speak to a local about maybe one day returning to rent a home in this town, he suggested November as the best season.  Beaches accessible, great sunshine and not many tourists yet at that time.  
His work sounded interesting and I loved his use of language, respectful and inclusive of the people in his land.  He appeared very knowledgable about the geography and history of the Amazon Basin.  I will send an email, and thank him for his time.
Back on the ship in early afternoon, we set sail for Devils Island.  We will have to leave the Amazon River and head out to the Caribbean Sea.  I got more pictures of the meeting of the waters and enjoyed the hot sun of the afternoon.  A great dinner in the main dining room, followed by the show and then some dancing with the gals in Horizons.
Cella, the future cruise gal advised there are some special promotion for single supplement reductions on some 15 cruises over the next three months.  I will try to spread the word.  Let me know if you are interested!
Tchau from Brazil.
Wish you were here.