Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Cruisin' in the past

I first started travelling in 2007, when a friend from work and I (not K) decided to take a winter vacation.  We chose an all inclusive in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.  It was great so the following year we went to Cuba to Varadero.  Two years passed and I did a trip to Mexico with my daughter to the Mayan Riviera. 

These trips were fun, relaxing, and appreciated for the opportunity to get away from winter.  The only problem was there is not much difference between one all-inclusive and another.  Yes, we were in different countries but we really didn't experience much of it.  The food was generally okay but the meals often featured mystery ingredients.  There was always just a tiny bit of concern over how well the veg was cleaned and what exactly they were putting in my drink.  

So when K and I started talking about taking a trip together, she suggested a cruise instead of an all-inclusive.  I was a little apprehensive because I wondered if I would be able to tolerate being out on the ocean with no land in sight.  

It turns out I need not have been worried!  I've heard that "Prairie" people make the best sailors because we're accustomed to looking out at the fields of grain rippling in the breeze and this is very similar to being on the sea.  I don't if it's true, all I know is I loved my time on board the ship, while on the ocean or in one of the ports.

Today I thought I'd share some photos from past cruises (if I can get blogger to behave!)

My first cruise was on the Grand Princess.  It seem huge and I never thought I'd be able to find my way around without getting lost. (Like that's possible).  I did learn that the carpet on the left side of the ship (port) is red (like port wine) and the carpet on the right is blue.  That helped me find my room more than once!



This was a two week cruise called the Southern Caribbean Medley.  We had numerous ports of call....let's see if I can remember them all.

There was Aruba, Curacao, Barbados, Grenada, St. Vincent, St. Kitt's, St. Thomas, and the Princess Cay on Eleuthra Island off the Bahamas.  I'm pretty sure I'm missing one!

This is a photo from Curacao, just off the dock. I loved the way the plants were growing on the rocks with the salty spray.


In January 2012, K and I planned a one week stay in Saint Lucia and one week Caribbean cruise, but as I've mentioned before she was ill before our trip and unable to come with me.  It was first trip travelling alone, but I still enjoyed myself immensely.

This time I was on the Crown Princess.  It felt like coming home as the ships are very similar.

This was considered a Western Caribbean cruise with ports of call in the Grand Cayman, Belize, Roatan, Honduras, and Cozumel, Mexico.

I fondly remember this cruise for two things; I got to tell people I went to Hell and back and encountering rough seas near Honduras.  I didn't get sick but I was certainly disappointed we were unable to get into port.

That spring, K and I decided to a quick and last minute cruise out of Vancouver to Alaska.  People at work thought we were crazy...Alaska in May?  
When we sailed out of Vancouver on the four day cruise aboard the Golden Princess, it was cool and overcast, but pleasant.






By the time we reached our single port of call, Ketchikan, Alaska, the sun was shining, the sky was clear and it was nearly 18C (65F). Meanwhile at home it was a mere 4C (40F). Ha! We got the last laugh and I got a sunburn on my nose.

This photo was taken at approximately 7:30 a.m.  It was still and quiet as I sat out on the balcony enjoying the scenery.



I know I've shared photos from our February cruise but I'll share these again anyway.

This was another one week Western Caribbean cruise on the Caribbean Princess with ports of call in Cozumel, Belize, and Roatan, Honduras.







This time the seas in Roatan were calm and smooth and getting into port was a breeze.

I'm so glad I got the chance to visit Mahogany Bay.  Not only was it beautiful with a good beach, but it had the chairlift to ride.  What fun!

This upcoming cruise will be totally different from these cruises.  Even though it is a two week cruise, we'll have six full days at sea before we reach our first port of call.

The cruise line entertainment staff will be kept busy keeping us amused and entertained.  They do a wonderful job, there is always so much happening, one has to work hard to be bored!  I plan to rest, relax, read a few books, take in some of the entertainment, eat well, and simply let the worries of the everyday fade into the background.  

The countdown is on, only eight more sleeps before we head out!  

Have a great day everyone!

Monday, 14 April 2014

The long and short....

Olga asked me the other day, "Didn't you just go on a cruise?"  The short answer is yes as my friend K and I were on a one week Western Caribbean cruise in February.

The long answer (and there is always one of those with me) is that we booked this upcoming cruise a year ago.  That was well before we booked the one in February, the one that was so desperately needed to get me through this brutal, never-ending winter.  When we booked this cruise I had no plans to go to Jamaica in November.  Those opportunities came up and I jumped at the chance to go since I love to travel and am easily persuaded.

This trip is one from the bucket list.  It is a 15 day TransAtlantic cruise sailing from Fort Lauderdale to Copenhagen, Denmark aboard the Royal Princess.

The fact it is aboard the Royal is a bonus as until June it will be the newest ship in the Princess line.  I'd love to someday take the inaugural sailing on a new ship.

Also, I've never been to Europe so this is an opportunity to have a brief stop in a number of countries.  The itinerary includes the ports of Azores Island off Portugal, Southampton, England, LeHavre, France, Rotterdam, Netherlands, and Copenhagen, Denmark.

There are five of us on this trip.  K and her partner J, and their friends G&C from Calgary.  I have a stateroom on the interior of the ship across the hall from K and J.  It will be interesting as it is the first time I've stayed in a room without any exterior windows.  I learned a trick from a Cruise Critic article to turn the television to the channel of the ship's camera.  It is focused ahead of the ship so at night it will have just a glow, and get brighter as the sun rises.  I don't want to sleep in and miss breakfast!

We've got excursions booked for a few of the ports.  In the Azores, we're doing a tour of a Terra Nostra botanical garden and Furnas hot springs.  In Southampton, I meeting a friend of K's who works in a local arboretum, while the rest of group are off to do other things.  In France, K, J, and I are travelling in Paris to do a river cruise of the Seine. G&C are heading for a battlefield instead as they've been to Paris before.

Keukenhof Gardens radiopatriot.wordpress.com
In Rotterdam, G&C and I will visit the Keukenhof Gardens to see the tulips.  (Anyone sense a theme?)
K and J have been to many of these countries before and have seen most of the popular sights.  I expect they will wander the local town or city or venture out further to more remote areas on their own.

When we arrive in Copenhagen, K, J, and I will be spending a night there. (G&C are flying to Paris and then on to Cyprus to visit friends)  We'll have almost a full day to explore the city and to visit the Little Mermaid.  Our hotel is right on the canal but we won't know until we check in whether we're street side or canal view.

We fly to London-Gatwick the following day and will spend two nights there.  So far, our plans are rather loose.  K and I have talked about taking a train trip out to the countryside or possibly a beach town (though I expect it will be a bit cool for the beach), find a country pub to have a meal in before we head back to the hotel for the night.  Our full day will be spent in London. I've starting pulling together some self-guided tour information.  K and J have been there before, but will join me on the walkabout.  On the to see list are Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Picadilly Circus, and Trafalgar Square.  (I'd be thrilled to get a glimpse of the newest little Royal though I suspect that's merely wishful thinking).

This trip has been in the works for a year and I can hardly believe we are less than two weeks away from flying to Fort Lauderdale on the first leg of our trip.  While I've got all the documents printed and in a folder, I still need to sort through the clothing and personal items I'm taking with me.  The weight limit for baggage on the European flights is less than in North America so I have to keep that in mind.  Plus with the variation in weather, I want to make ensure I have items I can layer (or un-layer).  One thing I won't be taking with me is a winter parka!!!!

This trip marks my 6th cruise with Princess Cruise line, but because I've cruised solo before this counts as my seventh.  This takes me to "platinum" status, with a few perks; the ones I'm looking most forward to are the express check-in and the 75 free internet minutes.  With a potential 3560 passengers, being able to skip the long line ups to embark will be a real treat.  (K has Elite status - 15 plus cruises so we were able to do this on the last cruise...less than 5 minutes in line-up!)

The free internet time will allow me to update my blog occasionally, though I'll likely save the photos until I get home, and to keep in touch with family and friends.  What will be interesting is how well the internet connections work when we are so far out to sea.  It might take a week before I actually get to post an update.

So that's the short and the long of it.  I'm so excited about this trip as there are so many firsts for me.  The only (minor) worry is whether I'll be seasick....it's never happened before but I've only sailed in the Caribbean and along the west coast of Canada to Alaska.  I guess I'll find out soon enough.

Thanks for asking, Olga!







Sunday, 13 April 2014

Not leaving yet

This was the view from my front window just over a week ago.

Since then we've had temperatures over 15C (60F) and rain.

Then yesterday it got cold again, with wind and even a few flakes of snow.




This is the pile of snow today.  I can see finally see some of the patio and the containers I left outside are clearly evident. (I wonder if they'll survive the thaw?  I guess I'll find out in a few weeks).

The forecast is for cold until Friday.  When, oh when will this winter finally leave for good?


Do you suppose it is waiting until I leave for my cruise at the end of the month?  Could winter be so mean-spirited?  Why yes, I believe it is.

At least it's a sunny day.  Have a good one everyone!

Saturday, 12 April 2014

What a week!

I was trying so hard last week to post something regularly, obviously this week was an epic fail. The only excuse reason I can honestly come up with is I just wasn't in the mood to write.

It certainly has been a busy week. At work, between meetings, e-mail and phone calls, I've been making lists and arrangements for one of my staff who will be replacing me temporarily while I'm on my vacation.  (Just two weeks to go!)

At home, preparing for the vacation has certainly been top of mind.  I've been printing off my travel documents and making copies to leave behind.  We've got three separate flights, three hotels, and one cruise booked.  Plus there are the insurance documents, with the nineteen pages they contain, I suspect I may be covered for nothing but who is going to read the fine print?  Not me, unless I absolutely have too!

It's been a lovely week, at least until yesterday.

We had temperatures near 10C (50F) almost everyday so the snow has been melting rapidly.
I had hoped the weekend would be nice so I get the deck furniture cleaned and set up.

However Mother Nature had other ideas!


Yesterday dawned overcast, cool, and windy.  I had a bunch of errands to run earlier in the day, and plans to pick up my friend C's son from daycare at 4:30. (She's the one I supervise visits for, and she was working until 5).

When I arrived at the daycare, the rain was beginning to fall.  By the time I dropped R off at his dad's at 8, it was pouring in earnest.



The good thing is the rain should wash the rest of the snow away. The bad thing is we're forecast to get colder temperatures so there it could all turn to ice.  Thankfully we woke to temperatures above freezing this morning, with high winds so the streets and sidewalks are drying.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to catch up on housework that has been sadly neglected.  I'll readily admit, I'm no Susy Housemouse.  I try to keep a semblance of order around here but often if it's out of sight, it's out of mind.

That's how my linen closet came to look like this.  Well, not quite, I had some help as the cats liked to sleep in the cupboard among the towels.





This looks a little better, doesn't it?

I rearranged the towels so they have two full shelves, while the less used tablecloths, place mats, and napkins are now on the lowest shelf.

We store on the top shelf not only our spare light bulbs, but also assorted gift items.  We've got baby clothes, books, DVD's, ceramic mugs, games, and small toys.





It's a great idea...except my daughter and I have a tendency to forget these are there and go buy something else!

This is the pile of stuff that did not make it back into the closet.  It's sheets, pillowcases and towels, most of which ended up in the garage for rags, while the rest were tossed.  I realized as I was going through this stuff that many of the towels were ones my mom gave me for Christmas when my daughter was small...and she's 32!

Well, it's time to get back to the rest of the travel prep and regular housework.  I've done dishes, washed the front hall and kitchen floors today, but the living room floor needs a good scrub, and there is laundry calling my name too.  Serves me right for ignoring it most of the week.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Random Saturday

We woke up to more snow on Thursday morning.

I could only think of one thing to say.







What a difference a couple of days make.  The sun is shining and the temperatures are actually above freezing today. The forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday are for temperatures of 15C (60F).  If the weather man is right, that will be amazing!


There is still lots of snow out there to melt. The front window faces north so it always takes longer.

A few days of really warm weather will make a huge difference.








Part of my yard and the neighbour's got enough wind and sun that the snow is gone.

I'll move the snow from the pile into that area to help speed up the process.

Could spring finally have arrived?



******
I did something last night I haven't done in years....and no it wasn't what you might be thinking. :)

I stayed up way past my bedtime.  In fact it was nearly 4 .m. before I finally went to sleep.  What do you ask, kept me awake through most of the night?

It was the semi-final of the World Men's curling championship which is being played in China.  The time difference is killing me!

Canada was playing Sweden, after losing to Norway in the one-two playoff game.  Win and they were into the final, lose and they were playing for bronze.

It's been a bit of a rough week for the Koe team.  The ice was tricky and they couldn't seem to figure it out for the first few games.  They lost to Japan, not known as a curling powerhouse, Norway and Sweden in the round robin games.  It looked like Canada would end up in a tie-breaker but China was kind enough to beat Japan and we beat Scotland in the final draw.  As a result we ended in second place.

The Norway-Canada was close; a nail biter to the very end.  Last night's semi-final between Sweden and Canada was not.  We opened with two points in the first end, Sweden got four in the second....and it was pretty much down hill from there.  At one point late in the game, Canada had battled back; the score was 8-7 for Sweden, they held the hammer and scored another three points. Game over! :(

Canada still has a chance for a bronze medal in tonight's game against Switzerland. It's an early morning game in China, so I can watch it tonight at 9 p.m.  The final, however is on at 1 a.m. our time.

I don't know, it might just be worth staying up to watch...especially since this guy, Thomas Ulsrud is skipping the Norwegian team.  (photo from worldcurling.org).

Seriously, it should be a good game.  It's the first time the Norway and Sweden teams have met in a final.  I won't understand a word they are saying but it will still be fun to watch.


*****
With this last curling event almost, it definitely has to be spring.

One more sign of spring is when I head out and fire up the grill.  I know lots of people grill all year round, even here in the cold, but the thought of standing outdoors in the middle of winter just doesn't appeal to me.

With the today's nice weather, I decided the time was right.  I made up patties a week or so ago, and tucked them away in the freezer.  As I write this, I'm enjoying my first grilled burger of the season.  Yum!

*****

Have a great weekend everyone!



Thursday, 3 April 2014

Thankful Thursday

Yesterday was a rotten day, especially because one of those stupid people was my boss. 

I'm thankful there are only 4 years, 11 months and 25 days until I retire.
Better still, there are only nine months until my leave.
AND best of all, it's only 23 more days until my vacation.

I feel better now!