Sailing through Endicott (not Tracy) Arm

EDIT –  There is a link at the bottom of the post to a Google Photo album full of pictures of Endicott Arm.

I spent the most luxurious day of the cruise sailing in/through Tracy Endicott Arm Alaska. When I boarded the Grand Princess in San Francisco almost a full week ago, I booked a day in the sanctuary for the day we sailed to Tracy Arm.For a modest $60 fee, I had access to the Sanctuary for the day. I was up before 5am and on deck in the 45 degree, windy weather and ready to see the ice and glaciers. I made a quick return to my cabin for the windbreaker that goes with my fleece jacket.

Now; before I continue, I have to address one small matter….you see….we were scheduled to sail in Tracy Arm.  In fact; we did not.

I must quote from the “Captain’s log” to tell the story properly. 30 Aug 2019 – Endicott Arm – During the night Grand Princess sailed through Stephens Passage, towards Tracy Arm.  In the morning, at 05:00 am; Grand Princess aborted attempt to enter Tracy Arm due to a large piece of ice in the middle of the bar, and entered Endicott Arm.  After many alterations of coursxe and speed to ensure a safe transit the Grand Princess was in position to Dawes Glacier at 08:30.  Grand Princess then retraced her track through the Fjord and exited the Arm at 11:35.  The two pilots which provided guidance throughout our cruise were disembarked at 14:08 at Cornwallis pilot station and after we proceeded on a South Easterly course towards our next port, Victoia; entering Canadian waters at 22:15.  Noon position 57degress41.3’N; 133degrees 44.4’W. 

I’m sure there was an announcement somewhere along the way as to the change of course etc….but you will certainly understand after reading the following why I was just slightly confused!

Back to the story & photos….

By 6 am I was settled in the assigned lounge chair, sipping champagne between cups of coffee.The angled glass windows helped break the worst of the cold wind. Located one deck above the bridge it was a great view. Watching the people on top of the bridge in the wind reinforced my decision to book the sanctuary.

In the photo below; you might notice the goats and hats etc on the guests….everyone except the lovely bride!!!  This photo was taken about 8:30 am; right in front of the glacier.  Up that close to the Dawes Glacier; the wind was not howling like it was in the preceding hours.

Taking pictures required me to get up and move to another area, but it was a great place to spend the day!!

With the red check fleece blanket (s) tucked around my legs, I enjoyed the ear warmer headband provided. Not to long went by and we were served fresh warm cinnamon flop donuts, followed by made to order breakfast omelettes.It was so good I forget to get the picture until the end.  Cold air makes you hungry and I ate while it was HOT!

The endless cup of coffee and glass of. Champagne.  (Did I mention they greeted us with champagne and the glass was not empty all day?) The travel mug was a complimentary gift, along with all that nice champagne.

After the eggs came the tray of pastry….and more coffee and champagne.

The best pastry on the ship!  (Yes…that is chocolate inside) As we progressed up the Arm to the glacier we were seeing ice in the water.

The lovely hostess in The Sanctuary was kind to take a photo of the glacier with me in the shot.About 9:30 am we turned and took the same route back out of the arm. Along the way I managed a little bit of a nap before lunch was offered and served.I chose grilled shrimp and white bean salad with tomato. It was a lovely lunch, followed by more champagne. Naps were taking place all over the place. I managed to sneak in about an hour or so.

Yes, still covered up with the plaid blanket while the day progresses.  Supposedly the air temp was 54 degrees at the high point…but that was after we left the arm and were sitting out in the sun out of the wind.  (I think it was about 38 starting out with the wind gusting!)  (That 54 degrees was a fantasy in my opinion….)

Tea time on the ship means fantastic service in the Sanctuary too.

Small sandwiches being served to each guest while we sail towards Victoria BC.

Loved the egg salad and the soft roll.

I had to skip the round of fancy cookies that came next! And the fancy pastries. I held out for the raisin scones, jam and “clotted cream”.The day ended for me at 5 in the Sanctuary, which was dinner time. I ate very light!!

If you are sailing on Princess to Alaska I highly recommend the scenic day package in the Sanctuary.

Watch for more posts on my 10 day cruise to Alaska in coming installments!

UPDATE – here is the link to the photos –View of Dawes Glacier and Tracy Arm Photos

Time to CRUISE!

I just printed my boarding passes.  I embark on this journey near 4 am on Friday from a tiny airport in Salisbury Maryland and make my way to Philadelphia and then on to San Francisco CA.  I am looking forward to escaping the hazy hot and humid August weather in the mid-Atlantic.

I thought I would share with you a short list of things I look forward to on every cruise.

  • Sail Away – drink in hand; wind in my hair; watching the ship pull away from the dock, out into the channel/bay and then through the breakers into the ocean. Many places I have been you wave to the people who sit out on their apartment balconies; or are fishing along the channel etc. My most memorable sail away was in the Azores; where the shore was lined with local people; children running and waving.
  • Pub Lunch on a sea day (hoping for 2 on this sailing) – It is styled after a British Pub lunch with bangers and mash; ploughmans lunch ( Just in case you wonder what that is; look at this article ) and fish and chips.  I always order the fish and chips which are served with “mushy peas”. Princess Cruise Lines has it figured out and my British friend enjoyed the lunches as much as I do. One cruise I was on recently also offered fried shrimp in the basket with chips. That was a surprise and I enjoyed it as well.  People who KNOW line up by 11 am to be among the first seated.  These lunches are held usually in one of the large cocktail lounges instead of the dining room.
  • Knitters and Knatters (Where people who do needlework/fiber art get together and stitch and chat). This is usually a 9am gathering in a quiet cocktail lounge on the ship; and even though I don’t knit, I do take along my English Paper Piecing projects.
  • Platinum & Elite evening cocktails  – this is a “special cocktail hour” for people who have cruised at least 8 times with Princess (earning Platinum status). Discounted drinks and lovely horderves before dinner.
  • Sunsets observed from onboard the ship  (I gave up on sunrise 15 cruises ago).  Yes; I still take pictures of them; every trip.
  • That rocking motion that will sooth you to sleep
  • Dressing for dinner in the Main Dining Room and deciding what wonderful food to have each night for dinner.

And of course for this trip there is an entirely unique list

  • Sail Away under the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Cycling in Alaska
  • watching for wildlife and the overall beauty and wonder and scale of Alaska
  • cooler temperatures during a very hot summer

I think this is my 21st cruise, and 17th on Princess Cruise Lines.  I’ve sailed with Orient Lines; Carnival; Celebrity and Oceania as well.  Loyalty does pay off; as I have learned. Princess has lots of “extra’s” for returning passengers, in their “Captains Circle Program“.  I enjoy the free internet; laundry, mini-bar most of all.

My travel companions over the years varied.  My first cruise was a 7 day Carnival cruise to the Western Caribbean. It was a “one and only” with my first husband less than a year before he died. It was one of those “someday we will” trips. After that trip; I was invited by my dear aunt to take an extended trip; transatlantic with her. We flew together to Athens and sailed all the way back to Baltimore MD.  She hooked me on long lazy days at sea; and really helped me to relax during a very stressful time.

Two months after my husband passed she called me up one day and said “Let’s go” and I booked another trip; from Rome to Venice; a 12 day trip; where we were joined by 2 ladies we had met on the Athens to Baltimore trip.

My lovely aunt and I sailed together several more times; going to Hawaii, and into the Panama Canal; and on a big family trip to Mexico.  I also traveled with a couple of friends on European and Mediterranean cruises.

My “new” husband got a “trial” cruise to Alaska to see if he passed the test!  He failed the inside cabin test; so when I go with him, I get a balcony or a mini-suite. Happy hubby means happy life!  I book a cruise for “just the two of us” every 3 or 4 years and force him to go and have fun.  We do like taking a trip to warmer climates in the middle of a cold winter!

Lately I have been traveling with my younger sister.  She and I are embarking on cruise # 3 for the year!  Since she retired she is really enjoying traveling and how can I say no when she calls!

Often times I have another cruise on my mind before the current one even sails; and ALWAYS keep a future cruise deposit in at Princess.  So; sailing to Alaska this weekend and thinking ahead to the Southern Caribbean for February or March.

Do you enjoy travel and planning?  Do tell……………..

Traveling sewing kit

I am leaving in less than 36 hours for a trip to California, and a cruise to Alaska. My bags are packed, twice now…and I think I have the essentials.

One thing I enjoy while traveling is working on English Paper Piecing. Bonnie Hunter, Quiltville.blogspot.com, does this when she travels to teaching locations around the world. I started the year I went to Nevada when my Lil sister was recovering from knee surgery. The only time I sit and hand stitch is when I travel. (🐈 in lap at home preventing hand stitching).

Anyway, I sorted out my never ending Double Diamonds project, and got things kitted and organized and all set to travel…..or so I thought. Today I attended a lovely gathering of the Material Girls Quilt bee, and Irene, our hostess, shared a hand sewing kit given to her as a gift by a dear friend.

Her friend used some wonderful Tula Link fabric.

There is a place to keep needles stored on the green wool, pockets for scissors and the awesome Vivilux light, and even a zip pocket and a holder for her Aurifil thread. I loved the idea and got permission to to get a couple of pictures.

After dinner tonight I decided to go PLAY for a bit in my sewing room. I got out 2 fat quarters and a scrap of contrasting fabric and some batting and got busy cutting, sewing, quilting and creating.

I made my travel sewing kit with 3 pockets, and also used a bit of wool for the needles and pins.

Travel fabric for the outside.

Transportation (blue) fabric inside. I fussy cut the fabric for the pockets.

Wide open it is about 8″x 20″.

On the left I have a spool of thread being held on with a tab and a button with elastic. Below is a pocket with 3 sections. In the center is the wool pin holder (with a bit of batting behind it). Below the pins is a larger pocket. On the right is another pocket with the opening on the side towards the center.

I managed to load an Altoid tin with bobbins (for lots of thread variety), another spool of Aurifil thread and my new lighted Needle threader in the pocket sections.

The center pocket has those clover clips that are like spare hands, my Vivilux LED light and a floss container. ( I fly with this, and use the cutter on the floss for my thread.)

This side opening pocket has my Double Diamonds directions along with a 1qt zip bag full of pieces and parts for 1 Double Diamond EPP block.

Now I am really packed and ready to go! Thanks Irene for sharing your kit and inspiring me to make one for myself.

Hot August Days and packing for Alaska

What can I say – it is just HOT !!  Summer in Delaware and that is to be expected.   We are in the “dog days” of August with Hazy; hot; HUMID; hot; thunderstorm weather. 3 out of 5 afternoons we have those drenching downpours.  This is typical of our weather radar this month!

 

Time for thunderstorms

So; in between storms we have had lots of pool time, and lots of time hiding in the house with the air conditioning.  Not much time spent in the sewing room, as over the garage it is challenging to keep it regulated to “comfortable” for any length of time.

Some evenings have been pretty pleasant after the string of storms cooled things off. We went to listen to our son in law play with his band, Lincoln City at a local restaurant, on the rooftop.

Lincoln City playing at the Counting House

His group is quite good; and it is fun to see him switch back and forth on his various guitars.

We also got an evening out at Abbotts Mill Nature Center for music.   It was nice to see so many families out for the evening.

And of course, in between times there is a little time for chillen’ on the porch!  I just loved these wine goblets that were a gift at retirement.

Chillen' on the porch

Don’t you know, as luck would have it, the day after this photo; I dropped a chilled goblet, with the stainless steel freezer balls; and cracked it! One down; one to go!  I like the plastic for by the pool and the porch (HINT FOR CHRISTMAS FAMILY….) and I like the stem!

We got lucky with the weather for the GLOW RIDE which was held in a neighboring town, sponsored by #LifecycleDE.

Getting the bikes ready

Over 80 people rode the circuit through Seaford Delaware including 2 Seaford Police Officers in the new “bike” unit.

Seaford Police riding the Glow ride

The last 2 weeks have been busy with quilt guild Community Sewing day; and board meetings; getting a newsletter article written; and sewing with my ladies at the assisted living. I sat at the kitchen counter and sorted donated squares for a solid week, where it was cooler than my room above the garage.

Sorting stacks of 5" squares

My co-chair for 2nd Time Around spent a couple of hours hanging out in the garage on a cooler day; bringing up the donations that we have accumulated over the summer and sorting them out and staging them for September work. We have LOTS ready for our September meeting to sell and even though I have been “staging the ready stuff” at the church where we meet, I still have lots to bring to that meeting!

The ladies who sew at the assisted living facility COMPLETED 15 placemats for donating to  Serendipity Quilt Shop, Dagsboro DE) for the MEALS ON WHEELS  project.

Brandywine Ladies with their placemats

They decided they needed a field trip; so instead of sewing this past week, we arranged for them to go shopping.  Five ladies along with the activities director arrived by the facility bus at the quilt shop. It was a great chance to encourage the purchase of needle threaders and top stitch needles with big eyes and flower head pins along with fabric and patterns and books. Three of the ladies are my die-hard regulars and they had an absolute ball looking at all the fabric and notions. One of the ladies is also a garment sewer; and she has made a dress to wear to a wedding in a lovely turquoise linen, and wanted a jacket made out of batik.  She had her batik picked out but I got to help her pick the piping fabric.  We were able to get a picture of them quickly in the shop with the placemats before I handed them off to the coordinator.

I’ve spent some time this month “pre-planning” my next great adventure. My sister invited me on another cruise, this time to Alaska. I fly to San Francisco next week so there is lots to get ready. Last weekend I did most of my packing; unpacking some after weighing the suitcase and repacking. I had to “pair down” a bit!  Just how many hats and mittens and gloves should I take?

ALASKA packing

I eliminated most of them!

Packing decisions for Alaska

I have a friend who is on a cruise at the same time leaving from another port and we have exchanged packing lists of “must haves”. Packing for an Alaska cruise is so different from a European or Caribbean / Mexico cruise.  I really had to think through what to take.

Before I get to that list, let me tell you about what I  have in the “must have” for any cruise.  I “must have” the following in my suitcase (in fact….I store most of it in my suitcase between cruises with the exception of the shoes) . This is my 21st cruise, and I think I have got the essentials without overdoing things.

  • USB/multi outlet Power block  (There is a picture of it in the photo with the hats and gloves)
  • Wine bottle opener / stopper
  • vinyl luggage tag (like these on Amazon – ) for cruise specific tag
  • laundry bag
  • magnet with hook (cruise ship walls are metal)
  • clothes pins
  • laundry soap pods/dryer sheets
  • Sandals, sneakers, dress shoes (1 pair each)

Purchased new for this cruise specifically

  •  “DAY PACK” (like this one on Amazon  )
  • Pop up style hamper to replace the laundry bag (tripped over one at Walgreens for $2.99 yesterday) (My sister had one I admired, easy to take to the laundry room which can be a long hike to the other end of the ship
  • a rain poncho  (like this one on Amazon  )

Those new items will stay “in the suitcase for future cruises.

I’ve cruised to Alaska once – in 2005 and know that the weather is constantly changing and subject to being hot / cold / raining.

Because I usually cruise in the winter to WARM climates, it is hard not to grab the tank tops, shorts and sundress, etc!   I did pack 1 sleeveless blouse & capri’s “just in case”. I will probably fly home in them!

A necessity is a jacket/raincoat on an Alaskan cruise. Since wet & rainy weather is the expectation; I made certain my Columbia Ski jacket with the zip out fleece lining was sprayed with water-repellant.  What I like about this jacket is it can be worn as a unit or as separate  pieces depending on the weather.  I sprayed the sneakers and walking shoes too; and let them sit out in the sunshine to dry really well before packing them.

Waterproofing the shoes

I recently picked up a lovely poncho by Rain Caper (see the link for the rain poncho).  The one I bought is black on one side and has a tan & black print on the reverse. Not as arty as the one in the link, but I think it will be more functional.   I liked the feel of it and the style; reversible etc. It has little magnets in the corners to keep you from “flopping” in the breeze!  I tried several over the years and decided this one is a winner. It is short enough that I can cycle with it on without being a hazard, long enough to cover the “backside”.   I like that it has a zip pouch that I can tuck in my bag too.  I hate those plastic rain ponchos you buy at the dollar store. They have their purpose but they lack a lot of style !

Here is a look at my packing list for this trip (a 10 day cruise with 3 travel days before/after the cruise).  This is all beyond the normal dress dinner wear & shoes,  undergarments, pajamas, sandals and sneakers, swim suit and sunscreen, wine opener & stopper and refillable water bottle/coffee cup.

  • Fleece hat;
  • 1 pair mittens; 1 pair lined gloves;
  • binoculars
  • warm socks & sneaker socks
  • 5 long sleeve tee shirts
  • 5 pair pants (nylon/zip off legs) water resistant fabric
  • 3 pair leggings/tights
  • 4 short sleeve tee-shirts (2 performance wear for cycling / exercise)
  • lightweight zip front hoodie style sweater
  • sturdy walking shoes
  • bug spray
  • Columbia Ski Jacket with zip out fleece layer.
  • Rain Caper poncho
  • ball cap (to keep rain off my glasses)
  • Tilly sun hat

Yes, all this is in a large suitcase. I use those plastic zip-style compression bags to ensure it all “fits” and nothing gets wet when the suitcase sits on the tarmac at the airport or in the rain while loading.  (Happen just about every trip….)  I weighed the suitcase and it comes in at 43 pounds. Gives me some options for tossing in things like my English paper piecing project bag and other odds and ends I can’t quite live without.

I really liked the day pack I ordered; and it may replace the much heavier one I usually carry on the plane. My husband laughed when it arrived because he said I would “never” get it re-zipped into it’s own pocket. So, I decided to video as I “unzipped” it out of it’s pocket to keep as a reminder of how it should be “rezipped” later.

Hey, when you get old, you sometimes have to have little memory triggers, right?

Our trip starts in San Francisco on Saturday; followed by two sea days sailing the Pacific coastline. We dock on Tuesday in Ketchikan Alaska. My sister and I are scheduled to go to the “Lumberjack show” in the morning; and sail at 2 pm. That should give us a little time to wander about town.  The next day we are in Juneau, where I have signed up for a “Bike & Brew Glacier View” excursion. The bike ride finishes at a brew pub at 5 pm; and we are in port until 9 pm; so there is plenty of time to wander around Juneau. The next day we will be in Skagway and I have schedule a “rain forest bicycle tour”.  It finishes up before lunch time and again, there is plenty of sightseeing time before we sail at 8:30 pm. We spend Friday sailing though Tracy Arm, looking at the glaciers and wildlife.  We have another sea day on Saturday, and dock in Victoria BC on Sept 1st.  I haven’t figured out yet what I want to do in Victoria. Sunday is a tough time to visit on your own (without going on a tour). Our time is port is from 7 am to 2 pm; so if you have a recommendation; tell me.  Our cruise finishes up with another sea day going South along the Pacific coastline and dock back in San Francisco on Tuesday.

I think I am fairly prepared and 99% packed for this trip. At least I won’t need the warm jacket at home this week or any of those long sleeve shirts!!  Fingers crossed that we have lovely 70 degree weather for the 10 days; but my expectation is wet and rainy at low 50’s.  Watch for a travel update when I return.

What are you doing for fun this month?

 

 

The end of the journey – Cozumel and home – back to reality

The third and final segment of the travel adventures – Warning….lots of photos

During my recent cruise on the Regal Princess, we had our last port of call in Cozumel Mexico.  I’ve been there twice before and this time was looking for a different type of adventure.  I selected a snorkeling trip and beach day.

Cozumel Excursion

My excursion was for the afternoon, and was worthwhile.  The FURY company that operated the excursion did a fantastic job.  There were about 8 crew members for the 45 or so passengers on the catamaran.  Lots of seating in the shade!  Decent equipment.  The snorkeling location was about 100 yards from where our ship was docked.  That was a surprise.  We had crystal clear water, and a guide in the water with us as we swam about.  Following the snorkeling, we reboarded the catamaran using “stairs”, not a ladder which was awesome.

Steps on the back of the Fury

The bar opened as we turned in our gear and set sail for our beach time.  Arriving at the beach we went down those stairs again into shallow water and walked up onto the beach. When we arrived, there were 3 or 4 other Fury boats there, and ours was last in and last out.

Fury Private Beach

There was lunch available ($11.50 for a hamburger platter) along with the open bar.  The water was filled with various play toys, and there were plenty of items to use in the water for floating around.  The private “FURY” beach had plenty of loungers and lots of people having a very good time.  We stayed for about an hour & 1/2.  I took this photo below using the “panoramic setting” so it gives the photo a bit of a “curve”, but gives you a WIDE look at this great beach.

Panoramic view of the Fury beach

It was a “perfect beach weather day” – and I was teasing my husband who was at home contending with snow by sending him pictures like this!

Perfect beach weather

Sunny day in Cozumel

I enjoyed my time in the sun, and in the brilliant clear water in Cozumel.  The sand was like sugar and I would recommend this trip to anyone!  As it happens, the late afternoon brought in some clouds, but they were welcome after a day in the sun!

Beautiful water

We did enjoy the open bar on the catamaran as we proceeded under full sail back to the port.  I met up with my sister once we docked!  She had a fun time exploring around the port area, finding lots of places to try new beers and foods.

Catching up with my sister

We took advantage of one of those pedal cabs for the trip back to our ship!  Since there were so many ships in port, the pier was quite crowded.

LONG piers in Cozumel

That is a very long pier.  Cozumel was a winner!!  We enjoyed our day in port!

Our last day was a “sea day” which was a great way to relax and finish out the trip.  After such a port heavy trip, it is nice to have some sea days.  Of course, there is the packing to be done, setting suitcases out before dinner, and trying to get in all those activities you don’t want to miss out on!

Docking on Sunday morning and traveling to the airport went pretty well.  My flight was uneventful going to Philadelphia and the connector got me home on schedule. The layover in Philadelphia was long enough to easily switch terminals and get a late lunch/early supper at Chipotle!  Hubby picked me up “on time” in Salisbury for the quick drive home.

I was up “early” Monday morning for the Ocean Waves Quilt Guild meeting!  I came home that afternoon and finished unpacking and “repacking” for the “next” cruise at the end of March. Once the laundry was finished and caught up, I pretty well have everything ready to go, either in or on top of the suitcase!

I’m ready to go for the next trip!!  I’m just now starting to think about the places our next cruise will take us to, and the excursions I will choose.  My lesson from my stop in Grand Cayman (Yesterday’s post) is to be more mindful of what is happening at a given island because so many tourists are coming there.

Do you have any winter travel plans??

More soon….

 

Travel Fun (Part 2) Falmouth Jamaica and Grand Cayman

FAIR WARNING – LOTS of photos!  Travelogue of my recent cruise on the Regal Princess- Western Caribbean Jan 27-Feb 3 2019.

My recent travel adventures included a visit to Falmouth Jamaica.  I’ve been to Ochos Rios a couple of times, and the ship offered many tours that took you from the port in Falmouth to the numerous tourist sites in Ochos Rios.  I could not decide on what to do, as I did not want to wander about independently and I had no desire to spend an hour or more on a bus headed to Ochos Rios.  So, my been there done that attitude kept me at the ship.  I wandered off with another passenger and my sister and explored the huge port area, full of shops, bars, and restaurants.  Rain was in the forecast, and threatening to let loose at any moment.  We ventured into Margaritaville for lunch and an adult beverage.

Margaritaville Falmouth Jamaica

That is quite the set up in this port, complete with a pool and swim up bar. We opted for a table under “cover” because of the impending rain, not wanting to be caught with a table full of food when the skies opened up. I enjoyed a platter with Jerk Chicken, rice and beans and  a delicious banana margarita. My lunch, with 16.5% sales tax and a 20 % tip ran $40. YIKES!  The tip was good because the service was great.

Selfie with Princess the waitress

( Side note – travel brings fun experiences and great memories.  When I started to work on this post, my nearly 11 year old grandson was very interested in the picture below, with the various countries currency.  He immediately used the calculator to convert his US Dollars monthly allowance into Jamaican Dollars! It was great fun watching him figure out the calculation necessary. He was impressed by the result of the  large number that the allowance would be in Jamaican dollars. Grandma didn’t delve into the relative “value” of the various currencies…he figured it out on his own  )

The bill for lunch

Our waitress Princess was fantastic and made sure she got her photo taken with mine! #MVILLECARIBBEAN  She really was attentive and earned that tip !  My sister was NOT a big fan of the LIGHT Red Stripe beer.  She ordered a “regular” Red Stripe and liked it a bit better.  There were all kinds of kiosks and shops with everything you could imagine buying just outside the door of Margaritaville.  In fact, you had to go through the obligatory gift shop to exit to the dock area. In my typical fashion, I wandered along with my sister while she shopped here and there.  I came home with memories but no stuff.

Just as we got back on the ship the weather gave us what it promised and the drizzle turned to steady rain.  The temperatures dropped and we spent the rest of the day on board the ship in the comforts it offered.

Rain over the resort in Falmouth Jamaica

I did some checking on the “next day” forecast and it looked MUCH better –

planning ahead for Grand Cayman

My excursion plans in Grand Cayman had been set for 3 or more months!  The weather forecast was perfect!!

Plan for Grand Cayman

I started my day like this –

Perfect start to the morning in Grand Cayman

From the balcony, I had a view of the dawn over George Town Grand Cayman –

Morning light in Grand Cayman

And I could watch all the lifeboat “tender activity” as well –

Regal Princess Tenders

You can see we were NOT the only ship in town. This meant busy docks, busy tours, busy shops.  My tour was fairly early, so I was off the ship right after breakfast. Once I tendered over to the dock, I could see 4 ships from that location!

4 ships in Grand Cayman

I often wonder if Grand Cayman will ever invest in docks suitable for cruise ships!  The tour group quickly gathered, and in minutes we were off on a mini-bus to the West Bay.  We arrived quickly and selected our bikes, and set off with our leader –

Bike tour guide

We had “single speed beach cruisers” , not mountain bikes as advertised in the tour description.

Bike ride equipment

I had to remember how to use coaster brakes.  But, all was good and we road a fair distance for the tour. About 3 miles into our ride, we made a stop at the Cayman Turtle Centre where we had an opportunity to hear about the breeding program and to see the very large turtles in the breeding pond.  It was a good stop for some water, restrooms and sightseeing.

Breeding turtles

The photo doesn’t show the size of these turtles.  They were 3-4 feet across.

Cayman Turtle Farm breeding pool

As I was editing photos for this post, I “googled” the Cayman Turtle Center and came across a very disturbing story from National Geographic about this turtle center and the crowding.  My photo below shows that crowding –

crowded in the breeding pool

While touring, I did not realise that this crowding together was problematic until later when I read that article linked above.  The “handling” indicated in the article was done also.  I always chose not to “touch” the animals, as I think it is stressful regardless of the environment.  I remember scuba diving in Hawaii in 2008 and being told “don’t touch” the green turtle, when he swam near us. All of the visitors were offered an opportunity to “hold” a young turtle for a “selfie shot”, and I did take lots of their photos!

Holding turtles for selfie shots

Again, I don’t think those of us on the tour had any idea of the article in National Geographic and the stress these turtles were put under.  It was a “fun activity” at the time, but in hindsight, it makes me a little sad that this was being promoted by cruise lines.  80% of the visitors at the turtle center come from cruise ships. I selected this tour because I thought I was doing a healthy “good” activity.  Well….back on the bike ride, we went straight from there to HELL !  Literally…..

Of course, the path to Hell is paved with Rum Cake and we did stop by for a sample on the way there!  The view on the way to HELL was pretty nice!

Rum cake stop

That stop took place at a “tourist shop” where you could taste the cake and buy your souvenirs too! I had my bite of rum cake but went back out to enjoy the view!

Nicky's tour stop

Like I said — next stop was

Just a stop over

looking at the dead coral in Hell

I found this sign on the viewing platform –

The story behind the name

For an easier to “read” description – check out the wikipedia version https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hell,_Grand_Cayman

I did get my passport stamped in the general “store/gift shop”; spent my money on postcards and quickly wrote notes to loved ones in the event I never returned.  I DID return home, but the post cards are still making their way through the international postal systems of the Cayman Islands and the US Mail.  No one has received theirs yet.  😦

While standing on the viewing platform, I noticed a vine flowering and I thought the contrast between limestone looking quite dead and the new life of the vine was interesting –

flowering near the dead coral in Hell, Cayman Islands

It made me think that even amidst the bleak, dead limestone God gives new life.

We were soon back on our bikes and completed our circuit of the West Bay.  We rode a total of 6.83 miles on the tour with very little elevation change. It was a nice pace, of 7.6 mph according to my “STRAVA” app.  

We had a few minutes to have a nice drink at the Commodore Restaurant and Bar while we looked out at the bay and cooled off from our ride.  A cold beer was just the ticket after all that exercise!  Our ride back to the ship was a rather hair-raising ride with a driver who was “in a hurry” to make another pick up. No tip for him!  I did a few videos while I was on that wild ride in the bus and hoped they would be in my “google cloud” if I ended up dead!  We arrived safely back to the docks and I tendered back to the ship for lunch and an afternoon at the pool!

Pool time in Grand Cayman

It was a perfect end to the day!  This is one of my favorite parts of cruising!  Have an adventure, then come back to the ship for some relaxation!

More later……..

 

Travel fun, delays and challenges Part 1

PHOTO INTENSE…..fair warning…… (this is a multi-part post)….

I’m back from a week of travel with my sister.  Travel can be fun, but not always!  Some parts of it are just a pain in the neck!!

It was a GOOD week to be away from Delaware where the temperatures were in the single digits during the night and a flurry of snow turned into 3 inches!  The Saturday morning I departed from home “in the dark” and was at the airport only a few minutes when the morning light caught my eye.

Waiting for sunrise in SBY

Those quiet dawn moments on the flightline are one of the few things I miss about going to work.  Then I remember it was the ONLY good thing about working the midnight shift, and that dawn’s early light meant the shift was going to be over soon.

Hubby always teases me about getting to the airport so early. I had an 8:30 am flight, which according to TSA rules meant a 6:30 arrival.  Well, I guess I can tell you that our little airport knows how to handle the big crowds! I got comfortable and put my feet up watching the folks check in !

All checked in

Then of course, once TSA opened the security line for the flight, I breezed right through….only to find myself at odds, waiting on a 4 hour delay. Seems the flight crew didn’t want to fly, and we had to wait on ANOTHER crew to arrive from Charlotte to take our aircraft out.    I kept myself entertained while I waited patiently.  I wrote out  16 invitations to the upcoming Cruise Critic Meet & Greet for the officers onboard the Regal Princess.

4 hour delay

Then, I studied the ship map….again….just to make sure I knew where everything was once I boarded the following day.

Ship map Regal Princess

Finally at 12:05 we were out on the runway, ready to depart!!

Time to go

What a way to start a vacation~!!~  It was a lovely day for flying and taking photos from the airplane window.

heading to Philadelphia

Our 29 minute flight from Salisbury Maryland (SBY) to Philadelphia PA (PHL) takes you along coastal Delaware before crossing the Delaware Bay and flying over New Jersey as you approach the Philadelphia Airport.

homes on the beach Delaware

The funny part of this story is, by car, we live 30 minutes or so from the Salisbury Airport, and 2 hours from the Philadelphia Airport.  I often take the flights out of Salisbury to avoid that 2 hour drive!  It really didn’t pay off on this occasion. My “next” trip in March will be out of Philadelphia!! (Really, those reservations were made months ago, it was just a better deal!  But, that means the dear husband will be driving  me to the airport and home again, and overall that is 8 hours for him in the car for my trip, which I hate to do!)

Anyway, when I finally arrive in Philadelphia, my “new connection” required another wait once I arrived.  So, I stopped for lunch and a well deserved adult beverage!  I enjoyed an Angry Orchard cider with my “Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich” while I relaxed and waited 2 hours for the “new connection”.

Waiting on flight in Philadelphia

I had a view of a cruise ship leaving Port Everglades as our flight approached Ft Lauderdale!

Approaching Ft Lauderdale

This day of travel was a good reminder of why I always, always, always, fly in the DAY before the ship sails.   I am glad that was not the Regal Princess !  That would not have been a good finish to the day.

I finally arrive in Fort Lauderdale, much later than I had originally planned. Rain greeted me while I waited for the shuttle to the airport hotel.  My sister had arrived from Nevada a few hours earlier, had the room, and had dinner ordered from a local place that delivered.  I dropped my luggage in the room, opened the suitcase to “dry out”, and relaxed for the evening.  Note – I always always always pack my clothing in Space Bags (available on line or in your local big box stores).  This is NOT the first time my suitcases has gotten wet in transit! It was easy to take out the space bags, wipe them with a towel and let the suitcase air dry in the hotel, then reload them in the morning. The suitcase dried easily overnight in the hotel room, set near the air conditioning vents.  If it had not been dry, I would have used the hotel hair dryer!

The morning view from the hotel room window was nice, but there was a bit of drizzle to start the day.

Rain threatening to spoil the day

I used the hotel shuttle to make a quick trip to K-Mart near the hotel and picked up a few necessities (2 bottles of wine for the ship).  It was too drizzly to make the walk to the store and I wanted to make sure I had the essentials for the cruise.  Later in the morning the sky cleared up nicely and I was able to take a nice walk before it was time to board the shuttle to the ship.  My sister and I planned for one of the latest shuttles (Noon), to avoid some of the crowds at the hotel and at Port Everglades.

Shuttle to the cruise

Our hotel uses a service for that transportation which was quite efficient. We were READY to go.  Streamlined boarding was wonderful. A good tip to the porters at the port got our luggage taken care of quickly, and having our Cruise Medallions already made it the fastest check in ever. No waiting. We walked up with our boarding pass, our Medallion, were given our cruise cards, and we were on the ship within minutes of arriving at the port.

It took no time at all to settle into our “Deluxe Balcony Cabin # R509 ” on the Regal Princess.   A big improvement from the original inside cabin we had booked, and the upgrade was well appreciated.

Deluxe Balcony R509 Regal Princess

This cabin had a love seat and a significantly smaller bathroom than our mini-suite on the Regal in December. But the extra space was nice in the cabin and we enjoyed having the balcony.

Our pre-ordered water, and my cup for the “soda” package was already in the room.  (In December when Hubby & I cruised on the same ship, they had a shortage of the cups for the “soda” package, and compensated us with multiple large bottles of water in lieu of the cups.  We never use the cups on the ship, we just bring them home, so it was not a big loss).  I do like the new design!  Much heavier tumbler than “last spring”.

New Soda package cups

I just had to add the wine to the fridge. A call later in the afternoon for room service to deliver the “liquor & beer” and we were ready to sail!  We made plans to attend the Platinum and Elite pre-dinner cocktail party every night.  I liked the new drinks being offered daily. These were “specially priced” for the cocktail party and we were tempted with many of them.

Exclusive Elite Lounge specials

As we wandered around the ship, we enjoyed looking at all the other ships and the activities as they all prepared to depart.

Departing Port Everglades

As we sailed out of the channel, the Regal Princess played the LOVE BOAT theme with the ships horns.  I’m sure the residents hate it, but I loved it!!

Our itinerary was to take us to Princess Cays, Bahamas, a tender port for Monday.  The dawn was beautiful.

First sunrise

Sadly, there was just too much wind and choppy seas for us to safely tender and the Captain chose to skip the port.  Later in the day we had to endure the rain that accompanied that wind, and it made for a soggy sea day. The crew was quick to arrange new “onboard activities” in the Piazza, the center of the ship; and in other public spaces. I enjoyed my time “under cover” on the Lido Deck.

Deck 16 Regal Princess

I worked on my “never ending hexi project” for an hour or two, out in the fresh air with a nice drink in hand.

working on hexi's during the rain

Over the course of the cruise, I met most mornings with the “Knitters and Knatters” and did a little hand stitching. I met a nice group of “stitchers”, and am glad that the ship offers the gathering every cruise.

Monday rounded out with cocktails, dinner and a comedian, Steve Caouette, in the Princess Theater.

Tuesday was a scheduled sea day as we sailed towards Falmouth Jamaica.  It was also the day for the Cruise Critic Meet & Greet, which I had coordinated before we sailed.  I had my fingers crossed that everyone would “show up”.  I was delighted to see the number of people who attended along with the ships officers.  One member came with his fancy camera and took a group photo and some random snaps of people mingling with the officers.

The manager of the Medallion department presented each attendee with a little “clip on” device to hold our medallions in.  The clip was nice and a real benefit for attending the Meet & Greet.  If you like to cruise, check out the “roll calls” on CruiseCritic.com

The weather on Tuesday was perfect for an afternoon spent by the pool.  I enjoyed using the Adults only pool area on Deck 17, were there were loungers and shade. It was a beautiful place to spend a few hours, have a nap, read etc.

pool area deck 17 Regal Princess

As you can see, the weather improved dramatically. Blue skies, blue water, sunshine and warm temperatures are what make for a perfect day at sea!

Part II coming soon…………………..