Cruising plans crushed

I had been looking forward to a cruise with my favorite quilting sister in law – the One Block Wonder Woman in August to Alaska.   A quilting cruise, with 4 wonderful sea days, and two ports I have never been to, Sitka and Haines Alaska.

We were booked on the Princess Star out of San Francisco for August 21st, in an inside cabin.  We had excursions booked and paid for, our deposits in on the cruise and then the COVID-19 pandemic started hitting the world and the cruise industry.  We were not too worried because we both felt that things would be back to normal by August, even when Princess took a voluntary 60 day halt to their sailings.  I sailed out of San Francisco last summer on a 10 day trip to Alaska, and was quite looking forward to going again.  

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My younger sister had 2 cruises cancelled in that 60 day window, including a much anticipated Trans-Atlantic trip to Copenhagen.

Two weeks ago, the chatter on Cruise Critic implied people were getting upgrades for the sailing, and our travel agent/quilting cruise organizer got us a wonderful balcony cabin.  We were feeling so hopeful.  We had picked out excursions in each port, had hotel reservations for the night before the cruise with the group we were traveling with, airport transfers, and much more.  

I ordered t-shirts to do some fun embroidery on for the trip, got them all washed and ready to stitch.  Suddenly, the mask making needs got into full swing, and the stack of freshly washed tshirts took a back seat.  All my fun sewing has pretty much stopped while I try to keep up with the demands for masks.

Another batch ready

Then – last week I saw the article linked below in USA Today, and I  KNEW our voyage for August was in jeopardy.    Go have a read of the article after my blog post and you will understand the sense of dread I was feeling.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/cruises/2020/04/14/carnival-princess-cancel-cruises-through-june-amid-coronavirus-crisis/2991576001/

As a person with a logistics background, this article left me very concerned. How were cruise lines supposed to schedule with the crazy situation they were faced with? 

Last night I got the dreaded email, first from Princess CEO and then from the travel agent.  The Alaska cruise season for 2020 is not going to happen with my favorite cruise line.  My bright spot at the end of this crazy time has disappeared, leaving me feel so very sad.  Not just for me, and my sister in law, but for all those in the travel and hospitality industries, the people in Alaska that depend on these cruise ships coming and the families of all who depend on the person working in the travel industry.   

For myself, it feels a bit selfish to whine and carry on about a cancelled cruise when people in my state, mostly in long term care facilities, are losing their lives to COVID-19.  I am praying for the “herd immunity” to start working while the researchers and healthcare professionals try to find a  way to fight this pandemic.   I’m praying too that the Health and Human Services department in our little state can figure out why so many elderly people in our care facilities are dying. What is wrong with the workers coming in and why are they not protecting the residents who are most vulnerable?  So while I whine for a minute, I really worry for those who can’t protect themselves against the unseen virus and are being done in by the very people being paid to care for them. 

Think I will go wash my hands and make more masks in the mean time.  When this week is over, I am going to start sewing for fun again. I need some joy back.  Maybe I will go sort out that album of Alaska photos from the trip last year too……

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While I do that, I can plan for 2021 I suppose.  What are you doing to muddle thru this crazy time?  

 

 

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……………..

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……..