Category Archives: People-Events

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NOTE:  This post contains 20 photos with captions and some narrative.  All photos were taken by me (Bruce) using a Google Pixel 6 Pro, except for the last one, which was taken by Linda with a Google Pixel 6.

 

March 2024 — Return to normal home life; tree pruning and house/home/family stuff

Upon returning from our Disney DREAM family cruise at the end of last month, we quickly settled back into the routine of normal home life.  Besides the usual chores of cooking, laundry, paying bills, and tending to the cat (Cabela), this included extensive work catching up on blog posts (which included processing a LOT of photographs), making and attending appointments (medical/dental, automotive), providing child care (Ann Arbor public schools were on spring break the last full week of the month), hosting or attending get-togethers with friends (walking, dinner, phone chats, and ZOOM), doing some travel planning (for the fall and next year), and a few special projects.

Special projects included the following:

  1. A chat with Phil Jarrell of Precision Grading to firm up trenching and grading work he will do for us this year, including a French Drain and sump drainage in the back yard.
  2. Taking delivery of the new furniture that we ordered last month for our recreation/TV room.
  3. Purchasing comprehensive travel insurance from Allianz.
  4. Getting CoVID-19 booster injections.
  5. Successfully booking a full-hookup site at Wilderness State Park (Michigan) for a couple of weeks this September.
  6. Meeting with Dan from Everlast Doors & More to firm up our options for new garage doors.
  7. I (Bruce) also signed up for the MyUofMHealth Portal and completed a new patient intake ZOOM meeting with a social worker in advance of my early April visit with my new primary care physician in the Geriatric clinic at UofM Health in Ann Arbor.

Most of the photos that follow, however, relate to one special project on March 11 and 12.  Not too long ago we contracted with Davey Tree Service (DTS) for “dormant season pruning.”  This term applies to the pruning of trees that must be done between late fall and early spring; in our case, mostly Oak, Ash, and Maple trees.  (Elm trees, and perhaps some other hardwood species, also require dormant season pruning, but we do not have any of those on our property.)  We do have a lot of Oak trees, however, and we still have some living Ash trees.

It doesn’t hurt to prune other trees during this same period of time, so we contracted to have DTS do some fairly extensive trimming, including the large grove of diverse trees in the northwest portion of the property.  This stand of trees had not been professionally pruned under our ownership of the property, and I doubt that previous owners ever hired anyone to do this work.  Over the years, I have done what I could removing deadwood with a pole saw or chainsaw, but these trees are large/tall and needed more serious attention, especially higher up where I cannot reach.  We did not have DTS prune most of the pine and fir trees, however, as they can be trimmed any time of year, and I can usually do that myself.

In addition to the debris from their own work, DTS cleaned up most of the brush piles that we had created around the property over the last many years.  I think we had 13 of them, and they disposed of at least eight (8), but it might have been 9 or 10.  That meant we did not have to cut them up, transport them to our “burn pile,” and set them ablaze.  Money well spent, in our opinion.

 

A boom truck positioned to work on the Oak trees near of east driveway entrance.  The small tracked vehicle, left-center, has claws on the front for picking up limbs, branches, and other related debris and moving it to the chipper/truck.

 

The chipper and truck in the east section of the pull-through driveway in front of the house.

 

Looking west at the boom truck positioned in the street just beyond (west of) our center driveway entrance.  Most of the large trees that are visible here are Oak trees.  The crew has set out orange safety cones around the truck as well as “Workers Ahead” signs.  DTS is a very safety conscious company that uses good equipment and knowledgeable, well-trained crew.

 

The tracked brush loader moving limbs and branches to the chipper, visible in the lower right corner of the frame.

 

A view of the bucket truck looking east.  As mention in a previous caption, DTS is very safety conscious.

 

The crew leader studies the Ash tree behind our house.  The central trunk above the large branches is dead.  It’s unattractive and not good for the tree, so it will be removed.  DTS cannot get its boom truck back here without damaging the yard, so the crew will climb the tree using climbing gear.  DTS’s technicians do NOT use spikes to climb trees, something we very much appreciate.

 

This is the Tulip tree behind our house.  (These are often called Tulip Poplars, but that is incorrect as they are not poplar trees).  Again, climbing gear was used to get up into the tree.  This tree had a lot of deadwood to be removed.  Unfortunately, the entire southern trunk (closest to the house) is dead.

 

A wider view of the back of our house and the work being done on some of the trees.  L-2-R:  Tulip tree, Mountain Hickory, and Ash.  Barely visible at the left edge of the frame is our Crimson King Norway Maple, which also got some deadwood removal and decorative pruning.

 

The Locust tree at the SE corner of our house.  This tree tends to put out lower branches that swoop down, posing a risk to someone (like me or Keith, our lawn care guy) hitting their head when operating a riding lawn mower.  DTS has very nicely trimmed it up.  Not visible in this photo are the power and phone lines that are just out of the frame at the top and relatively close to the tree.  Dave is not allowed to work on any limbs or branches within a certain distance (10’ I think) of the power lines.  Again, it’s a safety thing, and might be a power company requirement.

 

Our small stand of Black Walnut trees in the yard ENE of the NE corner of the house.  Barely visible just below the center of the frame is a pile of logs, the remnants of a Pear tree that was long dead.  We try not to remove dead trees that show signs of use by woodpeckers, squirrels or other critters looking for food or shelter, but at some point they have to come down.

 

The nicely pruned Crimson King Norway Maple.  This is a beautiful tree when it’s leafed out, but they grow prolifically, and in a somewhat tangled way.  As such, they require a lot of maintenance to keep them under control and attractive.  They are also not native to this part of Michigan, and are considered somewhat invasive.  I do as much of that as I can with this tree, but it was nice to have the DTS professionals have a go at it.

 

I just liked the composition and exposure of this photo.  It’s hard to provide a context for it, but basically this tree had a long, large limb that was rubbing on the trunk of a nearby pine tree and damaging the pine tree.  Removing the limb ensured the health of the affected pine tree, and opened up the area where the limb had been to allow light to get to other adjacent trees.

 

A portion of the stand of trees in the northwest part of our property.  The crew leader and the newest hire are discussing how to approach pruning the tree closest to them.

 

The crew leader (L) explaining to the new guy (R) how to prune this tree.  I walked over and ended up getting a lesson in how to properly prune a limb or large branch.  Basically, an enlarged area called a “collar” forms around the base of the limb and, ideally, the limb needs to be cut cleanly right at the collar without cutting into the collar, and without leaving any of the limb protruding.  ABIR, the tree produces four (4) different types of growth to heal the wound left by the removal of the limb, and pruning it in this way maximizes the tree’s ability to do that.  Even with hiring DTS, I still end doing a lot of pruning every year, so I was grateful to have this in-person lesson.

 

The boom-truck and the chipper/truck combination have moved just beyond the third/west driveway entrance (by the barn) to work on the trees on the north side of the road.  The trees on the left side of the road (and the grassy area leading up to our neighbor’s pole barn) are also part of our property.  This portion of the property also includes a stand of large Oak trees, but it was not part of the work order for this job.  Next year, probably, maybe, hopefully.

 

Another view of the trees in the northwest portion of the property, to the W and NW of the barn, showing the telltale signs of having been pruned.

 

A wider view of some of the trees in the northwest portion of the property.  Showing this entire area required a panorama, which I could not take as the DTS crew was moving around as they worked.

 

The new furniture for our recreation/TV room.  L-2-R:  Metal end table with metal lamp, 3-cushion sofa with two power loungers (one each end), metal end table with metal lamp, 2-cushion love seat with two power loungers, metal coffee table.  We purchased custom cut protective translucent matts from Linovent for the top surface of each of the three tables.  The matts feature beveled edges and appear to be a high-quality product.

 

A panoramic view of the new furniture in the recreation/TV room showing its relationship to the repositioned television set and associated equipment.  As a result of this rearrangement, both of us now have the same viewing angle and distance from the TV, with no glare from the lighting, and much more comfortable/adjustable furniture to sit on.  We really liked our old furniture, but it was over 30 years old, and we were ready for a change.  The old furniture was still serviceable, and will be donated to the local Habitat For Humanity ReStore, if they will take it, or somewhere else if they won’t.

 

Linda provided childcare for a week at the end of the month while the Ann Arbor Public Schools were on spring break.  She snapped this photo of Madeline (L) reading a book about dinosaurs to Sadie (R) at their house.  (Photo by Linda)

 

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NOTE:  This post has 11 photos with captions interspersed with narrative.  The photos are in chronological order, but do not always correspond to the closest text.  Photos by me (Brue) taken with a Google Pixel 6 Pro unless otherwise indicated.  (Photos by Linda taken with a Google Pixel 6.)

 

WEDNESDAY 28 February (T8-C6) — Debarkation & Flying Home

 

Cruises always end and, like any vacation trip packed with things to do, there is a sadness at it being over combined with a sense of relief (exhaustion?) that’s it’s done (for now) and the anticipation of returning to “normal” life.  We have always experienced that same combination of emotions at RV rallies, both small and large.

The Disney DREAM is back at the dock at the Disney Cruise terminal in Port Hollywood, Florida.  Looking aft from out stateroom balcony we see the RUBY Princess (Princess Cruise Line) at dock.  (In late January of this year we booked a repositioning and British Isles cruise on the REGAL Princess for April 2025.)

The Disney Dream returned to Port Hollywood early in the morning and was docked by sunrise.  Debarkation is generally less of a hassle than embarkation, which includes the check-in process, but it can also be somewhat abrupt.  One gets the sense of “here’s your hat, what’s your hurry.”  Or, as my parents relayed to us after their visit to Hawaii, where they were presented with leis when stepping off the plane and greeted with “Welcome to Hawaii, enjoy your visit, go home.”  (True story.)

A wider view of the Disney Cruise terminal at Port Hollywood showing some of the activity taking place on the dock prior to debarkation of passengers.  The full length of the RUBY Princess is visible.

Our stateroom on the Disney DREAM looking in from the balcony doorwall.

While Disney tries to make guests feel welcomed everywhere, and at all times, the reality of a cruise ship is that they need ALL guests off the ship as soon as possible so they can “turn it around,” i.e., prepare it for the guests embarking for the next cruise, which usually leaves that same day by late afternoon or early evening.  While guests are getting off the ship, large amounts of trash are being off-loaded, and large quantities of supplies—including food, beverages, and fuel—are being taken on-board.  It’s quite an operation, and I always find it interesting to get a glimpse of it.  For me, at least, seeing these operations does not detract from the “magic” or luxury of the cruise experience.  Indeed, one of the best cruise ship experiences I have had was the “behind the scenes” tour of the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) JOY on our Panama Canal cruise with Paul and Nancy.  Cruise ships are floating cities and amazing machines, with everything on-board to provide the necessities and comforts of life, including culture and entertainment.  How all of these systems function is fascinating to me.

The “bath” room in our Disney DREAM stateroom, which had an actual bathtub and included a sink.  This made perfect sense as these staterooms can accommodate more than two people, some of whom are often children, and younger children need a bathtub rather than a shower.

We were off the ship at 9 AM, the scheduled time for our debarkation group.  We claimed (found) our checked bags, and then cleared customs (since we had been out of the country).  We used our Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) Global Entry (GE) status for the first time.  (ABIR the entry process was fairly quick and easy, but I don’t recall the process ever being slow or difficult, except when re-entering the USA from Los Algodones, Mexico at a walk-through CBP station.)  Everyone else also got through Customs without any hassle or delay.

The “water closet” in our Disney DREAM stateroom.  Again, it has a sink.  We really liked the two room, dual sink arrangement.  The DREAM was the first ship we’ve been on that had this as part of a regular stateroom (not a suite).

All of our group was flying home from the Fort Lauderdale International Airport, with the Michigan contingent flying home on the same Delta flight.  Marilyn was flying back to St. Louis, Missouri and Katie to the research triangle area of North Carolina.  We proceeded to the Ride Share area of the cruise terminal and called the number for the van shuttle service that transported us from our hotels to the cruise terminal at the beginning of the cruise.

A view of the living room area of our Disney DREAM stateroom.

With regards to the preceding photo; The sofa was very comfortable and, as Disney does in its land-based resorts, the back folded down to make a single bed.  It was NOT a typical pull-out (articulated) sleeper sofa (which tend to be extremely uncomfortable) or a slide-out (trundle) bed.  The desk (left) was also a good size, and the desk chair was reasonably comfortable.  The table was small, but big enough for coffee cups, etc.  It would have been a bit small to dine comfortably, but we never ordered room service or brought food back to our cabin.  We also had two chairs and a table on the balcony.  Linda provides a sense of the scale of the room and the space available to us to move around, which was very adequate.  If our stateroom on the MSC Magnifica had been as nice/comfortable as our DCL DREAM stateroom, we would probably not have cancelled the World Cruise we had booked starting in early January 2025.  Alas, that was not the case.

Our flight back to Michigan was scheduled for early-to-mid afternoon, giving us plenty of time to get to the airport and take care of things there.  It meant we would wait a while for our flight, but better that than rushing to make the gate in time.

A better view of the desk and associated storage in our Disney DREAM stateroom.

At the airport, we self-checked our larger bags and proceeded to the TSA security checkpoint.  This was our second time using TSA Pre-check.  As before, DELTA had also tagged our boarding passes with “Digital ID.”  And, as before, the process was smooth and easy.  We waited for the rest of our party to clear through security and then proceeded to our gate and settled in to wait for our flight.  The timing was such that we got a light lunch well ahead of departure.

We had to vacate our staterooms early so the cabin stewards could start the process of turning them around, but had to wait a while for our scheduled debarkation time.  All of the other guests were in the same situation, and people found places to rest while they waited.  Sadie was a perfect fit for these porthole windows on the promenade deck.  (Photo by Linda)

The flight home was uneventful, the best kind, and we arrived back at Detroit Metropolitan International Airport (DTW) a little ahead of schedule.  (This is usually the case, as I think Delta publishes longer flight times than are required for their flights, giving them some wiggle room to arrive on time even if there are departure delays or weather routing delays.  I suspect that all airlines do this, as they get “dinged” for late arrivals.)

A wider view shows one of the lifeboats hanging above the promenade deck.  (Sadie’s eyes are open.)   Chris is in the chair at the left edge of the frame and some of our suitcases are just visible at the bottom of the frame.  (Photo by Linda)

We arrived at the gate at the DTW McNamara Terminal around 4 PM, patiently took our turn getting off of the plane, and made our way to the baggage claim area, where we retrieved our larger suitcases and then headed to the US Park shuttle area in the attached garage.  The rest of our party were not parked where we were, and made their own arrangements to get home.  Back at the US Park fenced/secure lot, we were dropped off at our truck, paid our bill at the exit gate, and headed for home.  We got home around 6 PM, and it didn’t take long for Cabela (the cat) to appear and come in the house.

Silly Sadie has re-awakened.  I think Chris was ready to go home.  He really enjoyed the cruise, but he has a very demanding job managing a restaurant in Ann Arbor, Michigan and had to check-in regularly to make sure everything was running smoothly in his absence; clearly more difficult and stressful than when he is there in person.  (Photo by Linda)

Linda had stocked microwaveable frozen meals before we left for the cruise to make sure we had something to eat upon our return that was quick and easy to fix.  We unpacked the essentials (technology, medications, toiletries) after diner, but not our clothes.  I like to launder all of our clothing after a trip, but that would happen over the next day or so.

A view of the area where our family hung out waiting to disembark the Disney DREAM.  Considering the number of passengers waiting to get off the ship, we had no problem finding a comfortable, quiet place for all of us to sit and wait.  Brendan grabs a power nap while Madeline uses Shawna’s phone.  Yup, that’s about right.  (Photo by Linda)

Was this family cruise/vacation all that we hoped it would be?  Yes, it was.  Would we do it again?  Absolutely, although we might not pay for (as much of) it as we did this time.  🙂  Cheers!

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NOTE:  This post mainly consists of 33 photos with captions.  Photos by me (Bruce) taken with a SONY alpha 6400 or Google Pixel 6 Pro, unless otherwise indicated.  (Photos by Linda taken with a Google Pixel 6.)

 

TUESDAY 27 February (T7-C5) — Castaway Cay; Last Night on the Ship

 

Today was our second, and last, port-of-call.  Like many cruise lines that sail the Bahamas, Disney Cruise Line (DCL) has a private island here.  It’s named Castaway Cay, and we spent most of the day there.  The day started in earnest, however, with the Meet the Princesses event onboard the ship.  Sadie got to meet the four princesses shown in the following eight photos.

 

At age 5, Sadie understood that these were not real princesses, just actresses in costumes.  Or did she?  Here she is in her princess outfit, very much in the moment.  (Photo by Linda)

 

Sadie meets Aurora, who has the same color outfit.  They are obviously having an important conversation.  Like her older sister, Sadie is very comfortable talking to adults.  (Photo by Linda)

 

Sadie possess with Aurora.    (Photo by Linda)

 

Next up was Belle from Beauty and the Beast.    (Photo by Linda)

 

Another photo with Belle.

 

Sadie with Mulan and Commodore Donald Duck (statue, in the background).

 

Another photo with Mulan.    (Photo by Linda)

 

Sadie poses with Rapunzel.  (Photo by Linda)

 

While we were docked at Castaway Cay, some of the crew took the opportunity to deploy and operate some of the life boats.  One is already in the water and another is in the process of being lowered.

 

A closer view of the mechanism for lowering and retrieving the lifeboat.

 

Madeline (L) and her mom (R) on the outside aft section of the Cabanas Buffet.

 

Madeline (L) and Sadie (R) on the outside aft section of the Cabanas Buffet.  Sadie was still eating her breakfast, and didn’t fully appreciate Madeline’s proximity.    (Photo by Linda)

 

Part of Castaway Cay, Bahamas (Disney’s private island) as seen from our stateroom balcony.  (Photo by Linda)

 

The port-side bow of the Disney DREAM with multiple shore lines securing the ship to the dock.  Part of an anchor is visible at the lower right on the frame.

 

A view from the dock looking aft along the port side of the Disney DREAM.

 

The stern of the Disney DREAM as seen from the dock.  Note the large 3-D characters hanging off of the stern on either side of the DREAM emblem.  This is a hallmark of all DCL ships.

 

As shown in this information sign, all of the guest areas on Castaway Cay are to the left of the dock, with most of them located along the shore.  Much of the island is actually not accessible, at least to guests.  The long horizontal yellow line is the centerline of a runway/airstrip which is still used if/when needed.  All guests arrive on cruise ships, however, and there are no overnight guest accommodations on the island.

 

One of the activities on Castaway Cay is a 5K walking/jogging circuit.  Shown here is the sign designating the official starting (and ending ?) point.  We did at least part of the circuit and, ABIR, Meghan and Chris did the entire circuit.

 

I think this is an actual Beechcraft Model 18 twin-engine airplane, or what is left of one.  It’s long decommissioned, of course, but is one of the classic/iconic aircraft in the history of flight, along with planes like the DC-3.  It is, appropriately, displayed adjacent to the airstrip and speaks to the historical commercial use of the island for a long period of time before it was purchased by the Disney Corporation.

 

A display of a DCL anchor and mooring balls somewhere along the 5K walking/jogging circuit.

 

A panorama formed by stitching together (compositing) nine (9) separate images from my SONY a6400 using the Microsoft Image Composite Editor (ICE) software.  The photo is 1920 x 345 pixels, and can be displayed full-size on a suitable display.  This image was taken from the top deck of the observation tower along the 5K walking/jogging circuit.  Most of Castaway Cay looks like this, and is not accessible by guests.

 

Me (Bruce) with some additional decorative/thematic elements along the 5K walking/jogging circuit.  I presume the wood barrel represents the storage and transportation of rum.  (Photo by Linda)

 

One of the shuttlebus-trains on the runway.  As shown in a previous photo of the island map, there is an “adults only” beach area at the far end of the road system, and the farthest point from the dock.  “Adults only” in this case simply means no guests under a certain age.  This is Disney, after all, so nothing risqué going on there.

 

Whether on a cruise ship, or at a Disney resort, being there with younger children, and first-time visitors of any age, lets you experience it through the wonder of their eyes.  While Disney certainly caters to families with younger children, they are also very much aware of their adult guests (who pay for everything) and provide plenty for them to do on their ships and at their ports-of-call.  The one thing that is missing onboard their ships, however, is a casino.  That was just fine with us, but it is something Meghan and Chris would have enjoyed.  Would we do another Disney cruise without out grand-daughters?  Probably.  The ships are nice and provide a nice experience.

 

This photo provides a sense of the size of the runway/airstrip; it’s wide and long and can handle larger aircraft.  The sign at the left says “BEWARE of Low Flying Aircraft.”  It’s decorative in its appearance, but it is an actual warning sign.  Not that aircraft are likely to land here while guests are on the island, but we could imagine that they might, for instance to affect an emergency medical supply or evacuation.  Linda is visible at the right edge of the frame (white hat and towel draped over her shoulder).

 

Another Beechcraft Model 18, underscoring the iconic nature of this aircraft and its importance in the history of commercial aviation and its use in the Caribbean.

 

All of the architecture and décor is suitably Caribbean, as you would expect from Disney.  This building is a gift shop.

 

Another view of the main beach area on Castaway Cay as we walk back to the dock.

 

A marker buoy on display labeled “Castaway Cay.”  I think this is positioned so that it’s one of the first things we passed as we headed down the dock onto the island.  We did not photographer going onto the island, so snapped a shot on the way back to the ship.  I do not know if the Latitude and Longitude are correct for the buoy’s current location.

 

This is a panorama of the main beach area of Castaway Cay.  Notice the absence of people.  It was taken moments before 4 PM, which was probably the “all aboard” time.  One of the things you do not mess around with on a cruise is the all-aboard time.  The image is a composite of three photos from my (Bruce) Google Pixel 6 Pro.  The resolution is 1920 x 548 pixels.

 

A photo of the TV in our stateroom showing 5:00 PM in the upper right of the screen.  The map display shows the location of Castaway Cay, essentially due east of Miami Florida.  The light blue color is the continental shelf, where the water is relatively shallow.  The dark blue is where the continental shelf ends and the ocean depth plummets.  The left side of the screen shows that the ship is located at 26 deg 04 min North latitude, 077 deg 32 min West longitude.

 

Sadie and her mom posing with tonight’s dessert choice, featuring “Mickey ears.”  This is our final dinner meal aboard the Disney DREAM, and our only meal in the Enchanted Garden dining room.  (Photo by Linda)

 

Enough with the photos, lets dig in.

 

I think our final towel art animal was a dog, but you can decide for yourself.  I also think these are my reading glasses, which I must have left out in the room.  Very clever on the part of our cabin steward to make use of them.  (Photo by Linda)

 

One of the things that happens on cruise ships is that you can put your luggage outside your stateroom door the night before you debark, and the stewards will move it to an area of the ship where it is off-loaded to the terminal and set out in a large baggage claim area.  Alternatively, you can keep your bags in your stateroom, and take them with you in the morning.  We have always set out our larger suitcases as it makes debarkation the next morning much easier for us.  The staterooms have to be vacated fairly early, and this way we do not have to take them with us to the buffet for breakfast.  It is important, however, to NOT pack anything in those cases that you turn out to need the next morning, like medications, ID cards (cruise, passport, driver’s license, etc.), wallets/cash, or even the clothes you plan to wear.  We typically each have a smaller, carry-on, suitcase which we do NOT put out or check when flying.  This suitcase has an essential change of clothing, all of our technological gadgets, medications, and any other small items that we cannot afford to lose.

Since we would be flying tomorrow we were allowed to check-in online within 24 hours of our scheduled departure time.  We always do this with our phones, if we can, so we end up with the QR code boarding passes on our phones.  We also take a screen shot of the boarding pass so we don’t have to actually be online to use the airline app to display it.  I do not recall how we managed to get connected, but I suspect we did this while the ship was still at Castaway Cay.

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NOTE:  There are six (6) photos in this post, all taken by Linda using a Google Pixel 6.

(Edited on 13 June 2024 to correct information related to “Dress like a Pirate night.”)

 

MONDAY 26 February (T6-C4) — At-Sea; Bibbidi, Bobbidi, Boutique; & Pirate Day At Sea

The Disney DREAM left Cozumel, Mexico yesterday around dinner time, eastbound for Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas, with arrival scheduled for early tomorrow morning.  That meant we would again be at sea for almost 36 hours, including all 24 hours of today.  It was also a second full day at sea.  (Note:  We were wearing our pirate t-shirts at dinner last night which, according to our trip planner (Linda) was indeed “Dress Like a Pirate Night”, although we do not have many pirate-related photos.)

Based on the photos I have available, the big event today was Sadie’s visit to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.  She had her hair done (including extensions), a manicure, nail polish, and makeup (that included glitter).  She also got a princess outfit and matching accessories.  Tomorrow would be “meet a princess” day, and she had a reserved time for her turn.  The Boutique was a big deal for Sadie, as shown in the following few photos.

 

Sadie already has her princess dress on, with a flower crown and a cape protecting the upper portion, while her stylist applies nail polish.

 

Sadie discusses the finer points of princess styling with her Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo stylist.

 

Thanks to the opposing full-length mirror, Linda’s photo shows the front and back of Sadie’s princess dress and the matching multi-colored hair extensions.

 

Sadie, fully princessed with a matching carry bag and wand.

 

Sadie (left edge of frame) overlooks the main/center lobby of the Disney DREAM.  The costumes being worn by the Disney characters on the balcony appear to all be nautically themed.

 

Nothing to do with Pirate Day, or princesses, but one of the things that often happens on cruise ships is that the cabin stewards, when preparing the room for sleeping, make animal characters out of some of the towels.  We don’t always photograph these, but Linda thought this elephant deserved to be shared with the world, or at least remembered by us.

 

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NOTE:  This post contains 30 photos with captions.  Photos taken by me (Bruce) with a Google Pixel 6 Pro unless indicated otherwise.  (Photos by Linda taken with a Google Pixel 6.)

 

SUNDAY 25 February (T5-C3) — Cozumel, Mexico; Shore Excursions

 

Meghan and Chris take in an early morning view of  Cozumel, Mexico from their stateroom balcony; the first time either of them has seen the island (or perhaps any part of Mexico).  Cruise ships do provide good views of ports-of-call.  It’s 7:30 AM, and Meghan already has her morning coffee.

 

The first stop on our shore excursion was San Gervasio, an important Mayan archeological site managed by CozumelParks.  This racoon-like mammal is a Coati (Nasua narica, AKA coatimundi).  It is native to Mexico and Central America and belongs to the Procyonidae family, which also includes raccoons.  (Photo by Linda)

When we arrived this morning, around sunrise, at the downtown cruise port/dock for the island of Cozumel, Mexico, we had been at sea for over 36 hours since leaving the Disney cruise terminal in Port Hollywood late in the afternoon of Friday, February 25th.  We had a great time on the ship while at sea, but Cozumel was the first of only two ports-of-call for this cruise, and we were all looking forward to going ashore.  Linda had signed all of us up for a shore excursion that lasted about six (6) hours and included three different venues/experiences.  We had to be off the ship and at the meeting point by a certain time, so we all got an early start to our day and had breakfast in the Cabana buffet.  Based on our apparel at dinner, it was also (apparently) “dress like a pirate” day.  Additional details about the day are in the captions for each photo.

 

Madeline, Sadie, and Shawna (mom) at the entrance station to the San Gervasio archeological site.  (Note the boot on Madeline’s left foot.  She injured it not long before the cruise, but it did not slow her down.)  This site has the remnants of a large village that was one of the centers of pre-European Mayan culture.  (Photo by Linda)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another photo of the Coatimundi.  It did not seem to be fazed in the least by the large group of people passing by and stopping to take its picture.  (Photo by Linda)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As soon as we reached the first ruin in San Gervasio, we encountered Iguanas and other lizards.  Things like Coatimundi and Iguanas underscored that we were someplace very different from where we live.    (Photo by Linda)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The remains of a fairly large structure.  The roof is a modern construction to help preserve the underlying stone work, but something like this might have covered the original building when in use.  Wood and palm fronds, however, do not survive the ravages of time.    (Photo by Linda)

 

This photo of an elevated platform provides a sense of the number and size of stones that had to be quarried and moved for its construction.

 

The base of another ruin and its modern protective roof.

 

For most of our time at the San Gervasio Mayan Village, we were on a guided/narrated tour.  The tour guide explained what archeologist think each of the buildings were used for, but I had no way to capture that information for later recall.

 

I do remember that this was one of the entrance gates to the Village.  Note the road/path leading up to the gate from the forest in the center-right of the frame.

 

I don’t know if the Iguana pictured here understands or appreciates the historical significance of the stones on which it is sunning itself, but it certainly picked a good spot, and seems unconcerned about the many human guests to the site.  (Photo by Linda)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over many years, this tree took root and grew around a crumbled part of what remains of this building.  The modern roof was constructed around the tree.

 

Remnants of yet another building at San Gervasio.

 

 

One of the stone walkways that connect the various buildings at the San Gervasio archeological site.  Note the drainage ditches along each edge.  When the Mayan Village was inhabited, archeologists claim the space between the stones was filled with something like a limestone grout, resulting in a smooth surface that would have been easy to walk on, and permitted the use of wheeled carts.

 

Another Iguana photo because … well, just because we find them fascinating.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A map of the San Gervasio archeological site with all of the buildings identified.

 

 

This map highlights the Mayan Areas of Cozumel, Mexico in a darker green color.  The next photo indicates that San Gervasio is the highlighted area near Acalán.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a photo of a map that shows the full extent of the island of Cozumel, Mexico, its location relative to the rest of Mexico (just off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula), and the location of the San Gervasio archeological park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second venue on our Cozumel shore excursion was The Mayan Cacao Company, located at the Playa Mia Grand Beach Park.  Shown here is the entrance sign.  Note the Macaw on the perch, upper right, which is protected by a thatched roof.  (Photo by Linda)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A closer view of the entrance sign and greeter macaw at The Mayan Cacao Company.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like San Gervasio, this was also an educational experience.  This display is about cacao beans as a form of currency, and how it compared to other things that served the same purpose.  (From my Money and Banking course at the University of Missouri – Columbia, “Money is anything that acts as a store of value and a medium of exchange.”)

 

Part of the Mayan Cacao experience was a demonstration of the processing cacao beans to make “hot chocolate.”  This was followed by a tasting.  (It was not sweet, but it was very tasty.)  (Photo by Linda)

 

For the third and final venue/experience of our Cozumel shore excursion, we got to hang out at the Playa Mia Grand Beach Park.  I believe this park is open to the public but has an admission charge.   Besides an extensive beachfront with lounge chairs, umbrellas, and cabanas, the park included some play structures in the water as well as food and beverage stations.  Brendan and Sadie are in the foreground with their backs to the shore/camera.  Katie brought her snorkeling gear, and was already out in the water somewhere.  (I think Brendan and Sadie might be looking in that direction, but they might just be eyeing the large play structure in the water.)    (Photo by Linda)

 

The seating/sunning area at Playa Mia Beach Resort in front of where I happened to be sitting.  (I am not a “sun bunny,” and require shade in places like this.)

 

 

L-2-R; Katie, Linda, and Marilyn with what I think is the Disney WISH in the background, tied up at the dock for the Punta Langosta Cruise Terminal.  There is another cruise terminal down the coast toward Playa Mia Grand Beach Park that is used by Carnival and other cruise lines.

 

The sign welcoming us to the Punta Langosta port area.  It is the closest cruise terminal to the main/downtown area of Cozumel City.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pirate Sadie with buccaneer Ama (Linda) at dinner in the Animators Palate, the second of our three dining rooms.  (Friday and Saturday we were in the Royal Palace dining room, Deck 3 midship; Sunday and Monday we were in the Animator’s Palate dining room on Deck 3 aft, and Tuesday we were in the Enchanted Garden dining room, Deck 2 midship.)  This restaurant had amazing visual technology.  (Photo by Linda)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L-2-R; Madeline, Meghan, and Marilyn at our dinner table in the Animators Palate dining room.  We had a table for 10 every evening for dinner, and it was always table number 81; our waiter and assistant waiter moved with us when we changed dining venues.  Our dining time was always 6 PM (first seating).  Linda selected this time because Sadie was only 5 years old, and it allowed members of our group to seek out various entertainment venues after dinner and still get to bed at reasonable times.  (Photo by Linda)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pirate Brendan and his buccaneer dad (me, Bruce, Apa, grandpa, etc.) in the Animators Palate dining room on the Disney DREAM.  (Photo by Linda)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shawna and Brendan share a moment while we wait to order dinner.  Our children both have wonderful spouses and our three grand-daughters are a delight.  We are very fond, and proud, of all of them; they are all a great source of joy in our lives.  (Photo by Linda)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NOTE:  There are seven (7) photos in this post.  Photos by me (Bruce) taken with a Google Pixel 6 Pro unless otherwise indicated.  (Photos by Linda taken with a Google Pixel 6.)

 

SATURDAY 24 February (T4-C2) — A Marvel(ous) Day At Sea

 

Today, I was up earlier than I intended to be.  I thought my phone said 6 something, but it was actually 5 something.  I was tired of lying down anyway, so I got up and finished working a Multi-Sudoku puzzle.  It was still dark, and Linda was still asleep, so I worked on drafts of the blog posts for this trip/cruise.  At some point I heard voices outside.  Brendan, Shawna, and Sadie were on the balcony along with Meghan.  Meghan gets up very early and had already been out to get coffee.  Madeline joined the group shortly thereafter.  This is the first cruise we’ve been on with family/friends in adjacent cabins.  Yesterday, we had our cabin steward open the dividers between the four balconies so we could visit easily.  It was a nice arrangement.  We had a brief discussion about breakfast but failed to coordinate a plan.  Other than meeting for dinner every evening, our group took a “freestyle” approach to the cruise, which was great for everyone.

Sadie sits in a large, blue, throne-like chair by one of the two impressive mosaics with themes related to fairytales (prince/princess) that ended up in animated Disney features.  The mosaics were located in one of the elevator/stairwell lobbies on one of the decks, but I don’t recall which one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sadie in the other (red) throne-like chair by the other mosaic.

It was Marvel Day at Sea, so we got dressed with our Guardians of the Galaxy t-shirts and went to Cabana’s (the buffet) for breakfast.  We thought our son’s family was also headed there, but we somehow missed them while walking around looking at food.  Our son saw us go by, however, and found us to let us know where they were sitting.

 

 

Breakfast at the Cabana’s buffet offered a lot of choices, and we all found something that we liked.  The things I chose were well-prepared and tasty.  While both of us appreciate the finer dining in the restaurants, neither of us object to the buffet food, and appreciate the convenience of many hours of availability with the attendant flexibility to eat when you want, and choose from a broad selection of food offerings.

Chris and his daughter, Katie, at one of the shuffleboard courts on the exterior promenade deck.  (Photo by Linda)

 

Meghan and Chris at the same shuffleboard court.  Chris is sporting his “Star Lord” t-shirt for Marvel Day At Sea.  (Photo by Linda)

Today was Marvel Day At Sea, and there were many special activities taking place around the ship.  These included photo opportunities with official costumed “crew” members.  Perhaps surprisingly, we did not get photos of any of these events.  While that might seem strange in retrospect, the members of our party who were most excited about the day where our daughter, her husband, and his daughter.  I don’t recall specifically what Linda and I did all day, nor do I recall what Marilyn or our son and his family did today, nor would I even know if they off doing things on their own.  What I do know, is that Madeline had already become very comfortable with the “Edge Club,” a dedicated/staffed space for guests ages 11 – 13.  At age 11, she places a high value on any independence she can negotiate.

 

Sadie with her great-aunt, Marilyn.  Sadie is seriously focused on whatever Marilyn is showing her on the phone.  Based on Sadie’s attire, it appears that she went swimming today.  Not surprising; if there’s water available, Sadie is usually in it.  (Photo by Linda)

The Disney Cruise Line (DCL) app includes a messaging feature that allows guests to message one another without purchasing a “Internet” package.  The feature requires guests to establish connections, so Linda took care of linking her phone with at least one phone from each of the other cabins in our group.

Fairly quickly, Madeline took possession of her mom’s phone and accomplished her number one goal for the cruise; to be allowed to roam around the ship on her own as well as come and go from the Edge Club at will.  This actually worked out very well, and she made several friends her age.  ABIR, Sadie continued the who-dun-it game with her mom and/or dad.

 

Yes, Sadie is using crayons on the white linen tablecloth at dinner.  But it was okay.  Our assistant waiter, Trevor, was the first to do this at dinner last night as he set a puzzle for Sadie (and the rest of us) to solve.  After that, it was “game on” for the remainder of the cruise!  (Photo by Linda)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to well-prepared and tasty dishes, dinner was always nicely presented.  This photo is typical of how desserts were plated.

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NOTE:  There are 13 photos in this post.  Photos by me (Bruce) taken with a Google Pixel 6 Pro unless otherwise indicated.  (Photos by Linda taken with a Google Pixel 6.)  Photos are chronological and captioned, but are interspersed with some narrative.

 

FRIDAY 23 February (T3-C1) — Disney Cruise Line (DCL) DREAM, Embarkation and Sail Away

 

It’s around 1 PM; we are all on the ship and busy doing things.  Meghan helps Sadie figure out how to play the who-dun-it/discovery game while Marilyn looks on.  Clues were hidden in electronic pictures.  Displaying a game badge would “open” (change) the picture and reveal a clue.  (Photo by Linda)

I was up early and met up with our daughter (Meghan) in the elevator on our way to get coffee.  I rarely get to chat with her alone, and enjoyed a relaxed conversation over coffee.  Linda joined us a bit later.  Meghan eventually took coffee and muffins back to her room for Chris.  Linda and I got breakfast and chatted until she went back to our room to take a shower.  I returned to our room after finishing my meal, got my shower, and got dressed for the day.  We then repacked our suitcases before Linda went back to the lobby to join Meghan, and others, who were having breakfast.

 

 

 

 

Brendan helps Sadie with the who-dun-it game in the lobby of the ship with the Golden Mickey statue in the background.  Having been to Walt Disney World several times, the look and feel of the interior of the ship was familiar and pleasing.  (Photo by Linda)

Everything up to this point had been fairly routine travel—planes, taxis (ride shares), and hotels, with some walking thrown in, either to find food or just because—but with a certain added anticipation of things to come.  Today started in the usual way, but was soon new and different for most of our party.  Indeed, even for us, as we had never sailed on a Disney cruise ship and so had not experienced a ship with soooo many children.  Not that we have never been with large numbers of children; we presumed that it would be similar to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, and there is a certain positive energy associated with so many children having such a good time.  Indeed, it even seems to bring out the child in many of adults.

 

 

 

It didn’t take long to discover the self-serve soft-serve ice cream station on one of the upper/open-air decks.  This turned out to popular with everyone in our party and, apparently, most of the other guests on the ship.  L-2-R:  Meghan, Sadie, and Brendan.  (Photo by Linda)

When we arrived at the Hyatt Place hotel on Wednesday, we signed up for a shuttle to take the six of us staying here to the port at noon today.  We did not get a shuttle at exactly that time, but they were scheduled to arrive at the hotel approximately every 10 minutes.  It was at most a 10-minute ride to the port, and only that long because of traffic, so we were still there ahead of the 1 PM check-in time for us (the rest of the group had 1:15 check-in times).  It turned out that these assigned times didn’t mean much.  We dropped our checked luggage with the porters at the curb and then walked some distance into the cruise terminal building.  But the line moved along at a reasonable pace, and various adults took turns keeping Sadie occupied, which is the key to a happy life.

 

Linda on the main top deck. (There are additional small decks at the front and rear of the ship.)  Camera is pointed aft.  The enclosed water-slide is prominent, with the main swimming pool to the right and down one deck.

Looking forward, the large screen on the forward exhaust stack tower, indicates that the ship is “Sailing Away.”  “Sail Away” is a big, festive deal on cruise ships.  Many guests gather on the upper/open decks, while others go out on their stateroom balconies, to watch the ship pull away from the dock and head out to sea.  In some ports, there are crowds on-shore waving to the ship.  The time-stamp on this photo is 4:29 PM, but I don’t think the ship has left the dock yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two other cruise ships are visible from the port side of the ship.  ABIR, the larger one is a Royale Caribbean ship (emblem on the lower rear hull).  The smaller one was from one of the luxury or ultra-luxury cruise lines, but I don’t recall which one.  Note that our ship is in its berth bow first, with the dock on the other/starboard side.  Our ship had to back out of its berth and make a 180-degree turn (pirouette) before heading out to sea.  The maneuver was precisely and smoothly executed.  The maneuver was very smoothly and precisely executed.

 

Soon enough we were all checked in and were headed onto the ship a bit before 1 PM.  There were a couple of things about the check-in that were different from our previous experience.  For one, they did NOT issue us our cruise cards and said they would be waiting for us by our cabin doors.  For another, they checked every page of our passports, at least for the adults.  I asked why and was told “because there are children on board” but the boarding agent could/would not tell me anymore.  Our presumption is that there must be something in passports for individuals who are not allowed to be around children.  Further research, however, did not provide any additional information.

 

A view looking NNE of the Intra-Coastal Waterway (ICW) and a bridge to a barrier island, as seen from the starboard rear upper deck of the Disney DREAM.

Some of the adult members of our travel party, L-2-R: Chris, Marilyn, Meghan, Linda, and me (Bruce).  Not shown are Brendan, Shawna, Katie and the munchkins (Madeline and Sadie).  I do not know who took the photo with Linda’s phone.  The previous photo was taken around 4:33 PM and this one was taken around 5:22 PM.  This and the next photo indicate that the ship is backing out of its berth.  Thus, logic tells me that we must have departed at 5 PM (cruise ships tend to keep a tight schedule) or we departed at 6 PM and all of my photos are off by one hour (but I don’t think so), or we departed at 4 PM and I have no idea what’s going on.

Our staterooms (on Deck 9) would not be available until 1:30, so some of the adults went with Sadie on an exploration to solve a “crime” while I stayed with Madeline, who needed to sit and get off her injured foot.  (She strained or stressed a growth plate in her left foot a week ago while ice skating, and got fitted with a boot yesterday morning before flying to Fort Lauderdale.)  DCL uses a system to control room access that we had not seen before.  When Madeline and I tried to use an elevator to go from Deck 5 to Deck 9 around 1:20 PM, it would not open the doors at Deck 9.  Clever Disney.

 

The Disney DREAM is definitely underway as it has backed out of its berth into the Intra-Coastal Waterway (ICW) where it backed around to port (behind the camera) into a “turning pool” and swung around to point into the channel leading to the sea, as shown here.  Cruise ships have both bow and stern thrusters, smaller propellers in tunnels that go through the ship sideways.  Besides moving the front or rear of the ship to the left or right, their coordinated use can move the ship sideways, such as towards/away from a dock, or turn it around its mid-point, such as it will do here.  Many cruise ships, especially newer ones, also have “Azipods,” a steerable propeller  mechanism, for propulsion rather than aft-facing propellers and one or more rudders.

 

Our first dinner together in the Royale Palace dining room aboard the DCL DREAM.  We had a table for 10 every evening for dinner.  Our table number was 81, and remained so for all of our dinner meals, regardless of which dining room we were in.  Shown here is our son’s family, L-2-R:  Shawna, Brendan, Sadie, and Madeline.  I think Sadie was just tired, not unhappy, as she really enjoyed the cruise.  (Photo by Linda)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L-2-R:  Cousins Madeline and Katie at the dinner table.  (Photo by Linda)

Once in our room, we scoped out the available storage and started unpacking.  Our balcony stateroom had plenty of storage; hanging closets, drawers, and shelves.  It also had the usual safe, and our wallets and passports went in there right away.  We used to turn our cell phones off and put them in the safe as well, but these days we put them in airplane mode (to turn off the cellular radio) and turn on the wi-fi radio to connect to the ship’s wi-fi system.  On the DREAM, this allowed us to use the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app, which was our access to any/all information about the ship’s activities, including menus for the restaurants, reservations (if needed), and our account.  (Most cruise ships now operate this way, so you really cannot go on a cruise these days without a smartphone.)

Linda poses with a statue of “Captain Duck” in the main lobby of the Disney DREAM.  Or perhaps it was “Commodore Duck”?  (I presume this is Donald Duck.  I have no idea what the name of the statue is, if it even has one.  Nor do I know the context of this particular outfit.)

 

 

 

We watched the safety information on the TV in our stateroom.  At 4 PM we went to our assigned assembly station (DCL does not call them muster stations) for the mandatory safety check-in and presentation.  Unlike our other recent cruises, where our muster station was on an outside deck near the lifeboats, we were seated in the large Walt Disney Theater.

 

 

 

 

 

Marvel Day at Sea was still to come, but this display was already up, and Chris is a big fan of the Marvel series.  Disney has a way of bringing out the kid in all of us.

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Note:  There are four (4) photos in this post.  Photos taken by me (Bruce) with Google Pixel 6 Pro unless otherwise indicated.  (Photos by Linda taken with a Google Pixel 6.)

 

SATURDAY 06 – THURSDAY 11 January 2024 — A quick trip to Florida in advance of a short cruise

Back in February 2023, we were waiting for a couple of days before boarding the NCL Joy for our trip with Paul and Nancy from Los Angeles , California to Miami, Florida via the Panama Canal.  While Paula and I were our buying some beverages, Linda and Nancy found an “around the world” cruise on the MSC Magnifica for what seemed to be a very good price.  Paul and Nancy had never sailed with MSC, but we had on two previous occasions (2012 and 2013).  We were on the MSC Poetia both times and had a good experience each time.  These were the first cruises we were ever on, and they were special Holistic Holiday at Sea programs organized by Taste of Health out of Miami, Florida.  The program featured plant-based food and provided its own ingredients, executive chef and assistants to supervise the regular kitchen workers.  It was basically a floating educational experience.  As best we could recall, the ship was very nice, the service was fine, and the staterooms were comfortable.  Indeed, we had a waiter who was outstanding!  We did not, however, have any experience with the usual ship food or entertainment, nor had we signed up for any shore excursions.  It had also been 10 years since with sailed with MSC, so there was a lot we did not know about what it would be like to be a regular passenger on one of their ships.

The world cruise was scheduled to depart Genoa, Italy on 6 January 2025 and take 116 nights to circumnavigate the globe back to Genoa, much of the trip south of equator.  Sailing west from Genoa through the western Mediterranean Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar into the Atlantic Ocean, the itinerary went to South America, around Cape Horn, and up the west side of South America before heading off to French Polynesia and points west, with stops in New Zeeland, Australia, and Malaysia, eventually coming up the Suez Canal into the eastern Mediterranean Sea and back Genoa.  21 countries and 50 ports-of-call.

We have never been south of the equator, and this seemed like a unique opportunity to visit places me might likely never get to otherwise.  And the price seemed really fair—almost too good to be true—but even “value for money” involves money, and it was enough money that we had our concerns about whether we would be comfortable and enjoy being on this ship for this long.

Sometime in the intervening months, Linda found that the MSC Magnifica was doing a 3-night round-trip sailing on January 11-13, 2024 from the Port of Miami to Nassau, Bahamas, and back.  The cruise started on a Friday afternoon and returned on Monday early morning.  The timing meant it was going to be a bit of a “party cruise” as people local to the area could take Friday afternoon and Monday off from work and go to the Bahamas on a big cruise ship.  That was not really relevant to us, however, as we wanted to check out the general condition of the ship, especially the staterooms, as well as the food, entertainment, and service.

On January 6th we flew into Tampa – St. Petersburg International Airport, where Paul and Nancy picked us up and drove us to their new home in the Mount Olive Shores North (MSON, pronounced “Moe-son” or “Moe-sen”) development in Polk City, Florida.  MOSN is an RV community that includes several lakes.  Some of the lots are just RV pads, with perhaps a small storage shed and/or a gazebo, while others lots have large homes with carports or garages for maximum-size Class A RVs.  This fenced/gated community has a strong HOA.  The homes and properties all have a certain look, albeit a nice one, and are all well-maintained.  Class A motorhomes and large 5th wheel travel trailers have to be under cover or inside while smaller motorhomes must be inside (out of sight).  Travel trailers are not permitted.

We were familiar with the Polk City area and MOSN, having wintered three times at the LeLynn RV Park and visited Paul and Nancy at MOSN when they had their previous Winnebago Tour motorhome on a lot there for one winter, and again when they had the American Coach Eagle motorhome on a different lot there.  But this was our first opportunity to see the lakeside house/property they had purchased.

 

L-2-R:  Paul, Nancy, and me (Bruce).  In the central plaza at Disney Springs.  The stairs to the closest parking garage are to the left.  (Photo by Linda)

We spent five (5) nights at Paul and Nancy’s home.  We had just spent all of November with them at Luxury RV Resort in Gulf Shores, Alabama, but it was nice to see them again.  As usually happens when we are together, Nancy and Linda did joint menu planning and took turns as chef and sous chef.  Paul and I did our part, and ate whatever we were served.

 

Almost every store at Disney Springs is interesting.  Some are unusual, and a few are amazing.  The M&M Store, was all three!

But first on the list of things to do was a visit to Disney Springs.  When we get together with Paul and Nancy in this area, we always visit Disney Springs at least once.  Once turned out to be all the time we had for this visit, but we did manage to find some things at the Marvel Studios store for our cruise in February on the Disney Cruise Line DREAM.  After all, the cruise included a “Marvel Day at Sea” and a “Pirates Day” themed events.  We had dinner there, somewhere close to the Cirque de Soleil building, but I don’t recall exactly where or what we had to eat.

 

L-2-R:  Paul, Linda, and Nancy pose in front of the Sorcerer Mickey LEGO statute in front of the Disney Springs LEGO store.  The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is still my all-time favorite Disney animation, but I grew up involved in classical music, so …

Marty and Pat, our friends and fellow Great Lakes Converted Coaches (GLCC) and Converted Coach Owners (CCO) members from Michigan, were at LeLynn again this year, so we arranged to have them over to Paul and Nancy’s one evening for dinner.  It was great to see them, and everyone seemed to enjoy the evening.  Our GLCC friends from northern Indiana, Pat and Vickie, were also in the area, staying at Walt Disney World’s Fort Wilderness campground resort, as they do every January (and have for quite some time).  We drove up there one day to visit with them.

 

 

 

 

 

The LEGO Store at Disney Springs has an amazing outdoor display of life-size and greater-than-life-size, figures.  Star Wars is heavily represented in this collection, but this serpent in the water has always been a favorite of mine.

Those are the highlights of these six (6) days; a bit of running around and socializing, with plenty of time to eat, relax by the lake, watch Morning Joe, and chat about RVing and cruising and being (mostly) retired.

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Note:  There are 19 photos in this post.  Photos by me (Bruce) were taken with a Google Pixel 6 Pro or SONY alpha 6400, unless otherwise indicated.  (Photos by Linda taken with a Google Pixel 6.)

 

TUE 21 – WED 29 November 2023 — Luxury RV Resort — 3/3

 

This post covers our last nine full days at Luxury RV Resort in Gulf Shores, Alabama.  Our reservation was through the night of the 30th with departure on December 1st but we left on 30 November, one day early, to try and get ahead of a weather system that was moving our way.  Up to that point, however, the weather had generally been very nice.  Gulf Shores is a lovely place, climate-wise, in the late fall and winter.

At the Sunliner Diner in Gulf Shores, Alabama.  Counter-clockwise (L-2-R) around the table:  Evan, Anne, Paul, Robert (obscured, at his request), Linda (behind Nancy’s arm) and Nancy.

We continued to visit with Paul, Nancy, and Robert and occasionally also Kate and Charlie from the nearby Escapees RV Club Rainbow Plantation RV Park.  This small group of people are very much kindred spirits; each of them very much of the same mind as us when it comes to religion and politics and food (by and large), which makes for a comfortable and enjoyable time together.

This antique car is inside the Sunline Diner.  The doors on the passenger side have been removed to make a dining booth.

 

Paul makes a final inspection of the layout of our Thanksgiving dinner food in the Luxury RV Clubhouse in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Paul and Nancy’s son, Evan, and his wife, Anne, drove down from Ann Arbor, Michigan and joined us for the Thanksgiving holiday.  Nancy arranged for the use of the Luxury RV Resort clubhouse on Thanksgiving Day, which allowed us to share a meal in comfort with plenty of space to lay out the food, arrange seating at tables, and not be concerned about the weather.  Everyone attended, including Kate and Charlie, and shared the work of putting together a nice meal.

 

 

 

 

The first of two tables for Thanksgiving dinner.  L-2-R, counter-clockwise around the table:  Robert (obscured), Nancy, Anne, and Evan.

 

The other table for Thanksgiving dinner.  L-2-R, counter-clockwise around the table:  Charlie, Paul, me (Bruce), Linda, and Kate.

 

Me (Bruce) sitting on the sofa in our Airstream travel trailer and using my iPad Pro.  Since Bella is also on the sofa, we were probably dog-sitting while Paula and Nancy were doing something that precluded taking their dog along.

We made a couple of visits to the Sunliner Diner during this time, and visited Historic Fort Morgan at the tip of the peninsula that extends west from Gulf Shores into Mobile Bay, stopping for lunch at a bayside restaurant.  Nice weather and dramatic sunsets continued during these nine days, with the later eventually portending of approaching weather.

 

 

 

A view of Fort Morgan, Fort Morgan State Historic Site, Alabama.

 

One of the entrances to the interior of Fort Morgan SHS.  The rectangular block centered above the opening says “Fort Morgan 1830.”  The two parallel lines on the pavement are embedded railroad ties.  My presumption was that these made it possible to use trollies with railcar wheels to move heavy loads in/out of the Fort.

 

 

The previous photo, this photo, and the next two (2) photos were taken at the Fort Morgan State Historic Site.

 

From Wikipedia:  Fort Morgan is a historic masonry pentagonal bastion fort at the mouth of Mobile Bay, Alabama, United States. Named for American Revolutionary War hero Daniel Morgan, it was built on the site of the earlier Fort Bowyer, an earthen and stockade-type fortification involved in the final land battles of the War of 1812. Construction was completed in 1834, and it received its first garrison in March of the same year.  …  Fort Morgan is at the tip of Mobile Point at the western terminus of State Route 180 (Alabama). It and Dauphin Island, on which Fort Gaines is situated, enclose Mobile Bay. The Alabama Historical Commission maintains the site.

 

An interior view of part of Fort Morgan, clearly showing the masonry construction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another entrance tunnel into Fort Morgan.  I thought the way the bricks were arranged to create the arch was architecturally interesting, although I presumed that they were set this way for fundamentally structural reasons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back at the Sunliner Diner for breakfast before Robert checks out of Luxury RV Resort and heads for points West.  From L-2-R, counter-clockwise around the table:  me (Bruce) taking a selfie of the group, Robert (obscured). Nancy, Paul, and Linda.

 

Robert’s class B motorhome and Jeep in front of the office at Luxury RV Resort while he connects them together in final preparation for his departure from the resort.  The foreground is a sitting area with a firepit.  To the left are some holiday decorations that are featured in the next two photos.

 

Linda provides a sense of scale for the Christmas holiday decorations at Luxury RV Resort; a travel trailer pulled by two Flamingoes.  Two lawn chairs and a Christmas tree with wrapped presents are also visible.  [Note that the door of the trailer is on the “driver” side, which is incorrect.  The main entrance doors of all commercial RVs are on the passenger/curb side, with the utility connections (hookups) on the driver/street side, and RV parks and campgrounds are built around this conventional arrangement.]

This photo of the other side of the trailer decoration shows more clearly that the trailer is a large/round straw/hay bale and that the trailer has tires.  A doll (or small mannequin) that is approximately half normal human-size, is holding one end of the brown sewer hose which runs down into the “dump” connection.

 

We were treated to a nice sunset on our final evening at Luxury RV Resort.  This view is looking southeast, so I could catch the sunset reflecting off of the windows in our travel trailer along with the general soft pink illumination of the aluminum siding and the effect of the color on the clouds to the southeast.

 

The play of light on the clouds seems to say “look at this trailer,” so I did.

 

A composite of four images creates a panoramic view of our final Gulf Shores sunset as it provides a wonderful backdrop for our travel trailer.

 

A composite of three images produces a panoramic photo of an amazing sunset behind some of the tall buildings in the downtown/beach area of Gulf Shores, Alabama, as seen from our travel trailer at Luxury RV Resort.

 

One of the three images used for the previous composite photo highlighting the letters A I R S T R E A M across the rear of our travel trailer, just above the awing over the large/opening window.

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Note:  There are 13 photos in this post.  Photos by me (Bruce) were taken with a Google Pixel 6 Pro or SONY alpha 6400, unless otherwise indicated.  (Photos by Linda taken with a Google Pixel 6.)

 

SAT 11 – MON 20 November 2023 — Luxury RV Resort — 2/3

 

Magnetic Minnie Mouse name placards for Madeline and Sadie’s stateroom door on the Disney Dream.

During our second 10 days in Gulf Shores, Alabama, we did a variety of things.  Linda brought accounting work for the bakery, of course, and spent some time on that.  She also walked almost every day, and we went on a few hikes together.  Linda also spent time planning and preparing meals with Nancy and Robert, and the five of us (the three just mentioned plus Paul and myself) dined together almost every night.  We also continued to make plans, and purchase odds and ends, for the Disney cruise Linda booked for late February next year.  The two younger grand-daughters did not find out about this until Christmas, but I wasn’t posting in real-time anyway (obviously).

 

Our walks along the marsh and over to Gulf State Park afforded a variety of views.  I am always on the lookout for nature images that have an element of abstraction and this caught my eye.

 

As seen from this vantage point, the marsh surrounding Luxury RV Resort extends well to the north and east to Gulf State Park

 

We ate well during our time at Luxury RV Resort, which is to say, healthy, delicious, and attractive.  The dishes shown here are an amazing salad and a pear upside down cake.  Yummy.

The sunrises and sunsets in Gulf Shores can be spectacular, and we had several of each during these 10 days.  Our trailer was parked with the rear end pointing slightly east of south, so the large wrap-around rear windows provided good views of both the sunrise and the sunset; good enough at least to see that something was happening and get outside with the phone and/or camera if called for.

 

 

Our travel trailer and truck against a beautiful sunset, but this turned out to just be the warmup for what was to follow.

I suspect that most photographers take sunrise and sunset photos (and flower photos, etc.), always hoping to capture something stunning and unique.  They can be a bit of clique; I lay no claim to unique, and stunning is rare.  But one of the first photos I ever took that I thought was worth printing and looking at was a sunset I saw while stopped for the night in Breezewood, Pennsylvania.  I was on my way from my parents’ house in St. Louis, Missouri to Red Fox Music Camp, in southwest Massachusetts.  It was the summer between my junior and senior year in high school, and I was making the drive by myself, so that probably had something to do with why I liked the photo.  I still have the print, matted and framed, and on display in our rec room.  I have been interested in sunset (and sunrise) photos ever since then.

 

Ooh, that’s nice!  But wait, there’s more!

 

And here it is!  Sometimes you have to go wide, and sometimes you have to zoom in.  The photographic capabilities of the Google Pixel 6 Pro smartphone really are impressive.  And, most importantly, I always have it with me, which cannot be said for my SONY cameras, as much as I enjoy using them and like the results.

 

Robert (out-of-frame to the left, Nancy (right) and me (center) making pasta for dinner.  (Robert does not like his image displayed in social media, so I have tried to respect that in my posts without ignoring his important presence in our group.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I thought this more subtle, pastel sunset was worth capturing and sharing.  Pretty isn’t always dramatic.

 

Again, zooming in and isolating the most important features of the scene resulted in a stronger photo, IMHO.  But hey, it’s my photo and I get to make that decision.

 

Linda was out for a morning walk and captured this image of work being done to restore the beach in central Gulf Shores, Alabama.  These large pipes were serving a dual purpose, being used here to drag and smooth the sand.  (Photo by Linda)

 

Another photo from the same vantage point as the previous one.  A bulldozer is moving larger quantities of sand.  (Photo by Linda)

 

The other use of these large pipes was pumping sand onto the beach from the dredging barges used to collect it just offshore, up and down the beach for quite some distance.  This stretch of the shore at the northern extent of the Gulf of Mexico is subject to serious weather during hurricane season and the attendant beach erosion.  Nice white-sand beaches, in pristine condition, are central to the economies of the many towns that dot this coastline, and to the region in general.  As such, considerable effort and resources are put into their maintenance.  (Photo by Linda).

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Note:  There are 13 photos in this post.  Photos by me (Bruce), unless otherwise indicated, were taken with a Google Pixel 6 Pro or SONY alpha 6400.  (Photos by Linda taken with a Google Pixel 6.)

 

WED 01 – FRI 10 November 2023 — Luxury RV Resort, Gulf Shores, Alabama (1/3)

This is the first of three (3) posts that cover our time in Gulf Shores, Alabama during the month of November, 2023.

We arrived at Luxury RV Resort in Gulf Shores, Alabama on November 1st per our reservation, which was for the entire month (we got a better rate that way).  We had stayed here before at the suggestion of our friends, Paul and Nancy, who now keep a 5th wheel trailer here during the winter, with their Goldendoodle, Bella.   Robert, our new friend from this past summer, and his dog Buddy (an English Retriever), were also there for the month.  Our friends, Kate and Charlie, were at their place at the Escapees Rainbow Plantation RV park in Summerdale, so not too far away.  Having explored the area on our previous visit, we were looking forward to just having some time to relax and enjoy the pleasant weather in the company of these friends, including walks to the nearby seashore nearby (~1/2 mile), along with occasional visits to a few of the many things to see and do in the area, such as Fairhope, Alabama.

 

Our first sunrise in Gulf Shores, Alabama (for this visit) as seen from the rear windows of our 2020 Airstream Flying Cloud 27 FBT travel trailer at Luxury RV Resort.  The weather was generally good during our visit; not too much rain with mild temperatures and some nice sunrises and sunsets.

 

The passenger/curb side of our travel trailer parked in our site for the month at Luxury RV Resort.  Spacious enough site with a concrete pad/patio with a picnic table and good utility hookups.

 

 

A view of the beach and Gulf of Mexico looking east from the central beach plaza where Hwy 59 ends between E Beach and W Beach roads.

 

A view to the west from the same vantage point as the previous photo.

 

Gulf Shores is a somewhat quirky beachside town that trades on its location.  It’s a well-maintained and attractive place, with beautiful white sand beaches, restaurants (with fish and seafood on offer, of course), night life, surf shops, t-shirt shops, and quintessential “tourist” shops, as well as a very nice state park and lots of nature and history in the surrounding area.  It is a pedestrian and bicycle friendly place as well.  The central beach area was approximately a 1/2 mile walk from the RV park.  The photos that follow highlight a few of these things.

 

Souvenir City on the west side of Hwy 59 in downtown Gulf Shores, Alabama.  Linda is standing in the mouth of the giant shark “sculpture,” which is where the entrance to the store is located.  This place is definitely a “beach town” souvenir shop, and we spent an obligatory amount of time exploring all that it had to offer, which was impressive for its sheer quantity and diversity.

 

The “kitsch” at Souvenir City didn’t end with the entrance shark.  This fiberglass model of the head end of a hammerhead shark was setup for photo ops, and we used it in accordance with the mandatory rules of  tourist etiquette.

 

We only got the entire group together a few times during the month, but Nancy arranged for the use of the RV park clubhouse on Thanksgiving Day so we could share a meal with plenty of space to lay out the food, arrange seating at tables, and not be concerned about the weather.  Everyone attended and shared the work of putting together a nice meal, but a bit more on that in post 3 of this set.

 

What would a tourist/beach town be without a diner?  Hungry, I suppose.  Not a problem here.  The Sunliner Diner might not be authentic, in the sense of having been around for a long time, but it definitely had the look and feel, with some nicely preserved/restored old cars thrown in.

 

Just south of Luxury RV Resort, a major marsh extends east from Hwy 59 all the way to Gulf State Park.  This boardwalk provided walking access to the Wade Ward Nature Park part of it.  Linda walked almost every day while we were camped in Gulf Shores, Alabama, and I sometimes went too, along with Paul and Nancy.

 

 

The marsh mentioned in the previous photo caption clearly had some open water as well.  We were always on the lookout for wildlife, especially alligators, of course.  We saw birds and waterfowl and small animals, but never spotted any “gators.”  The Luxury RV Resort office building and a few RVs are visible, center right in the photo.

 

Our travel trailer, center-frame, with the bathhouse to center-right.  It was close enough to be really convenient.  Also, the clubhouse was just across the street, and it also had bathrooms with showers.

 

This photo was taken some four (4) hours after the previous one.  I think Linda is looking out over Mobile Bay as enlarging the photo faintly shows tall buildings on the distant horizon (in the direction of Mobile, Alabama).  But don’t hold me to this.

 

 

The Gulf of Mexico from the beach west of the Gulf Shores, Alabama.  Even when the weather was not all sunshine and unicorns, it was interesting and sometimes dramatic.  A couple of oil platforms are just barely visible on the horizon, center and left in the frame.

 

Another photo from the same place on the beach.  From left-to-right:  Buddy, Robert, Linda, Nancy, Paul, and Bella.  There was a small parking area out-of-frame to the left, with public access to the beach.

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Note:  This post contains nine (9) photos.  Photos by me (Bruce) taken with a SONY alpha 6400 or Google Pixel 6 Pro unless otherwise indicated.  (Photos by Linda taken with a Google Pixel 6.)

 

SUNDAY 29 October 2023 — NTNP 12 of 14 — Natchez MS and Vidalia LA

 

Our truck and trailer backed into our wooded Boondockers Welcome parking spot at The HatchPad Off The Trace in the Farmhaven area of Mississippi.  No epic views, but a lovely, quiet spot in the woods that suited us just fine.  Our hosts’ house is farther back in the woods at the end of the driveway.  While not really visible in this photo, there is a shed to the right of their house with a washing machine and a dryer.  We were invited to use, and took advantage of the opportunity.  (Most commercial RV parks have laundry rooms, so we made use of those when available when needed.)

 

Today we completed our north to south transit of the Natchez Trace National Parkway at the south terminus in Natchez, Mississippi and then on across the Mississippi River to the River View RV Park & Resort in Vidalia, Louisiana, immediately across from Natchez.  In total, we drove all but about 10 miles of the 444-mile-long road, and that was only because a 10-mile stretch in/near Tupelo, MS was closed for construction/repairs.

 

Another view of our truck and trailer in our BW parking spot.  Barely visible near the center of the right edge of the frame is the electrical box where we were allowed to hook up to shorepower.

 

While not an “epic” trip, in comparison to some of the national scenic roads we have driven, it was a wonderful journey at a leisurely pace with light traffic and a nice mixture of scenery, culture, and history.  I mean, we took nine (9) days to pull our trailer from one end to the other a distance that we could easily have covered in two (2 days,) even with the trailer, or one (1) day without it.  But not on the NTNP, of course, which has a maximum speed limit of 50 MPH, with lower limits in some places.  No, this trip was an intentionally “slow roll” and was a kind of “bucket list” item that we had been trying to do for a while.

 

Natchez, Mississippi as viewed from Vidalia, Louisiana across the Mississippi River.  Most of the “downtown” area is to the left of the bridge.  The River level was very low.  The sand bar in the foreground is usually underwater and not visible.

 

As much as we would like to have the ability to dry-camp, our rig is only capable of doing that comfortably for a very short time in a very narrow temperature range.  We have two solar panels on the roof, but we do not travel with a generator, and our battery system is insufficient to run big loads.  We have propane for cooking, refrigeration, hot water heating, and forced-air space heating, but the last three appliances use DC power to run their control circuits, and the fan in the forced-air furnace is a real energy hog, precluding it’s use in cold weather precisely when we need i.  At the other extreme, we have two heat pumps which function as air-conditioners for cooling or can heat the rig efficiently in cool weather as long as it’s not too cold.  But they are 120VAC devices, and they still use a lot of power/energy.  Making the rig truly off-grid capable is something we discuss, but have not reached a conclusion on whether we will undertake the necessary modifications and upgrades.

 

There was a very nice walkway that went along the River by our RV park.  It extended up to and beyond the bridge, so we went for early evening stroll.

 

A closer view of the bridge with part of Natchez, MS visible on the horizon.

 

A barge being pushed (upstream, from right to left) by a tugboat (which seems backwards) passes under the bridge, being careful to stay in the center of the River in order to have sufficient underwater keel clearance.

 

Just beyond the bridge (on the north side) was the Vidalia Convention Center, a very nice-looking facility.

 

A selfie by the Vidalia Convention Center with Natchez, MS in the background.  I think the reason I never smile in selfies is that I am concentrating on framing the shot and also trying to remember to look at the lens, something both of us seem to have difficulty doing consistently.

 

Our site at River View RV Park & Resort on the western shore of the Mississippi River in Vidalia, Louisiana across the River from Natchez, MS.  And no, the name of the town has nothing to do with the onions, which get their name from Vidalia, Georgia.

 

While we were done traveling the NTNP with our travel trailer in tow, we were not quite done exploring the Trace, which I will cover in the post for tomorrow and the next day.

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Note:  This post contains 7 photos.  Photos by me (Bruce) taken with a SONY alpha 6400 or Google Pixel 6 Pro unless otherwise indicated.  Photos by Linda taken with a Google Pixel 6.

 

SATURDAY 21 October 2023 — NTNP 4 of 14 — North end NTNP and Meriwether Lewis

Today was a relocation day in which we moved the travel trailer from the Grand Ole RV Resort in Goodlettsville, Tennessee to Fall Hollow Campground, RV Park, and B&B in Hohenwald, Tennessee.  Again, we camped here for two nights.  As RV parks go, this was not a great place and we did not have a great site.  But we had a FHU site, and the campground was located the desired distance from our previous RV park, so it served its purpose of moving us on down the road and using the full day (tomorrow) to explore the next section of the Trace within reasonable driving distance of the RV park.

 

The Meriwether Lewis Memorial.

 

A reproduction of the Grinder House (I think) where Meriwether Lewis met his demise.

The Natchez Trace National Parkway is not just a pretty drive on a nice paved road; it is that, but it is much more.  Although 440 miles long between it’s northern and southern termini, it is sometimes narrow enough that you could throw a ball across it.  In the wider sections, it is still rarely even a mile wide.  It is also a trail (Trace is French for trail) through history, and that history includes the indigenous people that lived in this part of what became North American long before Europeans arrived on the continent, and were still very much here as the USA expanded westward in the many decades following the War of Independence.

 

A plaque marking the site of the actual Grinder House where Meriwether Lewis died.

We quickly discovered, but were not surprised, that the National Park Service had done their usual exemplary job of making an overarching view of this history available to those travelers who were willing to take the time to read information placards, walk the trails, and ponder the few remaining remnants of a past era.

And, as history is want to do, there were intersections with other aspects of USA history that we did not know about or expect.  One of those intersections had to do with Meriwether Lewis, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and the Louisiana Purchase.  Lewis, who was President Thomas Jefferson’s private secretary, ended up in this area of the Trace, very much in debt as a result of the expedition.  Despondent about the inability of the Government (congress) to reimburse him for expenses, he took his own life on October 11, 1809.  Perhaps we learned this in our high school American History class but if so, I did not recall it.  We did not learn why he came he, so that is a question left for the reader.

The following photos highlight a few additional aspects of this portion of the NTNP.

 

Information sign for the STEELE’S IRON WORKS site.  Dating from 1820, a charcoal burning furnace located here was used to make pig iron.  Metal Ford crosses the Buffalo River just beyond this sign.

 

Metal Ford was a natural rock ledge that made it possible to cross (ford) the River at this place by the Steele’s Iron Works.  Crossing creeks, streams, and rivers was one of the many challenges of transiting the Trace.

 

Linda captures a picture of me positioning myself to get a photo of Metal Ford at the Steele’s Iron Works site, NTNP.  (Photo by Linda.)

 

And here’s the photo I took of Metal Ford at the Steele’s Iron Works site, NTNP.

 

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NOTE:  This post has eight (8) photographs with captions and some narrative.  Photos by me (Bruce) taken with SONY alpha 6400 (A) and Google Pixel 6 Pro (B).  Photos by Linda taken with a Google Pixel 6 (L).

 

WEDNESDAY 04 October to TUESDAY 17 October, 2023 — At home between trips (again), and a birthday

Upon our return home from our outing to Frankenmuth Jellystone Family RV Resort, we spent the first half of October 2023 finalizing our plans for driving the Natchez Trace National Parkway with our Airstream Flying Cloud 27 FBT travel trailer.  This included decisions about where to make overnight reservations, find fuel, and what we might see and do while traveling the full length of the Trace from North to South.  We ended up booking a combination of commercial RV parks, US Army Corps of Engineers and National Forest Service campgrounds, Harvest Host sites, and a Boondockers Welcome site.

In the two (2) weeks available to us before departure, we had to prepare the trailer, F-150 tow vehicle, house, barn, property, and ourselves to be away for about six (6) weeks.  Grand-daughter Sadie’s 5th birthday/party was the highlight of this period.  When possible, we delay leaving for the winter until after her birthday.  Following are a few photos covering these two weeks.  The auto-feeder for the cat was working well, and we arranged again for our neighbor, Mike, to keep an eye on the house and check on the feeder while we were away.

 

Cabela resting on her “princess pillow” on the sofa in the living room.  She might not be our cat, but we have clearly become her caretakers, and we enjoy having her in our lives.  We are trying to figure out how best to make this work long term.  Even if we could get her to be an inside only cat, we doubt that we would be able to acclimate her to RV travel, and we would still be left with how to provide for her care while we are away on a cruise.

 

Cabela is not the only outside cat in our neighborhood, but she is the only one we are prepared to care for.  This beautiful cat showed up one day.  I was only a few feet away when I took this photo, so clearly not a feral cat.

 

Sadie opens one of her gifts at a family gathering on her birthday.  (A friends’ party was held on a more convenient time on the weekend.)

 

Sadie shows off her Love Pop birthday card from Nancy and Paul.

 

It wouldn’t be a birthday party with a birthday cake.  Sadie seems pleased at the sight of this flaming treat.

 

If you can see her face clearly enough, this is the look of a young lady determined to blow out all of the candles on the cake.

 

One of the small improvements I made to our camping situation was to purchase and install a Mopeka tank level sensor system for the two propane tanks on our Airstream travel trailer.  Shown here is the remote indicator that I mounted in the bedroom at the front of the trailer.  (The propane tanks are just on the other side of this front wall.)

 

The day before our departure for our trip down the Natchez Trace National Parkway we finished loading the F-150.  I always photograph the bed of the truck so I can make sure everything fits back in.  And yes, it is actually in the garage!

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NOTE:  This post has 22 photographs with captions and some narrative.  Photos were taken by me (Bruce) using a SONY alpha 6400 or Google Pixel 6 Pro unless otherwise indicated.  (Photos by Linda taken with a Google Pixel 6.)

 

WEDNESDAY 27 September to  TUESDAY 03 October, 2023 — Jellystone Family RV Resort, Frankenmuth, MI

Our dear friends, and fellow “bus nuts,” Bill and Karen from Ontario, Canada have been visiting the Jellystone Family RV Resort (JFRVR) in Frankenmuth, Michigan for many years during the mid-September to mid-October timeframe.  There are a number of reasons they do this.  They have other “bus nut” friends in the area (besides us), and they like the town.  The downtown area is quaint, has shopping and dining options, and is a walkable distance from the RV park, if one so desires.

They also like the RV park, in part because of the indoor swimming pool, which the owners maintain at a pleasant temperature.  They both like to swim, and the first half of the morning is reserved for adults.  They have gotten to know the owners quite well over the years, and always book the same site, in the first row right across from the entrance to the indoor pool, before they leave each year.  (I think the owners hold this site for them.)

But this time of year, the Park does something special; a hay-wagon ride and Trick-or-Treating every weekend (on Saturday), starting with the last weekend in September or the first weekend in October, and leading up to Halloween.  The park is well known for this, and these weekends must be reserved well in advance as there won’t be any vacancies.  Bill and Karen enjoy supplying treats for the kids (and some of the adults) and in recent years have taken to giving out juice boxes rather than candy.

Last year (2022), we booked a spot spanning the last weekend in September to early October while Bill and Karen were there.  We took the Airstream travel trailer and had our son bring his daughters up on Friday after school to stay with us for a couple of nights, with us returning them home on Sunday.  They enjoyed the park and the pre-Halloween activities, so before leaving the park we booked a spot again for the same time in 2023, near Bill and Karen’s site.  We drove up on Wednesday 27 September, and the grand-daughters got delivered to us on Friday 29 September after school and work.  They stayed with us in the Airstream travel trailer until we took them home on Sunday afternoon October 1st.  Bill and Karen enjoyed spending time with the girls, but we booked our stay for a Tuesday 03 October departure so we had some additional adult only time before and after the girls were there.

Anyway, that’s the context for the photos which follow:

 

Sadie, who just turned 5 years old, is a very energetic young lady, seen here exiting the bounce house.  (Photo by Linda)

 

Sadie moves across the bounce pad with speed and determination.  (Photo by Linda)

 

Madeline enjoys a conversation with Karen.

 

Sadie decorates a pumpkin.

 

Sadie poses for a photo with Yogi Bear.

 

Madeline and Sadie on the Royal Chair by one of the shops in downtown Frankenmuth, Michigan.

 

The hay wagon ride at Jellystone Family RV Resort.  Linda, Sadie, and Madeline are on the ride with their backs to the camera.  Linda has a yellow ellipse around her.

 

Our Airstream travel trailer at JFRVR.

 

Bill and Karen’s 1960’s GMC TDH-5301 “New Look” (aka “Fishbowl”) bus conversion.  This bus was in service with Toronto Transit Co.  Bill bought it, in open auction, when it was retired from service and converted it into a motorhome.  He drove this exact bus briefly during is 30-year career with TTC.

 

Linda escorts Madeline and Sadie during trick-or-treat at JFRVR.

 

Bill and Karen with their juice boxes set out by their bus for the trick-or-treaters to pick up.

 

Sadie makes a scary (?) Halloween face.

 

Sadie proudly displays her Apa (me) sporting her “Super Sadie” cape.

 

I use Linda’s phone to capture Sadie proudly displaying her Ama (Linda) sporting the “Super Sadie” cape.

 

Bill and Karen’s juice boxes notwithstanding, the girls collected a fair number of sweet treats.  Far less than they could have, however, had been allowed to.  The RV park as approximately 215 RV sites and 16 rental cabins and every one was occupied and every one was giving out treats.

 

Madeline’s trick-or-treat makeup.

 

The earlier photo of their “sweets haul” did not tell the whole story.

 

Madeline models a chef’s Hat on our visit to N’orlins Café in the Frankenmuth River Place Shops complex on the south end of downtown Frankenmuth, Michigan.  A stop here has become a tradition for us.  They are known for their beignets and chicory coffee.  From MS Edge Co-pilot regarding beignets:  These delightful French fritter-style donuts, known as “ben-yays,” are a specialty at N’orlins. They’re made fresh to order, served hot, and generously dusted with powdered sugar (and they are available with several different dipping sauces).

 

Madeline expresses her fondness for N’orlins beignets by mirroring the shape of one of them.

 

Sadie was as fond of her beignet as the rest of us.

 

The munchkins have been returned to the parents and I (Bruce) catch the moon rising over the RV park.  Some of the other campers were still in the park and had not yet taken down their decorations.  The extent to which some families decorated for the weekend was impressive.

 

The girls collected enough sweet treats to get enough Snickers Miniatures to spell it out.  (We did not realize this was even a thing until now.)

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Note:  This is the 14th of 16 posts about our 21-day trip that included a 17-day (16-night) cruise on the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) ship SPIRIT from Vancouver, British Columbia to Honolulu, Oahu.  This post has 20 photographs with captions and some narrative.  Photos by me (Bruce) using a SONY alpha 6400 or Google Pixel 6 Pro unless otherwise indicated.  (Photos by Linda taken with a Google Pixel 6.)

 

WEDNESDAY 13 September 2023 — (T18,C15) Kahului, Maui, Hawaii

Our ship arrived in the harbor at Kahului, Maui early this morning.  As was well-reported in the news, Maui had recently suffered a devastating fire in and around Lahaina.  This obviously impacted some of the planned shore excursions, but we did not detect anyone being upset about changes in planned offerings.  Indeed, tourists were being encouraged to visit Maui and support the local economy, but the Lahaina area was obviously off limits.  Any disappointment for cruise passengers was inconsequential compared to the loss and suffering of the impacted islanders.

Our main activity today was a shore excursion with “Hike Maui” east along the first portion of “the road to Hana.”  We were transported in vans and had an excellent tour guide.  There was a lot of walking, but it was mostly easy and it was nice to get off the ship and use our legs to walk around town and in the woods.

 

The NCL SPIRIT approaches Kahului, Maui, Hawaii at sunrise.  (Photo by Linda)

 

Linda soaks up the sunrise as it floods the port side of the ship inbound to Kahului, Maui.

 

The mountains loom behind Kahului, Maui and make their own weather, as mountains are want to do.

 

This sign says it all:  “Aloha, Welcome to Kahului, Maui, Hawaii” with the NCL SPIRIT in the background.  We enjoyed our time on this ship.  It’s the smallest ship in the NCL fleet, but it’s still pretty big.

 

I hold Sadie’s “Apa and Ama” artwork by a large map of Maui, Hawaii.  Notice how the island resembles a person in lying on their side with the head at the upper left and facing down and slightly left.  The cruise port at Kahului is in the curve of the neck on the back (north/upper) side.  Most of the head is high mountains.  The town of Lahaina, which suffered the worst of the recent fire, is more or less directly opposite Kahului on the other side of the central mountains.  Travel to that area was not allowed, of course, as the area is still recovering and rebuilding.  (Photo by Linda)

 

From a web search:  Maui is an island formed by two volcanoes: Haleakala and Mauna Kahalawai. Haleakala is a 10,000 foot shield volcano that means “House of the Sun” and had its recent eruptions between 1480 and 1600.  Maui is an island formed by two volcanoes: Haleakala and Mauna Kahalawai. Haleakala is a 10,000 foot shield volcano that means “House of the Sun” and had its recent eruptions between 1480 and 160012. Mauna Kahalawai is an eroded shield volcano also known as the West Maui Mountains (the “head”) that last erupted 320,000 years ago. Maui does not have any active volcanoes, unlike Hawaiʻi Island, which has two of the world’s most active volcanoes: Kīlauea and Maunaloa.

 

We went on a shore excursion with “Hike Maui.”  Our first stop was the town of Paia.  From a web search:  Pā’ia is  a census-designated place on Maui, Hawaii with a population of 2,470 as of the 2020 census.  It is home to several restaurants, art galleries, surf shops and other tourist-oriented businesses. It was formerly home to the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Mill from 1880 to 2000.  Pā’ia is the first town on the Hana Highway when heading eastbound towards Hana.  It was cute, inviting, and very walkable.  “Surf shops” were much in evidence.

 

We came across a ukelele shop while strolling around downtown Paia.  Yes, Ukuleles really are a thing in the Hawaiian Islands, and this shop had a lot of them!  They were all exquisite instruments whose craftsmanship was obvious, and are sold to customers all over the world.  They ranged in price quite a bit but some of them were, as you might expect, very expensive.

 

The front façade of the Mele Ukulele shop.  I had a nice conversation with the owner, as much about photography and cameras (he was also a SONY shooter) as about ukuleles and living on tropical paradise island.

 

“Hike Maui” has taken us to a bamboo grove.  Much of the bamboo was very tall, as shown in the next photo.  The tour provided water and a light lunch, which was appreciated.

 

The tour guide used Linda’s Pixel 6 to take this photo in which we are dwarfed by a stand of bamboo.  It was nice to have a photo of the two of us that wasn’t a selfie.  (Photo by Linda, sort of)

 

The plant life in Hawaii is remarkable; unique, diverse, beautiful and fragile (to outside negative influences).

 

Our tour guide stops to explain some plant life along the trail.  (Photo by Linda)

 

I just liked this plant, photographically:  An interesting backlit pattern in contrasting shades of green.

 

We pause on our way to the waterfall and wading pool for photo op.  (Photo by Linda’s phone, but someone else obviously took the photo.)

 

On part of a hike to a small waterfall and swimming hole we had to go through this tunnel of twisted branches.  This was one of just many interesting things that were part of the hike.

 

We always appreciate good signposts to help us get where we need to go.

 

This view seemed to be quintessentially Maui; a rugged coast with a white sand beach set off by beautiful blue and green water and a blue sky with some puffy clouds.  If you look carefully at the white sand beach, you will also see a large gathering of very large sea turtles.

 

A zoomed in view of a section of the beach showing the very large sea turtles resting on the sand.  This section of the beach was closed off and posted “No Admittance” but we saw people ignoring that, both from land and from the sea.  (Photo by Linda)

 

I included this photo to show that Hawaiians’ also have a sense of humor.

 

We are back on the ship and having diner around 7:30 PM.  We did not do specialty dining very often, but we got two dinner meals as part of our fare, so we apparently used our second one this evening to dine at Teppanyaki, the Japanese table side grill.  The food was excellent and the chef was very entertaining.  (Photo by Linda)

20230905_T10-C7_Sitka-AK

Note:  This is the 10th of 16 posts about our 21-day trip that included a 17-day (16-night) cruise on the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) ship SPIRIT from Vancouver, British Columbia to Honolulu, Oahu.  This post has 21 photographs with captions and some narrative.  All photos were taken by me (Bruce) using a SONY alpha 6400 or Google Pixel 6 Pro unless otherwise indicated.  (Photos by Linda were taken using a Google Pixel 6.)

As I am writing these posts some five (5) months after our trip, I have struggled with getting the correct local time stamp for each photo and thus establishing the correct time sequence for images within a post.  The issue is the intermixing of photos from two Pixel smartphones with photos from a Sony a6400 ILC camera while shooting in different time zones far removed from home.  I think I have the photos in this post in the correct order, but have avoided making any reference in the captions to the time of day an image was captured.

 

TUESDAY 05 September 2023 — (T10,C7) Sitka, AK

This was day 10 or our trip, day 7 or our cruise, and our final stop in Alaska before crossing the North Pacific Ocean to the Hawaiian Islands.  We arrived in the Sitka harbor early this morning.  The weather was hazy upon arrival, but quickly gave way to blue skies with nice puffy clouds over the surrounding mountains.  It was just cool enough to require a light jacket, which made for wonderful conditions to walk around the town and go on a guided shore excursion with a very good local guide.

Sitka is a fascinating city with a history that placed it at the center of a crossroads of cultures.  The area around Sitka has been the traditional home of the Tlingit people for thousands of years, and they are still here.  The Russians arrived in 1804 and forcibly established a colony with Sitka (New Archangel) as its Capital.  It later became the Capital of American Alaska when the Russians sold the territory to the United States in 1867.

The Tlingit maintain a vibrant culture here with a performance center in the style of a traditional community clan house; offerings include song and dance.  Traditional art abounds in the Center and various art galleries, as well as the many intricately carved totem poles in the National Park peninsula.  Russian influence is evident in the onion domed Cathedral of St. Michael and the Russian Bishop’s House, as well as the Russian Cemetery and the names of places, buildings, and streets.  Russian dance is performed in town by the New Archangel dancers, while Summer music festivals celebrate Jazz as well as other musical traditions.

Paraphrased from Wikipedia:  Sitka is a unified city-borough in the southeast portion of the U.S. state of Alaska. It was under Russian rule from 1799 to 1867.  The city is situated on the west side of Baranof Island and the south half of Chichagof Island in the Alexander Archipelago of the Pacific Ocean.  As of the 2020 census, Sitka had a population of 8,458, making it the fifth-most populated city in the state.   Although the City of Sitka is located on a two small islands, the borough encompasses a vast area.  According to the United States Census Bureau, the city-borough is the largest incorporated municipality by area in the U.S., with a total area of 4,811 square miles (12,460.4 sq km ), of which 2,870 square miles (7,400 sq km ) is land and 1,941 square miles (5,030 sq km ), comprising 40.3%, is water.

We enjoyed our short time in Sitka, as we did in Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway, but we sensed that we would enjoy returning here for a longer visit and the opportunity to explore the area more thoroughly.

 

This photo is from the day before around 4 PM as the ship was departing from Skagway.  (Photo by Linda)

 

We had slightly hazy weather for our arrival in the Sitka area, and the best scenery was to the ESE, into the sun.

 

After playing around with this photo for a while in post -processing, I decided it looked best as a black & white image.  (I got my first camera when I was 16 and started out shooting with B&W film and learning how to develop it and make prints using a darkroom that belonged to my parent’s best friends.  It still appeals to me.)

 

We were “anchored out” during our time in Sitka.  (It was never clear to me if this was due to a lack of adequate dockage for a ship our size, or a limited amount of such dockage that was already occupied by another ship or ships.)  A fuel ship prepares to come along side and refuel the SPIRIT in advance of our crossing the North Pacific Ocean.  (The fuel ship is not a barge as it is under its own power.)  (Photo by Linda)

 

As the NCL SPIRIT was anchored out, we had to tender in to the Sitka marina.  Shortly after disembarking from the tender, we were greeted by this very helpful sign with highlights marked on a map of the main downtown area.

 

I never tire of views where mountains meet the water.  This was captured from near the Sitka marina looking out towards our ship, which is just visible center frame where the mountains and water meet.

 

The “Welcome to Sitka” sign seemed like a good place to take a “Apa and Ama are here” photo for grand-daughter Sadie.  We tried to remember to take a photo in each place we visited and text them to her parents so she could follow our travels.  (Photo by Linda)

 

Linda holds the Apa and Ama artwork for another “we are here” photo.  This one is in Totem Square with the Sitka Pioneers Home in the background.  It might look like a hotel, but it’s actually an assisted living complex; one of the nicest we had ever seen (at least form the outside).

 

On June 14, 1879 the U.S.S. Jamestown (a sailing ship of war) arrived in the waters near Sitka to relieve the U.S.S. Alaska, and eventually moored near where this sign now stands.  From 1879 to 1881, she was the official seat of government for the Alaska District.  The Jamestown was relieved in August 1881 by the U.S.S Wachusett (a steam ship of war), which continued as the seat of government for the District of Alaska until the Civil Government was finally established by the Organic Act of 1884.

 

Our shore excursion today included a visit to the Sitka National Historical Park (aka Totem Park).

 

Our visit to Sitka NHP included a walk in the woods.  The tour guide (left) and Linda (right) are sporting their Tilley hats.  Linda’s lightweight hoodie says “Travel Park Connect.”  This was the motto of the RVillage social media platform.  I have one too.  It was a great idea and good platform for RVers that was very popular but did not survive.

 

While walking through Totem Park, we got to stop at a small footbridge over the Indian River, an active Salmon run.  Although not really visible in this photo (I couldn’t get a good one) the stream was thick with salmon swimming against the current, presumably trying to reach their spawning grounds.  It was quite a sight.  As I mentioned in a previous post, when I think of Alaska I think of Grizzly Bears, Bald Eagles, and Salmon.  I would add to that Eskimos and other indigenous people, totem poles, Polar Bears, Moose, Elk, Caribou, Whales, Bush planes/pilots, and oil production.

 

A shed at Sikta NHP / Totem Park where totem poles are repaired and restored.  (Photo by Linda)

 

This panorama of the Historic Campus of the Sika Fine Arts Camp is a composite of seven images.  The image is 1920 x 270 pixels; clicking on it will display it full size on a device with a suitable monitor.

 

The Sheldon Jackson Museum, founded in 1888, houses an exceptional collection of Alaska Native ethnographic material gathered by Presbyterian missionary and General Agent of Education for Alaska, the Rev. Dr. Sheldon Jackson.  It was purchased by the State of Alaska in 1985.

 

This charming and well-maintained building is St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church.  It was established on Thanksgiving Day in 1896, the same year the Klondike Gold Rush began.

 

The Russian Bishop’s House is now part of Sitka National Historical Park.  Given that Alaska was Russian territory for 68 years before being sold to the USA, it was not surprising to see Russian influences everywhere, including in the names of islands, streets, buildings and, of course, churches.  Next photo please.

 

Paraphrased from Wikipedia:  St. Michael’s Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel, is a cathedral of the Orthodox Church in America, Diocese of Alaska, in Sitka, Alaska. The earliest Orthodox cathedral in the New World, it was built in the nineteenth century, when Alaska was under the control of Russia.  After 1872, the cathedral came under the control of the Diocese of Alaska.  It had been a National Historic Landmark since 1962, notable as an important legacy of Russian influence in North America and Southeast Alaska in particular.  An accidental fire destroyed the cathedral during the night of January 2, 1966, but it was subsequently rebuilt.  The new building’s green domes and golden crosses are a prominent landmark in Sitka.  Some of the icons date to the mid-17th century; two icons are by Vladimir Borovikovsky.

 

Our shore excursion guided walking tour ended atop Castle Hill.  Looking northeast, the green domes and golden crosses of the Orthodox Cathedral are visible  through the trees.

 

A view (probably from Castle Hill) of the mountains, and the east end of the harbor, south of Sitka, Alaska.  (Photo by Linda)

 

We departed Sitka Harbor in the late afternoon / early evening and were greeted by this spouting whale and fishing boat.  Fishing boats were numerous in the harbor and marina.  This was the last time we would see land until the morning of Monday 11 September when we arrived at the port in Nawiliwili, Kauai, Hawaii.

20230903_T8-C5_Juneau-AK

Note:  This is the 8th of 16 posts about our 21-day trip that included a 17-day (16-night) cruise on the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) ship SPIRIT from Vancouver, British Columbia to Honolulu, Oahu.  This post has 23 photographs with captions and some narrative.  All photos taken by me (Bruce) with a SONY alpha 6400 or Google Pixel 6 Pro unless otherwise indicated.  (Photos by Linda taken with a Google Pixel 6.)

 

SUNDAY 03 September 2023 — (T8,C5) Juneau (AK); Glaciers, Gardens, and Hatcheries

This was day 8 of our travels and day 5 of the cruise.  We signed up for a shore excursion to that included the Mendenhall Glacier, Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure (GGRA) (a private botanical garden and Yard Doctor Nursery), and the Macauley Salmon Hatchery.  The shore excursion started early and took most of the morning.

The Mendenhall Glacier is located in the Tongass National Forest.  Access is controlled and limited and, for whatever reason, our tour bus did have access today, so we only got to see the glacier from a distance.  Disappointing, certainly, but not the end of the world as we had just seen Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve yesterday.  We returned to the dock by noon and then walked around downtown Juneau, which is Alaska’s state capital.

 

Our tour bus stopped at a parking area that allowed us to walk north along a trail on the west side of the Mendenhall River, where I spotted this flower.

 

A stretch of the Mendenhall River, flowing strongly.  The Mendenhall Glacier is visible center frame just above the trees.  (Photo by Linda)

 

Glacier Gardens (GGRA) is known for their “upside down” trees.  Steve and Cindy Bowhay created this place, with the Rainforest Adventure opening in 1998.  Located within the Tongass National Forest, GGRA is a temperate rainforest environment.  The upside-down trees are just that; the lower portion of large trees and their root ball, inverted and stuck in the ground.  The top of the root ball is then used as a planter.  They are unique and delightful, with a wonderful variety of flowers and shrubs.

 

The GGRA Adventure involved climbing a small mountain through a dense forest in open-sided vehicles (shown later).  The road is constructed of logs in many places, with no shoulder and steep drop-offs in places.  There is a log curb, however, as shown in this photo, and our driver seemed to take safety seriously.  (Photo by Linda)

 

Another view of the road as seen from below.  The GGRA gardens were beautiful, and the views from the summit outstanding, but the road was an attraction in its own right, at least for those who are curious about such things (like me).  (Photo by Linda)

 

A view to the west (I think) from the summit of GGRA.  (Photo by Linda)

 

The extended wheelbase “vans” used to transport guests on the road to/from the summit of GGRA.

 

A small waterfall/feature at GGRA.  (Photo by Linda)

 

This planting bed at GGR caught our eyes.

 

A closer view of an interesting plant at GGRA.

 

Proof that I was here at GGRA.  (Photo by Linda)

 

Proof that Linda was also here at GGRA.  (Photo by Bruce using Linda’s Pixel 6.)

 

The landscaping at GGRA really was something.  This cascading stream looked very natural.  Glacier Gardens is not just a tourist attraction; is also a nursery and landscaping service for the greater Juneau area.

 

Our shore excursion concluded with a stop at the Macauley Salmon Hatchery (MSH), located northwest of Juneau on the Gastineau Channel.  Fishing in general, and salmon in particular, is a big industry in Alaska, of course, and there are many hatcheries and processing plants in the state.  The MSH is a working facility that is also open to the public for tours.  It was a great way to end our shore excursion.

 

The salmon run at MSH looking northwest.  The Gastineau Channel is to the left.  The tide was out and the water level was very low.

 

There were quite a variety of fish and crustaceans in the tanks at MSH.  I selected this photo because I thought it was an interesting composition.

 

The official (?) “Welcome to Juneau” sign.  We had, in fact, felt very welcomed everywhere we had been on this trip thus far.  (Photo by Linda)

 

We were not looking for it, but managed to stumble across the City Hall building for the “City and Borough” of Juneau.  The distinction must be important or the sign would not have mentioned it.  I wonder if the locals divide up into “townies” and “boroughies”?  And I wonder if “boroughies” is even a word?  (MS Word spell check doesn’t think so.)

 

I don’t recall what the significance of this building was, if indeed it had any special significance.  I photographed it because I liked its design and materials, and it had a cool totem pole.

 

This statue was in the plaza that is part of the State Capital complex, which included the Capitol, of course.  When I think of Alaska I think of many things, but especially Bald Eagles, Grizzly Bears, and Salmon.  This statue had two of those three, so …

 

We took this to be the main food/shopping street in Juneau, or at least typical of the retail sector in town.  Some of the shops and eateries might have been a bit more upscale, but not all of them, and the look/feel of the place was still very much coastal Alaska.  (Note:  The timestamp on this photo matches the time on the clock in the photo.  I love it when that happens.)

 

Like all of the coastal cites we visited, Juneau occupies land between the water and steep, high terrain.  Much of the city is built on the lower, flatter areas, when possible, but the land rises quickly and steeply as you move away from the water, and we saw plenty of structures up on the slopes that appeared to be mostly residences.  This staircase is very steep and long, and leads up to a building at the top that might be visible in this photograph.  (Photo by Linda)

 

Linda relaxes in our stateroom after spending the better part of 5+ hours ashore.  The ship in the background is the Seven Seas Explorer from the Regent Seven Seas Cruise Line.  It is one of their two new Explorer Class ships, the other being the Seven Seas Splendor.  ALL staterooms on ALL Regent Seven Seas ships are “suites” and come with butler service.  Regent Seven Seas offers a luxury cruise experience and tends to be more inclusive than most other lines, but with a fare to match.  In spite of being upscale, it is our understanding that these ships are quite relaxed, with freestyle dining, for instance.  They also tend to be mostly adult oriented, lacking some of the “entertainment” attractions on more family and “younger cruiser”-oriented lines.  I think we would enjoy this (or a similar) cruise line, if not for the cost.  (Winning a big lottery might chance that equation.)

20230309-12 – Georgetown, Cayman Islands & a sea day

THURSDAY 09 March – Georgetown, Cayman Islands

This post consists of some narrative and 12 photos with captions.  ]

Our approach to Georgetown, Cayman Islands at first light.  (This image is 1920×862 pixels.  Clicking on the image might allow it to be viewed at full resolution on a device with sufficient resolution.)

Center frame; the tender dock and Port of Entry station at the heart of Georgetown, Cayman Islands as sunrise approaches.

 

Our penultimate port of call was Georgetown, Cayman Islands.  The port lacks a deep-water marina, so cruise ships “anchor out” and the guests “tender in.”  There are quite a few things to do on the island, and there were numerous shore excursions from which to choose.  This was not our first visit to Georgetown, however, and we were content to just go ashore and stroll around for a bit.  As port towns go it’s not very interesting.  Most of the things to see and do are elsewhere on the island(s).

 

Cloud figures; a horse plays with a hippopotamus on its back.

One of the tenders (shuttle boats) tied up alongside the NCL Joy.  Cruise ships are BIG; tender boats are small.

The NCL Joy is joined by the Carnival Glory cruise ship in the harbor.

Welcome to the Cayman Islands:  Nancy, Linda, and Paul.

Welcome to the Cayman Islands; Bruce, Nancy, and Paul.

 

The Cayman Islands in general, and Georgetown in particular, is known for its (offshore) banking industry.  We were here as part of our 2nd Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise in 2013, so we knew the town itself is relatively small, without too much high-rise architecture, and is very walkable, but without very much to see and do.  It seemed unchanged to us since our last visit.  The two most novel things about our time here were:  1) an actual police officer directing traffic, and;  2) the number of cruise ships in the harbor; four at one time (as best I recall).  The Joy departed at 5 PM for the final leg of our journey.

 

The Cayman Islands Parliament building and part of the plaza that it faces.  A lot of the buildings in Georgetown are white or light colored, so Paul is wearing his favorite tie-die shirt to add a splash of color.

When in Georgetown there isn’t any doubt as to its history and affiliation with England.  Even they way they post “NO PARKING” signs is very polite.

The Celebrity APEX cruise ship (left) has joined the NCL Joy (right) and Carnival Glory (center) in the Georgetown anchorage.  There’s a 4th cruise ship anchored here as well, but not visible in this photo.

 

In larger ports that can handle multiple cruise ships simultaneously, it’s a bit mind-boggling how many people they can disgorge into a waiting community.  Equally amazing, are the number of businesses (and people) that are in place at each port to service, and indeed depend on, these large number of visitors.  Cruise ships have their purpose, however, and we had thoroughly enjoyed our time on the NCL Joy and the places it stopped.  Perhaps someday we will return to some of these locations on our own, as well as others that our cruise skipped, and stay long enough to get a better sense of what they are really like.  But if not, at least we have experienced them, however briefly, and been keenly aware that we were in places that were very different from where we have spent most of our lives.

 

The NCL Joy puts its port side bow thruster to work to spin the ship 180 degrees around its mid-point.  Not shown (not visible from our port-side suite baloney) is that the starboard side stern thruster is also being used.

The Celebrity APEX has already completed it’s 180 degree turn and is headed out to sea as our ship completes its turn to do the same.

 

FRIDAY 10 March – At Sea

We sailed all evening on the 9th, all day on the 10th, and into the early morning of the 11th.  We had our last dinner meal aboard in the Haven restaurant on the 10th.  After dinner, we gave gratuities to the key crew who had made our trip extra special, namely:  Isidro (our Butler), Harold (our Stateroom Attendant), Patrick (the head Haven concierge), and Melody (the Assistant Concierge in charge of the Haven restaurant).  These gratuities were in addition to the ones that all guests pre-pay and are (presumably) divided up (in some equitable way) between the entire crew (except for the butlers and the Haven concierges, as we understood it).  These four people, however, had made our time onboard memorable in the best possible way.

Over the course of the day, I developed an irritated throat that got worse with time and eventually moved to my sinuses.  Not the way I wanted to end the cruise, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it except for symptomatic treatments, until we got ashore in Miami, Florida and back to Paul and Nancy’s place at MOSN in Polk City, Florida.

20230307-08 – Cartagena, Columbia & a sea day

TUESDAY 07 March – Cartagena, Columbia

This post has some narrative along with 22 photos with captions.  ]

After finishing our daytime transit of the Panama Canal on March 6th, we were at sea for the rest of the evening and overnight into March 7th, arriving at the cruise ship dock in the harbor at Cartagena, Columbia around 10 AM.

Our first full view of the harbor area of Cartagena, Columbia in the early morning haze.  We are already past the entrance in the breakwater into the outer harbor but have some ways to go before enter the inner harbor and get to the port/dock.

Linda takes in the upscale water-front area of Cartagena as the NCL Joy prepares to enter the inner  harbor.

The Holland America Zandam at the cruise ship dock.  We are pulling on the other side of the dock.  The Zandam is a big ship, but is dwarfed by the Joy.

Cartagena is a major shipping port.  This container facility is just one of many that we passed on the way into the dock.

 

The Zandam, a Holland America cruise ship, was already there when we arrived.  Cartagena is Columbia’s main Caribbean port.  It is mostly commercial, but the Columbian Navy has a base here, and there are marinas for pleasure craft and sightseeing boats.  We were amazed, however, at the number of containers stacked up in the shipyard and the number of gantry cranes that were in use moving them around.  Outside of the commercial and cruise ship docks, however, the city around the harbor is very modern and (we were told) has become a safe, inviting place for tourists.

 

This photo provides another view of the container shipyard adjacent to the cruise dock/port area, very close to a lot of commercial and residential buildings.  We counted at least 21 of the blue gantry cranes in this shipyard, and it seemed at times that most of them were busy moving containers around.  There was also a constant flow of tractors coming in to drop off or pick up containers.  (Photo by Linda.)

On our bus ride to the Old City, we saw lots of juxtapositions of old and new.  The old stone work in the foreground is 16th century.  The high-rise buildings in the background are late 20th to earl 21st century.

This photo was typical of the Cartagena streets that our excursion bus took to get to the Old City.  While the look and feel of the place was different from what have experienced for most of our lives, it was also fascinating.

 

Like Antiqua, Guatemala the Spanish presence in Cartagena dates back to the very beginning of the 16th century.  The Walled Old Town by the sea is still intact, and is another UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The four of us booked a shore excursion that involved a bus ride from the dock to the Old City, a walking tour of the Old City, and then a 1-hour boat ride around the harbor.  As part of the harbor cruise, we got a close-up look at the Caribbean fleet of the Columbian Navy base, which includes two small submarines and a 3-masted sailing vessel named Gloria (presumably for training cadets).  While on our cruise, we watched the Holland America Zandam back out from the dock, turn around and head for the ocean.

 

The entrance to the Old (walled) City.  This photo only provides a glimpse into the tourist crowd that awaited us inside the walls.

Many of the streets in the Old City were like the one pictured here, running straight for short distances before turning in a different direction.

Linda and Nancy enjoying a funny moment.  (They do this a lot.)  Paul is focused on something else.

The inside of the Cathedral in the Old City with its massive, carved altar.

A closer view of the altar with someone praying in the foreground.

There was a lot of variety in the architecture of the buildings in the Old City so it’s not really possible to say what was “typical.”  This style, however, was in the mix.

Cartagena was the seat of the Spanish Inquisition in the Americas, and it was administered from this building, now a museum dedicated to this part of Columbia’s history.

The Caribbean fleet of the Columbian Navy is based Cartagena, and moored in plain sight.

The Holland America Zandam backing out of its berth at the cruise terminal.  The NCL Joy is behind it, and difference in size is obvious.

A selfie on the little harbor cruise ship.  It appears that we were satisfied with the experience.  (Photo by Linda.)

It appears that Nancy and Paul also enjoyed the harbor cruise.  (Photo by Linda.)

A pair of Macaws at the zoo/shops that make up the entrance the cruise terminal.

Another pair of Macaws at the zoo/shops terminal entrance area.

The same pair of Macaws as the previous photo.  Such beautiful birds.

 

Following our harbor cruise, we were bused back to the cruise terminal, which we entered by walking through a small outdoor zoo and then past some gift shops.  Although farther north than Panama City, the climate, even at this time of year, was more tropical – warm and humid – and the birds reflected that.  We were always aware that we were getting a superficial “tourist eye’s view” of Cartagena, but nonetheless enjoyed our brief time in Cartagena, Columbia and felt like this was another port-of-call where an overnight stop might have allowed a closer, more relaxed acquaintance with the place and its people and culture.

The Norwegian Joy left Cartagena at 6 PM and headed for our next port, sailing all evening, all the following day, and overnight into March 9th.

 

WEDNESDAY 08 March – At Sea

We spent the entire day sailing NNW in the western Caribbean Sea, out of sight of land.  The weather was pleasant with blue skies and water and white, puffy clouds.  The only photo I’ve included shows the monitor in our suite.  Our present location is approximately half way to our destination of Georgetown, Cayman Islands.  The right end of the upper information banner shows that we have sailed 3,767.1 NM (nautical miles) from our starting point at the Port of Los Angeles.  We sailed overnight before finally sighting land around sunrise.

 

The monitor in our suite showing our current location, heading, and speed, along with other information, including our total distance sailed since departing the dock at the Port of Los Angeles.

 

While we enjoy seeing land from the ship, and getting off the ship at ports to explore, we also enjoyed our days at sea.  Far from being boring, sea days provided a chance to relax and explore/enjoy the many amenities the ship had to offer.  While cruise ships can take you to amazing places there is no doubt that the ships themselves (and especially the staff) are part of the experience.

202303(02-03) PCC 6of12 – Puerto Quetzal & Antigua, Guatemala & a sea day

[ There are 23 photos in this post.  Most of the text is in the form of captions. ]

 

THURSDAY 02 March – Puerto Quetzal & Antigua, Guatemala

Arriving at the dock in Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala under the cover of darkness.  It was a tricky entrance, but the captain handled it like he was parking a small car in an empty parking lot.

One of the active volcanos we passed on the motorcoach ride from Puerto Quetzal to Antigua, Guatemala.  (Photo by Linda)

Antigua, Guatemala.  Our motorcoach was parked on this street, over the rise in the road, along with many others.  In the background, Volcán de Aqua towers over the city and was visible from most places.

We arrived at Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala around 7 AM.  Guatemala has a relatively short Pacific coast, and Puerto Quetzal is the only port of any size.  It is primarily an industrial port, but more than willing to welcome and accommodate cruise ships.

 

There was nothing of interest for tourists in the immediate port area, but that was OK.  We had signed up for a shore excursion to Antigua Guatemala, a 2-hour bus ride from sea level to 1545 m (5069 ft).  A relatively small old city nestled high up in the mountains, it is surrounded by volcanoes, some of which are still active.  To the south, Volcán de Aqua, dominates the skyline at 3,766 m (12,356 ft).  One of the volcanoes was “smoking” as we drove past.

 

 

A small slice of the Mayan history portion of the Jade Museum in Antigua, Guatemala.  Those of us walking the city on our own gathered here first to use the restrooms and learn a bit about history of the area and city.

Antigua was Guatemala’s colonial capital from ~ 1543 to 1773 when it was severely damaged by an earthquake and the Capital was moved to present day Guatemala City.  Many of the buildings were restored, however, and it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its Spanish Colonial architecture.

 

We did not do a guided tour, but merely wandered around the city soaking in the sites.  We also learned that there are still many people in Guatemala with Mayan ancestry, and 31 dialects of the Mayan language are still spoken here.  This corroborated what we had learned some years ago on our visit to the Mayan ruins at Tulum in the Yucatan peninsula.  We were definitely in a place that was different from any place we had ever been before, and we enjoyed our walk through history.

 

A street seller of hats crosses the central plaza in front of the main government building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main government building on the north side of the central plaza.

Proof that we were here.  The two of us in front of the government building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This cathedral fronts the central plaza on the east side.

The central isle leading to the altar of the cathedral.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The entrance arch to the main cathedral complex.

On north side of the entrance arch looking back to the south.  Note how Volcán de Aqua to the south towers over the city of Antigua.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The front façade of the cathedral.  I believe the building to the left is the monastery.

As we walked the streets of Antigua, Guatemala, we often saw openings like this that appeared to lead into very inviting courtyards.  Some of them were hotels, some were retail spaces, and some appeared to be private residences.  The street-facing parts of most buildings had a very old and minimally maintained appearance, but we suspected that once away from public view, the interiors were much nicer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had to get a picture of this, as it was not something I’ve ever seen in the USA.  This van has Argentina plates and the wording under the window, “De Argentina Hasta Alaska” makes it clear what journey the owners are on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A view down a less crowded street somewhat away from the center of the city.  Many buildings here were rebuilt/restored after he devastating earthquake of 1773, but not all of them.  There were several abandoned/decaying churches, like this on (on the right) throughout the city, but many others were still in use.

A view down another street, again away from the center of the city.  The closer we were to the center of the city the more the streets were choked with vehicles.  Most of the streets and avenues, however, where “Una Via” (one way), which they needed to be as there was usually only enough space for one vehicle to get through.

The remains of this church were not far from where our motorcoach was parked.  I believe it was one of the buildings damaged in the 1773 earthquake, and never rebuilt.

I am interested in motorcoaches, of course, but the main reason for this photo was to capture the shear number of these conveyances that had descended on Antigua the day we were there.  On the other side of the plaza there are ~10 motorcoaches on each side of the dead-end street.  (They all backed in.)  The street on our side of the plaza had a similar number of motorcoaches in the same arrangement.  40 motorcoaches times an average of 50 passengers each is ~2,000 people.  It sounds like a lot, but there were many, many more people than that on the streets of Antigua while we were there.

Because some of the shore excursions were of very long duration (over 8 hours) the NCL Joy did not leave Puerto Quetzal until after sunset.  Although tugboats were at the ready, the captain backed the ship out, reversing how he had brought it in early this morning in the dark.  Some very impressive maneuvering, indeed. (The Joy is over 1,000 feet long and (~130) feet wide.)

Since our stateroom faced forward (towards the bow) we were treated to a spectacular view of the commercial shipyard lit up and working.  The number of containers being handled here would only be exceeded by what we later saw in Cartagena, Columbia.  But that will have to wait for a few more days.

 

FRIDAY 03 March– At Sea

After leaving Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, we continued cruising along the Pacific Ocean coasts of Nicaragua and then Costa Rica.  Land is just barely visible in the haze towards the left side of the photo, but I do not know how far south we were by this point.

Our original itinerary had us in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua today but the revised itinerary turned it into another day at sea.  We were disappointed that Nicaragua was removed from the itinerary, but glad to have had the chance to visit Antigua, Guatemala.  Plus, our sea days were quite comfortable aboard the Joy.  It was during this leg of the trip that we saw occasional large pods of dolphins, flying fish, and a large number of sea turtles, singly or in small groups, float past the ship.  These were highlight experiences for us, but difficult to capture in photos.  We spent many hours of rapt attention focused on the water ahead of the ship, looking for the telltale signs of ocean life.

Dolphins off the port bow coming towards the ship!  Make that, a LOT of dolphins.

The ship had stumbled upon a superpod of dolphins and we had a front row seat to the show.  Some quick research revealed that dolphins usually live in family groups of 10 to 12 individuals, but sometimes these units gather in superpods.  Our best guess was that there were at least a couple of hundred individuals in this group.  We assumed they were hunting and had found a large school of fish, but we had no idea what kind.

202302(26-27) PCC 4of12 – Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico

[ There are 12 photos in this post.  Much of the text is in the form of captions. ]

 

SUNDAY 26 February – Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

A pleasant morning on the balcony heading towards Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  In this view looking towards the center of the ship, the bulkhead at the far end of the balcony is the port side wall of the open space above the center of the Haven front lounge on deck 17.

We arrived in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur (BCS) state, Mexico around 11 AM.  Cabo does not have a cruise ship dock, so we anchored out and took tenders to the NCL dock in the commercial/tourist marina area.

 

This was not the first time we had set foot in Mexico, having spent the 2014-15 snowbird season in Quartzsite, Arizona, and visiting Los Algodones in northern Baja California (on the California USA border).  It was also not the furthest south we had been, at ~N22.87o.

 

In the morning hours heading into the Cabo area, we finally saw whales!  Humpback whales, specifically.  Always an amazing sight, we never tire of seeing these magnificent mammals of the sea.

 

As part of our second Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise on the MCS Poetia in March 2013, we visited Playa del Carmen (N20.63o) and Tulum (N20.215o) in Yucatan state, Mexico (Yucatan peninsula), and Roatán, Honduras (N16.264o).  When I retired in 2012, we also got near the southern tip of the island of Hawaii (the big island) (we got to ~N19.058o).  (The farthest west we have been, to date, was the island of Oahu, Hawaii, ~ W158o)

More of our stateroom balcony looking to the port side of the ship.  It curves around and continues down the port side past the master bedroom/bathroom suite.  The first portion is accessible as part of this main/front deck.  A small portion farther aft is only accessible from the master suite.

With land now clearly in sight, Linda contemplates our journey to the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula and Cabo San Lucas.

Four photos were used to create this composite image of the main cruise terminal tender dock area in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico.  (You might be able to see it full size on an appropriate device by clicking on it.)  The harbor was deep enough for the NCL Joy, but there are no cruise ship docks.  Small boats (tenders) are used to transport guests and crew to/from shore.  This was our first port-of-call after leaving the Port of Los Angeles, and we were glad to see that crew members were allowed shore call, depending on their ship duties at the time we were there.

Another view of the main marina area, a bit further on around to the right from the previous composite image.  There were some big private yachts here, in addition to lots of more normal sized, but still very nice, pleasure boats.  There were also a lot of condo / timeshare developments here, and the port area was lined with shops and restaurants (of course).  Cabo has a reputation as a party town and can be noisy around the harbor until late into the night (according to some Youtube channels I follow).  We left around dinner time, so were not bothered by any of that.

Our ship, the Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) Joy.  (You might be able to see it full size on an appropriate device by clicking on it.)  As this is the port side, our stateroom is visible at the very front (bow/left) on the first enclosed deck down from the top.

These rocks are WSW of the port/marina portion of Cabo San Lucas.  El Arco (The Arch rock) is visible.  Our sightseeing boat got a bit closer, but the area was crowded with lots of smaller personal boats.

I noticed that many of the motorcoaches being used to bus cruise ship quests to their various venues had this unusual mechanism on their steer tires.  It appeared to be a tire inflation device designed to allow the wheel/tire to turn, but I have no idea if that was actually the case.

We had booked a shore excursion and made our way to the rendezvous point.  The excursion started with a boat trip around the harbor that included a view of El Arco (The Arch rock).  Back at the dock, our group was then escorted to a waiting motorcoach.

 

We visited a glass factory with a glass blowing demonstration.  The factory makes various objects, both functional and decorative, out of recycled glass and has been in operation for quite a long time.  From the glass factory, we visited a viewpoint on a headland across the harbor from the main port area, and had some light refreshments.  Our tour guide, bus driver, and the people operating the boat were all very gracious and spoke English well enough that we could understand them without difficulty.

The glass-blowing demonstration in progress.  We are sitting in the back/top row of a set of wooden bleachers.  The small parking lot was crowded with motorcoaches when we arrived, and was still crowded when we left.  There was another cruise ship in the harbor at the same time as us, and this is a popular shore excursion destination.

While the glass factory was interesting, and the viewpoint was nice, our general impression of Cabo was that we did not need to return anytime soon.

 

It has a reputation as a party town, with restaurants, bars, and timeshares crowded into and around the port/marina area.  The harbor is often crowed with boats and loud music can be heard late into the night.  At least that’s the impression I have gotten from Youtube videos.  All of this was congruent with our first-hand experience of the place.  Our stateroom in the Joy really did provide a “haven” from all of that.  The ship departed at 7 PM and continued south, so whatever partying might have occurred after dark, we were none-the-wiser.

 

MONDAY 27 February – At Sea

The final product of the glass-blowing demonstration; a turtle with a sombrero and bottle of tequila.

In early October, 2022 NCL changed the original itinerary for this cruise.  We were supposed to be in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico today, but spent the entire day at sea instead and overnight into the 28th.  This part of the cruise took us across the mouth of the Sea of Cortez and then along the Pacific Ocean coast of the mainland of Mexico.

 

The roof leading from the workshop/demonstration area to the showroom / retail market area.  The roof is a famous feature of this facility, and one of the reasons tourists visit this business.

Besides dining, on “at sea” days we took in the shows in the main theater and checked out The Social, a small venue with comedians and other entertainment.

 

We had almost all of our meals with Paul and Nancy, but on many of our “at sea” days, they had dinner in one of the specialty restaurants.  We did not make use of the specialty dining during the cruise and dined at the Haven restaurant or in the Garden Café (buffet style) on these occasions.  We found the buffet quite acceptable, and enjoyed the variety of things that were available, including vegan options.

A view of the harbor at Cabo San Lucas, Mexico looking southwest towards the main port/marina area from restaurant / event venue on a headland on the northeast side of the bay.

 

202302(24-25) PCC 3of12 – The Norwegian Joy:  Embarkation, Departure, and the Ship

[ There are 25 photos in this post.  Some of the text is in the form of captions. ]

 

FRIDAY 24 February – Embarkation and Departure

The rainy weather moved into the Long Beach area overnight but our Uber was able to pick us up under the canopy in front of the Staybridge Hotel near the Long Beach airport and drop us off at the Port of Los Angeles (also in Long Beach) under similar cover.  We had an embarkation window of 11:30 to noon, and arrived just ahead of that time.  We had received text messages yesterday changing our terminal, and had the Uber driver take us to the new location.  Upon arrival at the terminal, we were a bit perplexed, as our ship was nowhere in sight.  The terminal was also not what Nancy and Paul expected, based on previous experience with NCL, and not what we had been told to expect with respect to the Haven (ship within a ship) “experience” on the Joy.

Everything seemed “makeshift” and that, indeed, turned out to be the case.  The Joy was at a different dock, but the high winds of the last few days had damaged the tents that had been set up to serve as the welcoming and processing center, so those operations had to be moved last minute to our present terminal.  A separate waiting area had been created for guests in the Haven, but it wasn’t a comfortable lounge and we waited for quite a while before being escorted on a long walk to an area with several dozen motorcoaches were waiting to shuttle us to the ship.  It turned out that NCL had been scrambling since yesterday to hire as many of these motorcoaches as they could find in the area.

At dinner in the Haven Restaurant (photo by Paul or Nancy).

Once our bus was full, we were then driven to where the ship was actually docked, and went through the actual embarkation process, which was not especially well organized.

We had been told we would have separate, priority access to the ship and be taken directly the Haven in time to have a relaxing lunch, but that didn’t happen, as the process of getting from the terminal onto the ship was quite lengthy, the Port of Los Angeles staff did not appear to know what they were doing, and some of the PoLA security people were actually a bit rude.

Linda, Nancy, and Paul in our stateroom.

We eventually made it to our room, however, as did all of our luggage.  Our bottle of champagne was there waiting for us, even though the ice had melted by now, but we were not in a festive enough mode to enjoy anyway, and decided to save it for some other occasion.  While not the embarkation we expected, in the end, we were all in our stateroom in the Haven with all of our luggage, and were able to relax before going to dinner.

Bruce, Nancy, and Paul in our stateroom.

The ship was scheduled to depart at 4 PM and actually pulled out closer to 5 PM under heavy mist.  Once out of the port, the Pacific Ocean had big swell, but the Joy handled it well.

The ship can accommodate up to 5,000 guests, but there we not that many on board this particular cruise.  We had dinner in the Haven restaurant, a place we would visit frequently during the cruise and be one of the highlights of the ship for us.

Back in our suite, which was certainly the main highlight of the ship for us, we unpacked our luggage and set up our bedroom and on-suite bathroom.  We also met our butler, Isidro, and our stateroom attendant, Harold.  It was immediately obvious that we would be treated to a very high level of service on this cruise.  As something we were not accustomed to, it that took us a few days to become comfortable with this.  We eventually did, but we never took it for granted.

The following photos are a fairly complete tour of our stateroom:

The common area (living/dining) portion of our stateroom and one of the three doorwalls to our forward port side balcony as seen from the entry hallway.

Our stateroom entry hallway.  On the right (in this photo) from the entry door are a toilet room, a closet, and the door to our bedroom.

Our stateroom common area.  The “fireplace” did not produce heat, but did make a pleasant, low intensity light.

Our stateroom common area viewed from the bar.  The sofa was comfortable, and could convert into a bed, although we did not need to use it in that configuration.

The master bedroom, with the entrance to the master bathroom suite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A partial view of the master bathroom (vanity and toilet alcove).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A partial view of the master bathroom (tube, shower, and dressing mirror).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our bedroom as viewed from the murphy bed, which is currently folded into the wall, looking towards the door from the hallway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our bedroom as viewed from the murphy bed, which is currently folded into the wall, looking towards the desk and closet/storage area.  The on-suite bathroom is in the space behind the TV, entered from the hallway on the right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A view of the murphy bed and entry door in our bedroom.  The bed is folded into the wall, making a sofa available.  We had our stateroom attendant (Harold) fold the bed out and leave it that way for the duration of the cruise.

A partial view of our on-suite bathroom (shower stall and part of the toilet).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving the Port of Los Angeles in Long Beach, California, as seen from the common area of our stateroom looking out across our forward port side balcony.  It was cold, windy, and rainy, with limited visibility, but we were finally on our way.

 

SATURDAY 25 February – At Sea

Our first morning in our stateroom enjoying Nespresso in our NCL provided robes.  Good friends in a good place.

We were at sea all night on the 24th, all day on the 25th, and overnight into the 26th headed south along the California coast and then along the Pacific coast of Baja California and Baja California Sur (south), Mexico.

The sea eventually settled down a bit, but the coast was often shrouded in haze and/or clouds.  We were also far enough off shore that we couldn’t see land most of the time anyway.  (My presumption was that we were probably in international waters so the ship could operate the onboard casino.)  We took this time to familiarize ourselves with the ship, starting with the Haven.