Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Panama Canal Time Lapse

Erin found this video on YouTube that showed in two minutes what we experienced over eight hours! It was fun to review the experience, although this camera was only pointed straight ahead.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Arriving in Seattle

We passed Magnolia about 6:30 AM, as the sun was coming up over downtown Seattle. I took pictures out of our stateroom window. We were on the right side to see most of the best sights, even though our windows were very dirty! After our last breakfast on the Lido deck, we are waiting to be called to disembark the ship. We are already planning our next cruise, and put a deposit for both of us for another cruise, either up the St. Lawrence from Boston, or the Baltic. It just depends on how far we want to fly!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A Day in Port in Vancouver

We spent the last day in port in Vancouver. The picture above was taken as we pulled out of the cruise ship terminal, which is next to the convention center. No bridge today. The picture below was taken on our last full day at sea, with the people that Mother has been playing with since early in the cruise.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Leaving Los Angeles

We spent the day along the San Pedro pier in Los Angeles/Long Beach. Mother stayed on the ship. I got off for just a few minutes, took a few pictures, and then got back on the ship. Only later did I learn that there was a little trolley that went up and down the street in front of the pier, down to a beach and not sure where in the other direction. You could travel all day for $1. Oh, well. I talked to all of the family on my cell phone, since I was in range for the first time in two weeks. Mother played bridge all afternoon.

We talked to the cruise consultant about future cruises, got this year's book on Alaska, to get an idea about prices, and got next year's book on Europe. I think we have narrowed down our choices. We can buy $100 coupons to cover advanced booking fees (rather than the normal $350-$500, depending on destination) and they can be used within four years. We have two days to decide how many we are going to buy! The coupons can also be converted into shipboard credit, depending on the kind of cabin we book.

We have our last formal dinner tonight, and we have lunch in the fancy dining room on Wednesday, in port in Vancouver for the day on Thursday, and Seattle on Friday morning. It will be good to get home to the unlimited Internet. I'll also be back on Lean Cuisine and Zone Bars. I'm afraid to get on the scales! The food has been too good.

Today I bought two more costume jewelry rings to go along with the others that I bought: one silver color and the other gold. Two for $40.

This has been a great way for Mother to travel. She doesn't have to walk very far, she can see some of the sights, and she can get out of the heat and humidity when she needs to. She has thoroughly enjoyed the bridge playing, and of course the food. She also went to the exercise room almost every day and rode the bike (Acapulco in the background in this picture).

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Leaving Cabo San Lucas

Today was our last stop in Mexico, at Cabo San Lucas. The last time I was here was over 12 years ago, when we all flew down from Anchorage for our 30th Wedding Anniversary, and Lisa was expecting Tori. You wouldn't believe how much Cabo has changed. They have built quite a marina, and the open air flea market is now a building next to the marina. Somehow, it has lost its charm. I got some video of our departure, around the end of the land, including video of the place that we stayed on the Pacific Ocean side of the peninsula.

The day began when we went down to the theater this morning after breakfast, to get our tender tickets, so that we could catch the tender (AKA the lifeboats) to get off the ship. As soon as we got on shore, we headed for the new Arts and Crafts center, and browsed the tourist stuff. Mother found a cream colored poncho. After a few shops, she found someone who would take her $10 offer for it. After buying a couple of magnets, she was done. I bought another sleeveless dress (in navy blue - $18). We walked around the port area, but she decided it was time to get back on the ship. I walked her back to where the tenders were boarding, got her safely onboard.

Then I went back to explore Cabo a little more. I walked all the way around the marina to the main street (to the Shrimp Factory, remember?). I looked in a few jewelry stores and a few other stores, then decided I had enough of that stuff. I walked back to the Arts & Crafts center, and found a ring that I had eyed earlier ($30) . It is just like the old Aztec calendar ring that I used to wear on my middle finger (bought it in Cabo on our first cruise, I think, and only took it off last winter, so I knew it was durable). I decided I needed one that fit my ring finger. It will be a good "place holder" where my wedding ring used to be. I also bought a ring on the ship: a replica of Jackie Kennedy's engagement ring: a square emerald surrounded by diamonds (in this case, all fake). So, I replaced both of my rings (the ruby for the 40th anniversary, and my wedding ring, which I had swapped on the day the divorce was final). I think that is another good transition step.

We have another formal dinner tonight (our third) that they are calling our Farewell Dinner, but we still have five days to go!. Then, we have another day at sea tomorrow. Monday we are in L.A. and I will have cell phone access. Some of you may hear from us. We leave the port in L.A. around 6 PM.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Huatulco & Acapulco, Mexico Shopping Update

I got off the ship in Huatulco on Wednesday and bought a black sleeveless dress (sort of like a tank top, but down to my knees, and flows wide at the hemline - $12 or 2 for $20 - only bought one, couldn't find another one I liked). Very comfy. We pulled into the dock at noon so Mother didn't get off the ship that day; she stayed onboard to play bridge in the afternoon.

When we got to Acapulco on Thursday, she went into the port terminal, and found this black shawl ($10) to go along with her new dress. So, she may be finished shopping for this trip (I told her to wait... our last stop in Mexico is Cabo San Lucas aka "Flea Market by the Boat Dock"). In the Acapulco port terminal I found a yellow tank dress like the black one (only it was $16 in Acapulco) plus lots of stuff at the Del Sol store (stuff changes color when you take it out in the sun). After taking mother back to the ship, I went back onshore to see what shopping existed beyond the port.

Of course, this is Mexico. Shopping? It seems like haggling is the national sport! I was approached many times by locals, followed down the street, even though I said I just wanted to walk along the beach sidewalk. I found a grocery store, where I could get a bottle of Diet Coke for less than $1 (it's $1.95 a can on the ship). As I walked out of the store, a young man walked up to me and told me he was hired by the government to take care of tourists, showed me his photo ID badge, wanted to practice his English, and wanted to take me to the government flea market. I wasn't sure if this was a scam, but I knew there were other people from the ship walking back, so I let him take me there.

It was the usual collection of little shops with tourist trinkets, toys, and trash, plus silver and gold on the fringes. They wanted more for the dresses than either of the ones I had already purchased ("Hey lady, what you want to pay? Give me your price."). But I wanted to see their leather purses, since a zipper on my Italian purse had broken. So, after an hour wandering around (and not finding anything I liked in clothes), I went back to the big leather store and looked at more purses until I found the one I liked. It is like my Italian purse, only wider (hangs over one shoulder and across my front). It is also made from ram's hide, not cowhide, so it is softer. I almost didn't buy it, because he didn't want to take my credit card (he says he would have to pay 20% tax), but I didn't have enough cash on me. As I started to walk away, they offered to show me to a cash machine, but I wasn't going to fall for that one. So, I was willing to give him a little more than I intended, so that I could use my credit card. After all, I still have Cabo ahead of me!

My little guide took me back to the main street where I could see the ship, and I gave him a $5 tip. After all, I was back safely, and don't think I was ripped off (he said I got a good price - $67). But it was still uncomfortable to be alone in that situation... Mother never would have lasted through this outdoor shopping adventure, even though it was not too hot or humid. When I got back to the ship, she was still playing bridge.

I also made my phone call this morning, to the conference in Finland. I didn't realize that I was the closing keynote address ( ). I called the conference organizer's cell phone and he was able to connect my voice into the sound system in the room. I was able to say hello. There were no questions, but I gave them a few parting words, told them where I was cruising, had set up a blog, and welcomed comments and emails if they had any questions. I heard them clap, and then he hung up the phone. I have at least 5 minutes of time left on the Holland America phone card. Who should I call?

Oh yes, Mother is ready to go on another cruise next summer. Anyone want to join us for an Alaska cruise out of Seattle? If not, she wants to go to the Baltic (including Copenhagen, Sweden, St. Petersburg, with time on shore in Amsterdam). July or August 2008?

We have a day at sea today. I know I will be taking a nap before our third formal dinner tonight. Then, tomorrow morning we dock in Cabo San Lucas. Last chance for haggling!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala

Yesterday was an "at sea" day. Mother attended a bridge lecture in the morning, and played bridge all afternoon. I watched a couple of the lectures in the theater, and relaxed in the cabin. We went to the exercise room in the late afternoon. Last night was our second formal dinner. After dinner, we went to the show (a production number with the ship's singers and dancers). We also wandered around Deck 5 (where most of the entertainment happens, including the casino) and listened to a variety of live music.

Today, we spent the day in port at Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala. There was a craft market right at the pier where we were docked. So, we went off the ship and within a few minutes, Mother found her while shawl. It is lightweight with very pretty design. After walking past all of the vendors, she decided it was time to go back on the ship. So, I got her picture next to the sign as we proceeded back on the ship.

After returning to the cabin to get shorts on (not capri pants), and shed my shirt, I went back on shore, and did a lot more shopping (in the heat and humidity!). There were some very good prices on woven goods (placemats, table runners, napkins) and other stuff. I brought back two bags full of souvenirs.

After I brought my purchases back on the ship, I checked Skype to see if Erin was online, and sure enough she was. So I told her that would walk on shore and use the Internet cafe there to talk to her. It took me 10 minutes to go back to my room, get my earphones, and walk off the ship to the little Internet shop. We talked by Skype for a half hour. Cost me $4. The ship blocks Skype voice calls because of bandwidth, and charges $.25 per minute. This was much cheaper.

Tonight we are getting ready to watch a show (The Coasters - old rock & roll group, famous for "Yackity Yack" and other memorable tunes).

Tomorrow, we will be in Mexico (Huatulco).