“D” is for the Do’s and Don’t of Visiting Dubai-Our Middle East Adventure

Our cruise came to an end in the city of Dubai.  As we left the ship, we were happy to have completed two of the five legs along the 2023 Island Princess World Cruise. After 55 days on board, this was actually the halfway point of the 110 day cruise and nearly double the length of time we had originally planned on being on board.

It was before 7am as our ship pulled into the port.  The day began with a spectacular orange sunrise.  Normally a red sky in the morning would be a warning for rain or stormy weather ahead, but Dubai sits in the middle of the Arabian Desert. With an annual rainfall of just 4 inches a year, there was little chance of seeing any moisture on this day.  The sunrise was more likely being affected from the permanent haze caused by the blowing sands.

As we sailed past the “Atlantis Dubai”, an all inclusive resort and waterpark reflecting the “Lost City of Atlantis”, it quickly became apparent that we had arrived in a country of opulence.  It is difficult to imagine that this city started as little more than a fishing village.  It has now grown to be the most populated city in the United Arab Emirates Republic (UAE).

Most would assume that Dubai’s wealth was the result of oil.  In fact oil and gas only account for about 2% of all exports!  Real estate and construction are the largest contributors to the economic growth of the country. When 85% of the population is made from expats, it is easy to see why this is one of the fastest growing cities in the world.

Truth be told, I was a little nervous about visiting this city.  This is a country with deep traditions and customs, many of which are quite different from our Western way of life.  Mostly my concerns stemmed from my own ignorance about what to expect.  A little research solved that problem.  Perhaps by sharing our observations, we can help to dispel any concerns about visiting this amazing location.

1. The majority of the population is Muslim.  This is a deeply rooted religion with different rules than those of Christianity.  The most important “do” is to respect this.  Part of being a world traveler is to immerse yourself in new cultures.  Each new location presents an opportunity to learn, embrace it.

2. Muslims pause to pray 5 times a day. Prayers are before dawn (Fajr), afternoon (Dhuhr), late afternoon (Asr), after sunset (Maghrib) and evening (Isha).  There are loud speakers throughout the city which call worshippers to prayer at regular intervals throughout the day. Don’t be alarmed when you hear the calls. Unlike in Christianity Holy day is Friday.  This means many businesses offer limited hours on Fridays, if they open at all.  Do plan accordingly.

3. Do take public transportation or use a taxi.  We rented a car to explore the city and stressed ourselves out completely.  Traffic on the seven lane highways is fast and a bit difficult.  Our GPS had trouble distinguishing from when we were on a highway verses a frontage road, meaning we were often off course, which cost us precious time.  Since we were only in the city for a little over 24 hours, we couldn’t spare any.  The city is beautiful and there is much to see.  Traffic is so busy you will not want to take your eyes off the road which means you will miss some of these spectacular sights.  Take a taxi or take the Metro.  If you choose to ride the train, it will be busy during rush hour.  There are a few cars for women only.  if you are male, don’t ride in these female only cars or you will be fined.  Speaking of fines, do not eat or drink on the Metro, it is prohibited.

4. Dubai is spread out with several distinct districts.  Some are more difficult to access without transportation.  Do know the district your hotel and/or desired activities are in.

5.  With the exception of smoking cessation gum, you will not find gum for sale in Dubai so do bring your own if you need it. Don’t spit or throw your gum on the sidewalk, both are punishable crimes.

6. You are going to be hot, so do dress accordingly.  Dubai is warm year around.  The most comfortable time to visit is during “winter” months of December, January and February.  You can still expect temperatures to be in the high 70’s (25C).  At the opposite end of this spectrum it is up to 113F (45C) during the summer months!   Light, loose clothing will keep you comfortable. Speaking about clothing, do remember you are a guest in these lands.  Different from the western world it is expected that men and women both dress modestly to observe Islamic traditions,  Knees and shoulders should be covered by both sexes.  Don’t forget your sunscreen!

7. Do exchange some money.  When using cash, only local currency (Emirati durham) will be accepted.

8. The best don’t is don’t worry about your safety (within reason of course).  Dubai has an incredibly low crime rate.

9. Do not miss visiting the popular tourist spots!  Be sure to see the Burj Khalifa,  The tallest building in the world is an architectural wonder.  The views from the 124th floor are slightly nauseating and completely awe inspiring. Do expect the lines to be long.  If time is limited most of the tourist hot spots offer a “skip the line pass”.  As an added bonus, the Burj is attached to the Dubai Mall which is another one of the must see locations in Dubai.  We also suggest a visit to the Gold and Spice Souks, Old Dubai and the Miracle Gardens (which we completed all in one day).

10. Alan and I are very affectionate with each other,  There is rarely a time when we aren’t holding hands.  Public displays of affection are frowned upon in Dubai.  In fact, if you are not married, even holding hands is frowned upon. It was a tough don’t for Alan and I to remember.   Along these same lines, unmarried couples should not plan on staying in the same hotel room.  Doing so, could lead to fines and/or deportation.

11. As a traveler it is fun to photograph different cultures.  People can be so different but do be polite and ask permission before taking someones photo.  Alternately you could take photos of other things and just happen yo capture the environment.

12. Don’t take pictures of Government Buildings.  As we were cruising down the above waterway, there was a cool bridge just before our boat turned around to return us to our starting point.  Shortly after taking this picture there were also numerous signs warning no photography beyond a certain point. I am not sure what lay beyond that bridge but if the Emirates might consider your photo an issue of national security, you really don’t want to be in trouble with the law in foreign lands. Do follow the rules, punishments may be strict for seemingly minor (and perhaps innocent) infractions.

13.  Speaking about laws, Alcohol is available in most hotels, licensed restaurants and clubs. One thing is certain, the U.A,E does not tolerate public inebriation. Do not ever drink and drive, the legal limit is zero.

14.  Finally, do not try to carry prohibited items.  It is especially important to remember that you packed a pen knife in your carry on luggage before you pass through security at the airport.   Failing to do so might bring a search of your bags and a very serious security agent to your side!  Thankfully I wasn’t carted off to any back rooms.  Do expect that you will be questioned and asked to surrender your “weapons”, if you forget.

Dubai is one of the most liberal countries in the Middle East.  With the large expat community there is a tolerance for most differences.  With these few simple guidelines you should have enough familiarity to feel comfortable in this amazing country.

“C” is For Crown Plaza-Our Los Angeles, California Adventure

We originally booked a hotel near Los Angeles International Airport in preparation for our cruise departure. After reading extensive reviews, I switched our hotel booking to the Crown Plaza,

Once I realized that we were due to sail out of San Pedro, about 30 minutes south of the airport, it seemed easier to get ourselves there for our two night stay.

We arrived later in the evening on the first of a two night stay, too tired to explore the amenities but a fresh room awaited our exhausted bodies.  Forgive the photo of our room, I forgot to take the picture when it was all put together.

We wouldn’t realize how very close to the cruise terminal we were, until the light of the next morning. Many of the upcoming World Cruise passengers were also staying there.  It was a great way to meet them before setting sail.

We chose to rent a car so we could do some sightseeing on the way to the hotel. There was a drop off point just outside the hotel, which made it easy for us to have a one way car rental.  It is also possible to get an Uber or Lyft from the airport for about $35 USD.

The main draw of this hotel is the approximation to the cruise terminal.  We could walk a mile to get there if we chose,  but handling 6 pieces of luggage across several roads might have been a challenge.

Even though the cruise terminal is within view and walking distance, it is far easier to take the shuttle. I knew that we ourselves had 6 suitcases to handle for the trip, so I imagined how challenging luggage was going to be for the many passengers who were doing the entire world tour!

When cruises are in, it is highly recommended to book your time slot the evening before or as soon as you check in.  You will be given a departure time if the shuttles are very busy. The cost of the shuttle is $5 a person and runs every 15 minutes.

When I asked about handling all of the luggage, I was told the 35 passenger busses had had 10 seats taken out to accommodate the extra bags.  There was plenty of room for all of us and since the cruise terminal is only 1 mile away, the shuttles make quick delivery of passengers to the terminal.

There are many amenities within walking distance, including a great restaurant called the Green Onion.  How could I say no to some of the best Mexican food ever?  Especially when it was only 350 feet from the door of the hotel! The area appears safe both day and night. Of course for those guests who don’t want to venture out, there is also on-site dining in the elegant hotel restaurant if you so choose.

All in all, this was an adequate hotel for our needs for the couple nights before we set sail.

If you are interested in this location, I would suggest booking through booking.com.  We were able to get our room for under $200/night (including taxes).

“B” is for Blimp-Our Los Angeles, California Adventure

Blimps, they are the most fascinating feats of air travel! In its most simplistic explanation, blimps are helium filled balloons, with a basket attached to the bottom.  They carry over 100 gallons of water to weigh them down since helium is literally lighter than air! They are navigated by a pilot.

As the Goodyear blimp hovered over our heads while visiting Los Angeles, we were racing against the clock to catch a photo.  We had to find a parking place near Redondo beach and hope that the sun wouldn’t cast the last rays of light before I could spring from the car all while while whipping out my camera.  No my photo isn’t perfect but that isn’t the entire purpose of playing the alphabet game is it?  We were having an adventure!

Knowing there are only about 10 blimps remaining in the world, I knew we were very lucky to be seeing this one so close to us!  To put it in perspective, there are more astronauts than blimp pilots!  The ones flying this craft tonight seem to be toying with me as they hovered overhead, then looking out to the Pacific ocean, that we would soon be embarking on for our upcoming cruise.

With such a fascination for the blimps, it is a wonder we don’t see more of them but then the most notable blimp in history was the Hindenburg and most of us still remember that tragedy which happened in 1937.  After about 60 flights that one eventually caught fire, killing 35 people and dooming the entire industry for future development.

Today the most iconic blimp remains the Goodyear blimps.  Originally developed over 100 years ago, the blimps continue to be one of the most interesting branding mediums for the company.  Goodyear has cornered the market with their blimps.  Mostly they are brought out to hover over major sporting events and offer the spectators a birds eye view as the event is broadcast from overhead.

Seating only 10 people at a time, riding in a Goodyear blimp is by invitation only and is usually reserved for charities.  Seats are auctioned off for a cost of $14,000 for 2 people!  With a 10 year waiting list, It is the rare person who will ever have an opportunity to ride in one.

The last true blimp to fly was decommissioned in 2017,  Goodyear has replaced their fleet with semi-rigid dirigible though they still refer to them as blimps since they are powered in much the same way and the term is much easier to say.

The new blimps are quieter and more easily navigated meaning they can be more readily used at major sporting events such as golf championships ensuring the Goodyear legacy will continue;

On this cool winter evening, I will revel in keeping my feet on the ground while still being close enough to this icon to see the pilots!

“A” is for Averill Park-Our Los Angeles, California Adventure

We would have only 1 1/2 days to explore the Los Angeles area as we waited to embark on the first leg of our World Cruise Adventure,  set to depart from San Pedro, California on January 19, 2023.  We had arrived two days before we were due to set sail, to ensure there were no last minute challenges.

We chose the Crown Plaza for our accommodations since it would be easy to get to the ship and also offered a nearby drop off for our rental car.

I am not generally a fan of big cities and prefer the quiet of the countryside and nature.  It was in this way that I had come to discover a hidden gem known as Averill Park, as I sought some refuge from the concrete jungle and traffic of the city of Los Angeles.

San Pedro is best known as a busy cruise and container port.  Located about 30 minutes south of Los Angeles airport, on first appearances, San Pedro doesn’t appear to have much to offer but since we had the rental car, getting around was fairly simple.   I was determined to find the beauty.

After arriving by plane, we had spent the first day stopping at the beaches which dot the coast between the airport and San Pedro.  Today our adventures would carry us from the hotel, to the Korean Friendship Bell, then to Averill Park and all around the Palo Verde area.

I chose Averill Park as our letter “A” because it had been described as offering spectacular views of the city and harbor.  It sounded like a delightful place to practice with my camera.

The neighborhood park was created by Herbert Averill an early developer of the Vista del Oro area of San Pedro, and was deeded to the city of Los Angeles in 1920. It has remained a peaceful oasis for local residents ever since.

Parking for our hike through the park was a little interesting. The 10 acre park is set among steeply rolling hills and the paths challenging.  We tried to guess which would offer the least resistance.  It was futile.   Since this is just a neighborhood green-space, there are no fees to park.

As we set out on our walk, I enjoyed seeing families perching their children in the gnarled wood of the amazing trees.  I imagined the memories which have been made in this over 100 year old park.

Holding the hand of my love, Alan and I enter the park along the rose lined path.  The roses were not in bloom this time of year but I could visualize the amazing colors which lead to the gazebo at the end.  In the summer, this is considered one of the top wedding venues.  I can feel the love here.

San Pedro is a neighborhood of Los Angeles, not a separate city.  With a population of over twelve and a half million, green space is at a premium. Word has been getting out about this special place. Today is a weekday but the park is still alive with activity as people breath the fresh air and escape the hustle of the nearby city. I can only imagine the droves of people who make their way here during the summer.

As we make our way down the steep hillside we round a bend in the path and I pause to take yet another photo of the amazing trees.  Arriving at the babbling brook, I breath in the newly sprouting greens of spring and gaze into the small stream  which meanders through the valley.  I think of the countless reflections of the people who have been photographed on the little stone bridge which crosses over to the other side.  Today a turtle is the only thing I see in the water.

My ears follow the sound of rushing water to the little waterfall cascading down the hillside.  This is a reminder that the path back to the car, is all uphill!

It is time for us to move to our next location.  As the sun shines bright upon my face and the turtles rest quietly on the rocks of the stream, it is hard to tear myself away from the tranquility but our adventures for the day have only just begun.  There is still much to explore, so we begin the trudge upwards.

If you would like to discover this quiet neighborhood park for yourself,  it is located at:

1300 Dodson Avenue San Pedro, CA 90732

Los Angeles-An ABC List of Adventures

ABC EXPLORATION OF LOS ANGELES AND SURROUNDING AREAS

Use this list to spark ideas of places to visit, experiences to create and photographs to take.  Keep building your own word list.  Check back often to see if we complete a whole alphabet!

Missing  J, X, Y

A

  • Abalone Cove (San Pedro Area)
  • Abandoned LA Zoo (Griffith Park)
  • Accomodations
  • Afternoon Tea ( Millennium Biltmore DTLA)
  • Amoeba (Large independent record store)
  • Angels Flight Railway
  • Annenberg Space For Photography
  • Animal-Hipster restaurant with an extensive menu and unique dishes.
  • Aquarium (Manhattan Beach, Aquarium of the Pacific, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium)
  • Arclight Cinemas
  • Art Walk
  • Averill Park

B

  • Beach (Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach)
  • Betegga Louie-pizza and macarons are always popular at this busy restaurant.
  • Bergamot Station
  • Betty B Dearing Trail Hike
  • Blimp
  • Bluff Cove (Palo Verde area)
  • Boardwalk (Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica Beach)
  • Bob Baker’s Marionette Theater-oldest children’s theater company in LA.
  • Book Soup
  • Brennan’s Pub Turtle Race

C

  • Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
  • California Science Center
  • California sign
  • Capital Records Building
  • Cargo containers
  • Carousel
  • Castle Peak Hike
  • Cave of Munits
  • Chorizo
  • Chinese Theater
  • Chateau Marmont Hotel-Popular amongst celebrities. Loosely resembles the Chateau d’Amboise in France’s Loire Valley.
  • Coast
  • Cove
  • Crown Plaza (hotel)

D

  • Dodger Stadium/
  • Disney Hall
  • Disneyland
  • Downtown LA
  • Descanso Gardens
  • Donut Snob-With flavors like Blueberry Earl Gray Tea and Pistachio Orange, there is something for everyone.
  • Donut Man

E

  • Exposition Park Rose Garden
  • Exposition Park
  • El Capitan Theater
  • Eaton Canyon Waterfall
  • Echo Park Lake

F

  • Father’s Office Burger (at In and Out Burgers)-don’t dare to ask for ketchup!
  • Ferris Wheel
  • Fishermen
  • Food

G

  • Getty Villa
  • Griffith Observatory
  • Grand Central Market
  • Gibbon Conservation Center

H

  • Hollywood Blvd
  • Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • Hollywood Bowl
  • Hollywood Sign Hike
  • Hollywood Forever Cemetary
  • Huntington Library
  • Hike
  • Hermosa Beach

I

  • Inspiration Point
  • In and Out Burgers
  • Ice cream (Manhattan Beach Creamery)

J

K

L

  • Lakers Game
  • LA Lakers
  • LA Waterfront cruise (cargo ships, containers, Vincent Thomas Bridge, USS Iowa and sea lions)
  • LA Zoo
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Modern Art
  • Lost Sunken City-aka the “Atlantis of California”
  • Leo Carrillo State Beach
  • LA County Fair
  • Lighthouse (Point Vincent-Palo Verde area)
  • Lucha Vovoom Burlesque Show-
  • Lookout Point Park (Palo Verde area)

M

  • Muscle Beach (Venice boardwalk)
  • Magic Castle
  • Mugu State Park
  • Melrose Trading Post Flea Market-Sunday open-air market where you’ll find antiques, vintage goods and collectibles.
  • Museum of Jurassic Technology
  • Mulholland Drive
  • Madame Tussauds Hollywood
  • Manhattan Beach
  • Mahhattan Beach Creamery (Ice cream)-try the signature ice cream sandwich made with artisan cookies
  • Malaga Cove (Palo Verde area)

N

  • Nightlife
  • Night Gallery

O

  • Outdoor Concert

P

  • Pacific Ocean
  • Pier
  • Pelicans
  • Pelican Cove
  • Portuguese Point
  • Point Vincente Lighthouse-not open to the public but can be seen from the shore. (Palo Verde area)
  • Palo Verdes

Q

  • Queen Mary

R

  • Rodeo Dr.
  • Red Car Line (trolly system)
  • Runyon Canyon Hike
  • Rodeo Drive
  • Redondo Beach

S

  • Starfish
  • Sacred Cove
  • Santa Monica Camera Obscura-self guided walking art tour of galleries and exhibits.
  • Santa Monica Pier
  • Sea lions
  • Ships
  • Show Taping (Conan, Ellen Show, Jimmy Kimmel)
  • Shopping (The Grove, Rodeo Drive)
  • Silver Lake Meadow
  • Six Flags Magic Mountain
  • Space Shuttle Endeavor at California Science Center
  • South Coast Botanical Garden
  • The Strand (Manhattan Beach)- is a 22-mile paved path extending from Pacific Palisades (close to Santa Monica) to Torrance.  Keep in mind some people refer to The Stand as the “Manhattan Beach Boardwalk.”
  • Staples Center-where the LA Lakers play

T

  • Tide pools
  • Third Street Promenade
  • Traffic
  • Trolley cars (red car line)
  • “The Rainforest”-Betty B Dearing Trail Hike
  • The Last Bookstore-check out their amazing tunnel of books.
  • The Grove-Tons of stores, dining and pop-up shops.
  • The Grammy Museum
  • Traffic

U

  • Under
  • Union Station
  • Up
  • USS Iowa Battleship
  • Universal Studios Hollywood
  • Upright Citizens Brigade Theater

V

  • Venice Beach Boardwalk-outdoor skate park, BoHo boutiques and trendy restaurants
  • Venice Canals-Man made canals built in 1905 by developer Abbot Kinney.
  • Vincent Thomas Bridge
  • Vineland Drive-In Theater

W

  • White Point Beach
  • Walt Disney Concert Hall
  • Waterfront
  • Wayfarers Chapel
  • Wacko Soap Plant
  • Wildlife Learning Center
  • Watch the Room (Don’t forget your plastic spoons)
  • Watts Towers Arts-Public art sculpture that is a California Historical Landmark and National Historic Landmark.
  • Whisky a Go-go
  • Whale watching

X

Y

Z

  • Zuma Beach

“N” is For Newsletter-Our Around the Ship Adventure

From the moment you board your ship, there are things to know, new foods and drinks to experience and activities to engage in.  How do you keep it all straight?

Each evening a newletter will be delivered to your stateroom.  This will list the activities for the next day. Here you will find pool games, trivia contests, a list of movies which are playing, lectures, classes and what time the entertainment starts.

The newsletter will map out ALL the activities on board for the day.  There will be many and they will often be happening at the same time.

We suggest carrying a highlighter to mark those which interest you.  If two or more of you are trying to decide what to do, use a different colored highlighter for each person.

The newsletter will also let you know what time bars, restaurants, the casino, the photo booth and stores will be open.

It will often contain coupons, daily specials and discounts for photos, the spa, drinks and the shops.

There will be details about the weather and what time you are expected to be back on the ship.  The newsletter will tell you whether it is a formal, dressy or casual evening.  It may even give you some history about the locations you are visiting.

Learn to love and use this daily information resource to get the most from your vacation.

 

“I” is For Island Princess-A Cruise Ship Review

One of the most important things about cruising is choosing the right ship for your personal needs.  From amenities to cabins, itineraries and passenger capacity, knowing what your ship offers can have a big impact on how you enjoy your vacation.

Every cruise line has a brand.  Some are party boats, others offer upscale luxury.  Some ships specialize in their food, others focus on entertainment. Some cruises cater to families, others to retirees. Princess is an American-British company, owned by Carnival Corporation, which is the second largest agency by net revenue.  Carnival owns 10 different sub agencies, Princess is one of them.  They are an experienced cruise line and cater to a middle to upper income crowd.

Princess is a classic line, offering an Old English/European feel.  I have consistently found the brand to be slightly elevated and catering to an older clientele. There is less emphasis on poolside parties and more on educational lectures and cultural experiences.   With this cruise line we can expect nice staterooms, decent food, great entertainment and amazing itineraries.

It is important to define what you are seeking before shopping for a cruise.  If you are looking for a party boat, Princess is likely not your brand (however Carnival does offer several other companies which would meet your needs).  While there are enough poolside activities and bars to keep the ship interesting, the focus tends to be on providing an upscale resort-like experience.

Princess offers 16 ships ranging from 2,000 passengers up to 3660, so there are a nice variety of size options. Island Princess was one of the first.  She is a relatively small vessel.  In general, smaller ships are able to navigate to more destinations but larger ships may offer additional amenities and activities.

When we chose to embark on the Island Princess, it was the itinerary, size and price which attracted us the most.

Princess ships sail to over 700 ports. The Island Princess is one of the smaller ships in the Princess fleet. With a capacity of 2200 passengers it is a very intimate ship.   She has a twin sister called the Coral Princess.

Island Princess is narrower than many other cruise ships and her small size allows her to explore the fjords of Norway and Alaska (which is how we discovered the cruise line).  She is also able to dock at smaller ports.  Of late Island Princess has been doing mostly world tours.  Of interest might be that she is one of the few cruise ships which can sail through the old Panama Canal locks, larger ships must use the new ones.

Perhaps one drawback to the smaller ship would be that passengers should expect to feel more wave action, so if you are prone to seasickness, the Island Princess may be less appealing than one of the newer (larger) ships in the fleet.

Having been built in 2003, Island Princess is one of the oldest ships in the Princess line.  She was completely remodeled in 2017 and put back into service with a brand new itinerary. Our Pacific Island Adventure is one leg of a 111 day around the world cruise.  This feature in itself is unique, since Princess allows passengers to purchase various segments along the itinerary, if they are unable to commit to the entire trip.

World cruises can mean a lot of days at sea.  From bow to stern, Princess put a lot of effort into creating a luxurious environment.  The European flare is represented in the Italian styled Piazza located at the center of the ship and the beautiful Sabatinni restaurant.   Polished brass and rich wood work brings an Old World style to many of the bars and lounges including the Wheelhouse Bar and a New Orleans styled Bayou Steakhouse.

The entire ship is always a hub of activity, but with a nice variety of spaces, it is able to be as active or as serene as you need. By day there are a variety of shops and plenty of lounges and gathering places for activities such as trivia challenges and guest lecturers.  There are numerous options of where to eat including the above mentioned restaurants, two main dining rooms, a grill, a pizzeria and a buffet.  We might pass the time with a wine tasting, pub lunches and/or afternoon tea.  When we need a quieter pace we could choose to visit the adults only sanctuary at the top of the ship, a well appointed library or indulge in pampering in a small spa. We might lounge by one of several (freshwater) pools situated both indoor and out, or we might decide to walk around the promenade deck or exercise in the fitness center.

By night Princess continues to entertain with a variety of Broadway style shows, magicians, comedians, piano bars, jazz bands, a casino and more.  Unique to the Princess brand is the Champagne Waterfall, offered on one of the formal evenings.  This is yet another nod to the elevated luxury we find aboard this ship.  We also find people dress up more on these evenings than they do on other cruise lines.   When we seek quieter activities, we might choose to snuggle under provided blankets, while eating popcorn or cookies and milk and taking in a Movie Under the Stars.   This is one of our favorite ways to unwind when we are on the seas.

After all of this activity we are often ready to retreat to our stateroom.  The entire Princess line offers some of the most comfortable mattresses and linens of any cruise line.

We always book a balcony cabin.  For us, this little piece of heaven offers a respite from the hustle and bustle of the ship.  Being able to step out into fresh air and watch icebergs, sunrises/sunsets, whales and scenery from the privacy of our balcony offers the unique luxury that we equate with cruising.   We often order room service and enjoy a private picnic from this space.

Other people may not be that bothered about their stateroom, especially if they are only using it to sleep.  Interior cabins can offer deep discounts and Ocean view cabins may offer a similar views without the fresh air.  We have been spoiled by our balconies and this is now one feature our ships must always have.

One of my few complaints about the Island Princess is that she has some of the smallest showers ever, but you will always find good water pressure and hot water on demand, so it is (almost) something which can be overlooked.

This is our fourth cruise with this company (and its former company, P &O).  My favorite things about cruising with Princess are the consistency across the ships, the all inclusive options and the amazing itineraries. Being a little older, I also appreciate that the ships cater to (mostly) adults.

The Island Princess may be old, by ship standards, but she is well equipped to navigate the world and provide an outstanding and immersive adventure.   In the coming days we will continue to explore in depth, some of what this stately Princess has to offer.

“R” is For Reservation-Cruise Tips and Tricks

There are a few activities around the ship which will fill up quickly, specialty dining, salon and spa services, private areas and on board tours to name a few.

Booking these activities is one of the first things we do after boarding the ship.  Sometimes we use the time between embarking and waiting for our room to be ready, to get this done.  The faster you make reservations, the more options you will have.

The other great thing about booking on the first day of your cruise, is that there are often coupons and promotions happening that day.   Your embarkation newsletter can help you to decide which days to make reservations.  Formal nights and at sea days will be some of the busiest in the following venues:

If you have specialty dining options (as we did with Sabatinni’s and the Bayou Steakhouse), you will want to book a table as soon as you are on board.  These restaurants often charge a nominal fee above and beyond your usual dining options but if you are looking for a special treat and/or planning a celebration, it can be fun to have dinner in one (or all) of the unique venues.  These restaurants are often closed on port days.

Formal nights can be very busy times in the salon as women get their hair styled, nails done and indulge in pampering.  Massages and spa services may be hard to come by on any sea day.  Some of the best sales and discounts will be offered on port days.

Also, if you desire to spend time in the adults only “Sanctuary”  (specific to Princess Cruises), you will want to book this as soon as you arrive for your trip.  Again, this can be a busy location on sea days.

Finally, if any galley, backstage or bridge tours are being offered, this is a great time to make reservations for those too as spaces will be very limited.

It is important to note that the above items are generally not included in your standard travel costs, so expect to pay extra.

Because there are limited spaces and time slots available at these specialty locations and thousands of guests wanting the same experiences, these activities are often very busy and sell out quickly.  Make your reservations early.

ABC Adventures-At Sea-An Overview of Ways to Spend Your Time During Sea Days

The Island Princess set sail from Los Angeles, California for a 111 day, around the world tour on Thursday January 19, 2023.  Alan and I would be completing over 50 days of the journey as we traveled from Los Angeles to Dubai..   More than half of our days days would be at sea so we decided to create an ABC list of ways to spend our time.

There is never a reason to be bored while at sea! Below you can find our list of things to do and places to explore.  Some are specific to the Island Princess but many are adaptable to any cruise ship. Highlighted items link to additional stories and further adventures of our time while on board.

A-Art/Art tour/Atrium (see also Centrum)/Auction/Afternoon Tea/A la cart/Around the Ship/Aperitif/al fresco dining/Arts & Crafts/Accupuncture/Amuleto/Alfredo’s Pizzaria

B-Balcony/Bars/Bayou Café and Steakhouse/Buffet/Basketball/Beauty salon/Bordeaux Dining Room (Open for lunch on sea days and has open seating for dinner)/Breakfast in bed or on the balcony/Bridge tour/Backstage tour/Bingo/Board games/Boutiques/Blackjack/Ballroom Dance/Broadway show/Balloon drop/ Burgers/Bible study/Boat building challenge/Bridge Tournament/Basketball/Board Games/Bean Bag Toss

C-Classes/Cocktails/Comedian/Coffee/Cappachino/Crew/CruiseDirector/ Chocolate/Casino/Captain/Chapel/Crooners Lounge/Champagne/Cocktails/Cooking Demonstration/Cards/Celebrate School/choir/Champagne waterfall/Calypso Cove (shop)/Classical music/Churchill Lounge (cigar/smoking lounge)/Card games/Cabin/Cabin Steward/Centrum (see also Atrium)/Can You Survive (see also games)/Cross the Line Celebration/Center Court/Carpet Bowl Challenge/Chinese Herbal Remedies/Card Making Class/Concerts/card games

D-Drink/Dance/Dance classes/Dining/Delight/ Duty Free shopping/Drink of the day/Dance parties/dock/Dress For Dinner/Discovery at Sea/Destination lectures

E-Eat/Entertainment/Espresso/Exercise/Explorers Lounge/Equator/e-course/Essence (shop)/Effy (shop)/Evening parties/Explore/Egg drop challenge/Excursion Desk

F-Food carving/Facts/Fitness Center/Flowers/flash mobs/friends/Formal Night/Facet’s (shop)/Facials

G-Games (Can You Survive/High Seas Heist) /Game Shows/Grill/Golf course/galley tour/Games Under the Stars/Guest Services/Good Spirits at Sea

H-Horizon Court/Hot tub/history/Hypnotist/High Seas Heist (see also games)/Hula lessons & dancing/Hawaiian enrichment classes

I-Ice cream/Ice sculptures/International Dateline/Internet café/Iced coffee/Italian Trattotoria/Island Princess

J-Jazz/Jog/Joy/Jeopardy show/Jewelry/Journal/Jewelry Making Class

K-Kissing/karaoke

L-Lectures/Library/Lifeboats/La Patisserie/Learn something new/Lotus Health and Fitness/Lotus Spa/Lotus Salon/Lido Bar/Lido Pool/Live Music/Latte’/Lounges/Line Dance/Language Class/Lei making class/Live Music/Lotto/Lottery/Laundry

M-Movies under the stars/Music/Magic Show/Magician/Muster/Mini golf/Martini Demonstration/Murder Mystery/Meridian Bay (shop)/Marriage Game/Massage/moon/Musician/Musical Tributes

N-Newsletter/nap/Nautical/Nighttime

O-Open Ocean, On deck

P-Pizzaria or pizza/Pool/Provence Dining Room/Patisserie/Pastries/Pictures/Princess Patter (newsletter)/poker/Photography/Photos/Photo Gallery/pub/promenade/port talks/Princess/Play/poker/Princess Theater/Princess Plaza/Piazza/Princess Casino/Ping Pong

Q-Quiet/Quiz

R-Read/Room Service/relax/rest/roulette/reception/receipt/Room service/Rough seas/rejuvenate

S-Shops/Shopping/Spa/Swim/Sunbathe/Sunsets/Sunrises/Stargaze/Stateroom/ Sabatini’s Italian Trattoria/Ship/Swimming pool/ Shows/ Sundaes/ Stargaze/shuffleboard/staircase/Ship/Ship tour/slot machines/Scavenger Hunt/Sanctuary/Scattergories/Sanctuary Pool/Splash Pool/Salon/Spin class/Smoothies/Steakhouse/Shore Excursion Desk/Swirl’s Ice Cream Bar/Good Spirits/Stateroom

T-The Sanctuary/Tennis court/The Grill/table tennis/towel art/trivia/tea/tour/table tennis/Theater/tapas/Teen Lounge/Tai Chi

U-Ultimate Balcony Dining/Universe Lounge/Ukulele lessons

V-Video Games/Vow renewal/Vocalist

W-Write/Wine/Wine tasting/Wheelhouse Bar/Wake show/Walk a mile/wake/Wine/wine tasting/Wake/Wedding Chapel/Weight Loss Seminar/Watercolor Painting/Watch the world go by

X-Xbox

Y-Yoga/Youth Center

Z-Zzz’s/Zen/Zumba

“S” is For Stateroom-Island Princess Ship Overview

Choosing a cabin can be one of the most important decisions you might make while on a cruise.  Some will argue that you only sleep in them, so location and size don’t matter.  I disagree.

In our years of cruising we have experienced everything from an interior cabin to a mini suite and we have had an opportunity to tour others.

We tend to favor balcony rooms.  There is nothing quite like watching a sunrise or sunset from your own sacred space.

While sailing through very scenic locations such as the fjords of Norway or Alaska we have found our own private haven on our balcony. There are no crowds to fight and no obstructions to our photography.

When we tire of people, we simply pull up a chair on our balcony and retreat for bit of respite from the crowds and activities.

When the Pandemic hit, many passengers were quarantined to their staterooms.  Those who had interior rooms went stir crazy.  Those with balconies were at least able to get outside for some fresh air.

In 2017, the Island Princess underwent a complete refurbishment.  Televisions, carpet, furniture, linens, drapes, beds and all the amenities were upgraded and given a fresh new look.

The soft palette of mushroom, beige and taupe encourages relaxation as do the amazing Sleepeezee beds found in the suites and Matermoll brand mattresses found in all other rooms.  (These are made exclusively for Princess) The 100% Egyptian cotton bed linens and European inspired duvet are a divine luxury to slip into at the end of a long day.

While somewhat smaller than other cruise lines, Princess cruises offer beautiful staterooms.  All cabins are equipped with satellite tv’s, a hair drier, a desk/vanity area and a refrigerator,

On the Island Princess there were 11 suites, 53 balcony rooms, 43 oceanview rooms and 10 inside cabins added during the renovations.  This made the original cabins just slightly smaller,  bringing the total to 1,107 cabins. Twenty of these are wheelchair accessible.

Interior rooms are favored by those who spend little time in their room.  They are the least expensive on most cruises.  Inside rooms on the Island Princess  are 156-165 square feet.

Ocean view cabins range in size from 162-200 square feet.  These are available on deck 5 through 9.  If you are considering an Ocean view room, there is a bank of  cabins on the Fiesta Deck that are worth seeking out. Cabins F502 through F526 have the largest windows of any of the ocean view rooms. Equally important, the bathrooms are a newer design that includes a larger shower than the ship’s balcony cabins have. The TV is affixed to the wall in front of the bed, instead of in the corner as in the balcony cabins. And there are newer hair dryers, which is one item that wasn’t upgraded in many of the rooms, during the renovation .

Balcony rooms range from 210 square feet to 235 square feet. They also have 35-72 square feet of additional outdoor space, which is some of the largest in the industry.   Each balcony comes equipped with 2 chairs and a table.  Balcony cabins are available on decks 7-12 and 14.

In our balcony room, the large tv’s are a nice upgrade from the tiny versions usually offered on many other cruise lines.

There are also mini suites and suites available which range from 280-over 500 square feet respectively.  These both come with upgraded amenities and luxuries not found in the other cabins.  After getting a great deal on the second leg of our trip, we would upgrade to a mini suite on the second leg of our journey.

One thing that all rooms offer is a massive amount of closet and storage space.  The closet in our balcony room was over 5 feet!   The walk in area is across from the bathroom and a wall divides it from the bedroom.  In this area there is also a closet which holds the life vests and room safe.  Additional shelves located below offer ample space for folded clothing. We found these areas ample enough to store all of our items, even on a 55 day cruise.

There are additional storage cubbies and drawers in the nightstands and in the desk area.  The beds are slightly elevated which allows empty suitcases to be stored underneath, making the room easy to organize.  Passengers are often surprised to learn that the walls and ceilings are magnetic. Strong magnetic hooks and binders can offer extensive options for hanging clothelines, photos and more.

Perhaps one thing which is still lacking is enough outlets, there are still only two and they are inconveniently placed near the desk.  The hair drier occupies one of them and plugs often don’t work easily in the second outlet. This inconvenience if easily rectified by bringing along an extension cord or power strip.  Just make sure there is no surge protector on them, or they will be confiscated.  Fire is a real concern on cruise ships. Depending on the cabin you choose, there may be an additional outlet located behind the t.v. and possibly one used by housekeeping, located near the floor by the door or behind the bed.

The Island Princess has very small bathrooms.  I remember a comedian on our very first cruise, he suggested soaping the walls and spinning to use the tiny showers.  This is a pretty accurate description.  The water pressure and heat just about compensate for the size.  Mini suites have a bathtub/shower combo which is a bit more comfortable.  There are three shelves located alongside the vanity for storing supplies.  The large shelf under the sink provides ample room for toiletry bags and larger items.  There is a single shaving outlet in each bathroom.

A few things to consider when choosing your stateroom:

A forward location will feel more wave action, mid is the most stable and aft may experience more engine noise.  Study your deck map to see if you are located near elevators, laundry or teen centers.  Is the buffet or bar situated overhead?  You may hear rolling carts and music respectively.  Any of these locations can be noisy and may disrupt your tranquility.  In general the higher decks may also feel more swaying.  If you are prone to seasickness or motion problems it is best to get an ocean view or balcony room.

If you are choosing a room with a balcony or window consider which side will have the most scenery as you cruise.  For some it may be important to see the sun rise or set.

All in all, we really enjoy being in our balcony stateroom B519, starboard side, midship on the Baja Deck.

For the second half of the trip we will move to a mini suite on the port side, aft and one deck lower on the Caribe Deck.  I will add photos once we relocate.

“E” is for Embarkation Day-A Guide for Cruisers

Embarkation Day on a cruise is an exciting and busy day.  Below are a  the steps to help you get the most from the process.   If an item is highlighted, look for additional links about the topic.

1) Check in.  This process has become simplified over the years.  Often many of the steps have already been completed online.  The procedures vary between cruise lines, but checking in usually involves re-checking paperwork (passports, tickets etc.) Once you are checked in, you are free to come and go off the ship until the “all aboard time”.

2) Just past the check in you will be greeted by the ships photographers. This is your “Welcome Aboard” photo.    Usually there is some prop to commemorate the start of your cruise.  If you do not want a photo, feel free to continue past the photographers.

3) The moment the ship leaves port, your phone will begin roaming.  Unexpected phone calls, background activity and more can incur unexpected fees.   If you have selected a wifi package on the ship, put the phone in airplane mode and then you will be able to connect to the ships wi fi. If you turn on wi fi calling you will still be able to receive calls and texts.

While You Wait For Your Room-It is not uncommon to have to wait an hour or two to get into your room.  Here are a few things you can do while you wait:

4) Make reservations for the sanctuary, spa treatments, ship tours and specialty restaurants as soon as you are on board. These things often fill up and sell out fast.

5) Explore the ship (often you won’t be able to enter your room for an hour or two). Use this waiting time to locate the fun stuff.  Its a great time to take pictures of the venues before they are teaming with passengers.

6) Get something to eat.  There is food almost everywhere on board.  Stop by the buffet, the grill or the pizzaria for a quick bite,  or enjoy a leisurely sit down meal in the dining room.  Food is a large part of your cruise fees, you may as well enjoy your meals.

7) Enjoy a glass of champagne or cocktail. Many times long time cruisers will have a signature drink.   Even if you don’t see it on a menu, many bar tenders will be able to make drinks based on your description, they are masters of their craft!

Want something unique to drink?  On our ship, the Explorer’s Lounge features themed drinks from exotic destinations, specialty liqueurs and spirits  which are offered nowhere else on board.

Once You Can Get in Your Room

8) Make a note of landmarks and orient yourself

Where is the nearest bank of elevators? Which way do you turn as you exit this elevator bank?  Is

your room on the right or left, starboard or port? *It helps to remember there are 4 letters in both

the words left and port).  Is your room forward (front), midship or aft (back)? Are there photos or statues

which can help you remember the correct deck and side which your cabin is on?

Which way is the front of the ship and which way is the back?  Sometimes there are

little clues such as waves curling toward the front, or fish lining the halls which all swim facing

toward the front  *Believe me, when you have had a few drinks you will appreciate having the

landmarks.  Now orient the other major features of your ship.  Are the restaurants forward or aft of your room?  Is

the laundry forward or aft of your room?  Are the elevators forward or aft?  What about the pool?

9) Take a picture of the room (before it gets messed up!)-It will never look like this again!

10) Do a cabin “check”

  • Make sure beds are set up correctly.
  • Check pillows (you can request feather pillows or additional pillows if needed).
  • Check the bed for firmness/softness (mattress toppers or boards can be brought in to adjust)
  • Examine the outlet locations-do you have correct adapters?  Are all the outlets working?
  • Check the ac-is it noisy?  Is it working correctly?  *If it is set high and not cool in the room, it may not be working.
  • Turn the tv on to make sure it is working.
  • Check the safe.  Is it working correctly?
  • Flush the toilet and run the water in the bathroom-are both flowing correctly?

11) Meet your cabin steward

This is a great time to request any additional items you may need:

  • Bed arrangements (beds are pushed together to make a queen or separated to make two twin beds).
  • Extra hangers
  • Extra towels
  • Extra blankets
  • Extra pillows
  • Do you want your ice bucket filled morning and evening?
  • If ac/safe/toilet/outlets/tv are not working, this should also be addressed at this time.

12)  Check Your Mail

A newsletter is usually provided daily.  It will be list all the activities occurring around the ship.

  • Decide what you will do for lunch/dinner.
  • Decide which activities you will enjoy today.
  • Look for special offers.
  • See when formal nights are, this may help decide when you will make reservations at other restaurants.

Your mail may also include perks your membership is offering (such as an invitation to meet the Captain or free drinks)

Often excursion tickets will be delivered with your mail.  Be sure to review them and note the cancellation deadline.

13) Complete any requested paperwork.

14) Clean (optional)

  • Wipe all “touchable” areas with disinfecting wipe (door handles, phones, light switches, remote control, toilet seat, faucet)

15)   Load the Safe

  • Stash your good jewelry, cash, keys, wallet, passport, sensitive documents etc. in your safe.
  • Make sure your safe is working properly.  If not, report it to the cabin steward.

 

Once Your Luggage Arrives

15) Unpack completely

  • The joy of cruising is that you only have to unpack once.  Do it now so you can start your vacation.
  • See our tips for organizing your cabin here.
  • Store empty luggage under the bed.

When completely unpacked

16) Complete the safety or muster drill.

17) Go PLAY!!!

18) If you haven’t already done so, make reservations for specialty restaurants and spa.

19) Enjoy Your Sail Away Party!

20) Congratulations, you are now “on vacation”!

“L” is For Los Angeles-Day 1 of Our Pacific Island Adventure

Today is day 1 of our Pacific Island Adventure.  For our own sanity, we prefer to arrive at the port the day before we set sail on a cruise, which means that we have some time to pass in this location.  Normally we would only have 24 hours to fill but a couple of months before we set sail, the airlines changed our flight arrangements which means we would have about 48 hours to occupy ourselves before our cruise set off.

Los Angeles, would not be my first choice of a destination to travel to.  As the second most populated location in the USA, it is busy. Personally I prefer the serenity of a forest, to the bustle of large cities, but that is just me.

Normally I would have been content to spend our time in a hotel room or lounging by a pool, because cities just aren’t my thing but this was too much down time, so I needed to find something meaningful to do. I challenged Alan to an ABC adventure which we will be sharing in its entirety during the month of March.  For today we offer just a sampling of what we explored.

Los Angeles is the largest city in the state of California. It is rich with ethnic and cultural diversity, giving us plenty of interesting foods to try and fascinating people to observe.  Under normal circumstances this might have been enough to occupy our short visit here but our research had revealed a plethora of exciting options and they were just miles from the airport.

Initially we had planned to take a transfer to the hotel in San Pedro but we wondered how we would juggle the extra supplies we wanted to purchase. We will be cruising for a month followed by 2 weeks of land activities.  I didn’t want to carry all of our consumables, so a shopping trip was in order.   A few minutes of scouting on the internet revealed we could rent a car through Budget Rental Cars.  There was an option to pick up at the airport and drop off at the hotel for about the same cost as paying for a transfer but a car would also give us enormous freedom.

This is how our first stop on our Pacific Island Adventure became Target, a large department store/grocery store, located just beyond the airport. It was an added bonus that we would be traveling down Pacific Highway 1, considered one of the most scenic roads in the USA and convenient to get our errands out of the way.  Where should we go from here?

Like all big cities, there is plenty to do in the Los Angeles area.  There are galleries, museums and performing arts to experience.  There are zoos, sports games and educational opportunities.  From Disneyland, to the World of Harry Potter and Universal Studios, it seems there is a theme park nearby to fill every interest. While not all are located in Los Angeles, they are all accessible within a reasonable distance from the airport.

The Mediterranean climate attracts millions to discover the city, the waters, the beaches, the Santa Monica Mountains and the San Fernando Valley.  The word beach has caught my attention.  This was more my idea of a vacation than the towering skyscrapers of the megalopolis of Los Angeles, which sprawls for miles.

After realizing we would be sailing out of San Pedro, just 30 minutes South of the Los Angeles airport, we decided to head that direction.  We crave nature and beauty.  The entire coastal drive held promise.   This area would lead us to beaches and some of the most scenic overlooks along the coast.  We set our sights on visiting the Palos Verde area which sits between LA and San Pedro.

This is the area the stars and starlets call home.  “Star gazing” is a sport in this city.  We are not star struck people.  In fact, the only stars I will be looking for today will be starfish!   In Los Angeles, Hollywood Boulevard and Rodeo Drive are just two of the places you might run into your favorite A-list celebrities.  Often they can be seen going about their normal errands, a cell phone in one hand and a triple shot machiatto in the other.  On our adventure, we would be keeping an eye open for them along the boardwalks and piers of Manhattan Beach instead.

Manhattan Beach

Just 5 miles from the airport and 19 miles from downtown LA, we quickly discover Manhattan Beach.  This short jaunt to the coast has us busy as we explore an amazing pier, built in 1929.  Many consider this pier to be among the prettiest in Los Angeles county and I am in my photographic glory trying to capture it.

As we stroll out over the water, we should have been able to see the entire Santa Monica Bay, the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and Catalina Island but there is a haze.  It feels like a different world from the city which lies directly behind us.  At the end of the pier is a beautiful two story octagonal roundhouse which has been converted into an aquarium, offering both fresh and saltwater tanks, a touch pool and many educational exhibits.  Best of all, its completely free!

Coming off the pier I realize we are so close to the airport and city that we can still see the planes arriving and skyscrapers which occupy LA!  We took a few minutes to explore the underside of the pier.  The recent rain in this area has created a high surf which is now fascinating to watch.

Our next decision was whether to play a game of volleyball on the 2 mile long beach, watch the surfers or take a stroll along “The Strand”.

The Strand

The Strand is a 22-mile paved path, extending from Pacific Palisades (close to Santa Monica) to Torrance.  Some people refer to The Stand as the “Manhattan Beach Boardwalk.”  Some of the countries most expensive real estate is situated in this area.  This pathway is so long that it actually connects to our next destination, which is Hermosa Beach.  Since it is only two miles, we could walk along the Strand but the day is drawing to a close so  we will drive there but many choose to run, bike or skateboard.  First we have a little more to discover in the Hermosa area.

Farmers Market

Before heading in that direction we take a little time to explore the downtown area of Manhattan.  We have arrived on a Tuesday, which lucky for us is the one day of the week that the Farmers Market is open.  From 11am-4pm, 45-50 vendors sell their goods. There is a wide variety of products to choose from including cheese, vegan cheese (made from cashews), dates, honey, berries, orchids, olive oil, ice cream, hummus, fish, and prepared foods. They  even have activities for the kids such as a mini-train and  face painting!   This is one of the best markets I have ever been to.

Shopping

Following our trip to the market we did a bit of shopping in the downtown area then wandered along Manhattan Boulevard and Manhattan Avenue.  This is one of the wealthiest areas in the LA area, yet this beautiful beach town offers an inviting welcome to all.  There is something humorous about spotting a 20 year old driving a Ferrari.  We are all enjoying the same beautiful views, even though our experiences might be slightly different!

Ice Cream

As we finished the day in Manhattan Beach we decided it was time for an ice cream.We never pass an opportunity to sample the local recommendations, so when we heard about Manhattan Creamery, we knew we had to find it.  The store has a party-like vibe.  They are famous for their signature Cream’wich ice cream sandwich made with artisan cookies.  In addition customers  may choose macrons, caramel apples, candy, cupcakes and other frozen treats.  It is a sweet lover’s paradise.  After loading up, it is time to move to our next location.

Hermosa

As we make our way along the coast we quickly come to our second stop.  Hermosa lies just a few miles from Manhattan Beach. There is a different vibe in this community, it is more relaxed than Manhattan.   This town is filled with art.  We set out on a walking tour to locate some of the decorated utility boxes which line the street.  Murals cover numerous buildings.  The one below was visible for miles and we had to take a close up look to prove to ourselves that it was indeed just a painting!

The Strand continues through this town.  Palm trees guide us towards the open space.

The surf was so high today, they have closed off the pier.  We watch the sunset as a flock of birds takes flight.   We take a final walk along the Strand, a lone volleyball player practices in the blaze of orange.  The first of many beautiful sunsets we hope to see.

 

Redondo Beach

As the sun begins to dip along the horizon we hop to our last beach of the day.   This beach is filled with romance. The sea beckons as light scatters diamonds across the surface of the water and waves swell to propel surfers toward the shore.  Gondolas line up ready to whisk lovers to embrace a sunset. Tour boats sit ready to embark on dinner cruises and whale watching tours.  Overseeing it all are the seals and sea lions barking their orders to embrace the moment.  At least this was what we had expected to find from all our research, but none of that was here!  We suspect that many boats were moved as a series of strong storms passed through the area for the past couple of weeks.

What we did see was a beautiful pier filled with every variety of eateries ranging from fair foods to fine dining.

We chose to eat at Tony’s where pub food and bar are located upstairs and fine dining is in the lower level,  So our evening came to a close over a glass of wine, next to a roaring fire, looking over a beautiful surf.

During our two days in the Los Angeles area,  our days have been packed with beaches and beautiful views  Some of the most valuable real estate in the USA exists along this California coast.  So many of our adventures are completely free and absorbing this stunning beauty leaves me contemplative.   Sitting high upon the cliffs, these amazing homes look out over the Pacific Ocean.   There is a world of discovery ahead of us.

Visiting the cliffs, beaches and hiking trails, we can almost imagine that  we are far from civilization but then we hop on another highway and are quickly reminded that nearly 4 million people call this area home.  Like our circulatory system, I can almost feel the coursing of life running through society.

As  night approaches, the city takes on a whole new vibe.  Searchlights arc through the air, announcing the latest silver screen premier. Like a heartbeat there is a pulsating sound which seems to resonate atop every rooftop bar, as the music, pools and alcohol draw slinky-sexy crowds to come out and play.

The last 48 hours have already been filled with travel and sight seeing.  We have even made a final shopping trip to purchase the last of our cruise supplies. Tonight, safely tucked back into our hotel room at the Crowne Plaza in San Pedro, California we are happy enough to begin to wind down.   We can’t resist one last adventure as we head to the Rainbow Lagoon, where the illuminated Swan Boats guide gracefully across the surface of the water.  As we cuddle together on this January evening we are wrapped in a hug by the warm lights of this shining city.  Los Angeles hasn’t turned out to be so bad after all.

How would your ABC Adventure look in the LA area?

This is city life.  With so much to offer, there is no excuse for boredom.  We are happy enough to have been able to play in this area for 48 hours.  As with most of our adventures, we have filled every moment.  We are now exhausted and ready to spend the next 5 days at sea before our next stop which will be in Oahu, Hawaii.

The sea is calling, my bags need repacking and we are suffering from the time change.  We need an early night before embarking on our cruise tomorrow.

Tomorrow we set sail on our 42 day Pacific Island Adventure!  We invite you to continue to follow along.

 

“A” is for Arranging an ABC Adventure

The ABC Adventure is meant to encourage you to explore deeper and is intended to assist you with documenting your journey,  You are using your camera and language skills to document a story while adding some creativity to both.

An ABC Adventure is part personal guidebook, part word game, part photography challenge and part Scavenger Hunt.  It is all  fun.

“Rules” of the Game

  1. The first rule is that there really are no rules!  There are however a few missions.  The purpose of the ABC game is to live more deeply and to document the journey, but mostly to have fun along the way.
  2. The game is similar to a Scavenger Hunt.  It may be played by yourself, with a group, or in teams. You will take one photograph representing a word or phrase (that you choose) for each letter of the alphabet. You do not need to complete the alphabet in order. There is no time limit to the game (unless you choose to set one).
  3. Begin by choosing an anchoring theme for your game.   Put your anchoring theme at the top of the page.  This offers a little confinement to your mission.  ABC games are not limited to travel. Here are a few themes we have used:
  • Art in an Airport
  • Birthday Celebrations
  • Date Nights
  • Exploration By Country
  • Exploration By the City

You could also do an ABC food tour, an ABC cruise ship tour, an ABC art in the airport tour, your ABC Adventures are only as limited as your creativity.

  1. Write out the alphabet leaving blank space next to each letter.  Each letter will represent a single word or phrase. Once you assign the word or phrase, you will take a photo to represent it (or you can take a photo first and then assign it to a word). There are no limits to how creative your photography  or word choices may be.  In fact, the more creative, the more interesting the game becomes.

The choice of creating a guide before you begin a game is entirely up to you.   You can follow our process below, or jump straight to the Scavenger Hunt section.

 

Creating a Guide  (Wordplay and Personal Guide)

  1. The value in making a list is to see where you are going to be challenged.  Some letters are more difficult than others to represent.   Write out the alphabet leaving blank space next to each letter. We generally create our lists on the computer because the word list can become very long.  By having all the options, you can quickly see where an alternate word or phrase choice might exist.  Mostly the guide is a long series of questions.
  2. Where are you going?  What is the mission of this ABC Adventure? If you are doing a travel themed ABC Adventure, this may be continents, countries, states, cities, towns and/or villages.  If you are limiting your exploration to something like the cruise ship, then you might  write “C” for cruise or “I” for Island Princess (or whatever specific ship you are on).  If you were looking just for art in a museum then you might just record the name of the museum.  In our example below, My theme is ABC’s By State.  We knew we would be visiting several Hawaiian islands but I began with H-Hawaii then added K-Kauai since I knew we would be experiencing at least that much.  My list will eventually expand to include Maui and Oahu as part of an overall Hawaiian Adventure.
  3. Next ask yourself who is going to play the game/travel with you.  In our case, it will just be Alan and I, so I will add and “A”-Alan and “D”-Deb to my list.
  4. How will you get there? (example A-airplane, C-cruise, “R” Rental car etc).  Do you know of any other transportation you would like to experience? *Since much of Kauai  inaccessible by road, it is recommended to see from a sailboat “S” , “C” catamaran and/or “P” plane.  Do you already know if certain tours use a specific kind of transportation? You could use “K” for kayak.
  5. Next, begin to research tours or activities you might be interested in.  This is your “what will we do question”.  I often visit Trip Advisor or Pinterest to find fun things to do.  We knew we wanted to take a flight tour over Kauai so our abc list  began to look like this… A-airplane, F-flight tour  etc.  Always list multiple terms for each word, this is how you will eventually fill the entire alphabet with options.  Move from broad to specific.  You could also begin to get creative here…what about the letter “U” for Up (as in up in the air).  Each guide will be personal to your interests, activities and goals.
  6. Begin to fill in things you will likely see on the tour. For example,  as we researched the flight tour we knew we could use  “N” for Na Pali coast and “W” for Waimea Canyon. These were both included on the tour. As we read about  these places we noted that Waimea Canyon was also referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.  We cross referenced the list with a “G”.      We knew these areas would be “L” -lush.  Our words were beginning to get a little more descriptive.  We knew that we would be seeing “W”-waterfalls and “R” rainforests.  We noted that the Na Pali coast was undulating. We added these words.  Hint, words spark creativity of photos and vice versa.
  7. Stay open to discovering new things to explore.  As we researched our options, we also discovered many other things we might be interested in exploring such as “F” for Fern Grotto and  “R” for Riverboat cruise, if we had time.  My mind raced with the possibilities of how we could spend our time.  What restaurants are recommended?  What sites are top to see?  You likely won’t “do” everything on your list but writing down everything which interests you, means that you will have numerous options  when it comes time to actually going on your personal journey.  If it were raining, you might need to move an activity indoors, you will already know where to go.  This is the personal guide portion of the game.  Think of it as a travel guide.
  8.  Now imagine the culture.  What foods, games, dances, music, language etc do you want to discover.  Your abc list might begin to look like “H”-hula and  “U”-ukelele.  Is there a traditional dress which people wear?  For example, “A” Aloha Shirts.
  9. Begin to add other categories which interest you such as A-architecture, animals, B-boats, beaches C-churches etc.  Continue to move from broad to specific for example you could add A-animals but research showed that we would likely see C-chickens and W-whales on this trip, so they were also listed.
  10. Keep asking questions and adding to your lists.    What foods are eaten?  Example “M” Macadamia nuts, “S”-shave ice.  How do they taste or smell? Sweet, sour, pungent?  What time of year is it? What season are you in? What month is it? Is it dry, arid, wet or humid? Sunny or cloudy?  What do you hear? What colors could you add? What emotions are triggered?  Do you expect to stand in awe?
  11. *The more descriptive terminology you add, the more interesting your writing will become when it comes time to tell your story.  This may also give you some interesting ideas for photography.
  12. Keep building  your alphabet lists with creative exploration of language.  For example “C” could be coffee (which Kawaii is famous for) but perhaps you already have a “C”, you could also use “J” for Java.
  13. Add some colors to your list.  Kawaii is very “G”-green but dig deeper and add interesting words like  “V”-verdent.
  14. Did you know the “Y”-Yellow Hibiscus is the state flower?   Build, build, build on the ABC/word list before you begin playing the game.  The more time you spend here, the more options you have once you begin the game.

Scavenger Hunt

  1. Use your blank alphabet list.  The goal is to try to represent each letter of the alphabet with a word or phrase and a photo.  Hint: take more photos than you think you need.
  2. You are using your camera and language skills to document a story.  Add some creativity to both.  How do you document words like yellow?   Did you know that the  state flower of Hawaii is yellow? Since my theme is ABC’s By State (Hawaii), this would be a great way to document my “Y” for yellow.  This can often be a tough letter to find, so it will be high on my list to get this photo.  if I see the word pineapple, I might choose to photograph a pineapple plantation, a single pineapple growing, or a wonderful pina colada (or all of the above).  I might also try to experience the local pineapple french toast with coconut dressing, all would be wonderful ways to represent the word pineapple.

Detours-Sometimes you won’t have an idea for a letter.  This is your chance to become very observant.  Words and opportunities are everywhere.  Detours are what create the adventure, don’t be afraid of them.

  1. Did you see a sign which begins with your needed letter?  Detour.
  2. Could you find a quote which begins with your desired letter and fits the theme of your adventure?  Detour.
  3. Could you rearrange your photos/words to be able to use something somewhere else?  Detour.

Share Your Story

By the time you finish this game, you are sure to have had some grand adventures. It is likely that you took more photos than just those that you selected for the Scavenger Hunt.  It is likely that you imagined more words and phrases than you used (you did save your list didn’t you?).  I know that I will have tried to capture every single word on my list.  I will have let my creativity flow through my photography and word choices.  It is now time to use these to put the words and photos together because a photo without explanation is left to interpretation and words with no pictures means it never happened.  By the time you complete an ABC adventure, your photos and descriptive writing should represent who, what, where, when, why and how of the adventure you set out to enjoy.

We experience the world one letter at a time and discover our world one word at a time, but we write our legacy by one story at a time.

 

The Overall Kauai ABC List

Here is how our Kauai, Hawaii list eventually shaped up.  (Yours may look different based on personal interests/goals).

  • Allerton Gardens/Aloha shirts/ Aloha/Airplane/Alan/animals/Awe
  • Blow Hole (Spouting Horn)/Beaches/Botanical Gardens/blue
  • Chickens (thousands occupy the island)/coffee (see also java)/coconut/crater/chocolate/cruise
  • Deb
  • Eucalyptus trees (Tunnel of trees on way to Koloa Town and Poipu Beach)
  • Fern Grotto (lava cave overgrown with ferns-about 2 miles up the Wailua River-accessed by kayak or boat trip)/Flowers/Forbidden Island (Ni’Hau)/Flight
  • Grove Farm Sugar Plantation Museum/Grand Canyon of the Pacific (Waimea Canyon Park)/gardens/ green
  • Hanalei (shopping)/Hanalei Bay/Hanakapi’ai Beach/Hawaii/Helicopter tour (Island Helicopter Tours are the only one which land at a waterfall)/Hula Dancers (Sheraton Kauai Resort, Grand Hyatt Kaui and Kilohana Plantation estate)/humid
  • Island Plane Tour
  • January/Jurassic Park Falls/Java (see also coffee)
  • Kalaheo Coffee Co (breakfast/baked goods)/Kawaii/kayak/Kilohana plantation/Koke’e State Park/Kalalau Trail (first half mile)/Koa wooden bowls/Kauai coffee/Kilauea Point/Kilauea Lighthouse/Koa wooden bowls/Kipu Kai/Kalapaki Beach/Kalua (the act of cooking a pig in the ground for hours)/Kauai/Koloa Town
  • Lighthouse (Kilauea Lighthouse)/Luau/leis/Lanai/Larsen’s Beach/lava cave/lush
  • Mountain tube/monk seals/Moreton Bay fig trees/McBride Gardens/Mount Waialeale-(wettest spot on earth)/Mahaulepu Beach (monk seals/beauty/hiking)/Macadamia nuts/ Moloa’a Beach/music/ Mountains/mango/mai tai
  • Na Pali Coast/Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens)/Ni’Hau (Forbidden Island)
  • O
  • Pineapple/Pineapple French toast with coconut dressing (at the Kalaheo Coffee Co)/Passionfruit/Pupu Platter (cross between tapas and bar food)/Poipu Beach (Tunnel of trees and spouting Horn)/Pu’u O Kila Lookout (Kokee’e Park)/pottery/passionfruit/Polihale Beach/palm trees
  • Queen’s Bath (Kalapana)/Poke (Hawaiian sushi)
  • Rainforests/Red Dirt Falls (Grand Canyon of the Pacific-located in Waimea Canyon Park)
  • Shave ice/Spouting Horn/Shop/surfing/seashells/Shipwreck Beach/Smith Family Luau/Sticky rice pudding/Spouting Horn (blow hole)/sunset
  • Tunnel of Trees (see also Euclyptus trees)/Tidepools
  • Ukulele/Undulate
  • Vintage train (Kilohana plantation)/volcano/verdent
  • Waterfalls-Wailua Falls& river/Waimea Canyon/Wailua River/Wai’oli Hui’ia Church (Hanalei)/Whale watching (winter only when Pacific humpbacks migrate to mate and give birth), wasabi mustard, wooden bowls/ Wai-ale-ale Crater/wet/winter
  • X
  • Y yellow
  • Zen/Zipline (Skyline Hawaii)

 

The words above words also give me an opportunity to expand my language as I write the descriptions and stories of each experience.   How interesting does a story about cooking a pig in an underground oven (Kalue) become when I use local terminology and/or language?  How much more authentic does the experience become when local culture is infused into the adventure?

The ABC’s give us structure but this is your adventure to design in any way which you choose.  Enjoy the journey!

 

“F” is For Fifteen Tips to Plan For Vacations Over 30 Days-Travel Tips & Tricks

As we prepare for our 42 day travel adventure, it occurs to me that getting ready for a long vacation is far different than preparing to leave town for a week. Being away from home and/or work for long stretches of time requires substantial planning.  For each extra week of adventure, there are more things to consider.  For each change in location there are more preparations to make.  One thing is certain, most trips over 30 days are going to need a little structure. There are many moving parts to long vacations, especially when they take place in foreign locations. There are reservations for flights, trains and buses.  There are accommodation arrangements to be made and cars to be rented.  There are visas, passports and sometimes vaccinations to obtain. There are questions to be asked about cultures, weather, rules and activities. There are financial considerations to make.  Having a big picture of the way you want things to go, will generally help you achieve the results you hope to gain. The goal to all planning is to eliminate as much potential stress as possible.  For me, this always begins with a dream, pencil and paper (or a computer) and an investment of time.

 

Here are 15 steps to help prepare for your own long adventure:

  1. Plan, plan, plan! This process can be a lot of work, but it is worth putting in the time and effort before your vacation.  You will see more  and experience more by having a general idea of what options you have available.
  • Daydream then set some travel goals. The vision might be as simple as creating memories and having fun.  If your goals are a little more complex (such as when my son wanted to hike Mt. Fuji), then you may need to consider your health, conditioning and the time of year you will travel. How energetic or quiet does the trip need to be? How rugged or refined do the accommodations need to be?  Goals may be different if you are traveling with children and/or elderly etc.
  • Decide where you want to go. Will you stay in one location or visit many cities?  Will you travel between countries and/or continents?  Does your destination fulfill your travel goals?
  • Map it out. It doesn’t make financial sense to hop over a city, or country, then return to it (unless you are doing a circular tour).  It doesn’t make sense to travel half way across the world and miss “that one location”, if a quick detour can take you there.  Many times it can be as simple as adding to a multiple stop plane or train ticket to add the destination while en route.  It can often be surprisingly economical and sometimes cost even less than purchasing a direct fare.
  • Pick a date. Start at least 6 months in advance. Many popular locations and activities are often booked out months in advance.  If you are taking time off of work, can you add national holidays and or weekends to the beginning or end of the trip to give you a few more days?
  • Set a budget. Long vacations may mean you lose income, plan for it.  Long vacations may require airfares, hotel expenses, transportation fees, restaurants etc, plan for it. Long vacations may require a new wardrobe, plan for it.  Adjust your plans, not your budget. Build a little cushion into the budget for unexpected emergencies.
  • Research airfares, train fares etc. Does moving your dates affect the pricing?  How often are flights available?  If a flight leaves only once a week and is cancelled, it will be another week before you will have an opportunity to leave.  Are there other airports in the vicinity?  If you miss a connection,  could you hire a car or take a train to get to a more serviced area?
  • Research visa and other requirements such as passports, vaccinations etc. Passports should be valid for at least 6 months beyond your travel dates. Many locations require vaccination for things like malaria or yellow fever.  Sometimes these vaccinations need to be completed so many days in advance of travel.
  • Leaving home and/or work responsibilities, there is much to think about before departing on a long vacation. Who will handle your mail, take care of your pets and/or your home? How will you pay your bills or know if you have a power outage?  Will your phone and/or email work in another country? Plan, plan and plan some more.
  1. Start a travel notebook or file folder
  • In the many months leading up to your adventure, you are going to be writing and rewriting your plan. Having one place to gather details makes it simple to quickly locate the information. This organization allows you to brain dump as you are going through the planning process.  It is easy to move your plan around on paper. In time, this notebook will also be a great place to store confirmation numbers, insurance contracts, itineraries etc.  Your notebook keeps the entire process organized.
  1. Educate yourself.
  • Once you decide where you are going, gather as much information as possible. When planning for a long vacation I will scour You Tube, Trip Advisor, Pinterest, Google Maps and travel guides to glean as much as possible about the area I want to explore. This is how we might come to realize we don’t really want to rent a car in a difficult to drive city.  We might realize there is a cool cafe, then note that it is located within walking distance to a botanic garden or museum we are planning to visit.  By reading others comments and suggestions, I have been known to change the smallest of details.  I usually know which side of the bus or boat will give me the most panoramic views of a location.  I usually know if a sunset or sunrise will be more spectacular at a particularly beautiful location.  I usually know how safe an area is.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to educate yourself.  Some would argue that they just want to “discover” a place but this early research has always allowed us to see more, do more and experience more.   If you don’t know what is available, you don’t realize how much you can miss. If you know in advance that an area is prone to pickpockets, you can take many safety precautions in advance.
  • Try to gain an understanding of the country’s history, geography, customs, politics, and their approach to tourism. This shows a level of respect and will help you engage with the local people more. Having this up front knowledge also means that your trip will start off a bit smoother.
  • Figure out the best and worst seasons to visit. Are there certain holidays and festivals occurring around your planned travel days? Is this something which attracts you or would you rather avoid crowds?
  1. Make lists– Ask yourself tons of questions.
  • What cities do you want to visit? What do you want to experience (culture, architecture, museums, landscapes etc)?  What sites are there to see?
  • How will you get there? Is parking available if you are driving?  How difficult is traffic?  Is there an easier transportation method?  Are there discount coupons/passes available to reduce costs?  Do you require a special license to drive?
  • How are cultures different? How are they the same? Do you need head coverings to enter religious sites? Are women expected to dress or act differently than men?
  • What is the expected weather/temperature for the time of year you are traveling? Do you need special clothing for weather or cultural differences?  What activities will you participate in? Will you be hiking, biking, swimming etc which requires special clothing and/or footwear?
  • Do you need to shop before packing? Will you do laundry while you are on this trip?
  • What is the maximum weight and size restriction for luggage for every plane you are traveling on?  What other restrictions are there in your transportation mode or at your accommodations?  Constantly asking questions will allow you to build a plan.
  1. Check for Opening and Closing Times.
  • Is the attraction you want to see open all day? Is it open 7 days a week and/or at night?  What are the busiest times of day?
  • If you are using public transportation, do the busses and trains run all night?
  • If you are driving to a National park are the car parks open during the time you want to be hiking or exploring?
  1. Plan for complications-Flights get delayed. Luggage gets lost. Hotel and car rentals get cancelled.
  • Leave plenty of time between connecting flights.
  • Leave plenty of time to clear customs and security when transferring flights between countries (usually at least two hours is recommended).
  • If you are planning a cruise, always plan to arrive the day before it sets sail.
  • Always pack a spare pair of underwear, a toothbrush, prescription medication, some cash and a small snack in your carry on when flying. If your flight is delayed and/or your luggage lost you will have a few essentials to help.
  • Look for cancellation options with all reservations. If you are delayed or suddenly fall ill, this may offer the most financial protection.  If you decide you want to be more spontaneous in your adventures, having the option of cancelling reservations makes the entire process less complicated.
  • Purchase travel insurance. Of course we want to assume that nothing will go wrong, but it does happen. Luggage gets lost, purses get stolen, people get sick and injured. Believe me, when anything like that happens you’ll be happy you have travel insurance!
  1. Plan for safety– Part of a travel experience is to take the back roads and/or wander and just get lost, which you should do.  Surprises should always be part of the vacation, however understanding if an area is safe or not should never be.  Several times in my adventures, I have wandered just a block away from an attraction only to find myself in a drug infested slum and sometimes precarious situations. In my defense, most of these mishaps were before information was so readily available online.  Today, even a little research prevents this.
  • Research if there are high crime areas. What types of crime occur?  What, if any, precautions should be taken?
  • It is also really important to understand (and respect) cultural differences. Never assume that because a rule is one way in the country you are from, it will be the same in another country. Things we consider minor infractions in the USA (littering and jaywalking for example) may bring substantial penalties in foreign countries.
  • Review your government travel advisories for any country/location you will be visiting. These will often give you information regarding disease outbreaks, political instability and geographical disruptions (such as due to hurricanes etc).
  • Know where the embassy for your country is located.  If war or a major disaster suddenly breaks out, or if you lose your passport, this may be the only way to be repatriated.
  1. Plan your free time. I know, I know…this seems crazy After researching an area for safety, build the opportunity for unplanned discovery into your itinerary. If you have already mapped out the highlights you hope to visit, you will know about how much free time you should have left. By scheduling this free time in chunks around your “must see/do” itinerary, it allows you to still be surprised but ensures you have seen all which you set out to discover.
  2. Plan some down time-Rest and relaxation are especially important on long itinerary packed trips. Unless you are relaxing on a beach all day, you may be continuously moving and exploring.  Your brain may be filled by all the new information you are processing.  Sometimes you just need a bit of quiet.  Build these moments into your day/trip. Perhaps a little rest in your room, a coffee at a local café, sitting by the sea or pool, a picnic in a park and/or quietly watching a sunset can all be good ways to just unwind for a minute.
  3. Plan some nighttime activities-A city or location can have a completely different feel at night. If it is safe to do so, consider exploring during this time.
  4.  Make an itinerary
  • Once you have your plan, you can make an itinerary. The key to visiting a lot of locations is to not waste time.  You would be amazed at the amount of time which is wasted just by trying to figure out what to do next.
  • By planning your days, you will know about how much time to dedicate to each activity. You will know what time you will need to start a day, or when an attraction opens and closes. You will know if there is “extra” time and where/when to detour.
  1. Start packing-Yes, it may be a good idea to start thinking about what you need, as much as 6 months out.  Consider the following:
  • Will you need specialized clothing such as bathing suits or wet weather gear? Will you be able to purchase these items during your season of travel?  If I know I am traveling to a warm destination during the middle of my winter, I know I am going to have to purchase clothes quite a bit in advance of my trip!
  • Try on your clothes. What works, what needs repairing/replacing?
  • Will you need extra camera batteries, first aid kits etc?
  • Make a list of the extra items you need, then begin picking these things up early. This allows you to take advantage of sales and return things if they don’t fit.
  • Weigh your luggage as you get it packed. There is nothing worse than realizing your bags are overweight as you are rushing out the door. The more you do ahead of time, the less stressful it will be when it finally comes time to pack.
  1. Break in new shoes-If you will be purchasing new shoes, be sure to wear them regularly before traveling. Do they cause blisters or pinch? Would it be helpful to add liners, lifts or arch supports? It is easier to make changes before you need them.
  2. Make copies of important documents- If these documents are lost or stolen, they can be difficult to replace. Which may mean an end to your vacation.   Having a copy of these important documents stored with a family member or trusted friend, or on an encrypted flash drive (or all of the the above) will make the process much easier.
  • Passports/visas
  • Drivers License/photo id
  • Greencards
  • Credit cards
  • Insurance policies
  • Confirmation numbers
  1. Order local currency-Cash is king, no matter where you are visiting. Get it in small denominations.
  • If the power goes out, so do the ATM’s and credit card machines.
  • If your credit card gets frozen because you forgot to notify your bank that you were traveling, you will appreciate being able to get a meal/accommodation until you figure out what to do.
  • If your taxi, bus driver, or favorite coffee shop refuse to take credit, having these small bills available may be the difference in a good day or a complex day.
  • Many places won’t take credit cards, farmers markets, food trucks, craft stalls etc.  Keep your purchasing power by keeping cash on your person at all times.

 

“T” is For Trip Insurance-ABC Travel (General tips)

 

I have a love/hate relationship with insurance.  I love having it when I need it, I hate paying the extra when I don’t.  However, insurance is something you hope you never need to use, but you get it anyway.

It seems there are insurance plans for everything….your car, your home, your teeth, and your health… But oftentimes people forget that their normal insurance policies typically won’t cover stolen items or accidents/health issues which occur overseas. This is where travel insurance comes in.

Actually, there are many reasons for taking out travel insurance.  Seasoned travelers are well aware that flights, hotel reservations, car rentals, cruises, land excursions and medical expenses are often not covered in the event of a trip interruption, illness, injury or even death.  Let’s not forget about the large numbers of travelers who found themselves stranded when a global pandemic broke out and the world came to a halt.

More commonly someone suddenly falls ill or is injured before leaving on a trip or while abroad. Maybe there is an unexpected job loss or a death in the family and the trip needs to be cancelled.   Without insurance, you are likely stuck with the cost of your ticket and you may find yourself on the hook for any hotel and car reservations you have made.  These expenses can really add up.

In a different scenario, maybe you made your first flight, but perhaps the plane sat on the tarmac or the flight was rerouted due to weather.  Perhaps this caused you to miss your connection or even to  miss the departure of your cruise.

If you have “missed connection coverage” on your travel insurance, you will have the option of taking another flight to the next port-of-call, or taking the next available flight to your destination,  You might even be able to stay in a nice hotel while waiting.  Without trip insurance, you may be stuck.

Imagine that you are on your dream vacation when a storm damages the area.  Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, blizzards and more can all disrupt your plans and/or cause damage to your property.  Travel insurance can protect you during these times.

Let’s say you fall or become ill during your trip.  Maybe you require emergency dental care or surgery.  Without travel insurance, you will be paying out of pocket for these expenses.  Many health and dental plans will not cover expenses out of network and even fewer emergencies may be covered when you are out of the country.

In a worst case scenario, you or your partner dies while on vacation, there will be expenses to get the body home.  Since preparations must be made to move a body, these are likely more significant than booking a seat on the next flight.

Most people think of travel insurance as a way to cover their expenses should they need to cancel, however travel insurance may offer so much more:    It may pay for replacement clothing and supplies if your luggage is delayed;  it may reimburse you for lost luggage;   It may cover medical expenses if you are injured or fall ill;   If your trip is cancelled or interrupted for any reason, your trip insurance may provide some protection and/or cover all or at least part of the associated expenses;   If you injure someone while driving a rental vehicle, your travel insurance may offer third party liability;  If you are the victim of a hotel/motel burglary, or you have items stolen while on a train (or at the beach, or while on tour or….) your insurance may replace your valuables;   If you have a death  or dismemberment while traveling, your policy may provide repatriation and/or offer liability coverage;  If political unrest suddenly breaks out and repatriation is required, you policy may provide for emergency evacuation.

Like most insurances, a small investment up front can protect you for most disruptions while offering peace of mind while you travel.

In general, the more complicated and/or expensive the itinerary, the more beneficial it is to have insurance.

For most international travel it is worth taking out insurance.

The more challenging your health history, the more beneficial it is to have additional insurance.

Trip insurance is usually less expensive the further out it is purchased.  Sometimes there are incentives to purchasing within days of finalizing your plans (such as covering pre-existing health conditions).

Always read the fine print to understand what your insurance will and won’t cover and the terms for each portion of your policy. Not all policies cover everything,

Always check with your existing policies (homeowners, auto, medical and life) to see what coverage you may already have.

Some credit cards offer additional protections based on your status.

If you will be doing high risk adventures such as scuba diving or jumping from planes, you may consider adding accident insurance to your travel insurance.

It can be overwhelming to choose a travel insurance.  There are many insurance companies to choose from and depending on your itinerary, activities, health and expenses, you may need different coverage.  We like using the website www.insuremytrip.com to help narrow down which policy will best suit for our needs.

 

“B” is for Bucket List Goals-ABC Words & Phrases

What is a Bucket List?  It is a list of all the things you hope to do in your lifetime.   Since we are starting our Pacific Island Adventure in a few days, I thought I would make a list of the things we hope to do while we travel around the the Southern Hemisphere.

Of course we used the alphabet to design our Bucket List,  because we love exploring “one letter at a time”!  Be sure to check back to see if we fulfilled our mission. This is just a small sampling of what we plan to explore on our Pacific Island Adventure.  Here are our goals so far:

A-Admire the ARCHITECTURE of the Sydney Oprah-house

B-Photograph the colorful BUSES of American Samoa

C-Complete a CIRCLE ISLAND TOUR of Papeete, Tahiti

D-DARE TO DRIVE the streets of Los Angeles

E-Cross the EQUATOR

F-Feel the freshness of a FERN GROTTO in Kauai, Hawaii

G-Gaze at GLOWWORMS in Bay of Islands, New Zealand

H- Play at HOBBINGTON & HOT SPRINGS in Tauranga, New Zealand

I-Experience the ceremony of crossing the INTERNATIONAL DATE LINE

J-

K-Kiss the KIWIS, KANGAROOS & KOALAS in Sydnee, Australia

L-

M- Marvel at the MOSSMAN GORGE & the Daintree Rainforest in Australia

N-Capture the NATURAL BEAUTY of New Plymouth, Australia

O-Get OFF THE BEATEN PATH in Moorea, Tahiti

P-Play all day at the POLYNESIAN CULTURAL CENTER of Honolulu, Hawaii

Q- Sail on the QUEEN CHARLOTTE SOUND in Picton, New Zealand

R-Marvel at the ROAD TO HANA in Maui, Hawaii

S-Take in as many SUNRISES and SUNSETS as possible.

T-Travel by TRAIN in Cairnes, Australia

U-Get UP in the air in Kauai, Hawaii

V-View the sunrise over a VOLCANO in Maui, Hawaii

W-Witness one of the WONDERS OF THE WORLD (Great Barrier Reef) in Port Douglas, Australia

X the International Dateline

Y-Say YES again, as we renew our vows

Z-ZIPLINE above a forest in Auckland, New Zealand

“X” is For Xenomania-ABC Words

X is often one of my more difficult letters to represent when we are designing an ABC Adventure.  I was so excited when I realized there are over 400 “X” words to explore!  I was even more excited to find the word “Xenomania” as one of them.

Xenomania is found in the Urban dictionary.  It is defined as “a passion for all things foreign and the customs associated.”  This seemed really fitting to begin a new year.

Since our mission for this year is to stretch ourselves, we will soon be setting out on our Pacific Island Adventure.

We also needed an “X”, to represent our purpose.

Travel opens our minds to the differences between people. What better way for us to discover the Southern Hemisphere than to allow ourselves a full immersion in cultures and customs!  We are excited to share the journey with you.   In the coming days we will be exploring new foods, seeing new sights and fully embracing all things foreign.  We plan to become “Xenomaniacs”!   Tomorrow I will share the Bucket List of goals we have created for this trip.

“G” is For Getaway-ABC Relationships

It’s snowing in our part of the world.  Winter is my least favorite time of year.  This sounds like the perfect time for us to “get away”.

  • Where should we go?  Somewhere warm.
  • What do we want to see?  Something exotic and culturally different.

These were the criteria we used for planning our next adventure.

The ability to get away and travel has been hard for the past couple of years.  With the shutdowns caused by a Pandemic, the regulations around Covid and the subsequent supply chain and employee shortages, it has seemed easier to just stay home.

We love to travel.  Even during our early marriage, when we had no money, we  prioritized getting away.  For nearly each of the 40 years we have been married, we have traveled “somewhere”.

It has always been Alan’s desire to visit New Zealand and Australia.  It was suppose to be his retirement gift, but that was two years ago, before the world shut down.

Now that things are opening up again, I have begun to dream.

When I found a super deal on a Pacific Island Cruise, I knew immediately that we would be booking it. At 29 days, this would be our longest cruise to date. We added on an extra couple of weeks of land exploration and suddenly realized we would be going on a two month journey.  This was the longest we have ever been away from home and our family.

There were times that we questioned our own sanity about getting on a cruise ship (these saw some of the greatest challenges during the outbreak) but as the snow began to pile up, we grew more and more excited to travel to somewhere warm and exotic.  Part of the travel experience is taking risks and overcoming challenges.

Vacations are a way to reset.  Did you know there is actually a National “Plan For Vacation Day?”  It is January 28th.  It is humorous to me to realize that vacations are so important that there has been a full day set aside, to do nothing but plan for them!  This trip has taken me six months to prepare for!

Vacations are so important that Alan and I prioritize them as part of our life.  This is a big reason we became ABC Explorers.

Maybe your vacation will be to stay close to home, or perhaps you will visit someplace far away.  Maybe you will camp, or travel by train.   One thing is for sure, travel will have an impact on you.  Here are a few things we have found to be true through our experiences:

  1. Getting away breaks up the monotony of our days.  Routine can lead to predictable (and boring) results and relationships.  “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy (the same is true for Jill).
  2. Travel gives us something to dream about, to aspire to save for.  It gives purpose to earning money.
  3. Travel creates stories.
  4. Travel helps us to bond with family and form lasting memories.  When days are busy with school activities, work responsibilities and day to day chores, there is little time to really “see” each other or to spend quality time together.
  5. Traveling is a great way to make new friends.  Travelers often have a lot in common.  The bonus is you then have an excuse for visiting new people and places.
  6. Travel gives you photos. Photos capture a tiny bit of life.  They allow you to revisit your memories over and over.  Remember, without a photo, it never happened!
  7. Travel allows us to be creative in “how” we experience the world…we can sail, fly, or ride a train.  You can go by tuk tuk or ride an elephant.  You could choose to visit art galleries or hike a mountain.  Our journey is really only limited by our imaginations.
  8. Travel allows us broad introspection as we experience different cultures and traditions. We are more open to the differences in people as we understand the world which they live in.
  9. Many parts of the world are impoverished, yet I have often found the people to be extremely welcoming and happy. We can return from a vacation with a great appreciation for what we have.
  10. History, geography and anthropology come to life as one travels.
  11. Travel allows the mind, body and soul to rest.  Working can be very stressful.  Sometimes we don’t even realize how much pressure we are under.  Stress leads to illness.  Sometimes you just need a moment to let some steam off.
  12. Travel can allow you experiences you could never get at home.  I do not live by oceans.  I do not have penguins or elephants nearby.  I do not have mountains to ski or climb.  The USA is a young country, there are few monuments or buildings which date back to the period of the Roman’s or earlier.
  13. Travel allows us to learn new languages. Communication is universal, language is our only barrier.  There may be great humor and humbling moments in learning to ask where a bathroom is.
  14. You don’t have to go far to “get away”.  In fact there is always plenty to do, see and discover, even in your own back yard.  Much of the time, this is an unexplored place.
  15. Life is short.  We have known so many elderly people who wish they had seen and experienced more.  They waited too long until they “had time”, then found they were unable to travel due to illness (or the loss of a partner).  There are only two things guaranteed in this life…taxes and death.  Travel while you can.

So what is stopping you from designing your next adventure?  Isn’t time to “Get Away”?

Continue checking back often as we get ready to set sail on our Pacific Island Adventure!

 

 

“A” is For Art at the Airport-ABC Air Travel

Airports are busy places.  Often we rush around and miss much of what is offered there.

Have you ever been stuck at an airport and/or had a long layover and wondered how to pass time?   Why not design a self paced art tour while you are waiting?

This was how we created our next ABC Adventure.   Our mission would be to see as many art installations as we could, while traveling through airports. We wondered if we could complete an entire alphabet. The next time we find ourselves with some time, it will be a great excuse to walk around and get some exercise.  On this day we passed 2 hours walking from terminal to terminal at Chicago O’Hare Airport.

In our quest to complete the alphabet, we have found paintings, sculptures, fiber art and so much more.  Airport art rivals that of any gallery.  The long walls, high ceilings and open spaces lend themselves to bigger installations of art.

The next time you are stuck in an airport, take a look around.  Can you complete a full ABC adventure with art as your theme?

As we try to complete the alphabet tour, we will continue to add photos as we travel and the airport locations which we find them, so be sure to check back often.

A is For

Adler Planetarium Exhibit (Chicago O’hare Airport)

The Adler Planetarium has an exhibit in the Pedestrian Walkway on the way to the CTA O’Hare Blue Line Station. The Exhibit features many posters such as the one above offering views of beautiful constellations in the night skies.

After School Matters Benches (Chicago O’hare Airport)

Located throughout the Terminal 1/2 Bridge and Terminal 5, the After School Matters Benches depict various designs. All benches are hand painted by teen apprentice artists in the After School Matters art program. After School Matters is a non-profit organization that offers Chicago teens high quality, hands-on, project-based apprenticeship programs in a variety of content areas, including the arts, communications and leadership, sports, and STEM.

 

B is For

Beacons by Steven Heyman

A large square “Blue Beacon” and a large circular “Orange Beacon” suspended above the “Meet and Greet” area in the lower level of Terminal 5. Illuminated with fluorescent lamps, they measure 16′ x 16′ x 4′. The artwork was commissioned in collaboration with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs Public Art Program.

Boeing Mosaic

This mosaic piece, created by After School Matters teen apprentice artists, celebrates aircraft manufacturer Boeing’s 100th anniversary in 2016. The piece hangs in Terminal 3, in the hallway between the Rotunda and H1. After School Matters is a non-profit organization that offers Chicago teens innovative out-of-school activities through science, sports, technology,creative writing and the nationally recognized gallery program.

 

C is For

Chicago Sister City Flags (Chicago O’hare Airport)

Representing the nations of Chicago’s Sister Cities, the flags are presented with help from Chicago Sister Cities International. Public art in and around Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport; January 2020.

City Windows by Qiao Xiaoguang (Chicago O’hare Airport)

Created using ancient Chinese paper cutting techniques, City Windows depicts iconic sites from Beijing and Chicago. The piece commemorates the friendship and cooperation between China and Chicago. It is located near Terminal 1 Gate B19.

 

D is For

 

E is For

The Evolution of O’Hare (Chicago O’Hare Airport)

This gallery of aerial photos offers travelers a look at how the O’Hare airfield has evolved since it opened in 1945. A timeline of historical events accompanies each photo. The gallery can be found in the Terminal 3 L Stinger (Gates L20-24).

 

F is For

G is For

H is For

Here and There by Mitchell Egly (Chicago O’Hare Airport)

Created as a part of the City of Chicago’s 50 x 50 Neighborhood Arts Project and initiated during the Year of Public Art, Here and There is a visual representation of the many neighborhoods that comprise the 41st Ward, the Ward O’Hare is within. This piece was sponsored by by 41st Ward Alderman Napolitano’s office. It is located within the airport’s Bus Shuttle Center.

 

I is For

I’ve Known Rivers by Alejandro Ramero and Gallery 37  (Chicago O’Hare)

A 208-foot long mural painted in acrylics, that brings to life the words and spirit of the Langston Hughes poem of the same name. The mural, created by teen apprentice artists from After School Matters, is located in the CTA Pedway. After School Matters is a non-profit organization that offers Chicago teens high quality, hands-on, project-based apprenticeship programs in a variety of content areas, including the arts, communications and leadership, sports, and STEM.

 

J is For

Jet Trails by Guy Kemper (Chicago O’Hare)

This sculpture measures 50 feet in length and 12 feet in height and consists of hand-blown painted glass in cool shades of blue, green and violet. The sculpture is suspended onto the window mullions directly across from Security Checkpoint 3 in Terminal 1 (past security).

K is For

L is For

M is For

N is For

O is For

On The Wings of Water (Chicago O’Hare)

A 35,000-piece Venetian glass and tile mosaic shows how air travel and water link cultures across continents and between cities, towns, and rural areas. It was completed with the help of After School Matters student artists and can be found in the Rotunda between Terminals 2 and 3 (past security). After School Matters is a non-profit organization that offers Chicago teens high quality, hands-on, project-based apprenticeship programs in a variety of content areas, including the arts, communications and leadership, sports, and STEM.

 

P is For

Palimpsest by Nick Cave (Chicago O’Hare)

A dimensional tapestry constructed of hand-strung, beaded shoelaces woven with memory-steeped iconography and patterns through a nylon fishing net base layer. The piece represents a travel to understanding, the web of humanity, and future memories. Its colors come directly from Chicago’s unique skyline and is a continuation of the greeting a visitor takes in through their airplane’s window as they begin their decent for landing. It is located within the airport’s Multi Modal Facility.

 

Q is For

 

R is For

The Runners by Theodoros Papagiannis (Chicago O’Hare)

The Runners, a 16-foot sculpture, is located along the I-190 south side embankment and can be seen by motorists and CTA Blue Line riders exiting the airport. Donated by the Athens Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International and supported by Chicago’s large Greek-American community, the sculpture depicts five runners emerging from antiquity into the modern world. A maquette of this same piece is located within Terminal 5, behind the Arrivals Level information desk.

S is For

77 Neighborhoods (Chicago O’Hare)

This photo exhibit, located in the Terminal 5 corridor approaching the US Customs and Border Protection Federal Inspection Services area, showcases architecture, life, and popular scenes from across Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods.

Skies The Limit (Chicago O’Hare)

A multi-sensory sculpture which extends above the walkway connecting concourse B and C in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.  The artist, Michael Hayden was commissioned by the airport in 1987 to design the 744 foot-long, neon kinetic sculpture which changes color in time to music.

Sister Cities by After School Matters (Chicago O’Hare)

Inspired by Chicago’s numerous Sister Cities, the mural depicts scenes from cities across the globe. Teen apprentice artists from After School Matters created the piece. After School Matters is a non-profit organization that offers Chicago teens high quality, hands-on, project-based apprenticeship programs in a variety of content areas, including the arts, communications and leadership, sports, and STEM. It is located in the hallway between Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.

Student Frontiers by After School Matters (Chicago O’Hare)

Teen apprentice artists participating in After School Matters programs created this mural in 2016. After School Matters is a non-profit organization that offers Chicago teens high quality, hands-on, project-based apprenticeship programs in a variety of content areas, including the arts, communications and leadership, sports, and STEM. This mural is located in the CTA Pedway.

 

T is For

Treasury of Petra by Sonia Twal (Chicago O’Hare)

A limestone and marble mosaic donated to the City of Chicago from its sister city Amman, Jordan.  It can be found in Terminal 5 near Gate M14. The mosaic was inspired by the carved rock and stone facade of the red-rose city of Petra in the southern Jordanian desert. The limestone and marble used in Twal’s representation were obtained from the Petra region.

U is For

V is For

W is For

X is For

Y is For

Youth in the Loop by After School (Chicago O’Hare)

Teen apprentice artists participating in After School Matters programs created this mural in 2015. After School Matters is a non-profit organization that offers Chicago teens high quality, hands-on, project-based apprenticeship programs in a variety of content areas, including the arts, communications and leadership, sports, and STEM. This mural is located in the CTA pedway.

Z is For

ABC World Travel-A List of Countries to Explore

We are on a mission to see the world.  This category will link to many topics about individual countries, which we have alphabetized below because that is how we roll.

If a topic is highlighted it means we have visited the location and you can find the stories within the blog.  You may also use the search bar to find our adventures.

 

General World Tour

A is for Africa, American Samoa, Antigua, Australia and Austria

B is for Bahamas, Barbados, Barbuda, Belgium, Belize and Brazil

C is for Canada, Chili, China, Costa Rica and Cuba

D is for Denmark, Dominica and Dominican Republic

E is for Egypt and England

F is for Fiji, Finland, France and French Polynesia

G is for Germany, Greece, Grenada, Grenadines and Guatemala

H is for Holland and Hungary

I is for Iceland, India, Ireland and Italy

J is for Jamaica and Japan

K

L is for Laos

M is for Malaysia, Maldives, Mexico, Monaco and Morocco

N is for  Nevis, New Zealand and Norway

O is for Oman

P is for Panama, Peru,  Philippines, Poland and Portugal

Q is for Qatar

R is for Russia

S is for Saint Kitts, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Seychelles, Singapore, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland

T is for Thailand and Turkey

U is for USA

V is for Vietnam

W is for Wales

X

Y is for Yemen

Z is for Zambia, Zimbabwe

 

“W” is For Word of the Year

Welcome to a brand new year! I know it is cliche’ to say that today offers a fresh start and a clean slate.  I often think of my life as a book which I am continuously writing.  Today is the beginning of a brand new chapter, which is yet to be defined.  The pages are still blank.  This optimistic view is the way I think about the beginning of most years.

But, I am also realist. Yesterdays challenges soon begin to spill into today. Too many things pull at our attention, the chapters of our story become mundane, or they continue to be written in the same manner. Time, left with no direction, will fall through our hands and before we know it, years have passed and we remain stuck in the same patterns of behavior.

Today is a good day for reflection. How is your story of life unfolding so far?  Are you longing for adventure, wishing you had more money or time?  Are you in a good relationship?   Would you like to learn a new language or change careers?  Do you dream of losing weight or stopping smoking?

The New Year always seems hopeful.  Most people make resolutions at the beginning of each year;  to lose weight, to give up bad habits, to learn something new and to spend more time doing things they love, seem to be the most common.   By the end of the second week of a new year, most resolutions have already been forgotten as we slide back into old routines.

By the end of the year, when we realize we have not met our goals (again),  we think back to our resolutions and feel like failures, yet every year we return to the same pattern of goal setting.  This self deprecating behavior has a negative influence on our psyche.

What if a small shift in attitude could redirect how you experience your days? What if we no longer set resolutions? How freeing would that simple act be?

Years ago our family gave up this New Year tradition, instead we began choosing a single word on New Year’s Eve. This word would still be reflective of the things we wanted to change, the growth we aspired to and the direction we hoped to go.

The word would touch all areas of our lives (relationships, personal growth, goals etc). Our word could be carried with us throughout the year.  We could interpret the word in any way which made sense to us.  By choosing just one word (or a few), we could focus on change. Anytime we honored our word, we would succeed.

The word of the year is a positive, inspirational and hopeful message, that change is possible. These little words simply focus our intentions, inviting more of what you need or what you hope to achieve.  They can reflect your ambitions, give you purpose, set goals and more.  These little words define and lead you to your best self.

I see the word as a kind of compass for the coming year.

For example a resolution might be to lose weight but our word choice instead became “healthy”.  How much more positive it became as we shifted our focus just a little.  With this tiny word in front of us,  we could give ourselves credit for every action we took throughout the year towards healthy living.  Maybe we drank an extra glass of water, or took a walk, or went to bed at a reasonable hour, or chose to skip dessert.

When we offered ourselves this positive feedback, we wanted to continue.  Perhaps the next day we did a little more, perhaps in a week we noticed we had lost a pound or two.  The goals were being met, but there was no pressure…just a little word reminding us of our intentions.

Intentional living is the underlying mission of this site.  Living your best life will always be the goal, it does not require a single day to begin, however New Year’s Day is the perfect time for change.  If you are reading this today and it doesn’t happen to be New Years Day, then just jump in.  Small incremental changes, lead to lasting results.

 

How to choose your word

1. Ask yourself questions.  What is it you want to change, learn or discover?  What would you do differently than last year?  Is there something you want to continue doing?  What do you want more of in life?  What do you want less of?  What is holding you back?  (Think of an opposite word.  For example fear becomes brave.)

2. Brainstorm.  Jot down as many words as come to mind.  These should be positive and affirming.  Think about where you want to direct your life this year.  It is okay if you have several or many words at this point. If you are stuck, there is a list of over 450 words below.

3. Narrow your list down.  If you are left with more than one word, consider breaking the year down into quarters or in half. You could even choose a different word each month!

Keep your word visible

Keep your word in front of you and make sure you can see it every day.  Make a cute graphic and put it on your phone.  Write it out in big letters and post it on a wall.  Put your word next to a place you use routinely…the coffee maker, a mirror or the back door.  Write it on a small pebble or piece of paper and carry it around in your pocket.  Make a plan(s)to bump into your word frequently.  Each time you do, it will remind you to live your word.

Put your word into affirmations.  Affirmations are powerful messages.  They are written, spoken or meditated upon in the first person.  For example, my word in 2019 was “expand”.  Every decision I made in that year, I asked myself if I was expanding.  This year in particular was a year of mental growth, as I immersed myself in learning.  I was focused on learning to:  garden, preserve food, write and improve my photography.  Here are a few of my affirmations:

” I am expanding my knowledge.”

“My relationships with people are expanding”.

“As I expand, I feel connected.”

 

Rules

As with all our word games, there are no rules, except those we define for ourselves.  If you want to choose a new word each month, go ahead and do so.  If you want to use more than one word at a time, that is okay too.

Our words

Here are the words I have chosen for the past few years:

2019 Expand

2020  Embrace

2021 Adapt

2022 Revive

After years of being stuck at home, not seeing family, missing celebrations, struggling with shortages of every kind and numerous challenges we have developed a bit of negativity about how the years are unfolding.  We have been very blessed in this life so we have decided it was time to find the silver lining in the moments.   We have worked hard throughout our lives and now have the means to travel and rest in our retirement.  We are surrounded by good people.  Our 2023 word gives us an opportunity to reflect on all the many, many things we still have to be thankful for.

Our word for this year is “Appreciate”.  We move forward into the unknown with an appreciation for all which we have, all which we create and an abundance of joy.

What word will you choose this year?

 

450+ Word of the Year Ideas

  • Absolve
  • Abundance
  • Abundant
  • Accept
  • Acceptance
  • Achieve
  • Act
  • Action
  • Adapt
  • Add
  • Advance
  • Adventure
  • Affect
  • Affluence
  • Alert
  • Align
  • Alignment
  • Alive
  • Allow
  • Amaze
  • Amazing
  • Ambition
  • Amplify
  • Anchor
  • Appreciate
  • Articulate
  • Ascend
  • Aspire
  • Attention
  • Awake
  • Awaken
  • Aware
  • Awareness
  • Awe
  • Awesome
  • Bad ass
  • Balance
  • Balanced
  • Be
  • Beautiful
  • Beauty
  • Become
  • Begin
  • Behold
  • Believe
  • Belong
  • Best
  • Better
  • Big
  • Birth
  • Bliss
  • Bloom
  • Bold
  • Boss
  • Bounce
  • Boundaries
  • Boundless
  • Bounty
  • Brave
  • Breath
  • Breathe
  • Bridge
  • Bright
  • Brother
  • Build
  • Calm
  • Capable
  • Captivating
  • Capture
  • Care
  • Caring
  • Celebrate
  • Center
  • Centered
  • Challenge
  • Change
  • Charisma
  • Chase
  • Cheer
  • Cheerful
  • Cleanse
  • Clear
  • Comfort
  • Commit
  • Committed
  • Communicate
  • Communication
  • Community
  • Compassion
  • Complete
  • Completion
  • Compose
  • Compromise
  • Confidence
  • Connect
  • Connection
  • Conquer
  • Conscious
  • Considerate
  • Consistency
  • Consistent
  • Contemplation
  • Contribute
  • Courage
  • Create
  • Creation
  • Creative
  • Creativity
  • Cultivate
  • Daughter
  • Declutter
  • Decrease
  • Dedicate
  • Dedication
  • Deliberate
  • Delight
  • Depth
  • Determination
  • Determined
  • Devote
  • Diligence
  • Direction
  • Discipline
  • Discover
  • Dream
  • Ease
  • Ecstasy
  • Education
  • Elevate
  • Elevation
  • Embody
  • Embrace
  • Emerge
  • Empathy
  • Empire
  • Empower
  • Encourage
  • Energize
  • Energy
  • Engage
  • Enhance
  • Enjoy
  • Enjoyment
  • Enlighten
  • Enlightenment
  • Enough
  • Enrapture
  • Enthuse
  • Enthusiasm
  • Enthusiastic
  • Environment
  • Epitome
  • Escalate
  • Examine
  • Excite
  • Excitement
  • Expand
  • Expansion
  • Experience
  • Exploration
  • Explore
  • Extraordinary
  • Faith
  • Family
  • Fast
  • Father
  • Favorite
  • Fearless
  • Finish
  • Fitness
  • Flourish
  • Flow
  • Fly
  • Focus
  • Force
  • Forgive
  • Forgiveness
  • Forward
  • Foster
  • Foundation
  • Free
  • Freedom
  • Friend
  • Friends
  • Fulfill
  • Fulfilling
  • Fun
  • Future
  • Gain
  • Generosity
  • Generous
  • Gentle
  • Gently
  • Give
  • Giving
  • Glisten
  • Glorious
  • Glow
  • Glow-up
  • Go
  • Goals
  • Grace
  • Gracious
  • Gratitude
  • Grounded
  • Grow
  • Growth
  • Habit
  • Happiness
  • Happy
  • Harmony
  • Heal
  • Health
  • Healthy
  • Help
  • Helpful
  • Heart
  • Here
  • Higher
  • Hold
  • Home
  • Honest
  • Honesty
  • Hope
  • Humble
  • Humility
  • Hustle
  • Ignite
  • Imagination
  • Imagine
  • Immerse
  • Improve
  • Improvement
  • Increase
  • Indulge
  • Infinity
  • Influence
  • Innovation
  • Insight
  • Inspiration
  • Inspire
  • Integrity
  • Intent
  • Intention
  • Intentional
  • Intimacy
  • Intimate
  • Intuition
  • Invest
  • Journey
  • Joy
  • Jump
  • Kind
  • Kindness
  • Laugh
  • Laughter
  • Lead
  • Leader
  • Leadership
  • Learn
  • Less
  • Liberate
  • Life
  • Light
  • Limitless
  • Listen
  • Live
  • Love
  • Luxury
  • Magic
  • Magical
  • Manifest
  • Maximize
  • Meaning
  • Meditate
  • Memories
  • Metamorphosis
  • Mindful
  • Mindfulness
  • Mindset
  • Minimize
  • Moment
  • Moments
  • Monetize
  • Money
  • More
  • Mother
  • Move
  • New
  • Nature
  • Nirvana
  • No
  • Nourish
  • Now
  • Nurture
  • Observe
  • Open
  • Optimistic
  • Organize
  • Overcome
  • Pardon
  • Partner
  • Passion
  • Patience
  • Pause
  • Peace
  • Permission
  • Persevere
  • Persist
  • Perspective
  • Play
  • Playful
  • Pleasure
  • Positivity
  • Possibilities
  • Possibility
  • Possible
  • Power
  • Powerful
  • Practice
  • Pray
  • Presence
  • Present
  • Prime
  • Prioritize
  • Priority
  • Process
  • Probable
  • Progress
  • Progression
  • Prosper
  • Purpose
  • Question
  • Quiet
  • Radiant
  • Re-brand
  • Receive
  • Reclaim
  • Reflect
  • Reflection
  • Relax
  • Release
  • Renew
  • Renewal
  • Reset
  • Resolve
  • Respect
  • Rest
  • Retreat
  • Revive
  • Rich
  • Rise
  • Rise
  • Romance
  • Satisfaction
  • Satisfy
  • Seek
  • Self
  • Self-care
  • Selfish
  • Self-love
  • Self-worth
  • Serene
  • Serenity
  • Service
  • Share
  • Shift
  • Shine
  • Siblings
  • Simple
  • Simplicity
  • Simplify
  • Sister
  • Sisterhood
  • Slow
  • Small
  • Smile
  • Soar
  • Son
  • Soul
  • Soulful
  • Space
  • Spark
  • Sparkle
  • Speak
  • Spirit
  • Steady
  • Still
  • Stillness
  • Strength
  • Strengthen
  • Stretch
  • Strive
  • Strong
  • Succeed
  • Success
  • Successful
  • Support
  • Surrender
  • Surround
  • Surroundings
  • Survive
  • Sympathy
  • Teach
  • Tempest
  • Think
  • This
  • Thoughtful
  • Thoughtfulness
  • Thrill
  • Thrilling
  • Thrive
  • Today
  • Touch
  • Transcend
  • Transform
  • Transformation
  • Transparent
  • Travel
  • Treasure
  • Trust
  • Truth
  • Try
  • Unchained
  • Understand
  • Unleash
  • Unique
  • Unlimited
  • Unstoppable
  • Value
  • Vibrant
  • Vision
  • Visionary
  • Vitality
  • Voice
  • Vulnerability
  • Vulnerable
  • Wake
  • Wander
  • Wealth
  • Wealthy
  • Wellness
  • Whole
  • Wholehearted
  • Why
  • Wild
  • Win
  • Winning
  • Wisdom
  • Wise
  • Wish
  • Wonder
  • Work
  • Worth
  • Worthy
  • Wow
  • Yes
  • Zenith

     

     

     

 

ABC Adventure-“Island Princess”- ABC’s of Cruising

This ABC Exploration Guide is specific to the Island Princess cruise ship.  Use the following list to create your own adventure.  Below you will find an alphabetized list of all the spaces on board.  Within each space there are numerous activities which may be being held.  Can you complete an entire alphabet as you discover what your ship has to offer?   If an item is highlighted it will link to another article.

A

Amuleto (Deck 14)

B

Balcony Stateroom

Bar & Grill (Deck 15)

Bayou Cafe & Steakhouse (Deck 7)

Beauty Salon (Deck 14)

Bordeaux Dining Room (Deck 5)

C

Camp Discovery Youth Center (Deck 12)

Captain’s Circle Loyalty (Deck 5)

Card Room

Center Court (Deck 16)

Churchill’s Cigar Lounge (Deck 7)

Conservatory (Deck 15)

Crooner’s Bar (Deck 7)

D

Decks

E

Explorer’s Lounge (Deck 6)

F

Fine Arts Gallery (Deck 7)

Fitness Center (Deck 6)

Future Cruise Planning/Sales (Deck 8)

G

Good Spirits at Sea (Deck 5)

Guest Services (Deck 5)

H

Horizon Court Buffet (Deck 14)

I

Interior Stateroom

Internet Cafe (Deck 8)

J

K

L

Laundromat

Lawn Court (Deck 15)

Library (Deck 8)

Lido Bar (Deck 14)

Lido Pool & Hot tubs (Deck 14)

Lotus Bar (Deck 14)

Lotus Pool & Hot Tubs (Deck 14)

Lotus Spa (Deck 14)

M

Medical Center (Deck 4)

Mini Suite

Movies Under the Starts (Deck 15)

N

O

Ocean View Room

P

 

Photo Gallery (Deck 6)

Princess Casino & Bar (Deck 6)

Princess Links

Princess Pizzaria (Deck 14)

Princess Plaza (Piazza)-Deck 5

Princess Theater (Deck 7)

Promenade

Providence Dining Room (Deck 6)

R

S

Sabatini’s Italian Trattoriea (Deck 7)

Sanctuary (Deck 15)

Shopping Concierge (Deck 6)

Shore Excursion Desk (Deck 8)

Shuffleboard (Deck 16)

Splash Pool (Deck 16)

Suite

Swirls Ice Cream (Deck 14)

T

The Beach House Teen Lounge (Deck 14)

The Shop’s of Princess-Calypso Cove/Essence/Facets/Meridian Bay,  (Deck 6)

Treatment Rooms (Deck 14)

U

V

W

Water Shuttle Embarkation (Deck 4)

Wedding Chapel (Deck 7)

Wheelhouse Bar (Deck 7)

X

Y

Youth Center (Deck 14)

Z

 

“A” is for Arranging Your Best Cruise Vacation-ABC Cruising

NCL-2008

When we choose a cruise, we always ask ourselves what we want to experience.

  • Is our goal to set foot upon each continent?
  • Is it to immerse in a single country, or do we want to experience many different ones?
  • Is it the ship itself that we want to experience, or the itinerary?
  • Do we want restful days at sea, or an action filled schedule?
  • Are we willing to take a repositioning cruise to complete any of our goals?
  • How long do we want to be away?
  • What time of year do we want to travel?
  • Is this the best season for the areas we hope to see?
  • Where does the ship depart from and return to?
  • Will we need additional travel days to get there?  Do we need to schedule transfers from a plane to the ship?

What does the ship have to offer?

  • What is the brand of the cruiseline?  Is it known to be a party ship, or luxury liner?  How old/young is the average passenger?
  • How old or young is the ship?  Has it been refurbished?
  • What are the reviews for the ship?
  • How many passengers does the ship hold?
  • Are kids likely to be on the ship?
  • Are there adult only areas?
  • How many pools are there?
  • What activities are available on board?  Are there water slides, golfing, go carts or wave pools on board?   Which of these (if any) are important to me?
  • If the weather is bad, what indoor activities are available?  Are there classes and cultural immersion opportunities?  Are there shops available?  Is there a movie theater?
  • What kinds of entertainment will be available?  Are there Broadway style performances, pianists, comedians, magicians?
  • Are there areas for quiet activities, such as a library?
  • Is internet available?
  • Is the dining schedule rigid or relaxed?  What options for meals do I have?
  • What kinds of rooms are available?

Money matters.

  • What is included in the cost? What is not?  Often alcohol, specialty coffee, specialty dining, internet and shore excursions will cost extra.
  • Are gratuities included?  Most cruise lines add $12-$15 per day and there is often an 18% gratuity for drinks.
  • Are there packages available?
  • What discounts/promotions are available?

Have a great vacation!