“F” is For Fern Grotto-Our Hawaiian Adventure

Today marks the 8th day of our 55 days of world exploration. Since leaving home on January 17, 2023, we have already played in Los Angeles and on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Alan and I would begin the day early again, so we started the morning with a breakfast on our balcony. The sunrise was beautiful as we arrived in our second port of Hawaii, the island of Kauai. We were Malahini, or newcomers to these lands and we were once again refreshed and ready to explore.

Kauai is a small island at just 33 miles wide by 55 miles long. There is only a single road which only accesses about 1/3 of the small island. After much studying I had learned that the best ways to view this island was by boat or plane, so I had booked tours for us to do both. Our first stop would be the Fern Grotto.

A grotto is a cave which occurs naturally or is man-made. The pictures which I had seen of the Fern Grotto were spectacular and I was very excited to see it. The tour was touted as a visit to a geological wonder of Kauai promising an ampitheater, where ferns grow upside down from the roof of a grotto, which had formed millions of years ago.

There is only one way to get to the Grotto and that is via boat! In fact, The Wailua River is known as “the only navigable river” in all Hawaii, which would make the adventure even more exciting. I felt as if we were discovering hidden places.

There are a couple companies which offer tours on the 22.5 mile long river. We would be traveling with the Smith family for just two of those miles. This family has been navigating the river since 1946. Our boat for the day was called the Whitney K. She was one of several on the river that day.

Besides the few boat companies, the only other way to get to the grotto (which is owned by the Smith family) is by kayak. These could be rented or one could take the half hour journey up the river in their own kayak. Except for the rain which was falling off and on, I think we would have preferred this mode of travel.

Instead we had chosen what I affectionately refer to as a cruise ship “Granny tour”. These are the kinds of trips which are sedate and slow. perfect for the elderly, which we are not yet quite there. This was a float trip down a winding river, while relaxing, it was boring. Don’t get me wrong, the river is pretty enough but the view doesn’t vary much and powering under our own efforts would have at least given us something to do.

The saving grace to our boredom was that we were treated to a pretty spectacular rainbow, which spread across the river as the sun peaked out for a moment after one of the many showers on this day. It was a short lived reprieve from the gloomy day and we soon found ourselves back in our soggy conditions. Thankfully we could remain under cover on our boat while being regaled with the history of the river, as we made our way to the Fern Grotto.

We learned that the water which feeds the river comes from Mt. Wai‘ale‘ale, one of the wettest spots on the planet receiving about 465″ of rain a year! Kauai is the forth oldest of the Hawaiian islands. I was interested to learn that lands along the river were the sacred capital of ancient Kauai and the birthplace of the island’s ali‘i, or royalty.

After about half an hour we reached the dock to disembark for the short walk to the grotto. Normally there would be a performance of The Wedding Song and a hula dancer at the Fern Grotto where they would perform The Wedding Song at the amphitheater, but the rains were preventing it on this day, so the musicians performed on the boat, as we waited out yet another shower.

I had seen spectacular images of the Fern Grotto, so it was disappointing once we finally arrived. There was a lot of greenery but I was very disappointed to realize much of the old grotto had collapsed leaving only a fraction of the original glory. A little creative photography and I was able to capture a piece of the former glory.

In fact, the decline of the Fern Grotto’s began when it was hit by Hurricane Iwa in 1982. It was then nearly destroyed as Kauai was hit by Hurricane Iniki in 1992. Most of the ferns hanging from the grotto were torn from the rocks, With nothing to hold the ground together, the roof of the spectacular amphitheater began collapsing. In 2006 a woman sued the Smith family after being injured by falling rocks. The grotto is no longer accessible by foot and may only be viewed from a distant wooden platform. Although much of the plant life has rebounded, the grotto has had a difficult time recovering as new plant life has sprung up with increased light which now floods the gully.

All was not lost on this tour. After viewing the gully we were able to return to the boat via a flower lined walking path. My camera clicked from one flower to the other, as I attempted to capture the beauty of the native Hawaiian plants which surrounded us. Walking among the colorful exotic tropical plants sproting from the floor of this rain forest I realize I am in my most perfect element of serene peace. It was in this way that I would come to continue recommending this tour for others to enjoy. Perhaps the float trip had been more fabulous than even I had imagined it could be. Perhaps “Granny trips” are exactly what my soul needs as I learn to relax into this sixth decade of my life.

“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.

“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.

“P” is For Pacific Island Tour-ABC World Travel

“P” is for our “Pacific Island Adventure.

Our bags are packed!  Very soon we set off on our 42 day, Pacific Island Adventure.  We have been planning for six months and I think we are ready for our next ABC Adventure!  The list below includes geographical areas, countries and states, as well as the cities we will visit along the expedition.

At each location we will be attempting additional ABC Adventures.  In the coming weeks, we will be sharing our adventures in real time, as we experience them.  Be sure to check back often to see our immersion into the cultures and beauty of this part of the world.

 

Here is our ABC List for the areas we plan to visit:

A-American Samoa/Australia/Auckland (New Zealand)

B-Bay of Islands (New Zealand)

C-Cairnes (Australia)

D

E

F-French Polynesia

G

H-Hana (Maui)/Hawaii (USA)/Honolulu (Hawaii)

I

J

K-Kauai (Hawaii)/Kahului (Maui, Hawaii)

L-Laie (Oahu, Hawaii)/Los Angeles (California, USA)

M-Maui (Hawaii)/Moorea (Society Islands)

N-New Plymouth (New Zealand)/New Zealand

O-Oahu (Hawaii)

P-Pago Pago (American Samoa), Papette (Tahiti), Port Douglas (Australia)

Q

R

S-San Pedro (California), Society Islands, Sydnee (Australia)

T-Tahiti, Tauranga (New Zealand)

U-USA ( just because Hawaii is also part of this tour)

V

W-Waikiki (Hawaii)/Wellington (New Zealand)

X

Y

Z

“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.

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