Thursday, November 30, 2023

Standing in Two Hemispheres

If things had gone as planned with the 3-year cruise I signed up for in March 2023 (The cruise was cancelled), I would be beginning a month log exploration of various ports in Brazil today. We would be landing in Macapa, Brazil, which is a major population center and the capital of the state of Amapa, in the northern part of Brazil.

Speaking of location, the equator passes through the center of the town of Macapa. I never expected to be this close to the equator, let alone be able to stand on both sides of it at the same time. This is definitely on my to-do list. 

The temperature today is expected to be 91 degrees, 70% humidity and partly cloudy. Although this doesn’t sound great, the forecast for the days before and after was for more heat. Later in the week thunderstorms are expected. So, all in all, not bad for the tropics.

An interesting thing about this town, it’s on a peninsula, and is only accessible by sea or by air. You cannot drive to Macapa from anywhere. This affects everything here. There’s so much water, not only because it’s on the coast, but it’s also at the mouth of the Amazon. I’d wear the mosquito retarding clothing I bought for the trip, light colors, a hat, and gloves, despite the heat, CLICK HERE (ad).

My must-see list is very short due to the weather and the bugs. I’d visit the Fortaleza de Sao Jose de Macapa, since I understand it’s beautiful, well-kept, and directly on the coast. It’s the largest Portuguese fort outside of Portugal. Lunch would be at one of the riverside restaurants.

Although I don’t speak Portuguese, both English and French are taught in the schools here, so I shouldn’t have any trouble communicating. Since I have food allergies, I’d take a laminated 3x5 card with me with a list of foods I must avoid translated into Portugues. I’ve taken such cards with me when I’ve dined in foreign countries in the past. It eliminated problems. A real Life Lesson.

The Centro de Pesquisas Museologicas Museum would be an interesting destination, but I’ve been warned about standing water there, and lots of mosquitos. Since the number of plants and animals it contains is limited, for me, it’s not worth the risk.

Marco Zero is a landmark showing the Equator line, where the Northern and Southern Hemispheres meet. There’s really nothing to do there, except marvel that you’re there. However, experiences is why I decided to sign up for a 3-year cruise in the first place, so I would visit, bask in the novelty of the moment, and take way too many photographs. There’s a gift shop that’s receives great reviews, so although I probably wouldn’t buy anything there, I’d visit, nonetheless.

Although there are several other things to do in Macapa, none of them outweighs the tropical weather and all that comes with it for me. For the more adventurous, however, there are other museums and attractions.  I'd spend the rest of the day onboard, taking full advantage of the air conditioning. 


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Monday, November 27, 2023

Paramaribo, Suriname, What a Surprise


If things had gone as planned with the cruise I signed up for in March 2023 (The 3-year cruise was cancelled by the cruise line late last week), I would be in Paramaribo, Suriname right now. I was both surprised and delighted that their national language is Dutch. While I don't speak the language, I did teach German for most of my teaching career. It's fairly close to Dutch, so I can make out signs and menus pretty easily.


The climate is once again tropical, not my favorite. It's 90 degrees today, partly cloudy with a chance of rain and lightning late in the afternoon. Still, not too bad, considering it could have poured down rain all day, and ruined my plans. 


I'm a culture junky and enjoy seeing the architecture, food, music, and languages of the places we're visiting. I also adore nature, especially flowers, butterflies and birds. This location has all of my favorite things. 

My first goal is to take a tour of the Historic City. The architecture is Dutch Colonial. The buildings were mostly built of wood, and painted white. This works with the tropical climate here, of course, but is also very Dutch. 

Next on my to-do list is a visit to the Neotropical Butterfly Park, no surprise there. I go to every butterfly park, garden and conservatory I can find, both back in the U.S., and when traveling. Although there are organized tours, at about $90 (which includes Colakreek), I would do it myself. If we were staying longer, I might visit more areas, but on a short stay, nope. 

If there's time, I would like to visit Fort Zeelandia. Out front, there's a statue of Dutch Queen Wilhelmina, who was also the monarch of Suriname at the time of her reign. I enjoy seeing statues and paintings of historical figures. They bring history to life for me. I'd be surprise if I make this tour, however, with the stay in Paramaribo being short, and the weather threatening. 

No doubt I'd enjoy the Dutch architecture and the butterfly garden. That's enough for one day. No reason to push myself. After all, although this is now a "virtual" 3-year cruise, there's still lots to see elsewhere. 

For more information on traveling to Suriname, CLICK HERE (ad).


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Sunday, November 26, 2023

Georgetown, Guyana, Virtual Cruise



If things had gone as planned with the cruise I signed up for in March 2023 (Sadly, the 3-year cruise was cancelled by the cruise line a few days ago), I would be in Georgetown, Guyana. It's hot and partly cloudy today, and may storm late in the day, but I can handle 81 degrees. 


Since the national language of Guyana is English, and during the last few stops I would have visited botanical gardens, my plan for this short stay would be shopping, or at least browsing the shops in the Stabroek Market.


There's lots of British colonial architecture in the city, so taking a short excursion by bus would be fun for me. I'm not into visiting jungle and savannahs due to my asthma, but for those who enjoy such pursuits, there is plenty of both to explore. I wouldn't suggest solo women set out by themselves here, however, as I've read warnings about abusive language and harassment.


After wandering in the shopping area, I might explore the Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology. I find this subject fascinating, and it would be less physically taxing, since it would be cool inside.  

The next few stops on our virtual 3-year cruise will be short like this one. I'll pick and choose what to do selectively, and not try to cram in lots of activities. I might just stay onboard, and read a good book. Speaking of books, if you want to learn more about Guyana, CLICK HERE (ad).



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Friday, November 24, 2023

Trinidad and Tobago, Lots of Sunshine


If things had gone as planned with the 3-year cruise I signed up for in March 2023 (they still don’t have a ship), I would be arriving in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago today. As I mentioned when blogging about Puerto Rico, I’ve been to the southern Caribbean, but not the northern islands.

So, this is my first trip to Trinidad and Tobago. It rains a great deal in the tropics, and it’s usually rather hot for my taste. It rained on Thursday, and is forecast to rain again tomorrow, but we would be in luck. The temperature predicted for today is 89° and partly sunny.


I always take sun protection when I travel, especially when visiting the tropics. I have a few sun hats from which to choose. My favorites are wide brimmed hats made from ribbon, CLICK HERE (ad). The company I buy from the most is Coolibar, which makes sun protective gear. I also bring sunblock, but not just any brand. I use one that does not damage wildlife or coral reefs. It wasn’t easy to find, but this is what I bought, CLICK HERE (ad).

I looked over the large number of tours available. They range from about $50 - $100+, but most of them are far too long for a one-day stopover, which is what this was planned to be. There are plenty of excursions for athletic types, but that’s not me. I don’t have the level of fitness I once had, so I’m careful what I select. I decided I wouldn’t buy a tour or excursion but would go it alone.


I looked over Queens Park Savannah but ruled it out. It looks beautiful, which I enjoy, but may have far too many fine particles in the air for anyone with asthma. My lungs rarely limit what I do, but going where the humidity is already high means I must pick and choose wisely or pay the price.

The Royal Botanic Gardens ais a definite number one pick for me. I love seeing beautiful plants and flowers. I would take lots of photographs. Photography is a hobby of mine, and I bought the iPhone 14 Pro specifically for the camera.


If there was enough time and if I wasn't not too tired after visiting the gardens, I’d visit the Emperor Valley Zoo. I’m usually able to find a great deal of shade in zoos. They plant many trees to create the right ambiance for the animals, we humans benefit from them too. This is why I’d visit the gardens in the morning, and the zoo in the afternoon, even though I know I risk the animals napping. That’s why, weather permitting, visiting zoos in the morning is a far better idea. For me, however, weather trumps pretty much everything else. I admit it. I’m a weather wimp.

Back onboard the ship, there would be calypso music and tasty seafood. Great place to relax after a warm day exploring the island. 


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Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Puerto Rico, My Heart's Devotion

 

If things had gone as planned with the 3-year cruise I signed up for in March 2023 (didn’t happen), I would be arriving in San Juan, Puerto Rico today. Every time I hear the name, Puerto Rico, I’m a child again listening to Rita Moreno sing in West Side Story. This is the album I had as a child, CLICK HERE (ad). So, I was really looking forward to visiting. Sadly, it’s another place I may never see, as my 3-year cruise didn’t go as planned.

I have visited the southern part of the Caribbean several times, always while on a cruise. I’ve never visited the northern part nearer the US. We were scheduled to dock in San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico.

I would have spent most of my time in Old San Juan, where there are cobblestone streets and Spanish colonial buildings and landmarks. I would have taken a guided tour to see the Castillo San Felipe del Morro, a citadel built between the 16th and 18th centuries. It boggles my mind that such old buildings still exist. After all, I’m from Southern California, where anything old is usually torn down, and replaced with a new soulless building.

I’m sure the crew on our ship would have arranged Salsa lessons for the passengers. Although I used to know how to dance the Salsa, I’ve forgotten. So, I would have taken advantage of the lessons, CLICK HERE (ad). It’s fun learning new dances and refreshing those long forgotten. It’s good exercise too and allows me not to feel guilty about sitting on deck while others do something physically challenging.

Cave and waterfall exploration are two such activities. I wouldn’t do either at my age, but when younger… nope. Wouldn’t do them then either. I know Murphy personally. You know, Murphy from Murphy’s Law fame? Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. I’m far too wise to risk a sprained or broken ankle when spending a fortune to go on a round-the-world cruise.

There are also private sailing excursions offered from San Juan. Depending upon price, I would have selected one to experience. I gave myself a budget for excursions. So far, my spending would be below my budget, so it’s likely I would have taken advantage of one of the lower cost sailing trips.

A free activity would be walking through the town, enjoying the art and culture. I find little shops are often full of artwork and jewelry. In the past, I brought back such items when on shorter trips. I wouldn’t have while on this trip. My plan was to collect experiences, memories and photographs, not souvenirs.


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Friday, November 17, 2023

Back in the USA, Temporarily

 


If things had gone as planned with the 3-year cruise I signed up for in March 2023 (not the case), I would be arriving in Miami, Florida today. This was planned to be a short stay, just one day, to pick up more passengers. Personally, I was planning on flying to Istanbul and starting the cruise at the beginning. It would have saved me money since I wouldn’t have had to pay rent on my home. I also would have been able to visit Istanbul for the first time. That was exciting.

I’ve never been to Miami before, although I have been to Key West three times. Love it there. My favorite place being the Butterfly Conservatory. Because our time was short on this cruise, I planned to visit very few places. I wasn’t sure if we would be able to leave the ship for long, since our “pods” were being loaded onto the ship while at port.

These pods are shipping containers about the size of a small closet. The plan was to pack our clothes and other necessities in the pods at home. They would be picked up and shipped to Miami for loading. This would eliminate the need to bring lots of luggage on board. I did buy a new backpack to carry all of my tech, CLICK HERE  (ad). I thought using pods was a brilliant idea, although it would cut into shore time in Florida. There’s a trade off for most things. I didn’t mind this one.

There are several butterfly gardens along the coast in Miami. I intended to pick the one closest to the dock where the cruise ship tied up and visit it as early in the day as possible. The Roots Collective Butterfly Garden, the MLK Butterfly Garden and the Wings of the Tropics Butterfly Garden are the closest to where the ship might land. I bought a cane with a seat, CLICK HERE (ad) so I could sit down if I became tired.

If there was enough time after visiting the butterflies, I intended to go see the Art Deco district. I love this type of architecture and was looking forward to seeing it in person. I would have taken a tour, if available, or hired an Uber.                           

                                   

I don’t think I would have been able to do more, but it would also have been nice to see Little Havana. I know there are tours there, and would have taken one, to have control over my time. Then a quick ride back to the ship would be necessary. Unpack the pod, and go have dinner. I believe the ship would be setting back out to sea by nightfall. I might have gone up on deck to watch the sunset. It was fun to do in Key West, and would also be enjoyable in Miami, I’m sure. 

The next stop would have been this coming Tuesday, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, also part of the U.S. I’ve never been there either, so it was something I was looking forward to seeing. Better luck next time.


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Monday, November 13, 2023

Sea Days, the Atlantic

 

If things had gone as planned with the 3-year cruise I signed up for in March 2023 (they didn’t), I would be cruising the Atlantic, on my way to Miami, Florida right now. Sea days are my favorite part of cruising. I love the motion of the ocean and the smell of the salt air. It doesn’t take much to make me happy when it’s a sunny day, even better when that day is spent at sea.

Whenever I picked a cruise, I made sure there was an outside deck circumnavigating the ship. I love walking outside and feeling the breeze. One place that’s especially enjoyable is the bow. It’s great to see where we’re going (and to be King/Queen of the World). But I also love the stern. You can see the power of the engines churning up the wake. It’s less windy there, and peaceful.

There are times when wildlife is attracted to the ship. I’ve seen turtles up close. For more on sea turtles CLICK HERE (ad). They don’t seem to be afraid. Despite the obvious size and power of the ship, they come near, and we are able to get a good look. Birds also come along for the ride. I think perhaps there’s an air current created by the movement of the ship. I’ve seen birds glide along and skim the surface of the sea. Sometimes they do acrobatics for us. It’s thrilling.

If I tire, and the wind isn’t too cold, I find a deck chair or chaise longue, to relax and enjoy the scenery. I don’t need to do anything, or chat with anyone, although that’s fun too. Since I enjoy traveling to and from foreign countries, I have met lots of people who are not from the U.S. Since I speak several languages, I’m usually able to communicate with them.

Sometimes, however, it’s too cold or windy for me, so I go inside. There’s usually a comfortable spot with a view where I can read. This one was in a passage between two restaurants and a lounge/bar. Another convenient location is inside nightclubs. They’re usually unlocked when not in use during the day, and passengers often go there to read, play cards, or board games. For board games suitable for travel CLICK HERE (ad). It’s quiet and peaceful, often with a great view out picture windows.

I’m sure if my 3-year cruise had gone as planned, I would be doing all these things this week. While others onboard would be looking forward to land days, I’m happiest at sea. From what I’ve learned, the proposed ship hasn’t been purchased yet, despite November 1 having been our scheduled departure date. I’m sad for those passengers who didn’t cancel. Imagine having sold your house and most of your belongings, and the cruise company can’t even give you a date certain as to when you will be leaving.

My first inkling something was wrong was when I learned the company didn’t provide trip cancellation insurance, and no outside company would sign us up. My second bad feeling was when I discovered the cruise line didn’t make arrangements with a medical insurance carrier to sell us a 3-year policy at a reasonable price.

The coup d’état was the management group deciding not to collect our first large payment. They had lost faith. I trusted them, so that was it for me too. When they pulled out, so did I. It’s sad, as I said, sea days are my favorites, but the mountain view out my living room window isn’t half bad.



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Sunday, November 5, 2023

Barcelona, Spain

If things had gone as planned, I would be in Barcelona, Spain right now. I know this because my iPad told me so this morning. I remember, one of the tech savvy passengers on the 3-year round-the-world cruise I signed up for this past March took our itinerary and formatted it for our iPhones and iPads. I uploaded it to mine. 

So, when the location popped up on my calendar, I realized I can still take my blog readers on a 3-year cruise. I'll tell everyone what I have seen on previous trips to the places I have already visited, and explain where I was planning to go on my now cancelled 3-year cruise. 

I've visited Barcelona before, also ironically while on a cruise. I was taking a 3-week long cruise of the Mediterranean Sea out of South Hampton. We stopped for the day in Barcelona. It was nowhere near enough time. 

I wanted to visit the Park Guell, designed by Gaudi. It's covered with colorful tile work. I had seen photos of it, and realized this would be a worthwhile destination. the park is situated on a series of hills, and is full of steps. If you start from the bottom and walk up, you better be in great shape. My decision was to take a taxi to the top of the park, and walk down. I intended to pick up a taxi at the bottom, and return to my cruise ship. Want to learn more about the park? CLICK HERE (ad).



Sadly, I didn't go to see the park. Why? I noticed there were no handrails at all. Several of the steps were pretty steep too. In my physical condition, walking down those steps seemed too risky for me to try alone. Life lesson, when travelling alone, check out who else wants to visit attractions you are interested in, and see if you can go together, split the costs and maybe have a shoulder to hold onto while walking up or down precarious steps. Wish I had. 

If I was in Barcelona today, I would spend much of my day on La Rambla, the most iconic street in Barcelona. It stretches inland from the port. My plan would be to walk the length of the street until I tired. Then I'd pick an outdoor cafe, have some wine and tapas (yummy small bites famous all over Spain). Want to learn more about Tapas? CLICK HERE  (ad). After I rested, my plan was to walk back to the ship in time for dinner. 



Barcelona was planned to be a short stop  in order to pick up passengers who didn't want to fly to Istanbul, which was the intended starting point of the 3-year cruise. The next ten days were meant to be at sea. While some might find land days the most enjoyable, I love being at sea. In the past, I intentionally chose cruises that had many sea days. This was the main reason the 3-year cruise was so appealing to me in the first place. 


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Sur le Pont d'Avignon