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In early September ...

... hubby and I sailed our first repositioning cruise on Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas, traveling from Harwich, England (near London) to Boston. We picked this sailing because it included a day in Paris (via the port of Le Havre, France) and two days in Reykjavik, Iceland. Both places were on our "to do" list and the itinerary did not disappoint! It was truly an amazing trip (and, at 15 days, our longest cruise to date). We definitely want to return to some of these ports in the future.

It took a while to go through the 3,000+ photos I took, but I finally uploaded some of my favorites to Flickr.com. Click here if you want to see where Brilliance took us.

When traveling abroad, I do my best to find a McDonalds in every port of call. As you can see below, I was successful in Paris! Les Frites! Yum!

McDonalds in Paris

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I haven't posted here in a while ...

… mainly because I send off the occasional tweet instead. As if I am so busy I can't take the time to write more than 140 characters. :) I am going to start blogging again, I think. If nothing else, it will help keep my writing skills sharp.

We have done a fair amount of traveling in the last year. I just posted photos from our most recent cruise on Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas. Pics from other trips to follow.

Below is a picture taken at Orient Beach in St. Martin (the French side of an island that is half French and half Dutch). Looking forward to our next trip to this beautiful place.

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Port #4: Olympia via Katakolon

The final port of call on our NCL cruise from Venice to the Greek Isles was Katakolon, Greece, from which most passengers visited Olympia, the site of the early (776 B.C.) Olympic games. The ruins are about a 40 minute bus ride from the port of Katakolon.

I was surprised at what a cute little town Olympia is. Same goes for Katakolon.

Below is a shot of Oscar, my little traveling companion, sitting on some ruins in Olympia. The rest of my pictures from this port and our return to Venice can be viewed here.

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The Review Continues: Greek Isles #1 and #2

Outdoor cafe on Norwegian Jade, looking out toward Santorini

Corfu is to a Med cruise what Gothenburg is to a Baltic itinerary: a nice enough city but probably included only because it is a convenient place to stop. Corfu has one claim to fame: Achilleion, the summer palace of Empress Elisabeth ("Sisi") of Austria. You can visit the palace in the morning, spend a little time shopping in touristy Corfu Town, and still make it back to the ship for lunch.

Santorini … well, everyone says it is wonderful. And I will have to take everyone's word for it, since the winds kicked up and prevented us from tendering to the island. Port of call cancelled! Yes, I was disappointed. And still am. Some of the passengers said well, we'll just have to come back. But I am less likely than some to return to Greece. Nothing against the place, but when you don't start traveling until you are in your 50's, you can only fit so many trips into the time you have left. There are a lot of places on my "to do" list and I would have to get to all of them before I head back to see what I missed in Santorini.

Pictures from Corfu and Santorini can be seen here. Mykonos and Olympia will be up in a day or two.

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Back from Venice ...

… and finally over our jet lag. We sailed a 7-night cruise to the Greek Isles R/T Venice on NCL's Norwegian Jade. I'm working my way through 1200+ photos. An album of Venice can be seen here.

Pictures from our ports of call to follow soon.

Gondolier in Venice.

Short-ish review:

We spent two nights in Venice pre-cruise and then sailed to Corfu, Santorini, Mykonos, and Katakolon (Olympia).

We loved the Jade. I did sort of miss having a set dinner time with the same wait staff every night. However, there were nights when we really appreciated NCL's "freestyle" dining which allows you to dine whenever you like. The buffet had a wider selection of food than I recall seeing on other ships. The entertainment was excellent. We booked an aft balcony (on the back of the ship) because so many people rave about them. The views from our cabin were fabulous but you do feel the movement more at the back than in the middle of the ship. A couple of nights were pretty rocky!

Instead of staying in a hotel on the island of Venice, we booked a hotel in Mestre. Our hotel was directly across the street from the train station. It costs a euro or two each way to ride from Mestre to Santa Lucia station in Venice. The ride takes about 12 minutes. We saved hundreds of dollars by NOT staying on the island plus we had the added benefit of NOT having to drag our luggage across pedestrian bridges in Venice. (There are no cars on the island of Venice. Be prepared to do a lot of walking!)

For those who crave American junk food when traveling, there is a McDonald's in the train station in Mestre and at least one in Venice. The one in Venice has free wifi, too.

My opinion of Venice: It is a very interesting place to take photos and they have the most amazing Murano glass for sale in the shops! Other than that, two days was more than enough for me. Venice and Mestre are both very crowded and I didn't find the people to be especially friendly. Oh, and some of the restaurants have toilets in their ladies rooms with no toilet seats. You have been warned.

The ports we visited in Greece were a different story. They are small villages where most people depend on tourism for their living and they are much friendlier to the hordes of people who visit for the day before heading back to their cruise ships. More on our ports of call when I post pictures from those visits.

Stay tuned.

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This is NOT why I go on a cruise.

The deck of the Ocean Princess in Vladivostok, Russia.

Princess Cruises posted this to Twitpic.com today.

iTunes is currently playing: Snow Is Lightly Falling from the album Winter Solstice On Ice by Nightnoise.

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Time to book a cruise.

It started about 5 p.m. yesterday. Still coming down at noon.

This is our back deck. Our estimate: at least 20" on the patio table.

Open the front door and this is what you see.

Looking out the front window. Our poor little cars. But at least we have learned to move our cars up toward the top of the driveway (near the street) when snow is predicted.

iTunes is currently playing: Snow Is Lightly Falling from the album Winter Solstice On Ice by Nightnoise.

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One of these years ...

... I want to celebrate New Years in Sydney. Imagine watching this from the deck of a cruise ship!

iTunes is currently playing: Let's Dream In The Moonlight from the album Past Perfect, Disc Six by Billie Holiday.

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American Life in Poetry #226 (Travel-themed!)

Occasionally I post an issue of Ted Kooser's American Life in Poetry column, when its featured poem particularly hits home with me. The following poem reminds me of the afternoon we spent whale watching with a group of folks who cruised Alaska with us on the Diamond Princess last May. We saw so many whales that afternoon! It was one of the highlights of our cruise, and it was wonderful to share the experience with so many others. If you have ever traveled in a group, the poem may touch a chord with you, too.

American Life in Poetry: Column 226

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Elizabeth Bishop, one of our greatest American poets, once wrote a long poem in which the sudden appearance of a moose on a highway creates a community among a group of strangers on a bus. Here Ronald Wallace, a Wisconsin poet, gives us a sighting with similar results.


Sustenance

Australia. Phillip Island. The Tasman Sea.
Dusk. The craggy coastline at low tide in fog.
Two thousand tourists milling in the stands
as one by one, and then in groups, the fairy penguins
mass up on the sand like so much sea wrack and
debris. And then, as on command, the improbable
parade begins: all day they've been out fishing
for their chicks, and now, somehow, they find them
squawking in their burrows in the dunes, one by one,
two by two, such comical solemnity, as wobbling by
they catch our eager eyes until we're squawking, too,
in English, French, and Japanese, Yiddish and Swahili,
like some happy wedding party brought to tears
by whatever in the ceremony repairs the rifts
between us. The rain stops. The fog lifts. Stars.
And we go home, less hungry, satisfied, to friends
and family, regurgitating all we've heard and seen.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "Sustenance" from "For A Limited Time Only," by Ronald Wallace, (c) 2008. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press. The poem first appeared in "Poetry Northwest," Vol. 41, no. 4, 2001. Introduction copyright (c)2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

iTunes is currently playing: Universal Traveler from the album Talkie Walkie by Air.

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Were they naughty instead of nice?

A group of Santas take a group cruise on the Diamond Princess.

[Photo posted on TwitPic.com by PrincessCruises.]


Dan and I sailed on this ship a couple of weeks earlier and we were very lucky. The weather was beautiful throughout our trip with the exception of an hour or so in Ketchikan. So many people told us that Alaska is a must-see cruise destination and it is true!

iTunes is currently playing: Heavy Cloud No Rain from the album Ten Summoner's Tales by Sting.

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One of the places on my "to go" list ...

... is Alaska and I'm hoping that I can convince some of my relatives to join us for a cruise up that way in the next couple of years. Maybe this will help.

This 26-minute film from Princess Cruises called "The Heart of Alaska" won the "Best Cinematography" award at the NY Independent Film & Video Festival.

The Heart of Alaska" is a high-definition documentary that showcases the Princess cruise-tour experience by depicting the land, wildlife and people of Alaska. The 26-minute film, photographed and directed by Princess video producer Scott Martin, features interviews with some of the people who tell their stories of life in Alaska's interior.

Viewers meet rangers from both Denali and Wrangell-St. Elias national parks, Alaska natives, homesteaders and dog mushers who share an insider's perspective of life in the 49th state. Other voices include a bush pilot, a captain from Fairbanks' iconic riverboat and a mountain climber. The film also brings the audience up-close to the wildlife of Denali National Park, including bears, moose, Dall sheep, and caribou. Soaring photography takes viewers high above the world's tallest peaks, including Mount McKinley.


It is a beautiful (and interesting) film and makes me want to book that cruise. Anybody want to come along?



iTunes is currently playing: Leader Of The Band from the album The Collection by Dan Fogelberg, which always makes me think of Dad.

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Why would you change the name of your company ...



... from NORWEGIAN COASTAL VOYAGE (which conjures up such lovely, relaxing images) to HURTIGRUTEN???



is currently playing: Ain't That Peculiar from the album Every Great Motown Hit of Marvin Gaye by Marvin Gaye.

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We are family ... I got all my sisters with me ...

Well, not ALL of my sisters ... but I'm working on the ones who haven't said "yes" yet.

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