Saturday, June 28, 2008

Water Horses

My horse’s name is Samson – he’s a tall, dark handsome type, gentle and easily maneuvered. Our guide leads us up a rocky hill and around some sand dunes. The beach is below us. It’s been so long since I rode a horse - a living, opinionated animal. This horse certainly knows what it’s doing. I can daydream and look around, while both of us share control. It’s a very liberating experience.
 
This is just the first part of our riding experience. Part two is changing into water saddles. This is a glorified, slightly padded way of riding bareback. What a new experience! Making our way back to beach, I feel every one of Samson’s steps. It is definitely less comfortable, but not painful. Racing into the water, the horses get to about as deep as their backs. My legs are almost completely submerged, I feel lighter on the horse’s back, and the fact that they are running at full speed becomes a desirable situation. We’re sweeping through the water, and the only thing I could do besides hang on for dear life is to smile. It’s like a roller coaster, except there are no obnoxious colors and cartoons to distract. An all natural thrill ride. I won’t forget this easily.
POSTED BY audrey b AT   12:00:00 AM   PERMALINK
Monday, June 23, 2008

Grand Turks Island

Our shore excursion choice is the Grand Turk Indigenous Horse Shelter on, of course, Grand Turk Island. It’s a short drive from the pier. 
 
Along the way is Governor’s Beach. It’s mostly secluded, with white sand and crystal clear water. I can see snorkelers in the water – oh, it looks so pretty out there.
 
Then it’s on through Cockburn Town, the capital of the Turks & Caicos Islands. The Turks & Caicos National Museum has a display called the Molasses Reef Shipwreck. It’s the oldest known shipwreck in the western hemisphere and dates to about 1513.  
 
There are also natural salinas, which at one time supplied British North America with about one-sixth of their salt needs. It’s a process where sea water is allowed to flow into shallow ponds. Then after about 90 days the water has evaporated and the crystallized salt is left. It was raked up, packed into 40 pound sacks and shipped out. All of this has been commercially abandoned, but a small part of the Salinas, canals and ruined windmills has been renovated.
 
This is such a pretty island and we're almost to the horse shelter.
POSTED BY audrey b AT   12:00:00 AM   PERMALINK
Wednesday, June 18, 2008

An Affair to Remember: Cruise Ships at Night

Being on the cruise ship has revived my adolescent obsession with that old Cary Grant movie, An Affair to Remember, a dramatic, romantic love story set into motion by a meeting at sea. Being onboard for the first time at night, it is easy to understand the romance caused by a ship at sea. It is a very old-world way of travel. It inspires old-world romances with the heroes and heroines of a past time.
 
Walking out on the top deck for the first time at night was a very humbling experience. There was a darkness that was overwhelming yet light. The ocean was completely surrounding, and its sounds and smells filled the air. The scent of the ocean is different away from land. It is a fresh aroma, intensified by a light breeze. There is not even a hint of the stagnant life smelled at the beach. It is a scent of pure salt water. The gentle waves, as opposed to harsh beach breaker waves, provide a rhythmic background to walking around the ship. The light was softer at night, the activity was lighter at night, and the mood was simply more relaxed.
 
Although Cary Grant didn’t walk up the stairs to sweep me off my feet, despite my watching and waiting, the power of the night onboard was still felt. I took only a twenty minute walk on deck, but it was perhaps my favorite twenty minutes on board.
 
POSTED BY audrey b AT   12:00:00 AM   PERMALINK
Friday, June 13, 2008

People Watching and Socializing On Board

My favorite part of cruising so far, is the people watching. I might sound like some nosy, little old lady who peers out her curtains to spy on the neighbors, but I don’t care because it turns out people watching is a very entertaining activity.
              
I was headed for the lounge chairs by the pool, when I glanced over my shoulder to see a newly wed couple walking hand in hand with the new glow of love in their eyes.  Cruise vacations make the perfect romantic getaways for honeymooners.  What better way to celebrate a new venture in life together than on a cruise...just the two of you....sigh...what a sweet sight that was. 
 
My mornings were spent relaxing and saving up my energy for the day to come.  Lounging in a chair on the top deck amongst a large number of people was a soothing way to reenergize. Not only was there the sweet newlywed couple, there were also two very sultry retirees, two Los Angeles fashion queens with less than important problems, some imaginative children reenacting the lives of vicious pirates, a group of guys from Italy to pique my interest, as well as a pair of women who were doing the exact same thing as I was.
 
The women and I ended up talking and becoming cruise buddies.  We shared shore excursions, favorite drinks, and talked a lot.  Being from different countries didn't matter at all. 
 
My people-watching adventures not only filled my mornings, but they also allowed me to find people. I quickly learned that this was the most prevalent activity on the ship. Socializing is a core to cruise life. Although it was easy to get alone time, the opportunity for meeting and talking with new people presented itself readily. It gave an added richness to my cruising experience.
POSTED BY audrey b AT   12:00:00 AM   PERMALINK
Sunday, June 08, 2008

Sunny Day at Sea

I decided to just sit and relax by the pool on our second full day. There were no stops to be made and no distractions like at home. I grabbed a book, a towel, and my sunglasses and headed up to the pool.
 
First of all, all worries about body image in a bathing suit were banished; there were plenty of unembarrassed people there of ALL body types. There was enough of a range, that I quickly found my place and felt good about myself.
 
Second of all, it turns out I wasn't paying attention to the sun. On the way back to the room, I began to feel a heat burning at my skin. On entering the room, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I wasn’t exactly tomato red, but crimson was definitely part of my new sunburn look. To be sure of my predicament, I adjusted my swimsuit strap to reveal a whiteness that was startling in its surroundings. It started to hurt.
 
Bed was early that night. Fortunately, the family size container of aloe was in stock at the ship’s convenience store. I coated myself so much, I’m afraid there is permanent green stain in the shape of my body on the sheets. Fortunately, the coolness of the cotton and the coldness of my morning shower has alleviated the situation. However, the desire for a base tan and the need for SPF 1000 has become all too real.
POSTED BY audrey b AT   12:00:00 AM   PERMALINK
Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Meals on a Cruise Ship

Although I used to think of cruises as being full of bad buffets and the elderly, I now most apologetically regret those feelings. Lots of age groups are present, and the food is delicious, if not heavenly.
 
The cruise ship is where I took my dive into gluttony. Now, at home, I try to control what I eat and do a pretty good job. The onboard food has been absolutely decadent and the variety was definitely a positive attribute. The main dining area let me try some new international cuisine, while the casual dining let me relish in old favorites. I surprised myself by enjoying the formal dining the most.
 
All of the food was definitely well-made, quality food. The menus changed nightly and the number of courses provided for a very filling evening.
 
My favorite dish so far has been a bread pudding. I have never liked bread pudding, but the menu description sounded sweet. It came out in a little dish, very unassuming, but as soon as my spoon dug into the soft sweet, I realized this was not simple bread pudding. It was a beautiful combination of layers and temperatures. While the top layer was a soft cool pudding, a middle layer consisted of ice cold bittersweet chocolate and a bottom, steamed  layer of hot sweet-soaked bread. Oh my. The moment that my spoon hit the bottom of the bowl I almost cried.
POSTED BY audrey b AT   12:00:00 AM   PERMALINK
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It’s not a dream; it is a Holland America Alaska Cruise!
 

No one knows Alaska like Holland America Line. Premium service and comfort has been perfected. Tradition is evident everywhere, from classic teak deck chairs to friendly stewards offering hot chocolate - complimentary, of course. Every stateroom is larger than most other cruise lines and offers stylish appointments such as the custom-designed Mariner's Dream bed.    Get the most from Alaska by enjoying a verandah stateroom or suite, which are more spacious than any other ships in our class. Dining on a Holland America ship is a delight to experience with detail to quality and service that is top notch. Enjoy the elegance of the main dining room, the Pinnacle Grill or a quick bite by the pool or room service.

 

Every day on board brings a wealth of activities and enrichment programs to showcase Alaska at its best. Learn new ways to prepare seafood in the Culinary Arts Center, presented by Food & Wine magazine. Keep in touch with your work or loved ones in the Explorations Cafe, powered by The New York Times. Relax in the Crow's Nest and enjoy panoramic views. 

 
What makes Holland America Line a step above?
 
  • Every cruise in Glacier Bay National Park will feature ranger commentary from the bridge and an informative presentation. A Hunan Totem speaker will talk about their ancestral ties to the land.
  • A ranger from Wrangell-St. Elias National Park will provide bridge commentary for every visit to the mammoth Hubbard Glacier. Tinged natives will showcase their culture during visits to Yakutat Bay.
  • Seattle departures will host a pre-cruise presentation by a ranger about thonal parks of the Inside Passage.
  • Land tours offering several choices to fit your time and to see the most of Alaska.
  • Comfortable domed rail cars and coaches making travel enjoyable to some of most desirable destinations in Alaska.
 

Be sure to bring your binoculars along to view the many different wildlife experiences up close.

 

 

 

 
Denise Belisle Stone
Denise Belisle Stone
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