Monday, July 28, 2008

Holland America Cruise to Panama Canal

Imagine your cruise thru the Panama Canal – traveling from the Pacific to the Caribbean in about 9 hours. Surprisingly, there are only three sets of locks along the way. The rest of the journey is traveling along rivers, across lakes and through rainforest.
The locks are fascinating. There is a mule, an electric locomotive, on either side of the lock. With tow cables attached to the ship, the mules pull the ship forward into position in the lock. For the biggest ships passing through, the clearance on each side can be less than two feet!
Holland America Cruise Lines has many options for sailing through the Panama Canal. Take a short trip of 14 days, as long as 36 or somewhere in between. West coast departure ports include Vancouver, Seattle, Los Angeles and San Diego. East coast departures are through Fort Lauderdale
Along the way spend time at Mexican and Caribbean beaches, explore the old walled city of Cartagena, discover the natural diversity of Costa Rica, visit Mayan ruins in Guatemala and meet present day Mayans. Interested in how coffee is grown? Take a tour to a plantation. Whichever tours you choose, the shore excursions open up another world of cultures.
POSTED BY dan h AT   12:00:00 AM   PERMALINK
Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Activities on a Cruise Ship

What a dream – could I really learn to cook some of the food that was served last night? I don’t know if I can duplicate it, but if it’s even close – ooh-la-la! 
There’s this place on Holland America’s ships called the Culinary Arts Center. When I first walked in I thought it was a TV studio. They have seating for demonstrations and shows. The stage area looks like a full blown commercial kitchen, with monitors for close up shots of food prep and lots of equipment for classes.
Last night I had a lovely turkey breast recipe that was just so succulent…and the herbs and spices were done just right. Oh to serve that up at home! I’m surprised to find it’s one of the items there’re covering today. Who would have thought I’d find recreational cooking classes in the Caribbean or should I say on the Caribbean.
The chefs are wonderful and well organized. We quickly cover the basics and get into the real meat of the class. What fun and then I realize someone else cleans up! 
POSTED BY audrey b AT   12:00:00 AM   PERMALINK
Friday, July 18, 2008

Wobbly Legs

Here I am walking off the ship onto home soil. It feels solid compared to the gentle occasional rock from the ship for the past 7 days. Subconsciously I am mimicking everyone else walking off with luggage. Our gait is the same and we are all rocking in a synchronized wave. Looking around I see others that had far too good a time the previous night. Seeing the entire cruise ship’s occupants have that same appearance is quite amusing.
Glancing back at the ship, the huge size momentarily disorients me.  It was home for seven days and while there I definitely got some excellent exercise walking from one end to the other. Now standing in its shadow I feel its residual power in my muscles.
Now it’s off in a taxi back to our hotel, across the bridge and I look back, seeing the boat getting smaller and smaller. Its mass got less and less apparent, and my muscles’ memory as well as my own slowly fading.
POSTED BY audrey b AT   12:00:00 AM   PERMALINK
Sunday, July 13, 2008

Road Town - Port in Tortola

The British Virgin Islands! Here we are at Road Town, the capital, on the island of Tortola. Instead of going on any tours, we grab a taxi and head for the J.R. O’Neal Botanic Park. It’s time for an afternoon stroll to see the native plants of Tortola.
What would a tropical isle be without hibiscus, bougainvillea and palms. I’m surprised to see cactus as well…organ pipe…Turk’s Cap…prickly pear. My favorite flowers today are the Bird of Paradise. As I look off to my left, I hear a noise behind me and turn quickly. The movement of the birds and the shape of the flowers momentarily blend in my mind as the flowers become living birds. Such beauty!
After strolling through the gardens, our hunger catches up to us. Off we go for a delightful evening of food and music at The Dove Restaurant and Wine Bar. It’s in a lovely 1912 Gingerbread house with lots of antiques and a jazz bar, just down the street from the ferry dock. I order the prawns seasoned with vanilla. Out of this world! I thought nothing could top that when the chocolate soufflé comes out, and all this with lovely jazz music. A delightful day in paradise.
POSTED BY audrey b AT   12:00:00 AM   PERMALINK
Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Parasailing - The Ultimate Ocean View

Last port – Nassau, Bahamas. This time we choose to explore on our own and decide to go parasailing. 
It’s off the beaten path of the cruise-set-up adventures and we grab a taxi to a local beach.
Boarding a speedboat with another group from New Jersey, I’m struck by their sense of calm. The parasailing guys pick up on it too and are enjoying amplifying their fears. Then with their gear on, off they went.  It was only a few moments up in the air, but the disposition change it caused them was remarkable. They came down, goofily grinning ear to ear, unable to really speak.
Now my sister and I are strapped in with the giant sail inflated behind us. The rope is let out and we start going up. Such a steady, smooth ascent. Reaching maximum altitude, there’s a different perspective of the ocean below. The blue is so vibrant and varied that it is overwhelming. The boat loops to take us to the other end of the beach. We wobble slightly in the turn and then I look up from the sea below and out to the horizon. The curvature of the earth is evident against a beautiful azure sky. It’s a humbling and empowering experience, and by far the most beautiful panorama to behold.
POSTED BY audrey b AT   12:00:00 AM   PERMALINK
Thursday, July 03, 2008

Snorkeling with Stingrays without getting Stung

Snorkeling in the Caribbean with stingrays is comfortable and safe as well as rewarding. On the boat ride to Gibbs Cay, the crew gives me my gear and gives me instruction. It sounds easy. Once there and donning my gear, I’m quickly in the water, floating, my face looking down on what looks like an extraterrestrial world.
The tropical fish are so colorful and foreign that they don’t look real, that is until they flee my splashing hands. The coral is a beautiful maze upon which my shadow is cast, intriguing curious marine life swim out of their cavities.
I see stingrays. They merely glide past me, their slithery bodies’ edge tickling my legs and searching for food. The guide has some fish to feed them and is showing me how. I place a piece of fish in my palm with my fingers and thumb curled over it. Only a bit of fish pokes out of my hand. The guide holds a stingray in place and it sucks at my hand with such intensity, it comes as a shock. Weird but not discouraging. Doing it again, the stingray eats the fish like he was a puppy getting a treat.
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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