Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A much ado about nothing post

Haven't posted  much recently not because there wasn't anything to post but for the most part because I was being lazy and also mourning the lost of my long time friend of more than 55 years back in March 2017.

Even though his passing wasn't unexpected it put me into a six week spiral of grief etc - finally has dissipated and I am now back to my normal comfort zone and hopefully will post a little more frequently.

Another reason for not posting was my computer keyboard was acting up and certain letters became very hard to press and get any results - I now have a new HP computer so that excuse won't work any more.

I did a 14 day Alaskan cruise from San Francisco to Vancouver in mid-May and that was also about the time that my anxiety over the loss of my friend started to wane. Whether getting on a cruise ship and sailing with friends that I met on other cruises was a factor in feeling better I can't say.

I also started doing my volunteering about the same time - was it a factor - once again I don't know.

Any way I am now getting out on the bike and hiking and will be leaving Vancouver in a little over three weeks for a week of hiking in Waterton Park with the Skyline Hikers.



Sunday, March 5, 2017

Might be going to Cuba - May 2018

I have long wanted to go to Cuba and as a Canadian there are no restrictions on us travelling to that country BUT because I won't fly it has been virtually impossible - yes I know that you could get there by cruise ships but these sail from American home ports and to my knowledge I couldn't get off a cruise ship in Barbados - go to Cuba and then re-board another one in Barbados to get back to the US mainland.

Well that has all changed but the recent easing of restrictions for US citizens to visit that country.

The cruise ship industry saw the light and has received permission to sail to Cuba with certain conditions which technically don't apply to us Canadians - like the reason for visiting - educational and noting where and what you learned - but which the cruise ships are requiring of all passengers but there is little proof that is is been enforced by DHS officials but that could change.

Let's fast forward a little bit - I recently booked a 15 day Panama canal cruise on the new Norwegian Bliss which sails from Miami in May 2018 and had a brain fart the other week - if I am in Miami why not see if I can come in a few days early and do a Cuba cruise before boarding - most Cuba cruises are either from the Ft Lauderdale/Miami or Tampa ports so it seems fairly logically to do.

Norwegian would be my first choice as I have lots of perks with them - they offer a 4 day to Havana from Miami with an overnight in Havana - but they are only showing sailings until the end of 2017.

RCL has some offerings as well but nothing into next year.

Carnival has some 4 day day sailings from Tampa including one in May of next year - that one would work - I would spend a night in Tampa post cruise and then train it down to Miami for two night before boarding the Bliss - an alternate would be to head to Orlando for a day and take in Disney World and then train down to Miami - there are two trains a day to Miami so some options there.  Carnival isn't a preferred cruise line for me.

Will continue to check the cruise lines web sites for sailings and have my TA looking as well - they often get advance notice of bookings before they hit the public web sites.

What to expect in Cuba - despite what you hear - you are free to travel and take pictures except of military etc - this is true for many countries.

Yesterday I attended an outdoor adventure travel show and there was a booth on Cuba - had a lengthy chat with a very knowledge person about travel to Cuba.

Some things I learned and this pertains to Canadians.

1. Do you need a Visa? Canadian - No - but you will a tourist card. It will usually be set up for you by the cruise line.

2. Canadian money is accepted in Cuba - when you change it into Cuban $$$ there is no tax or transaction fee like on the US $$$. The exchange rate is based on the US$$$ so expect about a 30 -35 % exchange rate.

3. You are free to tour on your own and most people will welcome and help you see the country.

4. English is the second language so most will know some and most in the tourist industry are fluent.

5. You need proof of medical coverage and this is important to us Canadians - while your provincial health care card is proof - check and see if they will cover you in Cuba - apparently here in BC they won't - this could change over time as more people travel - if you have extended coverage - Blue Cross - Sun Life etc check and ensure that they cover you - otherwise you will need to purchase - you can't enter the country and likely not able to board the ship if you can't provide proof.

As travel to Cuba is continuing to evolve this information should be considered current as of the time of this post.

More to come at a later date.



Tuesday, January 17, 2017

All about cruising

To say that I like cruising is putting it mildly.

I have become addicted to that method of travel - partly in measure because I don't want to fly and once I reach a destination by train or bus or in some cases by walking about nine blocks to a cruise terminal - I can board and see parts of the world I wouldn't otherwise.

I have about thirty cruises under my belt - around 270 days at sea - from a number of one night cruises between Vancouver and Seattle and vice-versa to a long 49 day one around South America.

At present I have four cruises booked over the next 2 years - three on Norwegian and one on Royal Caribbean - the latter will be the first time on that cruise line.

Two are west coast based - and two are east coast based although one of those ends up on the west coast.

Here are the details of two of those cruises. The other two will follow in a separate post.

First up - is a 14 day Alaskan Cruise on the Norwegian Sun in May 2017

I first sailed this ship back in 2004 when I did my first Panama Canal cruise.

For this cruise I will travel down to San Francisco by Amtrak - meet up with some friends and take in a SF Giants baseball game and then the following morning board the Sun for the trip north.

After a stop in Astoria, Oregon we head to Alaska - for stops in Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Sitka, Ice Straight Point as well as visiting Glacier Bay, Hubbard and Sawyer Glaciers - then on the southbound part we will stop in Prince Rupert and finally Nanaimo before sailing across the Salish Sea and into Burrard Inlet and our berth at Canada Place

Sept 2017 - The second cruise for 2017 will see my trying a new cruise line - all of my previous cruises have been on either Norwegian or Princess but as I was researching for something on the west coast in the fall to celebrate my 70th birthday I came across a 7 day west coast round trip from Seattle down to San Francisco on RCL's Explorer of the Seas - what I liked about it was firstly the pricing and secondly a full overnight stay in San Francisco - just a stop at Astoria on the way down and one at Victoria on the way back. 
There were a couple of features on this ship that intrigued me - one it has an ice-skating rink and also something called promenade inside cabins - these are inside cabins that have a window view to the inside promenade or atrium area of the ship.

The long layover in San Francisco will give me the opportunity to too a longer day trip as we won't need to be back on ship until 4 PM the next day.

One option I am looking at is to do a day trip and take in the 17 Mile Drive at Monterrey - while I have driven down that way on a couple of occasions I have never done that drive. 

While I could also do a long day trip to Yosemite from San Francisco most of the day tours have a meet time that makes it tough for me to take as by the time I get off the ship I likely won't catch the tour.

Perhaps my friends in the Bay area will come up with some other ideas .

Do want to spent some more time exploring the Presidio and the Pacific Ocean beaches.

In a separate post I will outline my 2018 cruise plans and a possible hint at what I might do in 2019 - boy that seems like a long ways off but in planning travel those dates are already starting to come online.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

A little about nothing and nothing to belittle

Well it is the middle of the first month of 2017 and here I am posting to my blog for the first time in a long time and staring out the window at broken skies and some sunshine.

Why would I be indoor on such a nice day - simple - my depression or stress if you wish is causing my fatigue to act up - I get this occasionally - sometimes from just being too active and mostly from me unable to put aside events in my life that are causing me concern.

On the health front - I have a nephew - only met him a couple of times as he was adopted out by his mother not long after birth and didn't connect until a few years ago when his birth father was in his last days - who is awaiting a liver transplant at Vancouver General hospital - it has been a roller coaster ride - of hopes for a new liver - because of his condition it must be a liver of a deceased person and not a living one and daily woes of what some would determine to be less than adequate care from the hospital.

That's the first one - the second one is my sister in law - my nieces mother - different mothers - was diagnosed with cancer before Christmas - while always a concern more recent tests have indicated that it is fully treatable and she should recover and have many more years.

Thirdly and the one causing me the most stress and grief is the deteriorating condition of my long time best friend and what I like to refer to as the "brother I never had" - his lungs are failing - this is a direct result of his serious bout of pneumonia a little over three years ago - he can't go anywhere without oxygen - if he does any exercise - just getting up and going to the bathroom it leaves him huffing and puffing - he needs to carry extra oxygen tanks with him and in just the minute or two it takes to change over tubes he is left gasping - for the most part he needs someone with him all the time - the worst thing is that his lung doctor has told him that unless they can stop the scarring of his lungs he will be gone in less than a year and the other day he asked me if I would help him plan a living wake in the summer. That has sent me into a stress spiral that I am still coping with.

Do have the Canucks hockey game this afternoon with him - we will need to find a quiet place to change over the tanks if the game goes into overtime.

I will post in another post my updated plans for cruising over the next couple of years.

As always Cheers!