How did we end up here? We've lived in Northern Illinois for 23 years. Way too long for this vegetarian! Thankfully, we're only a Metra ride away from Chicago.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Year in review

Wow what a year!

We celebrated a homeschool high school graduation...

And a University of Minnesota graduation....

We kicked off 2017 with a January trip to the Caribbean. Scuba diving in St Lucia, Barbados, and St Thomas.

In March we headed to baja Mexico for more diving,

swimming with whale sharks

 and some ukulele!

Another trip to Minneapolis in October to celebrate Chance's 21st birthday!!

In November we headed back to the Caribbean for more scuba diving in Bonaire and Grand Cayman.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Cruising Through Life,One Port at a Time

With most vacations there are highs and lows. I'll start with the lows. This cruise was onboard Holland America Rotterdam. We flew into Tampa and took a Lyft to the cruise ship terminal. Delayed from boarding for three hours and watching dumpsters full of construction materials being removed from the ship was our first clue this ship was not ready for passengers. We finally boarded to find the ship in disrepair. Water pipes were broken on the promenade deck and not repaired until several days into our sailing.
Broken pipe

Broken pipe

The Lido had multiple buckets catching water falling through the ceiling and lights right by the food area during the entire 15 day journey.
Lido buckets

Multiple public areas were under construction. These included closed sports courts, empty whirlpools, a closed lido pool, no entry to the back deck area, and a coffee bar that was still awaiting an automated espresso machine.
Aft pool area

metal filings in Explorer's Lounge
dirty floor in Lido area
dirty cabin carpet

During rain storms the crows nest windows would leak and workers would stuff the windows with towels.

This is a ship with mostly elderly customers and tripping hazards were everywhere.

These items were not even the worst of what we were to experience. Our cabin shower only had scalding hot water for 12 of the 15 days!!!!! Maintenance came and went,my concerns were met with the response "corporate is aware of the situation". I will never sail on this ship again!

Now onto the highs of our trip---the Caribbean ports!!

First stop,Key West. We rented a couple of bicycles and set off to explore.
We rolled down Duval Street from Mallory Square to the Southernmost Point. We made stops at Cuban Coffee shops,Charlie Mac's for a Yuengling, pina coladas at Southernmost Beach Cafe,coconut macroons at Mattheseson's,and finally to the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Beach.

Next port was Cap Cana, Dominican Rupublic. This was a replacement port for St. Thomas. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate but I had enough dry weather to grab a local beer.

The next day was another substitute port(St. Kitts) as St Marteen is still recovering from the huricane.
We rented scooters from Sunny Blue for $50 per scooter. They picked us up/dropped us off right at the cruise terminal. Our ship didn't arrive until Noon so we spent until 5pm trying to see as much as we could.

My favorite lookout on this island is Timothy Hill. Atlantic Ocean on one side and Caribbean sea on the other and Nevis in the distance.

Up next was Antigua.Yep, another day of rain but we took a taxi($20 total) to Runaway beach and spent a few hours floating in the warm water.

The next day we were in St Lucia. Unfortunately we were too late to catch a spot on a snorkel tour so we hired a taxi for the day and headed to Anse Cochon,a beach located about 45 minutes car ride from the city. This was my view for the day here. Paradise!

We snorkeled and hung out on the beach the entire day.

Leaving St Lucia we got a nice view of the Pitons.

Sea days are me days which means reading and knitting all day.

Our next day was husband's 49th birthday! We booked a two tank scuba through the ship. We spent the next four hours with Dive Buddy Bonaire. A great crew. Look at that water color!

After diving we walked around downtown stopping at a couple of coffee shops.
And a bar.
I'd love to go back to spend a week on Bonaire. 

The next day we were in Curacao. We rented a car for the day and headed to the Curacao Liquor Distillery.
Then we headed all the way to the Northern tip to visit a Shete Boka National Park. 

Hot,hot,hot this day so we headed to several beaches to cool off and snorkel. First stop was Playa Grandi. Look at this ball of fish we encountered while snorkeling.

We made stops at Playa Forti,, 
Playa Abou,

Klein Knip, 

and Playa Lagun. So many beautiful beaches.

Later that night we strolled across the floating bridge into the downtown area.

The next day we were in Aruba. We hopped on the city bus and spent the day on Eagle Beach. It was a mostly cloudy day but air temperature was close to 90 and water temps were in low 80's.

Our last port was Grand Cayman.

We had another scuba adventure. This time with Cayman Divers. What a fantastic crew! Our first dive was at the site Slaughterhouse Wall.

This green moray eel kept swimming past us during our second dive at Kittiwake Shipwreck.

It was nice to be back in the Caribbean sea.

Can't wait to go back. Next time maybe for a one week dive trip.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Cruising, Diving, and Ukuleles!

We are just returning from an adventure cruising to the Sea of Cortez. Of course within hours of landing in CA the guys had to stop at their favorite burger joint, In-N-Out Burger.

We boarded the Star Princess in San Pedro, CA.

 Our first stop was San Diego. We walked all along the waterfront(about 4.5 miles!) but Finn really wanted to tour the USS Midway aircraft carrier. We didn't expect it to take so long to tour. But he really enjoyed seeing what life is like on a carrier. The view from the carrier was beautiful.

The day we were there the US Navy Parachute Team, the Leap Frogs, landed on the flight deck of the Midway. It was pretty awesome.

After the Midway tour we traveled over to a local brewery,Bolt Brewery, before heading back to the ship.

The next day was a sea day which meant time for ukulele.

We were part of a group of 100 ukulele players on this cruise. It was my first time having to follow a schedule and attending workshops on a vacation.

Our first sea day also meant our first formal night for dinner. It was nice to see my Mom and Dad every night too.

Our first port was Cabo San Lucas,Mexico. It was a tender to shore port which gave us a great view of the arch.

We booked a two tank scuba with Eagle Divers. It was just the two of us so we ended up having private dives with the dive master. 

We saw a white tipped shark hanging out in a cave and several schools of fish.
 There was alot of boat traffic in this area so it was pretty noisy underwater which felt weird.

The next day we were in La Paz,Mexico.We booked a full day excursion with Dive in La Paz. They picked us up with the dive boat right at the cruise ship dock! We headed to our first dive at Swanee Reef. Loads of beautiful fish and starfish here.

Our next dive in La Paz was at San Rafaelito Island. Visibility was poor but we managed to "bump" into a few sea lions taking a swim here.

Then we headed closer to La Paz to swim with whale sharks. These are such magnificent creatures. They are so large and swim so fast it was hard to keep up with them. I could have spent the entire day here!

Next stop,Loreto,Mexico. 

All five of us took a day excursion to Coronado Island via Land and Sea Tours

We had an opportunity to swim with sea lions.

We spied a couple of blue footed boobies along the way.

We spent a few hours on this beautiful beach and had a wonderful lunch prepared for us right at the beach. A few other boats headed over to this beach too! 

When we got back into town we toured Our Lady of Loreto Mission Church
 and had a nice stop at a cafe before calling it a day.

The next day was another sea day.

Then it was off to Puerto Vallarta. Unfortunately we arrived an hour later than expected and missed our dive boat by 15 minutes. So we headed next door for an hour massage!

We spent some time walking around the marina playing "spy the iguana".

We headed back to the ship port to enjoy a few cervezas with my family.

Before leaving this port we stopped across the street at a Walmart. These were displayed in a "bag it yourself" seafood aisle!

Leaving Puerto Vallarta I enjoyed watching the sun sink into the sea.

We enjoyed a couple of sea days before returning home. Unfortunately, there were two medical emergencies on our ship on the way home. One person was able to get to the hospital via tender boat transfer when we passed Cabo but the second, an employee, had to be airlifted via coast guard.

Our last sea day included a finale performance of "Five Foot Two" by the uke group in the ship's atrium. Even the captain showed up to watch.

My Dad won a couple of raffles with the uke group. One was a baby uke made/donated by OHana that he let me take home. It's adorable!

Thanks so much Mom and Dad, we all had a great time!