"" Writer's Wanderings: 2019

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Mozart Moves On

Saturday morning Bob mentioned that the river cruise ship we took for our Christmas Markets tour would no longer be a part of the Crystal Cruises river fleet. He's worse than I am in constantly checking out the Cruise Critic forums for news. The Mozart, which is the ship we were on for that cruise in December of 2017 will become a part of the Gentings Cruise Line for a venture that is yet to be announced.

Gentings Cruise Line is the parent company of Crystal. While we were on our World Cruise in 2015 is when I believe that happened. So many cruise lines are a part of a bigger conglomerate. In some cases that can be good for frequent cruisers as many times your cruising credits (days at sea accumulated in the cruise lines' loyalty programs) can be applied to another cruise line in the conglomerate. For example, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity will upgrade your status to reflect your cruising experience with each of them.

The Mozart is a grand ship and the ship experience was exceptional on our cruise. It didn't hurt that we got upgraded to a better suite because of our loyalty points (108 days on a world cruise paid off). While Mozart moves on, there are still other ships in the Crystal fleet that are cruising in Europe. A little pricey but a great way to cruise the rivers.

Here's a link to my Christmas Markets river cruise posts.

Cruising the Danube

Monday, May 20, 2019

Through My Lens - Learning New Tricks

What do you do when Pickleball is cancelled? You spend the morning at the zoo of course. It's a great walk and we always get lunch at the Rainforest Cafe. This day we also got to see tons of kids as well. The parking lot was yellow with buses even though it wasn't the best day for a trip to the zoo. I had been wanting to figure out how to manually focus my new Canon Powershot SX 740 and I finally think I mastered it. The shots I was getting of animals before were focusing on the fencing rather than the animal. It was amazing to see the fencing disappear. 

Glad to see this wasn't the usual bunny we've seen for a meal. I'd hate to think the teachers would have to explain that to the little ones who were there that day. I think this guy had a fish for breakfast.

And a special treat! The new baby giraffe had his first day out! He was frolicking all over the giraffe area. Guess he's learned to use those wobbly legs.

Friday, May 17, 2019

It's A Deal! Fort Lonesome -- Only 99 Cents!

Today and tomorrow Fort Lonesome, in ebook format, will be on sale for 99 cents! After that, the price goes up to $2.99, then $4.99 at the end of the week. After that it will be back to the regular price of $6.99. So, if you want to take advantage of the lower price, act fast!

Available at Amazon.com

Fort Lonesome --

Ginnie Scott looked forward to the beginning of a new life in Fort Lonesome. She felt a new sense of freedom leaving behind the parents she had so deeply disappointed. She was starting fresh as a preschool teacher where no one knew her past. Little did she expect that the past would catch up with her.
Grant Richards’ life has been through some deep valleys. Just as he thought his heart might mend from the loss of his wife, Becca, he has to cope with his daughter’s perilous brain tumor. Then Bonnie’s new preschool teacher arrives to throw his life into more turmoil. Is she Becca’s ghost? The resemblance is uncanny.
Martin Westfall ruined Ginnie’s life with his rash promises and failures to fulfil them. He’s found her again and this time he won’t let anything come between them, not even a little girl and her cowboy father.
Fort Lonesome, Florida, is classified as a ghost town but the only ghosts in town are the ghosts of the past that come into Grant and Ginnie’s lives. Will those ghosts bring the two together? Possibly, but only if they can overcome their fears and find the hope they need for the future.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Fish Powered Cruise Ships

Fish power? Visions of fish towing a cruise ship spring to mind but alas, the real power behind the fish fuel that powers this cruise ship is found in the fish remains and for that matter in the waste of other organic matter. Let me explain.

It all started with an article in Porthole Cruise magazine. The article pointed out a cruise line unfamiliar to me called Hurtigruten. While it has a mailing address for the US in Seattle, I believe the origins of the cruise line are in Norway and date back to 1893. Their website shows some really nice adventure cruises, among them, Antarctica. They are building new and refitting old ships to run on battery as well as LNG and LBG fuel.

LNG is liquefied natural gas. LBG is liquified bio gas and is the one that is made from organic waste. Biogas can be upgraded to become biomethane gas which as I gather from what I read, a little easier to transport and store.

It is quite a concept and I wonder if in the future somehow the cruise ships will be able to make their own on the ship just as they purify their own water now and process waste. Just one more thing to amaze us as to what the future may hold.

Meanwhile, I'm checking out the Hurtigruten destinations. They sound inviting.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Through My Lens - China

Here are some pictures from my podcast episode titled The Temple of Heaven. If you'd like to hear about them click this link: Majesty, Exploring the works of His hands. Or you can listen in from you iPhone on the iPodcast app.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Monday's Majesty

Today's podcast episode continues our land tour in China several years ago. We travel from Wuhan to Beijing and along the way visit a Chinese farmhouse and tour the Temple of Heaven. Have a listen at the link below:

Majesty, Exploring the works of His hands

Friday, May 10, 2019

Calming The Fear Of Norovirus

Not too long ago school children from our area returning from a Washington DC trip became ill with what was later declared to be Norovirus. It is not confined to cruise ships. You often hear more about it on cruise ships only because they are required to report an uptick in illnesses on a ship. Hotels, restaurants, and other places where people may cluster together are not required to report the outbreaks.

So, before you decide not to cruise or travel take some time to investigate and find out the facts about Norovirus. Here are a few.

Yes, it is contagious. It is transmitted by contact with someone who is ill. There is a reason you are required to fill out a health form before boarding a cruise ship. Unfortunately, there will be those who will not be honest and will board the ship anyway. So what do you do?

Wash your hands! Over and over and over again. Each time you've used the handrails, pushed the buttons on the elevator with a finger instead of a knuckle, played the casino slots, or just about anything else where you've touched another public surface. Wash your hands especially before it's time to eat. And if you're going through the buffet and serving yourself, use some hand sanitizer when you sit down to eat at your table.

Understand that the cleanliness of a cruise ship is just about impeccable. Again, it is someone coming on board who is sick that causes the problem.

If you should feel ill, go to the ship's doctor. You may be asked to remain in your cabin for a a couple of days if it is the Norovirus. I was surprised to find that many ships now have a way to test for it right on board if someone is ill. The virus effects last for 24 to 48 hours but some people can still be contagious for a time afterward.

Chances are very slim that you will contract the virus as long as you remember to wash your hands and be careful in your contact with others. There's a reason that shaking hands at the captain's reception has been discontinued. Just be diligent in your own hygiene--not paranoid, just diligent. The message is beginning to get around and people are taking it to heart and being more proactive. Less and less cases of Norovirus on ships are occurring. Keep up the good work!

Here are a couple of links if you'd like to learn more:
Norovirus--What you need to know
Demystifying the myths of Norovirus

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Books For The Road - Becoming by Michelle Obama

There have been several biographies/autobiographies of First Ladies that I have read but I found Becoming by Michelle Obama gave me quite a different perspective. Well written, it took me into a world I wouldn't ordinarily see partly because of the color of my skin and partly because of the world of politics I've never entered.

While many of her experiences were beyond the realm of my world, there were so many other places that I could connect with her. Becoming a wife and mother for one. While I never had the kind of career she entered into, I could imagine the chaos and stress of juggling as it related to my own as a business woman years ago.

I have to say, I admire all the First Ladies of our country. Theirs was not an easy job either and this First Lady gave a personal view of what it was like to sacrifice career and home and privacy for service to country in a unique position. I enjoyed the behind the scenes look and admire the courage and fortitude to move forward with programs that despite criticism were a step in the building of a better future for our children.

Whether you agree with the politics or not, it is an interesting look into eight years of serving in the White House and still being a mom and a wife and trying to keep a semblance of family. Hats off to you Mrs. Obama. Yours is a great book for the road.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Through My Lens - Yangtze River Cruise

Here are a few pictures from our Yangtze River Cruise a few years ago. The story of our trip to China is told in a series of podcasts called Majesty, Exploring the works of His hands. Click on the link or find the podcast in Apple iPodcasts and travel with us.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Monday's Majesty

This is my very favorite travel story of all the years and all the miles we have traveled. In the middle of China, in the middle of a river, we find Amazing Grace.

To hear the story, click on the link below:

Majesty, Exploring the Works of His hands

Friday, May 03, 2019

A Friday Funny

There are not a lot of countries in the world that still drive on the left side of the road which is the right side for them. Let's try that again. The countries who drive on the left side of the road, drive on the correct side for their traffic laws. It does make it confusing for those of us used to driving on the right side of the road which, in our home country, is the right side of the road--make that the correct side of the road for us. Confused? So is the driver who rents a car in a country such as Ireland for the first time.

Several years ago my husband's brother and sister-in-law joined us for a road trip through Ireland. Actually it was a trip around Ireland as the path we mapped out took us more around the exterior coastline of the country. My brother-in-law had never driven in a country where the correct side of the road is the left side. Needless to say he was quite nervous. I'm guessing my sister-in-law's feelings bordered more on petrified.

We were all to arrive around the same time in Dublin and Bob, who had a lot more experience with driving on the left would have driven from the airport and given his brother the opportunity to drive when it was less hectic. Unfortunately a hurricane foiled our plans. Bob and I were delayed when our flight was canceled--for two days! Our travel companions had managed to make it out of their city just before all the air traffic shutdowns.

When we finally made it to Dublin, they picked us up at the airport looking a little shaken but very proud of themselves for having survived several days on their own and driving back and forth to the airport. "The biggest problem we had," he said, "was the roundabout. Bad enough I was on the wrong side of the road but then I had to figure out how to get out of the circle." It had taken them several go rounds before they managed their way out.

The first week or so went quite well with Bob driving mostly and his brother on occasion to even out the responsibility. We laughed a lot about the rental place saying the most important thing was to bring the car back with both side mirrors. It didn't take long to discover that some of the roads were extremely narrow and had brick or stone walls bordering them. The walls were usually covered in ivy making them look softer than they were. Passing an oncoming car left little space between the cars and the walls. The other piece of advice was to remember to veer left to avoid something, not to the right into traffic.

The incident that had us truly laughing though--afterward--was on a narrow dirt and gravel road that led back to some site on our list to see. There wasn't any traffic to speak of and we seemed to have the road to ourselves. Bob's brother was driving and we started up a slight hill which blocked our view of anything coming on the other side. We no sooner crested the hill and we met a car head on. Both drivers did what came naturally. They veered to one side. Thankfully, the other driver must have been another American because we both veered to the right. The laughter was a good release from the fright we had.

Oh, and the rental agency was very happy to see us return the car with both side mirrors still attached.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Bad Cruising Habits?

If you follow me at all, you know that I like to check travel habits, or been-there-done-that places, etc. against my own experiences. Recently a list popped up about bad cruise habits--10 of them I might have!  Let's see how I did.

Not washing hands was up first. No problem there. I wash them often on a cruise and give an extra shot of hand sanitizer when I can. One down.

I don't smoke, so I'll skip the smoking on the balcony one and move on to saving seats around the pool and in the theater. We have been known to save a seat or two in the theater when we travel with family but never around the pool. We're really not pool people on a cruise and if we want to lounge we usually find a quieter place with a lounge chair.

Moving on. Eating and drinking too much? Not usually. Especially not drinking. Those stocked mini bars that are all inclusive are a waste for us. Now over eating is a challenge. To  guard against that we generally avoid the buffet unless we're getting a plate of fruit or a salad for lunch. We save our calories for the tempting dishes in the dining room for dinner. We find that dining in the dining room we eat less for other meals like breakfast and lunch. Also we compensate for extra calories by taking the steps whenever we can instead of the elevators.

The only time the lights are left on in our stateroom is when the attendant does the turn down at night and leaves them on as a welcome back for a good night. Okay, big pat on the back for that. We have been guilty though of leaving electronics plugged in to charge. Not really a good idea and we've returned on occasion to find that they've been unplugged.

No problem with letting kids run wild--we don't cruise with kids. And as far as leaving dirty dishes in the hallway, no. I hate moving down the hallway and finding them.

We try to keep things picked up and put away in our stateroom to make it easier on our attendant. There's no reason to make it more difficult for them to keep our place neat and clean.

As for noise? We are usually asleep early enough that the TV, which might get a little loud (we are older) will be off well before midnight--probably eleven even. I can't control the snoring though.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Through My Lens - The City of Ghosts

Posting some pictures to go with my podcast from yesterday's Majesty. The episode talks of our trip on the Yangtze river with a stop in the City of Ghosts near Fengdu, China. If you'd like to hear the podcast, click on this link::

Majesty, Exploring the works of His hands.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Monday's Majesty --The Ghost City

My weekly podcast continues this week with our China land tour and a stop at the Big Goose Pagoda. From Xian we travel to Chonging to board a Chinese riverboat for a three day cruise. Our first stop is Fengdu, the City of Ghosts.                                                                                    You can find the podcast at this link:       Majesty--The Ghost City

Friday, April 26, 2019

Texting At Sea

Whoa! Before you get too excited I'm talking about texting between friends and family aboard the ship. If you decide to use your phone to text those folks back home, you are gonna pay for it. I was amazed to find though that there are quite a few apps available on many of the cruise lines that allow you to text each other on the ship.

We've enjoyed the apps that let you book specialty restaurants and find out what's happening on the ship for the daily activities but I didn't know that many of them also allow you to text other passengers who have downloaded the app as well--for free. You don't have to buy internet minutes to do it and it works on the ship's WiFi.

While I don't like the idea of being tied to a phone on a vacation, I do like the idea of being able to check in when you are separated and need to meet up. FYI the cruise lines offering this are Norwegian (not all ships though), Royal Caribbean (not all ships), Princess (most ships), Holland America (all ships), MSC (not all ships), Disney (all ships--how great is that for traveling with kids!), and Carnival (charges a small fee for app but you don't need an internet package).

Guess I'd better sharpen my texting skills for the next cruise.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Planning For Safety When You Travel

Several articles came to my attention recently on travel safety. One of the articles showed ten new gadgets to travel with that included some unusual key chains. One of them had a metal cat head with sharp pointy ears I assume for poking and gouging an attacker and another that looked like brass knuckles gone wrong. I doubt either would make it through TSA so if you are so inclined, I would keep them in checked luggage.

The device that made me chuckle thought was a "slap hat." It's a ball cap with the back side weighted with something heavy so you can whip it off your head and whack your attacker. A little less inventive were pepper spray that looked like a ball point pen and small portable tazer guns. Again--not gonna make it through security.

Rather than worrying about defending against an attacker, I'd take the advice the CIA hands out to employees in the field. Plan ahead. Another article, a little more useful I thought was 10 Travel Tips You Can Learn From the CIA. Basically it has to do with planning ahead and planning to stay out of trouble. These were common sense tips like trying to blend instead of standing out like a tourist. You do this by researching the country and learning a bit more about its customs and traditions. With Google maps you can also get a feel for where you are going to be out and about.

Dress appropriately. Don't wear your Caribbean clothes in Europe. You will stand out as a tourist for sure.

Stay aware of your surroundings. Good advice no matter where you are.

Make sure someone knows of your plans and where you are going and when you are expected back. You know, the same kind of instruction you give to your kids.

The wisest advice is to travel in groups whenever possible especially when it is in unfamiliar and totally foreign territory. Even CIA agents have contacts.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Through My Lens--Terra Cotta Warriors

The Terra Cotta Warriors are the subject of my podcast this week: Majesty, Exploring the works of His hands. Thought my listeners might enjoy a few visuals.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Monday's Majesty

This week's podcast takes the listener to Xian, China, to visit the Terra Cotta Warriors., an amazing work of men's hands. How much more amazing is the work of the Master Potter's  hands in the creation of man.

"Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand." Isaiah 64:8

Click here to listen in: Majesty, Exploring the works of His hands

Friday, April 19, 2019

Visiting Jerusalem

Yes, we've been around the world. Yes, there are fewer places that we haven't been but one of those places is Jerusalem. One of the reasons is that we have seen what tourism has done to so many other places that we really didn't want to see the place that is so fundamental to our faith with a frenzy of tourists and those who are hawking souvenirs.

The other thing that makes me wary is being shown places that are said to be the legitimate place where a significant event in Jesus' life happened and wondering if it truly is. Are they sure this is the route He walked? Are they sure this is actually where the site of His crucifixion was? His sepulcher? Etc. I'm such a skeptic.

Many friends have gone on Holy Land tours and been impressed and inspired. It does make me curious.and now I guess we will be finding out first hand. We have signed on for another World Cruise in 2022. This cruise will take us around the world again albeit on a little different route. That route will take us up the Suez Canal and includes a stop in Ashdod, Israel, which gives us a gateway to Jerusalem.

We will be there long enough for a fairly good visit to Jerusalem and look forward to seeing for ourselves what others before us have.

On this Good Friday, I can't help but wonder what it will be like.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Zoo Babies

It's spring!! We set off to do our zoo walk around the other day and ran into a zoo volunteer who asked us if we'd seen the new babies yet. No, we hadn't and didn't know there were some. She quickly pointed out that there was a new baby sloth bear and a baby reindeer and where they were. I love zoo volunteers! If she hadn't shared with us we wouldn't have been looking for them.

The baby sloth bear was about a month old, born in March. He/she could be seen clinging to mom's back. The two were coming and going from their shelter. We had to wait a few minutes for them to appear but it was worth the wait.

The sloth bear is from South Asia and feeds on insects and fruit. Their favorite food is termites and they dig into termite mounds with their long claws and then suck the insects out. Guess that long nose helps.

Our next stop was the reindeer area and right before us was mom and baby. This baby was quite young, born early April according to the volunteer. Mom stationed herself between us and the baby so it was a little difficult to get a good shot at first. Eventually she moved away and tried to coax the little one to follow her.

Eventually we wandered around to the Australian outback area of our zoo and saw another volunteer standing there (knitting with hands that had to be cold--it was chilly) and I decided to ask if there were any joeys (baby kangaroo) this spring. She smiled and quickly pointed to a small kangaroo near us who had a joey in her pouch.

Maria, the kangaroo mom had produced a baby the year before but had rejected it. Fortunately the grandmother kangaroo accepted the baby and raised it. The volunteer said they were happy to see that this year the kangaroo mom had taken good care of her little one. His head popped out several times but he wasn't ready to leave the warmth and comfort of mom's pouch yet. Soon though. He was really getting too big to carry around.

The snow leopard cubs, the spring babies of last year, are getting big. Still cute and beautiful.

It was quite a good morning for us. When you have interesting things to look at, exercising isn't so bad.

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