Showing posts with label Holland America. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Holland America. Show all posts

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sail Away Sunday–See the World (for a lot less!)

Another rain-drenched Sunday morning in the Seattle area has us dreaming of sun-drenched far-away places. . .the South Pacific. . .a luxury cruise ship. . .ahh, (sigh) yes, that’s where we’d be today.

And we are – in a manner of speaking – thanks to a feature article I wrote that appears in today’s Seattle Times Travel Section.

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Tahiti's Black Sand Beaches were as spectacular as the views from them

There’s no better time than now to start shopping for some great cruise deals. I  tell you where to look for them in the package of articles about repositioning cruises I wrote for the Seattle Times today.

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Pape'ete our first port of call as seen from our Celebrity Solstice ship

There are exotic ports of call to be discovered inexpensively from the ease and comfort of a cruise ship on what the industry calls a repositioning cruise; when ships are moved from one part of the world to another for a new season of sailing. 

That was the type of cruise we took last fall on the Celebrity Solstice, a cruise that introduced us to French Polynesia, New Zealand and Australia. (In fact the reverse of that cruise, 18 days, is only $2,400 per person on one of the sites I list in the article.)

Solstice2013BFuji 329As part of the package I wrote I’ve provided a list of great money-saving web sites to use when booking (or researching) a cruise.

And a list --that’s designed to tempt  those in the Pacific Northwest in particular -- of some great repositioning cruises – ranging from overnighters to 30+ days that will arrive and in the fall, depart from Seattle or Vancouver, British Columbia

Click this link to the story at Seattle Times Travelthere are great deals out there just waiting to be booked! 

Happy Travels! And a big welcome to our new followers and subscribers – and thanks to you all for the time you spend with us.

We are off to do some winter storm watching on the Washington Coast – how about you? Off exploring this week?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ukraine: When Travel brings Headlines Home

Travel not only makes the world feel smaller, it also brings the headlines home.  And with this week’s headlines, we are taking a brief break from our Hawaiian tales, to take you with us on a trip down our travel memory lane:

Back to Sevastopol, Ukraine.

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It has been three years since a Black Sea cruise introduced us to  Sevastopol, the city established in 1783 by Catherine II after Russia gained control of the region.

We spent but a few hours in this port city that figured prominently in the Crimean War (1854-55) and the Bolshvik Revolution.

Those few hours were far long enough, we had thought back then. 

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It was autumn. An incessant rain fell from a leaden sky. The sky and sea the same gun metal gray as the military ships docked not far from our pleasure craft.

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But have you ever found in your travels, there are a few places you visit - if even ever so briefly- that leave a  hauntingly vivid memory ~ the kind that keeps details alive in your brain and your soul? Sevastopol was such a stop for us.

As most of you know by now, we prefer to set off on our own to explore our cruise ports of call and this stop was no different.  We saw the usual ubiquitous influences of the Western World. . .

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They were ‘lovin’ it’ at McDonald’s and this hotel, (pictured below) the Best Western Hotel Sevastopol, was housed in a stunning building.

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We didn’t walk very far from the well-groomed flower beds of the park to find ourselves on  real neighborhood streets.

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It was the emptiness of the streets and the people,or the small numbers of them, we encountered that created the most vivid memories.  The rain perhaps kept people inside, but it was those few people we encountered that we we won’t forget.

PicMonkey Collage

As we approached one trio I commented to The Scout that they had been staring at us – the hard penetrating kind, not the curiosity gaze - from the moment we came into view.  As we neared them, I smiled and they raised their eyes, focusing on some far distant spot over our shoulders; as if we’d ceased to exist.

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Another trio stood talking on the sidewalk outside this church – until I paused to take photos of the façade. They quickly disbanded. (I took this photo to capture the bullet holes that you see in the upper right hand corner.)

PicMonkey Collage

In watching the news this week, I think back to the somewhat Pollyanna-like observation I made to The Scout as we walked back to the ship, “Gee, these people aren’t very friendly. They don’t even make eye contact or smile at us.”

To which he replied, “Think of their past.” 

Today, I wonder if it perhaps it wasn’t the past, but their present and future that caused their behavior?

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The last photo I took of our stop in Sevastopol was of the submarine off our side as we set sail.

Have any of your travels brought headlines home? Or did some place send you home with hauntingly detailed memories of it?

We’ll be back soon with more tropical tales for you. We appreciate your time and interest and would love to hear from you. And please come back again soon! 

Linking up:
Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox

Friday, October 1, 2010

Setting Sail

We are off to the Black Sea

We are off to the Black Sea.  The Westerdam is in port.  We will board in the early afternoon and set sail at 5 p.m.  We quite literally bumped into our Florida friends this morning on a Piraeus street corner. W.e met them on the Westerdam when we were assigned as table mates a few years ago; what a perfect way to renew a friendship aboard the same ship 
Contemplations are done - the cruise is about to begin.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Black Sea Medley

"Black Sea Medley" is the name given our 12-day cruise by Holland America . We'll be joining two thousand others on board its Westerdam setting out to explore ancient cities this fall.  The cities -- some we'd never thought of visiting before -- now tease our senses of adventure with images of exotic intrigue and tempt with explorations that will intoxicate our senses with new smells, sights, sounds and tastes.

We will set sail from Piraeus; the bustling port city near Athens.

We'll then travel to:
* Kusadasi, Turkey, gateway to the ancient city of Ephesus the once bustling seaport which might be called the religious center of early Christianity.
* Volos, Greece, at the foot of Mt. Pelion and featured in much Greek mythology.
* Thessaloniki, Greece, while the cruise line lists this as Greece's 2nd largest economic center (industry and commercial) I prefer to think of it as described in the Aug/Sept 2010 Saveur Magazine: "Greece's culinary capital,with an eclectic cuisine reflecting the proximity of Bulgaria and the other Balkan states (due North) and Turkey (to the East) as well as the city's key position on well-established trade routes between the Middle East and Europe."  Far more intriguing to me than 'industrial center'.
* Istanbul, Turkey, this magical city we visited for just a day on a 2008 cruise, was once called Byzantium then Constantinople. We arrive at noon one day and don't leave until nearly midnight the next. . .how many meals can we manage to eat during our time on shore?
          Morning coffee delivered to the room
* A day at Sea (to regroup the senses and diet after Istanbul) and not just any Sea Day as we will sail the Bosphorus and begin criss-crossing The Black Sea with stops at:
* Sochi, Russia with its Caucasus Mountains backdrop, is where the 2014 Winter Olympics will take place.
* Trabzon, Turkey - where the Byzantine and Ottoman eras are reflected in architecture throughout the town.
* Sinop, Turkey - offering one of Turkey's most beautiful natural harbors we are told, this was the birthplace of the cynic philosopher Diogenes.
*Sevastopol, Ukraine - we will be among the more than 500,000 visitors to this city each year and will see how many of its 1,800 historic monuments and memorials we can see during our stop.
* A Day at Sea en route to where we began:
* Piraeus, Greece

Next post we'll ponder what to do in the days before and after the cruise.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pacific Ocean to the Black Sea in a Day

We went from the Pacific Ocean to the Black Sea in a matter of hours; a move so swift for the glacially-researching Smith's that I still can't believe in two months we'll be cruising to destinations in Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and Greece. . .but that's how travel research and planning go sometimes with us.

The Research
For more than a year we've been looking for cruises that would include Sydney, Australia and New Zealand.  Either the ship's routing didn't appeal or the price was prohibitive. Then, some months ago, we began following the price fluxuations of a 30-day cruise from the U.S. West Coast to Sydney, with some Hawaiian and South Sea ports of call thrown in.  It tempted. The cruise price went down; we calculated the cost of the various airfares to get us back to Seattle and to San Francisco . . .we debated. . .'should we or shouldn't we?'. . . and then. . .

The Trip
Two days ago Joel was reading the latest cruise deals from Vacations To Go and he mentioned a 12-night Holland America cruise sailing this fall from Athens, Greece to ports of call that ring the Black Sea.  Price was good and the eight ports of call sounded exotic. We sent the cruise off to Cruise Compete, a website we've used before (and highly recommend) to price-compare this cruise.  We've learned price quotes do vary for the same category cabin on the same cruise.

By 5 p.m. we had booked our trip with Cruise Vacation Outlet, a company in Orlando, Fl, that submitted one of the best quotes we received in response to our Cruise Compete request; one that included a $175 on-board credit.

We'll be getting to Athens using a combination of frequent flier miles (it took some time to find something that didn't involve two plane changes and long waits along the way) and Europe's low-cost airlines.  We will fly Delta from Seattle to Amsterdam for air miles and $97US per person in taxes and fees.  After a couple nights there we'll continue to Athens.

Maybe we'll get to Australia next year. . .

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Peru and Chile Beckon

Fellow cruise enthusiasts from Camano Island, WA have booked a 23-day combination cruise/land trip to Peru and Chile this coming November.

They'll spend three days in Santiago, three in Rio de Janiero, cruise Cape Horn, Chilean fjords and Straights of Magellan, head to the Falkland Islands and into Uruguay.

The trip is being done in part with Grand Circle Tours ( and Holland America cruise line ( The price (including airfare from Seattle to Santiago and a return flight from Rio to Seattle) is just $129 per person, per day. They head out Nov. 15th. We will watch for trip reports from them.


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