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Azamara Cruise- two days at sea

While I am still not entirely sure where the idea of a “White Party” aboard cruise ships originated from, our sail away evening bash leaving Santos was amazing.

Awesome music tailored to the audience, a fantastic buffet of international cuisine, and spectacular decorations on the pool deck made it a night to remember.

A lovely hosted specialty dinner at Prine-C steakhouse aboard rounded out my birthday which happened to have Fallon on a sea day – complete with afternoon matinee of Mamma Mia here we go again (my favorite movie) and a DJ collage on the dance floor of ABBA Gold.

Despite rather rough seas, everyone of the 684 guests aboard loved the two days at sea for relaxation and enrichment (Spa, lectures, Trivia games and more).

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Azamara Cruise – Santos & Tupi-Garani native tribe

After a rather rocky night across the southern Atlantic, we approached the harbor of Santos (Brazilian football star Pele’s home-town). Pictures show you the approach and docking.

We then gathered as a group for a great excursion courtesy of supplier Bedsonline/TravelBound. Our day consisted of a community give-back with a native Indian tribe.

We visited the rural Rio Silvera area where we met with the Tupi-Guarani tribe for a cultural exchange. We practiced bow and arrow shooting, tasting of their local produce and much more.

Dishes consisted of heart of palm, cassava root, sweet potatoes and pineapple. Overall, the tribe is self-sufficient with local fruits and vegetables as well as chickens and Wilde game hunted as needed.

Our visit included a wonderful exchange of with the Elder’ daughter whom is the only one in the tribe that speaks Portuguese. We learned for example how the tribal structure works, how males and females are raised and educated and how they preserve traditions in a changing world. It was a fascinating experience that touched us all.

The event was rounded out with a lovely local lunch of grilled fish and a stew of chicken, rice and cassava coated banana. Simply delicious!

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Azamara Cruise – highlights of Rio

Long and quiet nights of solid rest are a rarity these days for many of us. Our arrival day presented such an opportunity with an early dinner before heading off to bed.

It refreshed everyone enough to tackle a day of exploration in Rio courtesy of #urbanadventures.

First order of business was a visit to the Brazilian Landmark of Christ the Redeemer. Unfortunately for us, the funicular that takes millions of visitors up and down the mountain every year broke. That many a lengthy bus ride to the visitor center and queuing up for the National Park shuttle.

Once on top of the mountain, the views were magnificent and they made us all forget the wait. The first image is of Lori Goldspiel, Kelly Ross (both from Azamara) and myself being redeemed, so to speak. The remaining images are the views of the city of Rio below. From the north with Maracanã, to the west with Copacabana beach to the south with Ipanema beach.

Down hill, we stoped in the Santa Teresa neighborhood for pao de queis (cheese puffs) made from Tapioca flour. To wash it all down, we were treated to açaí sorbet and a caipirinha a short while later. Recall the yellow trans? They are modeled after Rio’s big sister city Lisbon. All of this area is super-charming and a must to discover. Read about our last stop in my next blog.

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Azamara Cruise – pilgrimage to Maracanã

No visit to Rio would be complete without a pilgrimage to the “stadium of stadiums” – the legendary home of Brazilian Footbol commonly referred to as Maracanã.

Built for the 1950 World Cup,
Maracanã, officially called Estádio Mário Filho, was built to serve as the flagship venue. It was meant to become the biggest football stadium in the world with 179,000 capacity.It is estimated that 200,000 watched the 1950 Final in the stands.

Complete renovation for the 2014 World Cup saw the installation of seats and a reduction to 79,000 capacity. Despite the reduced capacity, Brazil was favored to play the final here. Alas, a humiliating 7 to 1 defeat against Germany in the semifinals, Brazil’s Maracana curse continued.

The stadium witnessed the Argentina – Germany game that ended 0-1 in the European‘ favor.

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Thankful for another great travel season

As I woke up on this Thanksgiving morning and am reflecting on another great travel season. Many thanks go through my head.

Thanks to all whom either joined in on journeys or lived through them vicariously on this blog. The Oktoberfest group I organized this fall at Crystal World of Swarovski in Wattens, Austria.

Thankful to all the Airline and airport staff that got us to destinations far and wide in time and safe. Standing in for all the United, Delta, and American staff everywhere is the crew of Norwegian at the SFO ribbon cutting this fall

Thankful to new discoveries in lands I know well. Above is a view of the stunningly beautiful German town of Tuebingen which I have passed through for decades on my way to my grandma’s place nearby but never stopped. This September, my beloved cousins Evelyn and Markus took us there. What an eye opener it was for me!

Thankful to foreign lands we discovered together. One of many highlights this year was our visit to Angkor Wat in Siem Reap Cambodia. Greg and I were fortunate to stroll through this massive temple complex with a private guide. It was a fantastic trip of many firsts in a land that captured both of our hearts.

Thankful to dishes worth traveling for. Food tourism is a thing I subscribe to. From simple, yet unbelievably delicious pasteis de Belem to chef Nobu’s tuna tartare and the “best egg dish’ ever, these flavors and experiences are worth traveling for. The eggs by the way, are served at the Reverie Hotel in Saigon.

Thankful to those whom came before us. For the World at large, NO place embodies this better than the landing beaches of Normandy where the USA and its allies began operation Overlord” on D-day 75 years ago. For our family it was an April weekend in Carmel to commemorate a loved one no longer with us.

Reminiscing is one half, planning the next adventure completes the cycle. The sun set on Sydney, Australia and rises tomorrow Black Friday in Rio de Janeiro as I begin another adventure. A Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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30 years have passed since the world changed

It was an emotional Saturday for me – November 9th 1989 was the night that changed the world. Hard to believe it’s been that long and yet, it feels like it was yesterday!To my loyal readers, befor going on about that historic night, I apologize for the silence on my part for the past weeks. Due to a technical issue with the WordPress app on my phone, I could not upload posts. That is now fixed. No one could have imagined that the wall would actually come down. Yes, Ronald Reagan asked Soviet premier Gorbatchov for it in his famous address at the Brandenburg Gate, but it seemed a pipe dream only.

Then, after weeks of unrest and protests, first a few, then hundreds of East Getmans were allowed across to the West via Hungary into Austria in the summer and fall of 89.

The momentum built and then,!on that fateful November night, the GDR polit bureau speaker made a colossal mistake announcing the border to the west was open immediately.

The gates opened and overnight tens of thousands crossed, hugged loved ones, and celebrated a new word “Freedom”.

I remember this day so vividly as it impacted my Oma and her twin-sister personally. To put this day in perspective, from my vantage point it matches in emotional intensity only two other life-changing events – the day I met Greg and the night my mom died.

November 9 1989 was the first day of something new, a beginning of sorts that, no matter the divisions, enshrined that we are all better off together. Sure there are problems still today, but no one wants to go back to the divided Berlin of yore.

Remember this day and share your story with your friends and family.

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Ode to a bygone era – the IAA Frankfurt Car show is dead

I have been making frequent pilgrimages to this semi-annual event since 1985, including today.

Gone is the grandeur of the powerful German makes displaying their newest models and show cars, complete with engine models and tons of visitors crowding the stands.

Back in 1985 – when Volkswagen unveiled the Golf Gen 2, the world stopped to take notice. It was a big deal!

Not so today. Take Mercedes for example, I almost didn’t recognize their hall when I walked in. This normally decked out space was a mere shadow of itself. Empty uncovered bleachers were visible where ornate displays once stood. I counted a total of 8 cars on display- the rest was virtual reality games and autonomous driving on an ice rink – how real World is that I wonder.

While much smaller than in past years, BMW’s space was innovative and showed courage of its brand design direction. Even though the space is now shared with Opel, Hyundai and Jaguar, there was a vibe at least and lots of cars and technology on display.

Chief among them the controversial BMW 4 series concept ( see photo’s above).

In the end, dropping attendance and a shift by car makers to more controllable events like Pebble Beach are nailing the coffin of car shows closed.

I am glad I got to witness the fantastic days of car shows and I will cherish them. Electrification is tge way to go yet, I will forever remain a petrol head.

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Last chance – Oktoberfest calling!

A basket full of freshly baked pretzels…

to go with delectable Bavarian treats like Obadtza (Brie, butter, & paprika), smoked meats and cheeses, best washed down with one of the five official Oktoberfest breweries special edition beers. That is what awaits you as one of many highlights on my exclusive tour of Switzerland and Germany this September.

It all starts on September 22nd at the quaint Swiss airport in Zurich. The call of an alphorn awaits as we tour my birthplace of Berne, taste and watch the making of Gruyere cheese, ride a paddle wheel steam boat, and hike the Bernese Oberland (optional).

Carefully crafted by yours truly to provide a balanced and well paced experience to a small group of guests, this unique trip is your chance to explore this magical alpine wonderland complete with a ride on the UNESCO world heritage train the Glacier Express.

Our smallgroup consists of gregarious colleagues, acquaintances, and their friends and we are inviting you to join in the fun. It so happens that a few seats remain for this once-in-a-Liftetime opportunity but you must act fast as I need to return unsold spots by end of July.

Interested? Email today to secure your spot.

Sharing this post in your circle of friends is greatly appreciated and welcomed.


Trip dates: September 22 to October 1’19

Start: Zurich, Switzerland

End: Munich, Germany

Spots left: 4 ( 5 if a single traveler)

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Caribbean in June – St. Thomas & St.Maarten

A full day at sea later and we pulled into Port Amalie in St.Thomas. As this was my third visit to the island I chose to stay on board. Even two years after devastating hurricane Maria there is still damage visible in this tiny island. It is cruise ship guests that bring economic activity sustaining the recovery and this ships guests was actively supporting it with tons of shopping.

With the cruise halfway done, it is high time to report back on cuisine. The ship has been thoroughly renovated since my last time aboard with updated dining venues (Steamers and Plank) as well as updated Sabatini’s Italian. Last night however, we were treated to Crown Grill steakhouse.

Crab cake followed by fillet and a desert medley all exceeded expectations and were well worth the cover charge.

The night ended with a dance party called 24 carat gold. Passenger old and young had a blast!

Tge next morning we were in the Dutch part of St.Maarten for a short stroll in the tropical heat and humidity.