2020-01-23-Viking Sea-southern Caribbean · Key Blogs

Viking Ocean Cruise – Caribbean calling

Red-eye behind us, my travel companion Jerry and I connected for the second leg from Philadelphia to San Juan, PR aboard American Airlines flight 1496.

It was nip & tuck as I had to sprint from gate c5 to a20 across what is a maze at PHL airport. AND wouldn’t you know it – a mechanical has us still sitting on the plane at the gate.

On arrival in San Juan, we caught an Uber (note tha Lyft is not operational here) and made it to old town to board our ship for the week- the Viking Sea.

(See picture above – courtesy of Jerry’s window seat. Viking Sea is the smallest ship on the left).

Stay tuned for more on the ship and experience over the coming days. With our red-eye flights, we called it an early night.

Key Blogs

New Decade – New Luggage

2020 has arrived and with it a new decade of adventure and discovery!

2019 ended for me with 134,526 miles flown, 3 continents visited, and 9 different cruise ships sailed.  That is why I took a bit of a holiday break from blogging and enjoyed quality time with family and friends at home in the San Francisco Bay Area.

img_3861With half of January over, I am definitely itching to hit the road and embark on new adventures this spring. To celebrate the new decade, I sprung for new luggage after my loyal companion REI suitcase lost its wheels on my last adventure aboard Azamara Pursuit.

After lots of research and feedback from friends and colleagues, I chose two different sizes of AWAY luggage.  The smaller is a US carry on and the larger one is their Middle-sized one.  Both have built in dividers, solid hard-shell casing and a life-time warranty.

Know that this is not an advertisement for AWAY nor are they sponsoring this blog or anything like that.  I chose them for their reputation, quality and ultra-light weight.  Among the many colors, I picked dark blue not by choice but due to the fact that this was all that was left in matching colors from the holiday rush. Over time, as these pieces get used, I will update you on my satisfaction with them.

2020-Spring Travel plansFrom the map above, you can see that my travel early 2020 schedule will take me to the Southern Caribbean (next week on Viking Ocean), to the Bahamas in February (on Regent Seven Seas), then off to Austria for the Virtuoso Symposium Conference.  To top it all off, late March/early April I will board the brand new Celebrity Apex in Southampton and then train from Amsterdam to Germany to join the the naming ceremony for river ship Avalon View.  The View will then end her festivities in Budapest before I fly back to home.

Follow me along as I embark on another decade of travel and discoveries around the world. I am ready to go…are you?

Key Blogs

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).

Key Blogs

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!

Key Blogs

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.

Key Blogs

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.

Key Blogs

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!

Key Blogs

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.

Key Blogs

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.