Thursday, March 13, 2008

Our Last Group Photo.....minus one

Here we are except for Joel who was suffering from Mal de Mer...poor guy!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

March 3-5, 2008 We came into our last port around 2am and by 930am all the passengers and their piles of luggage were off the ship and another 1200 or so passengers were expected to arrive by 1:30pm. I don't know how they do it, but it is amazing! Very organized to say the least. We made our way safely and quickly out of the port thanks to Bob Oddone's pre-arrangement of 3 vans to ferry us to the Sheraton Rio in the Leblon area of Rio. It took us an hour as traffic here is crazy busy. After checking in and having lunch (yes, we are still eating!) we got on a Grey Line tour bus for a city tour and a ride to the top of Sugar Loaf. Wow- this city is beautiful and the setting is totally gorgeous. Everyone keeps telling us to be careful because of the high crime rate-and we can see the poverty in just the huge amounts of obviously poor people in the streets. As one Brazilian woman told me " The last five years everything has gotten worse and it shouldn't be as this country is so rich in resources." Here are a few shots....and one little movie...

View from the pool area of our hotel.

A glimpse of the famed Ipanema Beach
....taken on the tour bus

The Copacobana Palace.....priceless hahah

Going up to Sugar Loaf

At the top!

Reflection of famous Rio church
... Cathedral of Saint Sebastian

A little video from the top of Sugar Loaf

The next day we got on another Grey Line tour bus and made our way to Corcovado-what an amazing feat of engineering and sculpture. We then toured the huge city of Rio for a bit before coming back to the hotel. After lunch Russell and I lounged around the pool and basically took a chill pill while a lot of the group went on downtown to H.Stern's where some lovely purchases were made! I was very content to just be still in the sun! That night Pam treated all of us to cocktails (because she had won a Slot Machine Competition onboard and wanted to spend her winnings!)and afterwards everyone but us went to a Samba Dinner show and once again we stayed home. We were pooped! Pam will have to write about the show and I will slip it in here!
Earlier that day at lunch we had tried the very tasty local drink - Caipirinha So we had another! YUM.

The little train that took us
to the top of Corcovado

View from the top of Corcovado

The statue of Christo Redentor
perched atop Mt Corcovado

Russell and I having a pizza on our last day
We are celebratng the fact that we
are packed and ready to go!

This is where Russell and I
plus Sue and Connie C. spent
our last day. A little sun
a few drinks and some lunch!

During our last day most of us spent alot of time packing and getting ourselves mentally prepared for the very long journey home.
Pam, Harry, Keith and Patty had to leave at 10am for their early flight home.
However, Joel, Connie and Lou went downtown for one more round of shopping! Ouch!
Russell and I once again just chilled by the pool,as did Sue and Connie C. We all had one last lunch at the poolside restaurant and got to the airport at 7pm for our 11pm flight. Russell and I had to get there early to make sure we could replace our lost tickets. Fortunately we were able to do that, but it took two ticket agents about 45 minutes to do it! Whew. All of our flights were uneventful except for Connie and Joel who missed connections in Dallas because of weather-and didn't get home til midnight the next day. YOW. But, most importantly, we all got home safe and sound.
What an adventure!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Homeward bound

We are all checking out today and flying home except for Rick and Susan who flew out this am for Iguazu Falls! They will be there for two days and then back here for a few more days before finally going home on next Monday! Happy trails everyone and safe journeys to all!
Here's one last shot of Connie and Joel with Lou and Dee as they make their way to checking their baggage!

and another shot of just Dee and Connie in line- bon voyage everyone!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Last posting before we are in Rio

We have had high seas the last 48 hours or so and consequently lost
our satellite connection to the internet. Everyone is fine-some did get
seasick, but this morning the seas are back to moderate 4-7 foot swells
as opposed to the 15 foot or so swells we had yesterday.
Today is our last full day as we disembark at Rio de Janeiro tomorrow
If possible I will post while we are in Rio, but if not once we are home on Thursday I will go back and post all the photos I was unable to post because of the very poor internet connection. The cruise line charged 40 cents or more per minute for internet connectivity and it was poor at best. Tha is one thing they really do need to either improve or make less expensive. It's amazing how we depend on our emails!
Even out in the middle of the ocean.

Kathe here- a short video of the freighter next to us while going through 15 foot would 45 foot swells be? YOW....

More news from our Pam!

Hi again, This will probably be the last report from the ship as tomorrow is our last night aboard, and we disembark the 3rd in the morning. Boy, has the time gone by fast! But, as fun as it all has been, I know everyone will be glad to get home to familiar surroundings and share all the goodies and stories we have accumulated. After we left the Falklands, we had two at sea days, just cruising. The weather and seas have been basically calm. We fill the time with reading, giving money to the blackjack tables, listening to talks on the area and upcoming ports of call, walking the deck, and there are different classes that people participate in. I chose the cooking class, and there were 3 altogether. They seem to hold them while we have “sea” days. Lots of fun, just 12 people, hands on cooking,with one of the chefs onboard, Sheldon. We go to a show every night, and they have some great ones. Lots of music and singing, with a comedian in between, last night a violinist. The main event however seems to be stuffing our faces! We meet for breakfast between 8-9, chat, then off to do individual things, lunch can be at the dining room or buffet, and dinner is at 8 in the dining room. All the food is included in the price of the cruise, whether in the dining room or at the buffet. We just pay for drinks. Actually, I think it’s rather a good deal for the price. The food is wonderful and varied. They serve 6000 meals a day on this ship! Because of all the illnesses that can occur on a vessel of this size with all these people, measures are taken to avoid contamination. There are hand washing stations everywhere with that antiseptic liquid that you just rub on your hands and it disappears. They squirt it on your hands when you come and go from the ship and always before you eat or enter the dining rooms. So, in general, everyone has been very healthy, just fatter! Our next port was Buenos Aires, Argentina. A lovely city with beautiful old cathedrals, and lots of green areas. Very alive and vibrant with activity. Quite European actually. Kathe here- please note that I am just now adding photos to text written by Pam well over a week ago. We had issues with our internet service while onboard and I am slowly but patiently uploading images to go with Pam's fine descriptive words. I feel like Pam has been "Lois Lane-intrepid onsite reporter " while I have been "Jimmy Olsen -cub reporter and photographer" for our "Daily Rotterdam". Of course that means that Tom has been our "Superman-Tour Guide of the Year" !!!! Hahahah .....enjoy the photos and the finely written descriptions of our lifetime adventure! Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, Argentina Interior of building that housed a small shopping area where some of us found handmade treasures among other things! Recoleta Cemetery where Evita Peron is interred............ La Boca neighborhood........tourist trap by day and tourist danger by night... Joel doing the Tango...... and then there's Lou doing the! Patty and Keith......... doing their version of the Tango.......Mama Mia! We had a couple of city tours, and two great “shows.” One was at Senor Tango’s, a huge Vegas style club. Dinner and show. Well, we all just expected the usual, and maybe not so much from Buenas Aires. Were we wrong! We had a nice dinner, all the wine you could want, and were treated to one of the BEST shows I have ever seen! The music was fantastic with musicians of all ages, who could be in any world class orchestra. The group was small, maybe 6, but they put out the sound! The tango dancing, by about 12 people, was unbelieveable. The speed and precision of their steps, the costumes, their beauty as performers, was unsurpassed. We were treated to this spectacular show, alternating dancing and music, for three hours! Our butts were a little sore, but it was so worth it! I have a few pictures, but it really is something you have to see to believe. Perhaps one day this group will come and tour in the US so more people.can see it! The next day (kind of early after that night!) we piled in our nice comfy bus, and headed off to the pampas country outside the city, to visit a 5000 acre ranch. This ranch was started in the 1920’s by a couple from Ireland, who came in and bought 1 acre. Their family still runs it, and has turned this working ranch into a kind of museum and example of what a large working ranch does in Argentina. After being greeted with juice, wine, and empanadas (little meat pies), we wandered around to look at the area, the beautiful gardens, and the original house that had been turned in to a museum. We looked at the lovely things in the gift shop, as Argentina is known for its leather goods, and were then treated to a lunch and little show, with another example of tango and dancing with golf balls (that size, but of some other material) flung around at top speed at the end of ropes It was quite exciting! The meal was HUGE portions of homemade and barbequed sausages, chickens, steaks, salads, all the meat cooked on a gigantic barbeque (for 250 people), all the beer and wine you could drink, finished off with a sweet dessert and coffee. I’m still too full! This was all followed by an Argentinian horse game, where the dominant mare wears a bell and all the geldings (matched colors) followed her and the cowboy, doing whatever the cowboy told them to do. There were about 6 groups of 7 horses each. Really pretty! Then there was a game where the cowboys rode at top speed to grab a little ring off of a stick, and they would then take the ring to a lady in the crowd and give it to here in exchange for a kiss! When all of this was over, some of the gals got a ride with the cowboys, and of course our Susan was first! She has been quite the hit this trip! We came back to port, and set sail for Montevideo, Uruguay, where we stayed for one day. It rained like stink, but we took a city tour again. Uruguay is a very small country of about 3 million people, 1 ½ of whom live in the city. Probably the most lovely building of our tours was there, a building for the Congress. The marble work was just beautiful, and very unique. All of the countries we have visited, with any beaches, are certainly developing them for their citizens and tourists. Rightly so, because they are white sand and perfect for that sort of thing. However, their season is only about 3 months, and the rest of the year seems to have rather bad weather! From Montevideo, we are headed to Brazil and Rio. These are 2 sea days, and because we stayed up last night listening to shows, and visiting, we slept in! Went to a special lunch today at the Pinnacle Grill, which is very fancy. We had a gift certificate so it was free to us! FAB! Then off to 2 lectures, one on Rio and the other a talk from the ship’s officers, well really a questions and answers session. Interesting and informative. So tomorrow we will have to start packing up once again. I don’t know how everything is going to fit!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Weather is quite rough, and has been since we left Uruguay. Thank goodness Harry and I are not prone to seasickness, and the ones in our group who are, have the patches, which seem to work. When the ship pitches, the water in the on deck swimming pool, flies into the air, about 12 feet! Then it rolls down to one end of the pool and does the same thing all over. I wonder just how long the water will last! Tonight’s dinner is our last formal night and we are going to have a group picture taken on the grand staircase! I’m finishing up the last load of laundry, so need to go get it! Bye for now, hope you haven’t been too bored with all this, but someone has to be the reporter! We miss you all and can’t wait to see you, after this grand adventure! Hope all is well, and if I have time, I will write once again before we leave South America. Much love to you all, Pam and Harry ( You know that all of our fellow travelers say hi too!)

Monday, February 25, 2008

More travels with Pam

AND, here we are back again with an update and where and what! So, we left at traveling to the port of Ushuaia. Our sea travel has been (Harry is so disappointed) very smooth so far. He wanted some BIG waves and rough weather! Well, these far away towns are just fascinating. Names are interesting too. We have been going through a lot of fiords, seeing glaciers (that have been retreating over the years), and some sea life, although the Sea of Cortez seems to have a lot more activity! Some ports we tie up to a dock, and others we have tenders from the boat to the dock on land. These are really just the lifeboats that are used for this purpose. Lifeboats on this ship are NOT the lifeboats on the Titanic. These carry about 90 people in fairly comfortable and dry surroundings. I think one could survive almost anything in them.

Anyway, when we landed in Ushuaia, we took a tour that was wonderful. Almost all of us went, and we caught a bus to a little train station that takes you up to the mountains of Tierra del Fuego.

It was like a trip back in time, on a play train. The cars were tiny, two to a seat, and about 12 people per car. The country side was green and lovely, lots of wild horses (which were easy to see when you are only going 15 mph), lakes, flowers, all kinds of trees, and we even saw a busy beaver building his dam!

When we got to the end of the line, our bus met us and we proceeded on to see a couple of lakes, and learned about the history of the entire region. It was really a prison that started the town, and the prisoners were the ones who had to go into the mountains and harvest the trees to build their own prison and any shelter they needed. I’m sure lots of them froze to death, although we had a glorious day. Our guide was a little hard to understand, but really nice,like all of them have been, and gave us a grand tour.

Considering how far down we are in South America, the towns/cities, have been very up to date. This was a full day and as always, we spend the evenings at shipboard entertainment, which has been good and every night a different kind of act, big and small. We have been such a fun group together and everyone is enjoying each other. This was a special evening, as after dinner all of our friends joined us to send “mom and dad” on a trip that they always wanted to take. We said a hearty farewell, and tossed some ashes over the side! The moon was full and the ocean calm. Patty has a great picture of them floating away in the wake in the moonlight! It was perfect. The traveling is done a lot at night, and the ship must have really great radar, because we travel through fog and clouds a lot, on the ocean! The next day we “rounded the cape” and have a certificate to say so! The trip before us ran into huge seas, and we were treated to calm, albeit VERY unusual, seas. It was COLD, and I can see how the weather can change fast from one day to the next, or even from hour to hour. There is a VERY lonely outpost here, I guess just to monitor things. And, a beautiful monument with the albatross, to all the sailors who have passed by. After sailing around the Cape, we headed on the Falkland Islands! You all know those from the famous war that wasn’t, between Argentina and Britain where Argentina did many things wrong,including not dressing their troops correctly for the inclement weather! 10 weeks and that was it!

So, we arrived in Port Stanley and the ship anchored out and we were tendered in to the pier. Again, more penguin viewing. It was a beautiful, beautiful day, one of the 6 sunny, warm days they get all year! And that it the TRUTH! Ask any Falklander! We were driven out to the walking area, $10 round trip, and about a 2 mile walk along the cliff, with lots of penguins below, young and old, mostly molting, which means they can’t go into the sea. There was one just 5 feet off the path, so we have lots of photos to share! Then we went to a Pub and had fish and chips and finished the day off by shopping, as usual! I have to get all of my purchases from this trip together and see what I have. I just keep stuffing things in a drawer and I know there will be complaints if all the kids have different amounts of gifts, and that means the adults too! We all got on board the ms Rotterdam and about 4 pm started the long sail to Buenas Aires. I think it will be two days sailing. There is really a lot of ocean in this world! We have met lots of really nice people and such an international group. Last night we were entertained by a terrific singer, and a group of the crew(Phillipinos) who did songs and dances from their country. We’ve had ventrolquists, comedians, groups of dancers and singers, pianists, guitarists, just all kinds of talented entertainers. Today, the 25th, we had lunch with the captain (about 700 of us!) and saw a demo of flower arranging for the ships bouquets, then 4 of us attended our 2nd cooking class, and Harry gave $30 to the Blackjack table! Lots of people are playing bingo, scrabble, cards, pingpong, learning to line dance, the possibilities are endless! Some of us even take walks (3 ½ laps around the deck = 1 mile), and truly just enjoy the fresh ocean air. That’s about it and that’s enough for you to read anyway! Take care and we certainly would love to hear from any of you! Besos y abrazos, Pam and Harry please note that we are having problems with Holland Americas version of internet we are not able to post photos but can post stories....enjoy

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Cooking Class

Kathe and Russell wearing their official chef hats!

Chef Sheldon from Canada...a patient man!

Pam, Patty, Russell and I have been taking cooking classes while onboard. Sheldon, a Canadian chef onboard has been teaching us all sorts of yummy recipes to cook once we are home. One of the best parts is we get to eat up once we are done-as if we are starving on this ship! Ha ha.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Going Around the Horn

Here are our certificates for "rounding the Horn". It was an epic moment for me-a stellar and unforgetable day. How fortunate can one be?

A simply beautiful day ...with calm seas and sunshine.
Hard to believe we are here!

Below are some more photos taken on this lovely day.........

Bottom of the World Glaciers and Fiords


Hi Family and Friends,
Just checking in again. Internet is kind of busy with lots of other people and slow, so I type on Kathe’s laptop and she copies and paste’s it to the Internet. Thank you Kathe!
Well, we had a grand night, as is every night. After dinner each night, we have really good entertainment in the “Queen’s Lounge”. Pianist one night, guitarist one night, show girls one night, a comedian, and tonight I think it’s another showgirl stage show. It’s always different and always good fun.
So, our next port, if I am recalling correctly, was Porte Montt, Chile. All of these towns that we are hitting on the coast of Chili, are dependent on the fishing industry. Mostly salmon, some king crab (expensive!) and the areas are cold. Summertime is now,and I think they are lucky to see the sun occasionally. But, the countryside is really pretty.
Puerto Montt, when you get out of the town, as we do on our bus tours, is just beautiful. Kind of reminds us of northern California. Even the vegetation. We took about a 4 hour tour, just our group of 15, all over the place, and there were 2 huge lakes in the middle of the countryside, kind of like Tahoe. COLD! And yet some people are always in the water, and of course, the kids will swim in anything! Any temperature!

We stopped at a little ranch and petted llamas, and I had to find a little puppy to hold!

No pictures anymore, too hard and time consuming to download.
One of the most beautiful stops was a national park area. Huge boulders and cascading water. I think it would have been a class 12 on the rapid scale! And this is summertime and the water level very low. Lots of fish, and I bet a fly fisherman’s paradise.

The town of PM is rather like lots of others in the souvenir department. But, we have picked up a few little gifts for everyone. Many homemade woven and knit items.
Always very colorful.
The next day found us at a huge glacier, and we pulled right up in front for a photo op.

The day was glorius and chunks of ice floated in the surrounding seas. A sea lion camae up to see what was going on! The cruising is so lovely and relatively smoothe. Sometimes we can see land, in the fiords, and sometimes we are in the open sea. So far we have been lucky with the weather. The previous trip had weather going around the Horn, a 42 foot wave, and they instantly lost $150,000 worth of china, and lots of booze.
All the hot oil and condiments went flying on the upper deck. Lots of cleanup!
We docked at Punta Arena, which is one of the two most southern towns in the world.
Took one of my favorite tours, we went out to the summer penguins! Saw some emu’s along the way, wild! Got to the penguins after about one hour. We walked out to the area where they gather, on a wooden path. There is a colony of about 10,000. CUTE,CUTE! They are about 1 ½ feet tall, and there were some older babies that were losing their fluff. Lots of noise, and it’s so different, because they nest in the seagrass, not snow and ice! There are little trails through the grass and they mate and have their young in burrows. Lots of humping! They follow the leader in little groups as they come out of the grassy area to the water. Waddle, waddle!

Went back to the town, had lunch, shopped in the local square and tourist “traps”. They do tend to sell the same stuff town to town. But we were certainly glad they were selling some woolen scarves as it was VERY cold and VERY windy when visiting the penguin area.
Got back to the ship, and did some of our usual activities. Some people play games, others read, others sleep, walk around the deck (3 ½ laps equal one mile), and some of us took a cooking class (hands on), with one of the chefs on board. FUN!
Evening always finds our group in the beautiful dining room, and we have 2 tables right at the stern windows. Lucky us!

We have gone through more fiords and more glaciers, and are about to land at our port of Ushuaia which really IS the city furthest south in the world. We have a tour scheduled to last 4 hours, so it should be fascinating.
Not too much sea life, but lots of birds, some albatross,big and small.
So, this is the latest, all is wonderful, the ship just beautiful, and everyone is happy with this trip! We are a great group and meld wonderfully.
Will check in again, and remember someone, give our pups an extra hug and show them our pictures so they will remember us!
Much love to all, Pam and Harry

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Coming into Punta Arenas

We had to be up and at it early this am to meet up with our guides to Punta Arenas. I watched the tugs gently tuck our ship into it's berth.

Our tour bus never showed we managed to snag two enterprising free lancing
van drivers to take us out to Cena Otway. It ended up being the same cost as the original tour and since we had not paid up front we were not out any money.

On the way out we pulled over to view some unexpected wildlife...Rheas!

Maybe you know them as Emus?

Finally we arrive at Cena Otway and after a short walk in high winds we saw the little guys we had come to see.....they are so stinking cute!

Kathe here-this video was taken by Russell of the darling penguins-we think that the penguin feeding another is perhaps a mating ritual-not necessarily a parent feeding a baby.