Sailing onward to destination Bermuda – West End

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We’re on a three-week cruise celebrating our 50th anniversary, along with the Caribbean Princess Cruise Line!

Our journey so far, after a delayed start from Houston due to severe weather, took us to Port Everglades in Florida (See my first post in this series.)

Trying to make up for lost time, the Caribbean Princess sailed away during the wee hours of the morning on Thursday, April 21, leaving Port Everglades in our wake and headed for the next port destination, West End – Bermuda.

Just call us lazy because for the past few days we have requested breakfast delivered to our room to enjoy as we watched a little news on TV, and kept current on the ship’s course. We decided to take our paperbacks out to the deck chairs for some contemplation and relaxation. We have settled into our lazy days, gourmet meals and live entertainment every evening.

Tonight will be our first formal evening, so we made sure that we had our party clothes ready to go to the Coral Dining Room on this always-fun occasion. The dinner was a culinary delight, unfortunately, I felt ill a while later and stayed in my room the remainder of the night. These things do happen and it’s a good idea to pack Imodium for such occasions. The next day is Friday and I thought it best to take it easy and do some reading on the balcony, which is really an awesome alternative! The weather is in the 70’s, mild and pleasant. The views of the Atlantic are spectacular in its deep, aqua-blue sereneness.

The Caribbean Princess is back on schedule. Today we would prepare for our arrival in West End Saturday morning April 23 around 7 a.m., by watching a presentation on Bermuda. The island offers glass-bottom boat rides, an aquarium, museum, zoo and several golf courses, plus lots of beaches and water adventures! We were planning a tour on our own and take a boat ride from West End to Hamilton, then take a bus back to the port area, or vice versa, with our friends Don and Margie.

This island is quite spectacular! As we near our destination, from our ship we can see the British Royal Navy WWII staging area in our sights. The weather is perfectly pleasant and in the 70’s.image

West End, Bermuda, is a bustling place full of tourists, buses and traffic. Buses have the right of way here, where every possible post boasts a sign that says, “Give way to buses!” I wonder what’s the rush, as buses fly by.image

Once in town, we walked the streets and found shopping malls, churches and restaurants. The history here is British, so traffic drives on the left, which makes American’s uneasy to say the least. There are narrow, winding streets, so our bus ride was pretty much like a fast ride at DisneyWorld. I could see pedestrians hopping out of our path as we barreled through, barely missing bus stops!

The City Hall and Arts Building caught our attention with its pristine white exterior and clock tower — very British!

Our walking tour led us to a church with beautiful stained-glass windows and tall steeple. The Anglican Church of Bermuda, Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, was consecrated in 1911. Beautiful!image

Walking around West End was exhausting on sloping streets, and often the walkway would lead to steps down to the next street level.

We decided to stop for a beer and snack at a restaurant with outside tables – Bone Fish Bar & Grill. Here was the best place to do some people watching, and enjoy our cold drinks during the heat of the day, which was still only in the 80’s.image

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Our boat ride across the bay by water taxi was uneventful, although the scenery was well worth the effort.image

We left West End, Bermuda, thinking that for a tropical island, this one’s climate was not too hot to enjoy the surroundings — I give it an A+. I would like to return for a longer visit one of these days…

The Caribbean Princess would now set its course for Liverpool, England. Yes, that means we won’t see land for about a week on this trans-Atlantic voyage.

(You are reading the second post in a series depicting my travels on the Caribbean Princess ship for three weeks from Bayport Cruise Terminal in Houston, Texas, to Ft. Lauderdale, Bermuda, Liverpool, Wales, Hamburg, Le Havre/Paris and South Hampton/London in the spring of 2016.)

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Weathering the unexpected on a three-week cruise!

jel_1523r_01Being flexible and packing lots of patience is the key!

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Storm closes the Houston Ship Channel

Storm closes the Houston Ship Channel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our three-week 50th anniversary celebration cruise would take us to Fort Lauderdale FL, West End Bermuda, Liverpool England, Holyhead Wales, Hamburg Germany, Le Havre/Paris and ending in South Hampton/London.

Elated and excited, our hopes and expectations are very high, as we maneuver through embarkation on the Caribbean Princess on April 17, 2016. Coincidentally, the Caribbean Princess is also celebrating its 50th anniversary!

It was 12:30 on a Sunday afternoon. Our good friend Tom dropped us off at the Bayport Cruise Terminal, since paying to park for three weeks was not an option for us. We checked our bags; checked in with passports; got our Cruise Cards, and boarded the ship.

As usual, they require that you stop for your first onboard photo, before you take off on your own to discover the ship. We had three weeks ahead of us on this gorgeous vessel, where we planned to relax, be entertained and served gourmet meals every day. We also knew that we had several excursions already booked (online) and we were very excited for each one!

Little did we know that our ship would not set sail until more than 24 hours later! More about that saga in due time…

Our bags arrived in our balcony cabin in no time at all. A Happy Anniversary poster on our door, along with balloons, greeted our arrival! “Princess Patter, your daily guide to life at sea” awaited us as well. In this newspaper, you can find any and all information you need for each hour of the day or night. Such as how to dress, where to eat, movies and times, stage shows, how to connect to the ships Wi-Fi, the names of your captain and other VIP crew members. This wealth of information made life onboard a little easier.

We decided to get lunch in the Horizon Court Buffet before doing our self-guided tour of the ship. One thing we found out quickly is that it’s a huge ship! It’s sad to think that this would be the very last time the Caribbean Princess would depart from the Bayport Cruise Terminal, as the terminal is set to close in the very near future. It seems that the Houston Ship Channel is extremely busy, and the possibility of problems arising any minute that would interfere with cruise ships’ schedules is enough to deter them.

After lunch we started our tour and discovered that on deck 15 Midship, Movies under the Stars was showing a Billy Joel concert, followed by a Bon Jovi Concert and an Elton Jon Concert. The cruise staff was preparing for the bon voyage party. 

Our departure time from port was scheduled for 4 p.m. The entire east Texas coast and vicinity was under a severe weather watch and we learned from Captain Bommarco that 65 passengers had missed their flights from Dallas, and we would wait until 8 p.m. for them to arrive and board. (Later, he adjusted that timeline to 1 a.m. due to the weather, high winds and rough seas.)

At 5:15 p.m. that day, which is our scheduled dinner time, we met up with our friends Don and Margie and two other dining couples who would be regulars at our table each evening in the Coral Dining Room. Surprise! We enjoyed a wonderful anniversary celebration surprise – cake, song and a glass of wine! The wait staff at our table was always attentive and friendly, making us feel very special.

My husband bought a Wi-Fi package. Yay!

Since the weather was bad, we decided to watch a movie in our cabin and await our 1:00 a.m. departure time, according to the captain. The waves lulled me to sleep that night.

We couldn’t believe we were still docked at the Bayport Cruise Terminal when we awoke the next morning. The delay was due to tremendous storms over the entire Houston/Galveston area, with high winds, flooding and tornado warnings, forcing the ship channel to close. Thankfully, we were safe onboard our ship at port during the tremendous storms.

Finally, about 2:30 on Monday afternoon, April 18, the Houston Port Authority reopened the ship channel, and we’re finally on our way across the Gulf of Mexico toward our first port, Fort Lauderdale. Now we understand why the cruise lines are not happy with the Houston Ship Channel.

The Amazing Spiderman movie was scheduled for the outside Movie under the Stars that afternoon, but I’m pretty sure that the weather prevented folks from enjoying it. There are plenty of other things to do inside where it’s dry. With so many activities going on at any given hour, there’s something for everyone!

After breakfast at the buffet, we explored the ship further, had lunch, explored some more, then dinner and the day was almost gone. After dinner we made our first visit to the Grand Casino, which could not open until the ship was in international waters. In fact, none of the onboard shops could open until then either! The Gulf of Mexico is very rough now and the ship has picked up speed, causing it to rock and roll along.

My husband bought a coffee card! Yay!

We are celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary, so you won’t find us going to the clubs and bars at night often. There are usually very good movies showing on the ship or on TV in our room, and we generally chose this option, after going to catch a stage show in the Princess Theater. The point is that you make your own schedule at your own pace. That’s the best thing about cruises!

By Tuesday morning we had sailed out of the storm, and we awoke to a beautiful sunrise! Pink skies and calmer waters! This day would be laid back, enjoying the meals, the entertainment and the casino.

That night we cozied up for Theater under the Stars and watched the movie “Concussion.” We decided to skip our dinner group and opted for burgers and fries with beer, while watching the movie. It’s a great way to spend the evening, watching the sunset and the first star of the night. I made a wish, of course!

Due to the nearly 24-hour departure delay out of the Houston Ship Channel, our schedule was really off. We arrived in Port Everglades/Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday in the afternoon, not that morning as was previously planned. All shore excursions had been cancelled and could not be rescheduled, however, refunds were issued. Therefore, we did not go ashore at Port Everglades, but we did get a good look at the port area and surroundings from deck. There were lots of yachts and sailing vessels of all sizes and enormous, elaborate homes by the water. Our plans to tour South Beach, Miami, would have to wait until another time.

Fort Lauderdale is known as the Yachting Capital of the World. The fort was constructed in 1838 and the city was incorporated in 1911. There was a population of more than 165,000 in 2010. The area has been occupied by natives as far back as 4,000 years! It’s famous for its weather, beaches (7 miles), the Everglades, the inter-coastal waterway and cuisine, and it’s located only 20 miles from Miami’s South Beach.

We had made dinner reservations in the Crown Grill for Wednesday evening, where we met up with Don and Margie. The filet mignon was perfect! Sometime during the morning hours, after 2:00 a.m., we left Fort Lauderdale, Port Everglades, and headed for West End (Bermuda).

I’ll pick up my story here in my next blog, as I write about our adventures from port to port in the spring of 2016 during a three-week 50th anniversary cruise. Until then…

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Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, FL

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Movies under the Stars

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How many miles from Texas to Singapore?

We set sail on The Mariner of the Seas on April 21 on a 41-day journey to the other side of the world — From Galveston, Texas, to Singapore!
In my blog, I’ve tried to give an up-close and personal experience for my readers — taking them along for the ride to 10 countries and 13 ports of call.
I hope that each description of our excursions helped to make the journey real for my readers.
This cruise consisted of three, two-week cruises…each one spectacular in its own way.
It was amazing how the miles seemed to go by so quickly, even though the average speed of the ship was about 18-20 knots.
We were amazed as we checked on the ship’s TV channel daily to see the speed, sea depth, and total distance from the last port.
The first leg of the cruise was from Galveston to Barcelona, which totaled 5,456 nautical miles. From Barcelona to Dubai, we covered another 5,048 miles. On the third and final two-week cruise from Dubai to Singapore, which ended on June 1, a total of 3,693 nautical miles were logged.
Drum roll please! Our 41-day cruise from Galveston to Singapore equaled a combined total mileage for the entire journey of: 14,197 nautical miles!!!
At around 1:00 a.m. on June 2, we boarded Emirates Air for our flight back. It took seven hours to fly from Singapore to Dubai, with about 4-4.5 hour layover in Dubai. We left Dubai on an 18-hour flight straight to Houston, for a total return trip time of 29 hours!
This would explain why my internal clock is still mixed up, and why I’m dreaming about far away, exotic lands.
Until next time…
(Look for a link to Trilla’s Travels at http://www.ourtribune.com)

Docked in Singapore, here is my last glimpse of the Mariner -- I'm going to miss her!

Docked in Singapore, here is my last glimpse of the Mariner — I’m going to miss her!


We were surprised to see our flight path back to Houston!

We were surprised to see our flight path back to Houston from Singapore, via Dubai!

Final destination – Singapore

Singapore -- Look up Feng Shui and you'll find Singapore!

Singapore — Look up Feng Shui and you’ll find Singapore!

Saturday, June 1, 2013 – Day 12 of 3rd cruise
We had anticipated this moment for the past 41 days, yet it arrived like in a dream. Could our transatlantic cruise actually be coming to an end? How can we ever possibly repack all our belongings into our meager luggage? How long will it take to get back to the U.S.A.? Does anyone really know what time it is? We have only known “ship time” since our departure in Galveston on April 21. And that seems like eons ago!
But let’s take first things first! We are disembarking The Mariner of Seas for the last time this morning, and we are booked on a four-hour excursion in Singapore, before heading to the airport. A bitter-sweet occasion!
Let me first say that I thought I knew what a hot, humid climate was like. We have lived in the Houston suburbs since 1985 and the summers there are brutal. But nothing prepared us for the climate in Singapore.
With that said, let me now concentrate on the City/Island of Singapore! Please don’t let a little heat and humidity deter you from visiting this great island city! After all, if you look on a map, you’ll see that the equator is not that far from Singapore, so what else can one expect?
The city is jaw-droppingly beautiful, with the Singapore River running through it. My first impression was the feeling of serenity that is emitted here. I later learned from our tour guide that the city prides itself on harmony and balance using the art of Feng Shui. I wasn’t aware that I was sensitive to Feng Shui, but now I know – it really, really works! Here in Singapore it works on a grand scale, with buildings, skyscrapers, parks and gardens all existing in harmony along the river – I was amazed! The city is striving to add more green spaces and has pledged to be a “City within a Park” rather than having a park within the city. I do like their thinking!
Our air-conditioned motor coach drove us over the Singapore River and down Shenton Way, which is commonly known as Asia’s Wall Street, through the exotic quarter of “Little India,” where visitors can find aromatic spices and everything from saris to intricate ornaments. We also observed the grandiose grounds of the Raffles Hotel.
As we toured the city, we took in the beautiful skyline of modern architecture, and enjoyed Dutch, Colonial and Chinese influences. In historic Chinatown, we observed architecture from a by-gone era.
The Botanical Gardens in Singapore, which encompasses the world’s largest orchid collection, features 60,000 plants displayed in a natural setting. My clothes were soon drenched and perspiration ran off my face in rivers! We heard that it’s best to do the night visit at the zoo – I would advise it.
When our city tour had ended, it was time to be dropped off at the Singapore Airport – by far the nicest airport terminal I’ve ever visited.
With a few hours to wait for our departure, we dined and shopped and recharged our mobile devices. From the time our plane left Singapore, until we arrived in Houston, 29 hours will have passed. Can you say “jet lag?”
Thanks for coming along on our transatlantic journey of a lifetime from Galveston to Singapore in 42 days. The Mariner of the Seas became our retreat and our playground, but there’s no place like home! We traveled to 10 countries and stopped at 13 ports along the way, and it truly was amazing! After Penang, our second stop in Malaysia was Port Klang; however, we opted not to tour Kuala Lumpur in order to get ready to leave the ship the next morning. This was the only port we did not participate in an excursion, although we had booked one, but later cancelled it.
Please come back to Trilla’s Travels soon, as I plan to blog about the long flight home and other travel observations.
I also hope to travel and blog again in the near future – destinations to be announced!
Look for a link to Trilla’s Travels at http://www.ourtribune.com.
Chinatown is a must-see in Singapore

Chinatown is a must-see in Singapore


National Orchid Gardens in Singapore

National Orchid Gardens in Singapore

Sights in Singapore

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Malaysia – A Taste of Penang

View of Penang from port

View of Penang from port


As our 41-day transatlantic cruise on The Mariner of the Seas from Galveston to Singapore comes to and end tomorrow, we find ourselves in Malaysia! It’s beautiful and tropical – a virtual paradise of 13 states and three territories, where 29 million people live! And we’re told there are twice as many vehicles!
Yesterday, we took a brief excursion from the ship into the City of Penang, where we observed modern architecture mixed with many cultural designs from the past.
Penang once named Prince of Wales Island by the British, who turned the island into a Crown Colony. With thousands of immigrants with ethnic diversity, it became the “Pearl of the Orient,” and today it is known as a Gourmet Paradise! The people here love to eat and they are famous for their recipes – from Chinese to Thai and Indian.
We stopped at Wah Thai Native Products market, where locals buy their white coffee, Bakuteh (herbal pork soup), Chikuteh (herbal chicken soup), nutmeg and clove oils and Tar Sar Phea (green bean biscuit). We bought white coffee, dark chocolate, herbal tea and nutmeg candy!
We drove through the capitol and charming, historic district of George Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and visited a local mall, which included a McDonald’s!
Our tour took us down Harmony Street, which is appropriately named. Along this street there are many Christian churches, Hindu Temples and Chinese Buddhist Temples, to name a few. Among the Christian churches were Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Seventh Day Adventists, and a few others that I missed. It is pleasing to know that freedom of religion of all kinds is alive and well here on Harmony Street. And wouldn’t it be nice if that could be said of the rest of the world?
By the way, the largest Chinese Buddhist Temple in Malaysia can be found in Penang, better known as the Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas. And the Thai Buddhist Temple houses the 4th largest reclining Buddha in the world. Although these temples were not on our excursion, I talked to some passengers who visited them and were very impressed!
The Mariner of the Seas is docked at Port Klang today, which is not even close to Kuala Lumpur. We had scheduled a 7-hour excursion to KL (KL is what the local call Kuala Lumpur) but we cancelled it in order to get ourselves ready to disembark early tomorrow (Saturday) in Singapore, where we will have the whole day to tour. If possible, I’ll post a blog from the airport about our visit to Singapore.
When this trip is over and Wi-Fi is no longer a problem, I plan to post more photos and bits of information from the cruise highlights and ports of call.
Thank you for coming along on this journey of a lifetime with me, which is sadly coming to an end. And thank you to my husband who has been a wonderful travel companion and photographer!
See you on our final stop in Singapore tomorrow, Saturday, June 1.
Look for a link to Trilla’s Travels at http://www.ourtribune.com.
(Photos by T.Cook and E.D.Cook)
Old meets new in Penang

Old meets new in Penang

The people are friendly in Cochin, India!

caption id=”attachment_2398″ align=”alignright” width=”300″]St. Francis Catholic Church in Cochin, India St. Francis Catholic Church in Cochin, India[/caption]

Sunday, May 26 – Day 6 of the 3rd cruise

There are a lot of people in India! That’s no secret, but the friendliness of the locals here might be.
Today is Sunday, so when we stopped at St. Francis Catholic Church (circa 1500’s) on our tour, mass was in progress. Just as in Goa, they said it was OK to have a look inside the door.
India is still a third-world country but they are making progress in many ways. A usual sight that was surprising to me was their use of motor scooters as a “family” vehicle. More than once, I saw a dad, mom and child all riding on the same scooter, weaving in and out of traffic. I know this can’t be safe, but it means they are a mobile society and are determined to get around in an extremely crowded world – one way or another! At least, this is how I try to think of it, and pray that they are safe.
The utility poles might not be up to our standards, but it does the job and brings this society into modern times. I cringed just to look at all those exposed wires!
This was our second port stop in India – Cochin – said to be the “Queen of the Arabian Sea,” as it was the first European colonial settlement in India. Being located on the spice route, it became an important trading center and joined the Indian Union in 1947, bringing dynamic change.
Here is a hub for spices, textiles, rugs and semiprecious-stone jewelry. Also, teakwood is imported from Malaysia for manufacturing, such as furniture.
The Portuguese left their mark here in architecture among other things, as well as the Dutch and British, giving a European feel. We were amazed as we saw that the seashore was lined with fishermen using the centuries-old fishing method – Chinese boats and nets. The fish market is located near the historic remains of Fort Cochin, with only a stone wall remaining. DO NOT go near the fish markets if you’re sensitive to foul odors! Oh, my!
Our group also took a tour of Jew Town, which was once occupied by local Jewish people, and now consists of souks – anything and everything Indian is for sale! We also visited the Mattancherry Palace and Pazhayannoor Baghavathy Temple.
Goodbye, India! You have gifted me with many intriguing, visual memories, both in Cochin and in Old Goa. Good luck to you in your future!
The Mariner of the Seas will now head east into the southern Bay of Bengal and Adaman Sea, said to be historic and strategic waters. Trade along the seas on this cruise through Malaysia included spices, opium, tea, gold and more.
Penang is our next port in three days…sees you there!
Look for a link to Trilla’s Travels at http://www.ourtribune.com.

Chinese fishing boats on seashore in Cochin, India

Chinese fishing boats on seashore in Cochin, India

Utility pole in Cochin

Utility pole in Cochin

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On the road to Old Goa

Se Cathedral

Se Cathedral

Friday, May 24 – Day 4 of 3rd cruise
Coconut palms swaying on the beaches, topical climate and historical landmarks – would you believe we’re in Goa, India? Our short tour of this third-world city was one we’re glad we got to see.
We were told to obtain visas to visit India when we first booked our transatlantic cruise from Galveston to Singapore. No visas were needed for Nassau, Portugal, Spain, Egypt, Jordan, Malaysia or Singapore…only India.
Next we were told that in order to go ashore in India, we would need to interview with an Indian representative and obtain a land pass before leaving the ship. On the day before our arrival, this process took guests, on average, more than 1.5 hours to complete, which took a little bit of wind from our sails for the idea of visiting India in sweltering heat and humidity .
But we did! Our first excursion took us to Old Goa, which served as the Portuguese colonial capital at one time, and a drive-thru of the new capital, Panjim City.
The bus took us through villages and towns along a very narrow and winding road on the way to Old Goa! Here we saw many farm animals roaming free and the traffic was really scary…either our bus driver was lousy or it’s just the way of the road here. Horns were blaring at all times as cars and motorcycles passed our bus, while oncoming traffic was eminent! This was also my first experience in traffic that drives on the left side of the road! Yikes!
Now for the tour — The Portuguese ruled Goa for 450 years, and built many churches in the 1500-1600’s. The churches in Old Goa were modeled after some of the big European churches of the time, and rivaled them in size.
Of these renowned churches, the most impressive was Basilica de Bom Jesus. Visitors to this church are mainly interested in a precious relic – the body of Saint Frances Xavier (1562) – which lies in a silver casket, partially exposed. Our tour guide told us that “Bom” means “Good” in Portuguese, which explains the name of the church.
On the day and time of our visit to Bom Jesus, mass was being held; however, we were allowed to look around inside the church during mass, and those who wanted could view the relic.
We also toured the grounds of Se Cathedral and St. Cajetan Convent, where we observed their historical value and reverence. A total of nine grandiose churches were built in Old Goa.
Our drive through Panjim City was after dark, and we could see that this is where everyone goes for nightlife. People and vehicles bustled in every part of the city!
Our second stop in India will take us to Cochin on Sunday, so I’ll be back with that report soon.
Look for a link for Trilla’s Travels at http://www.ourtribune.com.
Basilica of Bom Jesus

Basilica of Bom Jesus


St. Cajetan Convent

St. Cajetan Convent