Monday, November 13, 2017

Trip to LA and 10 day Cruise around the French Polynesian Islands

September 23/17 to October 12/17
Sunday, September 23/17   Lakefield to Beamsville –  Sunny 28 degrees - Left Lakefield at 9:30 Am. Had a lovely lunch with Grampa Ken Marsden at Canterbury Place in Toronto, tea with Larry and Annette Marsden in Mississauga, supper with Katie, Davis and Dave Whitehead in Winona and stayed the night with Dorothy and Ed Holdenmeyer at their “Comfort Inn” in Beamsville. 'Lunch with KTM and @[688141204:2048:Mary Marsden]'
Monday, September 24/17 Beamsville to Buffalo - Sunny 28 degrees -  Crossed over the border into the USA and checked into the Days Inn Buffalo Airport. Spent time shopping at the Walden Galleria Mall – finding deals at JC Penney and looking for Sip’s Luzianne Southern Iced Tea. Roast chicken and salad from Kroger for picnic dinner at the hotel.
Tuesday, September 25/17 Buffalo – Chicago- Los Angeles, California – Sunny 28 degrees – Shuttle to Buffalo Airport after breakfast –our  van to stay at hotel till we return Oct 12. Southwest Flight Buffalo to Chicago Midway 12:30 to 1:05 PM. Volunteered ourselves to be bumped to a 4 hour later flight to LA to earn $405 each in SW credits – good for one year. Flatbread pizza dinner then 4 hour flight to arrive after 9 PM (Pacific time) and shuttle to Hyatt Regency LAX Airport Hotel. Snack from Regency Room on 3rd floor, then bed.
Wednesday, September 26/17 – LA to Papeete Tahiti – Sunny 28 degrees C– Shuttle to airport after breakfast – 10 AM for 1 PM flight to Tahiti. Had to walk to the last gate in lower level,  ride on a bus to get to the Air Tahiti Nui airbus. Pilot spoke in French and then English with a quiet voice – announcing an hour delay due to problem with the aircraft. We did meet 2 couples from California going through security etc. – Buck (retired vet born in Nebraska) and Mary Anne (real estate broker) Brillhart from Santa Barbara; and Larry (photographer now but jack of all trades) and Clare (property consultant in local government) Fletcher from Orange County – both couples celebrating their 25th wedding anniversaries on our cruise and we became friends while on the cruise. Took off at 5 PM for the 7.5 hour flight – 2 meals, 2 movies and a little nap before arrival at Fa’a’a International Airport. Processed through customs and then a bus to the Le Meridien Hotel – after midnight. Nice room – pretty resort. C:\Users\Mary Marsden\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\DSC09162.jpg
Thursday, September 27/ 17 – Papeete Tahiti – Sunny 28 degrees – Lovely breakfast in hotel dining area, explored hotel grounds and Don did a little snorkeling. Left hotel at 1 PM on bus to go to Wind Spirit sailing yacht at Fingers Pier to start our cruise. Assigned to Room 133 on First Floor – ship had 4 floors. Room is small but very functional and has many storage areas and 2 portholes.  Had lunch on board. Had drill at 5:15 PM and then a talk from the Captain Krasmir Ivanov. Bad news from the Captain – weather report for the next 10 days is high winds and rough seas so itinerary changed to decrease our time in rough seas and seek shelter on the lee side of islands as possible. So we would not be setting sail for the Taumotu and Rangiroa Islands as planned and instead spend the days around the Society Islands.
This ship does 10 knots/hr under power and 12knots/hr if the winds were favourable. Don visited the bridge many times to talk with the crew – the third mate was from Brampton, Ontario.
Picked up our snorkel gear from the Marine Deck.
Sailed away at 6 PM with 4 sails up just for show – play special songs as each sail unfolds. Rocky night due to high seas – Mary missed dinner at Candles due to queasiness even with seasick patch applied – Just went to bed and was better the next day.  Don pounded back the filet mignon no problem.
NOTE: Tahiti is legendary for seducing sailors and is the capital of French Polynesia. Both Captain Cook, and later Captain Bligh, dealt with sailors who longed to stay in this tropical paradise. We watched “Mutiny on the Bounty” with Marlon Brando and “The Bounty” with Anthony Hopkins and Russell Crowe before we went on this trip. I also read “The signature of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Love, Pray author) because it had chapters dealing with Tahiti. Awaiting to discover what Breadfruit looks like.
Friday, September 28/17 – Raiatea – Windy 28 degrees -  Rough night but docked at 7 AM. Light from 6  AM to sunset at 6 PM. Had Breakfast in the Veranda Dining Room and then Yoga and Stretch Class on the upper back deck with Susan from the Spa. Then we walked into the town of Uturoa to explore.  Visited their shops and market. Back for lunch.
Note: Raiatea which means “faraway heaven” is the 2nd largest island of the Society Islands next to Tahiti. It is off the beaten path when it comes to tourism mostly due to its lack of beaches – but beautiful with it’s dramatic steep slopes of the mountains. The island is considered to be sacred and was the spiritual centre of the Polynesian Triangle. Chiefs came from as far as New Zealand for ceremonies here. It was the centre of a fierce resistance to the French takeover of Tahiti in 1842. It was not until 1888 when the French made a real attempt to take the island. The rebellion was finally quashed by French troops in 1897.
Raiatea is home to one of the world’s rarest and loveliest  flowers, the tiare apetahi (forbidden to pick them.) The tiare apetahi is a member of the tropical “campanulaceae” family, the tiare apetahi only grows on one island on the planet, the French Polynesian Leeward Island of Raiatea, and only grows there in one place Temehini Plateau, on the extinct volcano, Mount Temehani.
After lunch, attended the Black Pearl Seminar given by the Gift Shop Manager Martina from Croatia.
Very informative -  Tahiti Cultured Pearls are commonly known around the world as Black Pearls. Polynesian Legend has it that ORO, the god of peace and fertility, would use his rainbows to visit the earth. He offered to the oysters’ mother of pearl its iridescence and thus, gave Tahitian pearls their amazing spectrum of colors.
The fragile Pinctada Marganitifera cumingi is commonly known as the black lipped oyster. In the 19th century, its shell was in great demand by the European button industry. In those days of shell harvesting, one would have to open more than 15,000 oysters before finding a natural pearl. These rare gems would then only be seen in the realms of Pashas and Royalties. Soon the pearl of Tahiti became known as “Pearl of Queens” or “Queen of Pearls.”
The first trials of Tahitian Pearls culturing began in 1961 in the lagoon of Bora Bora, where Japanese grafting techniques were applied to the Pinctada Marganitifera oyster. The first successful harvest of 1963 proved that a pearl culturing industry was possible in the region.
The Tahiti Cultured Pearls are best known for their diversity of size, shape, surface quality and endless shades of natural colours, ranging from pale grey to anthracite black. The pearl is made of thousands thin layers of nacre containing organic substances and calcium carbonate (aragonite). Luster is the most important – metallic is good and darker. The peacock color in rare in the round pearl. There is a 50 % rejection rate of the nucleus and the oyster has only 2 chances to produce. There are many pearl farms now with some having 2 million oysters. There were tours of Black Pearl Oyster Farms available but we did not go on them but we did purchase a Black Pearl necklace on Bora Bora. Image result for tiare apetahiImage result for black pearl farmingC:\Users\Mary Marsden\Pictures\Tahiti trip\DSC09178.JPG
Quiet relaxing afternoon on board the ship and we attended the “Captain’s Champagne Welcome Reception” before dinner. Lovely dinner in the AmphorA Restaurant. Bed after.
Saturday, September 30/17 – Raiatea – Windier 28 degrees – occasional short shower – After breakfast Mary took the “Kayak the Faaroa River” tour with 12 other guests – (some of the 5 Canadian couples from Newmarket). Raiatea is the only island that has a river on it. We were picked up in a van from the pier and had a 15 minute drive to the mouth of the river. It was a difficult paddle from where we set out to the mouth of the river due to the wind and the current but conditions improved greatly when we were on the sheltered river. These were sit on top double kayaks and the guide’s helper for the day was a large Tahitian called Christian and he was a powerhouse so my paddling was much easier. Back to the ship for lunch.
The tropical foliage on the trip was lovely – flowering ginger, bananas, breadfruit. The guide was a young man – born in France but brought to Raiatea by his mother since she was a teacher. He married a Tahitian girl and they had 2 children. He was a landscaper and botanist now but did these tours as well. He mentioned the Breadfruit tree – tradition was when a Tahitian child is born, the placenta is taken and buried with a breadfruit tree so that child would always have enough to eat in their life. Image result for breadfruit tree
Don spent his morning in the town and found an Internet CafĂ© and paid $5 US for 30 minutes. We did not have internet on the ship – very expensive and intermittent.
After lunch we spent a quiet afternoon outside on the back deck of the ship reading – hiding in the smoker’s alcove – out of the wind and the sun. (Read the Shell Seekers and passed it on to the Spa girls when I was done). At 4 PM there was some local entertainment – dancers, singers and musicians from Raiatea and a Lei Making Demonstration. At 4:30 Mary had a lovely Spa Body Massage, Facial and Head Massage – Don won a $100 gift certificate on our first day from the Spa and gave it to me because I put his name in the draw. So it only cost me $33US more for the hour long treatment.  At 5:45 we sat in the ship’s lounge and listened to local story tellers Heimau and Tihoti. Heimau was 80 years old and had never been off the island – he had everything he needed – food and shelter – apparently he lived in a hut on a large property with no electricity. His nephew Tihoti was covered in Tattoos -  traditional patterns that told much about the profession, history and position of a person.
After this we enjoyed a BBQ on the back deck of the ship – included lobster tails. It did start to rain a little at the end but we were done and off to bed.
Sunday, October 1/17 – Bora Bora – Sunny and Windy 28 degrees – Left Raiatea at 6 AM and arrived in Bora Bora at noon. It was a rocky start to the day with the wind and high seas. Mary did yoga and stretch class in the Lounge with Susan from the Spa – too rocky on the outside deck. Had breakfast and then attended the 10 AM lecture on “A World of Islands” by Dr. Teri Sowell – professor from University of California who specializes in the art and culture of the Polynesian Islands. Things I learned from this lecture: Polynesians came originally from Taiwan. The Population of the islands dropped by 90% with European immigration. Navigation is an oral skill. Polynesian Voyaging Society – back to wayfinding. 1951 – Magellan discovered the islands on his way to Asia. 1768-1780 – Captain Cook did more exploring of the islands and made maps.
After this lecture I attended another one at 11 AM on the expensive Spa facial products – no purchase made. Lunch then quiet afternoon on the ship. Marina deck was open at the back of the ship on the 2nd floor but it was too choppy to swim, kayak or snorkel where we were anchored in the Bora Bora Lagoon – a Paul Gauguin cruise ship was there as well in the same lagoon. Supper in Candles.
Note: The main island of Bora Bora is surrounded by a lagoon and a barrier reef. In the center of the island are the remnants of an extinct volcano rising in two peaks. Produce of the island is mainly limited to what can be obtained from the sea and the plentiful coconut trees. There are many aqua-centric resorts –  overwater bungalows. The present name actually comes from a mistake in pronunciation by James Cook as the “b” sound does not exist in Tahitian so the actual name is Pora Pora which mean “first born”.
Bora Bora is surrounded by a number of tiny islets called “Motu” – small pristine, secluded paradises that offer privacy, beauty and relaxing ambiance.
The attack on Pearl Harbour transformed Bora Bora into an important strategic position and supply base but despite this, the island never saw any action during the WWII South Pacific Campaign. At its height, approximately 6000 men were stationed here. The most significant legacy of its military history if the runway that was left behind, enabling tourism to thrive. Image result for map of bora bora island
Monday, October 2/17 – Bora Bora - Sunny and Windy 29 degrees – Took Tender to Town of Viatape after breakfast to take the “Island Discovery Tour of Bora Bora” on an open air bus. Highlights were feeding the crabs hibiscus flowers, tie dyed wraps made (bought one - $10 US - as blue as the seas there), and stop at Bloody Mary’s bar for a drink and internet access. Back on ship for lunch. Then tender to Motu Tapu  - a tiny motu rented for the day by our ship only – price of $10,000 / day - for snorkeling and paddleboarding. Back to ship to change and return for “Celebration Festival” via catamarran. Dinner, Dancers and Fire Dancers entertained. (Fire Dancing has long been embedded in the Polynesian culture as a way to send messages to the gods.  Back to ship after 8 PM. Saw rainbow there at sunset time.  
(News from USA – Concert shooting in Las Vegas – 59 died and over 500 injured.)
Tuesday, October 3/17 - Bora Bora - Sunny and Windy 29 degrees – Yoga and Stretch class on open deck and then breakfast. Lecture at 10 AM – “Polynesian Encounters”. Notes I took at this lecture:
History of the 16th to 18th century. The “Noble Savage”  - European view of Polynesians – primitive, connected to nature. European visitors were welcomed, sexual permissiveness – wanted lighter skinned children, simple life – no bastard children – all were accepted.
Captain James Cook had 3 voyages from 1768 to 1780. He collected information on culture and language. There were scientists, naturalists and botanists on board. Omai – native man from Tahiti was taken back to Europe – was the interpreter for Captain Cook. But then diseases came – VD, Smallpox – reduced islands populations by 90%. Noble Savage changed to “Brute” Savage after death of Captain Cook in Hawaii – then less exploration. Then missionaries came bringing Christianity in the 19th century. Spiritual darkness – destroyed the pagan idol – natives to be tamed – 1900 – colonial control. 20th century – tourism with airplanes.
Did TT for Susan in Spa – interested in energy work. Quick lunch and then tender into town. Many Black Pearl shops – even Robert Wan – very plush. Purchased single black baroque pearl necklace in Baldini shop – 40% off – had free internet and sofa in shop too. Don traded apparel at local Firehall. Back to ship for a lazy afternoon.  Dinner with Buck and Mary Anne from California.  
Wednesday, October 4/17  Motu Mahaea (Taha’a)  - Sunny/ cloudy and Windy 29 degrees – Sailed from Bora Bora at 4 AM to here – a private island with swaying palm trees and white-sand beaches. Had breakfast and then zodiac ride over to motu. Did yoga on the beach with Spa Susan. Tried paddleboarding again but failed – current? Wind? Did not due snorkeling due to current. Had lunch on motu and then back to ship before a little rain storm. Lazy afternoon and dinner with Claire and Larry Fletcher.
Note: Taha’a is known as “The Vanilla Island” and produces 70 to 80% of all French Polynesia’s vanilla which is of very high quality. The island always has a fragrance of both vanilla and hibiscus. Taha’a and Raiatea are encircles by the same reef and it is believed that they were once a single island. They are believed to be the first islands to be settled in French Polynesia by people most likely from Samoa.
Thursday, October 5/17 – Huahine – Partly cloudy and Windy 27 degrees – Sailed from Motu Mahaeu at 6 AM and arrived to Huahine at 12 PM. Did Pilates and Stretch class in the Lounge because we were sailing on the sea again. Attended lecture on “Tattoos from Paradise” and learned : tattoos were first done by priests – it was spiritual with specific protocols – done on adults – used bone combs with sharp teeth – some tapped – done on hands making dots. Marquesians had tattoos all over but later were prohibited by Christians. Samoans – never lost doing tattoos – may be hand tapped – had to feel the process to merge with ancestors. Males had tattoos like a protective armour and you would know of their status and family. For women there were lacey, spacier designs and maybe private – like stockings on legs – pride of family. Maori of New Zealand had more chiseled designs on face and men with designs on thighs and buttocks and women would have less.
Hongi – was the nose pressing greeting – signifying the exchange of breath (seen in Mutiny of the Bounty movie).
Had lunch and took tender to pier. Rented a bicycle from ship for $15US for the afternoon to explore the island. Made my way to the town of “Fare” with only one wrong turn. Roundtrip of 20 miles? But Fare was not a pretty town and there was quite a bit of up and down on rolling landscape but the exercise was good. Don walked around the pier area and when back to the ship. Supper with our California friends.
Note: Huahine is located 119 miles northwest of Tahiti. It is made up of Huahine Nui and Huahine Iti which are joined at low tide by a sandbar. The island is lush and tropical but not very developed. Blue eyed eels can be found here and crops of vanilla, melons and bananas.
The Europeans arrived in 1769 – James Cook. They were referred to as popaa which refers to the many layers of clothing they wore. 1808 saw the arrival of the London Missionary Society. Like Raiatea, Huahine resisted the French presence in the islands and numerous clashes took place from 1846 to 1888 when France finally prevailed.
Friday, October 6/17 – Hauhine – Partly cloudy and less wind 28 degrees – Yoga and Stretch class on outside deck and then breakfast. Then watersports off Marine Deck – Kayaked, swam and Don waterskied – after a 20 year sabbatical from this sport! That was a big effort! Had lunch and a quiet afternoon. Set sail for Moorea at 3 PM. Attended 4 PM Cooking Class with 2 other ladies – delicious risotto and shrimp. Learned from the head chef that the ship gets all its supplies from The Netherlands – in container loads picked up in Tahiti.
Dinner with California friends to celebrate Mary Anne’s 70th birthday.
Saturday, October 7/17 Moorea - Partly cloudy and less wind 28 degrees – Had breakfast, the tender to pier to pick up ebike tour with Buck and another couple from Alaska. Had guide and biked 27 miles – half way was the climb up to Mt Belvedere to lookout over this beautiful island. Saw pineapple fields along the way. Don did walk of the little town. Back for lunch and then swam off back deck and kayaked. Quietest water we had been in for the whole cruise. Attended final lecture on “Births, Weddings and Funerals”. Learned that Polynesian Chiefs were treated as gods – had much power – spiritual. Human sacrifice was rare. Captain Cook was treated like a god too.
Did sail around yacht for pictures since it had it’s sails up. Sail away at 5 PM. Dinner and then packing.
Note: Moorea means “yellow lizard” in Tahitian and is known as one of the most beautiful of the Polynesian Islands. It is only 11 miles to the northwest of Tahiti. It’s heart shape and two nearly symmetrical bays (Cook’s Bay and Opunohu Bay) give it a very distinctive coastline.
Disease, alcohol and new weaponry were all introduced to the island which had disastrous effects on what was once a densely populated area. Copra (the dried white meat of the coconut) and vanilla were once very important for Moorea but it is now the pineapple growing centre of French Polynesia.
Sunday, October 8/17 – Papeete, Tahiti – Sunny and 29 degrees – Arrived in port at 8 PM last night. Had breakfast and left ship at 8:30 AM for morning tour of Papeete. Saw Papeete Sunday market,  Government houses, stopped at park with lighthouse and statue to Mutiny on the Bounty descendants. Dropped off at noon to Le Meridien Hotel for day use – assigned room. Went snorkeling. Left for airport at 7 PM via bus for overnight flight back to LA. Sat at back of plane beside a stretcher – ill woman headed for Paris? – had 3 nurses in attendance. Lousy meals on Air Tahiti Nui.
Monday, October 9/17 - Los Angeles California – Sunny and 29 degrees – Arrived at 10 AM and caught hotel shuttle to Hyatt Regency for early check-in. Spent quiet day. Spent time at hotel pool. Getting caught up on emails.
Tuesday, October 10/17 – Los Angeles California – Sunny and 29 degrees – Mary went on “A Day in LA Tour”. Don stayed at hotel and walked around the area – finding the walking route into LAX.
Mary was picked up at the hotel in the green, yellow and red mini bus and taken to Santa Monica picking up other passengers along the way. Changed buses to start tour – visiting Venice Beach and walked around there – saw the skateboarders in the cement bowls. On to Rodeo Drive to walk around there – shops were empty but the street was full of people just walking. Visited the Beverly Wilshire Hotel (President Obama’s favourite stop in LA and the Pretty Woman Film location) for a washroom stop. On to Beverly Hills – which actually developed because of a hunter shooting squirrels and oil was discovered – still has 2 oil wells under it. Had lunch break at the Original Farmer’s Market and The Grove – fancy shopping area. Back on the bus to travel up to the Griffith Observatory situated in the Santa Monica hills – and you can see the Hollywood Sign from there and views of LA and the Pacific Ocean. Note: The Hollywood sign originally said Hollywoodland to advertise a housing development. By the late 1970’s, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce determined that the Sign required a complete rebuilding – carrying a price tag of a quarter million dollars. Thankfully, some of showbiz’s biggest names came to the rescue. In ’77, Fleetwood Mac pledged a charity concert, but local residents prevented it. The next year, however, Hugh Hefner hosted a gala fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion, where individual Sign letters were ceremonially ‘auctioned’ off at $27,700 per letter. The effort to preserve the Sign brought together an odd mix of celebrity sponsors: Glam-rocker Alice Cooper ‘bought’ an “O” (in honor of Groucho Marx), while singing cowboy Gene Autry sponsored an “L” and Andy Williams sponsored the “W.” The H for Hefner. Thanks to the help of these and other donors, the Sign was poised for its overhaul. The old Sign was scrapped in August ’78, and yes, for three lonely months Hollywood had no Sign. 194 tons of concrete, enamel and steel later, the Sign was re-born, poised and polished for a new millennium.
Note: The Griffith observatory and planetarium was featured in two major sequences of the James Dean film Rebel Without a Cause (1955), which helped to make it an international emblem of Los Angeles. A bust of Dean was subsequently placed at the west side of the grounds.
During World War II the planetarium was used to train pilots in celestial navigation. The planetarium was again used for this purpose in the 1960s to train Apollo program astronauts for the first lunar missions.
Admission has been free since the observatory's opening in 1935, in accordance with the will of Griffith J. Griffith, the benefactor after whom the observatory is named.
The tunnel entrance to the Observatory on Mount Hollywood Drive is the entrance to Toon Town in the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988). Our guide said this tunnel is also filmed as the entrance to the Batcave in Batman.
Our last stop was Hollywood Boulevard and a Walk on “The Walk of Fame”. We say the Chinese Theatre and the street was booked off for the Film Premiere of “Thor”.
We did drive by different studios but not by movie star homes – apparently buses are not allowed in those subdivisions. We learned that local LA’ers do not call their interstate highways – I-10 or I-405, they are “the 10” or “the 405”.
Met nice lady from India – Anja Godbole who was travelling on her own too and another couple from Calgary who did press releases for mining companies. The bus took me back to the hotel via Marina Del Rey and arrived after 6 PM.
Wednesday, October 11/17  LA to Buffalo (via Midway airport in Chicago) -  Left LA via Southwest flight to Chicago at 2:15 PM and arrived at 8:15 PM. Changing planes we left at 10:20 PM and arrived in Buffalo at 12:45 AM and quickly got the shuttle to the Days Hotel for the rest of the night. Don Note: The southwest 737’s are much roomier and comfortable than those damn airbuses.

Thursday, October 12/17  Buffalo to Lakefield – Ate breakfast at the hotel and took off for the border by way of Walmart – to buy Sip’s tea and a van  gas fill-up. Over the border and stopped at Costco in St Catherines and then Katie’s for lunch and visit. Took 407 over TO and made it home to Lakefield around 4 PM.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Regent Seven Seas Cruise around the British Isles and Ireland

June 5 to June 16 2016 – Regent Seven Seas Cruise around the British Isles and Ireland
Sunday June 5/16 – Lakefield – Toronto – Air Canada 856 to Heathrow – London, England
Left Lakefield at 9 AM for Lunch with Gramma and Grampa Marsden in Toronto and Katie and Davis Whitehead joined us. Davis is almost 18 months and has just started to walk on his own – adorable. Left for the Toronto airport at 2 PM and parked the van in the Economy Park n Fly lot. On the 6:35 PM flight for England with 7 hour flying time. No sleep. Arrived on time at 6:30 AM.
Monday June 6/16 –  Heathrow Airport London, England to Southampton, England to board Regent’s Seven Seas 700 passenger Voyager ship.
(Don doesn’t like the overnight flight east so he is tired today.)
Through Customs and no Uber ride available so we took the bus.
So we find the Bus Terminal at Heathrow and purchase our tickets to get to Southampton port which is over an hour south of London. The tickets cost 54 pounds = $100 Canadian. It took at least 2 hours since we had to go to all the terminals at Heathrow – which is really spread out and through some little towns like Winchester. We arrived at the Southampton Bus Terminal and figured out our way to the ship – 2 mile stroll with our luggage but the weather was very nice. We arrived at the port terminal about 11:45 AM and boarding started at 12 so we were some of the first passengers on the ship and we went right to lunch. We had time after lunch to check out the ship, organize our trips and dinner reservations, exercise classes and unpack before the emergency drill at 5:15 PM. We had dinner in the Compass Rose Diningroom at 6:30 PM. It was still light at 9 PM but we had to sleep anyway. 7th Floor midship Room # 734. (category F…2 cat. Upgrade)
Tuesday June 7/16 – Day at Sea – Sunny and 20 degrees C
Up at 7 AM for shower, then breakfast, Stretch class at 8:30 and then a lecture by Christopher Griffin –  retired Irish Professor who taught English literature in Washington DC. “Destination Britain and Ireland” Lunch in Compass Rose. Another lecture in the afternoon – Good Friday Agreement, Irish Immigration, etc. 9:30 PM Broadway Show with dancers and singers. Sundown at 10 PM – sailing north. Don busy collecting Regent Points for t-shirts through games and trivia. Free Internet on board.
Wednesday June 8/16 – Newcastle (Tyne) England – Mostly sunny and 18 degrees C
On Excursion “Hadrian’s Wall & Roman Fort” at 9AM with Guide Sue. Hadrian’s Wall was built under the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 122AD. It was a stone wall 8 to 10 feet wide and 18 feet high in places that stretched across Northern England 150 miles for protection from the Barbarians of the North (Scotland) – the Picks. It was built by a force of 15,000 men in under 6 years. Milecastles, barracks, ramparts and forts punctuate the route and the landscape of Whin Sill, the rock on which much of the Wall was built and quarried from.
Our first stop was at Heddon-on-the-Wall which has the longest and best preserved stretch of Hadrian’s wall.

Our next stop was Chesters Roman Fort and Museum – Britain’s most complete ruins of a Roman cavalry fort on Hadrian’s Wall. It has Britain’s best preserved military bath house. On site is a Victorian Museum of John Clayton’s monument collection from his 40 years of saving Chester Fort. Without John Clayton’s passion, much of Hadrian’s Wall would have vanished forever. He purchased and excavated a large part of the wall to save it from destruction. Now it is protected by English Heritage.

Don at the kissing gate. The ruins were fenced off to protect them from animals. Bath House heated from furnace outside of building and hot air piped under floors.
Back to ship for a late lunch. Mary took a tour of the ship’s Bridge with 2 other passengers. Tour conducted by Ship’s Second Mate Sante. The Bridge was located at the front of the ship on the 10th floor.
Hallway party at 6 PM. We meet North Texans – Scott and Lindy(Ranchers), Teresa and Randy(Banker) and had a very nice dinner in the Compass Rose with them. (Sea Bass Special).
Irish Magician/Comedian show at 9:30 PM.
Thursday June 9/16 – cloudy/sunny and 17 degrees C – Edinburgh (Newhaven) Scotland
Up early for 7:25 – breakfast in room - call to Tender to Port of Leith. We were anchored in the Firth of Forth. Our excursion “Royal Mile Walking Tour” in Old Edinburgh.  The historical heart of Old Edinburgh is known as the Royal Mile. It runs between Edinburgh Castle and Holyroodhouse (Palace).  Bus dropped us off at Edinburgh Castle but we were too early to go in and there was a lot going on there with setting up for the upcoming Royal Tattoo. Edinburgh Castle was built over centuries beginning in 1130. It is built on an old volcano. This castle is where Mary, Queen of Scots, gave birth in 1566 to the future King James VI of Scotland, who also became King James I of England.
We walked up High Street and learned about life in the old city from a very knowledgeable guide – a borough needed a church, a market area, a jail and a townhall. He showed us how the house frontage was narrow but the building went back a long way with courtyards behind. There were many passageways called – close or wynd or pend.
We stopped at St Giles Cathedral which was about midway. This impressive cathedral dates from the 14th and 15th centuries and is famous for its crown spire. The cathedral is adjacent to Parliament Square. Charles II of Scotland on horseback monument in front of Court House.
Passed by one of the oldest houses with its upper levels protruding over the street since taxes were levied on the street level.
We ended at Palace of Holyroodhouse. (Holyrood – Holy Cross – on the site of an abbey)
This is the British monarch’s official residence in Scotland. It is closely associated with Mary, Queen of Scots, as well as Bonnie Prince Charlie. Queen Elizabeth spends one week in the summer in residence here. We enjoyed an audio tour inside and there are 10 acres of gardens surrounding it and hills in the distance.
Back on bus and then tender back to ship for late lunch. Played golf, crocket, trivia in afternoon and Stretch Class. Great dinner in Compass Rose. Played Name That Tune in Voyager Lounge with Dutch Maaike piano player and team of Steve and Joanne from San Francisco, California (Boston) and Lorie (newly retired project manager from IBM) and Richard (Fire Chief) from Texas. Dusk at 10:30 and light again at 4:30 AM.  
Note – Tide change in the 4 hours we were out on tour. This was our only tender port. Tide goes in and out every 12 hours – 10 metre change.
Friday June 10/16 – Sun and Clouds - 16 degrees C – At Sea over the Top of Scotland
Up at 8 AM for Stretch Class at 8:30. Breakfast at 9 and then Lecture at 10 AM on “Belfast as Part of Ireland and the UK: The Historical Background” and again at 2:30 PM “Dublin and the Republic of Ireland”.
Don did Photo Scavenger Hunt with Lorie and Richard and got 1st Place for more Regent Points.
Quiet afternoon with needlepoint and Tea Trivia at 4:30 – first place today. Had Seven Seas Society Cocktail Hour in Theatre before dinner. Dinner in Prime 7 at sharing table with 2 Florida couples – one couple owned gas/convenient stores around Tampa and the other couple sold his share of a big company and lived around Melbourne, Florida – East coast. Quiet evening.
Saturday, June 11/16 – Sun and clouds and 17 degrees C – Belfast, Ireland
Up for our morning excursion of the Ard’s Pennisula and Grey Abbey. (Ard is the Viking word for Hills). Our first stop was in a little seaside village of Donaghadee where we had some free time to wonder the streets and then have Irish Coffee at Pier 36 – pub, restaurant and hotel. Donaghadee had a lighthouse on the edge of a sheltered harbour. Copeland Islands can be seen from the shore.
We passed through the Village of Millisle where 100 Jewish children were sheltered for the 4 years of WW2.
We continued on to the Grey Abbey Ruins. Grey Abbey was a Cisterian Monastery in the 1200s which was destroyed by fire in the 1500’s by the Irish so British troops could not use it as a base. The land is now owned by the Montgomery family and their residence (Rosemount) is behind the ruins.
On our return to the ship we had a photo stop at Stormont – Northern Ireland’s Parliament Building which sits on a hill of 400 acres once owned by a Rev. Cleland – a tax collector / Presbyterian minister of Mt. Stewart. There was a bagpipe band competition on the grounds.
We also learned that the port is reclaimed land. The H&W large yellow cranes in the Harbour were involved in the building of the Titanic and there is a new Titianic Museum that sits above the shipbuilding dry dock where it was manufactured.
Tom Hanks owns 80% of the Titanic Studios in the Belfast Harbour and visits often to produce and direct movies there. Bombardier has a factory in Belfast Harbour area. Belfast is promoting tourism now that there is less violence?
Back to the ship for a quick lunch and I was fortunate to catch the afternoon excursion to Mt Stewart which was in the same area as Grey Abbey. Don stayed on the ship. We didn’t actually get into Belfast at all.
On our bus ride to Mt Stewart, we stopped at Stormont again – closer to the building this time. Our guide mentioned that in WW2 this building was covered in tar and cow dung to hide it from bombing raids of the Germans. Northern Ireland was engaged in WW2 as part of the United Kingdom but the Republic of Ireland remained neutral but Soldiers did enlist there and fought. At this time Northern Ireland is about 50/50 Protestants and Catholics. No shops are open on Sunday mornings so people can go to church.
Mt Stewart House and Gardens – Elegant Neo-classic estate house of the Londonderry family since the early 18th century (now owned by National Trust). Lord Castlereagh resided here during Napoleonic times and the house contains a wealth of historic memorabilia. First created in 1921 by Edith, Lady Londonberry, the gardens feature a magnificent collection of exceptional trees and shrubs and unique and unusual plants. It has a micro climate and tropical plants can survive here because there is no snow or frost.
The house was passed on to Mairi – one of Lady Edith’s daughters (Lady Mairi noted to be a pilot and a cigar smoker) (Mairi Mairi Quite Contrary sculpture in Gardens) and now passed on to her daughter, Rose – in her 70’s now. Rose and her husband (surname Lawrence) live in Mt Stewart for 6 months and Venice for the other 6 months.
Mt Stewart House had just gone through a 7.5 million pound restoration that was almost completed.
Rhododendrons were blooming all over the gardens. Took lots of pictures.
On our return to the ship we drove along the Strangford (meaning strong current) Lough – tidal lake. Saw the Scarbo (soft rock like limestone) Tower built by local people – as a folly? – like moat castle in Donaghadee. Drove through town of DunDonald and back to ship by 5:30.
Delicious dinner with our Texan friends. Relaxing evening.
Sunday June 12/16 – Cloudy with some sun and 16 degrees C – Dublin, Ireland
We left at 8:20 for a bus excursion of “Dublin Highlights”. Our first stop was St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Founded in 1220 and now designated as the Anglican National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland and the largest of Dublin’s cathedrals. It is still a working church. According to tradition, Saint Patrick used a nearby well to baptize converts to Christianity and a small church was built marking it as a sacred place in the heart of Dublin.  Falling into disrepair after centuries of fires and the elements took their tolls, the grand church was fully restored in the late 19th century by the famed Guinness Family.
Jonathan Shift’s Pulpit – He is best known as the author of Gulliver’s Travels. He was Dean of the Cathedral from 1713 to 1745 and is buried under the Cathedral floor. He had a famous sermon entitled “upon sleeping in church”.
The next stop was Trinity College – Ireland’s oldest university. Granted foundation by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592. (A Protestant college until 1970.) In the Old Library is the Book of Kells, a renowned artifact of early Christianity. Created by Celtic monks circa 800 AD, the ornate book contains the four Gospels of the New testament in Latin and is one of Ireland’s national treasures. The main chamber of the Old Library, the Long Room, is nearly 65 meters in length and houses around 200,000 of the Library’s oldest books.
We had free time to wander around the streets of Dublin and ventured to try and find a firehall for Don to buy a Dublin Firefighter t-shirt. We did find a firehall but unfortunately they did not have any t-shirts for sale.
Back to the ship for a late lunch. Quiet afternoon. Supper in Compass Rose. 9:30 Show was Alan Kavanagh – a Dublin guitarist/singer performing Irish songs including Danny Boy.
Monday June 13/16 – Mostly cloudy with some showers 17 degrees C – Liverpool, England
Got on as standby for Liverpool Highlights tour in the morning (Don stayed back – still on one tour a day schedule). On our drive around Liverpool, we passed by 2 soccer stadiums – an expansion for the Liverpool Team was almost complete – to increase its capacity to 54,000; iconic buildings at the pier area including the converted old warehouses of Albert Dock. Our first stop was at the Museum, Library and St George Concert Hall on the hill.
Our main stop was at the Liverpool Cathedral – Britain’s largest Anglican Cathedral was started in 1902 and it took almost 80 years to complete. It was designed by 22 year old – Sir Giles Gilbert Scoot who came from a cathedral building family. It was originally to have 2 spires but was redesigned to have just a Central one which is 331 feet high. Sir Scott other claim to fame was the design of the famous red telephone booth.
in 1951 was the first ringing of the Church Bells. Sir Scott to did not live to see the completion of the Cathedral but his granddaughter was the first baptism. It had a “Ladies Chapel” on one side which suffered damage in WW2 – all the stained glass windows were destroyed but have since been restored. During our visit there were preparations happening for a youth mass that afternoon and a small children’s choir was practicing.
Got back to the ship for a quick lunch before the afternoon tour “In the Steps of the Beatles”.
We had a fantastic tour guide who was a Liverpool teenage fan in the Beatle era and now an expert resource on the Beatles – also custodian of John Lennon’s and Paul McCarthney’s boyhood homes. The tour’s first stop was besides the “Hard Days Night” Beatle Hotel on Mathew Street where the famed “Cavern Pub” is – where the Beatles played 292X. The original Cavern was destroyed but has been remade like the old one (maybe ½ size) and there is live music played there daily. We got to go down into it.
We walked around that area a bit and saw the “Eleanor Rigby” sculpture – lady sitting on a bench, the gold records and special bricks in Mathew Street and Grapes pub where the Beatles hung out after their sets at the cavern – the cavern at that time did not serve alcohol.
Back on the bus we toured by Lewis’s Store where Paul McCarthney worked (under Father Mackenzie), by Strawberry Fields Gate ( a Salvation Army children’s home near John Lennon’s boyhood home in Woolten), down Penny Lane , to John Lennon’s boyhood home and the Art School he attended.
Our final stop was at a Beatles Museum in the port area. We had an audio tour and then returned to the ship.
We were back in time to play Tea Time Trivia and the lecturer Christopher Griffin and his daughter Deardra joined us and we won 1st place. Then we did a Galley Tour of compass Rose conducted by the Main Chef. Dinner was in Compass Rose and then watched the 9:30 show of “come Sail Away” – A Tribute to the 1970’s. Wavy night in the Irish Sea – had calm seas until now.
We also had to remember “Gerry MARSDEN and the Pacemakers” while in Liverpool. On the morning bus tour, the tour guide played a tape recording of the song for us as she spoke of the ferry system in Liverpool. Pop Art giant and Sgt Pepper album artist Sir Peter Blake created the Everybody Razzle Dazzle design for one of the ferries.
Everybody Razzle Dazzle is the third in a series of Dazzle Ship commissions to mark the centenary of World War I.

Tuesday June 14/16 – Cloudy mostly and 15 degrees C – Cork (Cobh), Ireland
Late excursion at 9:30 so had time for 8:30 Stretch Class. Our tour took us to Lakemount Gardens – a private garden of 1 ½ acre around a family home – the husband who was the gardener recently died so this garden may be open for tours for much longer. Then we drove on to the restored Jameson Distillery in Midleton to learn the history of Jameson Irish Whiskey and that it is triple distilled. Don was one of 8 in a whiskey tasting and received a certificate for his participation. We saw the fully operational water wheel and the copper pot sill that holds 32,000 gallons, the largest in the world.
On return to the ship I spent an hour wandering around the village of Cobh (pronounced Cove). I climbed the steep hill to reach the Cobh Cathedral famed for its carillon bells.
Cobh was also a port where many Irish immigrants (from County Cork) left for America. There is a statue of Annie Moore – a 15 year old Irish girl with her 2 younger brothers. She was the first immigrant to be processed through Ellis Island in New York City Harbour and there is a statue there of her as well.
Nearby Cork is known for the many pharmaceutical companies there – and the most famous product being Viagra. It is the European headquarters for Apple Inc. and the home to Heineken Brewery that brews Murphy’s Irish Stout.
Back on the ship was the 3:30 Lecture of “Celtic Films”, Tea Time Trivia, Stretch Class and Staff Show at 6 PM. Dinner in the Prime 7 with our Tea time Trivia mates. 9:30 Celtic Show. Another wavy night.
Wednesday June 15/16 – Cloudy, some showers and 16 degrees C – Plymouth, England
Excursion at 9 AM to Slapton Sands and Dartmouth with old fellow guide who was a war historian but not too good on directions – or the bus driver either since we got lost twice and was not able to walk around the centre of Dartmouth since we ran out of time.
At Slapton Sands, American tours trained for the Normandy landing since there was a similar beach on this coast. British troops were also training and there was poor communication between these forces resulting in British troops firing on American Troops – over 700 deaths resulted – this fiasco was covered up for 40 years.
There is an amphibious Tank that was pulled out of the water years later and restored by a local pub owner (Ken Small) who wrote a book about the tragedy “The Forgotten Dead”.
There was another disaster further up this coast of an army group practicing for a beach landing in the night and they thought they were close to shore but in fact were on a sandbar about a mile offshore and all drowned since they were loaded down with their equipment.

We went on to the Best Western Dartmouth Golf Hotel to have Devonshire Tea – scones with cream and jam and tea.
Then on to Dartmouth for just a tour around in the bus. We saw the gates for the Britiannia Royal Naval College entrance. Also Christopher Robin had a bookstore in Dartmouth in his adult life and never stocked his father A J Milne’s Christopher Robins (Winnie the Pooh series) books. We got back to the ship after 2 PM.
Played Afternoon Crazy Golf and Tea Time Trivia for the last time. Don traded in his 116 Regent points for 7 Regent t-shirts and I went to Stretch Class. We had dinner at Signatures, packed our suitcases and spent a little time listening to Beatles songs in the Horizon Lounge.
Thursday June 16/16 – Sunny and 17 degrees C – Southampton, England
Up early with breakfast in our room and disembarked from the ship at 7:15 AM for our last excursion (we paid $200 each but used our $100 Shipboard Credit so $150 each) to Windsor Castle and then Heathrow Airport in London to catch our 6PM flight home. This solved our problem of getting to the Airport on our own and we got to see Windsor Castle!
We had a very knowledgeable guide for this excursion. Windsor Castle is close to Heathrow as we could see by the planes flying low overhead. We were fortunate that the queen was in residence at Windsor Castle (queen’s flag flying) and it was Ladies Day at Ascot – so fancy hats around.
We toured the State Apartments (no photos allowed), Queen Mary’s Doll House exhibit, and St George’s Chapel with an audio tour. We were fortunate to see the Changing of the Guard from the State Apartment windows.

Left Windsor Castle at 12:30 PM. Dropped off at Heathrow Terminal 2 to catch Air Canada Flight 859 to Toronto at 6 PM. Flying time of almost 8 hours and arrived in Toronto around 8:30 PM. Through Customs and shuttle to Economy Park n Fly and home to Lakefield at Midnight. Fell into bed. Great Trip!