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Los Angeles to Victoria

Saturday, April 13, 2024 – flying from Los Angeles (LAX) to Calgary (YYC) to Victoria (YYJ)

Total Solar Eclipse & Mexican Riviera 10-day cruise aboard Discovery Princess – April 3-13, 2024

While I’m still on the ship, I activate the Airalo 5G data roaming, which is working well here in Los Angeles on Verizon. The Airalo data roaming also worked well in Mexico. Use my JOSEPH4203 referral code to sign up and save US$3.00. Use their app to install an eSIM – it’s simple, fast and way less expensive than paying your mobile carrier’s roaming rates!

After having some breakfast in the Lido, we leave the ship on time and take the pre-booked transfer bus to LAX. We find the gate area is a zoo, with people everywhere and everyone crowded into far too small a space. Despite the mayhem at the gate, our completely full flight to Calgary leaves only about 10 minutes late.

Westjet flight from LAX to YYC - 2024-04-13, 1:39:26 PM
Westjet flight from LAX to YYC

Flight time is 2 hours 29 minutes, so a bit faster than originally planned. I have hummus, mini bread sticks and a Coke in-flight for a midday snack. A toddler in the row ahead of me screams for the first part of the flight, but thankfully gets tired eventually.

Canada Border Control clearance in Calgary doesn’t take long, so despite only having an hour between flights, I have time to grab a turkey sandwich (for dinner) from a Tim Horton’s next to the gate for our flight to Victoria. Our aircraft pushes away from the gate at 5:20pm, so these Westjet flights to home are working much better than the Air Canada flights to LA at the start of the trip.

Westjet flight from Calgary to Victoria

My iPhone’s Find My app notifies me that my iPod Pro was last seen in Terminal 2 – Calgary or LAX? I couldn’t find the charging case as I was leaving the LA flight at the Calgary gate, so it must be on that aircraft. I have the earbuds with me, so rather than going through the hassle of notifying WestJet, I can get the case replaced by Apple for a nominal fee when I’m home.

We land in Victoria a bit ahead of schedule, retrieve our checked bags, and we’re soon home. Overall, this was a very successful trip to see a total solar eclipse from a cruise ship off the coast of Mexico. Unlike what some eclipse chasers across North America dealt with, the weather on eclipse day at our location was near perfect, and we had a great time along the way.

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Kaua’i

Oct 18, 2022 – South Shore, Kaua’i, Hawai’i, USA

2022 Hawai’i cruise

My excursion to the Allerton and McBryde Tropical Gardens doesn’t leave until 9:00AM, so it’s an easy start to the day. I get up around 7:30AM and go down to the Grand Dutch Cafe for a breakfast of smoked salmon, raisin bun, blueberry muffin and a cappuccino. I show up in the pier building ashore around 8:45AM and we are quickly organized into a line. Once the last two people arrive, we’re off in the excursion shuttle, but not before one man refuses to wear a mask, so our guide reads the riot act to him and he eventually puts a mask on. Our guide reveals that the ship let them know that there is some sickness onboard, so they are requiring masks for our group when in their shuttles.

Once that is sorted out, we drive to the gardens site, which takes the better part of an hour since the road into the property is quite rough, requiring slow going. It’s a beautiful area of the south shore of Kaua’i which I haven’t experienced before. The number of plants in the McBryde Garden is endless: 6,000 rare and endangered plant species collected from throughout the Pacific Basin and the world. The Allerton Garden is architecturally designed with outside ‘rooms’ which the Allertons originally used for entertaining guests – some rich and famous like Jackie Kennedy-Onassis. We have a nice lunch at the snack bar consisting of shredded chicken or shrimp with focaccia bread, potato salad, and soft drinks or bottled water. 

Spouting Horn blowhole, Koloa, Kaua'i, Hawaii
Spouting Horn blowhole, Koloa, Kaua’i, Hawaii

After lunch, we visit the waterfall in the McBryde property by driving deeper into the upper Lawai Valley, and then leave to return to the ship. We encounter a firetruck and ambulance doing a rescue on the way out of the Allerton and McBryde property, which delays us a bit while our guide sorts out passing the emergency vehicles on the narrow road. We make a quick stop at the Spouting Horn blowhole, which is putting on a good show today. All Aboard is 2:30PM, and we are the last to board with only five minutes to spare!

I go up to the Sun Deck to enjoy the sail away from Nawiliwili Harbour, and I have a beer with some friends while watching our ship maneuver out the narrow passage, taking a time lapse video handheld. Once the ship is in open water heading for Vancouver, I return to my stateroom to get cleaned up, and then I have a quick dinner in the Lido this evening: Beef Sukiyaki over fried rice, which is quite filling and delicious.

Sailaway from Kaua'i - Koningsdam departs
Sailaway from Kaua’i – Koningsdam departs

At 8PM I attend The Step One Dance Company Presents: Humanity Reprise. I thought it would be a different show than the one I already attended on our sea days to Hawaii, but it is exactly the same, which was disappointing. Our cruise director takes the stage ahead of the performance to make some announcements about upcoming events and activities, and to let us know that the ship’s time will change overnight (clock moves forward an hour). Some crank of a man yells at him from the audience as he is leaving the stage that he should be letting everyone know there is COVID-19 aboard the ship. He briefly stops, but he doesn’t respond and vanishes backstage.

I walk the Promenade Deck this evening for a circuit and a half, enjoying the warm, tropical air and the sound of the ship. I then go up to the Crow’s Nest Lounge for my nightcap of a Tanqueray 10 classic martini as I annotate today’s photos. I remove the Jethro Mobile SIM from my iPhone, which I’ve been using for voice calling and data in Hawai’i, since I won’t need that mobile service again. It worked very well, was reasonably priced at CA$35 prepaid on Amazon for 4Gb and unlimited calling for 30 days. I would buy service from them again when I travel to the USA in future. 

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Oahu, Hawaii

2014 Hawai’i-French Polynesia cruise

February 20, 2014 – Thursday – The North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii

We arrive in Honolulu harbour on time this morning. The early morning approach offers some superb views of Diamond Head and the south shore of Waikiki and Honolulu before we slip into our dock at Pier 2.

Byodo-In Temple and pond
Byodo-In Temple and pond

I am on an excursion today, our first of two days in Honolulu. The Explore and Taste Oahu’s North Shore tour is a 6.5 hour all day affair run by Roberts Hawaii, which visits the tranquil Byodu Temple after we travel over the H3 freeway through the Koolau Mountains to Kaneohe. The temple is quite beautiful and tranquil despite the groups from the numerous tour buses wandering the grounds.

We then stop at Chinaman’s Hat Rock, which is a rock sticking out of Kaneohe Bay. We drive by the Crouching Lion restaurant (now closed), which my friends and I stopped at for lunch the last time I visited Oahu. Our stop at Malaekahana State Recreation Area offers a great view of the ocean and a spectacular beach, not often visited by tourists or locals. (It looks like Malaekahana is now operating as a campground and retreat.) As we pass the Polynesian Cultural Center, our guide explains how the students study at the Brigham Young University and the adjacent Latter Day Saints temple in Laie, and also work at the Polynesian Cultural Center to pay for their education.

Fumis Kahuku Shrimp
Fumis Kahuku Shrimp

Our destination for lunch is just up the road: Fumis Kahuku Shrimp (Yelp reviews), where we have a pre-ordered lunch of shrimp, cod, or chicken. Most people order the shrimp, which is a large portion that comes in a Styrofoam plate along with some salad and rice and a soft drink. I find the Lemon Pepper Shrimp to be very tasty. There is a washbasin to get the grease off after the meal is finished. Shave Ice can be purchased for dessert, for those so inclined. This is very casual dining, but the food is very good! The James Campbell Wildlife Refuge is visible out by the coastline from here, and the shrimp ponds where the shrimp are raised are right beside this roadside stop.

2014 Oahu North Shore photos map
Oahu North Shore photos map

We carry on to see Sunset Beach for a quick 10-minute stop, then pass by Tunnel Beach, both of which are world-famous for surfing (see banner image above). There are lots of surfers riding the waves.

Waimea Bay Beach Park is the next stop to see the turtles in the bay feeding on the algae. We spot one turtle. We then turn away from the coastline, driving through the little town of Haeliwa, and make our final stop at the Dole Plantation. This is the typical tourist trap if ever I saw one, but thankfully it is only a 20-minute stop before we carry on back to Honolulu over the H2 and H1 freeways, passing Pearl Harbor along the way.

The ship stays at the dock overnight, so we sleep aboard.

February 21, 2014 – Friday – Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii

Honolulu walking map
Honolulu walking map

I don’t have any excursions booked for today, so I get up and have a leisurely breakfast in the Rotterdam Dining Room. I go ashore from Pier 2, walking a few blocks up South Street as far as the Mission Houses, the Kawaiaha’o Church, and then cross South King Street to see the State Capital and Iolani Palace.

Mission Houses
Mission Houses

I return to the Mission Houses for their tour of the inside, paying the $10 admission. It was very interesting hearing how the missionaries from Boston sailed around Cape Horn, to live and work in Hawaii. They supported themselves by printing and selling (or bartering) books and documents. They gave the Hawaiians their written language, introduced them to western music melody, and of course as missionaries, converted many of them to Christianity. I don’t have time to go into the Iolani Palace before it closes, so I return to the ship to freshen up and have some lunch.

I spend the afternoon aboard ship, swimming in the Ocean View Pool and generally relaxing. I am also taking advantage of the roaming package I purchased from Rogers, my cellular provider in Canada. The roaming package includes 15 minutes for voice calls, and also includes 200Mb of data. Since I have high speed LTE connectivity here, I can ignore the ship’s slow and expensive satellite Internet connection, and get a few things done online. I also call Harper’s Car Rentals to change my arrangements on the Big Island of Hawaii to a one-day rental with no drop off in Kona, which they happily do for me.

Collection of photos of this visit and my previous visit to the Honolulu area in 2010.
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Half Moon Cay, the Bahamas

2011 Incan Empires Cruise

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 – Day 2 – Half Moon Cay, Little San Salvador Island, the Bahamas

The Rotterdam anchors in the beautiful tropical bay this morning, and by 9:30AM tenders are ferrying passengers ashore 300 at a time. This is a highly organized day at the beach for the 1,400 passengers, with everyone being accommodated no matter what the disability, unless the person is completely wheelchair-bound.

Since I wake up this morning around 8:30AM, I miss the crowds of early birds who want to catch the first tenders ashore. I pick up a cappuccino at the Explorations Café and have a leisurely breakfast in the Lido before going back to my cabin to get ready to go ashore, packing snorkel gear and changing into a swimsuit and beach wear. The tender I take around 10AM is only half full.

This part of the island is dedicated to giving Holland America’s cruise ship passengers an enjoyable day at the beach. They certainly succeed at this, providing everything any cruise ship passenger might want: a wonderful long curving sandy beach; clear, warm and shallow water to swim in; a place to snorkel and see some fish; shopping; personal services such as massage and spa treatments; sports services such as horseback riding in the surf, parasailing, small boat sailing, walking tours; and of course a BBQ lunch. I expected the beach to be crowded, but everyone spreads out so it turns out to be very relaxing.

I have a clamshell reserved, which is a small half tent to provide some shade from the tropical sun, including two lounge chairs. I take my snorkel gear and wade into the warm water, not expecting to see much since there are lots of people in the water, however I’m pleasantly surprised. There are several varieties of fish swimming around, and I even spot two Barracudas and manage to take a picture and a video of them! The BBQ lunch is good, and afterwards I return to the clamshell for another hour before deciding to return to the ship.

Explorations Cafe counter
Explorations Cafe counter

After having a casual dinner in the Lido with my friends, we go to the Explorations Lounge to listen to the “Adagio Strings” – four young women who are a string quartet. They sound very good, which is a pleasant surprise for us, since the “Adagio Strings” quartet who played aboard the Volendam cruise last year were nothing short of dreadful. This quartet obviously practices and actually care about how they sound!

I decide to skip the entertainment in the main show lounge this evening, since it is a Las Vegas headliner who sings and tells jokes – not my type of entertainment. I return to my cabin and work on the photos and video I shot today and yesterday. I like to keep up-to-date with the results from my camera work while traveling. I find putting a caption on each photo and the location makes it much easier to cope with all this media when I return home. I also write a journal while traveling, which I find invaluable for creating travelogues for my main JoeTourist website once I return home. I enjoy the ritual of sitting down and reviewing the day, and then committing it to words.

This evening I sign up with Rogers for their cellular roaming package, which gives me voice coverage for Central and South America. This ensures I get a more reasonable per minute rate for voice calls than standard roaming, so I can use my iPhone to call home when we are ashore. Cellular service is offered aboard ship, but it is outrageously expensive, so I will wait until we are docked or ashore to check in with the family. While aboard ship and offshore, it isn’t too expensive to send and receive email using the Internet access package I signed up for yesterday.

The ship is bucking a 30kt headwind as we head south towards Cuba. Our speed is 14.5kts, which is certainly slower than last night.

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Departing Athens for Victoria

Greece 2006

April 14, 2006 – Friday – Athens, Greece -Milan-Toronto-Victoria, Canada

My alarm goes off at 3am and I am picked up by Jimmy (Paul’s alternate) at 4am. It is a bit confusing picking out Jimmy, since there are so many cabs going by. Exarhia is still going strong at this late hour! Jimmy and I have a nice chat on the way to the airport, and I pay him the €500 I owe Paul for the taxi services over the last week.

As I board my Alitalia flight to Milan, it is raining lightly at Athens airport. We taxi over the airport’s main access road on an overpass to get to our runway. As we takeoff, the rain is increasing. What luck I’ve had on this trip. At most we had some overcast in Venice, otherwise it has been sunny every day. We fly the length of Italy’s east coast south to north, and land on time in Milan. I end up only two gates away from where my group left Malpenza for Tripoli three weeks ago! This is the old part of the airport, and it is very crowded. Destinations for the four gates include: Prague, Bucharest, Tunisia, Timisora, Cairo, Istanbul, Krakow, Dublin, and (of course) Toronto – my flight.

Flight map - Athens to Milan
Flight map – Athens to Milan

The Tunisia flight seems to be popular with the Italians by the look of the passports. Lots of tired, squalling kids, and they all appear to be waiting for the Toronto flight. I observe two common types of passengers for Toronto: Indians with kids returning home (after already spending many hours in the air), and older Italians obviously going to visit their family in Toronto. We board Alitalia AZ652, a Boeing 767-33A (ER) about 20 minutes late, then once we are aboard, another 30 minute delay is announced due to ATC traffic congestion.

Flight map - Milan to Toronto
Flight map – Milan to Toronto

I take some nice photographs of Lago Maggiore and the Italian Alps, where my eclipse tour group stayed in Beligerate on our last night (just north of Milan). We are flying over Guernsey and the south coast of Wales while having dinner. I also spot several large ships in the Atlantic shipping lane off the coast of England. Flying over Newfoundland reveals endless frozen lakes and not a tree in sight. I think the Italian woman sitting beside me was impressed, and perhaps a little worried about finding the same thing in Toronto! Unfortunately she doesn’t speak English, so I can’t reassure her about Toronto’s milder climate.

I’ve noticed as we fly over the Atlantic that aircraft in the traffic lanes fly very close to each other – at times I could almost make out the aircraft markings. One of the female Alitalia cabin crew sees my digital SLR, and tells me I can’t use it in flight. This doesn’t make any sense – it’s normal to prohibit use of electronic devices during takeoff and landing, but not during flight. Alitalia’s own announcement states this, but I wasn’t going to argue the point with her so I put my camera away. Despite this warning, I took some great aerial shots all the way from Athens through to the St. Lawrence!

After 9.5 hours in the air, we finally arrive at Pearson Airport in Toronto. Alitalia lands at a skyway equipped gate, but it is off in some remote area of the airport. Everyone has to get on a shuttle bus and go for a 20 minute ride to Terminal One. We then go through Canadian Immigration. There are a dozen officers, however two flights are being processed: ours from Italy, and one from China. The Chinese take a long time to be interviewed, since many don’t speak English, and it appears some haven’t filled in the form. Once I am finally interviewed by an officer, I breeze through in less than a minute. I also am lucky to find the correct luggage carousel and grab my bag right away. Customs decides they don’t want to talk with me, so that was easy!

I now have five hours to kill before my Air Canada direct flight to Victoria departs. I sip a Cappuccino Grande, which is my first cappuccino since we left Italy. While in Athens, I made coffee with my breakfast in the apartment. I really didn’t feel comfortable spending time in the numerous cafés in Athens for some reason – perhaps it was all the smoking that put me off.

Pearson International Airport is quite impressive, now that the expansion is completed. The new Terminal One is grand-looking, with soaring ceilings and glass, new car displays, bars, restaurants, coffee bars, duty free shops, bookstores and all sorts of other shops.  Even the cleaning staff are impressive: they wear black and white suit-like uniforms complete with ties, and the airport is absolutely spotless.

While I’m waiting for my flight, I call home and let them know I’m in Toronto and the flight appears to be on-time, so they should plan to pick me up at 10:30pm. After this call, I watch a young Chinese guy try to use one of the pay telephones without success. He then asks me for help, and I see that the number he is calling is Ottawa (long distance). I coach him through the process of using a credit card, but the telephone rejects his Chinese card. I then offer to let him use my cellular telephone, which works fine. He is very grateful, shakes my hand, and runs off to the gate to board his flight.

Flight map - Toronto to Victoria
Flight map – Toronto to Victoria

I am extremely tired when I finally arrive at Victoria Airport. It takes me about five days to fully recover from the jet lag.  The westward journey was certainly the killer.  I wouldn’t let a travel agent talk me into a 30 hour elapsed time flight again…that’s for sure.  I should have had an overnight stay in Toronto on the way back, as happened for the start of my trip.