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Kicking back in Barbados

Dec 16, 2018 – South coast of Barbados

2018 Caribbean Sail Cruise

I have nothing planned for today as far as sightseeing goes, but I go for a drive this morning. First stop is Hastings Rocks Beach, which is only a couple of minutes’ drive from where I’m staying, and offers a public access beach, a boardwalk along the beachfront, and easy parking. There are also lots of restaurants in the area, which I’ll make use of for dinner each day starting today.

I drive towards Bridgetown and get within sight of the cruise terminal when I visit Pebbles Beach along the Aquatic Gap, where there are also some hotels. As I drive back, I visit the Garrison area where the Barbados Turf Club Racecourse is located along with the Garrison historic buildings. (See banner image above.)

After I return to my vacation rental, I see a troupe of Barbados Green Monkeys roaming around the yard and feeding. After my previous encounter with hostile monkeys in Borneo, I am very cautious around these ones. They appear to be somewhat scared of humans, so they keep to themselves, which is reassuring. This afternoon I drive to the Massy Stores Supermarket in nearby Worthing to buy more food and beverages for snacks, breakfast and lunch.

I go out for dinner to Blakey’s Bar & Restaurant, which is beside the boardwalk on the Hastings Rocks beachfront. I order grilled Barracuda, the catch of the day and a new fish for me to try. It’s quite good, but it could use a bit more spice, since it’s a very mild flavoured fish. I also order a Martini, which is barely cold and not well-mixed. I should have known better and ordered a Gin and Tonic or beer instead, but I enjoyed the meal and watching the sunset over the beautiful Caribbean.

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Boarding the Royal Clipper

Dec 4, 2018 – Boarding the Royal Clipper & departing Montego Bay, Jamaica

2018 Caribbean Sail Cruise

I sleep in until about 8AM, meet my friends downstairs for breakfast, and then it’s time to return to my room to pack. We check out at 12PM, check our bags with the hotel and go across the street to the Starbucks at Doctor’s Cave Beach for coffee, snacks, and to hang out for awhile. We return to the hotel lobby and leave for the ship a bit after 3PM for a 4PM check-in.

We have to clear Jamaican customs and immigration before we embark the ship. They shake us down for a Departure Fee of US$35 each, applicable to anyone who stays in Jamaica for more than 24 hours! Once aboard, the usual cruise ship check-in takes place, where they take passports, preauthorize a credit card to pay the shipboard account, photograph everyone, and issue a passenger ID card to run the accounts on and for leaving/returning the ship at the various ports-of-call (in place of a passport).

Unfurling one of the four stay sails as the ship departs Montego Bay

After everyone is aboard, there is a lifeboat drill, which is conducted in English, German and French, so it takes quite awhile! I go to dinner with my friends, where we are seated with an American and two Brits. The meal is lovely – I have escargot and a salad to start, sea bass for my main course, and three almond cookies with strawberry sauce for dessert. I finish with a cappuccino, which costs 2.50 Euros (CD$3.75).

The crew set two of the four staysails during the evening departure of the Royal Clipper from Montego Bay. They play Conquest of Paradise every time they raise sails on the trip, which gets a bit tedious after awhile!

Champagne is served on deck as we depart the port. It is a lovely evening with warm tropical breezes in my face. Despite not having stabilizers, the ship rides surprisingly well as we pull offshore for the overnight passage to Port Antonio – a small town further along the coast of Jamaica.

Overnight route of Royal Clipper from Montego Bay to Port Antonio, Jamaica
Overnight route of Royal Clipper
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Montego Bay, Jamaica

Dec 3, 2018 – Deja Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica

2018 Caribbean Sail Cruise

My source of early morning cappuccino at Starbucks
My source of early morning cappuccino at Starbucks

I had a good sleep last night, as I recover from the 20+ hours traveling to get here. The resort’s espresso bar isn’t open when I get up shortly after 7AM, so I go across the street to the Starbucks to get my cappuccino – essential to start my day!

I decide to go for a swim at the adjacent Doctor’s Cave Beach, which as Deja Resort guests, we have privileges at. So I change into my swimsuit, put on some shorts and beach shoes, grab a beach towel and get an entry ticket from the front desk. I have a lovely swim in the warm ocean before the crowds descend on the place an hour or two later. After a shower and a change of clothes, I go downstairs for some breakfast, and have a second cup of coffee.

My friends call to say they are going to the beach and invite me to join them. I sit on the deck in the shade while they have a swim, and then we sit and chat for an hour or so after they get out of the water. A Jamaican man at the top of the stairs checking admission tickets seems to want to talk with us about Bob Marley and the start of reggae on the island and overseas. He’s very nice but rather talkative, so we end up staying there a bit longer than we had otherwise planned!

I have a cappuccino in the resort’s espresso bar, and later some lunch downstairs – more delicious fried fish, rice and veggies. I take it easy this afternoon at the resort, alternating between napping, working on my photos and journal on my laptop, and staying cool sipping Jamaican Red Stripe draught lager. Beer and wine, mixed drinks, espresso, and food is all served as part of the all-inclusive service at the resort. This is a pretty sweet deal considering we paid less here for a room than available elsewhere in the area.

After we have dinner at the resort, I finish my journaling and photo work on my laptop before going to bed. We board the ship tomorrow afternoon, so I want to be well-rested and ready to go.

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Dragoon Ranch to Tucson

February 19, 2018 Monday – Dragoon Mountain Ranch to Tucson, Arizona, USA

2018 Southern Arizona and Astronomy

My friends and I leave the ranch this morning, bound for Tucson. With all the rain we’ve had over the last few days, I’m concerned about the washes on Sybil road being in rough shape, so I take the main ranch road to St. David and then take the state highway through Benson and join I-10 there. I meet my friends at their car rental agency in downtown Tucson and give them a ride to the airport.

I then head north to the Oro Valley and check in to the Red Lion Inn around 1:30PM. I ask them about using an external plug to charge my Tesla, but they say they have none. I look later, and sure enough there are zero plugs on the outside walls! My Tesla Model S is currently covered in mud from driving the ranch roads all week. I want to have a clean car to drive for my last few days in Tucson and when I return it, so I go to the nearby Mister Car Wash (4941 N Oracle Rd). I pay them US$45 for a hand wash and “Hog Wash” (power wash the mud off) and clean the interior. The crew also give the car a light detail and do a terrific job (see above banner image), so I give them a generous tip. My rental Tesla Model S now looks better than when I took delivery of it!

Spiedino di Mare
Spiedino di Mare

Since I skipped lunch today, I decide to treat myself to a nice dinner at Carrabba’s Italian Grill. I walk the block up the main drag from the hotel to the restaurant, arriving at about 5PM. Their Happy Hour is 4-6PM, so I order a Classic Martini, which only ends up costing $4.46, which I find is very nicely made! They also have a three course dinner special, so I have a lovely minestrone soup to start, Spiedino di Mare (grilled scallops and shrimp with broccoli) for the main, and mini cannoli for dessert. The food costs $18.99, so the total bill with tax and tip is US$28.97 which I consider a bargain for the good service and excellent drinks and food. I bring the cannoli back to my hotel to eat later.

After researching the Level 2 charge points near the hotel, I realize that once my existing charge is depleted, not being able to charge overnight is going to be a serious inconvenience. This issue is going to limit the distance I can take my rental Model S each day, so I decide to cut my stay short at this hotel and move to a hotel that has Tesla Destination Chargers. The Baymont Inn Tucson Airport has seven Tesla destination chargers (and 7 additional generic J1772 chargers), so overnight charging becomes a reality again. I book the next three nights at that hotel and go downstairs to cancel three nights off my stay with the Red Lion Inn. I will change hotels tomorrow. I should have done more research and booked the Baymont for my whole stay, since it is also a bit cheaper than the Red Lion.

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Vancouver to Hilo – days 3 & 4 at sea

Oct 4, 2017 – Third day at sea – enroute from Vancouver, BC to Hilo, Hawai’i

Hawai’i Cruise 2017

Ginny Stibolt’s talk this morning: Hawaii: A Timeline of Paradise – The origins of the beautiful Hawaiian Islands, the nature of their plants and animals, and how the natural aspects of this paradise have changed over time. I learn that native species in Hawai’i are rare, and even rarer now that many invasive species of plants and animals have been brought in by settlers.

Anti-crepuscular rays at sunset
Anti-crepuscular rays at sunset

My friends and I go up to the Lido for lunch, but can’t find a table, so we go down to the dining room and have a very nice lunch with a couple from Langley, BC, and a woman from south Florida.

Oct 5, 2017 – Fourth day at sea

As is my habit while aboard ship, I go up to the Explorations Cafe for Continental Breakfast: the essential cappuccino, a blueberry cake and some muesli. I find a chair in the adjacent Crow’s Nest Lounge with a forward-facing view and chat with a woman from Parksville and a man from Seattle. The man from Seattle is folding US Dollar bills into origami figures he invents. One is a dress shirt and a tie – very clever!

I meet my friend in the Explorations Cafe for coffee at 10:30AM, and then sit outside on the Upper Promenade Deck 3 to listen to the first four chapters of my Margaret Atwood Audible book The Handmaid’s Tale. I go down to the main dining room for lunch, and sit at a table with the woman from Richmond and her mother from Sidney again – even on a ship this big, you can bump into people more than once! I have a lovely spinach and mushroom salad with grilled salmon on top and some frozen yogurt for dessert.

Ginny Stibolt’s talk this afternoon: Ancient Farming: Roots of a Civilization – she follows up yesterday’s talk by describing how Polynesian wayfarers brought seeds, cuttings, and root stock of plants they’d need in unknown lands (Hawai’i).

This evening, my friends and I have dinner at Tamarind, a Pan-Asian restaurant featuring the cuisine of Southeast Asia, China and Japan. We are all very impressed with the food and service. Our selections:

  • Jewels of the Sea – shrimp-filled wontons with sliced baby bok chop, lemon grass-sesame broth
  • Crisp Fried Soft Shell Crab with Thai dipping sauce
  • Hoisin-Lime Glazed Sea Bass – pan-seared, wok-cooked Asian greens
  • Penang Red Curry Coconut Chicken – spiced chicken, snow peas, eggplant, zucchini, pimientos, opal bail, lemon grass, lime juice, red curry, coconut milk
  • Taiwanese Braised Pork Belly – soy-egg, pickled vegetables, sticky rice, bok choy with oyster sauce
  • Mango Cloud – light egg white soufflé mango sorbet
  • Thai Mini Doughnuts – chocolate, mango & ginger sauces
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Cinque Terra

September 13, 2014 – Saturday – Rome to Cinque Terre, Italy

JoeTourist: Cinque Terre &emdash; Seafood stew cooked in an amphora
After driving from Rome, we turn off the Autostrada and drive down a steep valley to Vernazza, where the bus parks. We walk over to the train station, and after riding the train for four minutes we arrive in Monterosso. This pretty little town by the sea on the Cinque Terra (the Italian Riviera) is our home for the next two nights. Since today is Saturday, there are lots of Italians here on weekend get-aways. We are staying in the Hotel Punta Mesco, a nice hotel located about a block off the main street, so it is nice and quiet.

This evening, we have a group meal at Ristorante Belvedere in old town. They cook a rich seafood stew of squid, fish, and mussels in an amphora and then pour it out into big bowls and we serve ourselves family-style.

2014.09.14 – Sunday – Cinque Terre, Italy

JoeTourist: Cinque Terre &emdash; Riomaggiore village
Today is our “vacation from our vacation”…in other words, a free day. I take the little ferry on a round trip from Monterosso al Mare, where out hotel is located, and go to Vernazza, Corniglia (hill town, no ferry stop), and Riomaggiore. On the way back, the ferry stops at Manarola and Vernazza, before terminating at Monterosso. I had planned to get off in Vernazza, see the town and walk back to Monterosso, but after seeing the crowds in the square at Vernazza, I decided to stay on the ferry and return to Monterosso.

I have lunch with a couple from our group, and then just chill out in my hotel room for a while. My ground floor room has a small patio, so I catch up on some journaling and annotate my photos while sitting outside. Our hotel hosts a Happy Hour this afternoon for our group – pizza, cheese, cold meats, bread, wine, and Limonchella. I fill up on the delicious pizza since they have lots, and skip dinner!

2014.09.15 – Monday – Cinque Terre, Italy to Lauterbrunnen Valley, Switzerland

After leaving the Cinque Terre this morning, we bypass Genoa and Milan and we cross the border into Switzerland at Lugano.

French Polynesia to San Diego – day 2

March 11, 2014 – Tuesday – Cruising from French Polynesia to San Diego aboard Statendam – Day 2 Sea Day

I have breakfast this morning with the dialysis doctor and his wife. He has a few dialysis patients aboard, one of which became unstable and had to be taken ashore in Nuku Hiva and onward to the hospital in Papeete.

Polywogs kneeling before King Neptune
Polywogs kneeling before King Neptune

There are some rain showers while we have breakfast and during the day, however the Sun comes out for the King Neptune Ceremony held this morning on the stern deck at the Ocean View Pool. Several pollywogs are duly initiated by the shellbacks. Despite having photos from similar ceremonies on two previous Holland America cruises, I take a few more photos, since this is always a fun event.

The wind is strong at 35kts from the NE again today, so with us steering a course of 028, we are taking the wind just off the bow. They close the decks, but passengers continue to sit on the lounge chairs and walk the decks – they put up with some sea spray and being blown around a bit. The ship is maintaining a speed of 18 knots as we head north to San Diego.

French Polynesia to San Diego – day 1

March 10, 2014 – Monday – Cruising from French Polynesia to San Diego aboard Statendam – Day 1 Sea Day

I wake up about 4AM and look out the window to see Venus drilling through the clouds, and then go back to sleep. This is our first full sea day of six enroute to San Diego and the end of the cruise. I have a full day planned, with enrichment talks and other activities. I received my Mariner Society Brunch invitation for the 12th, which I plan to attend, mainly so I can see the captain. I have yet to spot him on this long voyage!

  • 11:30AM – Discover SkyDrive Connect to SkyDrive.com – Digital Workshop – “Explore different ways to access, manage, and share your files on SkyDrive.” I use SkyDrive (now called OneDrive) and learned a few tips by attending this tech workshop.
  • 3PM – Hubble”s Greatest Hits – Showroom at Sea – Jonathan Nally – “It’s the most famous telescope in the world … or more accurately, in space! Since its launch in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has produced many of the most amazing images of the cosmos ever taken. Jonathan Nally takes you on a colorful journey through more than 20 years of Hubble’s most incredible discoveries and awe-inspiring images.” This presentation is mostly astronomical eye candy, but it is an enjoyable way to pass an hour.
Ship's position - March 10, 2014
Ship’s position – March 10, 2014

I am the only person swimming in the Ocean View Pool just before noon. The water in the pool is sloshing around a great deal as the ship is buffeted by strong winds. By this afternoon, we are being hit with 35kt winds as we proceed on our NE course across the Equator. There are whitecaps out on the water as I negotiate the windy Promenade Deck for my usual walk I take each day.

It is formal night this evening, so I get into my dark jacket, pants and tie before going to the Rotterdam dining room for dinner. I have a seafood dinner, starting with cold Lobster with mayonnaise, then Manhattan clam chowder, and Alaska King Crab and drawn butter for an entrée. The lobster and crab were very good, but the chowder was not inspiring. I had a chocolate espresso soufflé with warm raspberry sauce for dessert, which was excellent!

Jonathan Nalley leads a stargazing session from the Sea View Pool stern deck again tonight, and points out the Southern Cross to the crowd of about 50 people. I enjoy looking at M42 the Orion Nebula and Jupiter and its moons. My observing log