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Kauai to Vancouver – day 5 at sea

Oct 23, 2022 – Day 5 at sea aboard Koningsdam

2022 Hawai’i Cruise

I wake up to a dreary, wet morning, although the sunrise over the ocean is a beautiful study in blue (see banner photo above). We are obviously approaching Vancouver and sailing into the weather I took this cruise to escape!

Captain’s Report

  • 210 miles to Victoria pilot station
  • 2,145 nm from Nawiliwili
  • 18.9 kts average speed from Kaua’i
  • Arrivals
    • 8:15PM – Cape Flattery
    • 6:30AM sailing under Lion’s Gate Bridge
    • 7:15AM dock at Canada Place

HAL Your (wildlife) Shot – Naturalist Natalie shows passengers’ photos of wildlife they have taken while on this cruise. I tell her about finding the White-chinned Petrel resting on the Promenade deck on Oct 19th. If she had known, she would have picked the bird up using a towel, and thrown it overboard, where it would have had the best chance of survival. I wish I had known…instead of telling Customer Service about the bird.

Salmon filets with rice in the Lido
Salmon filets with rice in the Lido

I meet a friend in the Crow’s Nest Lounge for an afternoon drink while it pours rain outside. Even though it is a repeat performance, I listen to the Lincoln Center Stage ensemble one last time, and give them a positive review in the Navigator app. I go for dinner in the Lido, having my favourite salmon fillets with vegetables and jasmine rice. By the time I finish my meal, the server comes around to offer me water! Service in the Lido continues to be very spotty.

I pack all my non-essential stuff late this afternoon, pull out all the valuables from the safe, and empty all the drawers and closets so I don’t leave anything behind when I disembark tomorrow. I finish by 7PM, so I go up to the Crow’s Nest for one last drink, but the new server up there never comes by, so I go to the Dutch Cafe and have a brown ale while I sit working on my photos on my notebook computer. I verify with the barista Kaye that they will be open tomorrow morning, so I can go down there for my cappuccino and breakfast before I disembark.

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Kauai to Vancouver – day 3 at sea

Oct 21, 2022 – Day 3 at sea aboard Koningsdam

2022 Hawai’i cruise

Sunrise over the ocean with the Crescent Moon high in the sky
Sunrise over the ocean with the Crescent Moon high in the sky

The ship’s clocks advanced an hour last night as we sail east. The sunrise this morning is beautiful, which I can see from my verandah since I’m on the southeast-facing side of the ship. The Crescent Moon is high in the sky, above the impressive clouds to our south at sunrise. As usual, I go to the Grand Dutch Cafe for breakfast: cappuccino, blueberry muffin, fruit & yogurt parfait. I spend some time in the Crow’s Nest Lounge this morning, chatting with my fellow passengers and working on my photos. The man I talked with yesterday who’s wife has COVID-19 and is in isolation, has tested negative for the second time, so he will stay in their original stateroom while she remains in quarantine.

I attend the Stanley Park: Vancouver’s Crown Jewel presentation by our new naturalist at 1PM, but leave after she gets a couple of facts wrong about the park. I go for lunch in the Lido, having two lovely grilled fillets of Salmon with some rice. It is a beautiful day outside with smooth seas (see banner photo above), so I spend some time on my verandah enjoying the 20ºC calm weather, although its no longer warm enough to stay out there too long.

Ask the Captain is presented by Captain Henk Draper at 3PM in Main Stage, with an intro before and questions after from the Cruise Director Jayme. The captain has a dry sense of humour, sharing that his wife is aboard with him, and he has plans to retire within the next year after having worked for Holland America as a bridge officer since 1994. He reveals they kept 92 crew on board the ship during the pandemic shutdown. He wryly observes that it would be nice to have faster Internet on the ship from SpaceX’s Starlink, considering Holland America’s current satellite Internet is down fleet-wide today. The ship is currently running at just over 20 knots to try to outrun a weather system that promises to bring much bigger seas and winds than we are currently experiencing unless we can get ahead of it. 

Yunita (waiter) and Himli (chef) at Nami Sushi, Tamaraind restaurant
Yunita (waiter) and Himli (chef) at Nami Sushi, Tamaraind restaurant

Since it is dressy night, I make a reservation to have dinner at Nami Sushi at 6PM this evening – my favourite specialty restaurant (along with Tamarind) aboard Koningsdam. I go early to have a martini in the bar before dinner, and then have the yummy Hamachi, Salmon and Scallop ceviche again – so good! My main course is the Thai Basil Szechuan Shrimp – giant-sized shrimp and such a lovely spicy dish. I have amazing service from my server Tunita, chef Hilmi, and the sushi chef. Such superb food, and the bartender was great too…sadly, only two days left. US$29.50 for the a la cart items, a saving of $10 over the US$38 standard charge for Tamarind. It’s a 3-martini night, but I only have to find my stateroom, so who cares?

I finish the evening in the Crow’s Nest, where it is quiet. I give my Jethro Mobile prepaid SIM to the barista in the Explorations Cafe, so she can call home when the ship is in USA ports. It has unlimited calling to most countries, and there is still 1.2Gb of data on it, even after me using it while in Hawai’i.

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Los Angeles to Tucson by train

Feb 18, 2017 Saturday – Los Angeles to Tucson by Amtrak’s Sunset Limited train

2017 Southern Arizona & Astronomy

Rainbow over the desert as we approach Tucson train station
Rainbow over the desert as we approach Tucson train station

After a good sleep overnight from Los Angeles, I’m up early and sit down for breakfast shortly after the dining car opens at 6:30AM. My new friend Jim joins me, so we talk about our upcoming plans over coffee, scrambled eggs and croissants. Jim is having grits, and assures me they taste great providing they are seasoned with salt and pepper – but I pass on them! The train is running late, so we have plenty of time before our projected arrival around 10:15AM. Outside there is desert scrub and a few cactus, and the mountains behind. We see a vertical rainbow to the north as the Sun rises over the mountains to the south.

It’s a cloudy day here in the desert. As we approach Maricopa, Arizona (near Phoenix) it is raining lightly. There is a crew change here before we leave for Tucson, my final stop for this train trip. This morning, the conductor says our delays last night when leaving Los Angeles were caused by staying clear of freight trains and there were also some weather-related delays, whatever that means.

The train pulls into Tucson station at 10:15AM (see banner image above) – the end of my train trip.

Map of Amtrak's Sunset Limited train route between LA and Tucson
Amtrak’s Sunset Limited train route between LA and Tucson – the blue line
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Flights from Singapore to Victoria

March 17, 2016 – Thu – Singapore to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

2016 – SE Asia and Total Solar Eclipse cruise

I’m up at 3AM this morning and leave the Volendam for the last time to take the prearranged 4AM shuttle to the airport. The bus takes Holland America’s passengers to Terminal 1 at Changi Airport, where I check in with Cathay Pacific for my 8:05AM flight to Hong Kong and onward to Vancouver. I will get to live today almost twice over, since we cross the International Date Line mid-flight as we fly eastward across the Pacific Ocean.

After clearing customs and immigration, I find my gate and hit Starbucks for a cappuccino. I have several hours to kill, but Changi airport has free wifi, so the time goes by. By 6AM the airport comes alive with more people, so people watching keeps me entertained. The 3.5 hour Cathay Pacific flight from Singapore to Hong Kong goes well. They serve us breakfast, which I certainly appreciate!

When departing the aircraft in Hong Kong airport, I remember it is important to stay in the “Transfer” stream when you already have a boarding pass issued for the next flight segment. You still have to go through security, but then you can go directly to the Departures level and roam around. Otherwise you will find yourself on the Arrivals level, and have to take a lot more time to find your way back to the Departure level.

Cathay Pacific doesn’t load the flight to Vancouver by row. Everyone simply lines up at the gate and we are let on the aircraft after our boarding pass is scanned and our passport is verified.

Pre-dawn light over the wing south of the Aleutian Islands
Pre-dawn light over the wing south of the Aleutian Islands

This 11-hour flight is excruciating, however service by the cabin crew is very good. The first time I check my watch is an hour or so after they serve us dinner at the beginning of the flight. At that point we are five hours into the flight. Not even being half way is pretty depressing! The next time I check the time, we are about five hours out of Vancouver…still a very long time to sit. By then I’ve listened to all the music I can handle; I’ve read all the magazines on my iPad that interest me; so I haul down my MacBook Air from the overhead bin and write my journal and process photos for awhile. It would be great if I could sleep aboard aircraft, but that doesn’t happen no matter how tired I am. The sunrise is beautiful as we fly south of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.

Looking North across the city of Vancouver to the North Shore mountains on final approach to Vancouver airport
Looking North across the city of Vancouver to the North Shore mountains on final approach to Vancouver airport

Our approach to Vancouver is over Northern Vancouver Island and the coast range of mountains of British Columbia. The pilot refers to it as “the Whistler approach” to Vancouver airport, taking us over the famed ski resort. We fly east of the city and then turn west on final approach over Surrey, Richmond, and New Westminster, giving us great views of the city against the North Shore mountains. I think we land on Vancouver runway 26R. I take some nice photos of the scenery out the window.

This time I’m prepared for the long stretches of walking required in Vancouver airport to get from the arrival gate to the Immigration kiosks, and then onward to the baggage carousels, and finally a long way to the end of the departure concourse to check in at the Westjet kiosks. I don’t have a through ticket, so can’t use Westjet’s transfer check-in (much closer to the carousels). After clearing security again, I find the domestic departure area and the gates for the local Westjet flights. It is only a 20 minute flight to Victoria, and I am soon home…greeted at the door by Rolly and Tanner, our Jack Russell Terriers, and the rest of the family. It’s time to go to bed for a well-deserved sleep after enduring some 27 hours elapsed time from when I left my cabin aboard the Volendam in Singapore earlier today.

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Jebel Shams

February 20, 2015 – Friday – Nizwa to Jebel Shams

Omani man eating some dates - lunch stop, Al Hamra oasis
Omani man eating some dates – lunch stop, Al Hamra oasis

After leaving our palatial hotel in Nizwa, we stop for lunch in the Al Hamra oasis, and make a brief stop to see the abandoned Persian village of Ghul before climbing 2,000 metres up into the mountains. Our destination is Jebel Shams (Mountain of the Sun),  Oman’s highest mountain at 3,028 metres (just over 10,000 feet). We stay at the Jebel Shams Resort, which is at the end of a long, winding and steep road. The resort is situated a few hundred metres from Wadi Ghul, the Grand Canyon of Arabia.

I walk over from the resort to the rim of the canyon before dinner, and find a spectacular sight that is much deeper than the Grand Canyon in Arizona. I peer over the edge of Wadi Ghul to a small abandoned village barely visible almost 1,000 metres below! The wind is terribly strong, but at least it is blowing up the canyon and over the rim, so it isn’t a safety hazard. I find taking photos of the canyon in the late afternoon very challenging, and resort to bracketed photos and HDR settings.

Jebel Shams Resort has pretty basic accommodation compared to the luxury we have had so far on the tour. I keep the electric heater going in my room, since at this elevation, it gets very cold at night. The Internet connection is down, so I use my time this evening to catch up on my journal and tag my photos with locations and titles.

February 21, 2015 – Jebel Shams to Muscat

I get up before dawn this morning and take some photos of the mountains bathed in the pre-dawn light. The pre-dawn view of the mountains, the Earth’s shadow and the Belt of Venus is spectacular! After an early breakfast, we drive (as a group) the short distance from the resort to see and photograph Wadi Ghul after sunrise, and then drive down the mountain and onto the wadi and other sights before returning to Muscat and civilization.

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Victoria to Ft. Lauderdale flights

2011 Incan Empires Cruise

Sunday, November 20, 2011 – Victoria, BC, Canada to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA

United Express/Skywest flight 6315 from Victoria to San Francisco is the first leg of my journey to Ft. Lauderdale today. I’m up at 3:30AM, arriving at Victoria airport by 4:30AM to check in. The aircraft has to be de-iced since it is -5°C outside and there is frost on the aircraft, so we are 10 minutes late departing at 6:35AM. A female pilot is in the left seat, and does a great job with takeoff. We cruise at 31,000’ as we head south, on a beautiful clear morning. I can only imagine what the view is like from the cockpit, but from my seat facing west as the Sun rises, the horizon is lit up over the Pacific Ocean in the distance as we fly down the coasts of Oregon and California. The pilot nails the landing in San Francisco, and then we taxi for what seems like forever until she slams on the brakes and we were at the gate!

Victoria-San Francisco-Houston-Ft. Lauderdale - flight map
Victoria-San Francisco-Houston-Ft. Lauderdale – flight map

United flight 43 operated by Continental from San Francisco to Houston – I had to retrieve my checked bag and then go through the United States’ Immigration. At least I didn’t have to be fingerprinted or photographed, and the immigration officer feigned interest in my upcoming cruise. Going through security again was a hassle – shoes and belt off and my first full body scan. Then I walked several kilometers and took two moving sidewalks to find my gate. It is 9:30AM and my flight doesn’t leave until 12:05PM. This is the first time I have traveled through San Francisco airport. I had heard it was nice, but I would say “not so much”. It certainly is better configured than the Los Angeles airport (LAX). There are a huge number of shops (like most American airports), and it is a study in humanity with massive crowds of people everywhere I look.

There are 23 passengers on standby for this flight to Houston, so I assume it is full. If it is anything like the other flights I’ve watched while waiting the three hours for mine to leave, it is chaos at the gate. We pull away from the terminal about three quarters of an hour late, but we make up all but 10 minutes by the time we arrive in Houston. During the flight, I purchase a Thai Chicken Wrap for lunch, which is quite good. After clearing the gate, much to my relief the gate for my flight to Ft. Lauderdale is in the same terminal and is only a 10 minute walk.

JoeTourist: Texas &emdash; Sunset over Texas

Continental flight 1192 from Houston to Ft. Lauderdale – George W. Bush International airport isn’t terribly impressive. I actually had a half hour at the gate to observe lots of people and the semi-controlled chaos at the multitude of gates in the area. This is certainly a hub, with flights coming and going to many destinations within the US (since I’m in one of the domestic terminals).

After boarding and take-off, I find the in-flight meal offerings are not impressive. Basically they can sell you snack packs…there are no dinner entrees or even sandwiches available, despite having them listed on the menu. I guess it is such a short flight, they don’t expect passengers to want to eat, but I do! Oh well, I’ll soon be spoiled with all the choices of food aboard the cruise ship. Being a bit hungry today won’t hurt. I didn’t think the Thai Chicken Wrap I had for lunch would be my main meal today! I have a glass of Coke and pull out one of my breakfast bars which I always have handy when travelling. As with the last flight, this flight is full. Both aircraft are operated by Continental, but have United on the outside of the aircraft and also inside the airport with signage. They merged awhile ago, but I guess I wasn’t paying much attention at the time.

After my arrival at Ft. Lauderdale airport, my friends and I find each other (thank goodness for cellphones), and we catch a taxi to our hotel, the Alhambra Beach Resort (no longer in business). The driver doesn’t know where our hotel is, so I end up turning on the data services on my iPhone so we can use Google Maps to navigate there. The Alhambra is a funky, small property, but the rooms are spotlessly clean, and it is only a half block to the beach. Time for bed after this 18 hour marathon session with the airlines.