Thursday, October 30, 2008


Sydney was our first Port of Call on our cruise. We arrived and looking out the window while seated finishing our lunch this is what we were greeted with. A very very large fiddle. I think that this was the first clue as to the Gaelic heritage of the area. Speaking in relative terms Sydney is a rather new town, founded in 1785 by Col. Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres. It is on the Island of Cape Breton which makes up half of Nova Scotia.

We had booked a tour that would take us to the Bras D'or Lake part of the Island to visit the Highland Village Museum. Our buses were waiting for us when we disembarked the ship. We were going to be riding in comfort. The Highland Village is a living history museum though since we were so late in the season though not closed it was pretty quiet. There were a few costumed interpreters through out the village, but I would guess that in the summer vacation months there are many more. There may have been a few other visitors there other than those from the cruise ship, but I don't think many. The area consisted of many different buildings showing how the people who settled Cape Breton lived not only during various decades on the Island but also how they lived in Scotland before coming to the New World.

This stone hut is the type of structure that most of the early immigrants to Nova Scotia had lived in in Scotland. The women who was telling us about them said that they actually were still being used as homes into the early 1900's. They are one room and have a thick sod roof. I don't know about in the 1900's, but in the late 1700's and early 1800's the people shared their homes with their livestock. One side of the room was fenced off for the animals. As we all wrinkled our noses she reminded us to think about the Scottish Highland winters and then realize the warmth provided by the animals sharing the home was very welcome. We still wrinkled our noses!

This is a photo of the inside of the hut that the people shared. Notice the beds are inside cupboards. These were not very large and the interpreter told us often the family that lived in them consisted of two parents, five children and then the animals; Very, very cozy living arrangements I would say.

Looking up from the area of the stone hut you could see what a village in Nova Scotia would have been like in the 1800's. Very picturesque and a much more pleasant place to live. I would imagine those coming from the stone huts would have been more comfortable with these arrangements, but I am sure they must have missed their homeland.

There were animals in the barns here and several different homes to wander through. They had them laid out along a path that had the structure in a type of chronological order so you could see how what the people of the area lived in changed over the ddecades following Cape Breton being settled.

Their homes were all furnished with period pieces and you could really see how people lived. I will never forget that one of the homes had a bedroom that was no bigger than a twin size bed with a little walking space along one side of it and room at its foot for a small chest of drawers. It made our ships cabin look like a palace. These people did not live in the 2000 plus square foot homes like we have today and they packed many more people into them. Of course I could not pass up taking a few pictures of some of the things the women did during the course of their day. One of those things was QUILTING! This was a beautiful Dresden Plate quilt on a very simple quilting frame. The interpreter in one of the homes was actually working on piecing a quilt and showing how to use the true iron irons. You know the type that had to heat up by sitting on the stove. Now electricity back then so no plug ins.

The church was beautiful setting on the hill and would make for wonderful wedding pictures I'm sure. It was at the top of the hill and overlooked everything. Inside it was pretty sparse compared to our churches today. Also in the village we were able to visit a school, a general store and blacksmith shop and a shed where the processed the wool from the village sheep. One thing of interest that I learned was the the highland sheep that the immigrants brought over from Scotland did not need to be sheared like we do with the sheep today. The highland sheep shed and so the wool is literally just pulled off of them with your hands. They had a film showing how this was done....very interesting.

At the end of our visit to the village we got a cup of tea and an oat cake which was a cookie somewhat like a oatmeal shortbread but very thin. They were yummy and somewhere in all the papers collected on the trip I have the recipe. When I find it I will try making them.

We took a different route back to the ship so we could see more of the country side. One of the things we saw was a bald eagle sitting on the top of a railroad bridge. Our tour guide had been telling us that they often frequented the lakes area and sat on the bridge and so on the way into the village we were disappointed that none were to be seen. But as if he had heard our disappointment the eagle made an appearance on our way out. I'm not sure I have ever seen a bald eagle in the wild before. So I had to crank out the zoom and get a picture. Frankly I'm amazed it turned out as good as it did. He's still pretty small though.

The main reasons we took this cruise at the time of the year we did was to hopefully see some fall colors. I was worried that maybe we would miss them. For as far north as we were I thought that they might change sooner. According to our tour guide we should have been in the middle of the peak color, but the trees were changing slower than usual this year and they were just getting started. We did see quite a bit of color at some points along the way. At others everything was still green. Still it was a very pretty drive though the county side and I enjoyed it very much. The trip back to the ship took us through a very large Indian Reservation which was interesting though really no different than driving though Bay Mills in the Upper Peninsula of MI. Just much bigger.

This was a very nice though short port stop. I'm glad we got to go into the interior of the island and got to know some of the islands history. We got to see portions of Bras D'Or Lake. It is huge. I think our guide said it is 80 miles long and at the widest point 20 miles wide. Obviously we didn't see it all.

I have so many more pictures of the village and of our drive to and from it. We didn't get to see the town of Sydney itself other than our path to an from the ship, but people I talked to who did not take a tour, but just walked through town said other than one or two very old churches there really wasn't must of interest to see. Sydney has only recently become a stop on the cruise ship circuit and since it's main claim to fame was one coal mine that has been shut down for a long time most of the interesting things are outside of town. Besides the Highland Village we went to you could have gone to Baddeck and learned about Alexander Grahm Bell or to Louisbourg which is a fortress on Cape Breton.

So that's it for Sydney. Not sure what will pop up here next. Our next port of call was Charlottetown, PEI (Prince Edward Island)

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Yesterday I showed you a representation of the activities available inside Explorer. But that only represents a portion of what is available. There is a whole range of activities outside on deck as well. Because of the cooler weather of this cruise these weren't the activities of primary interest and most times the decks were pretty empty, but on Caribbean cruises these are the most popular places to be.

Several mornings, especially at the beginning of the cruise Jerry and I took advantage of this track on deck 12. Officially its a jogging track, but on this cruise most people walked it. Five laps around the track equaled one mile. It was a nice place to walk. A bit breezy and some days when you rounded the back end of the track, which actually was a t the front of the ship you felt like you were going to be blown off your feet! And it wasn't a warm blast of air either. I think if you look carefully you can see how people were dressed. This picture was actually taken on one of our colder days as we were cruising up the Saguenay River in Quebec. It was the farthest north we went and also it was late afternoon.

Deck 4 is the official walking area when there a lots of joggers aboard ship. With the exception of the very front of the ship you can walk totally around the ship on this deck. At the front you need to go up a flight of stairs to deck 5 walk around to the other side and then head back down a flight back to deck 4 to complete the circuit of the ship. I'm not sure but I think two laps of this deck is a mile. Maybe two and a half laps. Its a pretty walk and you are definitely closer to the water at this level. Also you are a bit more protected from the wind, though not much.

Despite the weather not being tropical, much of the on deck entertainment was still tropical in flavor. I felt so sorry for this band. I think they were all natives of the Caribbean Islands and they played on deck 11 every afternoon we were sailing. So not only was it cold it was breezy. A few afternoons they had a few listeners. Most they were on there own with a random person walking by.

Of course cool weather does not keep some people from enjoying the available water activities. The hot tubs were very popular. Though most times the people using them were sitting in the warm water up to their necks unlike this hardy soul. Just for a temperature check point this picture was taken about five minutes after the first picture of the people in winter coats was! I beleive there are six large hot tubs on deck 11 and three pools. Other than our last day at sea I didn't actually observe anyone swimming in the pools. I did however see two young boys swimming in one of the hot tubs. And I mean swimming. It was a short lap across the tub but they were having fun.

Minature Golf is another popular on board activity. I had hoped to find time t play it, but didn't. Jerry did play in the Mini Golf Tournament. No he didn't win. This is on deck 12 at the aft, back, of the ship. Being at the aft it is somewhat less breezy but there still can be a stiff wind. At those time the sport is referred to as Air Golf. Also from what I hear and can imagine golfing on a ship can be very challenging when there are rough seas. Under those conditions you are never quite sure where your ball will end up after you hit it.

Also challenging on rough seas can be in-line skating. I watched this gentleman for quite awhile. He never fell, but then I'm not sure I ever saw him let go of the side wall. He did seem to be having a good time though.

For the truly adventurous there is the climbing wall. It is built on the back side of one of the massive smoke stacks of the ship. It was not a particularly popular activity on this cruise. No long lines like on the cruises with a younger set. When we came on board I actually thought I might give it a try, because I knew there would be few people there to watch me make a fool of myself. Then I watch a couple of people do it and saw how much upper body strength it took. I could see their arm muscles straining and well I already knew I don't have much upper body strength at all so decided this probably was not an activity for me. I'm also scared to death of heights. Oh well something must be left to the younger set. Jerry being younger actually went up to try it, but just as he got in line they announced the person in front of him would be the last climber. Maybe next cruise.

There also is a full basketball court, several shuffleboard courts and a ping pong table or two scattered around the decks. And the young children have their own private outdoor area complete with pool and hot tub. There really is something for everyone.

Not to be forgotten is one of the favorite activities on any cruise. Reading on deck! It's a bit more challenging to find a place out of the cold wind on a northern cruise, but then on a hot southern cruise you have to look around to find a spot out of the broiling sun. Between the four of us on the cruise I think we finished at least seven books and maybe more, plus another four were begun. Not only did Nancy and I read on deck but she crocheted hats and I worked on knitting my socks. This has got to be the most relaxing part of the whole trip.

So that is it for the out door activities. Of course throughout every day at sea there are organized activities for fun. The Mr Explorer contest is always a favorite among cruisers. There is also line dancing and on warmer trips there are pool contests and water aerobic classes. They may have had those on this trip, but if they did I doubt too many people took part and if you were brave enough to do so you probably won!

By now if anyone is reading these posts you may be tired of my ramblings but I will continue because I am getting great enjoyment out of reflecting and reliving this wonderful trip. I wonder what I will write about next? I think it may be time to visit a port city......tomorrow Sydney, Nova Scotia.

Friday, October 24, 2008


I have some extra time tonight so thought I would do another entry about things to do on while on the ship. I don't know how many photos I can place in one entry so I may need to put some photos into a second post well see.

First let me say I have no idea how anyone could ever say that they would get or got bored on a cruise. At least my opinion is there is too much to choose from and there is no way you could do everything. Right now I'm only going to give an idea about what you can do when inside the ship. Outside activities will be a whole other post with photos.

First the Explorer of the Seas is one of Royal Caribbean's Voyager Class ships. They were the first ships to have a Royal Promenade right down the center of Deck 5. It is lined on both sides with stores for all types of shopping and several bars for resting and drinking as well as a good stopping place for people watching. Also there is the Promenade Cafe which is open 24 hours for coffee and cookies as well as other goodies like pastries at breakfast and little sandwiches from late morning till midnight. Pizza I believe is available 24 hours as well. There is also a Seattle's Best Coffee shop and a Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream counter. These last two area you must pay to get things from, but everything at Promenade Cafe is free. There are always a lot of people wandering through this area. The last night of the cruise they put on a parade here, but more on that later.

Down on Deck 4 is one of the most popular areas of the ship for many people. The Casino Royale. This is were people go to try and win money for a future cruise, shopping in ports or just to simply win money. In my experience they more likely will lose money so it is only good for entertainment purposes and if winning occur that is a nice surprise. There are plenty of slot machines where you can wager any where from $ .02 to $3.00 at a time. Also there are a variety of gaming tables. I will confess to playing the slots for fun of watching the wheels spin, but have never tried or even wanted to try my hand at any of the tables. This is a noisey and brightly lit area of the ship. Unfortunately it is also one of the few areas where smoking is allowed so I don't find it a particularly pleasant place to spend much time.

More enjoyable is the Spa and Hot Whirlpool in the fitness center. This is an adult only pool. It is a wonderful place to relax and let the water jets massage your back or shoulders. There are changing rooms nearby that have both a sauna and a steam room as well as nice "normal sized" showers. Unfortunately because there was so much to do aboard ship I only got to use this whirlpool once. Next to it is an exercise class room and I did go there quite a few mornings for a morning stretch class and once I even tried aerobics. The fitness center is on deck 11.

So we've been to deck 4, 5 and 11. On deck 3 there is an indoor ice rink. I will tell you more about that when I show you pictures from a fabulous show on board. As you can see there can be a lot of stair climbing or you can take one of the many elevators that are located both at the front and the center of the ship. Some of them are enclosed, but quite of them are glass so you can people watch as you go up and down. Four of the elevators go from deck 1 to deck 15. Most only go to deck 12. Decks 13, 14 and 15 are only at the aft (back of the ship).

Usually Jerry and I were only going up or down 4 decks at a time. So often we just took the stairs. Our cabin was on Deck 7 making us centrally located. Deck 3 was as low as you normally went unless you needed to go to the infirmary, which thankfully none of us did, and most often we never went above Deck 12. The Windjammer Cafe was on Deck 11 and that was a climb first thing in the morning for breakfast, but we did it. There were times however when our legs said "no more" or we were on Deck 3 and wanted to go to Deck 14. Then the elevator was very welcome. The dining room is on three decks our table was on Deck 5 so that was another place we took the stairs to. Climbing stairs and walking a lot is important on the ship as you must work off all the extra calories you take in from all the good food they ar costantly feeding you!

The ship also has a well stocked and well used library, an internet room, a movie theater, at least nine bars and a night club. Also there are two card and game rooms as well as a two tiered theater for live performances nightly. These are just the indoor activity areas. Oh I always forget the day spa and beauty salon where you can get various massages, a manicure or pedicure, facials and hair cuts and styles. I don't ever get up there as they are pretty pricey services compared to what I would pay on land.

Well that's an over view of the interior of the ship. I know I've missed something. If and when I remember it I'll include it in a future post.


The first official thing that is done aboard ship is the muster drill. This is a mandatory exercise where you practice what to do in the case of a ship board emergency. It entails wearing the ever stylish life vests and finding and going to your cabins muster station. Most of these stations are outside on deck and you get to stand in lines either in very hot or very windy and cold conditions. This trip we were very fortunate. Our muster station was in the dining room. Of course there are questions that come up with that as a gathering point. one being, will we still be sitting in the dining room as the ship goes down while everyone else is on deck getting into life boats? Fortunately we did not have a ship board emergency so this question was not answered.

Before I go any farther in this cruising adventure I think I need to introduce you to our traveling companions Bob and Nancy. This was their first official cruise. They did have the fortune of traveling on a navy transport ship when they returned from Spain in the 60's (I think that is the correct decade). We had a great time together and there faces, and backs, will show up in future pictures. This picture was taken while we were waiting on deck for "sail away". Nancy was enjoying and clapping along with the music that was being played on deck. Part of the sailing out of the port was going under the Verrazano bridge. I had really wanted to see that since they say the ship just fits or that's what it looks like anyway, but we had early seating for dinner which was supposed to be at 6pm, but they changed to 5:30 so we were already inside at our table when we sailed under it.

I know these pictures aren't very exciting, but at least you know the main characters of this trip now. Next I will take you on a short trip around the ship as the first full day of our trip was spent at sea. Normally this would be a day outdoors by the pool, but on a cruise that goes north in October swimming is not a desirable of an activity. Though there were people in the outdoor hot tubs most days and on our last day at sea I did see a couple of kids and their brave parents in the pool itself. Every afternoon though there was a band that valiantly withstood the cold and played for an almost none existent audience. You will see them later as well.

By for now.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I am working on the photos from our cruise. There are many, too many for posting here, but I am going to pull a few to show as I tell of our journey.

Jerry and I picked up the couple we were traveling with, Bob and Nancy a little after 7 am on Thursday morning, October 9. We had to make a stop by church but then where on our way to Bayonne, New Jersey. Normally I do no like the drive up I-95, but it wasn't too bad. I really like that when you get to the New Jersey Turnpike that the have separate roadways for cars and the trucks. Makes for a much calmer drive in my opinion.

We arrived at the port right around noon and unloaded the luggage. Check-in was very easy and quick and we were given a number for the group we were in to take the shuttle bus to the ship. They were just beginning shuttle service as we were entering into the waiting area. We had our boarding picture taken and got a couple of yummy RCI cookies to tied us over till we were onboard and could get some lunch. It didn't take long till our number was called and we were truly on our way.

We were on board before 1pm and the ship didn't sail till 5pm. Also we couldn't get into our cabins until around 1:30 so we headed up to the Windjammer For the first of many wonderful meals. The Windjammer is a buffet with all types of foods to choose from. As the cruise progressed we ate here most breakfasts and a few lunches. Other meals were eaten in the dining room.

I don't want to go into too much detail right now, because I don't want to bore people who might stop by and be tempted to read this. However, I do want to show you one of the first things I loved about sailing out of Bayonne, NJ. We had the benifits of sailing out of NYC without having to go into NYC, This saved us time and money. Parking in Manhattan, even at the cruise pier is pretty pricey, and I won't even go into the traffic issues. But we did get to seethe Statue of Liberty as we sailed out of the harbor. Also the skyline of New York City. We weren't really this close, in fact we were quite a ways away, but I love what zoom lenses can do!

Before I leave this posting I suppose I really should show a picture of the ship that would become our home away form home for 9 nights. We were 4 of just over 3000 passengers and 1200 crew members. Truly a floating city. She's called The Explorer of the Seas. Isn't she pretty? This picture was actually taken in Sydney, Nova Scotia. There really wasn't anywhere to get a picture of her while in Bayonne as the port there is primarily for commercial shipping. There are no open spaces for picture taking.

So that's it for tonights post. IF you like come back and read as I relive the cruise in word and pictures.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I don't have any pictures processed yet. But they will come. We had a fantastic time cruising to Quebec Canada and back and I have lots to share. Right now I've been busy unpacking and catching up on thing at work and here at home. But please come back in a day or two and there will be some things to share.

Sunday, October 05, 2008


It has been a month since I have posted here. Time continues to fly by. I am thinking that I have been way to busy with too much stuff in my life, but I haven't been bored, that's for sure.

So what have I been doing since the first part of September???? Well lets see.....mainly I guess it's been getting things rolling for the fall activities at church. There's been a picnic, a cleanup day and the Tuesday night dinners have started up again. For all those things I did the food. I've also cooked for the Golden Girls luncheon and have ended up being in charge of the fellowship coffee time between and after our Sunday morning church services. I think I've become the chief cook and bottle washer at the church. For the most part that's okay because I like to cook. Also the Monday morning study group which I teach has started back up and we continue in our Wednesday morning quest to create the needed gift items to be sold at our annual Secret Shop for the children of the church and community. Of course in the midst of all that are the normal activities of payroll, bill paying and newsletter article writing as well as staff, finance and church council wonder I'm tired....and those are only the church work related activities. There's also been a yard sale, I attended and helped out for a day at a quilt show, a good friend got married, and I attended a stamping show.

I do have a picture of some of the prep work for a Woman's Tea our church woman's group hosted yesterday. Yes more baking.....yummy scones.
I made three kinds; plain, currant and raspberry cream. They were all yummy and I wasn't the only one who thought so which was nice. Of course they were served with clotted cream and strawberry preserves. I did make enough so we have some to munch on here at home for breakfast this week.

This week is one filled with much anticipation of the beginning og a much awaited trip which starts early Thursday morning. We will be heading out with some good friends from church for a lovely 9 night cruise to Canada and back. I have been doing some packing planning to get ready for it. I love to cruise and this will be my 5th one, but it will be very different from the other 4 as it will be a cool weather cruise. This presents a few different packing challenges. No shorts or tee shirts but rather cordury pants and turtleneck sweaters. Temps can range from 70 to 35. The word to remeber I keep telling myself it LAYER!

I tried to get everything into one suitcase, but I don't think it's going to work. Between being 9 nights and bulkier clothes I think I will need one big one and a smaller one. Maybe only a hlaf of the smaller one we'll see. Also there need to be day time casual clothing and evening more dressy including two really dressy things for the TWO formal nights. I'm not taking a formal, but do have sparkly dressy items.

Here is what the guest room bed looked like Friday before I began moving items into the actual suitcase.....Yes I am over eager and I alsready have the main suitcase packed.....but that's also becasue my busy schedule doesn't slwo down till we get in the Suburban and head north to New Jersey Thursday morning. I still have to work this week and have activities and meetings every night. Yeah some people never learn. Jerry was smart and started his vacation last Friday!!!!!!!!