November 12, 2019 Sea Day

Cheese Tasting

Disney Character

Disney Character

Mrs. Incredible

A Toy Story Character

After brunch in the main Triton’s dining room, Sandy and I attended a cooking class with chef Georg Paulussen. Chef Paulussen is now the executive chef at the Disney Polynesian Resort.

The recipe for the day was an Avocado Crab and Lobster Salad. The presentation was of most interest to us. The chef cut the base of an avocado off, and using a spoon, easily removed the pit. Once the pit was removed he stuffed the avocado with the crab and lobster salad before peeling the avocado and rolling it in pistachio nuts. The plate was garnished with an edamame puree and served with tomatoes, thinly sliced cucumbers and fresh edible flowers. We enjoyed a small sampler dish accompanied with a small wine tasting.

Our next stop was a lecture by Captain Ken Puckett on the US Construction of a Canal Across Panama. He showed many photographs about the building of the canal, as well as a couple of videos of ships transiting the canal.

Sandy, Kent and I then attended a cheese seminar in the Animator’s Palate restaurant. There we learned a little about cheddar, muenster, brie and gouda cheeses. Cheese is filled with protein but can also have a lot of calories.

By 1:00pm it was time for lunch in the Cabanas Restaurant on deck nine. This buffet style restaurant offers all sorts of cuisines daily including the popular seafood station where they serve shrimp and crab. They have a large salad bar and a dessert bar, as well as multiple drink stations including complimentary soft drinks.

Later in the afternoon there was a Pixar Pals Party in the lobby. About a dozen Pixar movie characters appeared with the ships singers and dancers accompanying them. They all danced and sang songs with the passengers. Cell phones and cameras were everywhere although I found it difficult to get clear photos with the characters constantly moving.

Next, we stopped into the French Quarter Lounge where The Brace Boys were performing jazz hits. This is the same trio as was performing at Tiana’s Place dining room a couple of nights previously. They were excellent and had a standing room only crowd.

The evening’s entertainment was a ventriloquist by the name of Lynn Trefzger. She had a small boy, a bear and a camel dummy that she worked with. She was very funny and her act was very entertaining.

After Lynn’s show and before dinner we enjoyed a pianist by the name of Bongi Maestro who performs in the Cadillac lounge. On this night he was playing and singing Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles songs. He was very good.

For dinner we were back in Tiana’s Place followed by a late show in the main theater with John Charles. John had performed the evening before using a guitar but for this show he only played Beatles songs that were written to be played on the piano.

November 11, 2019 Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta from the Ship

Puerto Vallarta Beach

Day of the Dead Skeleton

Men Spinning from a Pole on the Beach

View from La Palapa Restaurant

Puerto Vallarta is a Mexican beach resort city and is an international tourist destination. By the 1950’s Puerto Vallarta had begun attracting American writers and artists in search of a retreat from the era of Eisenhower and McCarthy. By 1962 a new airport connected Los Angeles with Puerto Vallarta via a stop in Mazatlán. In 1964 John Huston filmed his movie “The Night of the Iguana” nearby and provided extensive coverage in the US media about the affair of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. This helped put Puerto Vallarta on the map for US tourists.

By 1970 the first harbor was inaugurated making it accessible to cruise ships. Also, in 1970 Richard Nixon met with the Mexican president Gustavo Diaz Ordaz in Puerto Vallarta for treaty negotiations.

The average daily temperature ranges from 70 to 86 degrees with 75% humidity making it a tropical paradise. Today, Puerto Vallarta has become a popular retirement destination for US and Canadian retirees. The population has grown from about 10,000 in the 1950’s to nearly 200,000 today, while the surrounding urban area now totals over 500,000.

For breakfast, Claire, Kent, Sandy and I went to Triton’s restaurant for what they were calling brunch. Brunch meant that you could order breakfast items like the Mickey Mouse shaped waffles or lunch items like sandwiches. While we were there about six staff members came to check on our waiter’s service and the food as Mark had made some comments about the food over the last couple of days. They even had one of the chefs come out and speak with Mark. It was embarrassing how many people came and asked us the same things about the service and the food. I just hope that I have not gotten any of the staff in trouble with my comments about the food and service.

Kent and I took the local city ($1.00 for two) bus from the port into the central district along the Malecon or waterfront. There were still many “Day of the Dead” skeletons along the waterfront set up by local hotels, businesses and organizations. There were also four men doing an unusual performance from a tall pole with four men spinning around the pole on cables as they played the flute.

The weather was very warm and very humid, but along the coast there was a bit of a cool breeze that made it tolerable. We walked south along the waterfront until we reached one of our favorite beach side restaurants called La Palapa Restaurant and Bar. The palapa is a large thatched roof-covered restaurant along the water with many umbrellas, covered tables and chairs out front. We enjoyed the indoor area under the palapa where they have ceiling fans that keep the gentle breeze going. For lunch we enjoyed guacamole and chips, fish tacos on homemade tortillas and a chicken quesadilla. Everything was very tasty and the staff was very attentive.

The evening’s entertainment was titled The Music and Comedy of John Charles. John wandered the audience interacting with the guests about their favorite music. From there he would tell funny antics while he formulated what song he was going to sing. He would then start playing his guitar and singing the song of the guest’s choice. He has a huge range of songs that he knows the words to and has a good voice. He often impersonates the artist, male or female and can sing in a wide range of keys.

For dinner, we were back in the Animator’s Palate Restaurant where the frames on the wall were filled with moving sketches. You can watch the screens as a Disney character is drawn from start to finish. We all had the beef tenderloin which was very good, but the rest of the meal was a bit forgettable.

After dinner we attended a show in the Azure lounge with a comedian by the name of Heath Hyche. Heath is a bit crazy and does a lot of physical comedy running all over the stage, acting out characters and telling stories. Not really my cup of tea but a lot of people in the audience seemed to enjoy him.

October 17, 2018 – Yokohama, Japan

Tokyo Street Corner

Nezu Jinja Shrine Gate

Nezu Jinja Shrine Grounds

Nezu Jinja Shrine

Fukagawa Edo Museum


Kiyosumi Gardens

The weather on this day started out beautiful with sunshine and temperatures around 70 degrees. By the end of the day it began to rain slightly and the skies had turned gray and dark. The sun is rising early about 5:45am and setting about 4:45pm with it getting dark by about 5:00pm.

Our tour on this day was titled “Old Town Tokyo”. We headed to the Fukagawa area, east of the Sumida River, called the Shitamachi (Old Town).

Our first stop was at the Fukagawa Edo Museum, nestled in a narrow, tree-lined street among numerous temples and shrines. The museum was established in 1986, and here we saw a display from the Edo period, including everyday items and a reconstruction of Fukagawa Saga town. The town from the 1800’s was very interesting in that they had a full-scale neighborhood with homes and shops that would have existed at that time. We saw typical one-room homes with mats on the floor, a corner carved out for the kitchen and everyday items that would have been in a home at the time. They showed the watchtower that would have existed at the time to watch for fires and the fire brigade buckets in the event of fire. The homes often served as the family business as well selling things like noodles, vegetables or household items.

Our next stop was at Kiyosumi Park, near the Sumida River where it is easy to imagine you are far from the bustle of the city. The site of this park was once the site of a mansion owned by a wealthy merchant. By 1878 the surrounding area was acquired by Iwasaki Yataro, the founder of Mitsubishi. The garden served as a place for recreation for the family’s employees as well as a place to entertain dignitaries and distinguished guests. In 1923 after the great earthquake the Iwasaki family donated the land to the city of Tokyo. After restoration the property was opened as a public garden in 1932.

The gardens are extremely beautiful with immaculately manicured pine trees trimmed into topiaries. The large lake has several islands and is home to a variety of fish, turtles and birds. Unique rocks gathered from around the country create a walkway around the lake and there is also a teahouse and iris garden.

After lunch at a local restaurant we visited Nezu Jinja Shrine built for Shogun Tsunayoshi Tokugawa. The shrine has been designated a National Cultural Asset. Families visit this site when children are born and when they turn 3, 5 and 7 years old to give thanks to the gods for healthy children. The locals practice Shinto religion that believes in gods of all types including the god of the moon, sun, house, trees, and most anything that the locals come in contact with. They also believe in the Buddhist religion from India while Christians represent only about one-percent of the population.

Next, we were off to Ueno, which is a district in Tokyo’s Taito Ward, best known as the home of Ueno Station and Ueno Park. Some of Tokyo’s finest cultural sites are found here, including museums and a major public concert hall. Here we headed to the Ameyoko Discount Market (a very crowded local market area) near Ueno Station where we were given some time to shop. The streets were filled with vendors selling fresh fish, toys, shoes, clothing, food items and more. The vendors would often stand on stools hocking their goods with signs stating what type of discount or price they were offering on something they were selling. We helped our friend, Bryan, find some Bonsai pruning shears but could not find his wished-for Sandalwood soap.

The evening’s entertainment was a saxophonist, pianist and singer by the name of Craig Richard. Craig is from Colorado Springs and was featured in a television show about people who should not be alive. He is a rock climber and broke his leg while rock climbing and had to crawl for 18 hours to get out of the mountains. He was also a finalist on American Ninja’s last year. We thought that he was a very accomplished musician but his show was lacking a spark.

October 17, 2016 — Arnhem, The Netherlands

Arnhem Stately Home

Arnhem Stately Home

Arnhem Shop

Arnhem Shop

Arnhem - Bridge Too Far

Arnhem – Bridge Too Far

This morning some onboard visited the National Liberation Museum in nearby Groesbeek. The Liberation Museum is set in the beautiful landscape near Nijmegen, Arnhem and the German border, a unique location: Operation Market Garden, the largest airborne operation in history took place here in September 1944 and Operation Veritable, the Rhineland Offensive, the final road to freedom in Europe, started from here in February 1945.

The museum brings the historical events of the liberation by the American, British, Canadian and Polish troops back to life. In the museum they saw the period preceding the war, experienced the occupation, celebrated the liberation and witnessed the rebuilding of the Netherlands and Europe after the war. Aromas, interactive presentations, diorama’s, models, original films and sound fragments captivatingly depict the liberation. The museum shows both young and old the current value and importance of democracy, freedom and human rights.

Not wanted to be depressed by memories of war, we chose to take an alternative panoramic bus tour of the Arnhem area followed by a walking tour in the heart of the city. Our tour took us through some stunning scenery from simple country cottages to large stately homes. Everywhere we went, there were lush green trees planted in rows surrounding each plot of land and many just beginning to turn colors in the fall air. We did drive by the fields where some 25,000 allied soldiers parachuted into the area in a failed attempt to take control of the bridges (one was the famous Bridge Too Far) crossing the local rivers.

In town we heard about the history of many of the old buildings and shops lining the pedestrian only streets in the heart of town. The shops used to have three dimensional figurines mounted on the front of the shops to tell passers by what they sold inside. For example, a pig’s head might indicate that it was a butcher shop where they sold pork, while a cow might indicate that it was a Jewish butcher where beef was sold but no pork.

We returned to the ship about 12:30pm in time for lunch and to begin sailing towards our next port of call Koblenz, Germany. Due to the low water levels and heavy traffic on the river it would take us about 28 hours to reach our destination. In addition to the many tourist river boats there are many commercial goods transported on the river.

For dinner, the ship had prepared a special captain’s welcome cocktail party and dinner for us. They served a four course dinner including lobster soup, veal tenderloins and crème Brule. After dinner they showed a film about the Andre Rieu Concert. Andre is a violinist and conductor who is trying to bring classical music to the masses by making it entertaining. In this case the concert including vocalists, ballroom dancing, ice skaters dancing, elaborate costumes all in a fairy tale setting of a stately manor home. We were not familiar with him but others said that he is often shown on public television programs.

February 2, 2016 Sea Day

We attended a coffee chat with the cruise director and the nautical department. Four of the ships officers were on stage to answer guest’s questions about everything related to the navigation of the ship.

Brian Stoddart lectured on India’s Global Business and Labor Empire. He discussed how India’s population has migrated over the last 150 years, providing labor around the world. Indian’s have created great wealth by inventing many drugs, products and services around the world.

We had lunch with Gail in the dining room prior to doing our daily walking on deck in an attempt to ward off some of the extra pounds.

The afternoon brought a lecture by Werner Salinger about Africa and its fastest growing economies in the world.

We were invited to dinner at the Canaletto Restaurant with John and Steve from San Francisco. Following dinner we enjoyed an internationally acclaimed trumpet player and vocalist by the name of Chuck Curry. He was a public school music teacher in Scottsdale, AZ before the district discontinued the music program. He had a nice voice but not much stage presence.