Sunday, April 21, 2019

Earth Day 2019 Protect Our Species

 Happy Earth Day 2019
April 22nd

Protect Our Species

The world is facing the greatest rate of extinction since we lost the dinosaurs more than 60 million years ago!

But unlike the fate of the dinosaurs, the rapid extinction of species in our world today is the result of human activity!

We love cruising the world's oceans and waterways.  It is one of the most enjoyable ways to explore the earth.  In order to continue doing so, we need to protect the oceans and our land for generations to come.  Each of you can help make a difference in the future of Mother Earth.

Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22. Worldwide, various events are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day events in more than 193 countries are now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.

Earth Day Network’s mission is to diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide. Earth Day 2019 is dedicated to raise awareness about the accelerating rate of extinction of millions of species and the causes and consequences of this phenomenon. There are many resources on Earth Day Network's site.  Start by downloading their Protect Our Species Primer and Action Toolkit.

Environmentally Conscious Vacation Experiences

Did you know that Cruise Lines offer an environmentally conscious vacation experience? 
CLIA Cruise Line Members lead, invest, and collaborate to minimize their ships’ impact on the environment.

Help End Plastic Pollution by finding out how many plastic items you consume every year 
and make a PLEDGE to reduce the amount.

Additional Resources:
 (click on the image to enlarge)

A Global Concern

When we were in Southeast Asia last year we toured Gardens by the Bay in Singapore.  These signs underscore the need to take action to protect our environment.  We encourage you to start your education on this Earth Day 2019, and take steps to conserve and recycle during your vacations and daily lives.  

Thank you to CLIA, Participating Cruise Lines, EPA, Earth Day Network and their sponsors for efforts to educate and make changes necessary for sustainability.  And thank YOU for doing your part.  

We must work together to protect endangered and threatened species: bees, coral reefs, elephants, giraffes, insects, whales and more.


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Easter Sunday 2019

Easter Decorations on AMA Waterways Amalegro
Happy Easter

Main Pipe Organ - St. Eusebius Church, Arnhem

Today marks the most solemn day in the Christian calendar.  Unlike Christmas, Easter is a movable feast occurring the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox.   It can therefore occur between March 22 and April 25.  This year Easter falls on the latest weekend possible.

Christians gathered in churches today, across the world, and rejoiced because He is Risen from the Dead.  This Good News has been handed down from generation to generation and is based on the scriptures recorded more than 2000 years ago.

We have had the good fortune of exploring some of the most famous churches in Europe.  These old churches and cathedrals have withstood World Wars, fires, and other natural and man-made disasters. 

During our travels, we have learned about how the cathedrals and their contents have withstood the test of time.  In some cases, bombs fell all around, but left only minor damage to the cathedral.   In other cases, damage was more extensive but the communities rose from the ashes and restored them to their previous condition.  Visiting these churches has enhanced our cruising experiences and we hope that you'll also have the opportunity to visit some historic churches on one of your future cruise vacations.  St. Eusebius Church in Arnhem is one that was restored after the war.

When you enter St. Eusebius Church in the heart of Arnhem, the first thing you see is the main pipe organ, the Strümphler organ, which dates back to 1795 and is the replacement of the Wagner organ from 1770 which was destroyed completely in WWII. There are five columns that house the pipes. Each of the towers are adorned with angels. 

The top photo was taken onboard AMA Waterways Amalegro on Easter Sunday.  Modern age has added the Easter Bunny and Easter Eggs to this holiday celebration.  Whether you celebrated this as a religious holiday or secular one, we hope that this Easter Sunday was a joyous day for you.   

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

World Heritage Day 2019

Meridian Column
2019’s International Day for Monuments and Sites, aka World Heritage Day is April 18.  We've visited several UNESCO sites over the years.   We will highlight some of them here.  Click the links to learn more about these sites.

Hammerfest World's Northernmost Town

Our ship, Hurtigruten Ms. Vesteralen, visited Hammerfest, the northernmost town in the world during our Norway coastal voyage. We boarded a bus which took us to the Meridian Column, which is on the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites and commemorates the first official measurement of the exact size and shape of the Earth.

Kinderdijk - Old Meets New

Much of Holland is below sea level, but yet it doesn't flood. Why? A visit to Kinderdijk gives you the extraordinary opportunity to visit a UNESCO World Heritage in Holland and answer the question for yourself.

During your visit you can see 19 windmills from the 18th century and even go inside one to see what it was like to live there.

St Castor Basilica Koblenz

The Basilica of St. Castor is the oldest church in Koblenz.  It is located near Deutsches Eck at the confluence of the Rhine and the Moselle. Pope John Paul II raised St. Castor to a basilica minor on 30 July 1991.

Since 2002, the Basilica of St. Castor has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage cultural landscape of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. In addition, it is a cultural property protected under the Hague Convention.

UNESCO World Heritage Site

  of Pompeii

It was a summer day in August 79 A.D. when  Mt. Vesuvius rumbled, an ominous cloud formed, residents fled to save their lives, and a city was lost in a sea of ash. For nearly 1700 years, the ancient Roman cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii would lay hidden under 75 feet of volcanic ash until their accidental discovery and subsequent excavation.

Pompeii was known as a vacation community for high society before the eruption; it had a forum, amphitheater, gymnasium, shops and an aqueduct that delivered water for irrigation, fountains and private baths. Some of the ruins are remarkably preserved with elaborately detailed mosaics and colorful frescoes decorating the interiors of wealthy homeowners' villas.

What was life like under the volcano? What exactly did happen that summer day in A.D. 79? 

Exploring a Lost City

Fast forward to current day...   we exit our motorcoach and walk along the path to the entrance of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Shortly after entering the site we see evidence of remarkably well preserved buildings from the Lost City.

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

This week the world watched in horror as one of the most famous heritage sites was engulfed in flames. Speaking in response to the fire, UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, said

 “Notre Dame represents a historically, architecturally, and spiritually, outstanding universal heritage. It is also a monument of literary heritage, a place that is unique in our collective imagination”.

She continued, "The inferno which engulfed the cathedral, but appears to have left the medieval stonework intact, reminds us of the power of heritage that connects us to one another. We are receiving messages of support from all over the world.”

 The Cathedral is part of the World Heritage site officially known as “Paris, Banks of the Seine”, inscribed on the World Heritage List, in 1991. This photo was taken during a visit on 9/11/2001.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Spend Your Tax Refund On Yourself

Have you had visions of Caribbean beaches and cruise ships in your dreams?  I'm sure that I'm not the only one that does...  especially after the spring snow storm we just had this weekend.

Are you are getting a tax refund?  Help the economy grow - spend some of your tax refund on yourself - on a cruise vacation.  If you've not been on a cruise before, now is the best time.

If you are like most Americans, when the economy took a turn for the worse a few years ago, your vacation plans went out the window.   Consequently cruise prices have remained at pretty constant low prices, but are about to start increasing.   There are still several cruise line offers available for those that want to take advantage of the lower pricing.

How about Europe Instead?

Of course, you don't need to go to the Caribbean, and in fact, European cruise vacations are on the rebound.   Why is that you ask?    The cruise lines have record deployments in Europe in recent years but the demand hadn't kept pace with the increased capacity.

That's not to imply that people aren't booking European cruises - they are.  However, there are larger ships and more of them, in Europe this summer than any other time before. Obviously, the cruise ships need to sail full for the companies to make a profit, so the consumer wins.

Comparing Cruise to Land-Based

I just did a quick search on my website for a short European cruise vacation in May.  A 9 night Scandinavia & Russia cruise was available for less than $800 pp for an inside cabin.   For those that aren't quick at math, that's about $88 pp per day or less (excluding taxes and fees).

For comparison purposes, I did a hotel search for Copenhagen, Denmark, one of the embarkation ports, during the same period and prices for a popular hotel started from $478 Per Night.   The hotel didn't include meals or entertainment and was rated as a 4 star accommodation.    Contrasting the hotel stay and the cruise...  On the cruise it's like getting your room at less than 50%, all your meals, and entertainment onboard the ship.

Besides Copenhagen, you'd visit Warnemunde (Berlin), Germany • Tallinn, Estonia • St. Petersburg, Russian Federation • Helsinki, Finland • Nynashamn (Stockholm), Sweden.  Scandinavia is one of our favorite cruise destinations.

I've not discussed airfare, which is a large expense for a European vacation, especially in prime season.   Since the cost of air would be the same for the cruise and land-based vacation stay, I've excluded that from the equation.    Since this cruise is before the Summer Season this makes the selected cruise even more attractive.

There are many deals to Europe this Summer.   We'll feature some of the sales on our website and Facebook page.   If you are seriously considering a Europe get-away this Summer, my suggestion would be to book now while the supply is larger than the demand so that you can maximize your investment.  

The prices I've seen during my search in preparation for this article are on par with what you'd pay for a Caribbean vacation on the same or similar ships.   For the most part, the ships are the larger, newer vessels in the respective fleets.   Ships like Celebrity Equinox, Royal Princess, and Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas are just a few of the choices you'll have.

Of course, if you want to stay closer to home in the Caribbean, Bermuda, or Disney World, we can help you sort through all the possible choices and find the best value for you and your family.  

Put Your Tax Dollars to Work for You on a Cruise / Land Vacation to Remember for Years to Come.   Cruise Europe in 2019 !!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Discover Wellington

click image to enlarge
Discovery Recommended

Our journey continued near the North Island’s southernmost point on the Cook Strait to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. Just 30 minutes bus ride along the coast we arrived at our first stop, Te Papa Museum. The full name of the museum is "Te Papa Tongarewa," which means "the place of treasures of this land."

In Mana Whenua discover the world of Māori, the tangata whenua (first people) of New Zealand. Stories of voyaging, conflict, and survival are told though a powerful mix of cultural treasures, oral histories, and contemporary works. Step inside the body of Te Hau ki Turanga, one of the oldest and most significant meeting houses in existence, and visit our dynamic and beautiful marae (communal meeting place) for the 21st century, designed and created by leading Māori carvers. No photography is allowed in this part of the museum.  We suggest you plan your visit ahead of time.

Wellington on High

After leaving the museum, our motor coach headed to Lambton Quay in the central business district, home of the 111-year-old Wellington Cable Car.  Here we had a vertical climb in this funicular of over 390 feet in the air and traveled a length of 2,000 feet.  Three minutes later, we were at the top and overlooking the city.

We had a ringside seat to some of Wellington's most breathtaking views including the city's rolling hills, the downtown area, Te Whanganui-a-Tara (the Mâori name for the Wellington Harbour, also known as the great Harbour of Tara) and beyond.

Additional photos can be found on our Australia & New Zealand Shutterfly page

Te Papa Museum
Wellington Cable Car

Click on the image to the left for more Blog posts about this trip.


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Monday, April 8, 2019

When in Trøndelag Choose Local

click image to enlarge
MS Vesterålen
Norway's Coastal Kitchen

Hurtigruten’s cruise along the Norwegian coast not only offers a whole host of incredible experiences and wondrous scenery, but is also a culinary journey. The on-board menus offer authentic Norwegian cuisine, which reflect both the seasons and the local specialties and cuisine of the regions past which the ship is sailing.

        Dinner in Trondheim

During our cruise through Trondheim on the way back south, Hurtigruten's Norway Coastal Kitchen featured local cuisine from the Trøndelag area in Central Noway.  This was one of the most unique local meals during our voyage.

“Sodd” means to seethe and is traditional soup of the region. Genuine Sodd from Trøndelag consists of meatballs and dices made ​​of lamb (mutton),  beef, and broth. The meatballs are made with cornflour, whole milk, heavy cream, ginger and nutmeg. It must be served with Skjenning, a flat bread that has been brushed with sugar and fresh milk on one side.

Additional photos can be found on our Norway Shutterfly page

Norway's Coastal Kitchen

Click on the image to the right for more Blog posts about this trip.

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