During our visit to Puerto Quepos, Costa Rica, we took an aerial tram tour and nature walk through a tropical rain forest. I had been taking photos of this ginger blossom when I noticed a hummingbird flying nearby. Just as I fired off a series of shots of the ginger the hummer flew into my frame! I got off a burst of just a few shots before he flew away. While this is the best one, it certainly isn’t “perfect” enough to win any nature photo contests but it works for me.
Kathy & I recently returned from a 15-night cruise through the Panama Canal on the Pacific Princess. It was a terrific cruise, and at only 600 +/- passengers this ship was a welcome relief from the 6000+ passenger behemoth we sailed on in February. But like bottles of wine we’ve never had a bad cruise, so there are always great things to experience regardless!
The highlight of our cruise, which took us from Fort Lauderdale, FL to Los Angeles, CA, was of course a full transit of the Panama Canal. These photos are just a sample of the ones I took during this event. I will add more photos and commentary as I get through the 3000+ photos I took! But we’re leaving soon for another quick trip and I’m planning to leave the computer at home, so they will need to wait until we get back.
One of my many personal projects is to look for and photograph bits and pieces of the architecture on cruise ships. For that purpose I hardly go anywhere without my little point & shoot camera. It isn’t as intimidating as a regular camera and doesn’t look a lot different than a phone, which everyone is used to seeing.
There are things to see everywhere on board, just like on land. Sometimes it is simply a shadow or a reflection, and occasionally it is just a piece of glass or metal that has an interesting shape. Symphony of the Seas was no exception.
One of the paradoxes of cruising is that while the ships visit beautiful islands, their very presence can detract from what makes the islands beautiful in the first place. Each day we were in Nassau, for instance, there were 5 ships in port, with total passengers of more than 18,000! The entire island of Roatan, Honduras has a population of 50,000. And when there are 3 ships in port, that can add another 8-12,000 people just to the area around the port. Many of those people buy stuff, which is great for the economy, but it can make it hard to enjoy being there.
It’s getting to the point where if you’ve seen one port you’ve seen them all. We joke about it here in the states – every strip mall has a Subway, a dry cleaner, a nail salon and either a CVS or Walgreen’s. Throw in a Chinese restaurant or pizza joint and they are the same everywhere. On cruises – in the event that you have money left over after all the spending opportunities on the ship – you get a “Port & Shopping Map” for every port, which directs you to the so-called “ship recommended” places to buy diamonds, tanzanite (which I think was invented for the cruise passenger!), fancy watches, color changing t-shirts and tote bags, booze, chocolates and on and on. But enough – I want to talk about something fun.
Kathy & I make a point of seeking out places in each port that are off the beaten path, locally-owned & operated and provide a flavor for the place itself. Sometimes it is a nice local restaurant, a beach or just a tour. Where we can, we like to find shops selling things that we are happy to bring home. We found such a place on Roatan, Honduras.
Roatan Island Art is a small craft shop located on the “main drag” of Roatan, about 200 yards from the cruise terminal. I found it on Google Maps and am glad I did, because it isn’t listed on the “Port and Shopping Map.” But it should be! Yeah, you have to walk past all of the “ship recommended” shops and actually leave the port area. Once you say “no, thank you!” to 300 taxi drivers wanting to take you on an island tour, you get to a part of the street with a number of restaurants and the straw market. Directly across the street from the straw market in a colorful and whimsically designed shop is Island Art.
Everything in the store is sourced and hand-crafted by Yourgin Levy, his wife and sons. Yourgin is a native Honduran and is intimately familiar with the indigenous wood, stone, shells and other materials he uses in his work. He speaks passionately about his island, his crafts and his family, and told us that he got his start selling his jewelry on the beach. With encouragement from his wife, family and others he worked hard to get a storefront to sell his goods. The items in the shop and the shop itself reflect the passion he has for his work and his island.
I was especially impressed by the different kinds of wood that Yourgin uses in his work. I don’t remember all the names now, but cedar, mahogany and rosewood were common. These woods are not easy to work with, even with power tools! And the results are just beautiful, with Yourgin’s passion for Roatan showing in each piece, and especially in his descriptions when he tells you about them.
Kathy and I ended up buying a couple small items, a sea jade necklace and a wood wall hanging, mostly because it was the first stop on our cruise and we didn’t want to chance running out of room in our luggage or breaking something on the way home. On a future cruise which stops in Roatan I would definitely plan on buying something larger, like one of the beautiful hand-carved sailboats, a cutting board or serving tray.
Whatever you choose to do on Roatan – and you should do something because it is beautiful – have your driver drop you off at Roatan Island Art. Or just walk there from the ship. And when you get there, take the time to talk with Yourgin and experience the passion and love he has for the island of Roatan and for Honduras. I’ve written this because in my own heart I feel strongly that this man and his shop deserve the publicity. Go there!
Spending a week (or two) aboard a cruise ship with 6000 or so of ones closest friends can be a little challenging, especially for someone who tends to be a little introverted. Yeah, that’s me. Kathy too.
We’ve been on enough cruises to know how to find our own space and can usually do so pretty reliably. During the day there are always a few spots on board that are out of the way and quiet. That usually involves a lounge or the library, but could also mean a sun deck away from the pool or the Promenade, where there is no food or bar service! Of course we could always retreat to the balcony of our own stateroom. We found such places on Symphony of the Seas, but there were also places where it was so noisy that individual voices pretty much disappeared. Those places were never our first choice, but sometimes finding a comfy seat in a noisy place was preferable!
We have come to really enjoy cruising. After this last cruise, which was actually two separate cruises that we sailed back to back, we’ve been on 25 cruises! And we have two more booked, one for later this year and one more in January next year. Needless to say it is an important part of our travel plans.
I’ll have more to say and photos to post about some of the specific ports and experiences from this recent cruise soon. And I still have some posts to write from our trip to Florida. I’d better hurry up though, because it won’t be long until we embark our our next adventure. Stay tuned!
Another highlight of our recent cruise and part of our chef tour was a tour of the galley. We have done galley tours before on numerous cruises, but ordinarily they are held in the morning, and the most exciting thing you see is someone making gravy! For this tour we were taken through the galley during dinner service, and it was quite an experience!
It’s been a long time since I worked in any kind of restaurant environment, and I’m not sure I actually qualify to say that I worked in any kind of restaurant! But the things we found most impressive were how clean and organized things were, and how friendly everyone was, especially while they were busy. I took a lot of photos on this tour, and these are just a few, to give you a “taste” of the experience!
In my earlier post about the Conch Guy I mentioned that we had taken a tour in Nassau with one of the chefs from our ship. In addition to the fish market, we visited a roadside vegetable stand, a couple of guys cutting up coconuts for juice and meat, as well as a distillery. Here are a few more photos from that trip.
Our guide was Chef Stephen from Jamaica, and he explained a lot about the different things we saw and how they were used in island cooking. While we or the chef weren’t permitted to bring anything back to the ship due to health regulations and ship policy, Stephen used many of these same ingredients and themes when preparing the meal that we had back on the ship that evening.
In a separate post I’ll share photos from our galley tour. But unfortunately I was too busy enjoying the food to take any photos at dinner!
Back in February 2016 I wrote this post titled Storage and Clutter, about my quest to delete files and free up space on my hard drives. At that point I was through 2008 and had deleted 23,000 files worth 236GB. I’ve working slowly but steadily on that project and today I finished 2012. At this point I have jettisoned 56,000 files and reclaimed about 478 GB. Not a bad effort so far, and the farther I go the more confident I become in my previous editing. I’ll need to go a little further with my more recent years because I’m not sure I’ve been doing as good a job lately. We’ll see!
These photos are from our 2012 cruise to Alaska from San Francisco, hence the diverse geography. 🙂 They are previously unprocessed files that I discovered while I was reviewing photos, but are not ones that had been scheduled for deletion. 😉
It’s hard to believe, but until a few weeks ago we hadn’t been on a cruise in over 2 years. It’s especially hard to believe when we had previously averaged almost 2 per year for a number of years before that. Our son Kevin recently sailed on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship and liked it so much he did another one late last year and has several more on the calendar. On his advice we decided to give it a try and booked a week on Norwegian Epic out of Port Canaveral, with stops in St. Thomas, Tortola and Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian’s private island in the Bahamas. This isn’t intended to be a cruise review, so I don’t plan to go into a lot of detail about the cruise other than to say that it was good to be back on a ship, the food was good and we had excellent weather.
While we have friends that live and have lived in Florida, we generally think of Florida as a place to go to get on a cruise ship. But we decided to do this vacation a little differently and check out some towns that we have heard about but hadn’t previously visited. That led us to New Smyrna Beach and to St. Augustine. I’ll have more about those places in another post, but wanted to get something written about the cruise itself and share a few photos.
A couple of our ports involved the possibility of wading in salt water, which of course is not friendly to cameras or other electronics. So I convinced myself that I needed to have a compact waterproof camera in the event we got wet, and purchased an Olympus “Tough TG-4” point & shoot. It got good reviews and had a reasonable pricetag, so I bought one. In fact, these photos are all from that camera. I also took the Fuji, and it managed to make its share of photos too.
Unfortunately, I never had a chance to test the waterproofness of the Olympus. Our catamaran sail to Jost Van Dyke took us practically onto the beach and I barely got my shorts wet getting ashore. And we ended up not going to the private island, preferring instead to enjoy the relative peace and quiet on the ship while most of the other 4,000+ passengers stood in line for drinks and a buffet lunch. It also gave me a chance to take a few photos on board the ship without having to worry about the paranoid and camera shy. I did say it wasn’t our first cruise!
I’ve been away for a little while, but it looks like everyone has behaved. Kathy & I just returned to Charlotte from Fort Lauderdale, disembarking our cruise ship this morning after 10 days in the Caribbean. Sitting in the airport this morning, I looked at the weather forecast and thought seriously about hopping the flight to San Juan instead. 🙂
I’ll have some photos to post once I get them downloaded and processed, but for now here’s one I took with my tablet and processed with Snapseed. The Nexus 10 has a pretty decent camera, but it’s a little tough to hold a tablet still in the breeze on the deck of a moving ship. The colors are a little juicy, but that’s the whole point of Snapseed, right? 🙂
I had intended to post this from the airport this morning, but I couldn’t figure out how to get the photo into the post from my tablet. Strange. I guess I’ll need to do some research.