Tuesday, July 25, 2017
|Sea Spirit off Bear Island, Nuuk Fjord, Greenland. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
Most cruise bookings are determined by itinerary, dates and cost. Itineraries change only under extraordinary circumstances.
The unexpected is ordinary on an expedition cruise.
|Photo © by Judy Wells.|
Expedition cruises go into areas of the world where exceptional is the norm. Crews do their best to stick to the advertised itinerary, but environmental conditions may make it impossible.
Especially on the first voyage of the season like the one I recently took to Western Greenland aboard Poseidon Expedition's M/V Sea Spirit.
Greenland caught my attention in part because it is the world's largest island, three times the size of France with a coastline longer that the earth's circumference yet only 56,000 people live there (56,001 if you count Santa Claus at the north Pole). It is also the Mother of Icebergs. One glacier we expected to visit calves 20 billion (!) tons of them a year.
|Qoornoq "Bear Island," Sermitsiaq, Greenland. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
Itinerary changes began our first full day.
|Qoornoq, Bear Island." Photo © by Judy Wells.|
After a fascinating visit to Bear Island in the Nuuk Fjord, an abandoned fishing settlement where small icebergs, bergy bits and growlers were arrayed like nature's sculpture garden, our expedition team leader announced the afternoon excursion had been cancelled; the captain was heading out to sea.
|Growler in the forefront, bergy bit behind. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
Note: Bergy bit in height is greater than three feet but less than 16 feet above sea level; area is normally about 1,076-3,229 square feet.
Growlers are smaller, about the size of a grand piano or a truck.
|Iceberg. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
An iceberg's height must be greater than 16 feet above sea level, the thickness must be 98-164 feet and the ice must cover an area of at least 5,382 square feet.
Winter had been exceptionally harsh and sea ice, frozen salt water, was still too thick to navigate safely. This set the pattern that would be repeated throughout the cruise.
|Posing under a whale jaw in Sisimiut, Greenland.|
We visited a number of towns and settlements, snapped numerous photos of brightly colored houses and buildings against snow patched hills and interacted with their Inuit residents.
|Glacier at Kangerlussuatsiaq. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
|First time Arctic Circle crossers get a traditional dousing of polar water from King Neptune. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
We crossed the Arctic Circle several times and were initiated.
We were in awe of the young expedition team members who scrambled to find alternative landing sites and entertainingly educated us on Greenland, its language, people, explorers, flora, fauna and environment.
|The crew went fishing and we dined on fresh halibut.|
The chefs prepared wonderful food, waitstaff made sure we enjoyed each meal, stewards kept our cabins tidy, the ship provided attractive, comfortable quarters and public spaces and Greenland itself filled our memory cards with photogenic scenery.
We did not make it to that prolific glacier or very far into Disko Bay with its proliferation of wildlife.
We did, however, see huge bowhead whales that grow to 65 feet in length and weigh in at 100 tons compared to the humpback's 40 tons.
We were serenaded by the Nuuk Choir.
|Nuuk Choir. Photo by Judy Wells.|
We experienced the midnight sun and days where there was little change in light from morning to morning.
|Nordre Stromfjord, Greenland. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
|Our transport arrives. Sarqardlit, Greenland. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
In Poseidon's 18 years of polar expeditions in the Arctic and Antarctic, including an atomic-powered ice breaker to the North Pole, it had never happened to them either.
Now that's a story to bring home with that bright red polar parka with almost as many patches as a NASCAR driver.
It's also the sign of a well-run cruise operation that knows its territory and has an excellent relationship with local sources.
Expedition cruises aren't cheap - $6,000 and above per person double occupancy, for eight days in Western Greenland - but given the uncertainty of itineraries, the first cruise of the season is often discounted, especially as departure nears. There is usually an upcharge to kayak because of added staff and specialized equipment.
Sea Spirit has 114 en suite cabins and combines the re-enforced hull and equipment of an expedition ship with the ambiance of a boutique cruise ship. You borrow the water proof rubber boots but with Poseidon you get to take the polar parka home.
Reminder: It's cold at the ends of the Earth.
Sun GazingIf you haven't selected your eclipse viewing spot yet, or if you have and don't know if you should drive closer to the path of totality, this from Bravo Jet Set
might help. Thanks to Escape to Blue Ridge for passing it along to me.
The closer you are to the zone of totality the longer and the clearer its effects.
For example, in Blue Ridge, plan to catch the eclipse in totality at 2:35 p.m. for 35 seconds. The town is on the southern edge of the shadow, so totality only lasts for 35 seconds.
However north and east of Blue Ridge in Fannin County, in McCaysville and Morganton, the totality lasts longer. In Morganton, the partial phase start will begin at 1:05:05 p.m., with the totality phase beginning at 2:34:45 p.m. and lasting one minute and 10 seconds. In McCaysville, the partial phase start will begin at 1:04:43 p.m., with the totality phase beginning at 2:34:08 p.m. and lasting one minute and 34 seconds.
Count on Blue Ridge and everywhere else along the path to have specials from sun-inspired food to sets of viewing glasses at accommodations.
Tuesday, June 6, 2017
|Royal Palace in Warsaw's Royal Lazienska Park. Photo © Judy Wells.|
|LOT Dreamliner gets the inaugural traditional water spray welcome at Newark.|
Here's my take on Warsaw.
The HolocaustIt is impossible to ignore the tragedy of Poland's Jewish populations. From the mid-13th century, Poland was known as the most enlightened and tolerant of European countries. Its rulers gave Jews all the rights of Christians. Scholars, musicians, merchants, writers and scientists flourished and so did the country. All changed with the 20th century and the rise anti-Semitism exacerbated by fascists and Nazis, who turned Jews, gypsies and homosexuals into scapegoats for all of society's ills.
There were more than 3.5 million Jews, a large percentage of the world's Jewish population, living in Poland prior to World War II. More than 3 million of them were killed by war's end.
More Polish gentiles, 6,706, have been recognized by Israel for their efforts in saving Jews than in any other country.
|Flowers fill the base of the Holocaust Memorial at POLIN Museum of the History of polish Jews.|
|The current Old Town isn't so old. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
|Old Town after the war.|
|Photo © by Judy Wells.|
|The "Palace's" redeeming feature is its 360-degree view deck.|
|Outside the Warsaw Rising Museum. Photo ©by Judy Wells.|
|A recreated 17-18th century synagogue is exuberant from ceiling to floor.|
|Poles set up their own altars when Soviets discouraged religion. Photo by Judy Wells.|
|Inside the Neon Museum. Photos © by Judy Wells.|
|Chopin is front and center in Royal Lazienka Park. Photos © by Judy Wells.|
|Zoologist Richard Totola chats with Moshe Pirosh, who became friends with Richard, son of Zookeeper Dr. Dan and Augustina Zabinski, when as a 10-year-old he was hidden in the Zabinski's basement.|
|The tunnel through which Jews were smuggled into the Zabinski's basement and out to, if lucky, freedom.|
Food can be a highlight of your visit.
Elixer Dom Wodka, the vodka restaurant, combines imaginative cuisine with vodka pairings in a sleek setting.
Der Elefant attracts families and singles with a wide array of choices - pirogie to tartare to creative burgers and plate-filling fish. There's even a supervised children"s room so the adults can linger.
|Regent Warsaw Hotel Lobby. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
Wasn't there long enough to evaluate the night life, said to be hopping, but Warsaw is definitely a work in progress.
Incredible India at a BargainTwelve days, Delhi, Ranthambhore (tiger reserve) and Jaipur in 5-star hotels, 15 meals and all the rest offered by World Spree Travel.
Hard to resist at $1,599 to $1,899 per person double occupancy depending on departure date (Sept. 29 to Dec. 5, 2017), including air.
Details: Log onto www.worldspree.com and click “Destinations” and then “India.” World Spree’s toll-free telephone number is 1-866-652-5656.
Naples, the closer oneThe Inn on 5th and Club Level Suites have paired up for a two-night "Cuisine and Cruise" package in downtown in Naples, FL. Room for two nights, sunset sightseeing cruise for two and $100 credit for dinner at Ocean Prime.
Package price, $403 for deluxe room, $623 club level suite. Taxes and tips extra.
Go to www.InnonFifth.com.
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
|The beautiful shores of Hawai‘i. Photo © Judy Wells|
Having just spent two weeks visiting four of the 132-island chain - Kaua'i, Hawaii the big island, Maui and O'ahu - boy, was I wrong. From the attitudes of the residents of this multi-cultural state to its endearing mountains and enticing aromas, Hawai'i should be on everyone's bucket list.
Here's a brief synopsis of those four islands.
|AKilauea National Wildlife Refuge, Kilaue. Photo © Judy Wells.|
Kaua'i, the Garden IslandIt comes by its sobriquet honestly. Five million years since its volcano went dormant has given Mother Nature time to cover lava with a flourish. You soon realize why Kaua'i is Hollywood's first choice for scenic jungle. Ever since "South Pacific," when Mitzi Gaynor washed that man out of her hair and Bali Hai called, the film industry has been a frequent visitor.
|One branch of 'Opaeka'a Falls. Photo© Judy Wells.|
|Waimea Canyon. Photo © Judy Wells.|
|"The Cathedral," Na Pali Coast, Kaua'i. Photo © Judy Wells.|
Roosters and chickens probably outnumber the human residents on this least developed of the main islands.
|Jungle fowl. Photo © Judy Wells.|
Maui, the Valley Isle
|Hana, Maui. Photos © Judy Wells.|
Two volcanoes whose lava flows overlapped to form one island make for many valleys, thus the nickname.
|Windsurfers at Kanaha (Kite) Beach Park, Maui. Photo © Judy Wells.|
|Observatories at Haleakala State Park, Maui. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
Daredevils like getting there.
"We don't have carnival rides on Maui," said our guide and driver. "Our number one thrill is Haleakala Highway."
|Haleakala rim at sunset. Photo © Judy Wells.|
|Black sand beach at Wai'anapanapa State Park, road to Hana, Maui. Photo © Judy Wells.|
Hawai'i, the Orchid Island, the Big Island
|Kilauae lava ash field, caldera in the background. Photo © Judy Wells.|
|A group walking on the lava ash field seen in photo above. Photo © Judy Wells.|
|Kilauea's crater. Photo © Judy Wells.|
At 1:04 a.m. 1946, a tsunami from an earthquake in Alaska hit the old town of Hilo, destroying much of it. Since then the town has been rebuilt but farther up the mountain.
A combination land and sea tour is the best way to appreciate this piece of paradise where King Kamehameha the Great ruled before uniting the islands
There is another volcano here, Hualalai. It shakes from time to time but hasn't erupted since 1801. However, it has been on a 200-year cycle.
|The Painted Church. Photo © Judy Wells|
The result is charming as well as a remarkable piece of work. Officially the St. Benedict Roman Catholic Church, everyone calls it the Painted Church.
|Two ki'i warn visitors of great manu here. Photo © Judy Wells.|
|Snorkel boats surround the monument to Capt. James Cook's landing. Photo © Judy Wells.|
|Madam Pele is watching you. Photo © Judy Wells.|
O'ahu, the Gathering Place
|Honolulu and Diamond Head. Photo © Judy Wells.|
Time is short here. Arrive at 7 a.m., fly out at 7 p.m. A tour of Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Monument followed by a quick city tour will have to suffice.
|The U.S. Arizona Monument. Photo © Judy Wells.|
|Bowfin. Photo © Judy Wells.|
|'Iolani Palace. Photo © Judy Wells.|
|King Kamehameha. Photo © Judy Wells.|
|National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.|
We soon realized that like the rest of Hawai'i the beauty of nature is not far away as the driver took us up to Nuuanu Pali lookout.
|Windward Coast, O'ahu. Photo © Judy Wells.|
As we learned on Kauai, Makana,or Bali Hai as South Pacific dubbed it, will call you.