Sunday, March 31, 2019

Photography Challenge Weeks 12 and 13

The Dogwood Photography Challenge for Week 12 was Inspiration: Trash. Since my husband and I owned a commercial composting company for many years, talking trash is something near and dear to my heart. Over the years we have acquired many yard decorations that have been made from scrap metal. Broken items that would have gone into the landfill became repurposed into something fun for the house or garden. Here is one of ours.

Dogwood Photography Challenge Week 12

Week 13 inspired us to tell a story of a new beginning. With the raining pouring down yesterday, I took a photo of the droplets lined up on our Japanese Maple tree, which is just beginning to put out its new buds.

Dogwood Photography Challenge Week 13

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Photography Challenge

I'm going to do a little catching up here. The Dogwood Photography Challenge for Week 9 was Inspiration: Mood. We were to shoot a photo representing our mood at the time the picture was taken. Because it was a crummy day and I am so done with winter, this was my shot.

Dogwood Photography Challenge Week 9

Week 10's challenge was to tell the story of our hometown. This brought up a lot of discussion on the challenge Facebook page. Is hometown where you live? Where you were born? The town you most identify with? Since it is up to our interpretation, it really doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. I tried taking some shots around the town where I live, but didn't come up with anything I feel accurately represents Webster Groves. Instead I decided to use a photograph of the Arch, as that pretty much lets anyone know I am from the St. Louis area.

Dogwood Photography Challenge Week 10

For Week 11 we were to fill the frame with the subject of our photo. A further challenge was to do that using only one color. Shooting a flower is an obvious choice, but I don't have any blooming around the house yet. I decided to photograph a tree stump in the front yard instead.

Dogwood Photography Challenge Week 11

Monday, March 18, 2019

Sailing Away - 8

Saturday and Sunday were both sea days, and we wondered if we would be bored. As it ended up, there was plenty to keep us busy - and not just eating. We played a lot of trivia games, listened to different music and entertainment, went swimming (yay for the adults only pool!) and got in some pickleball games. It was fun to meet other players from around the United States, and the waves and winds added an additional degree of difficulty to the game. It was quite fun, and made for some good laughs.

Princess Pickleball
Sunday morning we ordered room service and enjoyed donning our Princess robes and sitting on the balcony to eat. That night the four of us had dinner at the Princess Grille in celebration of Jim's upcoming birthday and our friend's 40th wedding anniversary which is coming up this summer.

miscellaneous ship pictures
Then it was back to the stateroom to pack and put out our large suitcases in preparation for disembarkation the next morning. When we were done, Jim and I went to a few venues listening to music, and had one final fru fru drink to toast another wonderful vacation.

We arrived back in Port Everglades at 7:00 a.m. on Monday, February 25th. Disembarkation and customs went very smoothly, and before we knew it we were back at the airport to come home. I highly recommend this cruise!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Sailing Away - 7

sunrise in Curacao
Friday, February 22nd found us cruising into our last port of call, Willemstad, Curacao. I had never heard of this island until one of the HGTV international house hunting shows aired. Pronounced cure-a-sow, it is the "C" of the ABC islands. This independent country has a population of 160,000 and is 38 miles long and 9 miles wide. It, too, is a fairly flat island.

We had heard much about the town of Willemstad, and how its Dutch heritage as illustrated in its architecture has been infused with the colors of the Caribbean. The four of us decided to do our own walking tour of the area so we could drink it all in. We had arrived in port at 7:00 a.m., so the day was still pretty young when we got off the ship.

The boardwalk along the sea is very nicely done, and it is for sure a walkable community. We enjoyed all the little bridges, and the fact that they had taken the old fort and retrofitted it for commercial and residential use instead of just letting it fall into disrepair.

Rif Fort

The vegetable and fruit market was interesting in that boats bring the produce to market as opposed to trucks. The boats are tied up behind the tents.

produce market
The colors did not disappoint, and we very much enjoyed our day in Willemstad. It was great to be able to spend the day walking around, as we knew the next two would be spent at sea as we made our way back north. We left Curacao at 4:30 p.m.

leaving Curacao 

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Sailing Away - 6

Thursday, February 21st we arrived at Kralendijk, Bonaire at 12:00 p.m. As usual, Jim and I were awake early and were able to take in the sun rising over the horizon. The "B" of the ABC islands, Bonaire is a Dutch island that is 24 miles long and 9 miles wide, with a population of 19,400.

Kralendijk, Bonaire
The first thing we noticed was how flat the island was compared to the other ones we had visited so far. The second thing was how pretty the water in the harbor looked. The colorful tents along the walkway added to the festiveness of our arrival.

Bonaire is an island that prides itself on nature preservation, and has been active in preserving its reefs. They don't want to sacrifice their environment for the sake of tourism, which is commendable. About 60% of the island is a national park or protected area. For that, and other reasons, Jim and I decided to do the Mangrove Eco-Cruise by kayak.

Because our excursion did not begin until the afternoon, we had time for a leisurely lunch before making our way to the dock where our group was meeting. We boarded a van for a 20 minute drive to the eco-center, pausing to admire a cactus fence as well as a group of flamingos, which is called a "pat".

flamingos on Bonaire

They gave a short presentation about the mangroves before we headed out to our two-person kayaks. Mangroves are trees or shrubs that grow in coastal intertidal zones. They have tangled roots above ground and form dense thickets. Lac Bay Mangrove forest is about 850 years old and is one of the best preserved groupings of mangroves in the Caribbean. Three different species of mangroves exist here - red mangrove, black mangrove, and white mangrove.

Jim and I have always been in single kayaks in the past, but this was great as I could feel free to snap away with my waterproof camera.We paddled narrow channels through the trees as well as open water. It was a beautiful experience, and our guide was excellent.

mangrove kayak tour
We had time to catch a quick beer at a bar that offered free Wifi before we needed to walk back to the ship. We got a kick out of the flamingo made of recycled items pulled from the ocean.

Our ship sailed off into the sunset at 6:30 p.m.


Friday, March 15, 2019

Sailing Away - 5

St. George's Grenada
Grenada was the next port of call, and we arrived at St. George's at 7:00 a.m. on Wednesday, February 20th. Located in the southeastern Caribbean sea, Grenada has a population of 110,000. It is 21 miles long and 12 miles wide. On this island all four of us agreed on a snorkeling excursion to an underwater sculpture park on the ocean floor of Molinere Bay. There are 68 sculptures in this park, but we only saw a handful of them.

underwater sculpture park
From there we got back on the catamaran and motored to Grand Anse Beach, where we could swim in the most beautiful-colored water I have ever seen. The rum punch added to the party atmosphere for sure.

Grand Anse Beach
Our visit to this island was short, and we sailed out of St. George's at 1:30 p.m. I was pleased to capture yet another pretty sunset off of our balcony.


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Sailing Away - 4

February 19th's stop was at the island of Dominica (pronounced doe-min-ee-ka, and not to be confused with the Dominican Republic). Founded by Christopher Columbus in November 3, 1493, the island was and still is inhabited by the Caribe tribe. Its land mass is 29 miles long and 16 miles wide.

We arrived at the port of Roseau at 9:00 a.m. A full rainbow greeted us when we woke up, and the pretty morning sky highlighted the hills of the island.

Roseau, Dominica
Our friends went scuba diving and we elected to do the Champagne Reef Snorkel. The snorkel site was located at Soufriere-Scott's Head Marina Reserve. Located on the edge of a submerged volcano, you can actually feel the hot water venting from the earth's core. We swam through tiny, crystal-like bubbles which escape from the volcanic fissures on the seabed. It was rather like being inside a glass of champagne.

Champagne snorkel trip
We bid Dominica adieu as the Crown Princess left port at 5:30.

leaving Roseau

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Sailing Away - 3

St. Thomas at sunrise
Sunday was a day at sea, and we arrived in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas at 8:00 a.m. on Monday, February 18th. Now one of the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas was founded by the Danish in the 1600s.

We were in the first group of passengers getting off the ship as our excursion began at 8:30. The four of us decided to try the BOSS Underwater Scooter Adventure. That stands for Breathing Observation Submersible Scooter, and we had never heard of them until now.

I'm not going to lie, I was a little nervous about this one since I have never gone scuba diving and like the sense of control I have with a mask and snorkel. In this, you stick your head inside a bubble, hop on your scooter, and they lower you 8 feet below the surface of the water. In the meantime, you hold your nose and keeping blowing out to pop your ears as you go down. But once we got going, it was so much fun! We were allowed to ride for 30 minutes, but it felt like only 10. Due to the size of the group - there were 38 of us, I believe - we went down in groups. We were allowed to snorkel after our turn on the scooters.

After cleaning up and having lunch, we had some time to do some exploring of Charlotte Amalie. You could see that some areas are still recovering from the hurricanes of 2017, but a lot of buildings look remarkable intact.

Charlotte Amalie
The ship pulled away from the port in St. Thomas at 4:30 p.m. It was another beautiful day.

leaving St. Thomas

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Sailing Away - 2

Bahamas sunrise
The Crown Princess arrived in Princess Cays around 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 16th. We were awake long before that, and caught the gorgeous sunrise. Princess Cays is an exclusive port of call and private beach owned by Princess Cruise lines. It is located on the southern portion of the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas. This island has a total population of 13,000.

We have been to this island before on another Princess Cruise, so this time we elected to do an excursion. First, though, we had time to enjoy the lovely beach for a bit.

Princess Cays

The dune buggy excursion was billed as a Cultural Heritage Tour. It was probably the least favorite excursion we have ever done. First of all, the dune buggies did not have much power. Second, it was extremely dusty - we had to wear face masks. And last, it was sorely lacking in culture, though we did see a church ruins. The best part was a deserted beach that we walked down to - no driving on the beaches here. Oh well, you win some, you lose some. It just added insult to injury that the provided buffet on Princess Cays had the exact same hours as our tour, so we had nothing to eat for lunch.

dune buggy excursion

Back on ship we all took quick showers and met up for a late lunch. The ship left Princess Cays at 3:30 p.m. It was a smooth night of sailing.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Sailing Away - 1

My husband and I recently completed a ten day cruise of the Southern Caribbean aboard the Crown Princess. A couple who have been our long time friends accompanied us, as they have on three other cruises. We have never sailed more than seven days, so we were curious to see if ten days would be too long. I think we all agreed that we could do a fourteen day cruise with no problem.

As our ship was sailing out of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, we flew in the day before to make sure no airline delays would cause us to miss our ship. In fact our friends, who were flying in from a different city, ended up not getting to our hotel until midnight. It was Valentine's Day and the weather was beautiful, so Jim and I walked from the hotel down to the water and found a place to dine alfresco. We split a meal so we could also split a dessert.

Valentine's Day
Port Everglades
Our hotel offered a shuttle to the cruise port, so we were able to quickly make our way over there on Friday morning. As we were the only ship there at the time, processing and boarding went very quickly. We could not occupy our room until noon, but hey, food and beverages were available so it was no big deal.

We had staterooms on the 11th deck, better known as the Baja level. We always get one with a balcony as I think I would go crazy in one of the interior rooms. Because it was President's weekend, the ship filled early and we were located near the back of the ship. We had a little more vibration than we would have liked, but it was all good otherwise.

Once we were allowed in our stateroom, we took the opportunity to unpack our suitcases and store them under the bed just to get that out of the way. Then we made our way back up to the top of the ship so that we could watch when the ship set sail at 4:00 p.m.

Fort Lauderdale
While Miami has a prettier port, Fort Lauderdale looked very nice as we began our journey south. Our first stop was Princess Cays in the Bahamas, where we would arrive the next morning. The sunset Friday night was stunning!

Sunset with Miami off to the left