Tag Archives: cruises

Xperiences #AtoZ Challenge

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I love to cruise and a majority of my cruises have been on Celebrity, which they highlight a Xperiences. In fact, my favourite cruises — one around the tip of South American and one of the Baltic were both on Celebrity ships.

The staff is incredible and you feel you can stop and talk to any of the ship’s officers. During a particularly rough time at sea, one of the officers stopped me to ask if I was ok, as many passengers were not. He found me taking movies of the rough water and comparing it to surfing. He said I had to be the only passenger truly enjoying the adventure!

When not visiting ports, I love the Solarium — it is a quiet oasis on the ship and I find that it is one of the most relaxing places.

My favourite bar has to be the martini bar. It is centrally located and just a great place to meet people — and spent time “drawing” on the ice that covers the bar’s counter.

I don’t take a lot of pictures while I’m on the ship, so just go the the Celebrity website for more details!

I’ll be on the Celebrity Constellation in just a few days!

Dover #AtoZChallenge

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Dover is, of course, known for its white cliffs — and the only way to really see them is from the sea. Dover was the port for me to start my Mystery Cruise — and it gave me a great way to view something I’d always wanted to see.

Time to set sail into a mystery … we have no idea where we will be tomorrow.

Lysekil, Sweden

It is our last port of call for the Braemar Mystery Cruise to Maiden Ports. In the early morning, we sailed past large, granite rocks to dock at the town of Lysekil, Sweden. as we docked, ABBA was playing from the tourist information area, just to verify that yes, we were in Sweden. I had arranged another tour for this area, so while we did drive through part of this beautiful town, most of my day was seeing other things.

Our first stop was to the fishing village of Smögen where we learned that many of the local churches were designed by the same person and built with the local granite stone.

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From there, we went to Vitlycke Museum to see the Bronze Age stone carvings.  The museum is set in a beautiful park-like setting and the stone carvings were really interesting, especially considering how hard the stone is to carve and the type of tools they had to work with in the Bronze Age. We had a guide give us detailed information about a couple of the stones. In the pictures, you will see that the images are painted red.  This is not how they were originally, it is just to help us see the images better. There is also a nice museum, gift shop and restaurant there.

Our next stop was the fishing village of Fjällbacka. It is very picturesque and is famous for two people. Camilla Läckberg, an author of crime novels, and actress Ingrid Bergman who had a summer home there. It is said that she enjoyed the peace of the town and being able to live quietly. We had a wonderful lunch, with fresh, local fish and topped by the best coffee I had on the entire cruise!

When we returned to the ship, we had to go through a passport inspection — and it was really nice to  be able to actually talk and have pleasant conversations with immigration officials!

We sailed away to more ABBA music — and everyone on shore dancing (even some of the immigration officials!)

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It was a wonderful the end to a perfect day — and a perfect cruise on the Braemar.

 

Maiden Call Mystery Cruise on the Braemar

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From May 5 to May 14, the Fred. Olsen Braemar was my home as I and my fellow passengers and the ship’s crew embarked on a mystery cruise to maiden ports — places that the Braemar had never been to before this cruise! Our starting port was Dover, but once we left, only the captain knew where we were headed (at least we hoped he knew where we were going!)

It was a mystery!

But now that it is over, sadly, I can share the wonderful places we visited! Here is the overview of where we went and how we got there.

May 5th
We left Dover around 4:30 under clear skies and sailed 176 miles. We all made note that the ship turned north as we headed out (although that did not mean much as the captain could have easily turned us around in the middle of the night). But we were confident that we were not heading to Spain this time.

May 6th
This was a sea day with partly cloudy skies. We sailed a distance of 285 miles and I did a load of washing since some of my clothes were a bit smokey from camping for a few days before getting on the ship (and yes, I will write about that adventure, too!). At night, it was our first formal night and the Captain told us all he would about the cruise and places we were going by saying, that only two people know where we are going, me and the Head Chef. And all I will say is this … it`s a mystery!

May 7th
We arrive at our first mystery port. I am up early to watch us pull into port and to guess where we were. I saw a Norwegian flag, so I had the country — but no sign of where. The Captain finally announce that we were in Larvik, Norway! This would be my first time in Norway and it was a beautiful start to the day with clear skies and a light breeze. Distance sailed: 295 miles.

May 8th
Watching us sail into our second port was overwhelming because it seemed that everyone who lived in the town we were going was out to greet us! They had lined the port and vessels of all kinds were sailing along side us, including a Viking ship! And this was all before 8 AM on a Sunday! At dockside, there was a Viking group doing battle and providing a honour guard for us as we departed the ship. Welcome to Hundested, Denmark! This was the warmest welcome I`ve ever had while sailing and I will never forget it. All Hail! Distance sailed: 200 miles.

May 9th
Watching us pull into port, I was confused at first because I thought I saw a Swedish flag, however we were back in Denmark — this time is was Nyborg, Denmark. This is a beautiful town and, while we were docked in an industrial area, a shuttle bus took us to the town centre close to the Nyborg Castle and other sites. The people were friendly and helpful in showing us places to go and things to do. It was another beautiful day! Distance sailed: 100 miles.

May 10th
Sailing into our next port was very interesting, as we seemed to have a very narrow channel to navigate, marked by bouys. Once near the town, the ship was turned around and slide into a narrow docking space. We were docked very close to the centre of Wismar, GermanyIt was an easy walk into the town that has an interesting collection of architectural styles. It is also a quick drive to Rostock, another German town along the coast. Again, it was easy to get information and people were so welcoming and willing to help. as for our send off — we had a men`s choir singing Germany shanty songs and a group of men wearing uniforms from different periods who, with the addition of a small cannon, gave us a gun salute as we left! Distance sailed: 109 miles.

May 11th
We really had no clue where we would be next, of course. All through the cruise, there were people playing various guessing games and a lot of us checking the atlas in the library (which went missing one night). I finally figured out that I could at least find out the country by checking what flag we were flying. But that is as good as it got for my guessing game. Where do we sail this day? We were back in Denmark in Fredericia. Our welcome this time was a marching band! There were also bikes we could rent and a tourist train that would take us the short distance from the port to the town centre.  A short drive from the town is a Viking site, Kongernes Jelling. Distance sailed: 163 miles.

May 12th
Sailing into our final mystery port was interesting. It did not look like there was anything there except very large rocks — granite is important to this area, as we would soon learn. The biggest clue as to where we were was the ABBA music playing at we docked.  We were in Lysekil, Sweden. This area is dotted with small fishing villages, beautiful scenery and Bronze Age rock carvings. There are seals close to the harbour as well. The weather was again perfect — as it had been the whole trip. As we left the port, we had to check in with immigration and verify our passports. It was nice to have such friendly immigration officials to talk to (and even joke around with). As we sailed out of port both tourist guides and immigration officials were all dancing to ABBA. Distance sailed: 214 miles

May 13th
The mystery was over and it was time to sail back to Dover — our final port. It was a great trip and I would do this again! Distance sailed: 329 miles.

I love sailing on the Braemar! Everyone is friendly — from crew to the passengers. There are great places to sit and relax throughout the ship, which is one of the things I really enjoy.

 

 

 

La Coruna and the Torre de Hercules

The last stop on the Braemar “Choose your own cruise” was La Coruna, Spain. This is a small, charming coastal town. I was drawn to it because it is the home of the oldest lighthouse, La Torre de Hercules. It is very walkable, but also has good transit. During the summer, there is an old-fashioned tram, however from the port, it is easy to get around by bus. The main tourist bus is 3 or 3 A, however 5 also goes to all the same places — and heads out to the suburbs and university.  Yes, I ended up taking this one, not realizing how much of a “tour” of the city I was going to have!

It is also a very friendly city — I had several opportunities to practice my Spanish, and even a chance to speak French! It was very pleasant to walk around and see this charming place. Here are some of my favorite pictures.

Sunrise in La Coruna

 

La Marina Galeries

La Torre de Hercules

The marina had a lovely park with statues.

And there was lots of waves!

This was one of my favorite stops on this cruise — completely surprising, friendly and a mixture of city and nature.

Walking in Cadiz

All the research I did indicated that it would be easy to walk around Cadiz from port where the Braemar would dock. There is also a Hop on, hop off bus. So, I opted for a quick trip around Cadiz to get my bearings, then it was time for a nice walk next to the beaches and through parks. Cadiz is a great place to walk and see some interesting architecture, beautiful beaches and gardens and old forts. Perfect for pictures!

Before leaving ship, I got top see a submarine being towed out of the port, then heading out to sea.

There are several parks that run along the Atlantic Ocean. Here are somize of my favourite areas.

There was an interesting area with a waterfall, dinosaurs and ducks …

and this beautiful tree that provided shade to a memorial for Jose Marti — the Cuban poet and freedom fighter.

I did mention beaches, right? One very nice one is located between two forts.

 

One of the fortresses is a star-shaped fort named Santa Catalina.

From this beach, it is an easy walk to the main plaza and other sites such as churches and monuments.

Cadiz is a beautiful city — very easy to get around and friendly people. I was sad to leave.

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Lazy Day in Cartagena, Spain

After the heat and dodging marathon racers in Valencia, I was looking forward to an easier port of call. Cartagena proved to be just that! The Braemar docked right next to a small habour and wide boulevard that gave easy access to the city.

Directly across from the harbour is a monument to fighters last in the battle at Santiago de Cuba, along with several statues leading into the main city.

As you walk into the plaza, the Museo Teatromano de Cartagena provides an entrance to the Roman Theatre. It is a nice museum that includes several different rooms and a series of escalators to bring you to the theatre.

Besides the Roman theatre, Cartagena has a number of archeolgical sites. It also has a number of walls and fortifications that protect its natural harbour. It is easy to walk and there is a hop on, hop off bus as well as a harbour tours boat. Along the harbour, there are cafes, which makes this a very easy and pleasant port to visit.

Here are some of the sights of the city.

Our sail-away was spectacular. This is the only way to see the series of fortresses that guard the harbour. We also had fun with a small boat that had photographers from the ship sailing around the Braemar taking pictures of us– taking pictures of them!