Saturday, August 6, 2016

Olympic Truce-Rio 2016

It's wonderful to see all of these happy accomplished athletes from all over the world. I am remarking how close Israel, Iraq and Iran are to one another because of the alphabet, North Korea's there, Afghanistan and Pakistan are there, Palestine, Yemen, Russia, Syria, Chinese Taipei, and more are all there in solidarity, taking selfie's with each other, wishing and hoping for the best. Saudi Arabia even has women competing this year and there is a team called "refugee olympics" competing. I love the idea of this "one big global group hug" every four years. During the ancient Olympics, all warfare stopped before, during, and right after the games. During this "Olympic Truce, the (western) world was at peace while athletes, the best and the brightest, were in competition. Too bad we have to wait every four years for such solidarity, inspiration, and optimism.

#CubaHereICome


 
 
This week, I found a fabulous last minute deal on the cruise line, fathom, which recently began sailing from Miami to Cuba.  "fathom" is a company that provides “a whole different kind of travel”, with cultural immersion experiences and even includes all of the shore excursions complete with walking tours, bus tours, lectures on Cuban history/culture, dance and Spanish classes, and lunches in 4 local restaurants. 

Tomorrow, (8-7-16) the fathom Adonia will cruise to Cuba for a week, where we will visit Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos on a "people to people" mission where we will have several opportunities to connect with families, schoolchildren, musicians, small business owners, restauranteurs, and a host of artists, entertainers, educators, and more We will even stay overnight stay in Havana, where I will experience some of its nightlife. 

fathom is a new subsidiary Cruise line of Carnival Cruise Lines that provides weeklong sailings every other week--alternating between The Dominican Republic and Cuba. According to fathom, "we will participate in an ongoing cultural exchange program that will give us a chance to interact with the Cuban people, one on one. We will build on the contributions of the travelers who have come before us." The "f" in fathom is not capitalized reflecting the humility embodied by their approach to interacting with members of the local culture and making a difference.

Interestingly, fathom is the first American cruise line that received approval from the US and Cuban governments for Travel to Cuba. Their first sailing to Cuba was just 3 months ago.  I am happy they will provide us with Cuban visas. Check out www.Fathom.org.

Importantly, I will be able to visit Cuba while it is still a Cuban city---from a bygone era.  As we all know, in no time, Cuba will resemble the rest of the cookie-cutter Western world replete with high-profile brand establishments such as McDonald's, Starbucks, Sunglass Hut, Gucci, Guess Jeans, Prada, and more, on every corner.

Cuba has been on my bucket list for a very long time and will make my 91st nation visited. 

When Christopher Columbus arrived there in 1492, he described it as, “the most beautiful land human eyes had ever seen”. I look forward to this experience to drive less than 30 minutes away to board a ship to finally visit Cuba, a uniquely beautiful country, rich in history.  

#CubaHereICome
 
 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Cuba will make my 91st nation visited!

Cuba will make my 91st nation visited!




I just booked a trip to Cuba that will leave in four days. I have been watching the prices for months and it decreased so dramatically (for this sailing), I could not resist this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to finally visit Cuba, especially at such a great price! What's even better, is that I will be on a cruise with "fathom impact travel", a company that provides a whole different kind of travel, with cultural immersion experiences and even includes all of the shore excursions complete with walking tours, bus tours, and lunches in local restaurants.

fathom is a new subsidiary Cruise line of Carnival Cruise Lines that provides weeklong sailings every other week--alternating between The Dominican Republic and Cuba. According to fathom, "we will participate in an ongoing cultural exchange program that will give us a chance to interact with the Cuban people, one on one. We will build on the contributions of the travelers who have come before us." The "f" in fathom is not capitalized reflecting the humility embodied by their approach to interacting with members of the local culture and making a difference. The recently renovated, 700-passenger cruise ship, Adonia, was part of the renaissance fleet of ships that were eventually sold to Carnival, Oceania, and Azamara cruise lines.  Interestingly, fathom is the first American cruise line that received approval from the US and Cuban government's for Travel to Cuba. Their first history-making sailing to Cuba took place just two months ago, May 15, 2016.  I am happy they will provide us with Cuban visas. 

For an incredibly low price, I will sail from Miami, (where I live), to Cuba (90 miles away) visit three cities, have access to multiple lectures about Cuban culture and history, enjoy multiple meals all included, have 4 lunches in Cuban cities, and will enjoy all entertainment on board the ship, all while not having to enter an airport or suffer from any jet lag. We will even experience an overnight stay in Havana, where I will experience some of its nightlife. Importantly I will be able to visit Cuba while it is still a Cuban city from a bygone era.  As we all know, in no time, Cuba will resemble the rest of the cookie-cutter Western world replete with high-profile brand establishments such as McDonald's, Starbucks, Sunglass Hut, Gucci, Guess Jeans, and more, on every corner. Coca-Cola does not even exist there. Cuba has been on my bucket list for a very long time and will make my 91st nation visited. 

The ship will depart from the port of Miami at 4:30 PM on Sunday, August 7. The first day we will spend at sea; the next two days in Havana where we will visit the old town, revolution museum, Batista's presidential office, Fidel Castro's yacht, cigar factories, Hemingway's former home, and more;  then we will visit the cities of Santiago de Cuba,  the country's second largest city--home to many of its famed musicians and artists and a UNESCO world heritage site; finally French-influenced coastal city of Cienfuegos, the center of Cuba's sugar, tobacco, and coffee trades.  I will experience all shore excursions with the same cohort that will be preassigned and dinner seating is open-seating. We will even take dance lessons in Havanna and after our walking tour, I plan to take a tour of the rest of the city, in a classic car from the 1940s.

I have already begun to brush up on my knowledge of Cuban culture and history with my collection and the books I checked out of the library today.

I look forward to this once-in-a-lifetime experience to drive less than 30 minutes away to board a ship to finally visit Cuba, a uniquely beautiful country, rich in history.

 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


Overseas Travel—Last minute packers need not apply

If you are planning to travel overseas, and if you are one of those last-minute packers who likes to pack the night before you leave, there are certain things you need to plan two weeks or at least one week before you leave.

Here are some of my suggestions of travel checklist activities you can't leave for the last minute.








 
·         Ensure you have what you need before you begin to pack.
 
Write a pack list. Make sure you have everything on the list before you begin packing. Major categories are passport, all travel documentation, outerwear, clothing, shoes, underwear, toiletries, cosmetics, medications, workout clothing, swimwear, pajamas, travel guides, spare glasses, extra luggage tags, cash, key electronics and chargers, extra credit cards, antibiotics, umbrella, reading materials, at least one washcloth for each overseas hotel, and more.


 
·         Carry-on what you cannot do without.
Think carefully about your carry-on luggage. I always like to bring everything I absolutely cannot do without, just in case my luggage never arrives. This includes such items as medications, spare glasses, chargers for electronics, and some extra underwear and socks.

·         Address medical issues and bring key prescription meds.
Think about any medical issues, any prescription medications you may need, and contact your doctor. I highly recommend that everyone bring a prescription antibiotic. You never know when you will need it.  Also, find out if there are recommended vaccines for your destination countries. Arrange to take the vaccines.  If you get carsick or seasick easily, bring seasickness medications.



 

·         Notify banks and credit card companies of your destination countries.
Contact your credit card and ATM companies/banks and notify them of all of your travel destinations. You want to ensure that you will be able to use them everywhere and avoid being flagged because of “suspicious behavior”.   Explore if your bank shares alliances with overseas banks that will waive the ATM transaction fee. Also find out what fees they charge for international transactions. Often the transaction fee is 3% of the total.

Make sure you have enough cash in your checking account. In case of emergencies, you may need to withdraw large sums.

·         Bring extra US cash.

Get notes in small denominations so that you won't lose money if you need to change smaller sums into the local currency. In some cases, (where appropriate) small denominations of US bills mightcome in handy for tips.

·         Have passwords handy.

Make sure you know all of the passwords to your key accounts especially financial and healthcare related.

·         Give travel itinerary copies to loved ones.

Make sure your closest loved ones have copies of your travel itinerary including all hotel information.

·         Procure $150 in local currency.

You should never arrive somewhere overseas without some of the local currency. Make sure that when you arrive, you have at least enough money for taxi fare, some food, and other miscellaneous needs. You don't know when or where you will have your first access to an ATM machine. Large banks will allow you to order foreign-currency in advance, online. They will ship it directly to your home or to your nearest banking center. I recommend that you order at least $150 worth of currency for your first country.

·         Check the weather in advance.

As you are packing you will need to know if you need light weight jacket or heavier jacket, a raincoat, hats, gloves, and any other items for certain weather conditions.

·         Bring international adapters and or transformers for all of your electronic devices.
There are some handy all-in-one adapters that include components for all the major parts of the globe. I know that I at least need to charge my cell phone, laptop, e-reader, camera batteries, and portable extra cell phone battery. Also bring extra extension cords and chargers.

·         Bring copies of your passport and bring two extra passport photos.

In case you lose your passport overseas, having passport photos will facilitate and accelerate the process of acquiring another passport.

·         Make sure that all of your devices function properly.
Twice, I discovered before an overseas trip that my camera was no longer functioning properly. I had to sprint to my local electronics store at the last minute to buy another camera. For cameras, make sure you have extra SD cards so that you won't have a limit on the the number of photos and videos you can take.
 
·         Pay your upcoming bills.
Also, you might even choose to pay some bills in advance of next month. Use your discretion. Of course it depends on how long you will be away.

·         Research and add international Telecom plan (phone, data, text, etc.).

Check with your telephone carrier to see what international plans are available that include phone, data, texting, and other services. Also, find out which countries are included in your plan. On one of my trips where I visited Baltic capitals, I discovered that Russia was not included in my data plan and I had been using data while there. I was required to negotiate a payment before they would reinstate my services (including free Wi-Fi access).

Plan to keep track of your data usage. Remember to reset your data counter on your smart phone before you leave town. I usually do this after boarding my last flight out of the United States.

·         Notify your postal carrier that you will be away and of your travel dates.


 
Finally, write a to-do list for your return. Sometimes returning home after a long overseas trip can be overwhelming. If you have a list of important next steps, it will make your transition back home much easier to manage.

Bon Voyage!!!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

World Cruise-The First Segment: Florida to Sydney

Hello Fellow Travelers,

I will cruise on the first third of a 115-day world-cruise – – the segment that sails from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Sydney, Australia.  Leaving in early 2016, the journey will last 36 days.

After departing from Fort Lauderdale, the ship (HAL Amsterdam) will make stops in Costa Rica and Panama; transit the Panama Canal; then make stops in several South Pacific islands including French Polynesia; then make stops in New Zealand and Australia ports; and finally I will disembark in Sydney. 




Cruising

On this sailing, I will explore 14 ports of call and I will relish 21 activity-filled sea days, including a crossing-the-equator and passing the international dateline ceremonies.

I  look forward to some of my favorite activities on a cruise such as relishing sunsets at sea, savoring 24-hour gourmet dining options, enjoying a variety of entertainment venues including musicians galore and Las Vegas-style revues, appreciating a good book poolside, winning trivia and other contests, luxuriating at gala events, enriching my mind and body with lectures and dance classes, and delighting in making new friends from all over the world.





 
Traveling

Literary giants such as Herman Melville, Robert Louis Stevenson, W. Somerset Maugham, and James Michener wrote volumes about some of their experiences in these majestic locations with their blue lagoons, colorful reefs, mountain valleys, and hospitable residents.

I especially look forward to re-experiencing a guided tour as we transit the Panama Canal, learning about the traditional Maori culture in New Zealand, experiencing the rugged beauty and the endless sky in the French Polynesian and Cook Islands, enjoying the bustling, cosmopolitan cities of Sydney and Melbourne, and bonding with a new group of world explorers.

By the end of this cruise, this world traveler will have visited 90 nations on six continents. 

Our ship will set sail in one week!!

I will bring you along.
 
 

 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Hong Kong observations

Hong Kong observations. (Written on iPhone while there).

Vibrant, colorful, electric, fast paced, densely populated, city.
Both traditional and modern elements.
People drive and walk on the left side.
Smoking is more common than I'm accustomed to.
There is a 7-Eleven or Circle K on every corner.
Lots of French tourists.
A Lot of stair climbing. Lots up uphill walking. I walked more than 20 steps and climbed more than 20 flights daily.
In subway cars, 90% of riders are staring at cell phones, the other 10% are talking on them. (just like everywhere else).
Lots of cosmetics and herbs stores.
Lots of queuing up esp. for public buses.
Beware: water drips on you from air conditioning units from above.
Dying hair blonde is popular here too.
The young people are hip and happy and like to hang out in malls. Sound familiar?
Tapwater in the hotel is considered non-drinkable. They provide two free bottles of water daily. I was extremely good about this for the first 2 1/2 days. The last morning, As I contemplated checking out of my hotel, and taking a taxi to the cruise port, I got distracted, and accidentally used the tap water to brush my teeth. We will see what happens…… alert: I just realize I have been doing my sinus rinse every day. I've been using tap water for that. So I have been injecting not drinkable water into my system anyway.
They charge 50 cents per bag (many places) to encourage shoppers to bring their own reusable bags.
There are more banks per square foot than anywhere I have been!! Also, there are foreign currency exchanges galore!
I have seen no dogs.

Hong Kong – Victoria Peak



Victoria Peak is Hong Kong island's tallest hill that provides spectacular views of the city and surrounding areas. The tran station was opened in 1888. At that time, travel to the top took three hours and now it takes only eight minutes. The tram is the steepest funicular railway in the world. I spent an hour walking around the peak soaking in all of the wonderful energy and breathtaking views.