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Cruise Ports of Call

Often novice cruisers never give much thought to the details of ports they will be visiting. Even experienced cruisers are often so involved with the overall planning of a trip they overlook those important port details.

On our next cruise are there any tender ports? Are there ports that don’t allow walking out? Are there facilities on the pier? Is a port wheelchair accessible? Often cruise ships are not that free with information on upcoming ports of call and it would be helpful if you knew ahead of time if there are going to be challenges.

We’ve begun going thru our trip notes to build a section devoted just to port information and highlights. We hope you find it useful.

Also, If you would like to contribute please email us at TheIntentionalTraveler@gmx.com

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Our Caribbean

Discover the Caribbean

For over twenty-five years the heart of our business was servicing customers in the Caribbean. It would be easier to list the places we haven’t been than were we have. As a result we like to think we know the neighborhood pretty well.

Back in the beginning, Eastern Airlines was the primary carrier from the U.S. to most islands and they sold an island hopper ticket that allowed us to travel around the islands for a discount price. We would usually go out for a couple of weeks at a time spending a day at each island and staying at local or discount accommodations. Fast forward a decade or more and Eastern is gone (mostly replaced by American) and, because we now have to book each flight in and out with between islands mostly being LIAT and seaplanes, the trips take in fewer stops at much higher prices. Fortunately our business is more successful but travel has gotten more complicated because we are hauling children with us.

The restaurants, hotels and resorts are more upscale and we tended to spend more time in each location, partly because of the airfare, but also because we are spending time with more customers. We also took a number of busman’s holidays because we liked skin diving and beach combing but also because we could include business and offset some of the costs.

There are some places that we haven’t been back to in a while but we can still talk about the character of the islands. There is one place we can’t go back to because a volcano buried it (Montserrat). There are a number of places we return to often and can offer current tips and suggestions. Keep an eye out as we add articles about our little corner of the world including:

Barbados      St. Croix      Antigua      Curacao      Sint Maarten

St. Kitts       St. Lucia       Caymans      Jamaica       St. Thomas

Dominica      Grenada      St. Barts     Bahamas      and more

We have also taken more than a dozen Caribbean cruises and we will offer some comments on these as well. Cruising the Caribbean I offers an overview of cruising the Caribbean.  Cruising the Caribbean II talks about the short 3 and 4 day cruises out of South Florida and their destinations. Cruising the Caribbean III looks at the seven day and longer cruises.

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Cruising the South China Sea

cropped-southeast_asia_map.jpg

A First Visit to Southeast Asia

We spent all of February cruising with Celebrity’s Constellation in the South China Sea on back-to-back itineraries. We visited twelve ports with only one repeat (Ho Chi Min City). If you are going to fly twelve thousand miles you probably should make the most of the trip. We flew into Singapore and with the return for the second cruise and the extra day in port at the end we had five days to explore the city and all we could say was wow! The ship also spent two days in the port for Bangkok and we spent that night in a Bangkok hotel and booked a private tour (more about that at another time ;-).

Beyond the usual reasons for cruising there was an additional advantage on this trip. If you are not into a diet of noodles with dried fish flakes or hot curries, the ship gives you the opportunity to return to a Western style menu. The ship also takes care of visas and immigration ahead of each port.

Besides our time in Singapore our trip included four stops in Vietnam, Hong Kong, two stops in the Philippines which included Manila, two stops in Borneo, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, Brunei and two stops in Thailand. We had an opportunity to see a lot as well as try a number of cuisines. Many of the destinations were studies in extreme contrasts but it was also obvious that things are greatly improving economically. It is also interesting to switch from Muslim to Buddhist to Western cultures as we went from one port to the next. On board there were a number of excellent in-depth lectures on the history and culture of the various countries which provided a good perspective on the ways the region developed.

Over the last number of years we have found cruising gives us an opportunity to sample a number of places and than we decide where we want to come back to for extended stays. Southeast Asia is no exception to this and we certainly have a few we will add to our return list.


Phone Service: We were traveling on this trip with an iPhone 5 on Verizon service ($80 for 250 international minutes)and with a Blu 5.5 phone with a prepaid international plan from One Sim Card service. Vietnam and Brunei were not part of the Verizon international service so we switched use to OneSimCard. Phone calls with Verizon worked well everywhere else but there were problems getting text messages out on a few days. The only reliable data that we found on the Verizon service was in Singapore (didn’t attempt in Hong Kong) most other places indicated “Data Service Failed”. The One Sim Card service worked as expected except in Vietnam. There we connected with the recommended service provider (Viettel) but instead of text messages costing the expected 25¢ they were charged at a couple of dollars. One Sim Card did send a text message warning of high costs on this service recommending we switch networks, even though Viettel was their recommended provider.


In the near future look for posts covering each of these countries with pointers on must do things, food, transportation and hotels.

Impressions of Budapest

If you haven’t given much thought to Budapest, Hungary maybe it’s time you did. This city can hold its own against any number of great European cities like Paris, Rome or London. There have been travel moments in our lives that just stay with us because they were so special. Strolling the banks of the Danube in Budapest after dark is just such a moment…

Enjoy a stroll thru Budapest with us.

The Port of Honolulu Hawaii

Cruise Port Honolulu Hawaii

Honolulu is a frequent stop for cruise ships repositioning in the Pacific, cruises going out of the west coast of the U.S. And Canada as well as cruising the Hawaiian Islands. It is the largest city in the islands, the states Capital and gateway to Hawaii’s most developed island.

General

Honolulu is located on the island of Oahu with a number of areas to visit and sights to see. Nearby is Pearl Harbor with the museums and memorials and in the other direction is Waikiki Beach with the hotels and shopping. This island and city are major tourist destinations and to get a feel for Oahu you need a number of days.

Where The Ships Dock

The cruise piers are located on the northwest side of Honolulu between Waikiki Beach and the International Airport. Cruise ships dock at either the Aloha Tower (pier 11) or Pier 2 about a quarter mile more to the south (primarily used by NCL for Hawaiian cruises). Aloha Tower is conveniently located not far from the downtown area and the Aloha Tower Marketplace. There are facilities located at the cruise terminal and you can walk out without much difficulty. “Downtown” with its shopping and “Waikiki Beach” are not the same location so if you want to visit this famous beach area you will need transportation.

Transportation

For a short visit we would recommend trying to share a cab with others to get to Waikiki Beach, share costs and save time. Local public service is with TheBus and the ride to the beach doesn’t long. If you want to take TheBus a 1-Day Pass is $5.50. Ask your bus operator for the 1-Day

Pass before placing your money in the farebox. It’s valid 12:01 a.m. To 2:59 a.m. the next day, for up to 27 hours of unlimited rides. Our preference is to rent a car. Rates are usually very reasonable and since you are in the United States your insurance covers you. Oahu is a pretty big island with 3 major highways (H-1, H-2 and H-3) and we would strongly suggest that you use GPS navigation. The street anmes are difficult to pronounce and remember and the roads tend to wind around.

Currency

This is the 50th state and the US Dollar is currency.

Attractions

We’ve taken the Waikiki Trolley tour and found it way overpriced for what you get to see. Again we recommend renting a car if you want to see the island. A short taxi ride into the center of the beach is a better investment. If it’s going to be a first trip don’t miss a visit to Pearl Harbor with the USS Arizona Memorial (last we heard it was closed for refurbishment) and the USS Missouri. In Honolulu there are almost too many attractions to count, from shows to an aquarium and zoo. For the best view on the island drive up to Hawaii puu ualakaa state park with the overlook above Honolulu on Mount Tantalus. We love the North Shore with the surf at the Banzai Pipeline and Waimea Bay and a number of great small towns (look for the food trucks) and Waimea Falls Park. There is also The Dole Plantation in mid-island and also a couple of beautiful gardens to check out. Above all else is the ocean and the beaches and the reefs. Snorkeling and diving opportunities abound and depending on the season you can go whale watching too.

Travel Maps For Christmas

Put a Pin In It

We’ve Created Beautiful Pin Maps To Record Your Travels available through our Etsy store. VISIT NOW

A few years ago we printed, mounted and framed a world map and added pins to designate the places we had visited. As we continued to travel, we added more pins. Over time, we have had a number of friends and family members admire our map and ask for maps of their own, which we were glad to give as gifts. With much encouragement over the past couple of months, we have designed our own original maps and hope to make them available for sale.

Our Etsy store is now open. VISIT NOW

After you place your order we customize and print each map and ship in about five working days via the USPS. The map is printed on heavy cover stock and is ready for framing. Detailed instructions are included for installing in ready-made, inexpensive frames or you can have it custom mounted and framed.

The World Map

Proudly display and pin your world travels while keeping track of your adventures and future plans. Our gorgeous personalized maps are a beautiful addition to your home and are a great conversation piece.

World Map #W1 in Grays and Blues

This 13″ x 19″ exclusive original design  map is available in two color schemes and is printed on premium cover stock. Included are a number of custom options (see ordering information).

World Map #W2 in Earth Tones and Blues

Pick Your Map and Select Customizations Below

  • Select a banner .                           
  • Add a custom printed name .     
Put a pin in it and record all your travels

Ships promptly in a mailing tube and comes with a collection of 50 colored pins. Includes suggestions on saving money on framing with do-it-yourself instructions. Make use of included colored pins to indicate visits to Countries, Cities and National Parks. The design shows over 200 cities along with major national parks, seas and oceans.

Available soon, framed and ready to hang.

Example of map detail

 

 

 

 

 

 

The United States Map

Great to get your children interested in geography and tracking their adventures or remembering family vacation trips. Makes a beautiful personalized gift and is designed with children in mind as a fun, in-home, learning tool.

This 13″ x 19″original design map is printed on heavy premium cover stock and includes a number of customization options.

Select Customizations Below

  • Choose a banner                              
  • Add a custom printed name       
Put a pin in it to display your travels

Comes with a collection of 50 colored pins. Includes suggestions on saving money on framing along with do-it-yourself instructions. Select pin colors to indicate visits to National Parks, States and Cities.V

This map is designed over a topographic image with all 50 states outlined and their names in bright red. Printed with over 200 U.S. cities along with major National Parks.

 

Also available soon framed and ready to hang.

Visit Our Etsy Store NOW.

Still time for Cristmas – order maps and select customization options only at our Etsy store.

 

 

Rome Cruise Port of Civitavecchia

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Civitavecchia inner harbor

Rome’s Cruise Port is Civitavecchia which is one of the Mediterranean’s Two Major Cruise Departure Ports. If you are spending time in Rome ahead of a cruise or are flying in, the trip to Civitavecchia requires some planning as it is not a short distanceGeneral

The Cruise Port of Civitavecchia is a seaside city and the port serving the city of Rome. The city is served by frequent train service from Rome along with regular service to other Italian destinations. The Cruise port is only a short five or six block walk from the train station along the waterfront on Via Aurelia. Once at the port there are usually free shuttles to the cruise ships. From where and how the shuttles run seems to change often.

The Cruise Port of Civitavecchia is a seaside city and the port serving the city of Rome. The city is served by frequent train service from Rome along with regular service to other Italian destinations. The Cruise port is only a short five or six block walk from the train station along the waterfront on Via Aurelia. Once at the port there are usually free shuttles to the cruise ships. From where and how the shuttles run seems to change often.

 

The Cruise Port of Civitavecchia is a seaside city and the port serving the city of Rome. The city is served by frequent train service from Rome along with regular service to other Italian destinations. The Cruise port is only a short five or six block walk from the train station along the waterfront on Via Aurelia. Once at the port there are usually free shuttles to the cruise ships. From where and how the shuttles run seems to change often.

The main entrance to the port is nearest the train station and across from the McDonalds but recently the cruise shuttles are being organized nearer the Roman Dock entrance about four blocks farther up Via Dalmazia .

Where the Ships Dock 

 Rome Cruise Port Civitavecchia is both a cruise ship embarkation port as well as a popular port of call and for that reason it can have a large number of ships in port from time to time. On one day we counted seven large cruise ships tied up. Because of the size of the port it normally requires a shuttle to get out of the port or to your ship.

 

 

Transportation 

The best way to get into Rome is to take a train. From Civitavecchia a typical trip to S. Pietro (40 mins), Trastevere (50 mins), Ostiense (55 mins) and finally Termini (70 mins). Fare starts at €5 one way on the commuter trains but can cost up to €25 round trip if using regional trains depending on ticket class. There is a manned ticket booth at the station along with vending machines. We would strongly recommend getting a metro train map ahead of time and plan your route before getting to Italy. Our experience is that buying tickets ahead of time online doesn’t save anything and can actually cost you more.

Taxis are available but are famous for overcharging with the short ride from the port to the train station quoted as high as €10 or €15.

Taking a taxi into Rome or to the airport can be an expensive trip with fares running from €150 to €300.

There are also shuttle services to the airport with an average price starting at €25 per person. It is recommended that reservations be made as schedules can vary a lot.

Visiting Civitavecchia 

We have stayed in Civitavecchia a number of times. It is a nice city with a number of nice hotels and restaurants within walking distance of the port. The main business district is next to the port and there are a number of nice shops in the area as well as a pedestrian mall. 

evening.Via Aurelia runs along the waterfront from the train station to the ports main entrance and has a number of restaurants, most with outdoor seating available. Sitting in an outdoor cafe and feeling the sea breeze is a way of life here. There is also a nice park area along the water which is a popular place for locals to stroll in the evening and often features special events.

Port of Call Juneau Alaska

A Day in the Port of Juneau

Probably the most isolated state capital in the United States and one of two that you cannot drive to (Hawaii). It is also one of the most frequented cities on Alaska cruise itineraries. Besides being isolated and the states capital it also has a lot to offer.

Where You Dock
Norwegian Pearl tied up at the AJ Dock
Historic downtown Juneau

Docking facilities stretch from the waterfront right at the foot of the historic district for a mile southeast along the Gastineau channel. If you are lucky and your ship docks near town you are only steps from shops and restaurants. There is however no cruise terminal or public facilities readily available at the dock. Restrooms are available at the public library just a block from the Red Dog Saloon along with a number of stores and restaurants. There is also a shuttle service provided from the docks down the channel but it is not free (currently about $2 each way).

Transportation

Besides the official dock shuttle there are taxis available at reasonable rates. To get to Mendenhall Glacier we would recommend the public bus service that departs from near the cruise ship docks. Current round trip fare toMendenhall NPS Visitor Center is $30 per person. Outside of the historic district Juneau is actually a very large city in geographic size. If you really want to see the wider area there are also rental car agencies near town.

Looking from library toward the Red Dog
Money

The U.S. Dollar and most credit cards are welcome

Attractions
Juneau Salmon Hatchery

Wander the streets of Juneau’s historic district, shop, visit the infamous Red Dog Saloon where Wyatt Earp lost his guns in a poker game. Within just a few square miles, browse multiple museums and an arts centers celebrating Alaska’s Native heritage. See multiple totems, the Ancon Mural, visit the fascinating DIPAC Macaulay Salmon Hatchery and be sure and go out to Mendenhall Glacier. Stop by one of Travel Juneau’s visitor information sites for a Downtown Walking Tour Map and be your own guide!

Mendenhall Glacier

Take a cable car up to a mountain top high above the city or take a helicopter up to the Juneau ice field and walk on a glacier. Go salmon fishing or whale watching. There’s more to do than will fit in a day.

More information on the Mendenhall Glacier.

More information on the Salmon Hatchery.

 

Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse

People love statues from high art like Michelangelo’s David to ancient wonders like the Sphinx in Egypt that measures 66 feet standing above the desert floor. Or Christ the Redeemer in Rio standing high above the city at 2,453 feet above sea level. It seems if you are looking to really get noticed go BIG. That was actually the original idea for Mount Rushmore, intending it to be a tourist attraction.

It seems to have become a success. Tourism is South Dakota’s second-largest industry, and Mount Rushmore is the state’s top tourist attraction with over 2 million people visiting the park each year.

We visited these monuments at the beginning of our trip across Yellowstone and the parks of Utah and while these were not on our “must do” list we are glad we took the time to visit. Mt. Rushmore is an impressive sight, the museum is informative and the hiking trails range through some beautiful terrain.

If you take the time to visit Mt. Rushmore take a few extra hours to visit Crazy Horse. It is an inspiration to see what people can aspire to create.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is centered around a sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills in Keystone, South Dakota by sculptor Gutzon Borglum. It was carved from 1927 to 1941 with the help of his son Lincoln Borglum and chief carver of the mountain Luigi del Bianco. The sculptures feature the 60-foot heads of Presidents George Washington (1732–1799), Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), and Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865). The park covers 1,278 acres and is 5,725 feet above sea level. The National Park Service took Mount Rushmore under its jurisdiction in 1933.

 

Crazy Horse Monument

Not far from Mount Rushmore work is progressing on what will eventually be the worlds largest sculpture. The Crazy Horse Monument, referred to as The Eighth Wonder of the World in progress. It will depict the Oglala Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse, riding a horse and pointing into the distance toward the lands of his ancestors. The memorial was commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota elder, to be sculpted by Korczak Ziolkowski (who also worked on Rushmore). It is operated by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit organization. The monument has been in progress since 1948 and is still being worked by the Ziolkowski family. It is far from completion.

 

 

A model of the sculpture with the mountain in the background.

Florida’s Fossil Reef Park

A Short Story

Discovering Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park

Over the past few decades when visiting the Florida Keys we would drive past a dirt road with a locked chain link fence on Windley Key in the upper Keys. A number of years ago the gate, while still locked, displayed a new sign that read “Windley Key Fossil Reef”. Today it is open to the public as a state park. On our recent Keys drive we stopped in and spent a couple of hours visiting the Visitors Center and hiking the park.

Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park  is between mile markers 84 and 85.5, between Plantation Key and Upper Matecumbe Key.

If you’re planning a trip to the Florida Keys this often overlooked park is really worthy of a visit. Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park provides an interesting exposure of a geological formation known as the Key Largo Limestone. This is a limestone rock fossil quarry; and the material is known locally as “keystone”. The entire quarry is comprised of a Pleistocene fossil reef, estimated between 100-125,000 years old. A majority of the keys are formed on this fossil reef system. The ocean levels rose and fell multiple times after the last Ice Age, and stabilized over the last 5,000 years. The top 25 feet of the old coral reef became exposed, died and laid the foundation to form Windley Key Fossil Reef .

Want to go exploring for fossils? Oddly one place to look is your nearest mall or new hotel or office building. On the floor of many of these places is polished limestone made mostly of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in the form of the minerals calcite or aragonite, that contain an abundance of fossils or fossil traces. The fossils under your feet may be macroscopic or microscopic. The macroscopic fossils often include crinoid stems, brachiopods, gastropods, and the remains of other hard shelled mollusk. In Florida the main form are the remains of these ancient coral reefs.

So next time you’re in Florida, visit a coral reef without even getting wet.