Monday, December 26, 2011

12/26/11 Time to catch up. My last long post was the day we left on the 2 one week cruises we did from Galveston, starting Dec. 4. I had neglected to post a picture of our friends Al & Donna Ellis whom we visited in Chandler while we were getting ready to fly to Houston before the cruise. They are former RVers and very active in PFLAG in the Phoenix area, which is Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. We had a delightful lunch with them:

The next day we had dinner with Marilyn and Mo at their home in Sun City West. They are new cruise friends from the recent Holy Land and transAtlantic cruises we took in Oct-Nov, and we had a delightful time with them.

We already told you in a previous post that Dorothy and her friend Mary took very good care of us when we arrived in Houston, despite the fact that Dorothy's husband Duane was in the hospital. Here is a picture of them with Elaine in the living room:

Dorothy had prepared a truly delicious dinner for us, and when we were helping clean up the dishes, we noticed this on her fridge, which really gave us a laugh:

The first port call on the cruise was Roatan, Honduras. This is one of the Bay Islands off the north coast of Honduras and the last time we had been here was when we were driving down to Panama in 2004. We stayed about 5 days that time but this time we just had the day here and this is what the port looked like:

The nicest area was the new buildings which the cruise line had built near the pier. The rest of the town was pretty small and laid back and there wasn't a lot to do except shopping.

The weather was pretty warm and this picture of me with some of the local flowers shows how tropical it is:

This is a picture of what some of the local houses look like away from the pier:

Roatan is a good place to do excursions such as scuba diving and snorkeling, not hanging around the port area.
The next port was Belize City, which we also visited in 1995 when we drove to Costa Rica, and in 2004 when we were on our way to Panama. Here also the port area is quite nice, but once you get away from the port, the city is pretty dismal.

This is also a good place to do shore excursions, especially since Belize has the second biggest and best reef in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef. We just walked around the town and tried to see the differences from our previous visits. And, as at every port, there was lots of shopping.
The last port was Cozumel, where we have been several times before. Usually we walk into town and back, which is about a 7 mile walk, round trip. This is a picture taken from the ship looking towards the downtown. You can see another cruise ship down there. This day there were 6 big cruise ships at the various docks.

Right next to our ship was the Allure of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world and also one of the Royal Caribbean ships:

Just as we returned to our ship, there was our old cruise friend, Letty Reeser, getting off the Allure. It was quite amazing running in to her, since there are abour 5100 passengers on that one ship!
There are also lots of fun things going on during sea days on the ship. Here is a picture of us dancing together at the Welcome Back party for the top tier cruisers.

See, we do clean up OK.
The second week, David & Diane Wilson joined us and we always love being with them.

The first port was Cozumel, where we had just been, so we mostly explored the nearby Carnival Pier where they have really nice shops and restaurants.
The first week there had been 57 cases of norovirus on the ship, so they decontaminated it. The second week there were even more cases, and I was feeling pretty punk myself for about a day and a half. So I missed getting off the ship at Grand Cayman. This was a bummer, because we had never been here before. Elaine and Diane explored the port a little and bought me a nice shirt there.
The last port was Falmouth, Jamaica, where we also had never been before. It wasn't a great place to spend much time except in the newly built shops right near the ship. Some Jamaican guys on stilts were there to greet us as we exited the ship:

There were also lots of great wood carvings which had been made by the locals:

The main street in the part of town where the locals actually live looked pretty historical, but we were being hasseled so much to buy things from the vendors that we just gave up and went back to the ship.

From the top deck we took the following picture which makes this place look pretty nice:

The ship was getting pretty badly buffeted by heavy winds and waves while we were there, and we left the port about 8 hours late because they were replacing one of the stabalizers and they couldn't get it off.
Once the cruise was over, we flew back to Phoenix and picked up our RV at the Tempe Elks. We were having an electrical problem, so we decided to drive directly to Yuma where we know lots of RVers and could get some help diagnosing our problem. Our good friends, Ron & Carol Leonard have a small house in the Foothills with some RV spots behind it, so we stayed with them for about a week. Ron helped Elaine determine that we had a bad breaker, so they replaced it. Hooray - problem fixed for only $9.14.
Our old friend Eileen Cooper lives here too and we had a delightful dinner with her and her grandson, Mitch. We so admire her because when her husband died a few years ago, she went back to college. Here is a picture of her when she graduated:

Mitch fixed us a delicious meal. Here are the happy eaters at the table:

Our good friends Lee & Susie Blattner also were at their lot at the SKP park, so we went out there one day and I made lefse with Susie. I was so intent on what we were doing that I forgot to take any pictures. But the lefse (a Norwegian potato pancake type dessert) was delicious. We also got them to come over here to Ron & Carol's on Christmas Eve when Elaine and I fixed a clam chowder meal for everyone. Here is a picture of Laurie & Odel who are also visiting here and they came for dinner:

This picture was taken in Ron & Carol's living room, and you can see Ron, Laurie, Lee & Susie, Diane Fisherbaker, Carol, and Jim Fisherbaker:

On Christmas Day we all ate on Jim & Diane's patio:

You can see what a sunny day it was, and today was even warmer. We all got together for lunch today with another one of our cruise buddies, Denice Osborne. Here we are at Parrishes Bar & Grill:

You can see that we have been having lots of socializing, both on the ships and with our RV friends. The social whirl will continue, because we are leaving here tomorrow to drive to the Escapees park near Temecula for Carole & Dick Schneider's New Year's Eve party. Perhaps when things slow down a bit I can finally get an end of the year holiday letter written and sent out. Until then, we wish you all a healthy and happy year in 2012. Hopefully, it will be a great one for us all!!!!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

12/25/11 Haven't had time to add to this blog lately but I do want to wish all of you out there a very MERRY CHRISTMAS! We are in Yuma with friends and will be having a sunny afternoon feast on their patio. Tomorrow I promise to catch up and let you know what is up with us.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

We have now boarded the Mariner of the Seas for 2 weeks in the Caribbean, and we are hoping for some sun because it is drizzling in Galveston right now. Yesterday we flew to Houston and took the Supershuttle to Duane and Dorothy's house in west Houston. The original plan was that we would have dinner with them, stay at their place, and they would drive us to the ship today. When we arrived, Dorothy was there with her best friend Mary, and Duane was in the hospital! His lungs had filled up with fluid and he was having trouble breathing. They got him straightened out and he is back home this afternoon, but probably they can't travel for a while. The 4 of us had a wonderful visit and delicious dinner, which we were amazed at because Dorothy pulled it off despite the health crisis. Mary drove us to the ship today and we greatly appreciate that she did this, and that Dorothy arranged it for us. We have GREAT friends!
Yesterday when I was posting pictures from the Mediterranean cruise, I didn't finish before we had to get on the airplane, so hopefully, I can finish now.

Northern Israel (continued) The ruins at Capernaum:

The Monastery at Tabgha, built where Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves and the fishes, had wonderful old mosaic floors:

When the tour stopped for lunch at a restaurant near the shores of the Sea of Galilee, David, Diane, Elaine and I had a picnic. You can see by this picture that the water has receded quite a bit, because they have been over-using it, and also there has been a drought. The Sea of Galilee has fresh water in it, and the people of Israel depend on it.

Here is a picture of us dipping our hands into the Sea of Galilee to see how warm it was.

The last place we visited on the Sea of Galilee was this church built where Jesus preached about the Beatitudes. The grounds were beautiful and the church had many mosaics inside with all the words of the Beatitudes.

One of the ports, Kusadasi, was in Turkey, so David & Diane shopped for a carpet. Here is the carpet shop:

Lots of the streets in Kusdasi are clean, have decorative cobblestones, and cute shops. We wandered one block off the main shopping street and found this area where the "real" people live:

There is a nice harbor in Kusadasi and we were there on a sunny day:

One of the highlights of Athens was going to the changing of the guard at the Parliament building. On Sundays at 11AM the entire regiment takes part and it is quite colorful and they do interesting high-stepping:

Of course, most people visit the ruins when they are in Athens. Here is a shot of the amphitheater:

We were in Greece during the strikes and labor protests. On the walk through Piraeus to the metro to go to Athens, we encountered this effect of the labor strikes:

While we were on the ship, we received an award for having 280 cruise days with Royal Caribbean:

The island of Rhodes was our favorite. The old town is completely surrounded by walls, gates, towers and moats. Our ship docked right next to it.

One of the gates in Rhodes:

The narrow streets in Rhodes are lined with nice shops and often have trellis or flowering vines hanging down:

Our favorite handicraft item in Rhodes was utensils made of olive wood.

Some people devised innovate ways to market olive wood!

Most of the places we have been on this cruise have mosques with minarets. This one could be clearly seen from our ship and was within the city walls:

Chania, Crete has a delightful Venetian style port area. You can see it just behind us:

Greek people enjoy drinking ouzo, so we tried it while in Chania. It tastes like licorice and we liked it:

On the next cruise, the transatlantic, Ken & Carolyn Kimpton from Park Sierra joined us and we all went out for dinner at Portofino:

Palma de Mallorca has one of the largest cathedrals in Europe:

Funchal, Madiera has always been one of our favorite ports, partly because they have such decorative sidewalks:

An interesting looking fruit we found in the market was a combination of banana and pineapple. It was delicious!!

We explored Funchal with Carol & Byron, so Byron took this picture when we stopped at a streetside table for a local beer:

In La Palma, Canary Islands, we enjoyed the scenic small streets with colorful buildings:

Also in La Palma there is a life-sized replica of Columbus' ship, the Santa Maria. You can see our ship in the distance at the top of the picture:

On some of the sea days during the transatlantic crossing, they had special High Teas for Diamond+ members:

And we had a special gathering of all the cruise friends who are now "Newts": From left to right are June, Susan, Dorothy,Carol, Elaine, Diane, Marilyn, & Letty.

After the cruise we went home with David & Diane to Austin and enjoyed a wonderful BBQ dinner at a unique place in the country. They have a lovely home and here they are in their family room: