Food on the Wilderness Adventurer

Port Townsend, WA

Wilderness Adventurer in Port Townsend

People look forward to the food on cruise ships.  While Wilderness Adventurer is an expedition vessel designed for active adventures in remote places, a satisfying meal still plays a part in the enjoyment of the cruise.  Or un-cruise since this is after all Un-Cruise Adventures, so named because the experience aboard these small ship adventure vessels is vastly different than that found on the large cruise ships.

cruise food

lunch buffet on Chinese food day

On  our cruise on the Wilderness Adventurer they served breakfast and lunch buffet style and dinner in sit down and order fashion. Each meal brings about several choices, with the day’s menu shown on one channel of the stateroom TV.

cruise food

chow mien and salad for lunch

Early breakfasters can choose from continental breakfast selections of cold cereal, fruit, a variety of breads, and yogurt. Later hot food selections are added, which vary daily with things like pancakes or frittatas, potatoes, eggs and bacon or sausage, and oatmeal.  People work up an appetite on daily adventures like hiking or kayaking.

Un-Cruise food

every day the menu changed

On our cruise they put a list of the dinner main dish choices out at the bar so people could pre-select, which would help them greatly in knowing how much of each thing to cook.

what to eat on an un-cruise

the chef liked to plate things in a pile

If people didn’t choose ahead of time they could still order what they wanted. They normally offered a meat choice, a seafood choice, and a vegetarian option. The favorite among a number of passengers often was half & half. With most people that meant half meat, half seafood, but vegetarian worked as one of the halves too if that was what someone thought sounded good.

fish dish

each night had a fish option

fancy plated food

meat option was always a choice

The menu at each meal changed every day and the pastry chef added delightful breads and desserts.

fancy dessert

dessert – the best part

mmm, dessert

this chocolate cake was delicious

sweet treats

carrot cake

cruise ship bar

bar on the Wilderness Adventurer


Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Cruise Food, Un-Cruise Adventures, Wilderness Adventurer | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

A tour of Grenada

cruise ship at the dock

Splendor in Grenada

Grenada is probably most famous (at least in the eyes of Americans) for the US invasion of 1983.  It made the headlines big time when the USA invaded there following a military coup that outsted the revolutionaries who had taken over in their own coup four years earlier.  It resulted in the restoration of the pre-revolutionary government.  In a not so famous tidbit of news, Grenada has a major medical school.  I only know about it because my brother went there (though he was done before my Splendor cruise so our paths didn’t cross.)

tropical flowers

flowers at Grand Etang National Park

Carnival Splendor docked in St. Georges Grenada on a warm sunny day. It’s not as frequently visited as some Caribbean ports so the town near the cruise docks still has local stores rather than the same chain stores present in all the major cruise ship ports.  It’s nice to see an island relatively unchanged by cruise ship presence instead of the same sterile cruise port that looks pretty much the same everywhere.

After climbing to the top of the ship to check on wind vs big floppy sunhats, the sunhats won. Upon exiting the ship we found the wind next to the ship made it impossible to walk down the dock without holding the hats on. It seemed to be the ship itself creating the wind tunnel though because once past it the air calmed to a gentle breeze.


island view from a hillside

We found maps and tourist information in the building we had to pass through at the end of the dock.  A booth near the entrance offered taxi tours.  Locals further into the building had cheaper taxi tours.  Water taxis to a couple of the island’s beaches were available and the information people said there was someone offering a snorkel tour, though we did not see them.  We did see people selling tickets for the local train-tram that goes to a fort and a museum.  There were also a number of souvenir shops, a few of which we visited after our tour.

lost a roof in a hurricane

tower of roofless church on top of a hill

We went with the local taxi tour for $20 each. As we left the cruise ship port our driver/guide pointed to a church on top a hill and said it closed after hurricane Ivan blew the roof off, adding that on Grenada they gave Ivan a last name and it was known locally as Ivan Roofoff.  That church was one of many buildings that lost a roof to the hurricane.

Grenada is quite a steep island.  Everything is up hills or down hills. It has an airport on pretty much the only level spot on the whole island.  We saw it in the distance, but never went there.

street peddler

locals everywhere sell spice necklaces

The roads seemed barely wide enough for one lane, but the locals drive it like a regular two lane street in most places, though there were a few spots in the high mountain villages where cars had to stop in a wide spot to let traffic going the other way pass.  When two cars going opposite directions met at one hairpin turn it caused a traffic jam with everyone having to maneuver this way and that to give them room enough for one to get around the other.

no flat surface

house on poles

The majority of the houses sit on poles as there isn’t enough flat ground on the hillsides for a house to sit on.

Grenadians have free health care and each little village has a medical station, though some are open just once a week so the inhabitants may have to go elsewhere for emergencies. Children can go to public schools for free, or pay to go to one of the many religious schools. 55% of the population is catholic, with the rest split between protestant and other religions.

spice shop

spices in a little shop at the park

Grenada is often referred to as the spice island because they grow a lot of nutmeg and other spices there.  Anywhere tourists go you find locals selling spice necklaces made from nutmeg and other local spices in their natural form.  Ground spices in jars ready to use are available everywhere in the numerous tiny shops and roadside stands run by locals.  Some people just stand by the road selling their wares without even a little makeshift stand to sell them in.

growing spices

nutmeg fruit with the seed coated in mace

Our first stop was at a local spice shop clinging to the side of a narrow road on a steep hill.  It seemed like a small store until we saw all the makeshift booths along the road and at tourist attractions later.  Compared to them it was pretty big and a lot more permanent. The shopkeepers showed us spices in their natural form and explained how all parts of the nutmeg get used. They make the outer fruit part into things like syrup and jelly and use the red coating over the seed to make a spice called mace. The hulls get used for gardens and pathways and the seed itself ground up for the nutmeg spice. They use tumeric as a substitute for saffron and sometimes label it as saffron rather than tumeric in their shops.  I bought a small bottle of nutmeg syrup to try on pancakes after I got home.  It was delicious, maybe I should have gotten a bigger bottle.

street vendors are everywhere in Grenada

roadside spice stands

Unemployment is 33% on the island. People don’t get government handouts.  They make their living however they can.  That’s why every stop had someone selling spice necklaces to freshen up kitchens and bathrooms, and usually “spice girls” in brightly colored outfits with baskets of fruit on their heads who would pose for a picture for $2. One of them saw someone in the van take a picture through the window and thought it was of her.  She tried to chase the van down the road thinking she should get paid.

All sorts of fruits and vegetables thrive in Grenada. The plants and trees along the roadside all belong to someone.  The guide said everyone knows where their property boundaries are.  What looks like random roadside forest to passers by is really someone’s livelihood from whatever they have growing there.  We saw all sorts of forest crops next to the road including  cinnamon, coffee and chocolate as well as the ever present nutmeg.


locals jump into this pool from the cliff across from the viewing area

Our next stop brought us to the driver’s hometown of Annandale where locals jump into a pool below a waterfall. Visitors also could swim in the pool as well, though the water was a bit “refreshing.” (That is what they always say when the water is kind of cold.) The driver said he had been a jumper in his younger years.  Tough way to make a living, jumping off a cliff in hopes of tips.  Little booths of spices and other things for sale lined the path from the parking area to the pool, typical of anywhere tourists in Grenada might go.  One person even had a parrot people could pose with for photos – for a fee of course.

volcanic island

Crater Lake, Grenada

At the top of a hill we went to Grand Etang National Park where we had a view of the crater of a volcano, which was called Crater Lake since it was full of water. The park there had a restaurant, a bar, and some small shops. The pathway by the shops consisted of nutmeg hulls. On our way out one of the island’s cute little native mona monkeys zipped out of the trees and sat on the bridge rail. Somebody threw a couple bananas to it so it would stay and pose for a bit.

monkeying around

Mona Monkey

Later we stopped at a viewpoint where a prison on a hill took up prime real estate with the best views around, which seemed a bit of a sore spot with the locals. Even there where we just pulled over at a wide spot in the road a local laden with their wares tried to sell us spice necklaces.

tropical islands have nice beaches

Grand Anse Beach

Eventually the van came down from the hills and stopped at Grand Anse beach, though we could have chosen to visit a fort instead.  The van tour just stayed a short time at the beach, then took us back to the ship.  A couple people opted not to go back with the group, but rather to stay on the beach and catch a water taxi back later.  The beach had shops and a restroom, but people had to pay the little old lady guarding the bathroom a dollar to go in.

 Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015


Posted in Caribbean, Carnival, Ports of Call, Splendor | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Towel Animal Theater

cruise ship at the dock

Carnival Legend in Melbourne

Towels are for drying yourself off with right?  Usually the answer to that is yes, but on a cruise ship towels sometimes have other purposes.  Stateroom stewards on cruise ships skillfully fold the towels…into animals.

towels folded into an animal

towel elephant in the stateroom

Cruise ship passengers all over the globe delight in the towel animals found on their beds each night of their cruise. Often the ships have a towel animal folding session where passengers have different levels of success in folding an animal, and may or may not remember how when they get home. Towel animals are loved the world over, their popularity obvious in the number of people coming to my blog for towel animal folding instructions.

entertaining kids on a cruise

Kids waiting for the curtain on the towel animal theater to open

Recently Carnival has gone a step beyond towel animal folding to entertain passengers with these adorable creations. Passengers on some Carnival ships can now attend Towel Animal Theater. This adorable program is a must when traveling with small children, and very cute to see even if you’re not.  My 3 and 5 year old grandchildren absolutely loved it when sailing on the Legend with Carnival Australia and nobody there said not to take pictures so we did.

towel animal puppets

towel animal puppets on stage

Enter the show room to find a little mini-stage puppet show theater set up on the stage. Children are invited to sit up on stage in front of the tiny theater, which even has its own curtains. The show includes a quartet of popular towel animals in puppet form, and a supporting cast of actual towel animals on sticks. On the Splendor’s behind the fun tour we met a crew member who identified herself as a towel animal wrangler as she clipped loose threads from a rabbit.

kids love bubbles

Much to the delight of the children, bubbles filled the stage at the end of the show

The main theme of the show centers around what towel animals do when the passengers leave the room. Because of course when people are in there they do nothing. Much like the cast of toys in Toy Story, these towel animals come to life in their theater when they think they are alone. Then they wonder what to do when they realize they are not and it is too late to do nothing because the theater audience already saw them move.

kids like bubbles

Hannah and Daniel enjoy the bubbles at the end of the show

The towel animal puppets decide to put on a show of their own, and so they do.  Each main character has their own song and dance number, accompanied by props.  Meanwhile throughout the show some of them coax a shy one who feels untalented to find a number to perform.

The towel animal puppets put on a very cute show – theater in miniature.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Carnival, Legend, Shipboard Life, Towel Animals | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Cruise Ship Cabins on Holland America Veendam

cruise ship

Holland America Veendam

Although the Veendam is one of the smaller ships from a major cruiseline that I have sailed on, you would not know it from the size of the cabins. I stayed in an ocean-view cabin and it felt quite spacious. Having the beds separated with one against each wall and open space between them extending the floorspace all the way to the window definitely made the room feel bigger than when the beds were pushed together with a small aisle on each side, but ship had some pretty good-sized rooms anyway. We were down on deck 4 (which is the A deck on this ship, and the lowest passenger deck. On most ships deck 1 is the lowest passenger deck and the A deck is a different deck below that). Our room was very nice. I had expected a smaller than average room on the smaller ship, so was quite pleasantly surprised with all our space. There’s still just the usual one outlet so a power strip comes in handy. The doors are magnetic, but the cabin walls on that ship are not.

this suite even has lots of outdoor space

Pinnacle Suite Balcony

Consult the deck plans for your cabin location before boarding the Veendam because neither deck numbering nor room numbering follow the usual sequences so without the ever-helpful crew to guide them a lot of bewildered passengers would wander aimlessly about the ship looking in vain for their cabin on the wrong deck on embarkation day. Which explains the crew stationed by the stairs and elevators on each deck throughout the boarding process.

this suite has everything

dining room in the Pinnacle Suite

All staterooms include amenities such as bathrobes, hairdryer, flatscreen TV, spa shampoo, conditioner, body wash and hand lotion, ice buckets, and a fruit basket which you can have filled upon request.

best suite on the ship

Pinnacle Suite Living Room

The Veendam has just one Pinnacle Suite, but it’s a good one. The numbering system starts there, room 001, the number one room on the ship. It has everything from two bathrooms to a butler’s pantry. It’s the only stateroom on board with the bed on the diagonal. The master bedroom area has black-out drapes so the occupants can sleep in total darkness any time of day.

got space for more people

fold-down spare bed in the Pinnacle Suite

The suite also has another bed that folds out from cabinets below a large flatscreen TV. The master bathroom has a jetted tub and the bedroom area includes a walk-in closet and dressing room.

suite on a cruise ship

Veendam Neptune Suite

Neptune suites start at 002 for room numbers and go up from there.  Since the suites are on the highest passenger deck the room numbers get higher as the decks get lower, opposite what you find on most ships. Usually the first number of the room is the deck it is on.  Neptune Suites have great amenities including black-out drapes at the windows, (though the space under them could let in a crack of light.) They too have jetted tubs and the Neptune suites as well as the Pinnacle Suite have use of the private Neptune Lounge, VIP boarding and priority tender service, concierge, complementary laundry service, and extra touches like binoculars and umbrellas available for use during the cruise.

cruise ship suite

Veendam Vista Suite

Vista suites have oversized balconies and a variety of pillows of varying firmness to choose from.  They include a mini-bar, concierge service, fresh flowers and a DVD library.  The Veendam has some spa cabins which add yoga mats, ipod docking stations and exclusive spa treatments to their list of amenities.

stateroom with lanai

Veendam Lanai Cabin.  From the inside you get a clear view through the sliding door.

Lanai cabins give passengers their own doorway to an outside deck without paying suite prices. A full glass sliding door offers more view area than a window, with private access to the promenade deck and reserved deck chairs outside the door.

Lanai cabin

From the outside you can’t see in through the Lanai sliding door.  In the photo it reflects like a mirror.

A special room card opens the slider from the outside giving the only the occupant access to their room. These rooms are much like a verandah cabin on a larger ship except that the sliding door opens onto the promenade deck rather than a private balcony. In the event of an emergency the lanai guests would have quick access to their muster stations.

cruise ship stateroom

Veendam Ocean-View Cabin

The Veendam has some ocean-view cabins on the promenade deck as well as on the two decks below. Some of the window cabins on the promenade deck are located behind the metal structure of the ship and listed as obstructed view cabins as they have views only to the walkway and not to the sea beyond. These of course cost less than a cabin with an ocean view. Ocean-view cabins include a couch and bathtub. Some have a full sized couch that folds into a bed and others have a smaller couch with an end table. These rooms do not have refrigerators, but they do have a hairdryer in a drawer and it has its own special plug and outlet so that is one less thing needing the one outlet in the room.

Stateroom with portholes

Veendam Porthole Cabin

Porthole cabins have the same things as other ocean-view cabins other than smaller windows and bigger ledges in front of the window. The porthole cabin would be a dream come true for my youngest grandkids (3 and 5) who loved playing on the window ledge when it was just a wide area at the window itself. For those without kids the ledge would make a nice space to keep computers and things out of the way.

inside stateroom

Veendam Inside Cabin

Even the Veendam’s inside cabins have a good amount of space. Their bathrooms have showers rather than tubs, but the dispensers on the wall still are filled with spa shampoo, conditioner and body wash so passengers get to try out expensive spa products for free.  You can pack light when sailing on the Veendam because it has several self service launderetts with washers, dryers, and ironing boards for guests to use.

Cabins on Other Cruise Ships

Breeze  Divina  Legend  Liberty  Pearl  Splendor  Westerdam  Wilderness Adventurer

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Holland America, Shipboard Life, Veendam | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Crockpot Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwiches and Soup

the broth used to cook the pork roast in makes great soup

Pulled Pork Sandwich and Soup

Crockpot Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwiches and Soup

Pulled Pork Sandwich


Pork roast

other serving options include regular or gluten free hamburger buns

Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwich on Sourdough Hoagie Roll


1 Onion

Barbecue sauce



Buns or rolls


getting ready to cook pork roast in crock pot

onions on top uncooked pork roast in crock pot

Put 1 cup water in the crock pot, turn onto high.  Take several slices of the onion, and separating the rings spread it over the bottom of the crock pot.  Sprinkle in desired seasoning. I use a few shakes of Mrs. Dash.  Place Pork Roast on top of onions.    Slice rest of onion and separating the rings spread onion over the top and around the sides of the roast.  Add water to top of roast.

Cook on high for 4-6 hours, or low for 8-12.

Take roast and onions out of crockpot when meat is cooked through and easily shredded with a fork or pulled apart by hand.  Pour liquid from crock pot into a large saucepan or small soup pot.  If using a very thick barbecue sauce, keep a bit of the liquid in the crockpot. Shred the meat and break rings of onion into strips. Return most of the meat and onions to crock pot, but set some aside for the soup.  Stir barbecue sauce into the crockpot until it reaches your desired ratio of meat to sauce.  Cook on high 1/2 – 1 hour or until heated through.

Serve on sandwich rolls or hamburger buns of choice.

pulled pork, yum

cooked pork in the crock pot, shredded and with barbecue sauce added

In a family full of people on special diets, my hypoglycemic daughter has informed me that of all breads, sourdough raises the glycemic index the least (less even than whole grains.)   She can not tolerate any other white bread.  One of my gluten free sisters who can sometimes tolerate a bit of straying from her diet said sourdough is the easiest regular bread for her to handle, more so than plain white (which is the only other regular bread she can occasionally eat as she can’t tolerate the whole grain breads at all.)   So sourdough buns may be a good choice when feeding a variety of people!

use the leftover liquid from cooking the roast to make soup

pulled pork soup cooking in a saucepan

Pulled Pork Soup

Put the reserved meat and onions that didn’t go back in the crock pot into the soup broth drained from the crock pot . Season as desired.  Add some vegetables and bring to a boil.  Stir in some noodles and when the noodles are soft and the veggies cooked you have homemade soup to go with the sandwiches.  Rice or a can of black beans or pinto beans or something similar are other options instead of noodles.

I added mixed Mrs. Dash and lavender pepper for the seasonings, and mixed vegetables and gluten free noodles to my soup, but you can add whatever you like to yours.  The noodles will soak up some of the broth so try not to add too many.  If it gets too low you can add water and if needed a bit of chicken or beef bouillon.  If your roast had a lot of fat on it you may want to chill the broth and skim the fat off the top before making it into soup.

making soup & sandwiches

pulled pork soup

copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Seattle Great Wheel

cruise ships docked in Seattle

Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruise ships in Seattle

All summer long Alaska-bound cruise ships come and go through the Port of Seattle.  For passengers with a bit of time before or after a cruise, Seattle’s waterfront area offers quite a variety of things to do.

Seattle seascape

Seattle waterfront with the Great Wheel in the distance

Walking along the Seattle waterfront, the Great Wheel ferris wheel, one of Seattle’s newest attractions, is not hard to find.  Rising high above pretty much everything else on the waterfront, just walk in the right direction and there it is on pier 57.  Pier 57 also hosts Miner’s Landing, which has shops, food, and an arcade with an indoor carousel.  For reference, cruise ships load mainly at pier 91, and sometimes at pier 66.

Seattle ferries

Seattle Ferries cross Puget Sound to Bremerton or Bainbridge Island

The Seattle Aquarium is on pier 59, and the Seattle ferries at piers 50 and 52.  Pier 67 hosts the over-water Edgewater Hotel, and at Pier 69 people catch the Victoria Clipper for visits to Canada’s Victoria B.C. on Vancouver Island.

Seattle ferris wheel

looking up at the great wheel

Pier 70 is where MTV’s The Real World Seattle filmed in 1998.  Pier 86 is currently a public fishing pier.  Some piers remain in commercial use and some no longer exist, but many piers hold shops, restaurants, and other tourist attractions.

riding Seattle's waterfront ferris wheel

Seattle through the Great Wheel

On a random visit to Seattle with my aunt and sister, we took a ride on the great wheel.  There’s quite a lot to see as you rise above the pier.  You can see the tall buildings of downtown Seattle, the Space Needle, the nearby container port and many other waterfront piers.  The view changes by the second depending on which direction you look and where you are on the wheel.

waterfront piers

Pier view from the Great Wheel

Ferries and harbor cruise ships cruise in and out of view, as well as any other boats in the area.  Some days you can see cruise ships at the dock.   Whatever else might be in the area at the time changes as things come and go.

pier 66 Seattle

tall ship at the dock

We happened to see a tall ship at nearby pier 66.  From the wheel we could see people walking about on the deck of the ship.  Figuring we had nothing to lose we walked over there after our ride ended.  At first it looked as if we would not get in as a fence blocked the entrance to the pier, marked with a sign that said not to pass through the gate.  A sailor stood nearby so my sister asked if people could tour the ship, and he said yes, and for free.  My favorite price.

sailing ship from Mexico

on board the tall ship “Cuauhtemoc”

The ship belonged to the Mexican navy, a training ship for them.  Curiously, one of the many flags it had flying was from Washington State University.  We did not find anyone on board who spoke English well enough to ask them about it.  We did find out after rephrasing the question in several different ways that it had stopped in Seattle for just a few days so we lucked out getting to see the ship.  It just goes to show you never know what unexpected things you might happen across in your travels.

that's a lot of sails

plaque on the tall ship shows what it looks like with the sails up

copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Port Cities, Washington | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Orcas Island

cruising the San Juan Islands

Wilderness Adventurer in Eastsound

One morning on the Wilderness Adventurer from Un-Cruise Adventures started at anchor near Orcas Island in Washington State’s San Juan Islands.  Orcas is one of the few islands in the San Juan Island chain serviced by the Washington State Ferries.  After another fantastic breakfast people grouped up according to their chosen activity. Skiffs brought passengers to the dock near Rosario Resort where everyone hiked up a very long dock to a parking lot with vans waiting for the trip to Moran State Park.

resort on Orcas Island

Rosario Resort

Options for the day included a steep hike to the top of Mount Constitution, a hike around a lake with a van ride to the top of Mount Constitution, or a van trip to the top of Mount Constitution with optional short hike to a waterfall along the way. Or in other words, arrive at the top of Mount Constitution the hard way, the easy way, or somewhere in between.

on a nicer day there would be a better view

view from the top of the stone tower on the top of Mt. Constitution

We chose somewhere in between, the 4-mile lake hike. The trail circled around a beautiful green lake with some ups and downs in the terrain, but nothing like the steep incline of the uphill hike option. We heard frogs and woodpeckers and saw a number of trees and stumps riddled with woodpecker holes, but did not actually see any woodpeckers or frogs. I did see a spider scurrying across a single strand of web above the trail though.


big old trees

The mainly second growth trees had patches of old growth mingled in. Old growth trees in these rocky islands often do not grow to the large impressive mass people normally imagine when thinking of old growth.

shallow root system

root ball of fallen tree

They do their best to cling to a thin layer of dirt on a rock without getting blown over in a storm. Most of the trees consisted of cedar, spruce, or hemlock, but some areas had shore pines as well. Shore pines found clinging to the rocky edges of islands in the San Juans look small and often twisted, but the same tree in better growing conditions can become tall, straight, and as large as any other inland evergreen tree.

trails and trees

the trail took us under a fallen giant

Huckleberry bushes grew along the edges of the trails in some places. Wild Washington huckleberry bushes have little round leaves, and when in season, tiny red berries. Wild strawberry plants, Oregon grape, nettles, or other vegetation grew alongside other trails. Luckily ferns often grow near nettles which can come in quite handy as fern juice can ease nettle stings.

early season nettle

young nettle

Nettles do have their uses. Some people harvest young nettle leaves to cook like spinach or to dry for making tea. Nettle tea is said to help lessen the affects of allergies to things like pollen. If you pick a nettle leaf with your fingerpads on the top and bottom of the leaf without touching the pointy sides you can harvest it without getting stung. As kids my sister and I tested that theory at summer camp where we picked many nettle leaves to scare the mean girls who mercilessly picked on one of the other girls at the camp. We never got stung. Fortunately we had no luck catching a wild mouse we found at the camp one day since it likely would have bitten somebody.

emerald green lake

the camera could not capture the almost magical beauty of this view

In some places along the hike we just saw forest, others revealed views of the lake. In one spot the lake water appeared almost luminescent emerald green. Unfortunately the camera did not catch the ethereal beauty of the scene.

forest bridge

big bridge on the trail

Along the way the trail crossed over a number of wooden bridges mainly over small forest streams. Bridges big and small all kept our feet dry as we passed above the water. A full loop around the trail brought us back to the van for the trip to the top of the mountain.

forest bridge

passengers crossing a small bridge on the trail

It was rather windy up there, but the summit had some impressive views of Puget Sound and nearby islands. A castle turret-like old stone tower gave us an opportunity to climb up even higher for views above all of the area’s trees.

Orcas Island

stone tower on the top of Mount Constitution

Little rooms alongside the tower stairway gave the history of the life of Robert Moran, who donated the land for the park and paid for some of the roads and bridges running through it. His estate is now the privately run Rosario Resort where our skiffs landed.

Washington State Parks

inside the stone tower

Robert Moran had an interesting life.  He came to the frontier town of Seattle in 1875 at 18 years old, alone with no money.  He worked his way up from a steamboat worker to a shipbuilder, sending for his family along the way when he could afford it.  At 31 he served two terms as Seattle’s mayor, during which time the great Seattle fire destroyed much of the town.  He was instrumental in rebuilding it.  In 1905, just one year after completing the only battleship ever built in Washington, ill health sent him to Orcas Island in retirement, where he lived much longer than he would have dealing with the stress of his life in Seattle.

on top of Mount Constitution

some passengers have a picnic with a view

We enjoyed a picnic lunch at the top of the mountain, which the ship’s crew had made for us before we left the ship that morning. The vans then brought us to the town of Eastsound at the end of the waterway called Eastsound to catch our skiffs as the ship had moved while we were away. It started to rain and the wind kicked up. We boarded the skiffs from a rocking dock and the skilled crew brought everyone safely back to the ship through the pounding waves.

Orcas Island

skiff picked up passengers at the public dock at Eastsound

After waiting out the weather a bit the captain gave the OK for anyone who wished to take a skiff back to Eastsound to explore if they should so desire, but nobody did. Instead of the scheduled brewery tour in Eastsound, people from the brewery roughed waves and weather to come to the ship bringing along beer for passengers to taste. On cruises you have to be flexible and sometimes it’s better to go with plan B – even if that plan was hastily made up on the spur of the moment.  It was a beer cruise so we had a lot of beer lovers onboard who appreciated and enjoyed the samplings from Island Hoppin Brewery.

orcas island map

map of Orcas Island courtesy of GVP books

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Un-Cruise Adventures, Washington, Wilderness Adventurer | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Quest for a Ship On A Stick

cruise ship in port

Carnival Splendor

Cruise ships plan entertainment each day, which passengers can participate in if they choose. They all have a daily paper delivered each evening with the next day’s activities. On Carnival they call it the Fun Times. Winners of various competitions throughout the cruise are sometimes awarded the much coveted ship on a stick.  I had heard of these ship-shaped trophies, but never actually seen one.  Before this cruise we had never participated in any activity which offered such a wonderous prize. Tina looked through the daily schedules for things to do because we had to find something to entertain 12-year-old Justin for part of the day or he would spend the entire time on board sliding down the waterslide, which would probably result in one heck of a sunburn.

cruise ship prize winners

winners of the scavenger hunt

On the first sea day we tried out a scavenger hunt. We got quite a few items, but the other teams had more. One team had them all and they won a ship on a stick.  Our first glimpse of this much talked about trophy.  Now that we had seen it we wanted one too.  What sort of mystic spell does this gold colored plastic ship cast that once people lay eyes on one they will go to great lengths to have it?  We got medals for participation even though we came in last place.  The medals are actually metal and of better quality than the trophy yet something that easy to get does not carry the importance of something you have to earn.  Perhaps if the medals were not given out so freely they would mean more.

win this

Carnival Medal

Later we tried Win Lose or Draw.  It came out in a draw.  They divided all the participants into two teams.   The game started with each team making a list of things for the other team to draw.  Then the girl who ran the games picked something from one team’s list for one of them to draw while the others guessed within a time limit.  When they finished the other team got a turn.  At the end of the game both teams had the same number of points so each team received one medal.  No ship on a stick for anyone and the team members had to decide which person got to keep the medal.  Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that giving medals to less teams in the scavenger hunt and having one for each person on the winning team (if they’d had one) for this game might have made a bit more sense.  Then again perhaps they do give the entire team medals should one team actually win.  I’ve only played that game the once so I really don’t know.

games on a cruise ship

John draws the picture for win lose or draw

Most onboard trivia games are short, individual, and one set of questions on a particular topic and then done.  We went to one called Super Duper Trivia.  This game had teams of 2-10 people.  They say more is better, which to some extent is true because of more brains to come up with answers, but it also means more chances to make the wrong choice when faced with multiple suggestions.  We grouped up with the people around us. Every team had to name themselves so I suggested Random People since our team was composed of all the random people sitting in the same area. One of the other people wanted it to be Brilliant People instead so the team went with that and in doing so probably cursed ourselves to be anything but.

Each team rolled a giant die first for the subject of the question and then again for the number points a correct answer would score. If they got the question wrong the next team could steal if they came up with the right answer.  If not that question died and did not pass on to a third team.  If it had things might have gone differently in the end as we knew the answers to several questions that we never had a chance to answer when two other teams could not.

competition on a cruise ship

Justin rolls the giant die

Justin became our official team roller. He rolled 6 for the points and we got the question right, starting the game with a lead since we were first to go. Nobody else got 6 points of their own the first round, but one team missed their question giving the team after them a chance to steal, which they did.  The team that stole that question got their own question right and jumped into the lead. They got another steal or two in later rounds as well which put them well ahead of everyone else.

Meanwhile we had no opportunities to steal and missed a couple of our own questions so though they would not say who had what for points or where each team stood we knew we were nowhere near the top of the pile.

When time ended for that day they said we had to come back for part 2 the next sea day.  About half of the people from the first day’s team showed up for the finale, everyone wearing some sort of Carnival swag as it was worth 10 points if everyone on the team had some.   At least some of the people from each team came back so we did not move up in the ranks due to any whole team not returning.  We wore the medals from the scavenger hunt for our swag and the other 2 returners on our team each had a ship-on-a-stick tucked into a front pocket of front of their shirt, won in a ping-pong tournament.

The rest of the teams had Carnival swag as well, ranging from t-shirts bought in the ship’s gift shop to the beach towels or bathrobes from their staterooms or the pins given by Carnival to returning guests of gold rank or higher.  (Every cruise line has some sort of loyalty program for returning guests.  More cruises means a higher ranking and better perks.)

carnival games

the girl running the trivia game

The schedule in the fun times did not say the trivia game that day was a continuation of a previous game so some new people showed up.  The newcomers banded together forming their own team called a song and a prayer as that’s about all the chance they had of winning.

All through the second day we were cursed with low rolls for the points, though we did get all but one question right and even managed a steal.  Justin knew the answer to one question when nobody else did.  One of the questions asked where to find Mount Olympus.  Though we gave Greece knowing they wanted that answer I did add in that Washington State has one as well.  The girl in charge looked skeptical and said she’d have to look that up sometime.  At the end of the game she listed off the team scores, last to first. The new team came in dead last. We were second to last. The team with the early lead continued their lucky streak of points and steals throughout the game and took first.

She had a number of prizes from ships on a stick to medals to champagne and chocolate covered strawberries to award. Everyone kind of thought she’d give something to the first place team and then work down from there awarding something to second and maybe at least third, but no, she gave all the loot to first. Did one team really need both medals and ships on a stick for the same game? Yeah, she probably should have at least given the medals to second place even if first got everything else. (We were 5th and expected exactly what we got – nothing.)  Perhaps that scavenger hunt just left me with a biased opinion of the medals and they aren’t as easy to get as I initially thought.

Another time we tried a trivia game at the Red Frog Pub, which also had groups, but just the people you came with.  Games in the Red Frog must be really popular because more people showed up than they had chairs in the room.  We didn’t win that one either, but I don’t think the prize was a ship on a stick anyway.

cruise ship trophy

Finally my very own ship on a stick!

On Grand Turk day I noticed they had Harry Potter trivia that afternoon and since Justin and I got back from the beach in time we decided to play since I thought I’d have a good chance there.  He just came along for something to do.  Each person got a pencil and a paper numbered 1-20 with a line for each answer. After asking 20 questions and saying the participants would have to help with pronunciation of the answers as she had never read the books or seen the movies, the girl from Carnival went through the list of questions while whoever got them right (or thought they did) shouted out the answers.

cruise ship prizes

Justin poses with the loot – and a towel animal

Justin’s paper was blank as he had neither read the books nor seen the movies and knew none of the answers at all. I thought I’d get everything since I have read all the books, but could not on the spot remember things like Mad-Eye Moody’s first name.  Apparently nobody else could remember every obscure tidbit she asked either.  I was the only one to say Hungarian Horntail for the dragon Harry fought in the Tri-Wizard Tournament.  Nobody remembered that the author of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was Newt Scamander.  In the end I had more right answers than anyone else and  finally won that elusive ship on a stick!

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015


Posted in Carnival, Shipboard Life, Splendor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Port Arthur, Tasmania

cruise ship in Tasmania

Legend in Port Arthur in the fog

On our cruise to Tasmania, Carnival Legend made its first stop at Port Arthur on a gray cloudy day.  Normally it costs money to see the historic buildings there, but the ship’s tenders brought us right to the dock in the historic site and nobody asked for any money from passengers coming ashore.  Perhaps the entry charge was included in the port fees for that stop.  Whatever the reason, the Legend’s passengers could roam freely through Port Arthur at will.  Ship’s crew offered a free guided tour or people could walk about on their own.  We started out with the tour, but did not stick with it long because my 3 and 5 year old grandkids did not keep up with the tour guide well enough for us to hear anything after the first stop or two.  Luckily we were also given some written information.

historic ruins

ruins of the prison and military buildings

It started to drizzle a bit as we first left the tender, making us wonder if we should have brought our raingear ashore.   It probably wouldn’t have been worth it though since mainly it just sprinkled on off and on with no heavy rainfall.

old penitentiary

Hannah and Daniel in prison

The kids enjoyed exploring the ruins of the prison and standing in a barred window like prisoners wishing for escape.  In its current condition the prison would not hold anyone as it had no roof and some walls missing.  It is undergoing restoration to preserve what they have left.

ruins of a prison

portions of the prison wall crumbled away and there’s no roof

Before the colonists the Pydairrerme people occupied the land where Port Arthur now sits.  The area still has Middens and other cultural sites from their thousands of years of living there.  They still populated the area at first contact with Europeans, but none were known to remain on the Tasman Peninsula beyond 1830.


passengers from the ship flock to the ruins

Port Arthur started as a timber station in 1830.  From 1833 to 1853 the hardest British and Irish criminals – those who re-offended after arrival in Australia, and rebellious prisoners ended up doing hard time at Port Arthur.  Their intent to grind rogues into honest men meant hard labor and forced religion for the prisoners.

military complex

guard tower

Some of the jobs prisoners had to do included working the timber with gangs of men chained together carrying trees on their shoulders.  They built many of Port Arthur’s buildings including making the bricks themselves.  Prisoners built ships at the dockworks and for a time ran a flour mill which was later turned into the large penitentiary whose remains now dominate the landscape.

tasmanian prison

parts of the penitentiary still stand tall

Harsh punishments included public floggings with 50-100 lashes from a cat-o-nine-tails (9-ended whip).  Port Arthur was considered inescapable.  The peninsula it sits on makes the site naturally secure on most borders, and no prisoner could cross the narrow isthmus connecting it to the mainland as it was fenced and guarded by soldiers, man traps, and half-starved dogs.  If hard physical labor didn’t keep the prisoners in line, Port Arthur had a worse place to send them.

a place of much sorrow

nothing left inside most of the penitentiary

The separate prison, intended to reform the worst of criminals, was just as likely to drive them insane.  Prisoners spent 23 hours of each day isolated in a single cell where they ate, slept, and worked.  One hour each day they could exercise alone in a high-walled yard.  On Sundays guards brought them blindfolded one by one to church, where they sat in isolated cubicles where they could see no-one but the priest and were not allowed to talk to one another through the walls.

old stone ruins

some remaining structure on the inside of the penitentiary

In its later years as a prison between 1853 and 1877 the prison housed many geriatric prisoners.  It was abandoned in 1877, but remains one of the more historically significant places in Tasmania.

old military housing

the Commandant’s house

The Port Arthur historical site covers many acres and has over 30 buildings, ruins, or other places of interest including a nearby coal mine.  Some visitors to the area take ferry tours out to see Point Puer Boy’s Prison – where juvenile offenders from 9-17 received an education wrought with stern discipline and harsh punishment.


inside the Commandant’s house

Ferries also bring tourists to the Isle of the Dead where around 1100 people from all walks of life at Port Arthur found their final resting place between 1833 and 1877.  Prisoners, military, and civilians including children are buried in graves on the island cemetery.  Industrial accidents and respiratory disease brought about by sleeping in cold cells in wet clothing were the most common causes of death in prisoners.

Port Arthur, Tasmania

looking at the Legend through the ruins

We saw just a small section of buildings, the penitentiary, police station, military officer’s quarters and guard towers, and the commandant’s house (which was later a hotel and a boarding house).  As we left the commandant’s house the wind whipped up and the sky threatened torrential rain.  A group vote sent us back to the ship rather than exploring further and risking a major soaking.  We didn’t see any snakes, but a man who worked there said while they hide in bad weather, on sunny days they are everywhere.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Australia, Carnival, Legend, Ports of Call | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

How To Fold a Towel Giraffe

How to Make a Towel Giraffe

I’ve had a few google hits from people looking for instructions on how to fold a towel giraffe, so I thought I should write a post on that.  Since I’ve never actually seen a towel giraffe I had to make up my own.  This towel giraffe is entirely My Cruise Stories original creation.

towel origami

towel giraffe

Supplies Needed to Make a Towel Giraffe

1 Bath Towel                                              Googly Eyes or other eyes

1 Hand Towel                                             Pipe Cleaner (AKA chenille stem)

Yarn                                                             Piece of Pipe Cleaner  (AKA fuzzy stick)

rubber band

How to Make a Giraffe Tail

arts and crafts

hook the pipe cleaner over the circle of yarn loops

Loop a few strands of yarn around your fingers or some other object to make even loops.  Hook one end of a pipe cleaner over all the loops and twist it tight.

it sort of looks like a witch's broom

finished towel giraffe tail

Cut through the loops at end farthest from pipe cleaner to make single strands.  Even up ends of strands with scissors.

How to Fold a Towel Giraffe Body

Use the closest color towel you have to the color of a real giraffe.  If the pattern on these towels had been solid rather than outlines these would have been perfect, but they were the best I could find.

how to fold towel animals

tightly roll each short end to the center after folding over the long edges

Lay the bath towel out flat with the side you want on the outside down.  Fold a couple inches over on both long sides of the towel.

making a towel animal body

put the tail between the rolls and then roll them tightly together with just the end part of the tail sticking out

Tightly roll each end of the towel to the middle from the short ends.  Put the finished tail between the rolls and place the body in a standing position, rolled side up.

the art of towel folding

stand the body up with the rolls on the outside and the tail in place

Try to make the front end taller than the back because that’s how real giraffes are.  Any extra pipe cleaner between the rolls and not sticking out for the tail can help with shaping the body.

How to Fold a Towel Giraffe Head

making a towel giraffe head

lay the hand towel out flat with the good side down and fold over one end

Lay a long hand towel down flat with the side you want on the outside down.  Fold one short end partway over the towel.  About 1/3 of the length of the towel after folding should be single and about 2/3 double.   The amount left in a single layer at the first fold should just come over the end of the folded over part after the corners are folded down.

fold the end into a point

from the center of the unfolded end, fold over each corner

From the center of the unfolded end, fold over each corner into a triangle.  The two triangles should meet at the center, but not cross over each other.  The edges of each triangle should just cover over the end of the original fold.

one step at a time

fold the tip of the towel so it comes halfway to the edges of the small triangles

Fold over the pointed end of the towel so the new fold comes halfway to the ends of the two triangles.

the ends are all in the same place now

fold the folded point over again so it comes to the edge of the other folds

Fold the end over again.  It should sit even with the edges of the two triangles.

tricky towel folding

pick up the towel as you fold the folded part in half

Fold the folded end in half.  You can pick the towel up as you do this, making sure none of the other folds come undone.  Fold with all the prior folds on the outside and bring both sides of the folded end together, don’t worry about the rest of the towel for now so long as nothing comes unfolded.

how to make a towel animal

pinch the edges together under the center of the folded part so it looks like a head

Hold both sides of the towel together tightly underneath the folded center so it resembles a head.  While holding the folded end together with one hand, find the points of the two triangles underneath the fold with the other hand and carefully pull them out for ears without disturbing the rest of the head.

step by step towel animal folding instructions

tuck the giraffe head tightly under your chin

Tuck the head under your chin with the ears at the back toward your neck and the nose at the front toward your chin.  Your chin needs to keep a tight hold on the head while your hands gather hanging towel on both sides.

tight is everything

there should be a hand on each roll, but my other hand is on the camera

Take one side of the towel in one hand and the other side of the towel in the other hand and roll them toward the center as tightly as you can.  Make sure the top part is tight and then work your way down until the whole thing becomes two tight rolls.

folding your own towel zoo

hold the rolls together

While holding the neck so it stays tightly rolled, take the head out from under your chin.

animals for expert towel animal folders

put a rubber band on the neck

Put a rubber band around the bottom end of the rolls so they can’t come undone.

towel animal folding step by step

you will probably need to shape the head and ears

Shape the head and ears as desired.

How to Make Horns for a Towel Giraffe

how to make horns for a towel giraffe

fold over each end of a little piece of a pipe cleaner to make horns

Giraffes have knobby little horns.  To make horns for the towel giraffe, take a small piece of a pipe cleaner and fold over each end.

Finishing the Towel Giraffe

bringing a towel animal to life

decorate the giraffe head with eyes and horns

Use a bit of double stick tape under the bit between the horns to stick the horns to the top of the giraffe’s head.  If you have googly eyes use double stick tape to add those to the head as well.  If you don’t have eyes you can make some with bits of felt or paper.

making towel creations

place the head between the leg rolls at the front of the body

Carefully place the head between the rolls at the front of the body.  Push the rolls back together as much as possible after inserting the head.  Adjust the body, head, and tail positions as desired.

towel art

finished towel giraffe

If you are a first time towel animal folder you may want to try something easier, like the penguin.   The head of the giraffe is rather tricky, making it one of the more difficult towel animals to fold.

For instructions on how to fold lots of other towel animals visit My Cruise Stories towel animal page.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Towel Animals | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments