Easy Fruit Smoothies

how to make a fruit smoothie

mango pineapple smoothie

Icy cold fruit smoothies make a great summer treat (even if they do sometimes cause brain freeze).  These smoothies are easy to make, healthy, tasty frozen treats that don’t need any ice cubes.  They can be thick, thin, or even taste like a milkshake.  All you need is frozen fruit and yogurt, some liquid and a blender.   My favorite is a mango pineapple fruit smoothie, with the banana chocolate milkshake style smoothie a close second.

making frozen fruit smoothies

pineapple, mango, and yogurt in magic bullet blender cup


how to make a fruit smoothie

fill to desired level with fruit juice and blend

Smoothie Ingredients

Frozen Fruit – any kind of fruit or berries frozen into pieces small enough for the blender to handle

freezing yogurt

use a pan lined with parchment paper or an ice cube tray to make frozen vanilla yogurt blobs or cubes for smoothie-making

Regular yogurt frozen into blobs or cubes of blender friendly size (coconut milk yogurt works fine for anyone with dairy issues.)  I prefer vanilla, but plain regular yogurt would work too.  Greek yogurt gives the smoothie an odd texture, so I don’t use it.  The frozen yogurt in the ice cream section at the grocery store is too much like ice cream for making smoothies.  You can use it, but then they’d be milkshakes instead of smoothies.

Liquid – fruit juice, milk (dairy or plant based,) or a combination thereof.  Some water can be added as well in some smoothies.

add liquid and blend

Frozen blueberries, strawberries, watermelon and yogurt, with apple juice ready to blend.  This one needed a bit more liquid added.

Fruit Smoothie Instructions

frozen fruit smoothie

berry smoothie

Exact quantities are not important for these smoothies.  If the blender has issues add more liquid, and if the smoothie comes out too thin add more fruit or yogurt.  Put fruit chunks, yogurt blobs, and liquid into the blender and blend it.  That’s all there is to it, very easy to make.

Fruit style smoothie:  Mango Pineapple – For my favorite mango pineapple smoothie I use nearly equal amounts of mango and pineapple and just a couple yogurt blobs.  I pile it all in the blender until they reach the height of the finished quantity I want and then pour the liquid in until it reaches the desired mark.  I usually end up adding a bit more liquid than I start out with to make things easier on the blender.  This one works out well with either mango or pineapple juice.  A combination of the two works fine too, as does using mostly juice and a bit of either cold water or milk or both.  I’ve also used orange juice for about half the juice and it tasted great that way too.   Replacing some of the juice with water cuts down on the calories when using a sweetened juice.

For any other sort of fruit smoothie just replace the mango and pineapple with the fruit(s) or berries of your choice and use a juice that goes well with them.

Berry smoothies can sometimes come out a bit tart depending on the type of berries and juice used to make them.  Adding a bit of frozen watermelon and using a sweeter juice such as apple juice makes a great way to sweeten up a berry or any other tart smoothie without added sweetener.

a smoothie that tastes like a milkshake

chocolate “milkshake” smoothie

Milkshake style smoothie – For a milkshake-like smoothie, use milk as the only liquid, extra yogurt (2-3 times as much as for a regular smoothie) and bananas as the base fruit.  I slice the bananas and then freeze the slices individually on a pan lined with parchment paper before putting them in a ziplock bag in the freezer.  I do that with all the fruits that I freeze as well as the yogurt so that each piece is separate and you can easily take as much or as little as you want out of the bag at any given time without worries of then all sticking together in a clump.

For a chocolate banana smoothie use bananas as the only fruit and add some chocolate ice cream sauce before blending.  For a fruit flavored milkshake smoothie, use partly bananas and partly fruit of the flavor you want such as strawberries, still with extra yogurt and milk as the only liquid.

making a strawberry milkshake smoothie

frozen bananas, yogurt, and strawberries – add milk and blend

making a healthier milkshake

strawberry milkshake smoothie

copyright My Cruise Stories 2014
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Memories of a Cruise Ship Doctor part 1- Getting Hired

cruise ship shore excursion

Len Kreisler MD at Taku Lodge in Alaska

Retired doctor Len Kreisler spent 4 years as a cruise ship doctor for Regent Lines in the 1990’s.  His book ROLL THE DICE PICK A DOC AND HOPE FOR THE BEST includes his shipboard experiences in a chapter called What Ship, What Cabin, and Doctor Who?

He had a pretty interesting time onboard, with more stories than fit in just one blog so this is the first excerpt from his book, with eight more blogs to come in the future chronicling the adventures of Len Kreisler MD, cruise ship doctor.

a lifetime of doctor memories in a book

Dr. Len Kreisler’s book

Part 1 – Hiring On

Not enough attention is given to medical services when people decide to travel, especially on cruise ships.  I got first hand knowledge when I became a cruise ship physician (1990-1994).  Having gown up on the East Coast, I enjoyed the pleasures of beaches and salt water.  Living in Las Vegas for over 35 years has not diminished the call of the sea.

I had just left my 18-year position as Medical Director for the Nevada Atomic Test Site and was leafing through a family practice medical journal in the library of the teaching hospital.  An ad for a ship’s physician caught my attention.  An emergency group out of Baltimore, Maryland had contracted for the medical services of the Regent Lines, under the contract name of Maritime Medical Services.

The Regent Lines had five ships of 1960’s vintage.  A Greek man had bought the ships, refitted them and contracted out many of the ship’s services, like medical and food.  The cabins were spacious, the food and entertainment was good, itineraries were interesting and prices very competitive.  The owner was apparently well trained in deficit financing; he kept the subcontractors and investors dangling while he siphoned off a good part of the cash flow.  The operation went bankrupt in 1995.

I applied for the job…after getting an enthusiastic okay from my wife.  Our children had left the nest and she relished the idea of joining me for romantic adventure in domestic and foreign ports.  After waiting several weeks for a reply, I decided to call and see if I was still being considered for a job.

A gravelly-voiced female with a distinctive asthmatic wheeze answered the phone.  After saying Maritime Medical, she went into a series of wet coughs, and paused to catch her breath.  “Oh yes, I remember your application.  Glad you called.  We happen to be looking for someone just like you.  Can you be ready to travel next week?”

I welcomed the assignment and we became good telephone buddies.  I accepted the reality of dealing with a loosely run business model.  I also encouraged my newly found Maritime Medical friend to stop smoking.  I subsequently became an aficionado of cruising….as a ship’s physician, as a passenger, and as a guest lecturer.

My observation is that, in general, medical recruiters for cruise lines prefer foreign nationals.  They work cheaper and are less problematic in the litigious arena.  Who would you sue if a problem arose and the medical supplier was an independent contractor?  An event could most likely occur in international waters or in a foreign port, with a foreign-trained, foreign-national physician.

There are usually 35 – 50 nationalities represented in the crew on a medium-sized cruise ship (1500 passengers).  There are no mandatory standards for physicians or nurses.  Ships going in and out of United States ports have to comply with safety and health regulations, but there are no required educational or competency standards for medical personnel.  Some smaller lines stay out of American ports, thus avoiding U.S. Coast Guard Inspections.  I’d encourage you to check health and safety details before planning a dream vacation confined to distant parts of the world.

Most ships are registered in places other than the United States, for economic and political/legal reasons.  So you can roll the dice, pick a cruise and hope for the best….or….you can seek answers to pertinent questions….and then hope for the best.

Travel magazines recommend third party coverage for cruise insurance because if  you insure with the cruise line and it goes bankrupt the coverage could be as worthless as the line and leave you stranded.  This happened with the Regent Line and later with the Renaissance Line.  (Added note not in the book – it’s a good idea to pay for your travel with a credit card.  Then the credit card company may recover your money in the event of a bankruptcy.  This happened to me when the airline Canada 3000 went bankrupt and my credit card company recovered the cost of a useless airline ticket.)

Always read the fine print before buying travel insurance.  For example, will your insurance cover expensive air evacuation should the need arise?  Conde’ Nast and Travel+Leisure magazines have good recommendations for insurance coverage.

(Medical evacuatons do happen.  A passenger was taken by helicopter from an Alaskan cruise I was on, and one from a transatlantic before it got too far from Europe.  Another passenger had medical issues when the ship had gone to far from land for a helicopter to reach it, so it sped across the ocean arriving on the other side several hours earlier than scheduled.  Must have been serious as cruise ships use much more fuel, therefore take many more dollars to run, if they exceed a certain speed.  At one port stop the ship next to us missed its scheduled departure, which was supposed to be before ours, and still sat at the dock with an ambulance at the gangway as we pulled away on time.  Not as expensive as a helicopter evacuation, but they would still have to get home on their own.)


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Fort Casey Inn

historic house

Colonel’s House at Fort Casey – No Colonel ever actually lived at Fort Casey so the highest ranking officer lived here….unless a higher ranking officer came to visit and then he had to give up his house!

In the not-so-distant past, most civilizations situated anywhere near large bodies of water viewed their biggest threats as coming from the sea.  The invention of the airplane made many large forts built in formerly strategic locations around the world obsolete.  Now old forts often exist as monuments to history.  Behind their sometimes crumbling walls modern day tourists get a glimpse of life in a former era.

historic lighthouse

Lighthouse at Fort Casey State Park.  It no longer has a light in the tower, but people can go up there.

While the Pacific Northwest region of the USA came late as far as settlers of European descent goes, it still had population and resources enough to deem need of protection from invaders by sea before airborne threats made such forts unnecessary – but only just before.  Until the establishment of a military base in Bremerton in 1891, the Puget Sound area of western Washington was considered too remote to need much protection, though government officials discussed the possibility decades before.

lighthouse view

small gun battery viewed from the lighthouse tower

triangle of fire guarding Admiralty Inlet

map of the 3 forts making up the triangle of fire courtesy of HistoryLink.org

The late 1890’s brought about the building of three forts dubbed the Triangle of Fire placed strategically at the entrance to Admiralty Inlet to prevent enemy ships from entering Puget Sound.  All three were armed with disappearing guns, so known because of the ability to withdraw them out of sight for reloading, protecting both the guns and the soldiers.  None of these guns ever fired at enemy ships from any of the three forts, nor did any of the other large guns based there as no enemy ever approached by sea to test their powers of defense in the short time between completion of the forts and the entrance of airplanes into the battles of World War 1.

Fort Flagler on Marrowstone Island

Fort Flagler (photo by Ryan McNamee of Un-Cruise Adventures)

First of the three came Fort Flagler on Marrowstone Island, completed in 1899, but occupied prior to completion as the temporary headquarters of the harbor defense command of Puget Sound.  This fort never saw any actual battles, but was used for military training during World Wars 1 and 2 and the Korean War.  The fort was declared surplus and decommissioned in the 1950’s and became a state park in the 1960’s.  Touring this fort is one of the options offered on Un-Cruise Adventures Washington coastal cruises.

fired artillery shell

This shell sits in front of Ye Olde Curiosity Shop in Seattle under this sign

Zach Mayo rides into town in the movie Officer and a Gentleman

Richard Gere in a scene from An Officer and a Gentleman, photo courtesy of historylink.org

At Fort Worden near Port Townsend it took 200 men nearly 3 years to complete the excavation and build the massive concrete gun batteries.  The gun mounts were finished in 1901 and the fort finally activated in 1902.  It served as a training ground for soldiers in World War 1 and remained as headquarters for Harbor Defense during World War 2.  After military decommission in the 1950’s it was used as a center for diagnoses and treatment of troubled youths until 1971 when the center closed.  It became a state park in 1973.  In 1981 the fort temporarily transformed into a movie set.  It depicted a naval aviation officer candidate school for the movie An Officer and a Gentleman which filmed there.  Many locals had bit parts as extras in the movie, which also gave the area’s economy a much-needed boost.

former military base

this seaside gun turret at Fort Casey still has tracks running through it

Fort Casey on Whidbey Island completed the triangle of fire.   It started with a small temporary garrison in 1901.  The permanent garrison arrived in 1902, living in tents until their barracks got built.  Some of the fort’s buildings weren’t finished until 1903 – the same year the first of its big guns were activated and ready for testing.  The fort was used for training in World War 1 and reactivated for training during World War 2, having been put into caretaker status and used to train reserves and national guard in between the two.  Following World War 2, Fort Casey sat abandoned and neglected for a time until official deactivation in 1953.

historical gun

One of the guns on display at Fort Casey

Though the big guns never saw battle at the three forts, they did get fired for testing and training.  All were eventually dismantled.  Some shipped to Europe to do battle there during World War 1.  Others got dismantled after the war or eventually melted down to make other things.  During World War 2 some of the batteries held anti-aircraft guns.  The state acquired portions of Fort Casey including the lighthouse and gun batteries in three separate purchases between 1955 and1988 to make a state park.  During the 1960’s the state obtained a couple 10-inch diameter disappearing guns and a couple of the 3-inch diameter guns like the fort once had from a fort in the Philippines, which are now on display at Fort Casey State Park.

historic house, former officer's quarters

Duplex at Fort Casey Inn with comfy chairs on the porch.

Seattle Pacific University bought a large parcel of Fort Casey including the barracks,  most of the administrative buildings, and the high ranked officer’s housing.  This is now the university’s Camp Casey Conference Center.  Later they acquired a row of lower ranking officer’s homes, which are available for rental to the public as Fort Casey Inn.  (These houses already operated as an inn before the university bought them and continue in that use.)

inside a historic home

Living room in the duplex through a wall mirror – notice the cozy fire in the stove

The inn consists of four duplexes and one freestanding house where the doctor once lived on the base.  Antique furniture contributes to their charm.  The living rooms have what looks like an old fashioned wood stove, but with the flick of a switch they light up with a cozy gas fire.  They must have previously had actual wood stoves in the not-too-distant past because the one we stayed in had a fire poker mark burned into the otherwise in good condition carpet next to the stove.  Large porches with comfortable chairs make a pleasant place to sit and enjoy the view.  Odds are one of the many resident deer will amble by if you sit there for long.  We also watched a swarm of eagles and hawks hunt in a nearby field while a farmer’s hay making activities brought a feast of small critters to the surface.  Meanwhile a pair of barn swallows tried to make a nest on the porchlight.

beach at Fort Casey

the doorway log has branches in just the right places to frame the door in this driftwood house on the beach

From the inn guests can hike to the nearby state park to see the old gun batteries, go hiking, or spend time on the beach.  People have a habit of building large driftwood structures along the beach there.  Some look like they took a lot of time and effort to build.

campfire by the beach

It stopped raining in time to sit around the fire pit in the evening and make s’mores

I recently spent some time in Fort Casey at a family reunion over the 4th of July weekend. Taking a stroll down the beach with my sister one day we found quite an elaborate driftwood house near the state park.  While no fireworks are allowed at Camp Casey, we saw several displays across the lake from the yard in front of the Fort Casey Inn on the 4th of July.


young fawn at Fort Casey Inn

Deer ventured into the vicinity quite often.  Upon my arrival there I saw a doe with a fawn still young enough to have spots.  Fairly brave deer, they seemed quite unaffected when my phone rang and a car drove by at the same time.  A group of bicyclists came by a bit later.  The initial emergence of bicycles with very brightly dressed riders suddenly shooting out from behind the trees spooked the deer a bit, but it was their overwhelmingly loud voices proclaiming the deer sighting to each other that sent the deer bounding off to the forest as fast as they could go.

bird stained glass

stained glass window ornament

My aunt set up a word game one day.  One of those how many words can you find in a given word games.  My cousin’s son (the youngest one there and obviously sharpest of mind) won by a landslide with over 60 words. I came in second with 52, though my mother was just one word behind at 51.  I now have a stained glass bird hanging in my kitchen window, my prize for the game and a reminder forever of a fun weekend with family.  It’s not quite the front door with stained glass window I tried to find when we first moved to our current house, but at least I have a bit of stained glass.

Here’s a smidgin of cousinology (probably not a real word) for anyone who might be interested.  Your parents’ siblings’ children are your first cousins, pretty much everyone knows that.  But what about my cousin’s son, the genius of the game?  To me, he is a first cousin once removed.  My children to him are second cousins, the children of parents who are first cousins.  My children’s children are first cousins twice removed from his mother, my first cousin, and second cousins once removed from him.  If he has a child, that child will be third cousins with my children’s children, as they would all be the children of second cousins.

With all this removing of cousins, you wouldn’t think there would be anybody left in the family, but they’re all still here.  Well all except my kids and my sister’s kids who removed themselves to far off states or in my daughter‘s case a far off country.

We did not take a cruise ship to Fort Casey Inn (unless you count the state ferry.)  We did see one go by though and one of the relatives pulled out his trusty smart phone and used a shipfinder app to see just which ship it was.  (One of Royal Caribbean’s.)  Apparently there’s an app for everything.

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The Awesome Cruise Ship Cabin

the only MSC ship based in America

MSC Divina

One day while surfing through Sky Auction.com, my husband came across an 11 day Caribbean cruise on the MSC Divina up for bid.  We didn’t know much about MSC, though we had seen the Poseia in port before on a previous cruise.  The bidding was at $401 for an inside room, and had several rooms available so rather than raising it he matched the highest bid, not truly expecting to win the cruise for that price.  When the auction ended, the notification came that we did indeed win, and for $75 could upgrade that to a balcony.  Balconies normally cost a lot more than $75 over the price of an inside room, so we jumped on that one.  Much like booking through category guarantee, we knew only what room type we would have, but not which specific room.

double size cruise ship veranda

Double length balcony

Just a couple days before setting sail we were given room number 9145, but already in the midst of traveling since we set out for Miami ahead of time flying standby we never got the chance to look up the deck plans and see where the room was located or how it compared to other rooms.  Considering the price we paid, we more or less expected all along to get their lowest category of balcony cabin, probably the smallest and worst room they had.

Imagine our surprise upon entering our cabin to find out that not only did we get a good cabin, but we got a really special one.  One of only four cabins on the Divina turned long side to the sea instead of short end because of its location at the front of the atrium.  This cabin had a double length balcony running down the long side of the room rather than the usual short end sized balcony.  The other three like it are 9146 on the opposite side of the atrium, and 8144 and 8147 on the deck below.

cruise ship cabin

living room area

Doors to the cabins normally come from a hallway into a short end of the room as well.  Since the door to this room came on one end of a long side it had the closets on one side of the doorway and bathroom on the other.  Then it had a little area with a couch and TV and the sliding door out to the veranda.

special cruise ship cabins

bedroom area

On the other side of the wall with the closet sat the bedroom area, so it was nearly divided into two rooms.  The bedroom area had a desk and another TV.  (Most rooms just get one TV.)

MSC Divina special cabin

courtyard area just outside of room 9145

Doors to cruise ship cabins usually open onto narrow hallways.  Ours opened onto a wide area where the hallway made a bend around the end of the atrium.  A glass window gave a nice view into the atrium, and at the corner sat a sculpture on a stand with an area big enough to sit on – sort of like our own little courtyard with a view!

hallway to cruise ship rooms

cabin door opens onto atrium view

We really loved this room, the best one we have ever had on any cruise ship.  The two room-like quality made it nice if one person wanted to sleep or watch TV while the other wanted to read or work on their computer.  The spacious balcony was very nice too.  We also enjoyed the atrium view whenever entering or leaving the room, though other passengers did have a tendency to trash “our” courtyard area leaving dirty dishes or even random clothing on the bench there.  The hard-working crew would come by to pick things up sooner or later though.  The dishes they normally picked up fairly quickly, while clothing sat quite some time, waiting for the rightful owner to come along and claim it I suppose.

We ran into a few people who had paid a lot more than we did for the cruise and ended up in one of the tiny balcony cabins just behind the atrium area.  If you pick a specific cabin when booking it pays to study the deck plans first.

I don’t know what the odds are of ever getting such a nice cabin again, but probably not too high.  The special ones usually get booked very early.  We sure enjoyed it while we had it though.

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Fishermen’s Terminal, Seattle

looking at the terminal buildings from the deck of a ship

Fishermen’s Terminal

Sometimes Plan B Works Out For The Best

We recently had the immensely enjoyable opportunity to join Un-Cruise Adventures on the first-ever sailing of their new Washington Coastal itinerary on one of their original expedition vessels, the Wilderness Adventurer.  Some passengers came for the beer-themed cruise, others for the destination.  A few chose this cruise because they had sailed on this ship before.  Most passengers flew in, but a few like us enjoyed the advantage of a local departure.

dock at Fishermen's Terminal

boarding the Wilderness Adventurer

On a typical semi-overcast off and on drizzly Seattle day, all passengers for this cruise met at the Waterfront Marriot Hotel.  Some passengers stayed there or in a nearby hotel before or after the cruise to have a longer time to tour Seattle.  Others arrived that day and dropped their luggage in the hospitality suite reserved for Un-Cruise guests while taking a few hours to explore the area.

marina view

view of Fishermen’s Terminal from top deck

The cruise left out of Un-Cruise Adventures home port, Fishermen’s Terminal, which does not have any long-term parking available.  We could have parked in a garage where people often park when taking a trip on one of the large cruise ships leaving out of Seattle, but as we have friends in the area we saved the money and parked at their house, taking a cab to the hotel since our friends were not at home that day.

celebrating the new itinerary

Captain Dan greets passengers at the dock

We joined a few people from the cruise in the hospitality room where we could help ourselves to free tea and wi-fi.   Others opted for the more comfortable furniture of the lobby, while most chose to roam around the Seattle waterfront or nearby Pike Place Market until time for the bus to the boat to arrive.

As we disembarked the bus at the dock,  we got a personal welcome from un-cruise staff and the owner, Captain Dan.

waterside fire trucks

firetrucks at Fishermen’s Terminal

Fishermen’s Terminal seems to have a lot going on.  On the way in we saw firetrucks on the water’s edge, apparently practicing with their hoses.  On the way out workers getting ready to head north with the fishing fleet floated about in the bright orange survival suits sometimes called gumby suits for their required lifesaving drill.

gumby suit training drill

training drill

On board, hors d’ oeuvres available in the lounge included tasty vegan bar cookies and bacon-wrapped figs.  Unusual as it sounds the bacon-wrapped figs tasted quite delicious.

cruise food

salmon dinner

Following the required safety talk and drill and we had social time and dinner, which included steak, salmon, or vegetarian choices.   Somewhere along the line the crew discovered we would have a delay in our departure due to a non-working gage and the need to find a replacement on a Saturday evening when most of the right sort of stores have already closed for the weekend.

craft brewery

bar at Stoup Brewing

Due to the delay, Captain Dan announced open bar on the ship, which meant drinks on the house.  Kendall Jones of Washington Beer Blog, our quick-thinking host of all things beer on this beer-themed cruise, came up with an on-the-spot plan B.  He called nearby local craft brewery Stoup Brewing to arrange a tour.  Any interested passengers got an extra impromptu brewery visit with their drinks on Un-Cruise.

At Stoup Brewery, patrons filled a row of tables near the bar, some with pizza in delivery boxes.  A stack of menus from a local pizza parlor sat on a stand near a wall for easy use by hungry guests who wished for deliveries of food.  Kendall led us past this and into the brewing area, explaining how the equipment worked as the brewer had gone home for the day before our unplanned tour.  When he finished people wandered about on their own or ordered drinks.

brewery equipment

Beer-host Kendall explains how to make beer

Diligence and hard work on the part of the Un-Cruise staff paid off as they found a gage and got it delivered that evening.  With the first planned stop of our trip not too far away at Hood Canal we woke up there the next morning as planned.  The cruise itinerary lost nothing in the delay, but instead gained an extra brewery tour.

 copyright My Cruise Stories 2014
Posted in Un-Cruise Adventures, Washington, Wilderness Adventurer | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments


How To Fold a Towel Lobster with Bagus of MSC Divina

how to fold towels into a lobster

Towel Lobster

Supplies needed to make a towel lobster:

1 bath towel

1 hand towel


2 washcloths (optional)

 Towel Lobster Folding Instructions

how to make a towel lobster

fold the towel in half and fold the end of the top half down a bit

This lobster starts with the standard towel animal body – sort of.  In the video, Bagus shows a little trick for this.  He first folds the towel in half to insure both sides are even, and he also tucks a bit down on each end before rolling.  There’s nothing standard about how the body gets positioned after folding, he’s got quite a trick there.

how to fold cruise ship towel animals

roll top half of towel from the fold across the end

Start by folding the bath towel in half across the short side.  Fold over several inches across the top short edge.  Start rolling from the folded edge.  Roll until you get to the middle of the towel.

how to fold cruise ship towel animals

make the second roll the same as the first

Flip the other side out from under the roll and roll the other end the same way as the first side.

almost a standard towel animal body

pull tips out of the center of each roll

Fold the rolled towel in half, rolls to the outside.  Pull the tips out of the end of each roll.  Take both tips from one roll in one hand and both tips from the other roll in the other hand.

turning towels into animals

hold the tips of both ends of one roll in one hand and both ends of the other roll in the other hand

Pull both sides away from each other as if your hands were playing tug-o-war with the towel.

towels rolled into animal body

looks like a standard towel animal body so far

Set the body down rolled side up and pull tight.  Seems normal so far if you’ve made other towel animals, but now comes the trick.

nothing standard about this towel animal body now

lift the center of one roll and place it on top of the center of the other roll

Lift the center of on roll and place it over the top of the other roll.  Position front legs as desired.

towel animal folding instructions

drape hand towel over back legs of lobster body

Set hand towel over top of lobster.

towel art

make a series of folds in the hand towel

Make a series of fan-like folds across the short side of the hand towel down the lobster’s back.  Tuck the sides of the hand towel under the lobster and shape the tail.

towel origami

tuck the sides of the hand towel under the lobster and shape the tail as desired

Decorate with eyes.  Bagus used a glue stick, I always use double-stick tape.  Either way works to stick google eyes on.  Eyes made of paper or felt tend to stick fairly well on their own.

ever eat a blue lobster?

finished towel lobster

You could be done at this point, but I always like to embellish things, so I’ve added claws to mine.

How to Fold Towel Lobster Claws

how to fold a washcloth lobster claw

roll washcloth diagonally for lobster claw

Lay a washcloth out flat.  Starting from one corner, roll diagonally across the washcloth to the opposite corner.  Fold in half at the center of the roll and tuck into the end of one of the lobster’s front legs.  Position in claw shape.  Repeat with other washcloth and lobster leg.

washcloth lobster claw

fold rolled washcloth at center and insert into ends of towel lobster legs

The lobster would be better done in red towels, but I didn’t have any red towels, and not many colors where I have two washcloths, so mine has blue stripes.  Luckily I can make it redder on the computer to see how much more lobstery it would have looked if I’d had red towels.

changing color with computer photo editing

red(ish) looks a lot more like a lobster than blue

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

 Copyright My Cruise Stores 2014
Posted in Divina, MSC, Towel Animals | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Aruba Shipwreck Snorkel

shore excursion in Aruba

Divina seen from the catamaran sail and snorkel boat

Once upon a time during World War 2 Dutch ships surrounded the German merchant ship Antilla, which came to Aruba  seeking a neutral harbor on the day Germany invaded Poland. This 397 foot long nearly new German ship crossed the Atlantic on its maiden voyage, never to return home.  When the captain of the Antilla refused to lower the gangway to allow the Dutch to board in the dark of night, the Dutch expected heavy resistance from the German crew and waited for daylight to board the enemy vessel.  The Dutch intended to confiscate the Antilla, but the delay gave the Germans time to open outside valves to flood the ship, set it on fire, and evacuate the crew to the lifeboats where they were arrested.  The Dutch got the crew, but not the ship which sank to the bottom forming an artificial reef for fish to live on and a place for divers and snorkelers of the future to visit.  The Antilla is the largest sunken ship in Aruba and one of the biggest in the entire Caribbean, exceeded only by the 600-foot passenger ships Bianca C in Grenada and Antilles near Mustique.

ship before it was a wreck

Antilla in 1939, photo courtesy Wikipedia

The tale the told on the way to the ship was quite exciting.  The Germans opened the seacocks and left the steam engines burning hot so that cold water slowly filled the ship while the captain and his accomplices evacuated before the loud KABOOM when the ship exploded and sank to the bottom of the sea.

fish on shipwreck

many small fish surround the Antilla

Researching this online looking for more details turned up a story of a ship seeking safe harbor and then not being allowed to leave for quite some time before the fateful night when the Dutch decided to board the ship. The Germans not lowering the gangway and the Dutch waiting until daylight to do anything about it gave the Germans time to flood the ship and set it ablaze as in the other version of the story, but it sank intact in 1940 rather than breaking apart in an explosion and the breakup of the ship was caused by heavy swells and first noticed in 1953.

snorkeler diving near shipwreck

a person looks tiny next to this massive shipwreck

In some versions of the story the captain and crew escape and row to shore, in others they are captured by the Dutch on the Antilla before evacuating the ship.  All versions of the story have open seacocks and the ship on fire, but beyond that they differ as to whether the ship explodes, just sinks, or the Dutch actually shoot the burning ship down.  It always ends up on the bottom of the sea though, can’t dispute that since it did sink there that day.


this ship is way too big to see the whole thing at once

Many years later Arubans bring cruise ship passengers and other visitors to their island out on snorkel excursions over the wreck. After snorkeling on a nearby reef for awhile on a wreck and reef sail and snorkel shore excursion from the MSC Divina, our catamaran named Rumba brought us to the wreck, leaving a channel between our boat and another catamaran.

big shipwreck in Aruba

at the wreck of the Antilla, you snorkel around to see different parts of the ship

“Stay between the two boats,” the captain instructed.

aruba semi-sub


With some fairly good-sized waves coming at the back of the boat and a semi-sub prowling around the wreck circling the two moored catamarans, nobody questioned that bit of advice as neither getting carried away by the current nor getting sliced up by the semi-sub’s engines sounded appealing to anyone. (A semi-sub has a barge-like top above the water and a windowed area below the water where people can stay dry while viewing things under the sea.)

sunken ship

the Antilla has lots of places for fish to hide

Looking at the waves, I decided that jumping in first and then putting the snorkel mask on in the water like at the first site would be a bad idea. Since the quickest exit point was from the far back corner a quick swim across the stern and into the area between the boats would be required. Besides the likelihood of getting taken out by the current while trying to get the mask in place, jumping in without it also would invite a mouthful of water from landing in the path of a wave. So I stopped to dip my mask and put it on after donning my fins and before jumping off the back of the boat and making a quick swim for the other side.

Antilla shipwreck in Aruba

mostly what you see of the ship doesn’t really look like a ship

The crew had suggested swimming toward the bow and letting the current take us back.  While swimming through the waves I felt ever so grateful that I have a dry snorkel each time it had no air because that meant a wave had gone over the top of the snorkel.  If I had the open tube sort of snorkel like they normally hand out to people who don’t bring their own gear on these sorts of excursions that would have been a mouthful of water each time rather than a brief break in the airflow.

fish habitat

fish and people are attracted to sunken ships

I’m an avid snorkeler, my husband is not. I stay in the water until the whistle blows. He always gets out early and does what he prefers – take pictures. Somehow a couple other people got in between us in the line to get off the boat and apparently he did not see that I had jumped in with my snorkel mask in place and did not follow suit.  He also made the mistake of putting air in the annoying snorkel vest that they usually make cruise ship passengers wear. Between the mouthful of water he got upon landing and the air-filled vest catching the current it was all he could do to just to get back to the ship, let alone swim across the stern and down the side of the ship to the bow.

sea life on sunken ship

the Antilla has lots of stuff growing on it

The sheer size of the wreck made it impossible to see the whole thing at once, but swimming over it you see quite a bit. Mostly it looked like a random metal monstrosity, but portions of it were recognizable as a former ship. The ship rested on its side and the bow still looked like a bow, with deck intact. Unlike the freshly sunken Kittiwake in Grand Cayman, this ship has had many years under the sea for things to grow on it, and so they have. Though much of it is still recognizable as metal, other parts have coral and other things firmly attached, some of them quite large.

tropical fish

swimming with the sergeant majors

Structure attracts fish and this wreck had plenty. Swimming along I found myself in the midst of a school of the little yellow striped sergeant majors common to most snorkel sites in the Caribbean.   Never shy, these curious fish seem very willing to come close and investigate the people.   Perhaps they wonder what we are, or maybe they are so used to people snorkeling over the wreck that we seem to them just like other types of fish.

It’s hard to dive down while wearing a snorkel vest even if it’s not inflated and the dry snorkel inhibits diving too, but sometimes I manage to get down a ways.  I saw a couple guys diving down just beyond most of the crowd.  I swam there to get some pictures of them and managed to dive down a bit myself.  All too soon the horn sounded time to get onboard.  In spite of the waves the majority of people had stayed out the whole time.

Aruba wreck diver

some snorkelers like to dive down under the water

On the way back to the MSC Divina the sails on the Rhumba went back up, but the engine never went off.  Perhaps they’d have sailed a bit for real if the wind was favorable, but once it started to flap the sails about as if attempting to shred them to bits they all came down and we traveled under power without even pretending to sail.

For anyone who wants to go snorkeling, the catamaran sail and snorkel excursions are a great way to get out on the water and see things. Anyone wishing to do some real sailing would likely be disappointed and probably better off looking for an excursion with sailing only.


Posted in Caribbean, Divina, MSC, Shore Excursions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Red White and Blueberry Smoothie

great frozen treat for 4th of July

red, white, and blueberry smoothie

What could be better for the fourth of July than a red, white, and blueberry smoothie?  Not the easiest smoothie to make, but it looks great for 4th of July festivities.  On other days blending all the ingredients together at once saves a lot of time and makes less dirty dishes.

berry smoothie

the layers run together more in a slightly thinner smoothie

The key to having separate layers is to make each layer as thick as possible.  You want just enough liquid for the blender to work.  Adjust the portions of liquid and solid as necessary.  If it won’t blend add a bit more liquid and if it comes out too thin add more frozen fruit or yogurt depending on the layer.  If you want the layers to run into each other a bit you can make it a little thinner, but if it is too thin it will all just run together completely and there will be no layers at all.

People can stir the layers together with their straw when they drink it if they want to.

making frozen yogurt for smoothies

freeze vanilla yogurt in blobs or ice cube trays

This smoothie uses no ice cubes, so the fruit and yogurt need to be frozen and the liquids refrigerator cold.  The yogurt that comes as frozen yogurt is more like ice cream, and regular yogurt works better for the smoothie.  Buy regular vanilla yogurt and either freeze it in an ice cube tray or line a pan with a piece of parchment paper and drop spoonfuls of yogurt in blobs to freeze.  Don’t make them too big or they will not be easy to cut or blender friendly.  Greek yogurt gives the smoothie an odd texture so I would not recommend using it.

how to make a frozen fruit smoothie

magic bullet blender

The Magic Bullet blender is ideal for this if you have one because it mixes things in small separate cups.

Red, White, and Blueberry Smoothie Recipe

3-4 large frozen strawberries, chopped into small pieces (2/3 cup chopped frozen strawberries)

1/4 cup cold red colored juice (I used cranberry)

1/2 cup frozen blueberries

1/3 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon cold bluish colored juice (I used blueberry pomegranate)

2/3 cup regular vanilla yogurt, frozen and chopped into small pieces (Coconut milk yogurt works for those who don’t eat dairy.)

2 tablespoons cold milk (Does not have to be cow’s milk, alternatives such as plant-based milk are fine.)

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Agave or honey or your favorite sweetener if desired

For the red layer blend strawberries, red juice, and if desired sweetener to your taste.

For the blueberry layer blend blueberries, bluish juice, and if desired sweetener to your taste.

For the white layer blend yogurt, milk, and vanilla.

If you have a magic bullet so you can mix each batch in a separate cup, measure out the liquid portions into each of three cups.  Add in the blueberries and strawberries.  Let those sit in the juice while chopping the yogurt.  Set yogurt aside and don’t put it in the milk until the last minute.  The berries blend better if they sit in the juice a few minutes first, but you don’t want the yogurt to get too soft.

Make each layer as thick as your blender allows.  Add liquid or solid as needed to each layer to get the consistency right.

Pour strawberry layer into bottom of a clean glass.  All layers are too thin if they pour out freely and you don’t have to help them along with a spoon.

Spoon yogurt layer on top of strawberry layer.  This layer should pretty much totally be spooned onto the next layer and not really pour at all.  It will sink partially into the strawberry layer, but if both layers are thick enough some of it will leave a separate white layer.

Pour blueberry layer over the top of the yogurt layer, again it should be thick enough that you have to help it out with a spoon so it stays somewhat separate from the yogurt layer.

Add a straw and serve quickly before the layers start melting together.

Makes one 2-cup smoothie.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2014
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The P and O cruise


kids on cruise ships

Hannah and friend lounging on a deck chair

My Daughter recently took a cruise with her kids on P&O, an Australian cruise line. In her blog, Mommy Adventures she wrote a review of her experiences taking a cruise with two small children. She found having a child under the age limit for the children’s program rather inconvenient. Cruise lines vary from less than a year to three years old as the starting age for children’s activities or babysitting. For information about children’s programs on a variety of cruise lines see Cruising With Kids.

Originally posted on Mommy Adventures:

“How many more days?”  Hannah asked me every morning for weeks.  She and Daniel were so excited for our cruise with Aunty Jess, as was I.  It was our last hurrah before everything change, before she has a baby.  That’s not for another 20 weeks, but cruises have surprisingly early pregnancy cut off dates.


I have been potty training Daniel vigilantly for a couple of months, but it was all in vain.  He wasn’t allowed at the kids club.  Not because he wasn’t potty trained.  Contrary to what P&O’s website says, kids who aren’t potty trained can go in the kids club.  Their parents just have to respond to the pager given out by the kids club asap to change a soiled nappy if needed.

He wasn’t allowed in the kids club because they don’t take kids who are a day under 3.  I thought that when Jess said if…

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Ketchikan Alaska – Dolly’s House

Dolly's House on Creek Street

Creek Street in Ketchikan, Alaska

Creek Street in Ketchikan now houses all manner of touristy shops.  In the past these houses held quite a different sort of businesses.  From the early 1900’s to 1954 the red light district of Ketchikan flourished along Creek Street.  One house still sits as it was in that era with all the furnishings intact.  People can take a tour of Dolly’s house, now known as Dolly’s House Museum.  Creek Street is an easy walk from the cruise ship docks for most people through several blocks of shops on level ground.

the sort of stuff a whore has

some of Dolly’s things

The self-guided tour starts with a bit of history about Dolly Arthur, born in 1888 as Thelma Copeland.  She left her family home in rural Idaho at age 13, living in Montana and Vancouver BC before making her way to Alaska.  By her late teens she realized she could make more money from the attention of men than she could working as a waitress.   In 1919 she wound up in Alaska, having discovered a way she could make a significant amount of money for that era.  Dolly spent her first year in Ketchikan at the Star, the only house on Creek Street actually classified as a brothel because it employed more than two women.  Then she bought her own house.

these Dollies pedal tours, not themselves

not the real Dolly

At a time when the average Ketchikan worker made $1 a day, Dolly charged each man $3 and didn’t close her door for the night until she had made $75.  She bought her house for $800 and paid it off in two weeks.  Eventually she bought other houses along Creek Street, which she rented to other working girls.  They referred to themselves as “sporting women” rather than whores, and prospered in a town with many single men and few women.  Though most Creek Street residents worked in pairs, Dolly worked alone in her own house.   Through all her working years she never got an STD.

Creek Street was referred to as the place where men and salmon went upstream to spawn.  While single men openly walked the boardwalk through the bordellos, married men used the more discreet Married Man’s Trail through the woods.  The girls knew married clients by the mud on their shoes.

inside Dolly's House

Dolly’s table and china

During prohibition Dolly made more money selling small amounts of liquor for large sums to her gentleman callers then she did through prostitution.  Authorities never caught her with alcohol.  She kept just one bottle in the house at a time and hid the rest under the dock.  In a raid she could easily discard the one bottle without losing her entire stock of moonshine.  Many of the Creek Street houses had trapdoors where they could receive alcohol deliveries under the dock in the dark of night.

the dock at Creek Street

reflections of Dolly’s House

When indoor plumbing became available she had her house done right away, with a men’s room downstairs and a full bath on the second floor.  Plumbing on Creek Street in its heyday did not include hooking up to sewers though.  Before the 1960’s everything just went out into the creek to wait for the tides to take it away.

what to do with useless condoms

Dolly’s shower curtain with decorative flowers made of silk condoms

The Dolly’s House Museum has many of Dolly’s things on display including furnishings and dishes.  Not one to let things go to waste Dolly decorated her shower curtain with roses made from silk condoms, as they were useless for other things.  The shower curtain also remains as part of the tour.

old fashioned kitchen

modern appliances – when Dolly bought them

Ketchikan eventually outlawed prostitution and Dolly’s was the last Creek Street house to close.  Dolly retired at age 72, but remained living in her house until nearly the end of her life.

Dolly's boudoir

Dolly’s bedroom..um office…the place she made her money

Creek Street fell into disrepair for a time, but when tourism hit the town as a major industry somebody realized the historical value of Creek Street and the attraction that the area would hold for visitors.  Many of the houses were restored or rebuilt.

a former whorehouse

Dolly’s House

While wandering about Ketchikan on our port stop there on the Holland America Westerdam, my sister and I felt it was worth the mere $5 admission to take the tour of Dolly’s House.  There are not many attractions you can see in a cruise ship port for just $5.

Westerdam in Ketchikan

Westerdam photo taken from the Married Man’s Trail

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2014
Posted in Alaska, Holland America, Port Cities, Ports of Call, Westerdam | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments