Port Townsend Brewing Company

craft beer

Port Townsend Brewing Company

Our beer-themed cruise on the Wilderness Adventurer included a visit to the Port Townsend Brewing Company when the ship stopped for an afternoon in the quaint historical town of Port Townsend at the northeastern tip of the Olympic Peninsula.

big dock in Port Townsend

Wilderness Adventurer in Port Townsend

At the end of Taylor Street in the center of town sits a good sized dock. The Wilderness Adventurer pulled up alongside this dock. Unlike most saltwater docks that float up and down with the tides on metal bands around poles, this is a very tall fixed dock. The sundeck at the top of our three-stories-above-the-water-boat sat fairly even with the surface of the dock. From the lower decks we could see the underside of the dock and the many poles covered with mussels and barnacles clinging to the high tide line of each pole.

Port Townsend Marina

skiff ride through the marina

A short skiff ride brought us to a nearby marina where we disembarked the skiff at the dock and walked through a shipyard full of large boats in drydock. Some people pointed out the massive hoist just ahead. Everyone pulled out their cameras and started taking photos as we walked by. The tires alone towered over nearby parked cars.

boat lift on wheels

monstrous boat lift

Suddenly the monstrosity began to move. A previously unnoticed window partway up one metal blue leg revealed a driver, dwarfed by the machine in which he sat. As we scurried along like so many mice trying to keep out from under an approaching car, the hoist followed in our tracks. Alternating between taking photos and keeping far enough out of its path not to get squashed, we made our way toward our destination, the Port Townsend Brewery – where most guests would arrive by car uninhibited by giant boat hoists.

boat repair

boat in drydock

The original Port Townsend Brewing Company opened in 1905, but closed shortly after the start of prohibition as the non-alcoholic beverages they tried to sell were not nearly as popular as their beer.  The new Port Townsend Brewing Company opened in 1997 with just two beers.

inside the brewery

brewery tour

Kim, the owner, and brewmaster Carson led us on a tour starting at the end of the building where their shop began as a much smaller operation. Carson explained how they make beer as he showed the various components of their system. Over the years they have added equipment and their capacity has grown. They currently bottle 10 ales sold regionally and have a couple more on tap. They also have limited run seasonal and specialty beers.

different types of beer

beer ready for tasting

Following the tour we went back into the bar where Kim brought out trays filled with a sample size glasses with variety of shades of amber from the different beers.  People enjoyed tasting them.   I bought some for my son to try and write a review on since I don’t drink and he knows enough about beer to make his own.

Chris’s beer review:

northwest style IPA with dry hopping

Hop Diggity IPA

Although I have drank a lot of beer this will be the first time I write a review on one. My mom doesn’t drink beer but wanted a review of a beer from Port Townsend Brewing Company. I reviewed the Hop Diggidy I.P.A. I usually go to Beer Advocate when I want to read beer reviews so I will use the same format for a review commonly used there.

22oz bomber poured into a pint glass.

Appearance: Hazy golden with about a half inch of head.

Smell: Citrus dominates the aroma. Hops present but not strong.

Taste: Opposite of the aroma. Hops dominate the taste with citrus close behind it. Some malt in the finish.

Mouth feel: medium to light with a good amount of carbonation.

Overall: A good beer true to style.  It would make a good secession ale if I had more then one bottle.

copyright My Cruise Stories 2014
Posted in Port Cities, Ports of Call, Un-Cruise Adventures, Washington, Wilderness Adventurer | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Memoirs of a Cruise Ship Doctor Part 4 – Chasing Supplies

creative resupplying

When a cruise line is on the verge of bankruptcy, supplies are hard to find

What’s it like to be a cruise ship doctor on a financially sinking ship?  Len Kreisler MD tells us in the chapter What Ship, What Cabin, and Doctor Who? from his book ROLL THE DICE, PICK A DOC AND HOPE FOR THE BEST.  He spent four years working for Maritime Medical as a cruise ship doctor for Regent Lines, who ran five 1960’s era ships before going bankrupt in 1995.   This is an excerpt from his book.

a lifetime of doctor memories in a book

Dr. Len Kreisler’s book

Maritime Medical did not like their doctors or nurses purchasing supplies on their own.  They obviously saved money by bulk buying through discount houses, notably pharmaceuticals through generic Canadian suppliers.  I called Maritime Medical from San Juan because we had used most of our intravenous solutions and were out of a few other medications.  They promised to have supplies waiting at our next port.  I was skeptical about the promise.

I had noticed signs of discord between the Hotel Manager and my bosses at Maritime Medical.  In retrospect, it was subcontract problems that would eventually lead to declaration of bankruptcy by the Regent Line.  I was planning to purchase a few supplies in San Juan and charge them to the Maritime account in the purser’s office.

Our dock space faced the old city of San Juan, not far from the El Morro fortress.  Parked next to us was a United States cruiser resting from its patrol duties around Haiti.  I donned my scrub suit, white jacket with name tag, and requested permission to board the cruiser and visit its doctor (this was way before 9/11).  I was informed the ship only carried corpsmen; no doctor.  They put in a call and asked me to wait at the head of the gangplank.  I was soon greeted by a young corpsman…ready, able, and proud to show me around his ship.  As we exchanged medical stories, with added information about his ship’s fighting capabilities, I mentioned my supply problems.

“No sweat Doc, I can give you all the fluids you want, but we’ll have to see how much reserve I have for the medications you need.”

It turned out great.  I got all the supplies I needed and in turn I invited all three corpsmen, and a few of their friends, for dinner aboard the Regent Sun.  None had been on a civilian cruise ship before.  They were duly impressed with the people comforts, and they surprised me with their menu selections.  My assumption had been that our fighting men and women had an abundance of the best when it came to food.  I diplomatically asked about their selections of lobster and steak.  They told me their budgets had been cut back (sound familiar?) which spilled over to limited commissary supplies.  Incidentally, no supplies were waiting at our next port, as promised by Maritime Medical.

More stories from Dr. Len:

Getting Hired

Crew Problems

The “Seasick” Passenger

A Visit to the Medical Center on a Modern Cruise Ship

cruise ship medical center

John gets his finger taped in a well-stocked treatment room on Carnival Splendor

Before my recent cruise on the Carnival Splendor I had never set foot inside a cruise ship medical center.  On that cruise my husband sprained a finger catching it on the wall trim while moving luggage.  Though an officer on the ship said there would be no charge to visit the doctor since he injured it onboard, he was still afraid of getting charged so he just had the nurse tape it to the next finger and never actually checked in.  (Our former travel agent daughter would say we should have gotten travel insurance and then we wouldn’t have to worry about such things.)  The treatment room she took him into appeared to have abundant supplies both in the that room and in an adjacent storage room.   Good to know modern ships are far more well equipped than the ship where Dr. Len worked.

copyright My Cruise Stories 2014
Posted in Guest Blogs, Shipboard Life | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Cozumel Cave Snorkel

we had a double sized balcony on the Divina

Cozumel Ferry from Divina Balcony

On a windy December day the MSC Divina pulled into the dock in Cozumel, Mexico. Cozumel Island sits off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, an area of Mexico dependant on tourism as its main industry and thus well guarded and kept safe from the troubles of Mexico’s inland. Cozumel is one of our favorite ports because it has such a variety of really excellent shore excursions – though a lot of them do require a ferry to Playa del Carmen on the mainland.

looking up in a cave

looking up at the cave ceiling

All excursions bound for the mainland boarded the ferry to Playa del Carmen shortly after the Divina docked. We had made this journey before to visit the Mayan ruins of Tulum, but had a much smoother ride that time. While the wind and waves of the day didn’t do much to disturb the Divina, the much smaller ferry rolled and pitched about for the entire the 45 minute trek to the mainland. The majority of seats lie inside the ferry on the lower level, but on the second level the back side has some open air seating, some of it covered. The fresh air in the outside seating seemed to help the queasy as nobody used the provided barf bags up there, while some folks inside did.

Even at the dock the ferry bobbed and swayed while workers held the gangway as it rolled back and forth and limited passengers to small groups allowed to cross only one at a time. Passengers eagerly evacuated the boat and none seemed to have much difficulty negotiating the rolling gangway as they made their hasty exit, happy to reach stable ground at last.

inside a cenote

cave formations

We felt quite happy to have done the 3-reef snorkel on a previous visit in calm water, and that today we would snorkel inside a cave far from the rolling sea. A short trip in vans brought us to the Cavern of Chac Tun. Free lockers awaited anyone who had things they did not wish to bring into the cave and banos (bathrooms) were available there as well. (The ferry also had bathrooms.)

cave entrance

a slightly submerged wooden path leads into the cave

Cozumel and the Yucatan Peninsula consist mainly of limestone, once a coral reef thousands of years ago before a meteor hit and raised land where ocean once reined. With no lakes or rivers to provide fresh water, early inhabitants found it in the cenote caves where rain drips through the porous limestone, creating stalactites as it slowly drips into stalagmite-filled pools. Residents of the area can drink the mineral-laden water, but visitors best not or they may experience Montezuma’s revenge (AKA traveler’s diarrhea).

hut at Paloma Cave

life jacket hut

We walked down a stairway to a hut where we were issued life jackets, hardhats, and one flashlight per couple. Guides asked that we respect this once sacred to the Mayans cave by keeping voices down while inside.

into Paloma cave

cave entrance

A wooden walkway passed through shallow water and low ceilings through the entrance into Paloma cave. Some areas required ducking even for short people and those who did not walk carefully were glad of the helmets as they otherwise may have hit their heads on low-hanging stalactites.

inside a cenote

getting ready to go in the water in the large cave chamber

Upon reaching a large chamber inside the cave, well lit through an opening in the ceiling, people set their helmets, towels, non-waterproof cameras, and anything else they did not wish to bring into the water down on benches or rocks. If bringing your own snorkel gear take just the mask and snorkel and leave the fins behind. Water shoes (AKA aquasocks) are the footwear of choice for this cave. Bring your own or use the ones provided.

water in a cenote

pool in the big cave

The guide described the water temperature as “refreshing,” which seems to be a code word on excursions for it isn’t all that warm as that is what they said on the river tubing excursion in Jamaica as well.

in the water in a cenote

underwater at the edge of the deep pool

They had two options for entry into the water, a stairway for those who wanted the slow chill of a bit by bit entrance, or a place to jump off for people who would rather plunge right in and get it over with. After the first few chilly minutes you adjust and the water doesn’t feel so cold any more.

cenote cave in Cozumel

stalactites in the cave reflecting in the water

We swam about in the deep pool for awhile giving everyone time to enter the water and look around. A few small cave fish swam around, and underwater rock formations gave snorkelers something to see.

swimming through a cenote

one of the small cave chambers

Our guide said the life jackets were required not for the deep pool, but to keep people afloat through shallow areas of the cave where they otherwise might step on the stalagmites, which take hundreds of years to grow and need protection from breakage.

cave sand and mineral water used as a natural spa treatment

underwater in the spa room

We swam through a narrow tunnel, into a room full of rock formations, and on to a chamber where the guide said people could stand. There a free “spa treatment” was an option by rubbing the pro-offered mineral laden cave sand from the guide onto your skin and then waiting a couple minutes to wash it off.

not really a spa

above the water in the spa room

As usual for him, My husband went back to the starting point from there to get his camera and take pictures without regards to whether or not there may be more of the cave left to tour, taking our flashlight with him.

pathway to cave exit

barely submerged path at the edge of the cave

Following this we swam to a sort of natural shelf where we got out of the pool and walked through the rest of the cave on a manmade path at the edge, mostly through very shallow water.  Most of the people walked through this part rather quickly. Straggling along behind them I followed with an unseen man who also did not have a flashlight.

inside a cenote

random dark picture of cave wall

We had just enough ambient light to find the path, but nothing with which to view the cave other than my camera. I stopped frequently and aimed a camera with a totally black screen at an unseen wall and got some lovely pictures as the camera lighted the area and then eventually flashed as it took the photo which then showed the rock formations, stalactites and stalagmites of whatever area of cave wall it happened to have in its view. (I knew that it would as it had lit things up all on its own and taken some pretty good pictures without even using the flash when I went cave tubing in Belize.)

inside a dark cave

random dark picture across the water

After returning to the large cavern with the deep pool, we were allowed to ditch the life jackets and swim around the deep pool or snorkel more there without them.

lunch in a dry cave

Stairway to the lunch cave

Though this excursion was marked only as “drink included” in the book of tours provided on the ship, we were given a full lunch in a cave entered through some stairs branching off the side of the walkway we originally took down to the cenote cave where we swam.

Mexican lunch buffet in a dry cave

lunch in a dry cave

Back at Playa del Carmen we had about an hour to visit the shops near the ferry dock before boarding our scheduled ferry back to the ship. Looking through shops selling all manner of things tourists like to buy, in one we found a quite pretty greenish stone I had not yet seen, which the store owner said was called “map turquoise.”

green turqouise jewelry

Map Turquoise at a shop in Playa del Carmen

The ferry ride back went much more smoothly than the ride over as the winds had died down for the evening. The ferry docked about 20 minutes after the all aboard, but the ship sat there with all the gangways still out since that ferry carried a considerable portion of the passengers as well as the crew members that had gone out as guides with the day’s various expeditions to the mainland.

tourist shops in Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen shopping area near the ferry dock

Though it takes awhile to get everyone off the ferry, and passengers tend to dawdle about taking photos of the ship all lit up in the dark in spite of the fact that the bright lights on the dock corrupt the photo, the Divina still managed to pull away from the dock within a few minutes of her scheduled departure time about half an hour after the scheduled all-aboard.

Divina in Cozumel

Divina from the ferry

I recommend this excursion for anyone who likes caves and snorkeling, those who want to try something unique and different, people who like caves, or people who enjoy snorkeling and want to see something out of the ordinary.

Anyone who is easily susceptible to seasickness may want to avoid any excursion from Cozumel that takes place on the mainland as they all involve riding the ferry and weather can’t be planned in advance to know how rough a given day’s crossing might be.  If you do make the crossing in a small ferry on a rough day, try and find a seat in the outside area upstairs.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2014
Posted in Caribbean, Divina, Mexico, MSC, Ports of Call, Shore Excursions | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Maple Brown Sugar Sweet Potatoes

cooking sweet potatoes

Sweet Potatoes Cooking

Sweet potatoes or yams are a holiday tradition for most people at Thanksgiving.  Many people make mashed yams with marshmallows, but my family has a different holiday tradition.  This recipe works great for either sweet potatoes or yams.  The photo is sweet potatoes, but if you want the bright orange color use yams.   Sweet potatoes and yams taste great no matter what you do to them, these just have a little extra sweetness that really adds to the flavor.  These are also really easy to make and don’t take any specific amounts of anything.


sweet potatoes or yams  (about 1 for every 2 people)


brown sugar

maple syrup

One to two days ahead of serving: Boil sweet potatoes or yams whole and with peel on until they are cooked through, but still firm enough to hold their shape when sliced.  Chill in the refrigerator until needed.

Day of Serving: Remove peel from sweet potatoes.   Slice each potato into thick slices.  If doing this ahead of time, place slices into covered dish and return to refrigerator until ready to use.

Cooking:  Cook these just before serving.  Heat non-stick frying pan on med-med hi heat.  Drop enough butter into the hot pan that it will cover entire bottom of pan when melted and add brown sugar and syrup to taste, in amounts more or less equal to the amount of butter used.  For a large frying pan about 1 1/2 tablespoons of each per batch works out pretty well. Mix sugar and syrup into melting butter and add sweet potato slices one layer thick on bottom of pan.  Adjust heat so potato slices brown without burning.  Flip over when first side is done.  If there is no butter mix left after cooking the first side you didn’t use enough.

After cooking one batch, wipe any remaining butter/syrup/sugar mix out of pan with paper towels before cooking another batch because leftover syrup will burn onto the bottom of the pan.  If there is more left than can be easily wiped out you used too much.  Add new butter and mix with fresh brown sugar and syrup to fry next batch.  Flip over when first side browns and remove from pan when second side browns.  Wipe pan clean and repeat for any remaining sweet potatoes or yams until all are cooked.

Serve warm for a tasty holiday treat.  My favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal.


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Carnival Splendor

Splendor in Martinique

Carnival Splendor

While officially part of Carnival’s Conquest class, the Splendor is a unique ship in a class of its own somewhere in between the Conquest and Dream classes. At a length of 952 feet, with double occupancy passenger capacity of 3,002 and max passenger capacity of 4,914, it is a bit larger than the other conquest class ships. It has unique features like a mini splash park for small children. Other differences include the sky dome placed near the front of the ship rather than rear and the movie screen at the forward end of the lido. Splendor also has more variety in its itineraries than many other ships.  It has a number of home ports with sailings out of Miami, New York, Norfolk VA and San Juan, Puerto Rico. The ship’s registry is from Panama.  Splendor is most famous for its mishap in 2010 when it lost power due to an engine fire and had to be towed to shore.  The ship now carries multiple generators.

Carnival Splendor splash park

splash park for small children (water is off in this photo)

The ship holds 1150 crew and has a cruising speed of 22.5 knots. Built in 2008 by Fincantieri Navali Italanie Shipyard in Genova, Sestri/Ponente Italy, it has a pearls themed décor most evident in the Black Pearl and Gold Pearl dining rooms and by all the pink spots on the walls throughout the ship. Much of the décor in other places has circular patterns as well.

Carnival Splendor decor

pink pearl dots adorn walls throughout the ship

Décor in some areas of the ship looks reminiscent of an old fashioned steamship ocean liner. It has models of the 1930’s ships Queen Mary and Normandie displayed at the stern of the lido, which is decorated to resemble the Queen Mary.

Splendor ship decor

model of old steamship

The ship design and décor of the Splendor differs from other Carnival ships as this ship was originally intended for Costa so much of the décor is done to European taste rather than American. It includes nudity in statues and paintings around the ship which the Europeans are more comfortable with due to the ancient Greek and Roman statues they are accustomed to seeing.

inside Carnival Splendor

decor inside the Lido restaurant resembles an old steamship

The Splendor has 13 passenger decks. Some have guest rooms, some public areas, and some both. The Sky Deck containing the mini golf course is labeled as deck 14, while the next deck down called the Sun Deck is Deck 12. Deck 13 apparently does not exist. You can actually go one level higher than deck 14 at the entrance to the waterslide, but it is just a little platform for entering the slide rather than an actual deck. Great view though.

Carnival Splendor waterslide

waterslide on Carnival Splendor

Guest cabin categories include everything from low-priced inside rooms to much more expensive suites. There are several categories of each room type, with higher decks increasing the price as well as larger and fancier rooms or suites. Each room includes dispensers of shampoo and shower gel in the shower and a couple bars of soap and a few product samples in a bowl on the bathroom counter so plan on bringing most of your own toiletries. Spa cabins have a number of spa products in little bottles in their bathroom, which are replenished throughout the cruise. Spa cabins also include use of the thermal suite at the spa so naturally they come with a higher price than regular cabins.

inside the Carnival Splendor

Black Pearl Dining Room

Splendor has two main dining rooms, a Lido buffet with a variety of food stations serving different types of food, and for those who want a culinary experience and not just a meal it has a steakhouse. Most itineraries include one or two elegant nights and for the rest the dining room dress code is cruise casual. Elegant nights do not require gowns or tuxes. The dining room dress code for elegant nights just bans shorts, t-shirts, jeans, flip-flops and sportswear in addition to the normal nightly ban on cut-off jeans, men’s sleeveless shirts, gym or basketball shorts, baseball hats or caps, beach flip-flops and bathing suit attire. Anyone not wishing to abide by the dress code of the evening can always eat dinner at the Lido buffet where the food choices include pizza and ice cream 24 hours a day as well as a number of different things served at mealtimes. Room service has a limited menu, but it is free any time of day. Dining room menus are available in Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, and Italian as well as in English.

Carnival Splendor steakhouse

Steakhouse Chefs

It you’re sailing on the Splendor and want a really good meal, try the steakhouse. It costs extra, but they work wonders with the food there. I had a meal that included a salad with blue cheese and tiramisu for dessert. I don’t like blue cheese or coffee, yet both those dishes tasted good.

Carnival Splendor

Lido pool area with the sky dome closed

Carnival recently revised their smoking policy to ban smoking on stateroom balconies. It is still allowed on the starboard side of the open upper decks 10 and 11 and in select areas of the casino and at a bar and nightclub. People who wish to avoid smoke may not want to book rooms on deck 6, particularly near the midship or forward stairs as smoke from the casino sometimes wafts up the stairways there during busy times.

Carnival Splendor movie screen

movie screen on Lido

According to Hotel Director Niksa Pelic, it’s not the décor or the boat itself that makes the ship, it’s the crew. People have a far more enjoyable time on their vacation if the crew is friendly, the ship clean, and the food and service good.

Carnival Splendor putt putt golf

Pirate themed mini golf course

Middle class people are Carnival’s typical customers and everything from more casual attire being allowed in the dining rooms and steakhouse to the level of service from the cabin stewards is aimed toward that demographic. The stewards are quite adaptable though and will adjust the service given to a particular cabin to what the occupant wants. For instance they don’t automatically fill the ice buckets, but if a person asks for ice then their bucket is normally filled for the rest of the cruise. On some ships bathrobes are found in the closet at boarding, but if they are not there they will be brought to the cabin upon request. I’ve only once had to ask, and can’t remember now which ship that was.

Carnival Splendor in the Caribbean

Splendor at the dock on a port stop

Splendor is unofficially scheduled for 2.0 upgrades in March 2016, but they will be minimal rather than a full ship overhaul. The ship already had new engines and generators installed after the fire. Most likely they will add popular features like Guy’s Burgers and the Alchemy Bar, but not update the décor. If the washers and dryers in the self-serve laundries have not been upgraded from the sort that takes quarters to the newer ones that use the sail and sign cards before it gets the 2.0 upgrades, it should get them at that time. In the meantime if you sail on the Splendor plan ahead if you want to do laundry while the ship is in port because if the front desk runs out of quarters they won’t get more until the casino opens when the ship gets underway, so get your quarters at the casino ahead of time.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2014
Posted in Carnival, Splendor | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Craigdarroch Castle, Victoria

castle on Vancouver Island

Craigdarroch Castle, Victoria BC, Canada

Ever since a brief evening stop in Victoria on the way back to Seattle from an Alaskan cruise on Holland America’s Westerdam, my sister, Aunt, and I wanted to go back for a longer visit.  We decided to set up a day trip, sailing across the Straight of Juan de Fuca on the Black Ball Ferry, MV Coho from Port Angeles.  It’s pretty pricey to bring a car on that ferry, and we didn’t need one in Victoria anyway, so we parked in one of the lots near the terminal.  The closest one costs $8 per day, but we went to the next one over where it is just $6.  Very low-tech though, you have to have cash.

ferry from Port Angeles, Washington to Victoria BC

Black Ball Ferry, MV Coho in Victoria

Unlike the state ferries, in over 50 years the MV Coho has never broken down or missed a sailing.  They probably haven’t changed the music in all that time either, but it only plays before the announcements at the beginning and end of each sailing.

castle tower stairs

looking down the tower stairs

We decided to visit Craigdarroch Castle, not far outside the main touristy area of Victoria.  The city bus stops near the castle.  Other than foot power the bus is the least expensive way to get there.  The bus driver pronounced the castle Craig-derrek.

dogs in Victoria

We passed a lot of interesting old houses on the way to the castle, but this one had dogs on the porch

It’s a short walk from the bus stop to the castle, past a number of interesting old houses.  One had three dogs on the porch.  The approach to the castle offers several options for photos, including framing the castle in trees.

Craigdarroch Castle, Victoria

framing the castle with trees

Once inside the castle we bought our tickets and wiped the soles of our shoes on the brush-filled shoe wiping stand as required.  A sign proclaimed backpacks must either be checked in at the front desk for pick-up after the tour or worn on the front.  After buying our tickets we stepped through the doorway where a lady explained how the self-guided tour worked.  She pronounced the castle Craig-duh-rock.

fancy tile

original tile floor in the room at the top of the tower

The first half the tour winds up one side of the house.  Many lavishly-appointed rooms have been restored to what likely was their original use.  The top room in the tower has its original patterned tile floor and excellent views of the surrounding area.   Much of the castle is still original, but some rooms got remodeled over the years for different uses.

coal burning fireplace

How does a coal baron heat their home? Coal, of course!

The second half of the tour winds down the opposite side of the castle.  Servants lived in some rooms on that side, which look quite plain compared to those used by the family.  Most of the rooms have coal-burning fireplaces, fitting for a coal baron who made his fortune with a coal mine.

sign for one room at Craigdarroch Castle

each room had a sign

Throughout the castle, signs give the historical use of various rooms, as well as one room which has panels giving the history of both the family and the castle in small segments one sign at a time.  Craigdarroch means rocky oak place in Gaelic.  The family’s name was Dunsmuir.

smoking room

The castle had this smoking room for family and guests to use if they wanted to smoke, which they did not do elsewhere in the house

Born in 1825, the founder of the castle, Robert Dunsmuir came from a coal mining family in Scotland.  Orphaned at age 7, he worked for an uncle.  He married wife Joanna (Joan) and started a family while still in Scotland, coming to Vancouver Island in 1850 with a small group of coal miners led by his uncle and bound for the Hudson Bay Company’s mines.  After working for others for a time, he took a chance on investing in his own mine near Victoria where he struck it rich.  A villain to some due to his handling of a miner’s strike by replacing strikers with picket-line crossers from another area and eventually winning out by cutting their wages.  A hero to others because after signing a contract to build 75 miles of railroad track (for which he was paid handsomely in cash and acres of land) he continued the line to Victoria.  He also spent some years in politics, which kept the local government out of his coal mining business.

inside the castle

drawing room

The family lived in increasingly more lavish homes around Victoria.  Over the years they had 11 children, of which 10 lived to adulthood, 8 girls and 2 boys.  As the family’s wealth increased and they climbed higher up the social ladder, the younger girls married into increasingly wealthier and socially higher ranked families.  The oldest married local men, later girls found military husbands, and the younger ones married into European nobility.  Not all married happily ever after, some faced death or divorce and one spent a good deal of her life in an insane asylum.

maid's room

maid’s quarters – much plainer than rooms occupied by family

Robert Dunsmuir’s castle began construction in 1887, but he never got to live there since he died before its completion in 1890.   Joan and her three youngest daughters moved into the castle along with her two orphaned grandchildren and some servants.  Robert had promised his sons they would inherit his businesses when he died, but left everything to his wife instead.

rooms inside a castle

youngest daughter’s bedroom

Upon her death in 1908 she left the castle to the 5 of her daughters still living at that time.  Unable to buy each other out and apparently unwilling to share, they divided the land around the castle into parcels to sell, auctioned off the furnishings, and in 1910 sold the castle and surrounding subdivision in a lottery won by Solomon Cameron who owned the castle until 1919 when it became a military hospital.

bookstand with candle

old fashioned reading light

In 1921 Victoria College moved into the castle, remaining there until 1946 when the Victoria School Board took up residence, staying in the castle until 1968.  From 1969 until 1979 it became the Victoria Conservatory of Music.  By then people were interested in preserving the castle and restoring it to its former glory.  Their presence more or less pushed the music conservatory out, making way for the castle to become the Historic House Museum it is today.  Room by room they have restored much of the castle to what it most likely looked like in the Dunsmuir’s time, sometimes even finding original furnishings or artwork at auction.

castle tower

room in the tower

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2014
Posted in Day Trips, Port Cities | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Skiff Tours from the Wilderness Adventurer

cruise ship at anchor

on the skiff looking at Wilderness Adventurer

When taking a cruise on one of the big ships, any excursions at port stops cost extra.  Sailing with Un-Cruise Adventures has a great advantage there – the ship often has activities included with the cruise provided where it stops.  Often the options include skiff tours.  What, people who have never sailed with Un-Cruise may wonder, is a skiff tour?  Passengers board one of the inflatable boats the larger ship hauls around and this smaller boat takes them through the surrounding area to view whatever sights the area has to see.  On the Wilderness Adventurer‘s Washington Coastal Cruise, this often included wildlife both above and below the water….and sometimes in the air.

inflatable boat

skiff heading out for a tour of the surrounding area

Anchored in scenic Quilcene Bay between Port Townsend and Marrowstone Island, the morning’s activity choices included a hike on Marrowstone Island passing through historic Fort Flagler, Kayaking around the bay, or a skiff tour of the area. At dinner the previous night passengers signed up for either the hike or kayaking. Unsure of what weather the morning would bring, we asked if we could wait until morning to choose.

blue heron


Morning brought clouds and a few sprinkles, but no rain. We initially said kayak, but then when they brought up the skiff tour option I noticed our names at the top of the list – apparently someone had put us there as we hadn’t chosen either of the other options the previous night. We were also at the end of the kayak list, but decided to go with skiff.  John said he would rather paddle around deception pass the next day.  Since he had to paddle on his own this trip with me just a passenger due to my inability to paddle with a broken elbow l just went kayaking once this trip, but that’s another story to tell some other day.

harbour seal

harbor seal sunning on a rock

The skiff tour took us near the island on a wildlife spotting expedition. We passed over a sandbar where we could see to the bottom of the clear shallow water. Clam shells scattered the sand between rocks and clumps of seagrass. A Dungeness crab scuttled by. Nearby a metal tower marking a reef stood high above the water, the top crowded with cormorants. The domed tops of numerous round little heads with dark eyes poked out of the water. Now and then an entire head popped up, sometimes followed by the body, fins, and tail of a harbor seal.

funny little seabirds

pigeon guillemots

We had the great fortune to be accompanied by a passenger knowledgeable about birds who could identify whatever we saw including a rhinoceros auklet. Many pigeon guillemots frolicked around the boat, their red legs standing out against their black and white bodies whenever they took off from the water. A lone blue heron slept atop a pole. Two bald eagles sat on a nearby beach. They took flight, rustling up a flock of seagulls. The flock squawked and flew circles around them until they returned with a third eagle in tow.

wild raccoon

raccoon finding food

We took another skiff tour at Deception pass and saw raccoons on the beach. The first one ran across the beach and into the woods looking like it had just finished a swim. The second one stayed at the water’s edge, foraging in the shallow water and turning over rocks hunting for things like small crabs.

long legged seabird


Other wildlife spotted included black oystercatchers, small shorebirds with black bodies and long red beaks. We also saw a harbor seal, seagulls, eagles, and some more of the pigeon guillemots.


bald eagle

The islands around Deception pass greatly resemble the San Juans, including the dry side with sparser vegetation and madrona trees and the wet side with the thicker darker forest filled with thick underbrush.  In Canada they call the madrona trees  arbutus, which is part of their Latin name – Arbutus Menziesii.

star fish

purple starfish

On the Lopez Island skiff tour we saw turkey vultures, bald eagles, a bald eagle nest, starfish, more pigeon guillemots and harbor seals, deer, lots of madrona trees, some kelp, beach pines, little coves with beaches between rock cliffs, and an old guy with an old truck at his home or cabin near the shore.

Ryan McNamee took this great video which gives a good overview of the adventures on this cruise.

 Copyright My Cruise Stories 2014
Posted in Un-Cruise Adventures, Washington, Wilderness Adventurer | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Healthy Buckwheat Cookies

In a family full of people on special diets, I needed to come up with a desert recipe for a group trip that anyone there could eat.  Something gluten free, dairy free, low sugar, no chocolate, no peanuts and no almonds.  And of course it still had to taste good.  This cookie recipe is very adaptable.  Ingredients can be substituted pretty much at will to make it fit either the diets of the people who are going to eat it or the availability of ingredients in the cupboard.  They look like chocolate cookies, but the dark color comes from buckwheat flour and dates.  I brought these cookies (made with sunflower butter, coconut, and craisins) to the family gathering and they were a hit.  Even the people not on special diets loved them.

healthy cookies

Buckwheat Cookies with Coconut and Craisins

Buckwheat Cookie Ingredients

1 1/4 cup chopped dates or figs

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 tablespoon vegetable oil if desired

2 eggs

1/2 cup almond butter, peanut butter, sunflower seed butter, or other nut or seed butter of choice

2-3 Tablespoons brown sugar if desired when cookies are not for people with sugar limits

1 cup buckwheat flour

1/2 cup tapioca flour

1/2 cup quinoa flour (other flours such as sorghum can substitute for the quinoa)

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 cups flaked or shredded coconut or 1 cup gluten free oatmeal

1-2 cups any one or combination of the following: craisins, raisins, nuts, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips or other add-in of choice

Buckwheat Cookie Directions

If you have a blender or food processor that will grind dry grains, it helps to grind the dates prior to adding other ingredients.  If you don’t then just skip that step.

Puree dates with applesauce and honey in blender or food processor.   Oil too if you are adding any.  Blend in eggs.  Pour mixture into a mixing bowl.

Add brown sugar (if using any) and nut butter, all flours, salt, vanilla, baking powder and baking soda.  Mix together with electric mixer until all ingredients are completely blended.

Stir in coconut or oatmeal and other add in(s) of choice by hand.

Cover bowl and chill in refrigerator for at least half an hour and up two or three days.

Bake cookies on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper in 350 degree oven for 13-15 minutes.

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Memories of a Cruise Ship Doctor Part 3 – The “Seasick” Passenger

float plane in Alaska

Passengers evacuate on bigger planes than this

Sometimes people get sick on cruise ships.  Each ship has a doctor on board to serve both passengers and crew.  Dr. Len Kreisler spent four years working as a ship’s physician for Regent Lines who ran five 1960’s era ships until going bankrupt in 1995. Dr.Len included a chapter about his experiences as a cruise ship physician called What Ship, What Cabin, and Doctor Who? in his book ROLL THE DICE, PICK A DOC AND HOPE FOR THE BEST.  This is an excerpt from his book.

a lifetime of doctor memories in a book

Dr. Len Kreisler’s book

I had office hours from 8:00 to 10:00 AM, after which I saw crew members.  I also had scheduled office hours in the late afternoon from 4:00 to 6:00 PM.  My nurse and I were available 24/7 and took turns on call nights and during port stops.  We had approximately 900 passengers and an equal number of crew.  Many passengers were upset to learn that medical care was not covered in the cost of the cruise.  A visit or cabin call carried a base price, medications, tests, and extra time cost extra.  I considered the fee schedule reasonable.  Nevertheless some passengers would forego medical care to save money.  It never made sense to me.  They’re spending thousands of dollars on a vacation, why stint on medical care?  Go figure human priorities.  (Um, I did not see the cruise ship doctor when I had swine flu on a cruise.)

The demands for passenger medical services were usually minimal unless we hit stormy weather.  Taking care of the crew could be demanding in time, communication, medical emergencies and social interactions.  One had to be ready for all types of situations.

My wife and I boarded the Regent Sun in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and settled in for a 10 day cruise.  The first port was San Juan, Puerto Rico.  The seas became a little rough as we started our two day run to San Juan.  I got a request for a cabin visit.  A wife suspected her husband was reacting poorly to the rolling and pitching of the ship.  The nurse asked the wife if she would consider bringing the husband down to the medical clinic to avoid the extra charge of visiting their cabin.  No, she wanted us to come up, and as soon as possible.

The poor man was sitting in bed, whiter than his sheets.  He appeared confused about time and place, and was having trouble focusing as I introduced myself.  It didn’t take long to determine he was experiencing double vision, difficulty in coordinating his arm movements and was not able to carry on a logical conversation.  I took the wife aside and asked about his medical history since this was not a characteristic picture of motion sickness.

Turns out he was diagnosed with lung cancer a few months prior to this cruise.  His doctor had made him “more comfortable” prior to their sailing by removing a few quarts of liquid from his chest…she matter-of-factly volunteered.  GREAT!  I would have liked having his doctor on board so he could take care of this man who, in my opinion, should have never been allowed to go on this cruise.

I informed the wife what she should have known (maybe she was told and chose to ignore it?) Her husband had lung cancer in various parts of his body (including metastases to brain) which caused his current problems; not motion sickness.  I outlined a plan for trying to make her husband more comfortable during the next two days at sea.  She would then have two options when we got to San Juan.

I told her we could move him to one of our two beds in the medical department, or we could start treatment in the cabin and see how he did with periodic visits.  The nurse outlined the fees she could expect, and we got signed agreements for everything.  She opted for the cabin trial.

We started intravenous fluids, patched one eye for visual comfort and gave him medication for nausea.  I then took an educated guess: I figured his mental status was probably due in some degree to brain inflammation and swelling caused by the metastatic lung cancer.  I added sizeable amounts of cortisone to his intravenous fluids with the hope of decreasing reactive brain inflammation.  The nurse and I drew up a schedule for cabin visits and availability for possible emergencies.  I informed the Captain and Hotel Manager.  It was fine with them as long as it did not divert or disrupt the ship’s planned itinerary.

By the next morning I was ready to light a candle and make a donation.  The man was remarkably better.  I humbly accepted the praises and thanks of the wife, while I crossed my fingers and toes, with the hope he would remain improved long enough to get on a plane in San Juan and head home.

Her two options, once we got to San Juan, were to board a commercial flight and head home (if we could get seats), or check into a local hospital and make arrangements from there.  God smiled.  She was a travel agent and arranged for two first class seats.  A private charter would have cost over $20,000.  We assisted with the transfer to the airport, and arranged for medical care upon their New York arrival.  I asked if she could drop me a note about their trip back.  I never heard from her, but fellow passengers for the remainder of the cruise told me they got word they had made it back okay and appreciated the care given aboard ship.

More stories from Dr. Len:

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Hanging Towel Monkey with Open Mouth

How To Fold a Towel Monkey

how to fold a towel monkey

hanging towel monkey with open mouth

Supplies Needed for Hanging Towel Monkey

1 bath towel          1 hand towel           decorations           hangings

How to Fold a Hanging Towel Monkey Body

towel art

roll one side of the bath towel to the center from the short end

The hanging towel monkey uses the standard towel animal body.  Lay bath towel flat and roll both ends to the center from the short sides.

towel art

roll the other end to the center for two equal rolls

Fold rolled towel in half with the rolls to the outside.  Pull the tip out of the center of each roll.

towel animal folding instructions

make sure to pull the tips out far enough that you can hold onto them

With one hand holding the tips from both ends of one roll, and the other hand holding the tips of both ends of the other roll, pull tips of all 4 rolls until rolls pull into legs of towel animal body.

directions on towel animal folding

get a good hold on the tips with each hand on both ends of one roll

If you lack the hand strength to pull the whole thing at once, pull as much as you can to get it started and then use one hand on each end of the same roll to pull one side at a time.

towel creations

when the rolls are pulled far enough the towel looks like an animal body

To hang the monkey, either use two clothespins to pin the arms to a hanger, or tie a string around the ends of both arms and hang it over a curtain rod, hook, or whatever is available to tie it to.

creative towel folding

the body has to hang before adding the head because the arms keep the head in place

How To Fold An Open-Mouthed Monkey Head

hanging towel monkey

Fold a towel in half across the short side.

Fold the hand towel in half across the short side.

how to make towel animals

Make the second fold so that the open edges are at the top of the towel.  Open edges here are both at the top of the photo and sitting on the top of the folded towel.  The open edges will be upper lips,  If the open edges are on the underside of the towel at this point they come out as lower lips.

Fold in half again.  You have several options depending on how you want the finished monkey head to look.  The open edges on the short end will always be where you fold your triangle points.  If they are on the top side of the towel, they will be the top lips on the finished head.  If they are on the bottom side of the towel, they will end up as the bottom lips.  Then you can decide if you want to open the mouth between the two open edges so that the towel hem makes a lip, or for a wider open mouth you can leave those edges together and open between folds so one lip is both open ends together and the other is a folded edge .

making a towel monkey

The open edges are folded across the towel in this triangle.  Because they were on top before folding the triangles, they will end up as upper lips when this head is done.

Fold one side over from center to form a triangle.

towel monkey head

The open edges now face each other in the center.  They are now under folded edges and will come out as upper lips.

towel monkey options

Here the open edges started out on the underside of the towel so are now on top. They will end up as lower lips.

Fold the other side over from center to form a second triangle.

now for the tricky part

fold the top triangles to the back, away from each other so the open edges that were at the center are on the outside once the two smaller triangles are folded together

the art of making towel animals

Folded into a small triangle with open edges on the outside.  This one will have the open edges as lower lips.

Fold the two triangles into one with the back sides together and the open ends on the outside of the center fold.

origami towel folding

Fold down the corners of the loose ends of both sides of the triangle so there are no points sticking up.

towel monkey head

the head does not hold its shape on its own, but the monkey’s arms will hold it together once it gets tucked between them

Fold down corners on both sides of triangle.

folding a towel monkey like on a cruise ship

you can open the mouth between the open ends so the towel edges look like lips whether they are on the top or on the bottom like this one

Open folds at rounded end to create mouth.

smiling monkey

mouth opened between the open ends

towel monkey mouth choiced

mouth with open ends as lower lip opened between folds with open ends together

towel monkey mouth

mouth with open ends as upper lip and folded edge as lower lip

how to make a towel monkey

mouth with open edges as upper lips, but opened between the layers on the open end

Use felt or red paper to make a tongue that highlights the open mouth.

hanging towel monkey

add a tongue and eyes and place head between the monkey’s arms

 Finishing the Hanging Towel Monkey

making a towel monkey

head tucked into the arms

Tuck head between raised arms of hanging body.   Add eyes (googly eyes, or eyes made of paper or felt) or sunglasses.  Add any other decorations desired, such as the pom pom nose on this monkey.  Adjust body and legs to keep center as closed as possible.

how to fold cruise ship towel animals

finished towel monkey

For a completely different option on how to make the head for an open-mouthed towel monkey, check out this video with Bagus from MSC Divina, who has his own way to make a towel monkey with an open mouth.

For instructions on how to fold all sorts of other towel animals, please visit My Cruise Stories Towel Animal Page.

copyright My Cruise Stories 2014


Posted in Towel Animals | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments