Deception Pass

anchored near Deception Pass

Wilderness Adventurer at Deception Pass

On an Un-Cruise Adventures Washington Coastal Cruise, the Wilderness Adventurer sailed under the Deception Pass Bridge into a peaceful cove.  Currents at Deception Pass can get a bit wild, so the captain had to time the coming and going under the bridge according to the tides and currents.  The bridge was built in the 1930’s and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.  Repainting the bridge in later decades cost more than building it did originally.

boating near Deception Pass

Heading toward the Deception Pass Bridge

Following a tasty breakfast on board anchored not far from the bridge, passengers grouped for the morning’s activities. Choices included a guided kayaking trip, an all-day hike in the forest, a morning jaunt on a forest trail, or a short nature walk on a paved path. We picked the medium-length hike, labeled as the Hoypus Forest Jaunt.

arriving at Deception Pass State Park

On a dry beach landing you go straight from boat to beach without getting wet feet

We landed on a beach at Hoypus Point in Deception Pass State Park. Quite the perfect spot for a landing as a couple stairs led from the beach to the trail.

random stairs

stairs from the beach to the trail

Someone from a drier state commented on how they couldn’t believe how green everything is in Western Washington. That’s what plentiful rainfall will do.  It’s not that far in miles from the Olympic rainforest where we hiked in a downpour the other day to Deception pass, but the difference in annual rainfall is distant.  There are a lot of microclimates on and near the Olympic Peninsula.  Where Hoodsport gets around 70-90 inches of rain, the much drier Deception Pass area on Whidbey Island only gets about 20-26, which is about half the amount of rain Seattle gets each year.

traihead sign

Trail Sign

We hiked a loop around a forest trail. This area still has some massive old growth trees, which is defined as anything older than 200 years.  Even old growth trees here don’t grow as big as in some other places because the islands are mainly rock.

old growth tree

old growth trees are not as big here as in some places

Stinging nettles lined both sides of the trail at the start of the hike, which definitely encourages people to stay on the trail to avoid getting stung. Further into the forest ferns and huckleberry bushes dominated the underbrush.   It’s nice that ferns often grow near nettles because fern juice can ease the itching of an accidental nettle sting.  The trees mainly consisted of douglas fir, spruce, and hemlock.  They are all evergreens, but have differences in the bark and needles.

it's not really cabbage

skunk cabbage

Eventually our trail joined up with the paved path to take us back to the beach. Little daisies grew alongside the path and in wetter areas we found skunk cabbage.   Not all flowers smell sweet and skunk cabbage is aptly named.  It mainly grows in swampy areas, but here was in a drainage ditch. The paved path ran along the water’s edge and in places offered a nice view of the bridge between the trees.

hiking at Deception Pass

hiking through the woods on the Hoypus Trail

The paved path is actually an access road for park personnel. A truck came down the path and stopped before the narrower trail leading to the beach where we landed. A fisheries guy with rubber boots and a fish net walked along the beach parallel to the trail. When we arrived at the beach we saw him at the water’s edge dipping his net.

Deception Pass Bridge

view of the bridge from the trail

A few curious people wandered down and found out he was a fish counter from the state fisheries department. Lots of tiny pink salmon fry bunched up near the gravelly beach there. They hatch in a nearby river and make their way into the salt water. Then they hang out near the beach for a few weeks to grow and mature before heading out to sea. They stay in the shallows because the things that want to eat them need a bit deeper water. One of the reasons natural growth areas with trees to shade the shallow water is so important to the survival of native fish runs.

banana slug

banana slugs are native to the area

Deception Pass State Park is a very popular place, but it also sprawls out over 134 acres, mainly on Whidbey Island.  It has a campground, picnic area, and 38 miles of hiking trails.  We did not see many other park visitors on the trail we took so it seemed remote.  Deception Pass was named by early explorers who initially thought they had found a bay by a peninsula rather than a pass by an island.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Shore Excursions, Un-Cruise Adventures, Washington, Wilderness Adventurer | Tagged , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

How To Fold a Washcloth Mouse

How To Make a Washcloth Mouse

folding washcloth animals

Washcloth Mouse

Supplies Needed to Fold a Washcloth Mouse



Decorations (whiskers, tail)

How To Fold a Washcloth Mouse

how to make a washcloth mouse

fold washcloth in half diagonally

Lay washcloth flat.  Fold in half diagonally.

washcloth origami

fold corners across straight edge

Fold one corner to center of folded edge, followed by opposite corner.

washcloth art

fold straight edge over once

Fold over long edge.

washcloth animal folding instructions

fold washcloth into equal halves.

Fold washcloth in half with previous folds on the outside.

how to fold a washcloth mouse

pull tips of the corners out from under the folded edge

Bring tips of each of the corners out from under the folded edge for ears.

towel animal folding instructions

hold mouse at center fold to keep it together while shaping ears

Shape the corner tips into ears.

washcloth origami

the mouse would work better with a thinner washcloth

Fold top part down flush with sides.

how to fold a washcloth into a mouse

use your fingers to shape the head and eye sockets

Secure with rubber band.  Shape ears, face, and eye spaces as desired.

towel mouse

finished washcloth mouse with pipecleaner tail

Add eyes.  If desired decorate with nose, whiskers and/or tail.

If you would like to know how to fold other towel animals, please visit My Cruise Stories Towel Animal Page.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
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Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

sugared bread croutons are optional

chocolate chip bread pudding topped with toasted croutons and vanilla sauce

One of the most popular recipes on my blog is Carnival Cruise’s Bitter & Blanc Brioche Bread Pudding.  While no doubt it is delicious, it is also difficult and time consuming to make.  This is my own recipe for Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding, which if made with a white bread (especially if you can find brioche) it tastes a lot like the bitter and blanc.  This recipe is very easy to make.  Brioche is not readily available where I live so I use sourdough and it comes out quite nice.  Top with the optional croutons to make it more like the bitter and blanc if desired.

add sauce before serving

Black and White bread pudding

This recipe stands up well on its own and doesn’t have to taste anything like the bitter and blanc in order to taste good.  By using half white bread and half dark bread I’ve made a variation I call Black and White bread pudding.  For that I used sourdough and sweet dark bread, but any good white and dark breads would work.  Use good bread when making bread pudding because the pudding is only as good as the bread used to make it.

I use the bigger dark chocolate chips called dark chocolate morsels, but you could also use regular sized dark chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Serve bread pudding warm topped with warm vanilla sauce.

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

Bread Pudding Ingredients

3 eggs

big chocolate chips

dark chocolate morsels

2  1/2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1  1/4 cups milk

2 tablespoons butter, melted

6 slices bread, cubed

3/4 cup dark chocolate morsels

 Bread Pudding Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (F).  Grease casserole dish or baking pan.

Beat eggs with whisk in mixing bowl.  Stir in sugars and milk.  Slowly pour in melted butter while whisking constantly.  Stir bread cubes in with spoon until thoroughly coated with egg mixture.  Stir in chocolate morsels and pour into prepared pan.  Bake 50-60 minutes in 375 degree oven.  Serve warm with vanilla sauce.  If using optional croutons, top with croutons before adding the vanilla sauce.  Makes 6-8 servings.


Vanilla Sauce

Vanilla Sauce Ingredients

2/3 cup milk

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 tablespoon cornstarch

1 egg

2 teaspoons vanilla

 Vanilla Sauce Directions

Whisk milk, sugar, cornstarch and egg together in saucepan.  Cook over medium heat whisking constantly until sauce thickens.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Serve warm over warm bread pudding.

Optional Croutons

bread pudding with sugared croutons

top the bread pudding with the croutons before adding vanilla sauce

To make the optional toasted bread croutons, cut bread into desired crouton size pieces.  Roll each crouton in sugar and spread them out on a pan.  Bake at 250 degrees (F) for 25 minutes or until bread is dry, turning once.  Broil until toasted lightly then flip over and broil other side.  Top individual servings of bread pudding with a few croutons before adding the vanilla sauce.


Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
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Beer Guzzling Pigs of St. Croix

US Virgin Islands

Carnival Splendor in St. Croix

When the Carnival Splendor stopped at St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, we took one of the random taxi tours often available near cruise ship piers.  This tour had a stop at a bar with a very unique attraction.  On a narrow country road winding uphill through the rainforest, our driver pulled over at a small unassuming local bar with a sign that said Mt. Pellier Hut Domino Club.  Here, he said, they had pigs that guzzle beer.  Only it was too early in the day and they had no pigs available to perform at the time.  The guide mentioned the possibility of stopping back by later.

gecko in St. Croix

gecko on the sign in front of the bar

He proceeded to take us on a tour around the island.  After visiting a number of places we stopped at a rum distillery, which costs $7 to get in and includes a couple of drinks. Nobody in the van seemed particularly interested in the distillery tour so our guide offered to take anyone who did not wish to participate back to the ship while the others went on the tour. John, Tina, Justin, and I were the only ones who did not get right back in the van.  When informed that Justin (who is 12) could not take the tour he went back with the folks. The 3 of us stayed not because we cared about the distillery tour, but because we really wanted to see pigs drink beer.  We hoped he would take us back to the first stop once he returned from dropping the rest of the people off back at the ship.

home of the beer guzzling pigs

Mt Pellier Hut bar sign

The driver left and we paid for the distillery tour which we thought we would take while waiting for our driver to return.  After collecting the money they said a tour had just started and it would be awhile before the next one began.  They said people sometimes just collect their drinks and opt out of the tour.   You could not, however, have drinks while waiting for the tour because you could not go on the tour after having drinks.

Cruzan Rum on St. Croix

waiting area at the rum factory

As more time passed we all decided we were not going to have enough time left to see the pigs if we took the distillery tour.  Since we would rather see the pigs than take the tour we got our drinks (mine virgin) and waited for the guide to return.  The next tour started just a few minutes before he got back so had we gone we probably would not have gotten to see the beer drinking pigs.  As soon as he got back we piled back in the van and took the long way back to the ship via the little bar in the rainforest.

pig wants a beer

A pig waits for a beer while the bar girl tells Tina what to do

It cost $1 to watch, $2 for a beer for the pigs, and $3 to take a video. We paid our dollars and each bought a beer for the pigs.  John paid the extra $3 to video. A bartender, or possibly the owner of the place, led us across the parking lot to an enclosure on the other side with 4 stalls.  3 stalls held one pig each, though one was a small potbellied pig to short to perform. The other two stood up on their hind legs with their front legs on the wall when offered a beer.

pig with a can of beer

pig drinking beer

They take an unopened can right out of a person’s hand and open it with their teeth, chugging it and chomping the can as they go. When done they spit out an empty flattened can. When asked how the meat tastes, the lady said the pigs are pets and they don’t eat them. The pig show is well worth the low price even if the beer is of the non-alcoholic sort.

Even though we took the scenic route back to see the pigs our guide got us back to the ship with plenty of time to spare for browsing through the shopping booths and taking photos of the ship from various places on shore.  Frederikstad had a number of little booths set up along the waterfront across the street from permanent stores.

Frederikstad St. Croix

shopping in Frederiksted

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Caribbean, Carnival, Ports of Call, Shore Excursions, Splendor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Saint Croix Island Tour

cruise ship docked in Saint Croix

Carnival Splendor in St. Croix

Things to do in St Croix

When traveling with a group that ranges from 12 to 90 in age as we did on the Carnival Splendor, planning shore excursions that are appropriate and enjoyable for all can pose a challenge.  St. Croix is a lesser-often visited port and does not have as large of a selection of shore excursions as some of the more commonly visited ports. We didn’t see anything suitable for everyone that jumped out and said “We must do this” from the shore excursions offered there. Prior to the cruise I did a bit of research online and discovered that likely we would find something to do if we just got off the boat and walked to the end of the pier.  Doing things on your own sometimes also saves money over booking excursions at every port.


crazy caterpillar by an old church in Christiansted

While walking to the end of the pier a couple groups on official shore excursions from the ship passed us by, one headed out to go diving and the other on a walking tour through the town.  The people on those tours probably had a great time, but neither would have been a suitable tour for our group as none of us are certified divers and one has limited walking abilities.  Other shore excursions offered at Saint Croix include sailing, snorkeling, kayaking, biking, and sight-seeing,

St Croix, US Virgin Islands

roadside view in St Croix

Sure enough when we finally reached the end of the pier we found locals with signs offering shuttles to a variety of places like beaches or a town on the other side of the island and a little booth with a couple choices for island tours. Just beyond the port gates a number of portable booths held all manner of things for sale, including Larimar jewelry at very good prices.  A few more yards walk led to the town of Fredericksted with many more booths where locals hawked their wares along the shore.  The other side of the street had permanent shops.  It’s nice to visit a place in its native state with local stores rather than the usual sterile cruise ship port with the same stores as every other port.

beach on St Croix

beach by the cruise ship dock

People flocked to a beach next to the pier, which seems to have a lot of good reviews online.  The driver on the tour we chose advised avoiding that beach.  He said it was not the cleanest beach around as that one sometimes has issues with sewer drainage emptying there when St Croix’s aging sewer system is under repair or having problems.

St Croix Island Tour

The booth offering island tours had one that went around a large portion of the island including the other town, Christiansted for just $25 per person.  Another stayed in the local area and included things like a botanical garden. They said the longer tour was the better deal as besides being longer it had less places that required an additional admittance fee.

tree with giant pods

Justin points out the large pea-like pods on a tree at the resort where we stopped

We drove through a rainforest on winding narrow 2 lane roads with potholes that go unfilled because much of the money sent to the US Virgin Islands goes to St. Thomas, which is smaller, but more visited by tourists than St. Croix.  The driver was pretty good at dodging the potholes, something he’d obviously had a lot of practice doing.  He pointed out Cane Beach, which he said had the best snorkeling in all of the Caribbean. I’m assuming he meant shore snorkeling by that.  In the rainforest we saw interesting trees like breadfruit and one that they use the fruits for medicinal purposes.  He liked to pull over in random spots to point out the things that grew there.

beach on St Croix

palapa on the beach where Columbus landed

We made a brief stop at Mt. Pellier Hut, home of the beer guzzling pigs.  They weren’t open yet so we came back later, but that story is in another blog.

historic church

St John’s Episcopal Church, the oldest church in St Croix

Chickens ran free in many of the island’s yards. At one point a mongoose ran across the road and one of the passengers asked what they eat. “Chickens and eggs,” the driver said.

“What about snakes?” someone asked.

“There are no snakes on the island,” the driver replied. “Mongoose were brought here to eat the snakes and now they are the snakes.” (By that he meant they were introduced to solve a snake problem, but now have become a chicken raiding problem themselves since there are no more snakes for them to eat.)

historic beach on St Croix

sign on the beach where Columbus landed

After a pit stop at a lovely resort we went on to see the beach where Christopher Columbus landed on his second voyage to the Caribbean.  A bird of unknown species wandered slowly through the sand, which was flecked with bits of dead coral that had washed up on the beach.

beach in St Croix

bird on the beach

Something that looked like some sort of shredded bark lined the water’s edge.  I have no idea what it was, possibly some sort of seaweed or something.  The beach had a couple palapas and some palm trees.  We saw a random dog wandering about the beach with its owner, the first of many random dogs we saw throughout this cruise.  They were the only ones there not on our tour, so it looked like a good place to go for anyone looking for a beach away from crowds.


random dog on the beach


US Virgin Islands

Christiansted, St. Croix

We had an hour in Christiansted, a town on the far side of the island.  It is larger than Frederickstad and the only other city on the 82 square mile island.  People were free to shop or explore or visit the beach.  On the way into town we had passed the island’s oldest church, built in the 1700’s.  My mother and I hiked back up to the church to take some photos.  While there saw some speedy little geckos who really did not want their picture taken and a bigger lizard who not only stayed still, but even puffed out a big yellow ruff under its chin.  As a bonus on the way back down to the main part of town we found two more old churches and some huge crazy looking caterpillars.

larimar blue Caribbean stone

larimar bracelets from St Croix

Reasonably priced Larimar jewelry could be found in the jewelry shop there.  Some of the booths near the ship had considerably cheaper larimar jewelry, but not in as professional of settings.  Larimar is mined only in the Dominican Republic.  Jewelry stores around the Caribbean have larimar jewelry, but usually at a much higher price.  On islands near the Dominican Republic such as the Virgin Islands or Grand Turk locals make very affordable larimar jewelry.  Besides the lovely blue color, larimar is claimed to have healing properties.

lizard in St Croix

lizard at the old church in Christiansted

On the way back to the ship we stopped at a rum factory.  Nobody on the van really wanted to tour the factory, but as the driver had mentioned stopping back by the bar with the beer guzzling pigs on the return trip a few of us chilled in the waiting area there while the driver took the rest of them back to the ship.  We would have done the tour if they had started right away, but by the time they were ready to go the driver was back so we went off to see the pigs instead.

local craft booths on St Croix

shopping booths at the pier

 Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Caribbean, Carnival, Port Cities, Ports of Call, Shore Excursions, Splendor | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Carnival Legend

Carnival Legend

Carnival Legend at Circular Quay

The Legend dwarfed all the other ships at Circular Quay in Sydney

Carnival Legend has joined her sister ship, the Spirit, in sailing out of Sydney, Australia.  Unlike the Spirit who stays in Australia year-round, the Legend spends just part of the year there.  It works out well since the southern hemisphere’s summer season for Australia comes during the northern hemisphere’s winter and cruises from Seattle where the Legend will spend the summer cruising to Alaska are seasonal.

Sydney trains

Sydney has excellent public transportation. You can take a train from Sydney’s suburbs or the airport to Circular Quay where the ship docks.

To book an Australian cruise on the Legend (or Spirit), visit, and for Carnival cruises out of America go to

Sydney Harbor view

Sydney Opera House from the deck of the Legend

The Legend is a Spirit Class ship, built in Finland and launched December 17, 2001.  It was delivered to Carnival on August 14, 2002 and has Panamanian registration.  The Legend has 12 decks, and was the first Carnival ship to offer alternative dining and a wedding chapel.

cruise ship decor

The theme for the decor on the Legend is legends. The stairways had paintings or sculptures in the center and vases in glass cases on the sides.

Ship Facts:

Gross Tonnage – 88,500
Guest Capacity – 2124 (2,680 at max capacity)
Length – 963 feet
Beam 105.6 feet
Draft 25.5 feet
Crew – 930
Speed 22 knots cruising speed, 24 max
Engines – 6 diesel electric
Designer – Joseph Farcus
Décor – legends

fast slide on a cruise ship

It’s a long climb to the top of the green thunder waterslide.

The Legend undertook a major drydock in 2014 with refurbishing for the season in Australia where $47 million dollar Aussification improvements included additions like the green thunder waterslide, an enhanced gym, and some of Carnival’s 2.0 upgrades such as the Red Frog Pub which serves as a gathering place for things like trivia games as well as a place to buy drinks.  It does not have the pub grub food menu found on ships like the Breeze though.

Carnival's green thunder water slide

when sliding down you get to the bottom of the green thunder slide almost before you realize you left the top

The green thunder waterslide is quite different from any other cruise ship waterslide I’ve seen.  At the top you step into a little enclosed capsule.  You stand there and then all of a sudden the bottom drops out from under your feet and you whoosh down the slide so fast you are at the end practically before you even knew the ride began.  The ship also has a yellow waterslide and a children’s splash park with small waterslides.

water slides for kids

The children’s splash park has little waterslides.

The spa on the legend does not have a hydrotherapy mineral pool or heated ceramic chairs, but the locker rooms in the spa/gym area have a sauna and steam room available for free and use of the hot tub in the gym area is free as well.  The spa offers a range of treatments from haircuts and facials to a wide variety of body treatments and massages.  Spa appointments cost extra, but use of the gym is free.  The gym has a variety of fitness equipment including treadmills, exercise bikes, and elliptical cross trainers.

Red Frog Pub

First person in the Red Frog Pub each cruise gets a free drink.

Legend Australia Dining Room Dress Code

Regular nights – No cut-off jeans, men’s sleeveless shirts, gym or basketball shorts, baseball hats, flip-flops or bathing suit attire.

Elegant Nights – In addition to the above, no jeans, shorts, t-shirts or sportswear.

Carnival Australia’s dining times start a bit earlier than on Carnival ships in America with your time dining running from 5:30 to 9:00 and standard dining times with early seating at 5:30 and late at 7:45.

Carnival Australia has a Mexican Fiesta theme night where guests are encouraged to come to the dining room dressed in Mexican or Caribbean style clothing. The menu that night is Mexican food with dessert choices that include a chocolate chipotle pudding which is definitely worth ordering.  It resembles a fancier version of Carnival’s signature dessert, the chocolate melting cake.

Aussification of the Legend

they should have this on all the ships

The pie station – an excellent addition to the Lido.

Food differences include some unique menu items in the dining room and a Pies and Snags station on the Lido which serves meat pies, sausages, and the best French fries onboard.  The Lido also had trays with packets of Vegemite available with the breakfast condiments.  If you ‘re not Australian and you haven’t tried Vegemite consider yourself lucky.  It’s probably something you have to grow up with to like it.

upscale restaurant on a cruise ship

Looking in on Nouveau from above through the funnel

The Legend’s upscale pay-extra restaurant resides in the funnel, accessed by a glass stairway from the Lido Buffet.  In Australia it was called Nouveau.  For the Australian sailings they also added a pay-extra seafood restaurant called Freshie’s to one of the outside grills at the end of the Lido Buffet by the pool.

Another food difference involved milk on the Lido, which on most ships is found in cartons at breakfast.  The Legend had no milk in cartons, but instead had milk dispensers available all day on the Lido, probably because Aussies tend to like milk in their tea and coffee.

cruise ship casino

The Legend’s Club Merlin Casino is decorated in medieval style. In Australia the Casino is smoke free.

Some things are done differently at Carnival Australia.  It’s too bad some of the changes like no smoking anywhere inside the ship including the casino and free water dispensers on every bar aren’t done on all the ships.  Both are due to Australian law though.

self serve passenger laundry

Like all of Carnival’s ships, the Legend has launderetts on some passenger decks. No coins needed, just the sail & sign card.

When booking on Carnival Australia, the tips are incorporated into the cruise price because Australians are not accustomed to American style tipping.  They don’t tend to tip at all so some areas of service are a bit lax since the crew is not working for tips.  We had excellent service in the dining room, but our waiter knew we were Americans.  He gave us super speedy service on days we had somewhere to go right after dinner and asked for it.  And yes, we did leave him a good tip the last day.  The stateroom service was acceptable, but not quite up to the standards of Carnival America where the stewards know that outstanding service brings better tips.  In fact our steward seemed quite surprised to receive a tip at all since that is not the Aussie custom.

Legend Atrium

The Atrium, found at the center of the ship.

On Carnival America the room service is always free.  Most Americans will give the delivery person a few bucks tip.  In Australia the room service costs money because those employees live mainly off tips on ships sailing out of America and Aussies aren’t used to tipping.

cruise ship pool

One of two swimming pools on the Legend’s Lido deck

Carnival Australia does not sell alcohol packages because Aussie law prevents promoting alcohol.  They don’t have a sail-away party because people didn’t participate when they tried it.  Leaving Sydney provides such spectacular views that people are most likely too busy taking great photos of Sydney’s landmark bridge and opera house or even of the city skyline to attend a party as the ship pulls out of the harbour.

things to do on a cruise ship

There’s lots to do on cruise ships. The Legend’s activities include mini-golf.

While in Australia the ship uses local comedians in the Punchliner comedy theater.  One said he lived in New Zealand, but most came from Australia.  Our whole group including my 3 and 5 year old grandchildren really enjoyed the early evening family friendly comedy shows.  Later in the evening they have adults only performances.

there's always something to do on a cruise ship

giant chess set on the Lido deck

Cruising out of Australia, the differences aren’t just in the ship or the food.  Some tend more to follow the attitudes of the people.  One of the entertainment staff said the games are sometimes hard to get going because everyone wants to watch someone else so nobody wants to go first.  Once a game gets going people seemed to join in though.

Carnival's ship on a stick trophy

ship on a stick

Winning any games revealed one big difference – you had to win two medals to trade for a ship on a stick rather than winning a ship on a stick outright, which the guy running the games said was because it was hard to get the ship on a stick trophies there so they had to use them sparingly.  In general though the crew like the Aussie attitude because they are more laid back and don’t complain or expect compensation for every little thing that goes wrong – and of course since they are not expecting tips anyway the crew is more relaxed (and a bit more lax as well.)

chapel decor

The Legend has a lot of intricate tile patterns in the decor.

We were quite surprised to find different rules involving things passengers can bring onboard.  Power strips are a common item many cruise passengers normally bring since a lot of the ships have just one outlet in the room. On the Legend out of Australia they confiscated ours and left a note saying it was a prohibited item that we could have back at the end of the cruise.  A crew member said they consider it a fire hazard, but had no idea if that is due to the different power voltage since she was unaware people use them all the time on cruise ships in the USA. They also confiscate things like walkie talkies because of interference with the ones the crew use. Passengers accustomed to bringing a couple bottles of wine on board will find that gets confiscated as well since it is not allowed on Carnival Australia.

peace and quiet

Escape from the kids on the adults-only Serenity deck

We had a great time on the Legend.  Cruising is starting to become quite popular in Australia and they are lucky to have the Legend and Spirit providing some more affordable options.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015


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Cabins on the Wilderness Adventurer

small ship cruises

Wilderness Adventurer

Passenger cabins on the Wilderness Adventurer serve their purpose well – mainly a place to sleep, wash up, and store your things. They aren’t big, but they also aren’t intended to be where passengers spend their cruise.  The expedition vessel mainly travels at night and during the day anchors or docks somewhere while the passengers hike, kayak, or explore. During the times passengers spend on board in the daytime activities like meals, cocktail hour, or presentations of one sort or another occupy some time and there’s plenty of places to sit in the public areas of the ship if it does happen to travel during the day.  It also has a hot tub on the top deck.

cruise ship cabin

Navigator Cabin

Wilderness Discoverer has three cabin options, all of which have windows with views to the outside.  The Navigator cabins on the main deck cost the least and have about 77 square feet of space.  Trailblazer and Pathfinder cabins on the observation deck have about 90 square feet each.  The main difference between the two is inside entry on the Trailblazer cabins and outside entry on the Pathfinder.

finding extra storage on a cruise

even the hallway has storage – especially nice for wet coats and boots

The rooms have a lot of storage space. The beds have quite a bit of open space underneath for luggage. Each room has a large set of wooden shelves for storage and a cabinet next to the bed.  Rooms with inside entry also have handy coat hooks and space for boots in the hallway just outside the cabin door.

cabins on small cruise ship

Trailblazer cabin

All rooms come equipped with binoculars and aluminum water bottles for the passenger’s use during their adventures throughout the cruise.  They also have water glasses and a hair dryer.

Pathfinder cabin

Pathfinder room with outside entry. This one has a window seat.

The outside entry rooms just got remodeled this year with all-new wood and carpeting.

no room for a sink in the shoilet

sink in the cabin next to the mirrored bathroom door

Bathrooms are very utilitarian, sometimes called the shoilet.  Sinks sit outside the bathroom door.  Inside has just space for the toilet with the area in front of it doubling as the shower. The sink has a soap dispenser on the countertop and the shower has shampoo and bath gel in a dispenser hanging on the wall.

cruise ship cabin storage

plenty of room for passenger’s things on these shelves

Each room has a flatscreen TV hanging over the bed. One channel displays the menus and activities of the day, one has GPS mapping so you can see where the ship is, and one plays daily wildlife movies. There’s also a bowcam channel to show what is under the sea, but the bowcam wasn’t working on our trip. One of the crew said it had met an iceberg and gotten knocked out of place to where it just shows the inside of its housing, but was slated for repair after our cruise.

view window in cruise ship cabin

Fishermen’s Terminal through the cabin window

To view cabins on other ships, click the links below:

Breeze    Divina    Liberty    Pearl    Splendor    Westerdam

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Shipboard Life, Un-Cruise Adventures, Wilderness Adventurer | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Memories of a Cruise Ship Doctor Part 6 – Lights Out

old cruise ship

Regents Ship

Dr. Len Kreisler spent 4 years as a cruise ship doctor for Regent Lines before they went bankrupt in 1995.  His experiences are chronicled in the chapter What Ship, What Cabin and Doctor Who? in his book ROLL THE DICE, PICK A DOC AND HOPE FOR THE BEST.  This story is an excerpt from that chapter.

a lifetime of doctor memories in a book

Dr. Len Kreisler’s book

The beeper went off.  I went to a phone and called a number manned by Jamaican cabin attendants.

“Docteur, Docteur, day need ya at da aft elevator on deck 6.”

I waved for the nurse to follow me, and proceeded to deck 6.  The elevator in question was the size of a telephone booth.  An elderly gentleman had gotten in (it could comfortably hold only one person) and had passed out.   He couldn’t fall to the floor because of the tight space, so his unconscious body lay erect against the elevator door.  When the door opened, he fell forward and hit the floor with his face…still unconscious. His face showed signs of the impact with bruising and swelling, but he was breathing normally, had good color and a steady pulse.  I asked the nurse to get our scoop stretcher.  Guess what?  The funeral people in St. Thomas never returned our stretcher (I doubt it was an oversight.)  I remembered the old rusty stretcher we had pulled out of the cooler before putting in the deceased wrapped into our relatively new clinic stretcher.  We found the rusty relic, wrapped it in blankets to hide the shabby metal, and got our man to medical.  His vital signs were remarkably stable.  We located his wife; a 60-ish lady, definitely 20 years younger than her husband.  She looked at the peacefully resting man with the bruised face and calmly said:

“He does this quite often.  He gets some kind of irregular heart rhythm that causes him to pass out.  He should come around shortly.”

The man opened his eyes and looked around without moving his head, or other body parts.  I asked if he was hurting anywhere?

He calmly replied “No,” but didn’t move.

The nurse helped me sit him up.  He smiled at his wife and prepared to get off the table.  I gave him a careful examination and went over the signs and symptoms of head trauma he and his wife should monitor, before allowing him to leave.  We documented everything and marveled at the resiliency of the human body.

hospital room on a cruise ship

Hospital beds in one room of the medical center on Carnival Splendor – probably nicer than anything the Regent ships Dr. Len worked on had.

On the Carnival Splendor we were told that a ship can leave the dock without the captain as there are other people on board that can drive the boat.  It can not however go anywhere without a doctor on board.

More stories from Dr. Len:

Getting Hired

Crew Problems

The “Seasick” Passenger

Chasing Supplies

Dead End

Posted in Guest Blogs, Shipboard Life | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Maple Bacon Muffins

bacon, bacon, bacon -- oh and maple too

Maple Bacon Muffins

When my son and grandson came to visit, we said anybody who wants a choice about what they eat can come grocery shopping and if they don’t care they can stay home.  Everybody came.  While wandering down the grocery aisle talking about breakfast options my son half kiddingly said “What about maple bacon muffins?”

I actually thought that sounded pretty good.  I already had some maple syrup at home so we made sure to get a package of bacon (we used turkey bacon, but you could make this with real bacon instead.)  Using a plain muffin recipe from an old cookbook as a basic guide, I adapted it to suit our plans.  We tried them one day for breakfast and liked them so well we made them one more time before they left to try a slight alternation to the recipe which made them even better.

mmm bacon

Maple Bacon Muffins

Maple Bacon Muffins


1 egg

2/3 cup milk

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1/2 cup melted butter

2 cups flour

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 slices of bacon, cooked and broken into pieces

If bacon wasn’t cooked ahead of time, cook bacon before starting muffins.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line muffin pan with cupcake papers.  Beat egg in mixing bowl (Not necessary to use a mixer, a fork works fine.)  Add milk, syrup, and melted butter and mix.

Add all dry ingredients.  When measuring the flour, spoon it lightly into the cup.  Hold spoon above cup and wiggle it a bit while flour freely falls so it doesn’t get packed down in the cup (which would make the muffins too heavy.)  Scrape any excess flour off the top of the cup before adding it to the batter.  Break any lumps in the brown sugar before stirring batter.  Stir batter lightly with spoon.  Add the bacon pieces when the dry ingredients are about halfway mixed in.  Stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.  Lumpy batter is OK.  DO NOT overstir.  Having a bit of flour not quite mixed is much better than stirring too much.  Overstirred muffins don’t rise properly.

Divide batter among muffin cups, about 3/4 full each.  Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Makes 12 deliciously decadent muffins.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
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Panama Canal Tour

cruise ship in Panama

Divina docked in Cristobol, Panama

Taking a cruise through the Panama Canal is definitely on the bucket list, but since we haven’t done that yet we did the next best thing.  The itinerary for our Caribbean cruise on the MSC Divina included a port stop at Cristobal on the Caribbean end of the Panama Canal.  We picked a canal cruise for our shore excursion at that port.


view of Panama from the Divina

Our excursion started with a bus ride to the Pacific side of the canal.  It’s amazing how much you can learn on shore excursions, some of it completely unrelated to the excursion itself.  Our guide on this trip spent the way over on the bus talking about Captain Morgan.  Ever hear of Captain Morgan Rum?  Yeah, that Captain Morgan.

pirates love their rum

yo ho ho and a bottle of Captain Morgan rum

After making a name for himself in the world of pirates, Captain Morgan led a crew of 10 ships to successful attacks on the riches of Panama not once, but twice.  Initially pirates or privateers such as Morgan had the support of England when attacking Spanish ships or holdings.  When the two countries signed a peace treaty they lost Englands’s support, but had assistance from the governor of Jamaica.

waiting ships

ships outside of the Panama Canal

Eventually he was arrested and returned to England, but rather than getting executed he ended up getting knighted and returning to Jamaica as Lieutenant Governor.  He lived in the once large and prosperous city of Port Royal, most of which (including the graveyard where he was buried) sank under the sea in a 1692 earthquake shortly after his death.

boat docked in the Panama Canal

canal tour ferry

When our bus ride/history lesson ended, we boarded a boat in a harbor on the Pacific end of the canal.  We found good seats on the top deck by the rail, poised for picture-taking during our transit of the canal, which included lunch on the boat.  It was a misty, cloudy sort of day for the most part, but it didn’t rain.

major highway linking the north and south American continents

Bridge of the Americas

At one point when we got up to take pictures a stubborn German women and her husband sat down in our seats.  They tried to claim nobody was sitting there in spite of the fact that we had left water bottles by our chairs.  The husband seemed a bit shamed by all the surrounding people telling them they should move, but the wife stubbornly stayed in place until she finally realized we were not going to cower off and sit somewhere else.  She finally left grumbling something about how if you got up from your seat in Germany it was fair game for anyone else to take.  And people think Americans are rude!

Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal

the boat entered Miraflores locks with low water level

Our tour progressed down the canal to Miraflores Locks, which has 2 chambers.  Boats enter the first chamber through the open back gate.

Panama Canal locks

the water churns and bubbles as it rises

The gate shuts and then the water rises in bubbles from the floor of the locks until it reaches the level of the water on the exit side.

Miraflores Locks

ready for the gate to open

The front gate opens for boats to leave.  The boat then makes a short transit to the next chamber, which raises it up to the level of Miraflores Lake, where the ships then pass through.

locks viewing building at Panama Canal

people in this building watch boats pass through the locks – some no doubt passengers from our ship on their shore excursion

Along the way we passed under the Bridge of the Americas and the Centennial Bridge.  These two bridges are both on the Pacific side of the canal, which is where our tour went.

bridge over Panama Canal

Centennial Bridge

The USA built the Bridge of the Americas, completed in 1962.  To alleviate overcrowding of that bridge Panama commissioned a German company to build the Centennial Bridge which opened in 2004.

Pedro Miguel Locks, Panama Canal

each lock had two lanes and Pedro Miguel Locks had a spot where we could see through the wall to the other lane

Pedro Miguel locks has just one chamber, raising us up to the level of the Gaillard Cut, where the lock builders had to cut a channel through the mountain.  It’s also called the Culebra Cut.

inside the locks at the Panama Canal

Pedro Miguel Locks

We passed the continental divide, noted by a marker on the shore somewhere in the cut.

the hardest part of the canal to build

cuts through solid rock near the continental divide

Our journey stopped at the Gamboa Division Dredging Pier around the middle of the canal just past where the river flows into the canal.  We did not pass through  Gatan Lake or Gatan Locks.

dredging the Panama Canal

a dredge at work keeping the canal clear

We passed by construction of the new larger lock, which when finished will allow ships as large as the Divina to sail through the locks.  It is expected to open in 2016.  The cruise ships that pass through now are limited to those small enough to fit in the locks.  Holland America makes all their ships no wider or longer than what fits within the chambers of the locks, but many other cruise lines have ships far to big.

Chagres River

train bridge across the Chagres River in the Panama Canal

A railroad track parallels the canal across the Isthmus of Panama.  While some container ships pass through the locks, others unload their cargo which then crosses by train and loads onto another ship on the other side.  There is a considerable charge to ships passing through the canal.  When the USA controlled the locks they barely broke even (The USA preferring as always to tax the average citizen to the poorhouse while plunging the country deeply into debt over making any profits from the nation’s assets.)  Now that Panama runs the canal, they make a considerable profit from it.  So it can cost less to send the cargo across by rail instead of sending the ship through the canal.  Passengers can also ride the rails along the canal, which would be a fun excursion to do.

Who was driving this boat?

beached boat at the side of the canal

France started the canal in 1881, but stopped construction due to engineering problems and a high mortality rate of their workers due to disease.  The US took over in 1904 and finished the canal in 1914.  It is considered one of the wonders of the modern world.

boat in the Panama Canal

a ship waits its turn to pass through the narrows

Our busses met us at the Gamboa Dredging Division Pier.  They have to dredge the canal on a regular basis to keep it from filling in or getting too shallow in places to pass.  At the time of our tour traffic went one way in the morning and the other in the afternoon through the narrows of the cut.  Ships lined up along the sides of the canal waiting for their turn to go.

dock near the middle of the Panama Canal

approaching the Gamboa Dredging Division Pier

Back on the bus we passed a prison, which the guide said was home to their most famous prisoner and former dictator, Manuel Noriega.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
chart of Panama Canal

panama canal

Panama Canal chart courtesy of SSQQ Travel


Posted in Caribbean, Divina, MSC, Ports of Call, Shore Excursions | Tagged , , , , , , , | 15 Comments