How to Fold a Towel Octopus

Once upon a time…OK maybe not as long ago as fairytales,

towel origami

Towel Octopus

but quite some time ago my daughter challenged me to make a towel octopus.  I figured out how to make towels into an octopus, but at the time I just took a photo and posted it on facebook.  I had not seen one on a ship before I made them to leave in the cabin for the stewards now and then, but have seen them on ships since.  I have no idea if they copied mine or figured it out on their own.  I never put up the directions on the blog before though so I’ll do it now.

Supplies Needed to Make a Towel Octopus

One Beach Towel

Two Bath Towels

One Hand Towel

Eyes (googly eyes or make your own from paper or felt)

How to Fold a Towel Octopus Body

how to fold a towel animal body

Roll bath towel to the middle from each end

The towel octopus body is made from two standard towel animal bodies put together.  Start with one bath towel.   Lay the bath towel out flat.

towel art

try to make the rolls as even as possible

Roll each end to the middle from the short side.

towel sculpture

fold the towel rolled side out

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

how to fold cruise ship towel animals

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

Take the tips from both ends of one roll in one hand and the tips from both ends of the other roll in the other hand.

towel animal folding directions

pull both ends at once

Pull on all of them at once until the rolls stretch out into legs and the center comes together for the body.  Repeat with the other bath towel.

step by step towel animal instructions

one body rolls up and one rolls down

Place one towel animal body with the open bit where the rolls come together in the middle facing up.  Take the other towel animal body and turn it so the open part where the rolls come together faces down.

how to make a towel octopus

the two bodies fit together in the open space between the rolls

Insert the body with the rolls facing down into the one with the rolls facing up at the middle between the rolls, perpendicular to each other so it becomes one body with eight legs.

How to Make a Towel Octopus Head

how to make a round towel head

make a towel ball, no specific way just make a ball

Wad the hand towel up in a ball.  Starting with one corner of the beach towel, wrap it around the hand towel making sure to keep it round.

making a towel octopus head

wrap the beach towel around the hand towel

Or just wad most of the beach towel up around the ball of hand towel and smooth about the last third of the towel around the rest of it so if forms a ball.

towel animal folding instructions

make adjustments as necessary while rolling to keep the round shape

Whatever works for you, just make a towel ball.  If you want a smaller head leave out the hand towel and just make a ball with the beach towel.

Finishing the Towel Octopus

towel animal

finished towel octopus

Set the towel ball head on top of the eight-legged body.  Smooth out the lumps and adjust head to the desired shape.  Decorate with eyes.  Position the legs as desired.

For instructions on how to fold a variety of other towel animals please visit My Cruise Stories Towel Animal Page.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Towel Animals | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sucia Island Beach Bonfire

San Juan Islands

The Wilderness Adventurer is actually much larger than the sailboat, but it is also much farther away

After exploring around Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula and San Juan Islands, the Wilderness Adventurer made a final stop at the state marine park on Sucia Island.  Washington has a number of marine parks throughout the San Juan Islands.  Sucia Island had some mooring bouys where smaller boats tied up, but the Wildernes Adventurer anchored a bit farther out.  Next to a regular cruise ship this 60-passenger expedition vessel would look tiny, but compared to ordinary boats it appears gigantic.

Sucia Island Marine Park

Landing at the beach on Sucia Island

The crew quickly launched the skiffs to take passengers to shore.  Options included a bluff hike around the edges of the island, a meander through the woods, or just chilling out on the beach.  We picked the meander.


wild roses

The first trail took us through wild rose bushes and up to a bluff trail view.  After following along the edge of the island for a bit we took a turn into the forest.  At one point the trail got a bit steep and a few people turned back, but most went on.

sea view

view from the bluff trail

We saw a lot of wildflowers along the way.  Eventually the trail crossed a small bridge.  Further on we came to an outhouse in the middle of the woods.  Or perhaps it was a composting toilet, I’m not sure since I didn’t go inside the little building housing the rustic facility, but it was open and available and some people made use of it.

beach cave

little caves in the rock wall

Not far from the toilet the trail opened out onto a deserted beach with small caves in the rock wall running from the beach up to the bluff.

under the water

Water so clear you can see the bottom of the sea from the top of the bluff.

The water surrounding the island looked calm and crystal clear.  It looks inviting, but most people wouldn’t want to swim there because it is too cold.

island beach

beach on the hike

After spending some time on that beach we hiked back to the beach where the skiffs landed.  While we enjoyed nature on our hike the crew had come to the beach and started a bonfire in one of the fire pits the park provides.

Sucia Island State Park

bonfire at the beach

On a nearby picnic table they had barbecued chicken wings and other tasty treats ready for passengers to enjoy.  Since this was a beer themed cruise, our beer hosts, Kim and Kendall of Washington Beer Blog presented the beers for the day’s theme – good beers that come in cans.  Cans are better for hiking because they are lighter than bottles and can be crushed to take up minimal backpack space after use.

beach party

One of the crew plays guitar while another serves beer

One of the crew pulled out a guitar and we had some time for songs and relaxing and enjoying tasty snacks on the beach with views of the forest and bay.  A great way to celebrate all the fun we had on that cruise.


wildflowers on Sucia Island

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Cruise Food, Un-Cruise Adventures, Washington, Wilderness Adventurer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cruise Ship Decor on Carnival Splendor

Lido Deck

Splendor at night

The décor on the Splendor seemed so unusual that I decided to investigate the story behind it.  Its style seems somehow more out there than the other Carnival ships I’ve sailed on.  Probably due to the fact that it was originally designed for Costa and the European market, though Carnival Corporation did used to use the same designer for both cruise lines.  The last ship he fully designed for Carnival was the Dream, but he did have a hand in some spaces on the Magic.  The newer Breeze has a quite different and more modern look with its Caribbean casual décor by Partner Design of Hamburg.

cruise ship Atrium

Looking down into the Splendor Atrium

Designer Joe Farcus decorated Carnival’s ships from the cruise line’s second ship the Carnivale in 1975 to 2008’s Dream.  The Breeze which launched in 2012 was the first Carnival ship decorated completely by someone else since the original Carnival Cruise line ship the Mardi Gras in 1972.

cruise ship decor

the Lido restaurant area is decorated to resemble an old steamship

Splendor’s unique décor theme evident on the Lido is remembering the White Star Line.

open back deco of Lido

model of the Queen Mary

The Lido is representative of the Queen Mary.  It even has models of the Queen Mary and her sister ship Normandie by the stern pool.

unique cruise ship bar

bar by the aft pool looks like an old steamship

It has different unique themes in other public areas around the ship as well as a pearls theme running through most spaces. Each lounge has a story behind it and represents or replicates the original place that inspired the decor for that lounge.  Even the coffee bar is a replica of an actual place designer Joe Farcus once visited in Columbia.

Columbian cafe look

coffee bar on the Splendor

The Splendor is officially listed as Conquest class, but according to the hotel director on board it is actually in a mini-dream class of its own.  It has some differences from other Conquest class ships and some features otherwise only found on Dream class ships.

pearls everywhere

Black Pearl Dining Room

The theme of pearls runs throughout the ship, but becomes most obvious in the Black and Gold Pearl dining rooms with their tubular horn-like shapes spouting pearls all around the walls.  The light fixtures on the ceiling also have strings of “pearls” snaking around them.

didn't look like pearls to me

the railings reminded me of hamburger buns

The row of round shapes that made up the stairway railings in the dining rooms reminded me more of hamburger buns than pearls.

odd cruise ship decor

Fried eggs or pearls on the oyster?

What looked like fried eggs all over the ceiling was probably supposed to be pearls in the oyster.

I see spots before my eyes

circles everywhere

Round pearl-like shapes are found in unlikely places all about the ship.   Tables in some public areas have pink zebra-striped rings referred to as pink donuts by ship’s staff, and pink zebra-striped dots or rings cover many walls, particularly stairways and the halls in public areas.

round everywhere

stairway railings, ceiling lights, and pink dots

Even the stairway railings have round shapes, as do the ceilings and light fixtures near the stairs and elevators and other places around the ship.  Besides the circular pearl shape the light fixtures also carry the old steamship theme in their looks-old-and-worn coloring.

What was the designer thinking?

Are the nipples really necessary in this hallway painting?

Returning to the White Star Line theme, paintings of people from an earlier era line the walls in hallways to guest rooms. Many of the women are in bathing suits in styles from early last century, some with too much showing even though it is covered.  Some of the men are pictured smoking, which would have been far more acceptable in the era the pictures represent than it is now.

who calls this art

ugly statues at the spa

I’m not sure what it is with cruise ships and weird statues, but no matter who the ship belongs to a lot of them seem to have either really ugly or really odd statues.  Then again odd and ugly statues are pretty common on dry land as well.  Actually strange things are pretty common in all types of art and some people must like them or nobody would buy them.

fish pictures

stairway art

Each Carnival ship has unique décor and artwork. While a lot of the paintings hanging around the ship belong to the art auction, some are permanent.  A considerable amount of the artwork throughout the Splendor contains nudity.  As a Costa ship it would have sailed in the European market where nudes are more commonplace.  People there are accustomed to the old Greek and Roman naked statues.

naked toilet man

inappropriate yet entertaining elevator art

Americans are not so comfortable with nudity and on some ships Carnival has removed nude décor. The strangest piece of artwork among all the odd things that we found on the Splendor was a painting in an elevator which we dubbed “Naked Toilet Man.” It’s painted in mosaic style and many people in the elevator don’t notice what it actually is, but if you stand outside the elevator and look in it becomes much more obvious.  It would be a shame if they removed it though because it was a good source of amusement – for us anyway. (We’re easily amused.)

cruise ship pool

Lido pool with dome closed

We were told future plans to update the ship did not include the decor.  Odd though it is, it does provide a contribution to the personality and history of the ship.  With a name like Splendor perhaps people expect the over the top decor.  Plain and simple just wouldn’t feel splendid.

cruise ship decor

The El Morocco Lounge has a Sahara Desert look

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Carnival, Splendor | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Seuss at Sea

Dr Seuss

Hannah helps Sam-I-Am hold up a plate of green eggs and ham

Would you eat them in a box?  Would you eat them with a fox?  Would you eat them here or there?  Would you eat them anywhere?

Would you could you on a boat?  On a boat, that’s it!  The perfect place to eat green eggs and ham if I do say so Sam-I-Am!

Carnival Legend funnel

Carnival Legend where you too could eat green eggs and ham

Yes you too could eat green eggs and ham on a boat thanks to Carnival Cruise Line’s Seuss at Sea.  Most everyone grew up reading Dr. Seuss books so the stories and characters are familiar to all ages.  The Cat in the Hat even has his own cartoon series now (something I learned from my Australian grandkids) so he’s a star among the preschool set.

wacky decorations

Dr. Seuss breakfast decorations include a ice sculpture of the cat – this one is on the Splendor

Carnival’s Seuss at Sea program is fun for kids of all ages.   It has 3 parts, a Dr. Seuss parade, Dr. Suess storytime, and a green eggs and ham breakfast. The festivities start with a parade for the kids, immediately followed by story time.  The breakfast takes place on the last sea day of the cruise and is the only part of the Dr. Seuss program that costs extra to attend.

Carnival's Dr. Seuss parade

Hannah with Cat-In-The-Hat face paint

On parade day on the Legend some of the kids at Camp Carnival including my granddaughter Hannah had their faces painted to look like the cat in the hat. People gathered in the designated area to get ready for the parade.  Crew members handed out pom-poms and Dr. Seuss character cut-outs on sticks to the waiting children. While the smallest kids could easily carry and wave the small lightweight pom-poms, the bigger ones had fun holding the characters.

its all about the cat

Kids gathering for the Seuss-a-palooza parade

While waiting for the Dr. Seuss characters to arrive and start the parade, the crew taught the kids to chant “Dr. Seuss is on the loose.”  Some were also given bells when the pop-poms and character cut-outs ran out.

cruise photos

Sheri, Hannah, and Daniel pose with the Cat in the Hat at the breakfast

When life-sized characters (in the form of costumed crew people) showed up the parade started. A crowd of kids and parents noisily followed the characters from the lounge at the back where they had gathered up all the way through the ship on a deck of public areas full of people to the far end and into theater at the front. People couldn’t help but turn away from whatever they were doing and look as the long line of bell-ringing people chanting “Dr. Seuss is on the loose” passed by waving pop-poms and flaunting cartoon characters on a stick.

cruise ship entertainment

The Dr. Suess characters on stage at the end of the parade

Upon arrival at the main theater we saw the stage all set up for Dr. Seuss storytime.   While most of the adults found a place to sit out in the theater, the crew invited the kids to sit on the stage – with parents for the littlest ones.


the story involved a dad posing as the cat, a mom to hold props, and a couple little things, um er I mean kids

The entertainment crew picked a couple kids and a couple parents to participate in the story. They had all sorts of props and as a crew member read The Cat in the Hat more and more props came out with the story.

Suddenly the story got interrupted by the captain making a long stream of announcements on an overhead speaker. The kids who had sat so well when enraptured in the story got restless and started moving about the stage. Finally the announcements ended.

Rather than getting straight back into the story with a restless audience, the story reader said “Knock knock.”

Everyone’s familiar with knock knock jokes so it didn’t take long to get “Who’s there?” in reply.

“Dishes,” he said.

“Dishes who?”

“Dishes the captain speaking.”

Everyone laughed because that was almost exactly how the Italian captain actually sounded.

With the audience’s attention regained the story went on. It was very cute and far more entertaining than we thought it would be, having gone to it only because of cruising with 3 and 5 year old grandchildren.  Another great reason for cruising with kids – all the fun things you’d otherwise miss out on because you’d never think of going to them without the kids.

odd food

cereal crusted french toast

The highlight of the Seuss at Sea festivities is the Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast on the last sea day of the voyage. The nominal charge for the breakfast means it won’t get overcrowded because they stop selling tickets if it gets full and since they are sold  in advance the crew knows exactly how many people to expect.  Quite a few adults do attend the breakfast on their own without any children to escort them there.

Dr. Seuss breakfast on the Legend

table all decorated for the Dr. Seuss Breakfast

On the Splendor where things are in American dollars it cost $5 per person, but on the Legend out of Australia it cost $10 each. While we only did the parade and storytime on the Legend with the young grandkids, we went to the breakfast on both ships.   On the Splendor our group ranged in age from 12 to 90, but it’s fun to have strange things to eat sometimes no matter how old you are.

too many things

A couple things – Justin and Tina on the Splendor

On Dr. Seuss breakfast morning kids of any age can pose outside the dining room with cutouts of Thing 1 and Thing 2. The décor is all Seuss, with an ice sculpture cat in the hat, red and white striped hat centerpieces at every table, and Seuss characters and decorations all around the area.

strange food

Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast Menu from the Legend

All the waiters, waitress and other crew at the breakfast had bright red t-shirts. While thing 1 and thing 2 were the most popular things for the shirts to say, some people had other numbers ranging from thing 0 to thing 99.

The whimsical menu includes many other things besides green eggs and ham. It has brightly colored waffles, cereal encrusted French toast and other interesting choices.  Those with no imagination can order ordinary food.  In typical cruise ship fashion the portions are way too big for kids, and pretty big for a lot of adults as well.

cruise food

Green Eggs and Ham

The green eggs and ham resemble eggs benedict, but without the hollandaise sauce and the eggs are whipped as well as dyed green. The French toast with either cocoa pebbles or cocoa krispies (I’m not sure which) tasted a lot better than it sounds.  It seems strange, but was actually quite good.

things you find on a cruise

Daniel and Hannah with Thing 1 and Thing 2

The young grandkids enjoyed posing with the characters, which was well organized on the Legend. They brought people up table by table and everyone got a turn. On the Splendor the character showed up and people scrambled into a line which got cut off at some point so in addition to spending a lot of time standing in line, not everyone got a photo who wanted one. All the ships should take a lesson from the Legend where everyone got a turn to pose with each character without spending their breakfast time standing in line.

interesting food

even the waffles are brightly colored

Overall the Seuss at Sea program is a lot of fun and a great addition to Carnival’s family friendly entertainment.

breakfast dessert

this breakfast even comes with dessert

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Carnival, Cruise Food, Legend, Shipboard Life, Splendor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Boston Trolley Tour and River Cruise

Boston river boat rides

Riverboat named Henry Longfellow

Boston, the largest city in New England and one of the oldest in the USA, was founded by Puritan settlers from England. The city had a key role in the American Revolution, which of course means it now has historical revolutionary tourist attractions. The area of Boston called Back Bay is built on landfill in former tidal flats.

old buildings

Boston has a lot of old buildings

In spite of its expensive hotel rates about 12 million tourists visit Boston each year. They come to view historic places and to walk Boston’s freedom trail. Sports fans come to see Fenway Park, the oldest baseball stadium still in use. Other visitors enjoy museums, concerts, shopping, parks, and other amenities. Some also come to board or disembark a cruise ship.

modern sculpture

Not everything in Boston is old

I came to Boston with two aunts, an uncle, and a couple days to see the town before boarding Holland America‘s Veendam for a Boston to Quebec cruise, my first visit to eastern Canada and the northeast corner of the USA.

Boston old school

Old historic school house

Because hotels in downtown Boston or near the waterfront are so expensive we stayed at a Ramada just outside the downtown area. The hotel had a free shuttle to the airport, cruise dock, and a train station where we could catch the subway into town. The hotel building was a bit on the older side, but the price was good for the area and the staff was nice. The free breakfast included several hot selections beyond toast. They had scrambled eggs, oatmeal, and make-your-own waffles.

public garden

Boston Public Garden

We took an overnight flight into Boston. As soon as our tickets popped out of the e-ticket kiosk I noticed two things. First they all said TSA pre-check. Mine and both my aunts. Often when traveling with my husband he gets the pre-check and goes through the quick line while I join the que where you have to wait in a long line to take off your shoes and coat, take your computer out of the bag, and walk through the scanner. As we got into the short pre-check line an airport worker looked our way suspiciously and said to the line in general while pointing toward the long general boarding line, “Make sure your tickets say pre-check on them or you will have to go over to the other line.” Ours did indeed say pre-check so we didn’t move. Neither did anyone else.

clock tower

Boston Clock Tower

A lot of people in the pre-check line looked like first-timers, unnecessarily unloading their packs and removing their coats in spite of that line’s lack of bins to put them in. I told the guy ahead of me to set his stuff on the conveyer and go through. He looked skeptical, but did it and at the end said thanks.

Boston duck boat

amphibious duck boat rides are a popular tourist attraction

The other shocker on my ticket came in the form of a MR.. Yup that’s what it said. After my name MR.. with two periods. It initially had MR as the default choice when I bought the ticket, but I changed it to MRS and now here I was at the airport with a ticket that said MR.. Since there was nothing I could do about it I figured don’t say anything and hope they don’t notice. Nobody said a word about it so either they didn’t notice or (as I pointed out to my aunts) in today’s politically correct world they may not be allowed to say anything because for all they know I could be transgender. Either way I got through security and on the plane so I was happy.

Boston trolley tour


Our plane landed long before check-in time at our hotel. We met up with my uncle at the Boston airport. His California flight arrived about an hour before ours from Seattle. He called the hotel for the shuttle, which far exceeded the time estimate they had given us for it to get there. I started out thinking to give the driver a low tip for his lateness, but on the way to the hotel we saw the slow traffic and he gave us a nice tour of the area.  He even took a detour past the cruise ship dock so we’d know where it was. By the time we got to the hotel the amount I decided to give him had more than doubled.

bar from Cheers TV show

Cheers Bar from inside the trolley

When we got to the hotel we dropped off our bags, which they locked away securely and then kindly said the breakfast room was open and we could eat even though we had not officially checked in. They were booked full the previous night and had no rooms open so we couldn’t check in then.  After filling our bellies we caught the shuttle to the train station and went into town, getting off at Park Street station by the Boston Commons. We found a hop-op hop-off trolley tour, and though we only hopped off where they had a river cruise included with the fare we still got the driving tour through town with constant commentary from the driver about the things we saw along the way.

Boston riverboat tour

inside the river boat

After disembarking the trolley at the boat ride stop, a walk through a mall brought us to the river. The trains we rode into town reminded me of Sydney, Australia and the mall even more so as it was on multiple levels. While malls where I live sprawl out over a large area at ground level except a few of the larger stores that have two stories, apparently malls built in more crowded places extended upward and downward with escalators in the middle of the aisles and many different stores on each level.

science museum

Boston Science Museum

After about a half hour wait for the boat to come in from its previous tour we boarded. The stern looked like the best spot as it had windows all the way around so everyone could sit by one, while the middle had rows of chairs where only the end person got a window. Since we got there first we got in line first and got the back, though we didn’t take all of it so a couple other people sat there too.

expensive digs for sailboats

fancy multimillion dollar boat shed from a university

The tour guide on the boat talked about the things we passed through most of the trip, and said that people could walk about and take photos. (It was less than half full so we had lots of room to move about.) Some people went to the open bow on the front.

it does the job

very basic boat shed at a school across the water

The river ran between Boston and Cambridge. Both sides had universities. In one place on one side of the river the university there had a multi-million dollar boat club for their rowing and sailing programs where the copper roof alone cost several million dollars and the school on the other side had a shack and a honeybucket. Perhaps one of those schools might just be a bit more affordable than the other.

railroad bridge

graffiti artists are everywhere

We passed under a number of bridges, each with their own story. Much of the riversides had older buildings with the fancy architecture not found in modern skyscrapers, though some of those sat near the river as well. The river cruise concluded at about hotel check-in time and was just 3 trolley stops from where we got on so it didn’t take long to get back to the train station, which is accessed by a stairway or elevator as it runs underground through town.

inside the river boat

the river boat was long and narrow

The Boston area has a lot of colleges so about a third of the population is under 30. We were impressed with how nice and friendly random people were. When we bought our trolley tickets the sign had a lower price for seniors. It did not give an age so when I asked how old you had to be to get the senior price he gave it to all of us without asking any of our ages even though I didn’t really qualify. (My husband laughed at that because I got a senior discount before him and he’s older.)

When we got on the train to go into town immediately several college-age kids jumped up from their seats to make room for us to sit down and more of them did so at any stop where people older than themselves got on the train.

We had walked up the stairs when we got off the train and when we went to find where to board after our tour we found an elevator marked only for the green line train and we needed red. It said all trains at the top, but only had a button for green line as a level to pick.  As soon as one of us mentioned that a nearby vendor said just go to the greenline level on the elevator and we could take stairs to the redline from there.

subway station

Park Street train station under Boston Commons

At most stops you could see the name of the station painted on the wall. Then we got to one dark stop where couldn’t see the station’s name. I mentioned that our station would be the 5th stop if it stopped at all the stations on the way and didn’t bypass any like the Sydney trains often do. A young girl sitting next to me asked what station we needed, and when I said JFK she said “That’s the first one after the train leaves the tunnel.” So while it was indeed the 5th stop since the train stopped at all the stations, knowing that it was the first daylight stop made it very easy to know when to get off the train.

While it’s been years since I paid attention to what’s in style, wouldn’t know fashion if it bit me, and am usually totally unobservant of what people wear, I couldn’t help but notice a large number of people dressed in the leggings and skinny jeans once fashionable in the 1980’s that I haven’t seen since. Apparently these things made a comeback. I haven’t seen anyone dressed that way where I live, but then again if there weren’t a lot of them I wouldn’t notice. A lot of the college crowd also wore sweatpants. Whether that is in fashion now too or they just want to dress comfortably I couldn’t say. The people all seemed quite pleasant and helpful, which is definitely more important than what they wear.

 Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Holland America, Port Cities, Day Trips, Veendam, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Food on the Wilderness Adventurer

Port Townsend, WA

Wilderness Adventurer in Port Townsend

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

cruise food

lunch buffet on Chinese food day

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

cruise food

chow mien and salad for lunch

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

Un-Cruise food

every day the menu changed

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

what to eat on an un-cruise

the chef liked to plate things in a pile

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

fish dish

each night had a fish option

fancy plated food

meat option was always a choice

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

fancy dessert

dessert – the best part

mmm, dessert

this chocolate cake was delicious

sweet treats

carrot cake

cruise ship bar

bar on the Wilderness Adventurer


Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Cruise Food, Un-Cruise Adventures, Wilderness Adventurer | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

A tour of Grenada

cruise ship at the dock

Splendor in Grenada

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

tropical flowers

flowers at Grand Etang National Park

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

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


island view from a hillside

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

lost a roof in a hurricane

tower of roofless church on top of a hill

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

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

street peddler

locals everywhere sell spice necklaces

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

no flat surface

house on poles

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

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

spice shop

spices in a little shop at the park

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

growing spices

nutmeg fruit with the seed coated in mace

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

street vendors are everywhere in Grenada

roadside spice stands

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

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


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

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

volcanic island

Crater Lake, Grenada

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

monkeying around

Mona Monkey

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

tropical islands have nice beaches

Grand Anse Beach

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

 Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015


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

Towel Animal Theater

cruise ship at the dock

Carnival Legend in Melbourne

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

towels folded into an animal

towel elephant in the stateroom

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

entertaining kids on a cruise

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

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

towel animal puppets

towel animal puppets on stage

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

kids love bubbles

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

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

kids like bubbles

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

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

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

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Carnival, Legend, Shipboard Life, Towel Animals | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Cruise Ship Cabins on Holland America Veendam

cruise ship

Holland America Veendam

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

this suite even has lots of outdoor space

Pinnacle Suite Balcony

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

this suite has everything

dining room in the Pinnacle Suite

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

best suite on the ship

Pinnacle Suite Living Room

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

got space for more people

fold-down spare bed in the Pinnacle Suite

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

suite on a cruise ship

Veendam Neptune Suite

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

cruise ship suite

Veendam Vista Suite

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

stateroom with lanai

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

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

Lanai cabin

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

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

cruise ship stateroom

Veendam Ocean-View Cabin

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

Stateroom with portholes

Veendam Porthole Cabin

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

inside stateroom

Veendam Inside Cabin

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

Cabins on Other Cruise Ships

Breeze  Divina  Legend  Liberty  Pearl  Splendor  Westerdam  Wilderness Adventurer

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Holland America, Shipboard Life, Veendam | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Crockpot Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwiches and Soup

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

Pulled Pork Sandwich and Soup

Crockpot Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwiches and Soup

Pulled Pork Sandwich


Pork roast

other serving options include regular or gluten free hamburger buns

Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwich on Sourdough Hoagie Roll


1 Onion

Barbecue sauce



Buns or rolls


getting ready to cook pork roast in crock pot

onions on top uncooked pork roast in crock pot

Put 1 cup water in the crock pot, turn onto high.  Take several slices of the onion, and separating the rings spread it over the bottom of the crock pot.  Sprinkle in desired seasoning. I use a few shakes of Mrs. Dash.  Place Pork Roast on top of onions. Sprinkle top of roast with cloves and any other desired seasoning.   Slice rest of onion and separating the rings spread onion over the top and around the sides of the roast.  Add water to top of roast.  Leave on high if planning for the shorter cooking time, switch to low for longer cooking.

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

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

Serve on sandwich rolls or hamburger buns of choice.

pulled pork, yum

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

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

use the leftover liquid from cooking the roast to make soup

pulled pork soup cooking in a saucepan

Pulled Pork Soup

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

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

making soup & sandwiches

pulled pork soup

copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments