Carnival Splendor

Splendor in Martinique

Carnival Splendor

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

Carnival Splendor splash park

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

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

Carnival Splendor decor

pink pearl dots adorn walls throughout the ship

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

Splendor ship decor

model of old steamship

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

inside Carnival Splendor

decor inside the Lido restaurant resembles an old steamship

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

Carnival Splendor waterslide

waterslide on Carnival Splendor

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

inside the Carnival Splendor

Black Pearl Dining Room

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

Carnival Splendor steakhouse

Steakhouse Chefs

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

Carnival Splendor

Lido pool area with the sky dome closed

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

Carnival Splendor movie screen

movie screen on Lido

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

Carnival Splendor putt putt golf

Pirate themed mini golf course

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

Carnival Splendor in the Caribbean

Splendor at the dock on a port stop

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

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

Craigdarroch Castle, Victoria

castle on Vancouver Island

Craigdarroch Castle, Victoria BC, Canada

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

ferry from Port Angeles, Washington to Victoria BC

Black Ball Ferry, MV Coho in Victoria

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

castle tower stairs

looking down the tower stairs

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

dogs in Victoria

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

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

Craigdarroch Castle, Victoria

framing the castle with trees

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

fancy tile

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

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

coal burning fireplace

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

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

sign for one room at Craigdarroch Castle

each room had a sign

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

smoking room

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

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

inside the castle

drawing room

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

maid's room

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

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

rooms inside a castle

youngest daughter’s bedroom

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

bookstand with candle

old fashioned reading light

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

castle tower

room in the tower

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

Skiff Tours from the Wilderness Adventurer

cruise ship at anchor

on the skiff looking at Wilderness Adventurer

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

inflatable boat

skiff heading out for a tour of the surrounding area

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

blue heron


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

harbour seal

harbor seal sunning on a rock

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

funny little seabirds

pigeon guillemots

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

wild raccoon

raccoon finding food

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

long legged seabird


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


bald eagle

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

star fish

purple starfish

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

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

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

Healthy Buckwheat Cookies

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

healthy cookies

Buckwheat Cookies with Coconut and Craisins

Buckwheat Cookie Ingredients

1 1/4 cup chopped dates or figs

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 tablespoon vegetable oil if desired

2 eggs

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

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

1 cup buckwheat flour

1/2 cup tapioca flour

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

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

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

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

Buckwheat Cookie Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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

float plane in Alaska

Passengers evacuate on bigger planes than this

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

a lifetime of doctor memories in a book

Dr. Len Kreisler’s book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More stories from Dr. Len:

Posted in Guest Blogs, Shipboard Life | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Hanging Towel Monkey with Open Mouth

How To Fold a Towel Monkey

how to fold a towel monkey

hanging towel monkey with open mouth

Supplies Needed for Hanging Towel Monkey

1 bath towel          1 hand towel           decorations           hangings

How to Fold a Hanging Towel Monkey Body

towel art

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

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

towel art

roll the other end to the center for two equal rolls

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

towel animal folding instructions

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

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

directions on towel animal folding

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

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

towel creations

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

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

creative towel folding

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

How To Fold An Open-Mouthed Monkey Head

hanging towel monkey

Fold a towel in half across the short side.

Fold the hand towel in half across the short side.

how to make towel animals

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

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

making a towel monkey

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

Fold one side over from center to form a triangle.

towel monkey head

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

towel monkey options

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

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

now for the tricky part

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

the art of making towel animals

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

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

origami towel folding

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

towel monkey head

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

Fold down corners on both sides of triangle.

folding a towel monkey like on a cruise ship

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

Open folds at rounded end to create mouth.

smiling monkey

mouth opened between the open ends

towel monkey mouth choiced

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

towel monkey mouth

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

how to make a towel monkey

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

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

hanging towel monkey

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

 Finishing the Hanging Towel Monkey

making a towel monkey

head tucked into the arms

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

how to fold cruise ship towel animals

finished towel monkey

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

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

copyright My Cruise Stories 2014


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

A Very British Cruise on P and O

This is a guest blog from Paul Symonds, who writes a blog about Wayfinding with helpful hints on how to get around in your travels such as this post about navigating yourself around a cruise ship.

cruise ship

P&O Arcadia

A Very British Cruise Experience – Onboard with P&O

This was my fourth cruise and also my first cruise without a flight, hence this was always going to be an opportunity to get a very different cruise experience, from other cruise trips I had done before.  Cruising the Caribbean last year, having to be de-iced (the airplane that is) as we sat on the tarmac,  as the snow poured down at Heathrow Airport, London, we were already stressed. The threat of a cancelled flight and what would have been a ruined cruise, were looking likely at the time. Despite the cancellation of many flights that day, we did make it to Miami and somehow we were onboard for the 4 days cruise around the Caribbean with NCL cruises (before we would then spend a week in the Fort Lauderdale area – city I love.

Two years before that and a similarly stressful start the cruise from Venice, Italy, involved trying to get our bags across the city, whilst trying to understand the boat timetables (and my wife is Italian) and then to deal with the chaos that ensued in the baggage drop off area for the cruise (this was also an NCL cruise). It was after those two cruises that we decided that we would have to try a cruise only. No flights, no luggage limits, no having to carry luggage and no airports. We also wanted to experience a cruise where tipping did not become something that would seem stressful.

Agreeing to the standard tips per person per day for the cruise staff in the cost we paid before the cruise, and then finding tips added onto the drinks and then with a line for a tip on top of the tips, to add more on if we wished. it’s too much. Having already tipped, it seemed quite dispiriting also for staff on some cruises who seemed to expect tips. Nothing could defeat our love of cruising but we knew that there had to be a better way and even greater experience.

 The dilemma when traveling from the UK on a cruise is that if you want to do so without any flight, you will often have to spend 2 days on the boat until you hit warmer weather. Unless you are lucky, you might start the first few days of your cruise enjoying cloudy weather, as you leave Southampton Port. Furthermore, if you are cruising down to the Canary Islands or down the coast of Portugal and Spain, you have to sail through the often dreaded Bay of Biscay, a place where the seas can be particularly rough. Apart from avoiding flights, experiencing a more British cruise (to avoid issues such as triple tipping) and to avoid the man-made and sterile Caribbean excursion on cruise line owned islands (such as Great Stirrup Cay) and which are very inauthentic, was the key plan. I just love ports which are real places and even if they are touristy (we are all tourists), I love to see real locals in these places.

things to do on a cruise ship

fun and games on board

The P&O Experience

With my reasons for trying a P&O cruise from Southampton, England, now let me tell you about the trip.  The beauty of a no-fly cruise is as you can imagine, the chance to drive directly to the port. In order to avoid traffic and confusion in the port itself though, we booked for a space in one of the car parks which are on the outskirts of the city and which come with an organised mini-bus to the boat, with the car parking area in a secured area. We took the bags out of the boot of our car and they were put straight into the back of the mini-bus and the next time we touched them was in the cabin of the cruise boat! Bliss! So easy!

This particular cruise was an adults only one – meaning no children and it soon became clear as soon as we boarded, that the combination of P&O and no children, means a quite old age range on a P&O cruise. Some of the passengers checking in looked as though they might be lucky to survive the 10 days cruise. After a smooth check-in and soon onboard, we immediately felt at home. For British travelers having a kettle and tea-bags in the cabin, decent and proper tea bags in the buffet areas, for a nice cuppa, are essential basics, along with a decent pub on the boat, which the Arcadia has.

Port Parties

cruise ship party

Sail Away Party

The cruise got off to a flying start and did at every port we left on the trip, with what P&O term a ‘Sail Away’ party. Union jack flags everywhere, staff doing a number of dance and singing routines to old classics from the war years, on the top deck. Not my cup of tea but as the champagne flowed and with a good atmosphere, the Sail Away parties are certainly are an experience, and immediately the experience felt a relaxed one.

 The Room

Having tried outside cabins on previous cruises and realising that we rarely got to look out of the cabin window because we were rarely in the room, except to change, to sleep or during the hours when it was dark outside anyway. Add onto that the fact that you can put your television on, you can see the view from the front of the boat, as though your TV were a port window, we decided an inside cabin would be fine. I can honestly say that the only real difference to our holiday in terms of inside or outside cabin was that we saved a few hundred pounds in the cruise cost!

 No Tipping Problems

The difference between cruises in locations such as the Caribbean which are heavily influenced by American cruisers, and Europe, such as on a P&O cruise (in Europe or wherever they travel given that P&O do world cruises) from the moment we got on the boat, was clear. USA is my favourite country to travel and NYC my favourite place worldwide and I spent 3 years travelling USA and thus have an affinity with America. On cruise ships though I found that issues surrounding tipping is too much for many of us European travellers, who like to relax whilst on holiday and not to be constantly pressured to give away money for the most basic task. Buy a beer from the pub onboard and there was no triple tipping expected and prices for a decent pint of beer (which not possible on the other cruises) was possible. The staff also looked much more relaxed i.e. with the worry of trying to allure customers into tipping. In fact it seems as though P&O give a small percentage of sales to staff and this works better for everyone involved.

 A Unique Cultural experience

cruise ship afternoon tea

afternoon tea on the P&O Arcadia

Certain elements of this very British cruise made the experience certainly more memorable and a far more interesting and fun experience than every other cruise we had been on, and this is even after factoring in the no-flight aspect. Afternoon tea with cream scones, pots of tea and an array of cakes and sandwiches, all made in the way you would expect if you were in the Dorchester Hotel, London, Decent beer, live Premiership football and Sail Away parties. What a fantastic cruise! P&O do have a very loyal following and they may or might not be to your liking. You might want to try though.

Paul mentions taking a no-fly cruise by cruising from a port near you, which does save time and money from flying to the starting port.  I have tried that a few times, with shuttles to the port in Seattle and driving to Vancouver BC.  The shuttles worked out well, but we did have a bit of a hitch in Vancouver (our own fault though.)  We could have used some wayfinding assistance on that one!

Posted in Europe, Guest Blogs | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Walking Tour of Willemstad, Curacao

cruise ship at the dock

Divina in Curacao

On a day that could turn from sun to rain and back in the blink of an eye, our shore excursion from the Divina of MSC Cruises in Curacao included a walking tour of nearby Willemstad after a visit to Hato Caves.  We had the free garbage bag-like rain ponchos from the ship this time, but they turned out to be more trouble than they were worth on this particular day.  Once removed from the packet they don’t fold up that small again, and by the time we decided we might need them and put them on the rain pretty well stopped.

Willemstad, Curacao

tour guide with the lollipop sign

Our guide for the walking tour, a Curacao native of Dutch descent, held up a “lollipop” sign with the number 4 while waiting for passengers to disembark.  At times along the journey she would hold this sign above her head to keep the group from getting lost in a crowd…or perhaps to discourage people from wandering off on their own or giving them a way back if they did.

historical buildings

it used to be a synagogue, but now is judge’s chambers

First we saw what appeared to be a church, but it is now the judges chambers for the adjoining courthouse.  It once housed a synagogue used when the Jewish population split into two factions, but they eventually rejoined.

row of colorful buildings

buildings in Curacao

Willemstad has numerous brightly colored buildings.  The old buildings are made of coral and sea sand so paint does not stick well because of the salt.  They constantly peel and need repainting often to stay looking nice.

cruise ship in Curacao

Holland America Maasdam and a local fishing

We couldn’t miss the Holland America ship Massdam dominating the waterfront view, docked in St. Anna Bay near the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge.  The much larger Divina we came on docked outside of the bay at a nearby cruise ship dock.


the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the western hemisphere

We passed the oldest Synagogue in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere, which is also a museum.   Many Spanish and Portuguese Jews fled to Curacao in the mid 1600′s following the Spanish Inquisition.

floating market

backside of the floating market

Our tour took us by the floating market where vendors from Venezuela set up a row of stalls by their small boats and sell fresh fruits and vegetables to the people of Willemstad.  Farming has historically never been profitable in Curacao’s arid soil.  Their current water supply comes from desalinization, so the water is quite expensive.  Rather than agriculture or even tourism, the island’s economy is based on oil.

fresh produce for sail right off the boats

vendor’s stalls at the floating market

We passed a number of street vendors around Willemstad, all seemed quite friendly and none aggressive like they are in some ports.

street vendor

street vendor in Willemstad, Curacao

On your own in Curacao -The town of Willemstad is just a short walk from the cruise ship dock.  Well for us it was.  The smaller Holland America ship Maasdam docked right in the center of town.

On the way back to the ship we saw a guy with a sign for Island tours. For $15 the 2-hour tour covers all the island highlights.

Right off the ship we found a booth selling all sorts of local jewelry made out of everything from pearls to corals to a variety of shells. We did not see anything nicer in town, though one booth near the pontoon bridge did have a small selection of larimar necklaces.

 copyright My Cruise Stories 2014
Posted in Caribbean, Divina, MSC, Port Cities, Ports of Call, Shore Excursions | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

A Quick Stop in Victoria

Port Stop in Victoria

cruise ship docked in Victoria

Westerdam in Victoria

From Ketchikan to Victoria, the Westerdam raced against a Princess boat that left about the same time.   Apparently whoever arrives first gets through customs first and the other ship has to wait. I’m not sure whether we beat them or not because by the time we got off the ship both ships had long since docked, along with a ship from Norwegian.  Victoria night was the only time we could work in dinner at the Pinnacle grill, which meant we were eating when the ship docked, but it was a meal too good to miss.

all lit up and it's not Christmas

Parliament buildings with lights

Most of the family opted to stay on the ship at Victoria, the majority of them having seen it before. A couple of them who did not have dinner with us went right away when the ship docked.  My aunt, sister, and I went when we finished our dinner.

Canadian otter sea planes

Seaplanes fly tourists in and out of Victoria daily

Victoria has enough tourist business that even three ships at the dock really makes no difference.  Everything in town closed at its normal time meaning we had not much left to see. The ships dock a considerable distance from town.  Shuttles and taxis lined up to take passengers in, along with the horse-drawn tally-ho. Once in town we saw lots of small horse carriages, but the larger tally-ho never ventured far up the main street so I never got a chance to get a photo.

MV Coho from Black Ball Ferry Line

Black Ball Ferry docked in Victoria’s inner harbour

I don’t know what the tally-ho charged for the ride into town, but between shuttles and taxis, the taxi charged for the three of us about what the shuttle would have charged each person.

Empress Hotel

Empress Hotel photo taken from Victoria Harbour Ferry

We looked through a tea shop at the Empress Hotel, tea there being one of the things Victoria is most famous for. Not much else was open, but we did get to see the parliament building all lit up since it got dark before we went back to the ship.

Victoria Clipper

Victoria Clipper in the Ballard Locks in Seattle

If you want to see more of Victoria than the quick glimpse an evening cruise ship stop offers, it’s pretty easy to get there from Seattle. The Victoria Clipper sails daily from Seattle to Victoria. For faster transportation, seaplanes also fly frequently between Seattle and Victoria. From the Olympic Peninsula, the Black Ball Ferry makes daily trips across the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Port Angeles to Victoria. Any of those methods of transportation are good for a day trip there.  For longer stays Victoria has plenty of hotels.  Americans arriving in British Columbia, Canada by boat or ground transportation from Washington State just need either a passport card or enhanced driver’s license, although passports are always an option.  Taking the plane requires a passport for everyone.

Posted in Holland America, Port Cities, Ports of Call, Westerdam | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Hood Canal Bridge

Un-Cruise Adventures ship the Wilderness Adventurer

Wilderness Adventurer in Hood Canal on a foggy, rainy day

When the Wilderness Adventurer headed to Hoodsport as the first stop of the Un-Cruise Adventures Washington Coastal cruise, I had hoped to have a chance to see the Hood Canal Bridge from a boat’s point of view.  It’s a pretty interesting bridge.

Hood Canal Bridge

Hood Canal Bridge looking west from the Kitsap Peninsula side

Most draw bridges lift upward to let boats pass through.  A few turn sideways to make an opening.  In a rather unique fashion, the Hood Canal bridge does neither.  It withdraws part of the bridge into itself, underneath the other layer.

I found a brief video on the state DOT site, which is definitely worth the 15 seconds or so it takes to watch it.  Unfortunately they have no embed code so the best I could do is this link:

Hood Canal bridge opens

It shows the bridge raising up and the road sliding under.

Hood Canal Bridge

Hood Canal bridge looking east from the Olympic Peninsula side

When boats go through, the first cars in line stop on the bridge.  I’ve never been close enough to the front of the line to get out and see if you could see anything when the bridge opens though.  Just close enough to see the boat approach on one side of the bridge and disappear behind the waiting cars and then emerge on the other.  You wouldn’t get to see the bridge move from the boat since it opens before the boat gets there, but could still see what the bridge looks like from water level while passing through.  It’s usually around a 20 minute wait for the cars.  When hurrying to any of the ferry docks on the other side waiting for the bridge can mean missing your intended ferry and taking a later boat.

navy sub at hood canal bridge

Navy sub USS Ohio crossing through the Hood Canal Bridge, photo courtesy of Wikipedia

When a navy submarine transits the canal, no bridge travelers see it go through.  Police guard both ends and stop all cars before they get to the bridge.  Even if you are stopped near enough to the bridge to walk to it, nobody is allowed on it or close enough to it to see anything.  For some reason the submarines always go through on the surface instead of silently slipping through in the depths of the water where nobody would ever know they were there.  Waiting for a sub to go through takes a long time. The time I got stopped for one it took at least an hour.

Funny how when a bridge is open it is closed and when it is closed it is open.  At least from the point of view of anyone traveling in a car.

While on the Wilderness Adventurer we saw a sub on the surface in the distance, probably headed to the canal since they have a base there.  From a distance is all anyone sees it though.  It had an escort of navy boats that keep curious onlookers away.

Unfortunately we passed through the Hood Canal Bridge in the middle of the night in both directions on the Wilderness Adventurer, so only the captain (or whomever was at the helm) and possibly night shift crew had an opportunity to see anything, if indeed they could see it in the dark.

The Hood Canal Bridge opened in 1961 as the world’s first floating bridge over salt water, to some controversy as to whether the design could hold up to the tides and storms sure to batter the 3rd longest bridge on the planet.

sinking bridge

hood canal bridge collapsed in a storm in 1979

Proving their worries, the western pontoons sank in a severe 1979 storm.  It took until 1982 to rebuild, a sturdier bridge this time with newer technology and stronger anchors.  The state had to open an old ferry run that had closed when the bridge first opened to keep traffic flowing for the several years it took to rebuild.  From 2003 to 2009 the eastern half got rebuilt so now the entire bridge has better technology and sturdier anchorage than the original.  Its actual name is the William A. Bugge Bridge, but if anyone called it that nobody would have a clue which bridge they meant.  Other than picturing the bridge crawling with bugs named William, the name is not likely to stick in anyone’s brain.

Posted in Un-Cruise Adventures, Washington, Wilderness Adventurer | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments