Sunday, July 27, 2008

July 27 - Copenhagen

Sunday July 27 – Copenhagen
Up at 5:15am for a morning walk culminating on being the only person on the sundeck watching us cruise among the many islands as we approach Copenhagen. I wonder what today will bring.
Our ship has docked a few hundred yards from the famous “Little Mermaid” statue on the water, so I take a picture of her to show everyone.

OK, just as I was about to take the picture four or five busloads of passengers from the other four cruise ships unloaded all at once. She's there – trust me.
We decided to get on the hop-on hop-off bus tour of the city, but after waiting through two fully loaded buses, we walked back to our ship and caught our free shuttle to the middle of the city. I think much of the crowd was from that “other ship” berthed next to us (that ship had 3500 passengers which made our ship and its 700 guests looks like a dinghy – seriously). Anyway, we were able to catch a hop-on hop-off tour from city center which took us around, stopping at the “Little Mermaid” statue again.

(real picture of the mermaid supposed to be here but having difficulty uploading - satellite connection issue?)

Then on to the Rosenborg palace to see the royal treasure and residence. The Treasury was in the basement, and the residence the main and upper two floors. The highlight of the day brought giggles to all who ventured into the room. It looked so formal, with beautiful floor to ceiling tile.

(picture of the loo is supposed to be here but having difficulty uploading - satellite connection issue?)

Tomorrow is another sea day and another time zone change as we sail to Helsinki. Claudia teaches her classes again and there will be speakers, movies, and shows throughout the day, with the Grand Buffet and formal wear in the evening. We'll be busy...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Oslo sunrise

The sunrise picture is not included above but will get it up as soon as I am able to.

July 26 - I am a morning person

Saturday July 26 11:00pm – I am a morning person
I am a morning person. I haven't always been that way, but now I can't imagine sleeping through a sunrise. Last night our captain said that we shouldn't miss the approach into Oslo harbor, and so I prepared to get up at 6am, walk my two miles around the ship and see the show. I woke up at 4:00am as it was light outside. I decided to get up and get in my daily walk then rather than later. I'm sure that the crew monitoring the promenade deck cameras thought I was nuts, as I was the only one out and about. I took my first picture at 4:15am as it looked like the sun was already up but hidden behind a hazy cloud, but it was only the reflection. The second picture (see top of blog) was taken at 4:30am – sunrise on a sea as smooth as glass and the temperature already in the mid-60s. So quiet and peaceful – only a small sailboat nearby heading for Oslo like us. It was a great way to reflect on the all the things I've been able to do and see. So I am a morning person and don't want to change.
After a breakfast of scrambled eggs and Swedish pancakes with Lingonberries, we went into downtown Oslo (the people in Oslo apparently sleep in – it was pretty vacant), and took the harbor ferry closer to where the Viking Museum and Volksmuseum are located. The Viking Museum contains three well-preserved Viking ships that were used as burial tombs for nobility around 1200AD. Pretty amazing stuff. The Volksmuseum (an outdoor village with pieces brought in from all over Norway). We went to the Stave Church, the oldest Christian church in Norway, dating to about 1200AD. The outside was restored in the late 1800's but the inside is pretty well intact.
The temperature today was 84 degrees – the hottest day of the year for Oslo, and uncomfortable by their standards. For me, it was a nice day for shorts and a cool polo shirt. Tonight a dinner and live show and watch another gorgeous sunset. Tomorrow we'll be in Copenhagen.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Portland to Chicago to London to Dover to sea

July23 3:45pm – Life in the fast lane (500pmh+ at 40,000ft)
The flight attendants have made their rounds, five times so far. (1) Do you want to buy a snack pack - $5; (2) pretzel and soft drink service – free; (3) pick up the trash; (4) Do you want coffee – free; (5) Do you want water. Makes it hard to get up and use the restroom because of the carts going back and forth. With the limited space in Economy class, I've learned to be flexible - after all it's my vacation and for every problem there's a silver lining. I'm also running on fumes after 4 ½ hours sleep. I am tempted to ask for a catheter, but wisely stay quiet. I eventually am able to safely use the facilities. I was pretty wiped out when we got our pretzels – I opened the package and started to pour them into my glass of ice. Then as I'm wearing my Bose noise-cancelling headphone, I barely hear the flight attendant apologizing for reaching while she is pouring coffee to the gentleman in the row behind me, saying something about “Purple Tunnel Syndrome.” I'm wide awake now because I certainly don't want to catch that. I glance out the window and take a picture of the Rocky Mountains.
July 23 9:30pm – Chicago O'Hare Airport
We arrive about 20 minutes late, so our pilot took us on a grand tour of the airport (on the ground) by making two loops around the terminal while we wait for our gate to open up. We did not set any speed records and still made our connection to London. So the next flight will also be about 20 minutes late. They are trying to catch up, but a lot of economy passengers do not have seat assignments and the computers are down. Isn't this fun? Flight time to London ~7hr25min.
July 24 11:30am – London and Dover
Since we were late taking off from Chicago, we're naturally late arriving at London Heathrow and that means we're out of sync with landing priority. So, like Chicago, we take some scenic loops – this time at 15,000 feet. On one loop, I glanced out the window to see an A320 passingVERY close underneath us. How exciting to be nearly hit mid-air by an another plane. An obvious error somewhere. Upon leaving the plane I asked the captain how close we were. He answered matter-of-factly about 1000 feet. Do you really want to know how big Heathrow is? The highest gate number I saw was #209. And they're building a fifth terminal!
After a quiet trip through customs, we find our cruise representative, but we're not on her list. After a couple of minutes, she determines that we were expected on a Northwest flight arriving in Terminal 4 (we were on a United flight arriving in Terminal 1). So the driver came from Terminal 4, picked us up and took us back to Terminal 4 to collect the other four. The off to Dover. About 40 miles from Dover the main freeway (Motorway 40) is stop and go. The driver talks to a trucker and is informed that an accident 1/2 hour earlier has completely blocked the road. We all have a good laugh at the sign telling us to slow down because of an accident. A turtle is going faster than us at this time. Finally after about 30 minutes of stop and go, we find an exit leading to the alternate route (scenic route). Here's one of those memorable silver linings – we passed through this tiny village with buildings dating from the 15th century (half timber construction). The countryside was so quiet and peaceful and so very British. And we finally get to Dover. Clear and about 75 degrees.
All we want to do now is shower and change clothes. We're both feeling pretty skanky, but it was time for the lifeboat drill. When that concluded, our luggage had been delivered to our stateroom and we hurried to shower and change for a great relaxing dinner. We knew the Maitr'd from our previous cruises and well as the head waiter and one of the table waiters. We even had a few minutes to talk to the head waiter.
Dinner tonight was: mushroom tort, crab soup, sea bass with spinach and mashed potatoes, a glass of wine, and an assortment of chocolate thingies for dessert. Maybe that doesn't sound too special, but it was a far cry better than anything else I've eaten since our last cruise. It was impeccably prepared and presented – absolutely perfect.
It's now 11:00pm local time and we go into another time zone tomorrow. We're looking forward to a great night's sleep and we cruise the North Sea. We'll be at sea all day tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

July 23 - 3am...

July 23 – 3:00am
It's 3am. Do you know where your kids are? Or your parents for that matter? I've been waiting for that 3am phone call and it hasn't come to me, so I guess I'm not Presidential material. Anyway, packing is done and it's time to get a little rack. I would have finished earlier, but I was packing into our largest suitcase. After finishing, it weighed 65 lbs. Oops – limit is 50lb. So had to repack into two smaller bags; the good news is there will be less carryon.
Wide awake at 7:30am to finish taking care of last minute chores (like washing dishes, watching the Tour de France, eating breakfast, taking out the trash). Our ride to the airport arrives promptly at 10am. The first leg of our flight (to O'Hare in Chicago) leaves at 1:49PM so we have plenty of time to burn. Over a nice lunch we realize that we left a tomato and sliced avocado on the kitchen counter – ugh! That would be nasty to come home to. I visualize a giant anthill in the kitchen or worse yet this giant pulsating black mold when we get back, so I make a phone call to the neighbor to have him go in the house and take care of things. We head to the boarding gate – our flight is delayed 20 minutes. What can I say – it's O'Hare.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Sunday July 20
This weekend Claudia and I each went through a period of being overwhelmed – so much to do and so little time, although I know we have set aside enough time to be able to relax the last night before we leave. Today we did our last grocery shopping and some little last-minute clothes shopping, so that’s all out of the way. I spent yesterday getting bills ready to pay that will be due while we are gone. A hold on mail delivery was turned in, and our itinerary and emergency numbers were printed for the neighbor who will be watching the house.
On Monday, I’ll pay the bills, arrange a vacation stop for the newspaper, and change some dollars into foreign currency. So with that, a lot of the burden has been lifted.
We have everything we need; now we just have to pack (as light as possible).
Typically when we travel, we try to use Rick Steves as a guide for packing light. For overseas, I’ve never quite been able to get everything into a single carryon, but I get real close. Domestically, I can do just a carryon, which is really nice.
Tonight I spent a few hours going through all the travel toiletries and put together two small bags (one for carryon that has just the minimum – shaving, brushing teeth, and freshening up (small bar of soap, small washcloth and towel, deoderant), and the rest for checked luggage).
I also separated out and organized all the electronics we’ll be bringing – small cameras, chargers, camcorder, tapes, batteries, mp3 players, headphones. I keep things in small separate bags, as they can fit pretty much anywhere where there is a little space.
As for clothes, there’s a ways to go. I don’t want to bring too much, but I also don’t want to wash every night either. It’s the big travel dilemma. The cruise presents some unique problems. Since Claudia is teaching aboard ship, we need to be perhaps a bit more presentable than a regular customer. The cruise also has special evenings with a dress code: on formal nights, tux or dark suit is required (unless you want to stay in your stateroom); on informal nights, suit or sportcoat with slacks and tie are required (same caveat as formal night); on casual nights, casual pants like Dockers and golf shirt are the typical code. Sorry, no Levis or shorts in the evening. Also, the weather will most likely be different – I’ve been following the weather. While we enjoy sunny 80-85 days, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland have been having off and on rain with highs just reaching 70 and lows around 55. Plus we’ll be on the water, so I’ll need sweater, rain jacket, and fleece zip-up just in case. So how many knit shirts, longsleeve shirts, etc to bring. I’ll start with 5 days worth and see how it goes…

Thursday, July 17, 2008

counting days...

Three more work days. So much to do both at work and preparing for the cruise. For those who have not traveled before, here is a list of some of the things that need to be done:
passports (and photocopy of same in case it gets lost or stolen)
itinerary for us (so we know where the heck we're supposed to go)
itinerary for friends & family (in case of emergency)
addresses & phone numbers (for postcards we'll send)
emergency phone numbers (banks, credit cards, family)
cell phones - international roaming turned on
clothes (how am I supposed to pack light for a cruise with formal, informal, and casual nights?)
toiletries - just enough to last for the trip
electronics - camcorder or not (yes); big camera (no); small point & shoot camera (yes); mp3 player & tunes (yes); spare batteries, rechargers, laptop (so I can update the blog, and do email); headphones (noise cancelling)
eyeshades, extra socks to wear on the plane
books to read (as if I'll be bored)
do the yardwork, make sure all plants have temporary homes, and the garden gets watered daily (the tomato plants are already at the top of their cages)
arrange for newspaper pickup and mail delivery
make sure upcoming bills are paid in advance
and the beat goes on... (sorry, that dates me)