Back to Boston

family-vacations-bostons-public-gardensWhen I was five, we moved from Altoona, Pennsylvania to Boston so my dad could attend Gordon College.  We lived in a student apartment in the basement of the college which was located beside the park in front of the Isabella Gardner Museum.   I played in the park, went to Farragut School, and got to go to Saturday morning art programs for kids down the way at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.  We’d attend church at Park Street Church and, when I was lucky, after church I’d get to ride the famous Swan Boats across the street in the Public Garden.

Four years later, when we moved to Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania, I got teased unmercifully because of my Bostonian accent.  As if people from Philadelphia area talk normal!

My first year of college I went back to Boston.  By that time Gordon College had moved out to Wenham and among other discoveries developed a taste for steamer clams.  That and lobster … and I enjoyed more than my fair share.  So eventually I developed a shellfish allergy … I guess too much of a good thing.

One of the things I love about doing Canada/New England cruises is that it gets me back to Boston and usually a stop in Gloucester which is just down the road from Wenham. And this year once again I get to sail out of Boston on a Grand New England cruise to some of the best ports on the coast of Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  I’ve had fun working on my talks including a fun, new one “Cockroach of the Sea” which isn’t about another new RCCL mega ship but lobster which, way back when, because of its abundance and low-class reputation, was known as cockroach of the sea.  This is a “Lobster” cruise featuring, among other things, a down east lobster bake … and me allergic to lobster.

 

 

 

Apple Cider Time

It’s hard to believe that it’s September … almost … and Fall is here.  Of course in tropical Panama it is Paradise  year-round, so no colored leaves and no fresh apple cider.  No place is perfect.  But, in Panama there’s also no cold weather, no slush, no snow, and in Boquete at least a perfect temperature with no heat or air conditioning, so no exorbitant electric and gas bills.

For me this 4th Quarter is shaping up to be a busy time, with lots of fall color and apple cider, and adventures to beautiful and some exotic places in the Americas.

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It’s back on the 200-passenger, little ship that I think of a “my yacht with a few friends” sailing along the St Lawrence Seaway in Canada, then “Down East” to New England enjoying the spectacular fall foliage.  I did these cruises on PEARL MIST with Pearl Seas Cruises last year and loved it!

queen-of-the-west-columbiaThen, still in that colorful fall foliage mode, something new for me, the Columbia & Snake Rivers in Washington and Oregon on American Cruise Line’s paddle wheel boat QUEEN OF THE WEST.    Pearl Cruises is a sister company of American Cruise Lines.  Since my daughters went to Willamette and the University of Puget Sound we spent some time around Portland, and went out to see Multnomah Falls, and I’ve always wanted to cruise the Columbia River up through the Columbia River Gorge area. So that should definitely be exciting!

300px-lewis_and_clark-expeditionSince we’ll be following many of the footsteps of Lewis & Clark I got to do something I’ve always wanted to do, research the Corps of Discovery and the journey of Lewis & Clark and put it together in a lecture.  Can’t wait to give it!

Then I’ve got a week vacation … understand the rest of this is all work … in Seattle with my daughter & her family.  The highlight of that is that I get to take my grand kids trick or treating!

Then it’s fly back to dear old Ft. Lauderdale, to get back on “my yacht” … and it really does feel that way, not just for me but for every guest on board.  It’s all-inclusive, the service is personal and superb, there is never a line and it’s comfortable and gracious. Staterooms all have private balconies, food is great,  guests are well-educated and well-traveled and interesting folks.  And with only 200 people on board I get to know the guests, so it’s fun.  So back to Ft. Lauderdale and back to Cuba on PEARL MIST.

dsc_0334I admit it was a little dicey there with Trump promising to scratch Obama’s executive order that made these Cuba cruises possible.  Thankfully, although Trump cancelled Obama’s policy and instituted Trump’s police, it turned out that Trump’s is the same as Obama’s, just basically a different name.  Whatever.  Cuba was great this past Spring and I’m eager to be back again.  If you haven’t been to Cuba you must go!  And go now before the giant ships turn it into another Nassau, St Martin, or St Thomas.

dsc_0299So it’s been hectic putting all of this together but it is, as they say, “in the can” and ready to go.  Then it’s home for Christmas & New Years, and likely back to sea again for the first months of 2018.

As you, hopefully, know our beautiful home and little coffee farm is for sale.  Since I’ve written the book ESCAPE TO PARADISE about moving to Panama, people always want to know why?  Isn’t Panama paradise?  Don’t you already have the ideal retirement?  And, “yes” to both questions.  However, as I plunge into the “Fourth Quarter” and I have all these opportunities, I want to see as much of the world as possible.  I thought, I think correctly, that it was a good idea to stick close to home this summer, hence Canada, New England, the Pacific Northwest and Cuba.  But things will change: they always do.  The ships will be back in the Holy Land, Egypt, the Black Sea, the Med, Asia, and I want to go.  With the amount of time I can travel, I want to be able to lock and leave, and I want my wife, Nikki, to be able to come along.  All of that means that after 13 years its time to downsize and move on to our next adventure.  Whether that will be in Panama, the States, or somewhere else remains to be seen.  Stay tuned!  In the meantime, help me find the right folks to take over our beautiful Paradise in Panama.

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Exploring America

DSC_0060I’ve traveled, mostly by cruise ships, over much of the world and I thought maybe this year was a good year to stick around home and see some of North America.  Originally I had thought this summer would have been a good time to redo the Black Sea, the Bosphorus and Istanbul, one of my favorite cities. But this turned out not to be the best time to visit Turkey or the Black Sea.

Many years ago we had taken a river cruise on the lower Mississippi out of New Orleans and loved it.

When I was in seminary in Holland, Michigan I had an apartment in a home on the shores of Lake Macatawa and I would see the huge Great Lakes bulk carriers sail by the dock and I would think, “Wouldn’t it be fun to cruise the Great Lakes.  Why don’t they have cruises on the Lakes?”

We got to visit the SS KEEWATIN, one of the last passenger steamships on the Great Lakes

We got to visit the SS KEEWATIN, one of the last passenger steamships on the Great Lakes

There was a time before the railroads when cruising the Great Lakes was the way to the Midwest.  Most of the immigrants who came from Europe to burgeoning cities like Detroit and Chicago came by the Lake steamers.  Thankfully in recent years people have discovered the joys of river cruising not just in Europe, where it is booming, but also in the US.  American Cruise Lines has eight ships and offers cruises of American rivers and coastal areas.   Their sister company, Pearl Seas Cruises, is a relatively new entry that offers coastal cruises and starting later this year will also offer cruises to Cuba.

So PEARL MIST captured my attention and I jumped on the opportunity to work a cruise on the Great Lakes & Georgian Bay.

DSC_0442PEARL MIST is my kind of ship.  Only 100 or so staterooms, MUCH larger than on most ships and most with balconies.  Of all the ships I’ve been on over many years this is the first ship where I wasn’t forced into a daily intimate relationship with my shower curtain, and if I dropped the soap I didn’t have to step out of the shower or risk being impaled by the shower handle if I stooped over to pick up the soap.  Quick review: fantastic service by room steward and dining room staff.  Interesting, well for the US & Canada, ports with shore excursions that were frequently complimentary or offered at about half what you’d pay on most cruise lines.  Open seating dining and I chose to eat with a different group of folks every meal.  The food was excellent.  I guess cooking for 200 people enables you to create better food than cooking for 2,000 or more.

What PEARL MIST didn’t have: art auctions, gift shops, people hawking water at $3 a bottle … bottled water, along with beer, wine, and mixed drinks at the daily free cocktail party are included … no one hawking Botox treatments, teeth whitening, Jackie Kennedy jewelry, no wannabe Vegas shows, no pool games … well, no pool … no long lines.  Oh yes, no wine at $9 a half glass or drinks with paper umbrellas for $12.

Getting on board with only 200 is a breeze and getting on and off the ship is quick and easy.  And halfway through the cruise the crew knows your name and preferences.

A fun feature … in both lounges there is a counter with a dynamite coffee machine that will make whatever you want, espresso, cappuccino, tea, hot chocolate, double shot … you name it … and it was good coffee.  There are also piles of sodas … just help yourself, no $3 for a can of Coke plus 15% tip … piles of bottle water and stacks of bags of chips, pretzels, food bars, snacks.  Help yourself!  And … lest your starve … there are breakfast pastries, fresh-baked cookies, and afternoon cakes and sandwiches, followed by a daily free cocktail hour with hors d’oeuvres.

What’s to do besides eat?  These tend to be port intensive cruises.  Almost a port every day.  In eleven days we had one “sea” day, or more accurately lake day, and I only managed to get time for three lectures.  The afternoon cocktail party goes on in both lounges and is a big deal.  These people like to visit and share. Most of the guests were retired or nearing retirement, rather well off, well-educated and well-traveled.  They were interesting folks!  One guy had been in the US Air Force, the White House wing, and had flown the Reagans around on Air Force One.  Two had captained US Navy ships.  One owned most of the funeral homes in the southeastern states.  Another gal was a mucky muck in the world of US swimming and since the Olympics were on was in her glory at the US victories.  She also had written two books on women US Navy pilots. A retired shrimper, surgeons and doctors … interesting folks.  Intelligent people and guess what … they were all smart enough to leave their US political disagreements on the dock!

OK, no Vegas wannabe shows, or kids graduated from Disney World hoping for Broadway careers.  With full days in port folks tended to turn in early.  No late night disco here.  Evening entertainment was usually an onboard duo, supplemented by local talent onboard for the night.  There were a few fun games of bingo and trivia.  As requested I came on board with six lectures, and DSC_0167bridge commentary about the Welland Canal and Mackinac Bridge as well as Mackinac Island, but only had time for three talks.  I think this group would have appreciated more lecture time and more information about the places we were visiting.

DSC_0169Highlights were cruising the St Lawrence Seaway and the Welland Canal, which unfortunately we transited the first night out so folks really didn’t have a grasp on the importance of the eight Welland Locks that get you around Niagara Falls.  Visiting the Canadian side of the Falls and cruising into Horseshoe Falls was definitely a highlight, as, surprisingly for me DSC_0360was the visit to the restored Jesuit mission complex of Sainte-Marie among the Hurons.

We had to endure the hassle of crossing the border from Windsor, Canada to Detroit to visit the Henry Ford Museum and Deerfield Village, which were definitely a highlight. Deerfield Village was as I remembered it, but the Henry Ford Museum which I had remembered as a hodgepodge collection of interesting “stuff” is now a marvelously curated and logical display of US history.

Detroit Deerfield Village 13 Detroit Deerfield Village JFK

Although I lived in Michigan and went to school there, I had never been to Mackinac Island, so for me it was definitely a highlight of the cruise.  I skipped the famous fudge, but I thoroughly enjoyed riding around the island and sitting on the porch of the Grand Hotel.

Mackinac Island 31 Mackinac Island 68

Call me strange, but if I want a climbing wall I’ll go shop at REI.  If I want bumper cars or roller coasters I’ll go to Six Flags.  If I want water slides I’ll go to a water park.  If I want a Broadway show I’ll go to New York.  I cruise for the ports and the adventure of exploring and making new and interesting friends.  And you can find that here at home without flying half way around the world.