Showing posts from April, 2018

Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii, with friends!

Kilauea Caldera overlook, with Carla, Michael, Pat, Brenda, and Caroline. One of the last places to visit on our South Seas adventure was not in the South Seas, but still in the Pacific subtropics.  The Big Island of Hawaii was our destination.  After being cleared through US immigration, we disembarked and were met by old friends Pat and Brenda, who have lived in the Hilo area for the past 7 years.  Pat drove us up to Volcanoes National Park in an attempt to get ahead of the other 3000 guests on the Celebrity Solstice who certainly were headed in the same direction.  First stop? The Jaggar Museum and overlook to get a view of the Kilauea Caldera, which we heard was especially active today. We spent the good part of an hour here, watching the magma bubble and froth out of the ground.  Our vantage point was about a mile away, but with binocs we were able to see a lot of lava action.  While watching, we ran into shipmates Carla and Michael, who live on Maui (thanks to Carla

Why the mystery? The search for the ingredients in frijoles refritos on the Solstice

Dietary restrictions aren't a huge problem on a large cruise ship.  There are enough people that most dietary restrictions come up (3000+ guests on the Celebrity Solstice ), and the ship is prepared to deal with them.  We ate with people who needed a gluten-free diet, or a dairy-free diet, or were vegetarian.  There were separate menus for vegetarians and vegans.  On menus, prepared foods were marked with an icon designating whether they were lactose-free, or had no added sugar.  If the servers knew you had a dietary restriction, they would remind you if you ordered something containing the targeted ingredient.  And if a guest had any questions, they were encouraged to ask a manager. Note the icons designating vegetarian, gluten-free, no added sugar, and more on the left of the menu item. This brings me to the case of the  frijoles refritos , or refried beans .  Do they contain animal products or not?   You might think, "They're beans!  They must be animal-free!

Bora Bora - time to dive!

Bora Bora, French Polynesia, as photographed from space ( NASA Photo ID: ISS006-E-39822 ). Our last stop in French Polynesia was Bora Bora . For the GIs who were stationed here during WWII, it must have been hard to leave! Today, the economic driver is tourism so, as with Mo'orea, a ship with 3000+ guests is a big deal (the population estimate in 2017 in Bora Bora was a bit past 10000). Over email, we had arranged a 2-tank dive with Eleuthera Bora Diving Center .  This company is not as big as the "big dog" in the region ( TopDive ), so their niche is superior service with small groups.  We had 3 divers on our boat (Caroline, Ginny Aldrich, and me), p lus instructor Max. Max had a peculiar accent, and he had us guess his nationality.  We were all wrong.  He is French, but lived in Australia for a number of years.  So his English is French-Aussie! But... let me back up.  We arrived on the dock (tender lifeboats again) about an hour early, so we w

Mo'orea - sharks and rays, meet Rodney Dangerfield

Mo'orea!  This island in French Polynesia is only 11 miles from Tahiti.  About 17,000 people live here, which makes the arrival of a ship carrying 3000 guests a big deal.  Clearly, French Polynesia is the preferred location for those magazine shots of romantic cabins over the water, although no one mentions that boats can buzz by and peer within (we did). The topography is dramatic, as erosion has been working on this extinct volcano for 2 million years.  And the circling fringing reef inspired Charles Darwin, looking down at Mo'orea from a mountain on Tahiti,  to hypothesize a process for the formation of coral atolls. NASA Photo ID: ISS006-E-39837. One day isn't enough to even begin exploring these islands.  Since we had gone tramping in Tahiti, it was time to explore the water.  With friends Carla and Michael, we booked a lagoon excursion through Albert Transport.  This was to include 2 snorkels, 1 with sharks and rays, and a lunch, for 70 USD. We used