Cirque du Soleil’s Mystere

Well, another Blog World Expo has come and gone and I must say it was very educational and exciting.  I’m looking forward to next year already.  After our last Blog World Seminar and Party was done, our group had an extra day to enjoy Las Vegas.  One of the things we really wanted to do was take in a “Cirque” show. No one should ever go to Las Vegas without taking in at least one of their amazing productions.

As a Canadian, I have been following Cirque du Soleil since well before they became famous.  When they first started out they toured the exhibitions (county fairs) such as the CNE in Toronto, the PNE in Vancouver, and the Calgary Stampede in, you guessed it, Calgary.  The latter is where I first saw the troupe perform and even without the lavish stage, music and costumes they were mind-boggling.  I wish I had pictures of them doing their acrobatic stunts with ropes and trapezes while the audience sat on folding chairs in a hockey arena.  What a long way they come!

Also as a Canadian now living in Vancouver, I am totally disgusted with VANOC’s, the Vancouver Olympic Committee, inability to get Cirque du Soleil for the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics.  The “Cirque” is a Canadian icon that would have let us show the world just how exciting Canada can be.  I just hope they don’t have any more ice fishing like they had at the closing ceremonies in Torino.  Gasp!!!


“Ultimately, Mystere is a tribute to the artistry of the human body” – Las Vegas Sun

After seeing this show I would say that quote is partially correct.  It is actually a tribute to the artistry and strength of the Male human body. This show is almost entirely choreographed around the male form.  NOT that I’m complaining.  No,No!! The show is breath-taking in many ways.  I had to remember to breathe on more than one occasion and I could see others around me were having the same problem.

Considering Mystere is the very first production that Cirque du Soleil produced in Las Vegas starting in 1993, it has maintained its freshness with its audience.  Seeing it now, you would never know that this particular production has been around for 16 years.  The custom-built theatre at Treasure Island presents a spectacular backdrop for the performers.  The stage unobtrusively moves and changes as required for the upcoming acts.  The Cirque’s propensity of providing their own version of circus clowns during production changes keeps us not only entertained, but totally unaware of the changes that are happening around us.  Engaging the audience as participants in the show has also been part of the fun of going to a Cirque performance.

There are so many acts to write about for this production: the Aerial Cube, the Taiko Drums, the Chinese Poles, to name a few.  The most unbelievable has to be the Hand-to-Hand peformance by Valerii Simonenko of Russia and Jonas Zuniga of Argentina.  These two men with their Adonis good looks and physiques show us strength and gracefulness that is unparalleled.  They perform a hand and body balancing act that should be impossible to do with the presence of gravity.  Picture this: Imagine yourself at the gym doing your circuit training.  You get on that torture device where you lay on your stomach and lift weights with the back of your ankles.  Now replace the machine with a impressively-built man doing a hand stand on your feet.  This is what Valerii does, very slowing raising his feet from the knees down and then continues with some very convoluted movements that get him back on his own feet, but with his “brother” still doing his hand stand – now hand-to-hand.  I can’t see how it’s possible but he did it and it was amazing.

In closing, Cirque du Soleil never fails to impress me with their performances.  The costumes, music, performers, stage and stage sets are awe-inspiring.  I look forward to the next trip to Las Vegas so I can take in another great show.



Panama Canal Cruise Technology Recap

Well, now that I’ve been back from my month-long hiatus, it’s time to review the technology used while travelling.  Here is a listing of what hardware I took along as well as software used to blog and/or communicate.

Acer Aspire One NetBook Computer

Flip Video Camcorder

HP Photosmart R817 camera

SkyFi3 Satellite Radio with antenna

Sanyo cell phone on Bell Mobility network

Windows Live Writer


The Acer was great.  I could take it anywhere on the ship.  I could fit it into my Holland America bag or just hang on to it as it virtually weighs nothing.  After a few days of typing my blog I got quite proficient at using the keyboard though I’m still debating on getting the newer 10.1” model – just as light but screen and keyboard are a little bigger so it may not fit as easily into handbags and totes. There were some problems getting the Internet at some places onboard including our stateroom and I’m not sure whether it was the strength of the wireless in the Acer or problems with the ship’s wireless.  There were times when their Internet was extremely slow.  Several people had complained as you pay by the minute and most of that time was spent waiting.

I took hundreds of video clips with my Flip but I found one major flaw.  Uploading video to YouTube to attach to my blog was unbelievably slow and with a minimum of $.40/minute, it was just too costly.  There has to be a faster way to upload videos.  Hopefully I will find it before the next trip.  The nice thing about the Flip is that you can get stills from your video so if I didn’t have any good pictures from my camera I could check the video and create a picture to upload to the blog.  In fact, next time I may leave my camera at home altogether.  With the camera you’re always getting that split-second shot where someone usually has their eyes closed or someone has walked into the picture.  You know how that is.  With the Flip you can take video of everyone and everything and then step though it to find the best shot AND the pictures seem to be much clearer than with the camera.

As stated above, I didn’t use the camera too much and when I did I found that a lot of the pictures were somewhat blurry.  Don’t know if it was me or the ship moving… Anyway, it was a pain to carry both camera and Flip around so I am seriously debating leaving it at home in the future.

Fortunately before I left I decided to download some of my favs onto my SkyFi3 just in case the satellite didn’t work.  Even though the headset (antenna) is supposed to pick up signals when you are outside, it didn’t.  Basically I used it like an iPod instead.  XM Radio is not available everywhere!

Communications, other than email, were at a stand-still.  Once we left Fort Lauderdale I had no service at all until San Diego.  My travel partner, Rick, had a Blackberry on the Rogers Network, and he had service at every port.  He would get this really nice Welcome text message from whatever network was in that particular country and all his text and voice messages would come through.  What I found interesting though is that my Roger’s Internet stick did not work at all.  Isn’t it the same network?? Guess not.  So I guess it’s time to breakdown and get a “blackberry” and change networks.

The Windows Live Writer is a great tool.  I could start drafts of the days ahead of time if I wanted and then add things as we went along.  It was really easy to add pictures, hyperlinks and tags without using any Internet time.  So I could take my netBook anywhere to write and when I was ready I’d go find a place where I could get access and then press the Publish button and away it would go.  The Publish is very fast – even with pictures – so it didn’t take a lot of Internet time.  I’m really impressed with the way Live Writer interfaces with the Internet to publish blog entries.  Fast and efficient.  Got to like that.

So before my next trip I need to find a faster way to upload videos to my blog and get a new cellphone/blackberry on a different network, The XM Radio I guess I can do without as long as I have My Music filled with good beach tunes..

If anyone has any solutions or recommendations for the two major problems I encountered, please feel free to share!

Panama Canal Cruise – Day Twenty-One

We are disembarking today in Vancouver so this is the last of my series on the Panama Canal Cruise.  I hope you have enjoyed following our escapades. Believe me, the things we have done on this cruise are only a very small part of what you can do while cruising.  If you are considering a cruise I highly recommend an escorted trip such as what CAA Niagara Travel, BCAA Travel and AAA Travel do on a regular basis.  They have a bit of a premium attached, but you can have a worry-free vacation with all travel arrangements, transfers, hotels, etc. all looked after by someone else. They know not to book flights home the morning the boat docks like some people did in San Diego.  I hope they were able to sort out their air travel without too much hassle and expense.

I got up at dawn to watch the sunrise over the mountains.  It was a beautiful site.  We had the most amazing morning – no rain!!  It was the perfect end to a perfect trip weather-wise.  For 21 days we only had rain late one night.  The rest of the cruise the sun was out in full force.  You couldn’t ask for better weather.  So coming into Vancouver and finding sunshine was awe-inspiring.  I should have written a song about it.  Maybe someone from my songwriting class did!!

Gail and I watched the ship coming in past Stanley Park, then under the Lion’s Gate Bridge, and then into downtown Vancouver to Canada Place.  We could see the new Convention Centre with its grass roof and of course the Shangri La stood out from the crowd with its 60 floors. 

We docked next to the Holland America Zuiderdam and awaited our disembarkation.  We said good-bye to our beautiful suite and went to the Lido Aft Deck to enjoy the sunshine and the view.  From there we could see Vancouver, North Vancouver and West Vancouver with all their majestic mountains and parks.  This time the disembarkation was done quite smoothly and we were out fairly quickly meeting our friends and relatives in front of the World Trade Centre (can’t believe they still call it that). 

And so our vacation has drawn to a close and it is time to return to reality.  Thank you all for following us on our journey and if you are looking at cruising in the near future, you can contact your nearest CAA or AAA offices to book a care-free, escorted tour of your own.

Happy Traveling!!






Panama Canal Cruise – Day Twenty

This is our last full day on our cruise.  The seas had calmed down today so we had no problems getting on with our day.  Gail went for another spa treatment and this time she was okay when she got back.  I spend the morning writing and getting caught up on emails – not the most exciting but sometimes you’ve just got to tone it down for a couple of hours…..

The four of us went to the Mariner’s lunch today in the Vista Dining room where we had another lovely meal.  There was a recipient of the Platinum Medallion today and believe it or not, she was quite young – probably in her twenties.  She decided to do her 700th day on the Westerdam because apparently she was conceived on the original Westerdam.  How cool is that?

After lunch, Gail, Janice and Michael went to the Casino while I went to the Piano Bar to catch up on my blogging.  If I had known that I could get Internet access on Deck 2, I would have done this all along.  The Explorer Lounge on Deck 10 is the Internet Cafe and it sucks.  Why, you ask?  Number One, it’s on the top deck – the higher you go the more sway there is.  Then to top it off, the computer desks are placed sideways or diagonally – perfect for getting even more nauseous.  I guess they thought it wouldn’t look as nice if they put the desks front to back, from bow to aft, but it sure would make working on them a lot easier. 

Here is a lesson in lessening seasickness.   If you are concerned about cruising as motion sickness is a problem for you and you don’t want to take the Sea Calm offered as it puts you out for a couple of days, try these tips:

1.  Always try to sit facing either the front or the back of the ship.  Do not sit across the ship or diagonal. 

2.  Get a cabin on the lowest deck you can.  Some people always book on Deck 1 as there is very little rocking the farther down you are.  For the first part of the trip we were on Deck 4 and even that was 1000% better than on deck 8. 

3.  Carry around green apples.  If you start to feel a little woozy, eating a green apple and crackers if you have them really does help.  There must be something in the pectin that calms the stomach.

4.  Have a drink. This, of course, is optional, but wine seems to help relax a person enough that you don’t feel the motion anymore.  If you can’t or won’t drink alcohol then try ginger ale.

While I was hiding in the Piano Bar, I heard Gail’s name called out as a finalist in the Blackjack Tournament.  Not bad for someone who just learned to play on the ship.  She didn’t win but she did come in 5th.  Janice was also on the board in the Slot Machine Tournament so we were well represented.

Since this would be our last dinner on the ship, we got a few of our new friends together to dine vardenafil india.  It was so nice to have our group together for the evening though it was a little subdued since our trip was coming to an end.

After dinner we went on the Final Great Westerdam Pub Crawl starting in the Atrium Bar.  If you are a young person (under 70) on a cruise and want to get out and have some fun, this is where it’s at.  Again you don’t have to participate in the drinking, but you can join the group as a “support” person and believe me, they are needed.  We had a couple of support people to help this time and they had a lot of fun as well.  We met a lot of our new friends during the initial pub crawl and so have had people to hang out with ever since.  DON’T MISS IT!!

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Panama Canal Cruise – Day Nineteen

We are now getting ready for our last two sea days before landing in Vancouver.  We had breakfast delivered again but it was too cold to go outside.  The seas were especially rocky last night and pretty rough this morning.  There was a lot of rocking going on.  Here is the one downside to having the bigger room.  They are on the upper floors and the higher you go on the ship the more it rocks.  Not good.

Gail was off to the spa for a body wrap early in the morning.  She barely made it back before seasickness overtook her.  I’d been feeling queasy all morning so after I got her a couple of Gravol we spend most of the day in bed….in our own beds just in case you were wondering.

I wasn’t quite as bad so I went up to the Lido and got us some crackers and green apples to help counteract the upset tummies and then a little later was able to order lunch for us that would stay down.  Since we are in the Superior Verandah Suite we get to rent free DVDs so I went to the Explorer Lounge and got “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”.  So for the afternoon we stayed in bed and watched TV – reminiscent of my trip to Hawaii with another friend, Marlene, a couple of years ago.

Fortunately, the seas died down and so did the stomach rocking, so we were able to get dressed and head down for the Formal Dinner – the last on this cruise.  One of our group, Michael, needs a gluten-free diet and he has been amazed at the wonderful meals that have been served by Holland America for him.  He has to pick from the next day’s menu beforehand and then they prepare the same delicious meals we have but to his special dietary requirements.  I don’t think he will ever want to leave the ship.

After dinner we went to see the Westerdam Dancers and Singers perform again and then off to the Queen’s Lounge for 50’s and 60’s Prom Night.  That was a lot of fun.  Charlie and the HAL Cats mixed it up so there were both slow and faster twisting songs – music for everyone.  There was another contest where one of the entertainment staff would be told where to walk to and then wherever she landed that couple would get a free bottle of champagne. Well, guess what?  I did it again.  Another bottle of champagne to share with my friends.  I could get used to that.

As per usual we then spent the rest of the evening rotating between the Piano Bar and Northern Lights disco until after 2:00 am.  We’ve been trying to figure out how to get room service in a bar rather than our separate rooms for the middle of the night.  I’m sure glad we were feeling better tonight.

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Panama Canal Cruise – Day Eighteen

We arrived at Avalon, Catalina early in the morning.  Catalina is such a beautiful island with a cute little shopping area, wonderful restaurants and interesting architecture such as the Casino.  The Casino in Avalon isn’t a casino as we have come to known them now but rather reverts back to the old meaning of Casino which is a “gathering place”.  It’s a place to have concerts, meetings, shows, etc.  John Tesh used to have piano concerts there.

It was a beautiful California morning so my new roomy, Gail and I had breakfast on our verandah relaxing and basking in the sunshine. Being in a Superior Verandah room meant we could order breakfast in the morning rather than put a card out the night before.  Just something a little different.

We took a tender over to the island and proceeded to do some shopping.  We found that the further you get from the pier the better the deals got.  If you are planning on visiting the island, making sure to take plenty of cash or traveler’s cheques as a lot of the bike, golf cart, scooter rental places do not take credit cards.  Several people from the ship did the golf cart route as you can see a lot more of the island than if you are just walking dapoxetine 30mg.

We met up with most of our cruise friends on the island all pretty much doing the same as us – shopping.  Count Kody, Ann, Diane Fast, the Piano Bar entertainer and myself met for lunch at this great restaurant that Kody goes to every year but we can’t remember the name of and had 1 litre lagers and calamari steak.  It was amazing.  It appeared to be a very popular place as a lot of the ship’s entertainment staff were lunching there as well.

We all managed to make it back on board in time for sail away and enjoyed the music of Charlie and the HAL Cats on the Lido Aft Deck.  It was the eighteenth beautiful day of our cruise.  I can’t believe what great weather we have had on this trip.

There was a whole new bunch in the Piano Bar tonight as we had taken on hundreds of new people in San Diego.  There were 3 couples from Calgary, Alberta, Canada that are even more wild than us.  I don’t think we can keep up to them especially since we have had 2 prior weeks of fun and frivolity.

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Panama Canal Cruise – Day Seventeen

Disembarkation Day for those ending their trip in San Diego.  This was the worst disembarkation I have ever gone through.  US Immigration and HAL were totally disorganized.  Immigration required that all non-us citizens register whether they were disembarking or not and would not let anyone off the ship until everyone was accounted for.  This took about 4 hours where it usually takes an hour or so.  Some people missed their flights home because of the delay.

Normally disembarkation happens in waves.  People are issued tags with a colour and number of it and when their colour and number is called, they can proceed to disembark.  After the shemozzle with immigration Cruise Director Jimmy announced that everyone could get off the ship now.  Can you imagine 2000 people all trying to get through one door at the same time?  What a nightmare.  Fortunately our group managed to stay together and find the bus for the city tour they were going on.

Since I had to change rooms yet I decided not to accompanying them on their tour so Rick was on his own from this point on with the group.  There were lots of hugs and bittersweet goodbyes to go around.  Our group from Niagara were wonderful and I enjoyed spending time with them and they seemed to enjoy having me around. 

After I got settled in my new Superior Verandah Suite, I took a pedicab to Seaport Village.  The driver was a neat lady who gave me a little tour of the waterfront on the way.  I’ve been to San Diego several times before but decided to take the Trolley Tour anyway and was glad I did.  We had an absolutely crazy driver who could spout off unlimited information about the city and its history. 

I got back to the ship after the lifeboat drill which was really a good thing.  I’d already done all that when I first came aboard.  Then I met my new group from Calgary:  Gail, Janice and Michael.  Gail and I are sharing the Superior Verandah Suite.  I would highly recommend travelling in a room such as this.  It is twice the size of the regular stateroom with a huge bathroom and lots of room to move.  And there are all kinds of little niceties that you don’t get in the other room such as a beautifully soft bathrobe, free DVD rentals, 24-hour concierge and more.  Even if you can only afford a short cruise, it’s worth trying out this life.

I don’t know if the spin doctor managed to blog on this day as he had a lot to do with the group to get them settled in their hotel and take them to the zoo, but you can still check him out at CAA Niagara Travel 

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Panama Canal Cruise – Day Sixteen

Last day at sea for the first leg of my voyage.  Thank God.  It’s just a couple of days too much.  Rick and I met with our group and then took them to the Disembarkation Briefing and Crew Farewell.  The staff here have been totally confused by the fact that Rick leaves tomorrow and I continue on to Vancouver.

The Mariners’ lunch was today. Every Holland America cruise has a Mariners’ lunch to thank us for travelling HAL.  They have different lapel pins and medallions based on the number of days you’ve sailed with Holland.  There were some people there who have sailed 500-1000 days.  They must the ones that use the cruise lines as their retirement home.  It is a pretty good deal- cheaper than a home.

We had a “dress rehearsal” for our Passenger Cabaret.  Rick had to change his comedy routine as Cruise Director Jimmy did “stupid cruise questions” at the disembarkation talk.  His new act is much better anyway.

We went to the dining room to a final dinner schmooze with our guests but didn’t stay to eat as we had the pre-performance jitters. The Passenger Cabaret Performance was presented in the Queen’s Lounge and it was packed.  All of our guests and the great people we have met during the cruise were there, as well the other performer’s friends.  It was pretty exciting to have such a big crowd.  Everything went off well.  The performances were great and we had a really fun time.  There goes my 15 minutes of fame…

The rest of the evening was spent singing in the Piano Bar and dancing in the disco.  This is the last night for a couple of our nightly group so it’s a little sad so know our group will be changing shortly.  There should a whole bunch of crazy Canucks joining us in San Diego for the last leg.

For more info go to CAA Niagara Travel


Panama Canal Cruise – Day Fifteen

3rd day at sea.  Another packed day with the Songwriting Seminar and Passenger Cabaret Class.  The show is really coming together.  With all of the great songs written about our missing Mexico Diane decided to merge the two classes so that the songwriters would have their works debuted at the Cabaret.  It should make for a really unique and fun show.

Lunch today was a California Cookout at the Lido Pool with all kinds of Tex-Mex food and BBQ steak.  It was another beautiful day so we took our plates out to the Aft Pool and relaxed with some Coronas.  You can tell everyone is getting a little antsy being stuck on the ship for so long.  Fortunately, as usual, there are lots of interesting things to do and its fun to see what events your friends and acquaintances partake in just to have something to do.

There are several passengers with dance experience – dance instructors – and they kindly volunteered their services to teach their fellow passengers how to dance. Today’s lesson was the Cha Cha.  We didn’t have time to participate as we are still working on our Passenger Cabaret Show

The Westerdam Superstar Finals were on tonight.  The three finalists were very talented.  Bob is an older gentleman who not only sings but writes beautiful love songs about his wife of 54 years.  2nd place went to Art from Vancouver who likes to do the standards – Frankie, Tony, etc. and 1st place went to Jeannie from California with her lovely voice and great stage presence.  It was a fun evening.

Tonight was the Dessert Extravaganza in the Lido mid-ship pool area.  The chocolate and ice sculptures were pretty cool.  What do you do with the ice sculptures after they melt? (Another stupid cruise question).

For more information go to CAA Niagara Travel   

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