Kananaskis – God’s Country

Here I am just a week after getting back from my 3 week cruise, heading off to Kananaskis Country in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.  I was in Calgary for my friend Gail’s son’s wedding.  It was a wonderful day – the sun was shining, the bride was radiant and the groom was handsome as always. 

Gail created an amazing weekend itinerary for her friends and relatives that was delivered to my hotel room.  It was actually printed on hand-made paper like an invitation.  She had our whole weekend planned out from morning ‘til night. 

Saturday, of course, was filled with wedding events, but Sunday was just as great.  We had brunch at the hotel and then packed ourselves into as few vehicles as we could to head out to Kananaskis Country.  Kananaskis Country was pretty much unknown to most people until the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.  In preparation for those Olympics, Mount Allen was developed to become Nakiska, the Alpine Ski venue.  Another friend and I managed to hitch a ride up the quad-chair with none other than Prince Albert of Monaco who was also there to watch the Giant Slalom.  He was much younger and still had hair.  acheter rifaximin

Also for the Olympics the Kananaskis Village was born.  The village is comprised of several low-rise hotels with shopping, hot tubs, pubs and other amenities available to guests and casual visitors alike.  There are hiking paths, picnic areas, fish ponds, you name it.  The village is designed to fit into the surrounding panoramic landscape and it is this landscape that is the big draw. 

This IS one of the most beautiful places on earth.  The majestic mountains, the green valleys, the bears, the wolves, the mountain sheep and goats, the deer……you get my drift.  There were some wildlife conservation officers on hand with demonstrations and information on the different wildlife in the area.  They try really hard to educate people while they are in the park in order to avoid any confrontations.  The land does belong to the wildlife – not us – and they need to be left to live their lives as nature intended.  Very little upsets me more than hearing that a bear or other wildlife had to be destroyed because of some human’s stupidity.  They may be cute but they are still wild. 

Anyway, I have a couple of videos and photos of our day at the park that I hope you will enjoy. 

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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!!

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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.  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

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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 http://cialisviagras.com/female-cialis/.

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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Panama Canal Cruise – Day Fourteen

The second of our series of Sea Days.  The Agenda is looking pretty packed with up to 6 different things going on at one time on the ship.  The Event Planners are working overtime to keep us busy. 

As I said yesterday, Captain Harris and his crew are pretty smart cookies.  Yesterday was the big Pool Party with free drinks so when you look around the ship today, it’s pretty subdued.  Everyone is staying under the radar.  The strategy is also good as Front Desk delivered an up-to-date shipboard account statement.  With the hangovers going on most people just glance at the HUGE number at the bottom and toss it aside.  Who can deal with this today?  Did we buy and drink that much?  Oh, well….too late to take it back so we might as well keep going…

It was another beautiful day great for sun tanning and hanging out at the pool. The weather this trip has been fantastic, sunny and hot.  Our day is broken up with the Songwriting Seminar and Passenger Cabaret Classes put on by Diane Fast in the Piano Bar.  The songs that are coming out of this are amazing. The Cabaret show is coming together nicely as well.  Rick has been busy putting material together for his comedy styling and I have been working on getting and memorizing the words to my song.  It keeps us busy.

Tonight was the Officers’ Black & White Ball.  I love the Ball.  All the officers get dressed in their black and whites.  Most of the attendees dress accordingly so the room looks lovely.  Part of the Ball is that the officers have to dance with the passengers when asked so you are always guaranteed a dance with a handsomely dressed man.  They had a bit of a game this time in that certain officers had an envelope in their pocket that had a certificate for a bottle of free champagne.  If you had picked the right officer to dance with, you would win the bottle.  Fortunately for my friends and I, I got the winning officer.  So we had a bottle to share in the evening.

After the Ball we all went down to Northern Lights to drink champagne and dance the night away.  Even though it doesn’t seem like we’ve done a lot, the day is always full. 

For more information go to CAA Niagara Travel

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Panama Canal Cruise – Day Thirteen

Today is the start of our 4 days at sea.  We have about 1800 miles to get from Nicaragua to San Diego with no stops.  The entertainment staff have their work cut out for them to keep everyone happy for the four days we were supposed to be stopping in Mexico.  The agenda for the day seems to be getting longer and longer.

Rick and I had been spending a lot of time in the Piano Bar with a new cruise singer, Diane Fast.  Diane is from Seattle and this is her virgin cruise – both as a cruiser and as an onboard entertainer.  She has been absolutely fantastic. The cruise director was looking for as many activities as could be fit into a day so Diane volunteered to do two new activities – a Songwriting Seminar and the Passenger Cabaret Class.  Today was the first day for both.  I was amazed at how many people came.  So for the first day of sea, I now have homework to do on a new song and confirm the words to the song I’ll be singing in the cabaret.  Rick’s homework is to get “Stupid Cruise Questions” together for a comedy bit.  This should be good.

Captain Harris and his entertainment crew are a smart bunch.  They decided that tonight there would be another Pool Party, with one major difference…..FREE DRINKS!!!!  What a great marketing tool to get people to forget we are not going to Acapulco tomorrow.  The Lido mid-ship pool was packed.  Charlie and the HAL Cats played great music again and we had dancing, drinking and partying in the pool. 

The bunch of people we had met at the Pub Crawl a few days ago met for a Pub Crawl reunion on our own.  The bartenders were quite generous in their drink pours even though this was not a “sanctioned” event.  We started at 7:30 and hit three bars until we got to the Pool Party for the free drinks.  At that point we were ready for the pool.  We managed to throw in DJ Dan and the Cruise Director Jimmy.  We really wanted to throw them overboard instead of the pool but didn’t want to end up in the brig!!

While we were going through the Panama Canal, a correspondent working at the new canal saw our ship and took a couple of pictures.  You can check out more information about the Panama Canal at: www.kleph.com

Here is Cliff’s email to me. 

I am a correspondent for Engineering-News Record and I was at the Panama Canal yesterday doing photographs of the Third Lane Expansion project. (A slideshow I did for the magazine’s online site two years ago can be found here (Panama Slideshow)
While I was wai  ting to take shots of a controlled blast in the expansion area I was also taking shots of ships going through the Miraflores locks and I have a couple of the cruise ship Westerdam.
I stumbled on your blog entry doing some of my research this evening and just put the two together. If you would like to send me an email, I’ll send it your way post haste.
I hope your trip is going well. It sounds like it from your blog entries.
Cliff

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For the official version see CAA Niagara Travel