Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

A couple of weeks ago, Charlie and I were in New York City checking out some alternative lodging options in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Here’s a link to my TravelPulse blog post…enjoy and hoping the holidays are a happy time for all!


An unexpected treat…cruising through Alaska!


Waiting, waiting…

An incredible opportunity opened up for Charlie and I to join a press group, cruising Alaska’s waterways with Holland America Lines on the ms Nieuw Amsterdam. The offer was last minute, as in 2 ½ weeks, but the calendar was clear and, luckily, we brought our passports to NC, so we were in. The key to a happy retirement is flexibility and spontaneity. No moss growing on our rolling stone!

The plan was to fly from Asheville to Vancouver and back via Chicago. It takes an hour to get to the airport from the mountain house and the flight was on time when we left. Arriving at the airport, however, we discovered our flights, in both Asheville and Chicago were delayed. We started sweating bullets when our originating flight wound up 3 hours late but managed to find our terminal and gate in Chicago in time.


The Pan Pacific, overlooking the terminal

The rest of the trip was seamless as we were picked up in Vancouver, driven through the streets of the city and dropped off at the Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel, atop Canada Place’s cruise ship terminals. Arriving around 6 pm we had time to walk a few blocks to dinner at Original Joe’s on Robson Street. Of course, our brains were telling us it was 3 hours later so we were disinclined to imbibe in the local beer offerings as we were afraid we wouldn’t make it back to the hotel.



The Pan Pacific is gorgeous and next morning our ship was in dock waiting for us to board. We met our fellow journalists for breakfast and were amazed at how far some of them traveled…Australia, Holland, London, Austria, Belgium and a few more from the states…all lovely people who were a joy to accompany on this trip of a lifetime.

Leaving beautiful Vancouver


View from our deck

The ms Nieuw Amsterdam is one of HAL’s larger ships, much bigger than the ms Maasdam, on which we cruised through New England and Nova Scotia last year. The comfort level and beauty were the same, however, this time with a touch of Manhattan and NYC art deco touches. Our Verandah was roomy, located at the back of the ship, which proved to be a perfect place to view all that Alaska had to offer.




We met our group again at the Crow’s Nest on the Observation Deck, for a welcome cocktail and then dinner in the Manhattan Dining Room. The food on these cruises is just phenomenal and the champagne was flowing that night, along with perfect wine pairings. We were reminded that we needed to take it easy and not eat our way through the trip…not an easy task!



Next morning, we met for a private Galley tour. What we saw was a well-organized effort to feed over 2,000 guests and more than 900 crew members. The kitchens were spotless and we saw smiling faces and beautiful culinary creations. Here are some stats…a typical 7-day cruise goes through 23,000 eggs, 1,675 pounds of butter and 137,500 pounds of fresh vegetables. It’s mind-boggling the amount of work that goes into storing, preparing and serving this much food. And they do it cheerfully and meticulously.



Working so fast, his hands are a blur



The final taste test

That night we met at The Pinnacle Grill, one of three fine dining choices, which will cost extra but are well worth the price. The menu highlights Pacific Northwest steak and seafood along with an ample choice of wines. Looking out the window we spotted the backs of a few whales cruising alongside the ship. I should mention that the other dining choices, which are included in the price of the cruise, are top of the line. You can choose the Lido buffet which changes offerings every day, along with the Manhattan Dining Room, which is a 2-level, formal dining experience.




Vid and Savi, Bruised Passports


Delectable crab cakes


Captain Edward Van Zaane and his lovely wife, Apollonia…yes, that Apollonia!


Here are a couple of links to my blog posts on hypeorlando about this trip… Sushi virgins no longer and What the rest of the world thinks of Americans – Next up, Days 3 and 4, sailing through Tracy Arm, arriving in Juneau and Skagway.


The Amtrak Adirondack to New York City

Lake Champlain from the train, looking east to Vermont

Lake Champlain from the train, looking east to Vermont

The next leg of our journey put us on the Amtrak Adirondack to Penn Station in Manhattan. What was touted as a 10 hour trip, turned into 12. Check out my blog post on hypeorlando for more details…

CanadianCruise 603

911 Memorial Museum Anniversary

Recently the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York City celebrated its first anniversary. On a recent trip to Manhattan we made sure to reserve a day to visit the 911 Museum. It is a pilgrimage that feels like one’s civic duty. We need to be reminded of the pain that was felt that awful day. Our pain has subsided but for those who lost family members, it never goes away.


Walking through the museum one never knows what might touch the heart or cause you to tear up. My husband was particularly affected by the Maasi Tribe, who felt so bad for our country’s loss that they offered up 14 of their prized cows to be sent as a gift. The shipment to America of cattle never happened because of financial and health concerns, but there is a special spot for the herd in Kenya where they are cared for and are free to roam. You can read the entire story here but go grab a tissue first. I don’t think anyone can get through the tale without a lump in the throat.

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In a New York state of mind

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center

I’ve lost count as to how many times Charlie and I have visited New York City. Early in our marriage we squeezed in as many trips as we could to our favorite destination. After having three kids our travels were limited to road trips visiting in-laws in Ohio or day trips to the beach.

Shortly after the 9/11 attack, with hearts broken, we made a pilgrimage, as a family, over the Thanksgiving holiday. Renting a small apartment through Manhattan Getaways in Hell’s Kitchen, just a couple of short blocks from the corner of Broadway and West 53rd, we were able to take in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Making our way to lower Manhattan we witnessed the still-smoldering remnants of the World Trade Center. It was a sobering visit, kind of scary, at times, for the kids but a trip that needed to be made and a lesson that needed to be learned.

Since retirement we’ve tried to make our way to Manhattan every few years, finding inexpensive lodging such as the Stay The Night in the upper East side (you’ll share a bathroom) or a cute walkup in Harlem through Airbnb. This time we were taking advantage of frequent flier miles so we decided to splurge on an actual hotel. Of course, during the holidays you won’t find anything decent under $350-400 per night in Midtown so we still had to go through Hotwire to find something closer to $200. Our 4-Star request landed us at the World Center Hotel, smack dab next to the newly constructed Freedom Tower and 911 Museum.

Freedom Tower

Freedom Tower

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