Sunset cruise on the Chobe River…A huge hit with animals and people…

Our favorite mom and baby elephant photo was taken while cruising on the Chobe River.

When a driver picked us up yesterday to take us to a resort down the road, we were a little surprised we’d be boarding a boat on the Chobe River from Chobe Marina Lodge, not Chobe Safari Lodge, where we were staying. The three-minute drive down the road and the 30-minute wait to board the boat were no big deal.

Male Cape buffalos heading to the water from an island in the Chobe River.

We were seated at a table for four on the pontoon-style boat in no time, ready to embark and begin the sunset cruise lasting three hours. As soon as we sat down, we were seated across the table with a lovely couple, younger than our adult children from Milan, Italy. Andrea and Jenny spoke good English, and we chatted endlessly, later meeting up for dinner at the restaurant up the hill from our resort.

Two fishermen on a small boat on the river.

Unfortunately, the photo I took of the two of them ended up being obstructed by a person walking by, and I could not post it, much to my disappointment. I should have checked the camera, but I caught up in the lively conversation with this adorable and intelligent Italian couple and failed to see if the photo came out. It was an oddity that this happened.

Waterbucks and a few Egyptian geese were foraging on the island.

We enjoyed the time spent on the boat with them and later for dinner up the hill. While on the boat, we met another couple, who were friends, and the man, Dwight, lives in the suburbs in Minnesota, leaving us with endless stories to share, especially with Tom, a native of Minnesota. Christie was from Denver. It was also fun talking to Americans whom we seldom meet in this part of the world.

Seeing the elephants on the island in the Chobe River was such a joy.

The three hours passed quickly, and before we knew it, we returned to our resort to meet up with Andrea and Jenny later. We shared a delightful day and evening while taking many beautiful photos, some of which we’re sharing here today. Many more will follow in days to come. We haven’t put a dent in the pictures worthy of posting but have plenty of time to do so in the days and weeks to follow.

Two young male elephants were practicing sparing.

This morning, we had a nice breakfast in the resort’s restaurant buffet. We never had dinner at the buffet since there were few foods suitable for my way of eating. In our last post for this trip, we’ll share food photos and final expenses for our one week away from Marloth Park.

A blue heron…

As always, we’re a little tentative about getting another 90-day visa stamp when we return to South Africa in two days and go through immigration. If we are turned down, we’ll have to devise a plan which, of course, if that happens, we’ll share here. Each time we get another 90 days, we sigh with relief. The law is vague in this regard…are we required to return to our home country each time? The answer isn’t clear. We’ll see how it goes one more time.

An ibis…

In a little over an hour, our trusty Chris from Chris Tours will arrive at this resort, who will drive us back to the border between Botswana and Zambia, and then take us to the Protea Hotel by Marriott we’ve stayed many times in the past. It’s a pleasant hotel, with good breakfast included,  lovely rooms with comfy beds, and free WiFi.

A crocodile lounged on the grass on an island in the Chobe River.

We will check into our ground floor room, unpack a little, and within a few hours, be heading out to the Zambezi River for another sunset cruise, this time on the Lion King boat with live entertainment. This will be our second time on this boat. We enjoyed the scenery, the included drinks and snacks, and the African music last time and looked forward to this repeated event.

Elephants are excellent swimmers, using their trunks as a snorkel. Cool, eh?

When the boat ride has ended, Chris or his staff will pick up up to take us to the Royal Livingstone Hotel, where we will dine tonight and again tomorrow night, overlooking the Zambezi River. We’ve embarked on quite a few adventures this time, more than in the past, and have had nothing but great experiences.

We couldn’t take our eyes off the swimming elephants.

Saturday afternoon, after a late checkout, Chris will transport us to the Harry Mwanga Nkumbula Livingstone Airport for our short flight (less than two hours) back to Nelspruit. At that point, we’ll go through immigration and see how it rolls out again. After getting a great rate at the US $15, ZAR 253 a day, we’ll collect the rental car at Budget and make the hour-plus drive back to Marloth Park.

The water was shallow in this spot, and he could stand up and walk the rest of the way.

By 5:30 pm, 1730 hrs., we should be back at our holiday home in Marloth Park to decide if we’ll dine in on frozen leftovers or head to Jabula for dinner. We’ll play that by ear, providing all goes well with our return.

Playful elephants.

Yesterday, I attempted to process the ZAR 196, US $11.64 customs fees due on our UPS package from the US. For some odd reason, UPS’s system wouldn’t accept an international credit card, like all of ours. Only South African credit cards can be used. Louise was so kind to help, using her card, which we’ll reimburse when we see her next. All went through Ok, and we should receive the package sometime next week.

Sunset on the Chobe River.

We are packed and ready to leave in about 40 minutes, so I’d better wrap this up and get it uploaded so I won’t have to rush later this afternoon when we have plans.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, August 25, 2021:

This is my new toy, a JBL Bluetooth speaker that works with voice activation from our phones or laptops. The sound is fantastic! We use this every day! For more details, please click here.

Figuring out credits from canceled cruises…How much was Tom’s dental surgery today?…

Wildebeests, zebras and warthogs in the garden.

I won’t get into all the convoluted particulars regarding the confusion on when and how we’ll get refunds and credits for canceled cruises we’ve booked in the past few years during the pandemic. Most travelers book one cruise, and it’s nowhere near as confusing as to when we’ve booked seven or eight, many of which have canceled after collecting our final payments.

Hmmm…I wonder why they don’t cancel them before we make the final payment. Are the cruise lines in such a dire financial situation that they need the “float” of our money for three or four months until they get on their feet? That’s a harsh reality and frustration for world travelers like us, who book several cruises over a year or two.

That’s wildebeest Bad Ear looking at me.

In almost ten years of world travel, we’ve sailed on 27 cruises, few of which we ever canceled. If there were cancellations, there were precipitated by the cruise line for one reason or another. In our case, we may have moved several bookings to future dates before the final payments were due to satisfy the needs of our upcoming itinerary. Still, none of these incurred any penalties or refunds.

With the war in Ukraine and the pandemic, we’re seeing some of the cruises we booked making changes we didn’t request, and now we’re struggling to get our money back consistently and seamlessly. Often, a small amount appears as a credit on a credit card we used to pay for a cruise. We never know which one it is without calling Costco, being on hold for an hour, and often holding on the line for another 45 minutes while Costco Travel calls the cruise line to get it figured out.

Tom was checking out Bad Ear after he jumped the fence to get closer to us.

We don’t blame Costco Travel. The long hold is the only issue we have with them. But, the perks they offer as an incentive to their customers are well worth the inconvenience of continuing to work with them. The refund issues are not their doing. That’s entirely up to the cruise line.

When we think about how much money we’ve lost due to the pandemic, it’s in the thousands. This was no one’s fault. It was the nature of the dreadful virus, and many lost money on travel-related expenditures, wages, and business revenue. When we were in the US, we couldn’t believe how many small and medium-sized businesses have failed due to these tough economic times.

Bossy often jumps the fence to remind us she is here.

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on most of us in one way or another. Now, we are all faced with rising fuel prices, let alone the cost of living in most areas worldwide.

At this point, we have a few airlines holding credits for us that won’t provide us with a refund. We have no idea if and when we’ll ever be able to use those credits. All of these losses certainly have impacted our budget, and we’ll proceed cautiously to ensure we remain vigilant and maintain control of our expenses.

In the interim, we’re happy to be in South Africa, where the cost of living is considerably less overall than in many countries. Tom just spent an hour in the dentist’s chair having dental surgery for his implants and the total bill for that hour was ZAR 1266, US $79.78, as shown in the statement below.

Tom’s dental surgery bill for today was ZAR 1266, US $79.78.

After the appointment, he headed to the pharmacy for three medications due to the surgery, including antibiotics, non-narcotic painkillers, and probiotics, which are always prescribed with antibiotics in South Africa. The total pharmacy bill was ZAR 424.05, US $26.71, as shown in another photo below. Where would we pay so little for this amount of service and products? Nowhere that we know.

Tom’s pharmacy bill, ZAR 424.05, US $26.71.

As “they” say,…it all comes out in the wash. We’ll continue to stay on top of the credits we’re due for the cruises via more phone calls and diligence, ensuring everything is accurate.

Have a delightful weekend!

Photo from one year ago today, June 24, 2021:

A red-backed shrike was sitting atop Rita’s hat while we were at Two Trees. For more photos, please click here.

Second Covid test is positive…No cruise for us…Now what?…

Tom placed four bananas in the window to ripen. This reminded us of the ten months we spent in lockdown in Mumbai, India in 2020 when Tom was served four bananas a day, often unripened like these. Yikes!

After a fitful night of coughing, I somehow managed to drag myself out of bed, shower, dress, and begin the process of taking one more online Covid-19 test, which requires contacting a live person through the Navica app and eMed, monitoring the test with me.

I knew it would be positive the second time we did the self-test in the past 24 hours. I still have many Covid-19 symptoms, whether Omicron or another variant. My throat is red and raw, my voice gravely and unrecognizable, and the cough…Well, the cough…It’s brutal.

It’s only been four days since I first tested positive on the ship. The tiredness is still prevalent, but the achy painfulness has waned, the headache and the feverish sensation that lasted for days. What did we expect?

Even if I tested negative today, I wondered how I could possibly get on the Queen Mary 2, manage to walk the long corridors, dress for dinner, and participate in events and fancy dinners. I could barely keep my head up to eat a few bites for breakfast this morning. It has hit me hard.

No, I don’t need to go to a doctor or hospital. I had a worse virus in South Africa in 2021 when I had trouble breathing and yet had a negative Covid test. The electric nebulizer and medication are helping tremendously, and today, for the first time since this began almost a week ago, I feel like the dry cough is loosening up a bit.

This also reminds us of those ten months in India with not much view from the hotel room window.

When I can get a negative test, we can fly to the US, which is up for grabs. Since we had to cancel today’s cruise on the Queen Mary 2, we’ll now have to fly to Minnesota from Southampton once I can manage a negative test. Tom is well on the mend. We didn’t use another test on him since his symptoms were almost gone. If one of us tested positive we couldn’t go on the cruise anyway. Why use up another test kit?

We will not wait for the next sailing on May 8th. If I test negative within a week, we’ll arrive in Minneapolis by May 1 as planned, head to Nevada on May 15, and then fly from Nevada to South Africa on May 22. We’d lose all the bookings we made in the US during May since we’d have to move fights, hotels, etc. Most likely, we’ll lose the airfare from New York to Minneapolis anyway. We didn’t want to compound the situation.

At this point, until I test negative, we can’t plan anything. We extended this hotel room for four more nights when I will test again. If it’s still positive at that point, we’ll extend it again. There’s nothing else we can do. It’s out of our control. In the interim, I’m resting, eating healthy foods, and treating the symptoms to the best of my ability.

They say Omicron is like a bad cold, at worst. It is not like any cold I’ve ever had. It’s sneaky. It’s insidious. And for some, it’s relentless. I only hope it is over soon.

This morning, when we couldn’t reach a live person at Cunard Cruise Line to report we won’t be going on the cruise, Tom decided to walk to the port to report it to a representative. We were concerned about them not perceiving us as a “no show,” negating our opportunity for a future cruise credit which they promise for positive Covid results.

Tom just now returned after a frustrating time at the port but managed to show my test results and our cruise documents to a representative who hopefully will document our reasons for not boarding.

We will keep you updated as we work our way through yet another challenging time in our world travels. Nope, we’re not considering giving up! (In case you were wondering).

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, April 24, 2021:

Everybody was busy munching on Big Daddy’s fallen tree. For more photos, please click here.

Two days and counting…Cruise coming to an end…

Note: Due to the ship’s poor WiFi signal, we cannot add captions to today’s photos of Lisbon.

It was another fun night aboard the ship as our days on the cruise ended. We disembark in only two days. This morning we arranged for our last load of laundry to be done, the second free bag of laundry based on our Elite priority club status.

We’ll be extra careful to avoid dirtying any clothes during the three nights at the hotel in Southampton to ensure we’ll have plenty to wear on the Queen Mary 2 cruise beginning on April 24th, sailing back to New York. Once we’re situated at the hotel in Minnesota, we’ll be able to use the hotel’s laundry facilities.

Tonight is a dressy night on this ship, but I have avoided wearing any clothes I designated as suitable for the Queen Mary 2. Tomorrow night, we have to pack as soon as the bag of clean laundry is delivered to our cabin around dinner time. It will all work out well.

The time has gone by so quickly, and of course, we’ve had a fabulous time. It couldn’t have been more rewarding and enjoyable. We’ve met more people than anticipated during the restrictions imposed due to Covid with no “table sharing” in the dining room. But the proximity of the many “tables for two” made conversations flow with ease.

Last night was the final “silent disco” event, and of course, we had another fun and festive evening with new friends we’ve made. We do not doubt that we’ll stay in touch with many of the beautiful people we’ve interacted with during this 13-night cruise. Soon, it’s time to move along.

With the awful WiFi signal, we need to get this post uploaded until the signal is gone entirely, which keeps happening off and on.

We’ll continue to post, but with improved accuracy and consistency, once we arrive at our hotel in Southampton on April 21. Please check back with us each day for updates.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, April 19, 2021:

Frank and The Misses stop by several times a day, messing with the seed container. They don’t like sunflower seeds, so they pick through the container to toss them aside. The next time we purchased seeds, they were without sunflower seeds. They were much happier. For more photos, please click here.

Three days and counting…The cruise ends soon…Change to today’s port of call…

Inside a shop window in the Azores.

The time aboard the ship has passed so quickly. It’s hard to believe that in a mere three days, on Thursday, April 21, we’ll arrive in Southampton and disembark.

One of our long-time readers and her husband are meeting us for dinner at our hotel on Saturday. They had seen us do the seminar on Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas in 2016. Here is the link to the story about the seminar. We appreciate that they have followed us, and it will be delightful to see them and hear their stories of cruising since they are also cruising enthusiasts.

These unusual-looking trees lined the streets.

I’m a little bit sluggish today. Last night, we had an early night, heading back to our cabin after dinner. I had a hard time falling asleep. I didn’t finally dose off until around 2:00 am and awoke less than five hours later. Perhaps a short nap might be on the agenda this afternoon, perking me up.

Cruising can be exhausting, mainly when we’ve stayed up so late having fun with other passengers in the Martini Ice Bar or the Ensemble Lounge. Frequently, lively music plays in the background, energizing the mood with songs from our long-ago past.

Gonçalo Velho Cabral was a Portuguese monk and Commander in the Order of Christ, explorer, and hereditary landowner responsible for administering Crown lands on the same islands during the Portuguese Age of Discovery. For more details, please click here.

Having friends throughout the world has been a highlight of our world travels. The conversations, the dancing in our seats and on the dance floor, and the engaging interactions with beautiful people we’ve come to know in these few short days leave lasting memories we’ll treasure in years to come. When we look back at all the friends we’ve made while cruising, we realize how vital cruising has been in enriching our lives.

Based on yesterday’s change, we’ll be arriving in Lisbon later than expected due to the necessity of a helicopter picking up an ill passenger who’d had a heart attack. We watched the helicopter approach the ship. Tom was able to take the photo below, but we didn’t see much else.

A decorative miniature train in the town.

The passenger was taken off the ship safely. We’ve witnessed such a scenario on several other cruises in our years of cruising, and it’s always heartbreaking to think of how hard this must be for the patient. I can’t even imagine how hard it would be to be lifted into the helicopter by a metal basket.

The scheduled arrival time in Lisbon was 3:30 pm, but by 4:30, the ship was finally cleared. We will get off the ship to take some photos. We’ve been to Lisbon in the past and will be there again in seven months when we do the triple back-to-back cruises as we make our way back to Cape Town, arriving on December 20, when we’ll fly back to Marloth Park after the 42-nights of cruising. It will be the longest time we’ll have cruised since our first cruise on January 3, 2013.

A pretty boulevard in the town of Ponta Delgada.

We still have some cabin credit left which we need to “use or lose.” Today, I meander down the row of shops to see what appeals to me. I am not much of an enthusiastic shopper these days, knowing I haven’t got room in my bags for anything of any size. Most likely, I’ll purchase a few items for the grandkids.

Today’s photos are the balance of those we’d taken in the Azores a few days ago. We’ll be taking more photos over the next few days.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, April 18, 2021:

Such cute little creatures who manage to kill venomous snakes. For more photos, please click here.

Day 4, transatlantic cruise…My food aboard the ship…Weird food photos…

Chef Gordon Ramsay would have been horrified if he was served such a dish.

We have no delusions about me being served suitable, tasty, and appealing meals on a cruise. All I expect is a nice-looking plate of protein prepared with seasonings, a few non-starchy green vegetables lightly seasoned and buttered, and perhaps a side or starter made with protein and dairy of some sort.

I am not picky. I will eat any of the above-mentioned foods prepared appropriately but also enjoy the visual aspect of a pleasingly prepared meal. In the past three nights, I have been shocked by the unappetizing appearance and taste of the dishes I ordered, hoping the chefs would appealingly prepare them. But, it has not been the case.

On the first night, I received a bland small boneless chicken breast with a side of steamed broccoli and cauliflower. Yes, this was what I ordered on the first night, but it could have looked and tasted much better. On the second night, they offered a seafood pasta dish on the menu.

I asked if they could make me a plate of shredded, sauteed green cabbage topped with the same seafood used in the pasta dish. Instead, I received what is shown below in the photo…a plate of greasy cabbage with no meat.

This was the cabbage dinner I received minus the seafood I’d expected.

This was all that was served as my entree. Gently, I reminded the waiter that I’d ordered the dish with seafood on top of the cabbage. Ten minutes later, he brought me a little plate with two tiny scallops, two prawns, and two minuscule mussels in the shell. I placed the dry unseasoned seafood atop the cabbage and ate it.

When the waiter returned asking how my dinner was, I explained there wasn’t enough protein to fill me up. Another 15 minutes passed when he brought a second tiny plate of seafood. By then, Tom and our two dinner companions were enjoying their dessert.

After my plate was removed, I was brought a lemony dessert. It looked wonderful but was filled with banana slices, topped with sweetened whipped cream, and was made with rice flour. The dessert may have worked for a gluten-free passenger. But, I can’t eat fruit, sugar, or rice flour. I offered it to Tom, who tasted it and made a face, pushing it away. I explained to the waiter that I couldn’t eat that…politely, of course. I suggested they don’t bring me any dessert since nothing they’d have would work for me.

I was confused by this tiny appetizer plate. The items were so small it wasn’t more than two bites combined.

Then, the next night, after I’d ordered the branzini fish, a favorite fish of TV Chef Gordon Ramsay, but asked for a sufficient portion to get me full, I received the plate of fish as shown in today’s main photo. It looked like it had just come out of the ocean and was thrown onto the plate atop a few overcooked asparagus. Chef Ramsay would have been horrified and committed to some serious swearing over the appearance of that plate of fish.

In desperation, I ate the three tasteless pieces of unseasoned fish. It filled me up sufficiently to allay my hunger, and I didn’t think of food for the night’s remainder.

This morning I awoke, determined to get better meals, and while we were situated at Cafe al Bacio, I headed to the customer service desk to ask to speak to the dining room manager, who appeared promptly. He was appalled and embarrassed by the photos. I showed him the photos, and he immediately called the main chef to join us in conversation.

The lettuce wedge salad was nice. I ordered this again for tonight.

Together I shared my concerns, simply asking for seasoned food with palatable appearances and befitting my eating method. He assured me that today, everything would change and that my future meals would be entirely different, delicious, and appealing.

I will post photos so our readers can see the anticipated improvement, which I feel confident will transpire.

I am looking forward to posting photos from tonight’s dinner to share with you in tomorrow’s post. We always say, “We are the customers and pay for good food and service. It’s OK to ask for it to be better instead of writing endless bad reviews.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, April 12, 2021:

Female kudu resting in our garden. For more photos, please click here.

Cruise Log…Plus interesting comparison…A fun night dancing…

Lovely Laura, a recent Covid and cancer survivor with an injured knee was such a great sport, dancing with her cane and her doctor daughter, lovely Ciara, at the silent disco. We had such fun with their family!

A few days ago, we mentioned that on our way to Fort Lauderdale from Apollo Beach, we began compiling a list of all of our past cruise sailings, including this Celebrity Silhouette cruise and the upcoming cruise on the Queen Mary 2 upcoming a few days after the end of this cruise.

Me and Tom wearing silent disco headsets listening to two different songs, smiling and laughing all the while. Such fun!

Once we started, we felt compelled to keep going. It proved to be a daunting task with the slow WiFi on the ship. The outrageously slow WiFi and my problems with the letter “L” on the keyboard made the process difficult and time-consuming. Tom knew the bulk of the information off the top of his head, but we couldn’t recall the number of nights of each sailing and searched online for answers.

Marilyn’s beaming face bespoke the fun we were all having!

(I won’t be able to wait to get a new computer until we get the shop card from Costco for this sailing. We’ll be back in South Africa, and it’s too costly and risky to have it shipped from the US to SA). It takes six weeks until we receive the shop card after this sailing.

In any case, somehow, we managed to look up all the information. Here is the list below:

 Cruises since the onset of our world travels, October 31, 2012, to May 1, 2022:

  1. January 2013 – Celebrity Century, San Diego to Florida – 15 nights
  2. January 2013 – Celebrity Equinox, Florida to Belize – off, mid-cruise – 8 nights
  3. April 2013 – Carnival Liberty, Belize to Florida – 5 nights
  4. April 2013 – Carnival Liberty, Florida to Florida – 7 nights
  5. April 2013 – Norwegian Epic, Florida to Barcelona – 11 nights
  6. May 2013 – Norwegian Epic, Barcelona to Barcelona – 4 nights
  7. May 2013 – RC Mariner of the Seas, Barcelona to Dubai – 15 nights
  8. June 2013 – Norwegian Spirit, Barcelona to Venice – 12 nights
  9. August 2014 – RC Brilliance of the Seas, Harwich to Boston – 14 nights
  10. September 2014 – Celebrity Solstice, Vancouver to Honolulu – 13 nights
  11. May 2015 – RC Legend of the Seas, Honolulu to Sydney – 18 nights
  12. January 2016 – Celebrity Solstice, Sydney to Auckland – 14 nights
  13. April 2016 – RC Voyager of the Seas, Sydney to Singapore – 14 nights
  14. July 2016 – Viking Magnificent Mekong, Hanoi to Saigon – 11 nights 
  15. October 2016 – RC Radiance of the Seas, Sydney to Perth – 16 nights
  16. November 2016 – RC Radiance of the Seas, Perth to Sydney – 17 nights
  17. March 2017 – Celebrity Solstice, Sydney to Sydney – 12 nights
  18. April 2017 – RC Explorer of the Seas, Sydney to Seattle – 22 nights
  19. May 2017 – Celebrity Solstice, Vancouver to Seattle – 9 nights
  20. November 2017 – Celebrity Infinity, Florida to Chile – 14 nights
  21. December 2017 – Celebrity Infinity, Chile to Buenos Aires – 14 nights
  22. January 2018 – Ponant Le Boreal, Ushuaia to Ushuaia Antarctica – 16 nights
  23. August 2019 – RC Brilliance of the Seas, Amsterdam to Amsterdam – 12 nights
  24. October 2019 – Celebrity Silhouette, Southampton to Fort Lauderdale –  13 nights
  25. April 2022 – Celebrity Silhouette, Fort Lauderdale to Southampton – 13 nights
  26. April 2022 – Cunard Queen Mary 2, Southampton to New York – 7 nights
  • Total number of nights since the onset of our word travels: 3469
  • Total nights spent aboard ships – 326
  • Percentage of time spent on cruise ships: 9.4%
  • Comparison: Total nights in lockdown in India: 290
  • Percentage of total travel: 8.3%

It’s interesting to us to see our statistics. We were surprised by some of the above information. As we move forward to more booked cruises in the future, we will continue to update the cruise list factoring in new numbers of days and pertinent facts as indicated here.

Tom pretended to be playing a keyboard while rocking to the music.

On another note, last night, we had a blast! It was “silent disco” night where we wore headsets with three channels, each playing changing songs with lights indicating which channel we had set: red, blue, and green. Passengers wore headsets,  dancing to the songs they were playing at the time, and yet the room was silent. It’s hysterical and such fun. We met many people and had so much fun! Today’s photos indicate some treasured moments of the night.

Passengers of all ages participated in the event.

We didn’t fall into bed until almost 1:00 am. We’re docked in Bermuda, but the weather is horrible, and we don’t have proper clothing to stay warm enough out there. The wind is comparable to a monsoon. We’ve been to Bermuda in the past and are content to stay aboard, with many of the passengers doing the same. Today, we’re chipper as we can be and are looking forward to another fantastic day on the ship.

We’ll be back with more tomorrow.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, April 11, 2021:

We were happy to see bushbuck Torn Ear return to the garden. For more photos, please click here.

Cruise check-in during times of COVID…Bermuda crazies…

Our balcony cabin while still in Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Note; The WiFi aboard the ship is very slow. At this point, we aren’t able to add many photos. We will try to do so for tomorrow’s post late tonight or early tomorrow morning when fewer passengers are online.

By the time we arrived in Fort Lauderdale on Friday, it was close to noon. The drive went quickly, especially when we entertained ourselves by making a list of every cruise we had taken since we began this journey 9½ years ago. As it turned out, this is cruise #25! Tom remembered every cruise. In a few days, we’ll post the list.

For some reason, I’d thought this was #27, but over the years, there were approximately eight cruises that were canceled, only three of which we chose to cancel; two of which we canceled due to my heart surgery in 2019, and one, that we canceled recently, when the itinerary changed from Russia and Ukraine to areas we weren’t interested in visiting at the high cost of the cruise.

Here we are, perfectly content on the Celebrity Silhouette, crossing the Atlantic Ocean, currently sitting at Cafe al Bacio enjoying tasty, frothy mugs of Caramel Macchiato (mine is sugar-free decaf, using real cream, not milk). Delicious!

We were shocked by the easy check-in process. Once we dropped off the luggage at the port and then dropped off the rental car and made it back to the port by taxi, it was 1:30 pm. We produced our ID and cruise confirmation on our phone, and we were asked an important question, “Did we have the approved Bermuda Authorization form?”

Immediately, we provided our authorization approval on my phone, both of which came through on Thursday night while still at Karen and Rich’s house, just in time for Friday’s cruise. I hadn’t mentioned much about this form when we were worried it wouldn’t get approved in time for the four final days in Apollo Beach. What was this form all about?

It was a recently required visa and health document that Bermuda imposed on all visitors to their country, requiring a $40 fee for each applicant. They designed this process to reduce some of the country’s losses due to the loss of visitors during the pandemic.

The painstaking process of completing and submitting this mandatory document was awful, with slow response times, login issues, and general website glitches. I thought we’d never get it done and approved. When we hadn’t heard back since our initial submission on Tuesday, I sent an email with all of our attached documents once again, requesting they speed it up.

Celebrity stated that if a passenger didn’t have this form approved by the time of boarding, the passenger(s) would be denied entry to the cruise. As it turned out, Bermuda couldn’t keep up with the processing of over 2000 forms that couldn’t be finalized until after each passenger submitted a negative Covid test which couldn’t be done more than two days before departure. What a mess!

Finally, our approval came through after sending the email. We found out that many passengers didn’t get the approval in time. Celebrity decided to let them board, but they probably won’t be able to get off the ship in Bermuda, our first of very few ports of call.

Once we entered the cruise terminal, it took no more than 10 minutes for us to be checked in and make our way to the ship. In the “old days” before Covid, champagne (sparkling wine) was served upon boarding. But, that is no more. But. we were thrilled to be on the ship.

We were told our room keys were in the mail slot outside the door to our room. Neither key worked and our excellent cabin steward, Push, took the keys to the front desk while we waited for him to return with two working key cards. The line at the customer service desk required a two-hour wait when hundreds of passengers’ key cards also didn’t work. All we had to do was ask.

Immediately, we got the WiFi working which was included in the cost of our fare, by using a barcode sign in our cabin. In no time at all, we were online. However, this morning, I decided to check our account on the TV to see we were charged almost $400 for WiFi. I called customer service to get this resolved, and it was promptly removed from the bill. Also, two drink packages and tips were also included in our fare.

Our bags came to our cabin, and before we left for dinner, we had unpacked and felt content and settled, knowing we’d certainly enjoy the upcoming 13 nights.

Tonight we will be having dinner with a lovely couple who approached us after breakfast, saying they knew us from our blog. How fun is that! They had been reading and found they were sailing on the same cruise and looked forward to meeting us. Of course, as always, we are flattered during such encounters, if not a little shy about it.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back sharing the Covid protocol on the ship, some expected and some surprising. We’ll see you then!

Be well, and thanks for sailing along with us!!!

Photo from one year ago today, April 9, 2021:

“This is a good place to rest my head.” For more photos, please click here.

Now we know about the changes to the cruise to Ukraine…Decisions for the future…

Zebra on the veranda!

This morning at 5:00 am, we received an email from Azamara explaining the new itinerary changes excluding Russia and Ukraine. It has changed as follows. To see, you must click the following link.

ON_29_June_2022_ItineraryChange

The cruise is still priced as expensive as the original Black Sea cruise, which we’d been willing to pay for since this was a long-desired itinerary since we began traveling. This new itinerary doesn’t appeal to us. We’ve already done a cruise to the Greek Islands, thoroughly enjoying it but not interested in repeating that past itinerary. We’d booked the back-to-back to Greece because we wanted to extend the long-awaited Black Sea cruise.

Zebra’s tails appear to be braided, but obviously, they are not.

Now, with the Black Sea out of the question due to the war in Ukraine, we aren’t interested in the second leg. Thus, we’ve decided to cancel this cruise and the back-to-back second leg (again the Greek Islands) we’d booked for 21 nights. We have to call Costco Travel to do this, and the only time we can call in is at night due to the time difference. Each time we call, we’ve been on hold for at least an hour.

This morning, there was a message on Costco Travel’s website stating they were recovered today from a phone outage yesterday and waiting times will be longer than usual…what??? Longer than one hour on hold? No thanks. We’ll wait a few days and call. We could cancel online, but we’d lose our deposits.

The only way we can be assured the amounts we paid in full for these two cruises of US $14,923, ZAR 223257 is to call and ask them to contact Azamara, explaining we want to cancel due to the unforeseen itinerary changes and have the funds transferred to our other upcoming cruises starting in November 2022. This can’t be accomplished online.

Zebras love pellets, as do most of the mammals in the wild.

When booking through a travel agency such as Costco Travel or Vacations-to-Go, the cruise line requires all changes handled through the booking agency, not through the cruise line itself. Otherwise, we’d call Azamara ourselves.

So with these changes, we’re back to May 22 when our time in Henderson/Las Vegas, Nevada ends, and we need to decide where we’ll go until the next cruise sails in November, which is a full six months. When we peruse the world map and consider places we’ve been and places we’d like to go, we find issues due to damage done to the economy of many countries due to two years plus of Covid and the remnants of lockdown and isolation.

We’ve already spent over two years in the South Pacific, visited many significant areas in South America, spent plenty of time in Europe, and had a long, painful time in India. And it goes on and on. Please take a look at our world travel map on the top right side of our page. As you can see, we’ve visited many parts of the world.

After getting their fill of pellets, they wandered off to the front of the house to lounge in the driveway, like Hal and Broken Horn often do.

Sure, we could easily spend the next ten years visiting new places. And we will see new and unusual places. But at this point, we ask ourselves, do we want to go there based on a burning desire or just to go somewhere? With the high prices on fuel with airfare and car rental rates escalating by the hour, where exactly do we want to go?

We aren’t done traveling by any means. There is nowhere in the world we’d like to live permanently right now. But, we have become a bit disillusioned by the outcome of the pandemic and now the war in an area of the world we longed to see. We don’t feel compelled to go anywhere in particular right now. For now, we love cruising, and the more we can do, the better.

So, our focus will be on where we can visit and cruise to fill in some of the blanks in the itinerary we’ve built over the years. Searching and discovering those desirable new places and cruises continues to be exciting and fulfilling. It is from that perspective we continue on our journey. And, of course, we always enjoy our time in South Africa and always will.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, March 18, 2021:

I could not take the photo of this elephant from the car, and thus, I got out, walked down a narrow, uneven path, and made my way to the fence. For more photos, please click here.

Tips for saving money on booked cruises…More Kruger National Park photos…

Two giraffes at the Vurhami Dam.

We are shocked and surprised by how many of our readers continue to read our daily posts, especially when they’ve been so mundane and often dull over the past few years. First off, thank you for staying with us, and secondly, the photos and excitement should ramp up soon.

Yesterday, it was one month until we board the transatlantic cruise, sailing out of Fort Lauderdale. Today, it is two weeks until we fly away from Nelspruit to Tampa, arriving on March 24th. It’s hard to believe we are leaving here when we enjoy it so much.

Impalas were sheltering under a bush to stay out of the hot sun.

A comfortable, easy routine can also become a vise grip preventing adventure and challenges which we both feel are vital to good health and longevity. But, we don’t want to become complacent, letting these precious remaining years of our lives fade away into a routine from which we’d have trouble extricating ourselves. I don’t want to risk becoming complacent with my dangerous cardiovascular disease. Time slips away too quickly.

Two nights ago, we were on hold with Costco Travel once again for almost an hour and then on the phone with a representative for nearly 45 minutes, many of which we spent on hold. Since we’re not using our phones for calling right now, due to the suspension Google Fi imposed on us due to excessive roaming outside the US, we had to use Skype to make the call.

Rapids near the bridge at the Sabie River.

If both parties have Skype, the call is free. But the cost for calls outside the US is under three cents a minute. (When using Skype, we must have “credit” in our Skype account since the call recipient isn’t using Skype. It was not a significant expense).

Why were we calling Costco Travel about our upcoming cruise again? Since the pandemic and cruise lines’ desire to keep passengers, they have lifted restrictions. Before the pandemic, once passengers made the final payment, no further credits or promotions would be applicable. Now everything has changed. Most, not all, new promotions offered that impact your particular cruise will benefit the passenger. But, it’s entirely up to the passenger to know about this and have their cruise representative arrange the credits.

A hippo at the Sunset Dam.

Here’s how to do this in these easy steps:

  1.  Log on to your cruise line’s website and check for promotions for your cruise, even those you’ve already paid in full, making a concise note of what is included in the promo and your cruise confirmation number. (You may have to check this daily since some promotions time out in a few days).
  2. Contact your cruise booking representative. If you call the cruise line, they will tell you to go through your booking agent. If you booked directly through the cruise line, they will assist you with crediting the promotion to your cruise(s).
A croc in search of an opportunity.

The trick is to check daily, which Tom does for our upcoming cruises.

An alternate means of becoming informed as to promotions is as follows;

  1. Sign up free to become a member of Cruise Critic here. Click on the login and select, “Not a member yet.” Following the few simple steps to create a free account.
  2. Once logged in, at the top right of the homepage, click on “Boards.”
  3. Then, click on “Find Your Roll-call.”
  4. A list of all cruise lines and ships will pop up alphabetically. Select your cruise and see what other users have commented on discounts they’ve received recently to confirm the discounts applied to your cruise. Most regular users will share their savings here.
  5. Then, proceed to contact your cruise representative as indicated to set up the discounts for you.

    A giraffe and an elephant at the Sabie River.

This works well for us. Tom handles all of these steps. So far, since February 2022, we have saved a total of US $5969, ZAR 90463, as mentioned in our post on February 1, 2022, which can be found at this link here. Sure on Monday night, we were on the phone close to midnight (due to the time difference between South Africa and Costco Travel in the US), but it was well worth it.

We saved the additional US $409, ZAR 6198. Still, this time the promo was applied to our cabin credit, giving us additional funds to use for purchases, shore excursions, WiFi, drinks, specialty restaurants, or whatever we choose to purchase while aboard the ship. We already had a US $300, ZAR 4547 cabin credit but now have a cabin credit of $709, ZAR 1074.

Elephants seeking shelter from the hot sun under a sparse tree.

If you have any questions regarding this topic, please feel free to post them in the comments section or email either of us.

We are experiencing a lot of load shedding right now, which is particularly annoying at night when it’s hot. However, we have an inverter provided by Danie and Louise, enabling us to have WiFi and use one fan and one lamp in our bedroom. Daytime is less of an issue.

Have a healthy and happy day and evening!

Photo from one year ago today, March 9, 2021:

Last night’s sunset from the deck at the Amazing Kruger View Restaurant, we dined with Linda and Ken, who left today to return to Johannesburg. For more photos, please click here.