Travel Blogues

One of my sensible and pragmatic daughters-in-law, on hearing my plan to cruise the Amazon into the jungles of Peru, looked at me bemused and said "why?" Since heat and humidity, bugs and butterflies, moths and mosquitoes rank so far below the bottom of the list of my favorite things - comfortable bed, hot showers, flush toilets  and a temperate insect-free environment all placing quite high up - I could understand her bewilderment. But this is my year for breaking thorough the boundaries of my - until recently- very conventional urban professional and family life.

Being this luxury-loving urbanite I had nothing that would be of any use in rainforest terrain, so I had to acquire a few items. Here's what I got, and what did and did not work well for me.

 This is the INDEX of posts for the travelblogue of my trip to Peru for a week-long cruise on the Amazon River.  I signed up for the Amazon River Expedition travel program sponsored by the University of British Columbia Alumni Association.

 From Lima we flew to Iquitos in Northern Peru, took a coach to Nauta and boarded our riverboat, La Turmalina. During this trip we traveled beyond the confluence of the Ucayali and Marañón rivers, visiting the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve (the largest wetland reserve in the world), Pacama village and spending a night in the Kapok Camp.

A small skiff took us on several excursions. They are numbered 1 to 14 on the map which is the key to upcoming posts. Along the way we saw birds, monkeys,  river dolphins and a fascinating variety of medicinal plants and trees

From a health perspective, a seven day journey up the Amazon River into the jungle, even on a luxury river boat, is nothing like the luxury cruise in the Mediterranean or Caribbean, that I have taken thus far. The rain forest environment is hot and humid, and vicious little mosquitoes carry nasty organisms that cause malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever and other diseases. The first reminder of the isolation and primitive nature of the area into which we will be traveling, came from the disclaimers and advice in the information package from the travel agent through whom we booked this cruise. Then I did some serious reading and decided I needed to speak with a medical travel expert who would be current on what precautions would be needed to keep us fit and healthy.

My travels start with a flight to Los Angeles where I spend the day with my family visiting the Science Centre and the shuttle Endeavour exhibit. Then I join up with my fellow-voyager at LAX to board a flight to Athens. After a brief two day visit to Athens we cruise from the Port of Piraeus through the Aegean, Adriatic and Eastern Mediterranean seas, visiting ports in the Greek Islands, Turkey and Croatia before returning to Athens and flying back to Vancouver.

INDEX to Travelblogue

Aegean Odyssey: Dancing from Greece to Turkey and Croatia. The beginning

Aegean Odyssey: Athens: Day 1.  I walk through the Plaka, take a Hop On Hop Off Bus tour, stroll on the Acropolis and dine at Kuzina.

Athens: Day 2. An encounter with Post Office bureaucracy, a walk through Athen's Central Meat Market.

The  Verandah Restaurant on deck 2 at the Grand Lobby of the Queen Elizabeth features French cuisine from Cunard's Culinary Ambassador, Jean-Marie Zimmerman. Dining is a la carte but the prices are reasonable for the quality of food and service provided. The ambience is sophisticated and elegant with quietly efficient service. 

Once seated and your meal order taken, you are presented with an amuse bouche. When two  people are dining, each receives a different amuse bouche. 

On cruise day 3 we arrived in Istanbul where the ship was docked overnight. Istanbul, which also has a fascinating history, is a divided city in that part of it lies in Europe, while part is in Asia Minor, separated by the Bosphorus.   Istanbul is the largest city in Europe, and as our guide told us, among the world’s most populated city within city limits with an estimated 11 million people. Moreover the actual population is probably even larger than that recorded by census, as many residents return to their home towns for census day and are not counted as residents in Istanbul.

Istanbul was founded by a Greek colonist, Byzas, around 660 BC, and known as Byzantium for nine centuries. Later in 330 AD the Roman Emperor Constantine renamed the city Constantinople. Over the next 16 centuries till modern times it was the capital of four major Empires. These were the Roman Empire (330-395), the Byzantine Empire (395-1204 and 1261-1453), the Latin Empire (1204-1261) and the Ottoman Empire (1453 to 1922).  Today though, Ankara and not Istanbul, is the capital of The Republic of Turkey.

The Queen Elizabeth docked in Mykonos in the new port area, a short drive round the bay from the old port and harbor front area. Shuttle buses were running back and forth between the two areas for most of the day. I signed up for a morning excursion to Delos, a short boat ride from Mykonos.

On this cruise, I chose to book several excursions as there is so much to see and I was hoping for excellent and knowledgeable guides.  However in Lesbos I planned to simply walk around the harbour area of Mytilene and find a taverna to have a lunch of calamari and Greek salad.

Amazingly for this time of year, the weather was again very good- sunny and quite warm.  For this dance-camp on board we decided to schedule dance lessons for mid-morning. I was craving the authentic Greek style calamari that I remembered from years past so the plan was to go ashore and find a seafood tavern in the harbor area.

A late October cruise from New York to Halifax and back, on Cunards' Queen Mary 2 with Dancers at Sea.

This was my itinerary:

Fly to New York and overnight at Avalon apartments in Long island City.

Saw an adaptation of Ibsen's An Enemy of the People - great play and I enjoyed the production

October 21st Sat: Embark New York on the QM2.
Meet the staff and guests at the 5: 30 PM cocktail party. This group was one of the largest I have encountered on Dancers at Sea – 47 in total with 9 male pros and hosts and two female dance hosts. The male instructors were Robert Cooper, Andre Gosselin and Matthew Gann, and hosts Chris Bookwalter, Jorge Doctolero, Dale Moreth, Richard Conti and two new hosts (new to DAS), Peter and Lior. Amber was the female pro and Carrie the other female host. I knew a few of the guests from previous cruises but not too many.

October 22nd Sunday  Newport, Rhode Island (Formal Black and White Ball)

October 23rd Monday, Boston, Massachusetts. In the afternoon I went to see Salmon Fishing in Yemen in the Illuminations Planetarium theatre behind the Royal Court Theatre on deck 2. It's movie that I had wanted to see for ages, and I enjoyed it a lot. I had actually not previously found time to go movie watching on board the QM2. Better than some of the cinemas back home.

Although I have cruised several times on the Queen Mary 2 (and love cruising on this ocean liner) and once on the Queen Victoria, this was my first time on board Cunard's Queen Elizabeth. Once I had checked out my cabin and seen that my luggage was not yet there for me to unpack, I took my camera and went exploring. Very quickly I realized that I liked the smaller, more intimate feel of this ship which has the capacity for 2,092 passengers compared to the maximum passenger capacity of 3090 of her larger sister ship. 

The ship is 964 ft long and is the second-biggest Cunard ship, with the Queen Mary 2 (QM2) being the largest at 1132 ft long. Whereas it often takes me till the end of the cruise to figure out where I am on the QM2 (I am a bit directionally and spatially challenged) I felt I could  quite quickly figure out my space and directions on the Queen Elizabeth.

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