Annette & Joanne’s Avalon River Cruise – Part 3

We had 2 days of sleeping in and enjoyed all the activities on board the ship as we sailed along the river admiring the beautiful scenery.  We even took part in the power walking class on the sky deck.    Our next stop was a visit to the Kröller-Müller Museum with its fabulous collection of paintings by Van Gogh, Monet and Picasso to bring a little culture to our trip.

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Then on to our next stop and the highlight of our trip the Keukenhof gardens, also known as the Garden of Europe.  There are more than 7 million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths that fill over 32 hectares with colour and fragrance. These gardens are only open for a total of 8 weeks during the year.

We ended our trip with a canal cruise in the wonderful city of Amsterdam.  Our experience with Avalon Waterways was amazing and we would definitely recommend it to everybody wanting to see Europe.  Can’t wait to cruise again!

If you are interested in a river cruise of your own or have any questions about the experience, you can reach Joanne by calling 306-934-3400 or emailing joanne@uniglobevacation.com.

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Annette & Joanne’s Avalon River Cruise – Part 2

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We boarded our Avalon river cruise which was docked just 5 minutes from the Mövenpick hotel. We sailed on the Avalon Tranquility which can accommodate 130 passengers.  We walked into our panoramic suite and were amazed by the floor to ceiling, wall to wall French balcony.  What a great way to watch the scenery go by.  After a leisurely lunch we took an optional excursion to Zaanse Schans where we saw windmills, cheese making and watched a wooden clog making demonstration.  Then back to the ship for dinner and evening entertainment.

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Amazing food onboard the Avalon Tranquility

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Clog Making

Our highlight the next day was our tour to the bulb farm where we saw tulips growing inside and outside.  We learnt all about the lifecycle of the tulip and just what it takes to grow the world’s most beautiful flowers in land reclaimed from the sea.  We also saw an amazing hyacinths field in full bloom.

We loved experiencing the Dutch culture as we wandered around the towns on guided walking tours which were included in our cruise.  It was such a beautiful day in Kampen that we decided to take in the true dutch culture in the local square by sitting on a patio people watching and having a few beverages.

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Stay tuned for more from our sailing onboard the Avalon Tranquility.

Check out our Instagram for more photos from Annette & Joanne’s trip as well as pictures from all of our team’s travels.

Annette & Joanne’s Avalon River Cruise – Part 1

We flew with Westjet from Saskatoon to Calgary then KLM to Amsterdam.  Both flights were uneventful which is something we all want when we fly.  It was our first time on KLM and it is a very good airline.  The direct flight was nice.

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Perks of the Executive lounge at Mövenpick Hotel

Upon arrival in Amsterdam we decided to take a cab from the airport to the Mövenpick hotel.   The cab ride was $80.00 Euro.  That was a very interesting experience! They drive very fast and in and out of traffic but we made it to the hotel in one piece.  The Movenpick hotel was a very nice hotel and it included breakfast.   It was very handy as it was right next to the cruise ship terminal.   We walked from the Movenpick hotel to the city centre it was about a 20 minute walk.

We spent our first day in Amsterdam wondering around the streets on our own taking in the Dutch lifestyle.  We stopped  at a local pub and had a local cider,  then wondered around  the different shops and stumbled upon the red light district.  We stopped for supper at a place that had a hot dog in a pizza bun and a waffle coated in chocolate.  All was very interesting.  Thankfully we brought our heavier coats as it is chilly as you walk around especially at night.

Tomorrow we’re on to our next adventure the Avalon cruise – Tulips of Northern Holland.

 

 

 

ED’S 82 DAY GRAND ASIA & PACIFIC SAILING WITH HOLLAND AMERICA – PART 33

December 15, 2018 – Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

Our last port of call on this incredible 82 day journey we have been on.  Lahaina is a location that is experienced by two million people, or approximately 80% percent of all of Maui tourism per year. Lahaina has over a thousand years of rich history and was the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii from 1820 to 1845. From beaches to restaurants, Lahaina has some of the best attractions Maui has to offer.

Lahaina’s Front Street has been ranked one of the “Top Ten Greatest Streets” by the American Planning Association. Enjoy a relaxing stroll, and if rest is needed, please take a break under the massive Banyan tree located in the town square.

Maui, known also as “The Valley Isle,” is the second largest Hawaiian island. The island beloved for its world-famous beaches, the sacred Iao Valley, views of migrating humpback whales (during winter months), farm-to-table cuisine and the magnificent sunrise and sunset from Haleakala. It’s not surprising Maui has been voted “Best Island in the U.S.” by Condé Nast Traveler readers for more than 20 years.

Maui is also where a recreational investment group we belong to, called Tropica Properties, has a condo!  We typically come to Maui every year, so we have seen most of the worthwhile sights on the island.  Instead, we went to our condo to do an inspection and to measure up our lanai space (patio) as we are going to replace our outdoor furniture soon.

As mentioned before, I lost my driver’s license somewhere in Australia and so Karen had to drive.  Our condo is not far from the car rental station and so it wasn’t too bad for her.

Our condo is unit G106 at Papakea Resort.  If you would like to see pictures of the condo or if you are ever interested in renting it, you can see it at https://www.vrbo.com/279543.

All is good at the condo and ready for our winter bookings.  We are back to Maui at the end of January, so looking forward to spending more than a day there.

Well, that’s it for our ports of call on the Holland America 82 Day Grand Asia and Pacific Cruise aboard the ms Amsterdam!

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It seemed like such a long voyage and now we are just a few sea days from ending back in Los Angeles where we will fly home immediately and give our kids and grandchildren hugs and kisses. While we have had a blast, as Dorothy said…”there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home”!  No magic red slippers, just a reliable WestJet flight home.

Thank you so very much for reading our blog!  We hope you have enjoyed it.  Until our next travel blog, in the words of Hans Christian Anderson – “To TRAVEL is to live”.

If a cruise like this sounds like your dream trip, reach out to the team at UNIGLOBE Carefree Travel.  They would love to help get you on your way!

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ED’S 82 DAY GRAND ASIA & PACIFIC SAILING WITH HOLLAND AMERICA – PART 32

December 14, 2018 – Honolulu, Hawaii

We’ve been at sea for a few days and welcome our next port.  Many of you have visited Honolulu before, but for those who haven’t or those that are thinking about it, here’s some background information.

Sometimes called “The Gathering Place,” Oahu certainly lives up to its name. The third largest Hawaiian island is home to the majority of Hawaii’s diverse population, a fusion of East and West cultures rooted in the values and traditions of the Native Hawaiian people. It’s this fundamental contrast between the ancient and the modern that makes discovering Oahu — from bustling city life to laid back surf towns — so enjoyable. You’ll find plenty of different options for exploring Oahu.

Spam, surfing, hula, ukulele – these are some of the touchstones of everyday life on O’ahu, an island out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  People are easygoing, low key and casual, with genuine aloha and fun.  O’ahu proudly maintains its own identity apart from the US mainland.

If you like outdoor adventures, Oʻahu has so much going on, especially if you like sun, sand and adventure. Playing in or on the water could keep you happy for months. Learn to surf, and if you’re already good, hit the big waves on the North Shore; dive into Hanauma Bay’s giant fishbowl, or windsurf or kayak in Kailua Bay. On the land, hike up Diamond Head or atop knife-edged pali (cliffs). Circle the island in a helicopter. It’s all there waiting.

Oʻahu, like the rest of the Hawaiian islands, is a melting pot and proud of its multicultural heritage. Mix in the descendants of European explorers, American missionaries and Asian plantation-worker immigrants with the Polynesian ancestors, plus recent arrivals from all over the Pacific, and you have one of the most multicultural communities on the globe.

While on O’ahu, there are plenty of things to see and do.  We have been here several times before and done many of the sightseeing attractions.  We would have liked to rent a car and drive up to the North Shore but as I lost my driver’s license somewhere in Australia, I can’t legally drive without the card and Karen would rather not drive, so this time we opted to walk from the pier to Waikiki Beach.

Located on the south shore of Honolulu, the world-famous neighborhood of Waikiki was once a playground for Hawaiian royalty. Known in Hawaiian as “spouting waters”, Waikiki was introduced to the world when its first hotel, the Moana Surfrider, was built on its shores in 1901. Today, Waikiki is Oahu’s main hotel and resort area and a vibrant gathering place for visitors from around the world. Along the main strip of Kalalaua Avenue you’ll find world-class shopping, dining, entertainment and resorts.

Waikiki is most famous for its beaches. With Leahi (Diamond Head) as your backdrop, the calm waters of Waikiki are perfect for a surfing lesson. In fact, legendary Hawaiian waterman Duke Kahanamoku grew up surfing the waves of Waikiki. This Olympic gold medalist in swimming taught visitors how to surf at the turn of the century and was later known as “the father of modern surfing.”

Walking along Ala Moana Beach, this beach is mostly made up of locals wanting to get away from the crowds and bustle of Waikiki Beach.  The sand is not as nice, but you certainly can enjoy the surf and soak up some sun.  It seems like it is a popular place for wedding photos as we saw 3 separate wedding couples having pictures taken.

Across the way is the Ala Moana Shopping Mall, once the largest shopping mall in the world and while it lost that title several years ago, it is a well-known shoppers paradise with all the main high-end stores catering to O’ahu’s many tourists and residents.

As we continue our walk to Waikiki, we finally arrive at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, a property that we have stayed at for a convention.  It has a beautiful, sheltered lagoon as well as all the amenities you would expect a Hilton Hotel to have, including a great little outdoor, poolside, ocean view restaurant.

Time for lunch!  Fish tacos and a massive plate of nachos complete with Kalua pork fit the bill.

We continued (dare I say waddled) down Waikiki beach stopping for some beach time to soak up the sun, surf and sand.  It truly is a spectacular beach albeit it very busy but you can rent chairs and an umbrella, water sports such as kayaks, surfboards, boogieboards, snorkel gear and the like so there is something for everyone.  There were lots of kids of all ages building sandcastles or splashing around in the water.  It was a fun atmosphere and everyone was enjoying their time.  I think that’s why it is so popular, everyone is relaxed with so much to do, with so many restaurants and bars, catering to every budget.

To finally get out of the sun and the heat, we walked up to the “Westin Moana Surfrider”.  As mentioned above, this was one of the first hotels on Waikiki.  It also happened to be the very first hotel we stayed at in Hawaii and the hotel we brought our kids to on their first trip here.  The beach side bar/restaurant had some live music and we could overlook not only the ocean but also Diamond Head, so it was a natural place to sit and have a cocktail.  I can highly recommend their 1944 MaiTai as being one of the best MaiTai’s I’ve had.

Unfortunately, it is time to make our way back to the ship.  We walked all the way back to the Ala Moana Shopping Mall but by that time we were very hot and weary, so after a stroll through the mall, we opted for a taxi back to the ship.

There are many, many sights and activities to do while on O’ahu, so if you are interested in going, don’t hesitate to let us know and we can steer you in the right direction! 

So, Aloha from Hawaii and Mahalo for reading along.  Next stop…Maui!

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ED’S 82 DAY GRAND ASIA & PACIFIC SAILING WITH HOLLAND AMERICA – PART 31

December 08, 2018 – Pago, Pago, American Samoa

Talofa!  December 8 again thanks to us crossing the International Date Line!  This time we made it to Pago, Pago (pronounced Pango, Pango)!  American Samoa, the only inhabited US territory south of the equator, is given the occasional nod for its love of American football and McDonald’s, but few people realize that these lush tropical islands hold geometrically cut mountains and blue waters that rival the beauty of Tahiti and Hawaii.

Samoan culture is so strong here that some claim it’s even more traditional than Independent Samoa next door. If you’re seeking a Polynesia that’s authentic, full of adventure opportunities and nearly devoid of tourists, American Samoa may be just the place.

Few travellers go to American Samoa so there’s relatively little tourism infrastructure.  Most of the population and industry (primarily fishing and canneries) are found on the main island of Tutuila, in and around Pago Pago Harbor.

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Pago Pago is stunningly beautiful. The town is located near the westernmost end of an L-shaped bay and is surrounded by lush, green mountains. Opposite Pago Pago on the eastern side of the bay is the mountain known as the Rainmaker, so-called because its top catches clouds that frequently douse the slopes below in rain. In fact, the entire island of Tutuila is beautiful, from the coral reefs offshore to the old-world rainforests and waterfalls lining the steep sides of its mountains.

Since the island is so beautiful and boasts a large National Park, we researched that there were several hiking trails in the park.  Together with a few friends, we disembarked the ship and headed out to find a way to the National Park.

The National Park of American Samoa, America’s 50th National Park, is the only one south of the equator. This Park in the South Pacific is dedicated to preserving the Samoan/Polynesian culture and landscape. The islands neotropical forests, indopacific reefs, and 3,000 year old culture are unique in the National Park Service.

The Samoan archipelago includes the US Territory of American Samoa and the independent nation of Samoa (formerly Western Samoa).  The islands are located 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii and 1,800 miles northwest of New Zealand, between Fiji and Tahiti. The Samoan chain stretches east to west for more than 300 miles between 13 and 15 degree south latitude (below the equator).

As we left the ship’s “safety zone” we were surrounded by many different tour and taxi drivers all vying for our business.

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After some negotiation and back and forth with the driver, we settled on a guide named Junior and his “uncle” from the same village who drove this rather rustic Toyota conversion.  Junior assured us that it would make it up the mountain!  The cost for the 3 hours was $20USD per person.

Our first hike is the Lower Sauma Ridge Trail which was not terribly long or difficult.  The path is cut out of the rainforest and has steps made of the natural rocks.  The tree roots, the wet leaves and the sometimes steep decline make for a moderately difficult 20 minute hike to a lookout point where the tall and skinny Pola Island can be seen.  It is a nesting area for seabirds.

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Our second hike was the easy Pola Island trail which was a short flat trail that led to a rough and rocky beach with views of the coastline and again, Pola Island.

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Luckily it did not rain on us as it was supposed to, although we maybe didn’t get the pictures we wanted.  Junior our guide was a good guy but they did get some flak for taking us into the National Park as they aren’t “sanctioned” to take us there.

The ride home was nice with plenty of good views and a stop at a local store for a beer and some snacks.  Then to a local market where I picked up a big papaya for $1.  On the ship in time before it started raining.

We have several sea days ahead of us now before our last 2 ports of call, Oahu and Maui.  After that we are only a few sailing days from ending our cruise.

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ED’S 82 DAY GRAND ASIA & PACIFIC SAILING WITH HOLLAND AMERICA – PART 30

December 08, 2018 – Apia, Samoa

The port that wasn’t!

On the north-east coast of Upolu, Samoa’s capital, Apia is famous for its relaxed charm, hospitable locals and should be easily explored by foot.  It is also home to the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum.  The Scottish author’s former residence is apparently an enchanting estate, with a centrepiece lawn and perfectly manicured gardens. Stevenson’s mansion, substantially destroyed in the cyclones in the early 1990s, was lovingly rebuilt and opened as a museum in 1994 on the centenary of Stevenson’s death. It has rooms filled with antiques and sepia family photographs.

The ship docked in Apia but before we could get off, the Captain announced that the swells were too high and they would have to abort our stay in Apia!  Two of the ship’s ropes that secure it to the dock had already broken and the fear was damage to the ship if it rocked against the dock.  None of the ship’s tours had left the area yet and were cancelled.  Unfortunately, about 50 people had already disembarked.

This is all we saw of Apia…

The ship left the dock and maneuvered into the bay.  They deployed a ship’s lifeboats for tender and they tried to track down the passengers on shore.

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After a couple of hours, everyone was safely on board and we left.  The extra time is being spent with a gentle sail around an island before going on to Pago, Pago.

The good news is that we cross the International Dateline and we gain a day, so tomorrow is December 8 all over again.  We hope we have better luck on our second go with December 8!