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Archive for the ‘adventure’ Category

Shark Diving in Fiji

In adventure, fun, Uncategorized on July 2, 2016 at 8:03 am

In yet another daring scuba diving expedition, my friend Mike and I set out one fine day in Port Denarau, Fiji with our primary goal being to get up close and personal with some sharks! Now I know what you’re thinking…. That we’re crazy people. That is a debatable point but entirely separate from this particular story. There are many different breeds of sharks, the ones we were most likely to encounter are reef sharks. Reef sharks are neither as big nor as dangerous as the great white sharks that most people picture when you say the word shark. I also think that sharks get a bad rap. In general, sharks aren’t actively looking to eat people, they’re just hungry and every so often a human roams into their hunting ground. Now I’m not trying to trivialize the dangers of sharks and the injuries humans have sustained after getting too close to them, however I’m just saying they’re misunderstood. That being said, I certainly do have a healthy respect for any creature large enough to eat me and with sharp enough teeth to remove one of my limbs.

Anyway, back to the story. Mike and I made our way to a resort that offered such an adventure. It was quite a ways away from the port but the drive itself was incredible. The Fijian scenery is stunning and I think I used an entire GoPro battery taking pictures before we even got to the resort. The Shangri La Resort on Yanuca Island is awe-inspiring. Every detail of the property is precise and the ocean views are unparalleled.

After enjoying the sights, we headed to the dive shop to suit up. As we were fitted with our gear, we exchanged nervous but excited grins, we were about to swim with sharks!! Into our dive boat we went. The dive staff were so lovely, and the dive masters who were leading our dive assured us that the sharks we were going to see would not be dangerous to us, especially when they’re being fed fish chunks (as they would be). We arrived at the dive site and prepared to jump in. I went first, leaping without a care in the world, so excited to dive with sharks. As my legs entered the water, I could feel tendrils wrap around my left leg and begin to sting. Without a second thought I reached down with my left arm and pulled at whatever was encircling my leg. As I freed myself and began to descend, I felt the familiar sting of a jellyfish all over my arm and leg. I wasn’t about to abort the dive so I continued to descend, assuming the salt water would ease the sting and loosen the microscopic barbed stingers that were lodged in my extremities.

The dive itself was incredible! Once the dive masters began to feed the group of sharks that had already gathered, more and more sharks began to appear. A plethora of other sea dwelling creatures came to feed as well. The sharks swam surprisingly close to us, several times they bumped into us or circled our legs. However our dive master was right. They had no interest in the human intruders as food. We were merely decorations in their kitchen as they ate a tasty fish lunch. Rising to the surface 45 minutes later we were ecstatic about our shark experience. Drying off and feeling some pain in my left arm, I suddenly remembered my jellyfish encounter and looked down at my arm. My entire left arm and leg were covered in tentacle patterned poison-filled (probably) blisters. This particular species of jellyfish was far more poisonous than any I have previously encountered. It soon became clear that this particular species wasn’t lethal and that I would live to blog the story, however the blisters were painful and took a long time to heal. As I understand it, the stinger barbs (officially called nematocysts) of some jellyfish species can remain lodged in the skin for extended periods of time and continue to cause pain. Although I tried my best to get them all out, for months my arm continued to blister randomly. It’s been three months now and I haven’t had a new blister in a few weeks so I think I’m finally in the clear. I definitely looked scary for a while there.

Now don’t let my unfortunate incident scare you out of the water, I had the misfortune to get literally tangled up in the tentacles of a jellyfish, extreme reactions like mine aren’t common. Generally people get mildly stung by jellyfish, while walking on the beach or swimming leisurely near to one. However considering I started that day off by seeking out sharks, I’m still calling it an overall win. Also if you’re in North America, the kind of jellyfish you are likely to encounter are not nearly as dangerous as the ones found in the South Pacific. So the moral of the story is stay adventurous, but stay safe!!

For the sake of your mental well-being, I won’t post the pictures of my stings, but instead some sharks and resort views. You’re welcome!

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Beyond the Mouse

In adventure, Disney, fitness, friends, fun, holiday, orlando on February 13, 2015 at 4:03 am

In my personal experience, the more you visit a place, the more new things you tend to discover. At least if you possess an adventurous soul you do. Of course there are lots of people who go places and do the same thing every time, and that’s just fine, but it’s not my style. I like to explore. As I am currently on vacation and spending time with some friends in Orlando, we have been making the usual theme park rounds, but we’ve also been on a few random adventures. Today we drove to Winter Garden and rented bicycles, determined to discover places we’d never been.

First of all, Winter Garden itself is delightful and I want to live there. Its a beautiful sleepy town with ambiance music and fountains and benches!! Something about it feels charming and welcoming. If a town could embrace you, Winter Garden is like a warm hug from an old friend. i did not want to leave.

Winter Garden is a haven for triathletes, cyclists, and athletes of all kinds and the bike shop we went to was staffed by some very lovely people who made us feel right at home. Our bicycle adventure took us around the West Orange Trail which runs partially alongside Lake Apopka and reminded me of the Galloping Goose Trail at home in Victoria B.C. I got to see the lake, gazebos, country fields, trees, and random animals. As much as I adore all of Florida’s many theme parks and attractions, I am very excited to have explored a whole different slice of what the sunshine state has to offer. The moral of today’s story is: STAY ADVENTUROUS my friends!!

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Bergen and Bryggen, Norway

In adventure on September 21, 2013 at 7:28 am

Stop number 2 on the Norway cruise was Bergen. It’s another beautiful town with a lovely fish market and a cool tram-type thing called a Funicular that goes up Mt. Floyen (similar to the skyride in St. Thomas). I didn’t have much time outside so I wandered around taking pictures of the beautiful scenery and architecture. One thing that’s very interesting about Bergen is the Bryggen UNESCO World Heritage site. Feel free to check it out here at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/59
Bryggen is Bergen’s old wharf area and is a reminder of the town’s importance as part of the Hanseatic League’s trading empire from the 14th to the mid-16th century. There are currently 62 buildings left from that era, as it has had parts of it destroyed by multiple fires over the years. King Olav the Peaceful (Olav Kyrre) founded the port of Bergen somewhere around 1070 and it was initially a possession of the old Norwegian aristocracy that had acquired a monopoly on fish trading. Today much of it remains protected and a lovely well inside a courtyard advises that any Norwegian coins that are dropped into it will be used to continue to preserve the site.
The fish market itself is lovely and had so many different things to peruse and explore. I wandered up a small hill for a better view of the city. The buildings are beautiful and are built fitting inside the nooks and crannies of each other like so many puzzle pieces. Beautiful gardens abound and sharp turns lead to small alleys with steep stairs. I very much enjoyed Bergen and one day hope to come back again!
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Catharine’s Palace and Neva River Cruise

In adventure, Uncategorized on September 7, 2013 at 10:56 am

I had such a fun tour in St. Petersburg lat cruise, I just have to share! I went to Catharine’s Palace and for a cruise down the Neva River!! So very lovely.
I had such a wonderful time!! This was the final place on my list of places to visit and it did not disappoint. The history of the Romanovs is so fascinating and our guide knew everything. We did have to stop and wait a few times for other tours to move about the palace but not once was I bored, as our guide kept us so very amused with stories, and juicy tidbits about the Romanovs and Catharine the Great. I liked that they made us wait though, they would let one group through then put a rope up and keep the next group waiting a bit which really alleviated how crowded it could have been (I was picturing it being like crowded like the Sistine chapel and was pleasantly surprised). Our tour guide kept careful count of all of us and after a tour of the palace rooms, it was out to the gardens..again, STUNNING. The amount of work that must go into maintenance there is unreal. It was really interesting on the way out to see the pictures from after the occupation and how much of the palace was destroyed. The restoration team are miracle workers! The gardens were beautiful and it began to rain just as we were walking to the bus, excellent timing for us. At our lunch restaurant, I caught some wifi, made friends with some guests and enjoyed the traditional Russian dancing and singing. The food was great, potato salad, soup (with gluteney dumplings that I avoided), more potatoes (mashed this time) with a chicken patty type thing that tasted far better than it looked. Desert was, of course, gluteney death that I did not eat, but my new guest friends around the table all enjoyed them. After lunch we hustled off to our river cruise. At this point, I was more than a little sleepy (I got some bus napping in, but not much) and the waves were putting me to sleep. As it was raining at this point, we all stayed inside and enjoyed the tour through the windows. Obviously a clearer day would have been ideal, but the river tour was still wonderful!
I very much enjoy Russia in general every time I’m there, and the lovely Catharine Palace most certainly did not disappoint!!

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When In Russia

In adventure, Carnival, Carnival Cruise Line, Cruise on June 29, 2013 at 6:13 am

Erica’s European Travel Tip of the Day

When in Russia, travel with a Russian!!

Seems simple, right? Now that we’re on the Baltic side of Europe, we’re in a different country every day with COMPLETELY different languages. When we were on the Med side, Alexey relied on my French when we were out in French ports, now that we’re on the other side, when we’re out in Russia, he translates everything for me! And let me tell you, it necessary, the Russian subway is confusing. Beautifully decorated, but confusing, and not everyone speaks English so had I been by myself I would doubtless have gotten lost. International friends are a wonderful thing! Today was our first St. Petersburg and it was amazing. We walked for hours and saw so many things. It was BLAZING hot which I quite enjoyed. We saw the Cathedral of Spilled Blood (which I accidentally called the Cathedral of Spilt Milk and caused Alex to laugh for the entire afternoon), St. Issac’s Square, the Neva River, the Peter & Paul Fortress and the Hermitage Museum. We really moved!! Obviously we didn’t really go inside every place, I’m hoping to go inside the Hermitage Museum when I can go into the gold room and everything. We did go into the Museum at the Peter and Paul Fortress as well as the prison and the medieval torture museum! We had such an amazing day. Peter and Paul Fortress was spectacular, the church room where all the tombs of the Emperors and Empresses are housed was amazing. It’s actually coated in a fine layer of gold! The history is fascinating. In the prison we saw the cells where people were imprisoned at one time. Having Alex with me made it even better because he knows so much Russian history and is always happy to share informative stories and tidbits. I have discovered that I love Russian folklore. Our Firebird lounge on board is based on a Russian fairytale and all over St. Petersburg they have amazing Firebird trinkets and souvenirs. I find Russian history so fascinating. Alex’s town was a secret city for a time!! They made AK-47s there during the cold war so it wasn’t even on any map!! Tomorrow we’re off to the Petergof Summer Palace to see the amazing fountains!! I can’t wait!
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Baltic Prep

In adventure, Carnival, Carnival Cruise Line, Cruise on June 20, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Preparing for The Baltic

Just as we managed to get settled (as settled as we possibly could be) in the Mediterranean, we now have to prepare to head to the Baltic ports. Obviously that is super exciting for all of us. However it’s also a little bit stressful as we now have to learn everything there is to know about another 12 new ports. Just to make it a little bit trickier, Carnival hasn’t been to the Baltic either ever or in a very long time. Therefore we have very little port information and most of us have never been to these ports. When you spend 6 months doing the same ports over and over you memorize the ports and exactly how many steps it takes to get to each place and where the best restaurants are. On this route, we are only just starting to get really familiar with the ports and now we’re changing them!! It’s a very difficult position to be in as guest services because all the guests expect us to know everything about everything. The first Med cruise was a disaster, I had no idea where anything is or where a good coffee shop is. Now if you ask me about Malaga or Livorno, or Rome, I can tell you my favorite restaurant, what corner is worst for pickpockets, what time the train to Pomeii leaves, and which side of the shuttle to sit on to get the best view of some random monument that I’ve grown randomly attached to.  And now we have to get used to all new ports. Fortunately, our port agents in every port are very knowledgeable and helpful. They are always happy to answer our emails with informative tidbits. Plus google is a wonderful thing! So we’ve been preparing and preparing and now it’s almost time!! We are currently on our repositioning cruise that will end up in Dover!! I haven’t had much time to get really excited about it, as we’ve had a lot on our plates, however I know it will be a thrill to wake up in the UK!! I can’t wait to explore all our new ports and to share it all with you!!

Ponta Delgada, Azores, Pourtugal

In adventure, Carnival, Carnival Cruise Line, friends, fun on June 11, 2013 at 7:07 pm

I’m still trekking along in my quest to update all the blog posts I’ve been missing since the crossing, so this one come right from that particular cruise!! When we got to Ponta Delgada we were all very excited to see land again after four long sea days. Debbie and I were particularly excited because Debbie is Portugese and had never been able to visit Portugal before. For her it was almost a religious experience and her enthusiasm rubbed off on me as well. We had an amazing day. We considered going on an excursion but our schedules didn’t really allow for it and so we bartered with a taxi driver who gave us a very reasonable rate for a few hours of touring wherever we wanted to go. He ended up being a fabulous tour guide as well as an excellent photographer. It was an amazingly beautiful place, one I hope to visit again. We had an amazing tour and afterwards we had a magnificent lunch of freshly caught fish and local wine.

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The Vacation Story

In adventure, friends, fun, Uncategorized on March 30, 2013 at 7:56 am

Well, I’ve been promising a more detailed vacation blog post for almost a month now. And I figured now is the time to do it, as I head back to work!!  I love writing while traveling! Currently I am in gypsy heaven, the two seats next to me on the plane are empty, and being a human of the long-legged variety, I am taking very great pleasure in stretching out over ALL the seats.

Vacation has been amazing. For the first two weeks I actually went to cruise with a friend on another Carnival ship, the Carnival Inspiration, for two weeks. I had the best time being a guest. It’s a very different experience than being a crew member. I really learned a lot about what it’s like to cruise from the guest perspective. I went to all the shows, ate on lido deck, and lounged! I also got to see what it’s like to board the ship as a guest, which is something we never experience as crew. The Carnival Inspiration does 3 and 4 day cruises to Ensenada, Mexico and Santa Catalina out of Long Beach, California. So since I spent two weeks on board, I got to do a lot of embarking and debarking. As technically I was a guest, even though I was crew traveling, I still had to debark the ship with the guests and embark again a few hours later with the next group of guests. It’s in my nature to make friends with strangers and every time I got off the ship, there were usually the same staff working, so by the time I debarked after my last voyage I got hugs and high fives from the security, the shoreside crew, and even some CPB officers. I think that having the experience of cruising from the guest’s perspective will really help me be a better Guest Services Associate. The ports were fun too! Santa Catalina is gorgeous!! A tiny little marina town with beautiful yachts, colorful Spanish style villas and palm trees! There were seals and dolphins leaping around the small tender boats used to take us ashore and some cheeky seals even hopped up on the marina buoys as if they were circus performers!

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Ensenada, Mexico is also a cool place. We found lots of delicious little restaurants and one day there was even a really fun street fair celebrating something fantastically Mexican. It’s a very different Mexican experience than Cozumel. Cozumel is quite commercialized, with a very well developed cruise center. Ensenada is beautiful, with the LARGEST flag I have ever seen, Mexican or otherwise, but less developed than Cozumel. There are many families on the streets trying to sell you beaded bracelets and scorpions shaped out of wire. It’s very interesting to see the differences after being in Cozumel every two weeks for the last 6 months.

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Once I came back from cruising, I went to visit a friend who lives on Gabriola Island, one of the gorgeous Gulf Islands! We went for forest runs, beach walks and even kayaking in the ocean. I actually had a small incident where I fell in the ocean and it was almost a catastrophe, but it all ended up just fine. There was a pair of sea lions playing about 10 feet away from me and I was on the fence as to whether they might eat me or assist me back into my kayak, neither of which happened. Gabriola is beautiful and quiet and I really enjoyed the time to relax.

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After a few more days back in Victoria, my sister and I went to Vancouver for the weekend, as she was invited to attend Vancouver fashion week, and I was her plus one!! It was so much fun. My sister is my very best friend in the whole world and getting to spend a whole weekend with her was just the best ever. Plus we got to see some really awesome new fashion, and hang out in downtown Vancouver!

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In the time I got to spend at home in Victoria, I visited some wonderful friends, my amazing family, and even some of my favorite animal friends! Ship work, although it is wonderful, it is certainly tiring and after a contract, it’s really necessary to take downtime to find yourself again. I’m so happy and refreshed and ready to go back to work!! I have so many thoughts to share about my new ship, but we’ll save those for tomorrow!!

Ziplining

In adventure, Carnival, Carnival Cruise Line, friends, fun on March 3, 2013 at 2:53 pm

The one and only time I went on an excursion in San Juan, Puerto Rico, I went ziplining in the rain forest and it was brilliant!! I had so much fun!! The guides were so much fun, and the views were breathtaking! Of course I felt the need to zipline upside down like a crazy person, prompting the guides to exclaim that they’d never seen a guest do that, only they usually do it.

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The course had multiple rope bridges just like this one!! Very fun!!

 

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I’m all ready to zip!!!!

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One of the many towers we climbed to start zipping!!!

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Danger!!

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I’m upside down!! 🙂

Coast to Coast

In adventure, Carnival, Carnival Cruise Line on February 19, 2013 at 10:53 am

My lovely co-worker Susanne and I went on a few excursions recently!! The first of them being the Coast to Coast tour of Grand Turk! Grand Turk is a very small island, but it was really cool to get to see it all. We drove around in an open-air bus while the driver told us all about the island. We got to stop and go for a swim (of course I jumped right off the dock…I was actually the only one who went swimming, but I’m a sucker for an ocean swim, just can’t resist it!!) and explore the Grand Turk lighthouse, which was also beautiful!

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