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Posts Tagged ‘Carnival’

Anne Frank Haus

In Uncategorized on September 10, 2013 at 12:02 pm

For our last call into Amsterdam, I really had one thing I very much wanted to experience; the house that Anne Frank and her family hid in during the war, and the place she was when she wrote her famous diary. What an amazing experience. The house has been preserved as a museum and is very well done. As you move through the house you see authentic material from the house as it was in the 1940’s. I went to the house with a tour, which took us through the city and out to a beautiful windmill first. We even went to the area of Amsterdam that Anne and her family lived before going into hiding. Something I absolutely love is that nowadays it is used for writers! Writers that are not allowed the freedom to write their type of literature in their countries are invited to stay in the house for a year to do their writing and then a new writer comes in. How amazing is that?
The house itself is haunting. As you move through the house you see things like the original bookcase that hid the entrance. In the bedrooms and living spaces, the windows are still covered and you can imagine what it was like to be hiding there in the dark. We were fortunate to hear the church bells ring, the same church bells that Anne talks about in her diary, it sent chills right down my spine. The actual diary is on display as well. There are inscriptions of quotes from Anne’s diary on the walls throughout the house. In Anne’s bedroom you can see where she glued pictures from magazines on the wall. It is truly an amazing experience, I’m so thrilled I managed to get there. I think that especially after experiencing Sachsenhausen recently, the house really hit me. There are little movies playing with interviews with people such as Anne’s best friend, one of the women who helped them stay in hiding, and even Otto Frank himself. An amazing man, after surviving Auchwitz he dedicated his life to publishing Anne’s book and fighting against racism. The museum is such an amazing reminder of the history that we should never forget.

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Christiania

In Uncategorized on September 8, 2013 at 6:46 pm

As you know, I’m trying desperately to catch up on posts from the Baltic (if you’re my facebook friend you’ll know I still have pictures from the Med I haven’t posted…eeek!!) so in that vein, here’s a post that I wrote weeks ago and didn’t post until now!

On our most recent jaunt about Copenhagen, Vasi and I ended up wandering into Christiania, a place I didn’t know existed until Vasi informed me. Christiania, also known as Freetown Christiania (Danish: Fristaden Christiania) is a self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood of about 850 residents, covering 34 hectares (84 acres) in the borough of Christianshavn in the Danish capital Copenhagen. Civic authorities in Copenhagen regard Christiania as a large commune, but the area has a unique status in that it is regulated by a special law, the Christiania Law of 1989 which transfers parts of the supervision of the area from the municipality of Copenhagen to the state. It was closed by residents in April 2011, whilst discussions continued with the Danish government as to its future, but is now open again.
Christiania has been a source of controversy since its creation in a squatted military area in 1971. Its cannabis trade was tolerated by authorities until 2004. Since then, measures for normalizing the legal status of the community have led to conflicts, and negotiations are ongoing. Among many Christiania residents, the community is known as staden (‘the town’), short for fristaden (‘the freetown’). It’s a really cool place, there’s beautiful street art everywhere, people on bikes, little coffee stands, and all kinds of interesting things. It has a very peaceful and serene place. It actually reminded me very much of some of the small Gulf Islands back home in British Columbia, but in Danish. I really enjoy finding these little nooks and crannies of cities that are kind of off the beaten path. In the innermost parts of Christiania it is forbidden to take pictures, but we snapped a few on the outskirts of town that I can share with you. It was a very interesting adventure, and I would love to go back!

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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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A Very Russian Tuesday

In Uncategorized on July 19, 2013 at 3:53 am

Russia is intense. We’ve been preparing ourselves for that fact since we got to the Baltic, however, I didn’t realize how intense they are. Every port has different documentation that they require for ships and their passengers to arrive and exit the vessel. As each day we are in a different country, the requirements can change drastically from day to day. The first Baltic cruise was pretty stressful in this regard, now that we have a few under our belt, we’re feeling more confident and we know what to expect. Some ports we don’t need anything other than our ID to get off. Some require passports. In Russia, if you aren’t one of a few excepted nationalities, you can’t get off the ship without a visa. Some people don’t consider these things before getting onboard. Fortunately for us, many companies are authorized to offer these visas. So if you’re on a shore excursion, or a private shuttle, as Alex and I took last time we were in Russia, you’re fine. But if you just try to wander off the ship, no sir, back you go. Another reason it’s better to just get your excursions through Carnival, then you’re guaranteed to have a visa, and you’re guaranteed not to miss the ship. Last Russia we had some guests on private tours who didn’t get visas, and we had to try to scramble last minute to get ahold of their excursion companies and try to get them visas and make sure they don’t miss their trips, and so on and so forth. But that’s not what this story is about. This story is about the excursion that Alex and I went on last Russian with the dancers and some of the production staff.
But first…let me tell you that I grew up attending musical theatre and acting in plays and have always been in love with the stage. Some of my most cherished memories are going on a girls trip with my mom, grandma and sister to Vancouver, getting dressed up going to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cats, Phantom of the Opera (only time in the history of the world that I cried in a theatre), the Nutcracker, and more. We used to put on plays in our backyard. At the end of the day, I’m really just a show missing a stage. So of course, when I found out that I would be in Russia, my goal in life became to see a real live Russian ballet!!!!! Our first Baltic cruise, I waited eagerly for the first Shore Excursion booklet, and when they came to the desk, I leafed through it like a kid with a Sears catalogue at Christmas time. Low and behold, a Russian Ballet excursion!!!!!!!!!!!!! It would be mine!!! Last week, our production dancers and singers all went to the ballet and happened to have two spots available, of course Alex and I jumped at the chance to go. What show, you ask? Only one of the most pivotal ballets ever choreographed, with an accompanying score by a Russian composer (whose statue sat just outside the theatre) by the name of Tchaikovsky …SWAN LAKE!!

As there were 17 of us, we had a shuttle bus all to ourselves into the heart of St. Petersburg (about 20 minutes from the pier) where we found our seats and waited for the show to begin. The backdrops were stunning, the costumes ornate, and the dancers breathtaking. These dancers start training from the age of 4, and are accepted into the dance academy at 10. They eat, sleep, and breathe dance. The girl who danced the part of the swan queen was flawless. I was inspired and moved the entire way through. During the first intermission we sipped complementary glasses of champagne and felt very elegant indeed. Check that one off the bucket list, what an amazing evening!!!
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Contract Tracker

In Uncategorized on July 17, 2013 at 3:39 am

I’ve reached the halfway point!! My dear friend Colin sent me this fabulous (and sometimes depressing, if you look at the seconds) contract tracker so the other day I plugged in my dates out of curiosity. Low and behold, I’m halfway done. See the below chart! It’s not something I like to look at all the time, but it’s interesting to see the breakdown of numbers, and the closer you get to the end, the more fun it is to see how many minutes you’ve been onboard! Getting to the halfway mark makes me feel pensive. I’ve seen so many things and been so many amazing places and learnt so many things! We realized the other day that we only have 5 more Baltic cruises and then a Norweigan Fijord cruise, and then we cross back over the Atlantic and end up in Tampa again! How crazy is that?! Back to Tampa again! What an unbelievable journey I’m on!
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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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Of Lisbon and World Domination

In Uncategorized on June 23, 2013 at 4:20 pm

My main goal in life is to take over the world. It’s a well-known fact amongst my friends and relatives. In fact, my dad affectionately nicknamed my contract on the Legend the ‘World Domination Tour’. If I were a cartoon character, I would be Pinky. First, let me clarify, I’m not trying to take it over and destroy it or anything sinister like that. I just have this insatiable overwhelming need to see/touch/taste/hear/experience the whole world. There is so much out there that I haven’t seen and I can’t wait to see it all. What’s my point, you ask? Well I’m getting there, slowly. As part of the WDT, I have been building an army of friends and like -minded traveling cohorts in every place I visit. I’m the first to admit, I’m hyper connected; I’m constantly texting, emailing, tweeting, posting pictures, and messaging friends all around the world. While this might seem frivolous to some, it’s all part of the big picture. With every new contact, my world gets even smaller, the places that are out of reach get closer and I learn something new, PLUS there’s always a friend to take me on an awesome tour of a new place that I haven’t managed to visit yet.

AND NOW……my point. (hope no one was holding their breath out there)

One of the fabulous people I’ve met out here on the European leg of the WDT, is a gentleman who works as a comedian in our Punchliner Comedy Club. Very funny man. His wife was cruising with him during the transatlantic crossing and I ended up making friends with them. She is originally from Portugal, so when she found out that we were stopping in Lisbon in June, she insisted that we meet up and she take me on a tour. That was three months ago. Being a hyper communicator, I’ve stayed in touch this whole time and was chomping at the bit to get a real tour of an amazing port, that we only visit once. Silvia is originally from Cascais, (pronounced cash-cais) which is just outside of Lisbon. It’s a very posh side of town where kings and queens lived thousands of years ago, when they wanted to escape the drudgery of Lisbon, and head down the coast. Portugal has some amazing history and I really enjoyed hearing about it from Silvia. Being closed in by Spain from most sides, the early Portugese people took to the sea to explore. There are so many beautiful monuments all along the coast that these early adventurers erected to honor these explorers and the treasures they brought back. I can just imagine what it might have been like to leave your home and sail off into unchartered waters and unknown futures. I feel, in a small way, something like that. Obviously, my ship is much larger and our path is charted, however I left my home and all my loved ones and came to a ship where I knew no one and have been roaming the seas ever since. I like to think that if I had lived in those long ago days, I would have been one of those adventure-seeking souls who took to the sea in a quest for knowledge. Although I probably would have had to pretend to be a boy, but I’m kind of shaped like a boy, so I feel like I could pull it off.
Silvia took me to this amazing restaurant by the ocean next to this natural phenomenon called Boca do Inferno, which means mouth of the devil (that’s a loose translation) that is this massive hole in the side of a cliff where ocean water rushes in and out and crashes and apparently in the fall and winter it’s quite spectacular! We ate amazingly fresh fish, and local wine and chatted and had such a marvelous time. They run a bed and breakfast out there so I’ve got an invite to come back whenever I’d like. One more stop on the WDT!

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Arles & Aix, France

In Carnival, Carnival Cruise Line, Cruise, travel, traveling on June 10, 2013 at 7:01 pm

 

I absolutely adore being in France. Every time I’m there I feel as though I’m coming home. This stop in Marseilles, I went on a fantastic excursion to Arles and Aix. A bus ride through the stunning French countryside led us to Provence. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and friendly. As a history major, he had endless facts and gems of knowledge to pass along. We went to the hospital in which Van Gogh had been hospitalized for several weeks. Having seen some of the work he did while there, it was a revelation to see the place that inspired them! We were actually quite lucky to arrive there fairly early on a drizzly day, as there were very few people in the street. We saw an amazing Greek amphitheatre that in fact is still in use today, for concerts and shows and such. I had such an amazing lunch with our tour guide and his colleagues. I had told him earlier that I prefer to speak French if possible as I don’t need to work on my English but my French always needs tweaking. From then on we only spoke French for the rest of the day (except when in the company of the rest of the tour, and even then, if we were speaking directly to each other we spoke only French) and a few times when trying to explain something complicated that was difficult for me to do in French and I broke into English, he stopped me and patiently guided me through what I was trying to say. We met his other guide friends at a lovely restaurant and ate beautiful food and only spoke French and drank wine. I didn’t want to leave! I love speaking in my second language because it really makes me think about what I’m saying. In English my mouth sometimes moves without my brain actually processing things, I’ll often just ramble on about nothing and not even listen to what I’m saying. In French I have to take much more care constructing sentences and verbalizing my thoughts. Plus it just sounds better, the French language is so beautiful. All in all I had such a fabulous day, I can’t wait to return to France!!

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Rome, the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica

In Uncategorized on June 3, 2013 at 5:09 am

Bullet points that summarize my day:

 

* I’ve always wanted to be a gladiator, and now I’m pretty sure that’s my new career path. I just need a few hungry lions and a gladiator school

* Tour guides were unbelievable, I learned SO much and they managed to keep our group together amongst thousands of random people, even when two people on our tour weren’t feeling well and one guide left to take care of them!

* Rome is ridiculously cool.

* Unless you have nerves of steel, don’t sit at the back of a bus in Rome

 

Right from the moment we got on the bus, our guide Marco was engaging and energetic. He had lots of interesting facts about Rome, most of which I actually listened to, he was so interesting I didn’t start bus-napping until we were halfway there! At the train station we picked up our main tour guide, Rosa, who is a treasure!! That woman seriously knows EVERYTHING there is to know about Rome, and possibly the world. You could really see that she enjoys her job, every fact or story was told with such gusto that it was impossible not to get caught up in her excitement. First stop was the Colosseum, which was unreal. I’m a big gladiator fan so I loved all the stories she had to tell about what it was actually like in those days. It was really breathtaking to be walking down cobblestones that still have indents from chariot wheels, places where Julius Ceaser and Cleopatra once walked! The site was quite crowded, but Rosa kept us with her like a careful mother duck with our first guide, Marco, following up in behind to make sure no stragglers got lost.

 

From there it was on to Vatican City where we had an hour of free time before meeting back to go inside the Vatican Museums. The museums are amazing. 7 km of galleries!! I took so many photos on this tour that I depleted the batteries of two fully charged cameras and my iphone. Here is where it got REALLY crowded. There was one woman on the tour who got overwhelmed, or claustrophobic or something right as we went into the museum and Marco had to take her and her friend outside for a bit. They did manage to rejoin us for the end of the tour, however. I generally have a problem with crowds of strangers touching me/crowding me/breathing my air but the Vatican was so amazing that I managed. Rosa did not stop talking the entire day, I learned so much!! Next came the Sistine Chapel, which was incredible. There is no talking or photography in the chapel, which meant that there were thousands of quietly awed people just staring at the amazing paintings. It was a very surreal experience.

 

From there we continued right along to St. Peter’s Basilica, also unreal. There was some kind of ceremony happening when we got there so not only was the light shining in through the ceiling onto us, but there were priests singing which echoed through the Basilica and really made the experience even more amazing. Again, Rosa had stories and facts and somehow managed to connect with each person on the tour, despite being surrounded by so many other people. Walking out into the courtyard, Rosa gave us an outside overview of the buildings we had just explored. After a half hour of free time in the Vatican shops, and several more stories, Rosa said goodbye (she lives next to the museum) and we boarded our bus to head back. Let me tell you, I got a quality bus nap in on the way home, for the most part. Sitting in the very back seat of a bus in Rome proved to be quite disconcerting as there always seemed to be a car/motorcycle/scooter/pedestrian 1 foot away, aimed DIRECTLY at me…it made for a startling awakening more than once.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEurope

Snapshot from Venice

In Uncategorized on May 14, 2013 at 10:51 am

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After spending last weekend in Venice, I can safely say that I am head over heels in love with Italy.