The Site of a Maritime Disaster is Now Home to a Famous Submarine Museum

Today we are visiting Pointe-au-Pére (Father’s Point), a national historic landmark in Québec, and the home of the HMCS Onondaga – a Royal Canadian Navy torpedo submarine. The Empress of Ireland Exhibit and Pavilion, and the Pointe-au-Pére Lighthouse are also at this site.

The region

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Pointe-au-Pére is located in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region of the Québec Maritime. It is the traditional starting point for the scenic Gaspésie Tour known for outstanding landscapes, charming inns, and delicious foods such as succulent lamb, artisan cheeses, and maple victuals.

The Onondaga

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The Oberon Class HMCS Onondaga (S73) was part of the Canadian Navy’s prestigious Atlantic Maritime Forces for over 30 years. She was decommissioned in 2000, and became a warship museum in 2009. The Onondaga is the only military submarine on permanent public display in Canada.

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Self directed audio tour is available in several languages

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Onondaga means “People of the hills.” Her motto is “Invicta,” in English, “Unconquerable.” She is 295 feet long with a cruising range of 10,000 miles propelled by twin diesel electric engines.

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The Onondaga is an attack submarine with eight torpedo tubes, six in the bow, and two in the stern. She sailed with 18 torpedoes and a crew of 70.

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Bringing the Onondaga up to periscope depth

Living and working aboard the Onondaga would be “cozy.”

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Authors in the forward torpedo room

Visiting the Onondaga is an excellent opportunity to tour a modern submarine, which is quite different from the mostly WWII vintage boats that are open to the public in other parts of the world.

Sinking of the Empress of Ireland

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Another attraction at Pointe-au-Pére is the Empress of Ireland Pavilion. The pavilion houses a museum that opened in 2000 and contains a creative recounting of the history of Canada’s worst maritime disaster, which took place just off the nearby headlands.

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In heavy fog, in the early hours of May 29, 1914 the luxury liner RMS Empress of Ireland was struck amidships by a steamship hauling coal up the St. Lawrence River. The steamer was fixed with an icebreaker bow that tore a 14-foot hole in the Empress. She sank in just 14 minutes. There were 1,477 passengers aboard the ill-fated liner – only 465 survived the frigid waters of the St. Lawrence.

A Titanic size catastrophe

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Even though the loss of life on the Empress of Ireland was in a league with that of the Titanic and Lusitania, the sinking of the Empress remains relatively unknown. There are several reasons.

The Titanic was a celebrity ship on her maiden voyage on the prestigious route between New York and London. There were many famous people aboard and her builders had bragged that the Titanic was unsinkable. After hitting an iceberg, she sank on April 15, 1912.

The Lusitania had the distinction of being torpedoed by a German submarine on May 7, 1915, just under a year after the Empress tragedy. The Lusitania incident eventually led to the United States entering World War I.

Contrast those famous calamities with that of the Empress of Ireland. The Empress was on a routine (96th) run across the Atlantic from Québec City to Liverpool – not a particularly prestigious route. There were no famous millionaires aboard, and the loss of 1,012 lives was apparently not remarkable at a time when tens of thousands were dying on the battlefields of Europe. The Empress tragedy was literally pushed from the front pages.

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Notwithstanding the lack of notoriety at the time, the Empress sinking was Canada’s greatest sea tragedy and one of the world’s biggest civilian losses of life at sea.

To this very day, there are over 600 bodies entombed in the twisted wreck of the Empress – just 130 feet below the surface of the icy cold waters of the swift St. Lawrence River.

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The detailed exhibits in the Pavilion are full of artifacts recovered from the ship. In addition, a dramatic film presentation documents the events leading up to the sinking.

Pointe-au-Pére Lighthouse

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Had it not been for the early dark hour and fog, the Empress of Ireland accident could have been visible from the Pointe-au-Pére Lighthouse. Built in 1909, at 108 feet the lighthouse is the second tallest in Canada.

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The lighthouse is constructed of concrete with eight buttresses that support a central tower with 128 steps to the top.

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The light was deactivated in 1975, and it, along with the adjoining lighthouse keeper’s house, is now open to the public.

The keeper’s lodge is a “Museum of the Sea,” in which there are several interesting exhibits about navigation on the St. Lawrence River.

If you go

This national historic site lies three and one half hours northeast of Québec City. Drive along the south shore of the St. Lawrence on Route 132. Your destination is just 15 minutes east of Rimouski.

We recommend vacationing in the Quebec Maritime

Lucky is the family that gets to vacation in Québec and explore its history and many natural wonders. This beautiful eco-friendly province of Canada is a photographer’s dream that has adventures around every turn in the road. We like spending quality-time in The Maritime, and we think you will too.

For more information about what the Québec Maritime has to offer, check out their website: http://quebecmaritime.ca. Take special note of their unique self-guided tours.

Other articles about Québec

Click on a title below to read more vacation stories about the bountiful Québec Maritime.

Quebec: The Best Lighthouse Tour in North America

Tracing the Ice Age Glaciers in Quebec, Canada

The Great Gathering of Ghosts from the Sea in Sainte-Flavie, Quebec

Happy travels!

**************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

Ahoy Matey! Mystic Seaport Welcomes Seamen and Landlubbers Aboard

We love Connecticut. It is a beautiful state that is teeming with interesting tourist attractions. Today, we focus on the historic maritime coast of the Constitution state in “Mystic Country.”

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The seaside towns and villages of Mystic Country run 30-miles along Long Island Sound, starting at the town of Old Lyme and ending at the border of Rhode Island to the east. Our story begins with a visit to famous Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut.

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The Mystic Seaport sign proclaims, “The Museum of America and the Sea.” The catchphrase was well chosen because Mystic Seaport is an exciting playground for maritime historians, boaters of every persuasion, kids of all ages, and folks who just love the sea.

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We arrived early so we had the streets of the historic port village to ourselves.

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Everywhere we looked there were tall ship’s masts and sails in the background of the village’s authentic 19th century homes and shops.

It was a quiet fall day, and a slight whisper of falling leaves in the breeze made the many historical settings that much more alive and imaginative. We were walking back in time, and looked forward to the experience.

The last of the whalers

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Our feet rustled through the leaf covered village green as we made our way to tour the Charles W. Morgan – a sturdy looking wooden whaleship that is now a National Historic Landmark.

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In the 19th century, there were over 2,500 wooden whaling ships in North America and now there is one. The Morgan, launched in 1841, is America’s oldest surviving commercial ship still afloat. She has resided in the Mystic Seaport since 1941.

During her more than 80-years of service, the Morgan made voyages ranging in time from nine months, to five years. It was on just such a ship that the morose Captain Ahab sailed from nearby Nantucket to seek the elusive great white whale named Moby Dick. Arrr!

Signing on to crew a whaling ship in the 19th century was the fast-track to a harsh life involving hard work and long voyages. Thankfully (for the sake of the whales), whaling was greatly curtailed with the invention of kerosene in the 1840s.

The Joseph Conrad

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From the deck of the Morgan you can see the steel-hulled Joseph Conrad. The Conrad was built in 1882 as a training ship for the Danish Merchant Marine Service. For years she sailed with a cadet crew of eighty, and all went well until 1905 when the ship was rammed by a British freighter near Copenhagen and sunk.

Sadly, 20 young cadets went down with the Conrad. However, the vessel was quickly raised, repaired, and continued her mission until 1934 when the ship was sold. The new owner privatized the ship and took her around the world for two years covering 58,000 miles.

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The Mystic Seaport gained possession of the Joseph Conrad in 1948, and it has been in the museum ever since.

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As we walked the decks, we could appreciate the vast amount of maintenance that is necessary to keep such an important maritime relic in ship-shape.

The Authentic Seaport Village

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The faithful Seafaring Village has an active shiplift – that’s the seasonal touring steamboat Sabino being readied for winter in the photo above.

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There’s also a sail and rigging loft – chandlery,

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craftsman workshops such as a shipsmith shop,

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nautical instrument shop, and a cooperage.

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There’s also a bank, drug store, school house, and a tavern.

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Be sure to visit the small catboat exhibit with its many beautiful varnished toys for grown-ups,

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and the Henry B. DuPont Preservation Shipyard to see what wonders marine craftsman can perform in the restoration of a boat or ship.

The kids will love it

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Mystic Seaport is the #1 family vacation destination in Connecticut, and for good reason. This is a place for every mood, and every taste. Kids are treated to fun seafaring experiences they could not find elsewhere. Click *here* to see the many learning opportunities available at this 19-acre maritime park.

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Fancy a sailing lesson around the harbor?

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Get all the additional information you need about Mystic Seaport by checking their website.

If you go

Mystic Seaport is easy to reach and lies betwixt New York City (134 miles) and Boston (102 miles) on I-95 – exit 90. Mystic Seaport is located right on the banks of the Mystic River that flows into nearby Long Island Sound.

Where to stay

We chose two delightful inns for our stay in the Mystic/Stonington area – appropriately, both were on the water.

The Steamboat Inn

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Strategically located in downtown Mystic, and close to the famous Mystic River Bascule Bridge,

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the Steamboat Inn is an uber-comfortable 11-room luxury hotel. Each guestroom has distinctive furnishings that are in harmony with the nautical theme.

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We were in room #2, apply named, “Mystic.” Great views of the river activity taking place just outside our windows.

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The inn projects comfort at every turn, and the delicious full complimentary breakfast served in the common room is a great way to start the day in Mystic Country.

To view all the rooms and learn more about this recommended inn click *here*.

The Inn at Stonington

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Just ten minutes from Mystic lies another village with a seafaring history, the Borough of Stonington. The Inn at Stonington is nestled into quiet Water Street with nearby upscale 18th and 19th century homes. The back of the inn is a stone’s throw from Stonington Harbor.

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It’s just a short walk down Water Street to the Old Lighthouse Museum constructed in 1840 at Dubois Beach.

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The lighthouse is no longer active, but the old stone building provides an excellent museum of the history of the village and surroundings.

The little Dubois beach is relatively secluded and just the sort of out-of-the-way place where busy tourists can enjoy a measure of relaxing solitude.

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You can chose from a range of bedroom types to suit your taste at the Inn at Stonington. Our room overlooked the harbor and Fisher’s Island Sound beyond. Each of the 18 classily decorated rooms reflects the ambiance of the surrounding quaint village.

We arrived at the inn just in time for the evening wine and cheese reception. Nicely selected area wines were accompanied by an ample assortment of artisan cheeses. Yummy.

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This boutique inn also provides a complimentary and substantial continental breakfast in the sitting room that overlooks the harbor.

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Tasty and filling – another good start for a day of intensive touring.

Look at the website for more information about the Inn at Stonington, availability, and pricing.

Where to eat 

This part of coastal Connecticut is noted for seafood restaurants, and you will have no trouble finding palate pleasing fare of any variety in the 80+ local restaurants.

There are four family dining facilities located right at Mystic Seaport. We were told by nearby residents that the dining facilities are all quite good, but we did not eat during our tour of the park, so cannot personally comment.

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Another place we didn’t eat, but should mention, is the famous Mystic Pizza restaurant – the inspiration for the 1988 coming-of-age movie starring Julia Roberts. It is right on busy West Main Street in downtown Mystic.

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We did enjoy some excellent, mega-portion New England fried seafood at the Seahorse Restaurant in nearby Noank. This place we do recommend. The Seahorse serves tasty full-bellied fried clams that are favored by the regulars. These clams taste a little like fried oysters, but not as pungent. Delicious!

There was also a seafood restaurant at the dock across the parking lot from the Inn at Stonington called Swooner.

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We had lunch there, and mercifully, it closed soon after our visit. Our helpful tourism contact has informed us that another restaurant named the Breakwater will open at this superb waterfront location in May 2015.

The new proprietor has a reputation for operating successful restaurants. The Breakwater will feature classic American seafood in a casual contemporary atmosphere – not fancy. Can’t wait to try it the next time we are in Connecticut.

Also for next-time, how about a day on the Ice Cream Trail meticulously organized by www.Mystic.org – a good reference website to remember.  48 sweet places to relish America’s favorite dessert. 48!

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We highly recommend Mystic Country for a quality family vacation. In addition to what you see reported here, the area is also home to the Mystic Aquarium, the Goodspeed Opera House, Gillette’s Castle, two casinos, and a submarine museum.

The reader may also be interested in the following Connecticut stories and reviews by Wayne and Judy.

Fall Colors in New England at Brainerd House

Visit to Extraordinary Gillette’s Castle

Best of Connecticut Resorts and Spas

A Storybook Christmas in Connecticut at the Tidewater Inn

A True New England Holiday Experience

A Historic Inn along the Shore of Fashionable Westport

An Intimate Bed and Breakfast on the Backroads of Connecticut

The Elegant Delamar Greenwich Harbor Hotel

The American Revolution and Curtis House Inn

Happy travels!

 

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

Cruising with the Whales in Baja, Mexico

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The next time you get tired of winter, book a flight to La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico. During the months of January through April, the weather in La Paz is absolutely perfect, and it is a wonderful time to take the opportunity to get up close and personal with gray whales and their calves.

Getting there

La Paz has its own airport, but the bigger Cabo San Lucas airport to the south has more flights and services.

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When we arrived in Cabo, we took a taxi for the almost three-hour scenic ride on Mexico Route 19 from Cabo to La Paz – the road was good and we zipped right along.

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It does not take long to confirm that Baja California is indeed a desert, and we found ourselves imagining that the thousands of cacti along the highway were humorous stick “characters.”

Route 19 runs parallel to the pristine sandy beaches of the Pacific for about 50 miles north of Cabo and before cutting east across the peninsula to La Paz.

We stopped only once for a bite to eat in the small town of Todos Santos on the Pacific side of the peninsula. We ate at La Coronela restaurant in the Hotel California. We dined in the hotel’s comfortable courtyard, the food was excellent – and the beer was ice cold.

 The city of La Paz

La Paz is a city on the Sea of Cortez with some 200,000 residents, but much of the tourist activity is near the water where La Paz’s flavor takes on the vibe of a prosperous seaside village.

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Traffic wasn’t bad coming into town along the shore and picturesque La Paz Malecón, so we reached our hotel in short order.

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The Hyatt Place is a new hotel in the exclusive Costa Baja area of La Paz.  It’s right in front of a marina that is home to magnificent yachts from around the world. The hotel rooms are spacious and modern, and each booking comes with a tasty hot breakfast with eggs your way, pancakes, fruit, juice, coffee, etc.

Our videographer friend Richard Williams was on the trip, and put together a creative film clip about the Hyatt. See it *here*

Up in the morning

It was breakfast at sunrise and into a van for the 170-mile drive across the Peninsula, to the Pacific side and Puerto Lopez Mateo.

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The journey took about 3.5 hours, with a brief stop for a delicious lunch (we had fresh fish) in the small town of Constitucion.

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When we arrived at the whale watching dock in Puerto Lopez Mateo, we were anxious to don our life vests, board our boat, and be introduced to the mighty gray whales that were waiting for us in the inlet.

About the whales

Every year,  traveling at speeds of about 5 miles per hour, 10 to 15 thousand gray whales make their way from the freezing waters of Alaska’s Bering Sea along the Pacific Coast of America to the warm waters of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula. It is here that the female grays bear their calves.

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There are only three places in the world where gray whales give birth, and all of them are in Baja, Mexico. After birthing, the mothers and their offspring stay in the safety of the lagoons for several weeks in order for the mothers to teach their newborns to feed, swim, and socialize with other whales.

The male grays leave Baja first, and by April the majority of the whales are on their 5,000+ mile trek back to Alaska.

An organized adventure

State and federal licenses are necessary to go whale watching in Baja. Your tour company will instruct you on how to obtain them.

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Only guides who have been tested and certified in the nuances of protecting the whales can lead a tour that intends to get close enough to touch the gentle giants.

Our tour boat, like all the others in the fleet, had to pass a passenger safety inspection.

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There is a limit to the number of boats that can congregate in a given area, which assures that the whales are not threatened, and have ample room to maneuver.

About our tour boat

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The whale encounter boats are called “pangas,” and are 22-feet long. They are specifically designed for the purpose of whale watching.

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Jose, from the Cortez Club, led our tour and helped us into an uber-clean panga that easily and comfortably seated the eight people in our group. The quiet outboard motor moved us briskly along the placid water of the lagoon as we searched for whales.

The weather was a pleasant and dry 78 degrees, and when we stopped to visit with some grays, there was just a slight chop on the water.

Calling the whales

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Jose advised that by slapping the water on the side of the boat we would attract whales, and sure enough it took just minutes of splashing before a 50 foot long, 70,000 pound gray whale, accompanied by her calf, decided to play.

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The photo above shows a baby whale approaching a neighboring panga.

At first, it was a bit disconcerting to watch this shallowly submerged creature, the size of a school bus, bearing down on the center of what felt like our quickly shrinking panga.

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However, in every case, the breathing bus slowed to a glide as it neared the boat. At that point, the whales cruised closely along-side, and we quickly comprehended they were encouraging a friendly pat on the head.

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As they approach, the whales might do a shallow dive under the boat only to appear on the other side spouting plumes of water high into the air – what fun for them!

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Be sure to keep your camera lens protected for the duration of these momentary monsoons.

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Sometimes, mom will hang back and watch her calf interact with the excited guests, but most of the time she is right there in the thick of the action – getting her own strokes.

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During these encounters, there is no doubt in any passengers mind that these are highly intelligent mammals that fully comprehend their enormous power and prowess.

What a thrill

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It is all very exhilarating, and any concerns of personal safety are quickly dispelled as everyone lunges to get in a back slap, head pat, or a chin tickle on the gigantic mama whale or her frolicking 20-foot calf.

This is fun of the first order, time passes quickly, and it never gets boring. Some people laugh, some scream like they are on a roller coaster, and some cry with joy over the spiritual connection they feel with these magnificent animals.

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Eventually, and probably when mom thinks that junior has had enough attention, she heads off towards open water.

Several whales gave us fluke or tail waves as they departed – maybe it was coincidental, but we choose not to think so.

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It is safe to predict, that all the thousands of people that experience this annual celebration of life and nature become life-long advocates for the complete banning of whale hunting.

These gentle denizens of the deep, who are so much more powerful than we mere mortals, deserve our ultimate respect and protection.

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We heartily recommend this adventure for anyone yearning to fully experience the beauty and grandeur of nature – on a very large scale.

For more information about whale encounters and the other wonders of La Paz, check out this website: www.en.golapaz.com/

Be sure to view our friend Richard’s film clip about our whale encounters. Click *here*.

For other exciting sea adventures, see our stories about:

Shark diving in the Bahamas

A night encounter with giant Manta Rays in Hawaii

Diving in a submarine in the Cayman Islands

Sailing the coast of Maine on a magnificent schooner

Happy travels!

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Wherever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

Need dependable luxury transportation in San Francisco? We recommend JetStream Limousine.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Captain Jefferds Inn in Kennebunkport, Maine

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This was our first visit to the historic home of Captain Jefferds and the famous coastal community where the Bush family has a vacation retreat.

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Long before news of presidential visits put quaint little Kennebunkport on the global tourist map, it was a favorite vacation spot for local New Englanders.

Pounding ocean waves, with seagulls gliding over sand and rocky shores all entreat the visitor to savor the sights and sounds of Kennebunkport, and we were glad to be there.

It was raining

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We ran from our rental car to the safety of the dry front porch of the Captain Jefferds Inn. It was a torrential downpour, but the warm welcome from Innkeepers Sarah and Erik Lindblom immediately brightened the otherwise gloomy day.

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They have enthusiastically greeted guests to the inn for more than a decade and obviously enjoy the activity.

Recommended by a friend, we found the inn to be the perfect elixir for a tiring and wet 2-hour drive from Boston.

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Our one-night stay at the Captain Jefferds Inn provided all the comforts one would expect from such a highly rated B&B in an area of many exceptional B&Bs and hotels. Perhaps it’s the friendly competition that keeps the area’s inns so special and inviting. Whatever the reason, we found this inn exceeded all our expectations for comfort and hospitality.

A step back to an elegant time

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The Lindbloms have scrupulously maintained the aura of a home once the domain of a sea captain and his family. Captain Jefferds built his home with the smartness and efficiency of a sturdy New England sailing ship. There’s even a removable railing on the stairs to assist in the repositioning of furniture between the multiple floors.

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Our room was well appointed with cozy furnishings and a warming fireplace – just what we needed to beat a late October chill. The bed was the perfect balance between support and indulgence, with linens that embellished the vibe.

Pet friendly

Captain Jefferds has considerately reserved five rooms for those who wish to travel with their pets. Located aside the main house, there is a smaller building, which was once a carriage house.

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The just-right furnishings add to the charm of these spotlessly clean and elegantly relaxed guestrooms.

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A screened porch, reminiscent of a lake house, overlooks a park like setting and completes the charm of the surroundings. It just doesn’t get any better than this for our furry best friends.

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Meet Kathleen — she is the summer/fall Assistant Manager, who gave us a splendid tour of the inn. A practicing nurse, she lives and works in Florida during the winter. Like the other staff at Captain Jefferds, Kathleen is full of energy and interesting insights about the Kennebunks.

Where we ate

Our innkeepers recommended David’s Kpt Restaurant for our evening dining. We gathered up an umbrella and walked the few blocks from the inn to the center of the little village of Kennebunkport.

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We had filled up on the delicious never ending fresh baked cookies and other goodies laid out at the Captain Jefferds’ sun room, so were not interested in a large dinner. We skipped what looked to be an excellent selection of soups, salads, and appetizers at David’s, and went directly to the main plates.

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The skewers of shrimp and scallops were delicious, and an unusual pairing of pork tenderloin, bacon, and balsamic apples, accompanied by maple mashed sweet potatoes and spinach was a savory treat. We were so content after our entrees that we passed on dessert, but did enjoy a warming espresso before heading back to the inn.

A breakfast to remember

We write about the best B&Bs, so we often experience sensational breakfasts. Notwithstanding previous enjoyments, the Captain Jefferds Inn served one of the finest gourmet day-starting meals in our recollection.

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The table was a picture of country food-service sophistication, and the seated breakfast guests anxiously awaited the arrival of whatever produced the tantalizing aromas wafting from the nearby kitchen.

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Once the serving commenced, the table discussion quickly turned to praises for each of the three-courses served to the delighted patrons.

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Dan, the inn’s convivial chef, made an appearance to check on the acceptability of the food. We think he knew the answer – and seemed to relish the well-deserved applause.

After breakfast, it was time for us to press on to our next lodging in Maine, but before we left we wanted Sarah and Eric to know that we would be describing our experience with tributes.

If you go

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The 16-room Captain Jefferds Inn is on the corner of Pearl and Pleasant streets just a little south-east of Kennebunkport’s town center. Check out their website at www.captainjefferdsinn.com

Unfortunately, the heavy rain precluded our visiting and photographing the many sights that bring the tourists to Kennebunkport, but we plan to remedy that happenstance on our next visit to New England. In the meantime, here’s a website of local images by Robert A. Dennis.

To learn more about Kennebunkport, look at http://www.kennebunkport.org

More Maine

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If you think you might like to sail the coast of Maine on a grand tall schooner, read about our adventure here.

Happy travels.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

Charting a Course on the Legendary “African Queen”

As we travel, we check off places that are on our Bucket List. Being film buffs, many of the things on our list are related to movies we have seen over the years.

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We recently checked off another “to do” from our list by skippering the authentic “African Queen,” the boat made famous by Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn in the 1951 Academy Award Winning film of the same name.

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The “Queen” is presently docked at a destination also made famous by Bogart in the Florida Keys, Key Largo

Finding the Queen

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We happened upon the African Queen quite by accident. We were in the Keys doing research for articles about luxury resorts and “old Florida” accommodations. A list of those articles follows this story.

The Florida Keys are fun strips of coral sand islands connected by 42 bridges and the Overseas Highway, US 1. They stretch for about 120 miles south into the Atlantic Ocean below Miami, Florida.

The Keys are ripe with salty myths and legends, and stories of true adventures like the finding of millions of dollars in sunken treasure on the Atocha. There are also unusual stories like those about Ernest Hemingway’s house of many cats in Key West.

All the excitement in the Keys make them an apropos home for the iconic African Queen.

The Queen’s history

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The Queen had an interesting past long before she came to the attention of John Houston who immediately wanted her for the movie he was directing in the Belgium Congo. She was perfect for the role of the African Queen – just beat up enough to look the part, and just seaworthy enough – to run long enough – to finish the movie.

The vessel was built in 1912 in Lytham, England, where she was named the Livingstone. Her first job was to carry cargo, hunters, and missionaries on Lake Albert and the Victoria Nile in east Africa.

Houston found her in 1951. She was sufficiently worn by then, and perfect for the material role of the African Queen in his epic adventure.

In 1968 the boat was moved from Africa to the United States by a San Francisco restaurateur. He planned to charter the famous boat to tourists.

The Queen changed hands again in 1970 when she was purchased for the price of her boatyard bill, and moved to Oregon where she was successfully chartered a few months out of the year. Finally, on to Florida for an attempt at year-round chartering – that failed.

In 1982 she was born again as a tourist attraction at the Holiday Inn in Key Largo. About that time, she also made her re-entry onto the global stage and toured around the world in ports such as Sydney, New York, and London.

The news of her re-emerging travel and popularity caught the eye of Kate Hepburn who was said to be “delighted” that the old Queen had been saved, yet again.

A new life

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Finally, in 2012, on her centennial, the most recent revival of the African Queen was completed by a new operator Lance Holmquist. She needed a new boiler, her steel hull required fortification, and her engine needed rebuilding. The work was a labor of love for Lance, and the Queen now delights vintage boat and film buffs once again.

Our wish came true

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We took the helm like Bogart and Hepburn and chugged the little 30-foot boat through the canals of Key Largo and out into the open ocean. This was high-exhilaration for two old movie buffs.

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As we approached the Queen’s home-dock at the Marina Del Mar, adjacent the Holiday Inn, Lance gave us the final thrill when he let loose the Queen’s shrill steam whistle. There is no mistaking that sound heard so many times in many places over the last century.

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Check off one more from the Bucket List!

If you go

For more information about tickets for the daily cruises on the African Queen located at Mile Marker 100 in Key Largo, look at the website here. www.africanqueenflkeys.com

Note: The African Queen is a true relic, and she wouldn’t be “authentic” if she was spit-polished. So, don’t wear your Sunday best if you plan to board her.

You will also benefit by checking out the general visitor information about visiting the Florida Keys at www.fla-keys.com

The Keys are full of luxurious and unique places to stay. Here are three stories to read about some we have visited.

Kona Kai Resort

Little Palm Island Resort

Cheeca Lodge and Spa

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

Vintage black and white photo courtesy of United Artists

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

A Table Rendezvous with Italy’s Chef Ottavio Bellesi on the Golden Princess

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Dining at a Chef’s Table should always be a titillating treat of tantalizing tastes. Traditionally, a Chef’s Table is located in the kitchen – where the guests can watch, and “ooh” and “ahh” as the Chef and his/her team work their culinary magic. That was not how it was at the Table of Chef Ottavio Bellesi aboard the Golden Princess – and here’s why.

From the beginning

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Soon after boarding the Golden Princess in San Francisco, we had a meeting with the ship’s Maître d’ Hotel, Neville Saldanha, to discuss our dining preferences.

After learning that we were writing about the cruise, and knowing that food is always a popular subject with prospective passengers, Mr. Saldanha suggested that we make reservations for one of the two Chef’s Table events planned for the sailing. We quickly agreed, and a few days later our invitation was in our stateroom mailbox.

A dining we did go

On our assigned night, we gathered just outside the galley entrance with the four other lucky couples that would share our table. There we donned freshly laundered white lab coats and were led into the sparkling kitchen.

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Our first stop was the sink, where each guest was required to wash his/her hands before proceeding into the galley’s inner sanctum.

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After the salubrious ceremony, the Maître d’, Neville, introduced us to our grand host, Ottavio Bellesi, the Executive Chef of the Golden Princess. Together, they described how the evening would unfold.

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First, a toast of Nicolas Feuillatte Brut to celebrate the event.

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Then appetizers like Lobster Margarita with Avocado and Mango, and Fontina Cheese and Black Truffle Mini Quiche.

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While noshing on our hors d’oeuvres, we will watch the artistic galley staff create ice carvings, and ingenious fruit and vegetable table settings.

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Followed by a brief tour of the kitchen to look over the shoulders of the culinary crew preparing and plating the meals for the sitting dinner passengers.

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All the above will culminate in a procession into the main dining room where our specially prepared, multi-course dinner will be served.

Chef led tour

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Right on schedule, Chef Bellesi began to lead our walking tour of his vast stainless domain.

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During our sparkling wine toasts, we realized THIS Chef’s Table was not to be like any other we had previously experienced. Not only would it be conducted by a great Italian Chef – but one who was also an extraordinary entertainer with a gift of contagious laughter.

Chef Bellesi’s cheerful laughter was so genuine, and totally disarming – that there was no escaping his charm. Within minutes, he had all of us wrapped around his little finger, and totally absorbed in his every word.

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To make the situation even more hilarious, Neville, the Maître d’, was the perfect comic foil for Ottavio’s Italian-accented antics. He was Martin to the Chef’s Lewis, Abbott to his Costello, and Hardy to his Laurel. The ad hoc comedy team of Bellesi and Saldanha had us in stitches throughout the evening.

We learned and we laughed

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Our two hosts exhibited a high-knowledge of food and wine. The chef added to the group’s understanding of the evolution of Italian cuisine from the basics of simple fresh ingredients to contemporary flavoring techniques.

Italian chefs often work with fewer ingredients and less elaborate preparations than others, making the quality of the ingredients of paramount importance. Chef Bellesi explained how the composition of Italian-style grand cuisine becomes richly enhanced when blended with traditional Italian techniques of “cucina casalinga,” or home cooking.

On to the table

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A notable aspect of Italian dining is that the first course is frequently a filling dish like risotto or pasta. So it was at our table as we were presented succulent marinated poached Halibut atop a generous portion of Porcini Mushroom Risotto.

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Soon after an Amalfi Lemon Sorbet…

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came the Lobster Thermidor…

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and a Filet Mignon Rossini, accompanied by a delectable truffled herbed Rack of Lamb, Mustard Hollandaise, Rosemary Jus and Lemon Butter Fondue, Roasted Parisienne Potatoes, and Sautéed fresh market Vegetables.

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The above preceded Potted Stilton with Port Wine reduction and Walnut Bread, and all was finished-off with a delicate Marble Chocolate Semifreddo with a Raspberry soft center, topped off with a meaningful coffee and Chef Ottavio’s…

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home made Biscotti & Amaretti. What an incredible feast!

Not an easy task

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A Chef’s Table is an elaborate undertaking that puts a strain on a kitchen’s resources and staff. In restaurants, the event often takes place after the nightly kitchen rush.

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In that regard, we found our lavish affair to be a testament to Chef Ottavio’s ability to create, organize, and coordinate the serving of our event – while his galley team was seamlessly providing superb service to the main body of 1,000+ passengers in the busy dining room around us. Amazing!

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Abetted by many of his key staff, Chef Bellesi personally crafted our special Chef’s Table menu, and remained involved in the preparation and presentation of the feast from appetizer to desert.

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Along with the ship’s Maître d’, the head Sommelier was there to describe the exactly paired wines that were selected for each of our courses.

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At the end of our fabulous gourmet adventure, each participating couple received a hard-cover copy of, “Courses – A Culinary Journey,” autographed by Neville and Ottavio, along with a group picture – and the ladies departed with a rose. This was an affair to remember.

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Considering the investment in food, wine, supplies, and key staff time, we cannot fathom how Princess could make a profit on what each of the ten guests paid for the evening’s Epicurean enjoyment.

We rarely mention prices in our articles because prices change, but we found it amazing that our 3-hour gourmet spectacle cost less than US $100 per person. Certainly, all the participants will talk about their bon vivant adventure with friends and family for years – and that may just be what Princess has in mind.

If you ever have an opportunity to participate in a Chef’s Table on a Princess Cruise ship – by all means, take it!  Seating is limited so apply early to avoid disappointment.

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And if the uber-funny pair of Bellesi and Saldanha should happen to be on your ship, absolutely do not miss their afternoon cooking demonstrations.

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There is so much more to them than cooking.

For more information about Princess Cruises click here.

Happy travels and bon appetit!

Suggested reading regarding Princess Cruises by Wayne and Judy:

The Sweetest Suites for Two Aboard the Golden Princess

Luxury Cruising from San Francisco to Hawaii on Princess Cruise Lines

Three Great Reasons to Book a Cruise Out of San Francisco 

Saved by a Princess on the Tasman Sea

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

Princess Cruise Ship Rescues Canadian Yachtsmen Off New Zealand Coast

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The Tasman Sea had thrown, thrashed, and rattled them for eight long days. There was nothing on the horizon but heaving swells of wind-strewn ocean. The nearest landfall was two hundred miles away, and the five hapless souls on the 40-foot “Lagoon” were sick and dehydrated – and no one knew where they were.

Our story unfolds

Sapphire Princess

We were aboard the Sapphire Princess and making our way to New Zealand — across the Tasman Sea from our last port of call in Hobart, Tasmania. The Sapphire Princess is a cruise liner that is almost 50% larger than the original Queen Mary, and at 116,000 tons rides over rough seas with nary a roll.

During our second day at sea, we had an after breakfast appointment to interview the ship’s captain for our story.

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Captain Nick Bates was waiting for us when our escort led us to the bridge. After a few minutes of introductions and casual conversation, the captain started to show us around his “office at sea.”

Thirty-five minutes later, we were winding up our interview and bridge tour when a staff officer approached with news of a mayday alert. A 12-meter catamaran had just sent a distress signal and soon after, communications failed. The boat was not able to give its exact location and the Sapphire could only capture limited information before the communication blackout.

A serious situation

Ships at sea must respond to a mayday call, and Captain Bates went into immediate action. A search grid was established based on the information provided by the distressed vessel. The Sapphire was ordered to increase speed and the ship began to comb the vast sea in a defined pattern.

The Captain made an intercom announcement to the entire ship’s company and passengers. He explained that he was interrupting our itinerary to search for a small craft in distress.

The passengers were eager to help

Hundreds of passengers armed with cameras and binoculars crowded the deck rails in hopes of being the first to spot the struggling sailboat. One hour past – then two. Finally, there was a sighting and the intercom screeched the point of reference for the onlookers.

We watched anxiously as the Sapphire approached the waiting catamaran. We came to a stop about 500 yards from her position. She looked in good order with her sails and equipment neatly stowed. If it were not for the pitching in heavy seas, the sailboat would not look like it was in any trouble at all.

Princess to the rescue

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The Captain dispatched a trained rescue crew on a special craft that was alongside the sailboat within minutes.

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It took a few additional minutes to load the catamaran’s crew onto the rescue vessel and return to the Sapphire. The sea-weary sailors were rushed to the Medical Center where the ship’s doctor and staff were waiting to assist.

Forty-eight hours after we took the ailing yachtsmen aboard, each passenger cabin received a group letter of thanks from those who were rescued.

The letter described their harrowing 8-day journey from Tasmania to New Zealand. The last two days of which were spent attached to a sea anchor while 45-knot winds washed large breaking waves over the entire vessel. On the 8th day, one of the sailboat’s seasick crew members became unresponsive and incoherent, and that was when they decided to issue the mayday alert.

We have been on many cruises, but this was our first rescue at sea. It was handled with professional precision and an efficiency that is a credit to Princess Cruise Lines, Captain Bates, and the entire crew of the Sapphire Princess.

The rescue made for a very Happy New Year for some grateful Canadian sailors!

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

Sheraton and The Hula Kai Take Adventurers to Manta Ray Waters

Manta rays are amazing and curious creatures. People are fascinated by their opposing nature of ominous looks, and sweet dispositions.

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The Sheraton Kona Resort on the Big Island of Hawaii pays homage to these gentle giants by providing a viewing area for visitors at the resort’s Rays on the Bay restaurant.

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From the restaurant’s lookout, the magnificent and mysterious creatures can be seen gliding in the night ocean far below.

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Guests can also attend a complimentary lecture about the manta rays arranged through the resort’s front desk.

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The resort can also organize a water adventure to view the manta rays up close from a local tour boat named the Hula Kai – an opportunity we eagerly welcomed.

Swimming with the manta rays

Like whales, manta rays eat plankton. The plankton are attracted to light and that is the secret to successful manta viewing from the Hula Kai. Our excursion went like this:

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We boarded the nearby Hula Kai at sunset and moved just off shore of the Sheraton Kona.  We donned wetsuits, googles, and a snorkel provided by the concessionaire. We were given a quick course on manta watching, which is done from a horizontal position floating on one’s stomach and holding fast to a length of 3” diameter buoyant pipe – set out from the stern of the boat much like a floating rectangle.

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Soon darkness was upon us, and the Hula Kai engaged underwater illumination used to attract plankton to the site. We entered the water by ladder and positioned ourselves around the floating pipe. We looked down into the clear bay water and breathed through our snorkels.

Our bodies were made buoyant by the wetsuits, so maintaining our balance was not difficult. It did not take long before the first of six manta rays appeared from out of the shadows – and the fun began.

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Manta rays are big, but harmless to humans. They, like the whale, are filter feeders. Mantas are fish related to the shark, but have no bones, teeth, barbs, or stingers. However, they do have size – up to 2,000 pounds – which they use in a very good-natured way.

Manta rays are often given names by the crew of the Hula Kai. Each ray has distinctive “spots” that make identity possible.  The same rays tend to return for evening dining and playing with the snorkelers and divers.

For a period of about one-hour we watched these graceful giants do underwater summersaults just below us – performing like rolling acrobats with gray tops and white underbellies.

Although touching the mantas is not allowed, the creatures have no such restrictions. Frequently, one or more of the rays did a graceful roll just under a snorkeler and purposely pressed its sleek white underbelly along the length of the viewer’s body – an exciting encounter that will be remembered by anyone that experiences it.  The top of a ray feels like sandpaper, and the underside is as smooth as velvet.

Tempus fugit, so do it while you can

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For nature and adventure lovers, snorkeling with the manta rays in the back of the Hula Kai in Kailua, Kona is right up there with diving with the reef sharks in the Bahamas, and snorkeling or diving with the sting rays at Stingray City in the Caymans.

Click *here* to read our story and see pictures of the beautiful Sheraton Kona Resort on the Big Island, and *here* to check out the resort’s website. To read about all the services offered by the company that operates the Hula Kai Manta Snorkel, click *here.*

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff, shark picture by Wayne Bayliff, Manta Ray pictures courtesy of Sheraton Kona.

You can see the world with Google Maps. www.maps.google.com

We flew to Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines

A Memorable Panama Canal Christmas Cruise Aboard the Amsterdam

We live in California and two of our best friends reside in Florida. We wanted to visit them during the holidays, but didn’t want to endure the stress and aggravation of crowded airports and airplanes – so an opportunity to sail from nearby San Francisco to Ft. Lauderdale through the Panama Canal was especially appealing.

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Our cruise was an anomaly for a Holland America Panama Canal Cruise because the usual port of embarkation for the Canal trip is San Diego. However, it was our good fortune that the Amsterdam had been in dry-dock in San Francisco for a two-week spruce-up before our cruise.

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That meant a few hundred lucky passengers got to see the dramatic glow of the San Francisco skyline during departure – we picked up the majority of the passengers for the Panama Canal Cruise two-days later in San Diego.

Size matters

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Our last few cruises were on much larger ships, those with capacities over 2,500, so a ship that holds 1,380 passengers and a crew of 607 felt compact, and just a little cozier because of it.

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The first thing we noticed upon boarding the Amsterdam is that her color schemes are nicely subdued and her décor is a bit more refined than found on some of the newer ships. Of course, being a member of the Holland America fleet, she is elegant and uber-clean.

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At the heart of the Amsterdam is the Planeto Astrolabium, a magnificent three-story structure that tracks constellations, and the planets.

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The Planeto Astrolabium is also the ship’s hub for customer service activities, and the area to find a bevy of nearby exclusive shops.

Cruising in comfort

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The Amsterdam’s suites are sophisticated and chic.

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They are comfortable, classically elegant,

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and successfully avoid being trendy and thematic.

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They also reflect the natural allure of privacy at sea in graceful surroundings.

Repeat cruisers

We learned very quickly that many of our fellow passengers were not disembarking along with us in Florida. Rather, they were continuing on for the 114-day round-the-world cruise. The Grand World Voyage itinerary is sailed by the Amsterdam, and a stalwart group of Holland America loyalists make the annual voyage. We did a story about one charming lady who is among those habitual world cruisers, and you can read about her *here.*

For those interested, the 2015 Grand World Voyage begins on January 5th and departs from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Cruise included holidays

Our trip encompassed both Christmas and New Year’s Day.

By Christmas Day passengers and crew alike were in a festive mood – a wonderful holiday spirit that was most evident at the crew’s inspirational holiday program entitled “The Sounds of Christmas Carols.” Hundreds of passengers genially joined in the crew’s evening group-sing.

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The merriment continued right through an impressive shipboard New Year’s Eve celebration at sea.

The seasonal gatherings aboard the Amsterdam helped form a genuine bond between passengers and crew – all from different countries, cultures, religions, and life experiences – quite marvelous to be part of it.

An amazing crew

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The staff on Holland America ships hail mostly from Indonesia and the Philippines, but on our cruise there were also crew members from 32 other nations. All were accommodating and friendly – a sure sign they were happy at their work, and with their employer, Holland America.

Meet the Captain

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Like all the other ship’s Masters we have interviewed, Captain Fred Everson set his sights on a life at sea from a very early age – he had a great mentor – his father was a captain on cargo ships. He subsequently attended and graduated from Holland’s maritime academy in Rotterdam, and joined HAL in 1980.

Everson told us, “My main concern as the Captain of the Amsterdam is the safety and pleasure of my passengers.” The captain informed us that Holland America has installed and is now testing the first thermal imaging system designed to immediately detect a person who may accidentally fall overboard.

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When asked what he likes best about his job, Captain Everson answered, “It offers me an opportunity to see the world.” His professed favorite place is Antarctica, “I love the remote grandeur, topography, and animal life.”

With a work schedule of 3 months on and 3 months off, Captain Everson has ample time to indulge in his favorite pastime – motorcycle trips from his home base in Del Ray Beach, Florida. He has logged over 150,000 miles on motorcycle tours of North America.

When Captain Everson retires he plans to continue touring, “There’s so much I haven’t seen.” A few years back the captain purchased an RV to assist him in his roaming. Happy motoring Captain!

Eating aboard the Amsterdam

We found the quality and presentation of food aboard the Amsterdam to be up to the usually delicious Holland America standards.

La Fontaine Restaurant

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The main dining room is the two-story La Fontaine Restaurant and is well designed with numerous windows for abundant natural light during day-time meals.

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Our table was next to one of the windows so we enjoyed constant vistas of the sky and sea while dining.

Lido Restaurant

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Many of our breakfasts were taken at the informal buffet-style Lido Restaurant,

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where we savored made-to-order omelets and a wide variety of meats, cheeses, cereals and fresh fruit and juices.

Specialty Restaurants

The Canaletto has introduced a new menu featuring Italian family style dining with some toothsome recipes.

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We relished our starter of Vermouth Braised Clams with spicy chorizo, garlic and basil.

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The Rigatoni with Italian sausage, Kalamata olives, and a spicy and delicious tomato sauce was a perfect pasta choice.

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The large plate entrée was a tasty Grilled Lemon-Thyme White Sea Bass with roasted fingerling potatoes, shaved fennel, and orange-olive salad.

Everything was delicious, however we found it unusual that no breads or rolls were served at the Canaletto, an Italian restaurant. Perhaps that has changed – we hope.

The best steaks and seafood

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The Pinnacle Grill is romantic and intimate and the favorite rendezvous of beef and seafood lovers. We were happy to learn that Holland American serves only seafood caught in a sustainable manner.

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A Caesar Salad prepared at the table was an excellent opener,

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followed by Dungeness Crab Cakes with spiraled shaved cucumber and sweet chili-mustard sauce. Outstanding!

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The filet mignon was a perfect size for a four-course dinner and was prepared with sun-dried tomatoes, and the master chef’s green peppercorn béarnaise sauce and maître d’ garlic butter.

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We finished with Baked Alaska a la Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream flamed with Bing cherries jubilee. OMG!

Terrace Grill

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After shamelessly feasting for days on end, it was nice to occasionally take a breather and enjoy a simple old-fashioned hamburger, hot dog, or slice of pizza. The Terrace Grill poolside was a welcome, albeit brief departure from lavish dining. May we recommend an ice-cold beer for accompaniment?

About the cruise itinerary

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Our Panama Canal voyage on the Amsterdam started on December 18, and took 17 days, and covered 5,914 miles. The same trip was an arduous 13,715 miles before the advent of the 50-mile long Panama Canal.

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The Amsterdam stopped at six countries between San Diego and Ft. Lauderdale. Ports included Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; Corinto, Nicaragua; Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica; Cartagena, Columbia; and Georgetown, Cayman Islands.

The ports we favored were Cartagena, and Georgetown, but of course, the highlight of the cruise was passing through the historic Panama Canal.

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In a future article we will write about all the ports of call on the Holland America Panama Canal Cruise and include a summary of the exciting history of the Panama Canal.

An all-day event

It takes about eight-hours to transit the canal’s three locks and navigate the lake that lies between the locks and seas.

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The passengers were up at the crack of dawn to watch the Amsterdam approach the first lock,

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and be tethered to the electric locomotives that guided her seemingly effortlessly through the narrow Miraflores Locks.

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Once the Amsterdam was released from the second locks into Gatun Lake, passengers had several hours to observe the dark and mysterious waters and dense sweltering tropical jungle from on-high aboard the ship.

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Everyone watched as the liner glided along patches of small uninhabited tangled green islands – all safely visible from the glass enclosed and air-conditioned lounges and public spaces on the Amsterdam.

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Our minds wandered and considered the lives of the thousands of diggers who suffered (an estimated 25,000 died) to conquer this hostile wilderness for the betterment of mankind. How fortunate we are to be able to witness the engineering marvel they created.

Check out the related video below for a brief depiction of the passage.

by HollandAmericaFan

Don’t miss it

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A trip through the Panama Canal is one of the most interesting cruises on this planet. We recommend it highly.

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For more information about Holland America cruises, itineraries, and specials, look at their website at www.hollandamerica.com

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

The Best Suites for Two Aboard the Golden Princess

Our goal in taking a month-long cruise around Hawaii and Tahiti on the Golden Princess was to experience – and then write about – how a major cruise line like Princess caters to its suite passengers. It was one of our most enjoyable projects.

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Suites for two

Over the past ten years, we have photographed and written about suites in B&Bs, hotels, resorts, and on cruise ships. It is our writing practice to always consider our subjects from a “couples” perspective. In that light, we have found many suites to be overly expensive or disproportionately large for two people. However, on the Golden Princess, we found a group of full-size suites that were not only luxurious, but the perfect size for two people on a cruise of any duration.

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After boarding the Golden Princess, an elevator whisked us up eight levels to the Sun Deck where we were escorted along an elegant wood-toned hallway to the Palermo Suite – our home for the next 28 days.

A suite life

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The Palermo Suite, was one of ten new suites added to the Sun Deck of the Princess during a 2009 revitalization.

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There are two entry doors to the Palermo Suite, with a small barrier foyer between. The second door acts as a noise and privacy baffle. Upon entering the living room we were immediately impressed by the polished marble floors and shinning granite counter surfaces.

The walls and ceilings in the Palermo are a mixture of delicately textured golden earth-tone material and light natural woods. Light fixtures and other suite features are of brushed stainless, and the suites well-chosen art is framed in a soft muted gold – perfect for the elegant and airy setting.

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The living area can be separated from the sleeping room by floor to ceiling privacy drapes, and there are large flat panel TVs in both chambers. The living area TV also has a DVD player. Guests can select from a library of recently released or vintage movies, and they are delivered right to your door.

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The bedroom has an ever-so-comfortable Queen sized bed, which can be made into two twins, and the wooden ceiling vault houses a handsome alabaster dome that illuminates the room in a warm and subtle glow.

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Bathrooms on cruise ships are not noted for their spaciousness. However, this style of suite on the Golden Princess offers a sink and toilet room, and another room for a large marble shower and a separate full size soaking tub.

A spacious walk-in closet and an electronic safe are also nice amenities for a long cruise.

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Most couples are not working on computers while on a cruise, but we particularly liked having two granite-topped work spaces for the purpose.

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Handily, one space was also a well-lighted vanity with multiple mirrors – such a help when preparing for an evening of exquisite dining and entertainment aboard the Golden Princess.

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Two sets of floor to ceiling sliding doors provide extraordinary changing views of the islands, and two finished teak deck lounges make for excellent conversation, private reading, and contemplation at sea. 

Other in-room distinctions

The first mini-bar setup is complimentary, and the premium upgrades include fresh flowers, delicious canapés, and special bath amenities. Also, one small, big thing – electrical outlets. Plugs for your electric devices are as rare as Indian Head Pennies aboard cruise ships. Being able to plug in only two devices in a stateroom is normal. In the Palermo suite we had eight outlets. Electric Valhalla!

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The Palermo Suite, along with its nine siblings (Corsica, Florence, Grenada, Malta, Pisa, Provence, Sardinia, Seville, and Tuscany) are not the largest suites on the Golden Princess, but we found them to be a perfect accommodation of size, layout, and comfortable décor for a vacationing party of two.

All in all, the full-size Palermo Suite has about 600 square feet of living space, including the balcony. As a comparison, a mini-suite aboard the Golden has approximately 323 sq. ft., and a balcony stateroom about 250.

Suite privileges

Those that occupy the luxurious full-size suites on Princess ships enjoy amenities and privileges not afforded other passengers. After completely reading this article, you may decide that the roominess of a suite along with the following additional niceties, are sufficient reasons to consider reserving the best accommodations your budget will allow.

Breakfast at Sabatini’s

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One of our favorite Princess full-suite perks is the exclusive and private dining breakfast at the Sabatini’s restaurant.

Every morning, the Sabatini is transformed from an elegant Italian dinner eatery into an exclusive breakfast retreat for the passengers that occupy the 30+ full-suites aboard the Golden Princess.

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However, not all suite guests take advantage of the Sabatini’s privilege; some prefer the ultimate personal option of suite room service, while still others choose one of the conventional dining forums like the Horizon Court Buffet above.

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The limited number of tables in the Sabatini’s provides an intimate setting for a quiet breakfast.

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An exemplary staff of four waiters is orchestrated by a congenial Head Waiter who greets and seats each arriving guest. Food is prepared by three cooks supervised by a Chef de Cuisine.

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The Sabatini’s Breakfast Menu includes everything imaginable for the morning meal, carefully prepared and skillfully presented.

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The artistic presentation may change with the muse of the chef – but is always to the highest culinary standards.

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We generally started out with a wake-me-up Mimosa and freshly squeezed orange juice.

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That was usually followed by a delicious decaf Cappuccino and a warm-to-the-touch baked mini-pastry and a chilled stemmed glass of hand selected berries.

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For our main course we picked from a unique assortment of waffles and French toasts, and the usual varieties of fresh eggs, such as Benedict, omelets, scrambles, etc.

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Even simple cereals are brilliantly presented in Sabatini’s. 

Sabatini’s by night 

Found only on Princess ships, the Sabatini’s restaurant is a specialty Italian restaurant that is open every night to all passengers. There is an additional charge for dinner dining in the stylish and intimate Sabatini’s, but well worth it to celebrate a special occasion – or simply to enjoy truly outstanding Italian cuisine.

More Suite Privileges

VIP boarding

In many ways, Preferred Boarding can be equated to waiting for an airline flight in a private lounge instead of the communal terminal. Preferred boarding means you are the first passengers to board the ship at embarkation, therefore among the first guests to be settled into their stateroom and afforded early access to the delicious buffet that awaits oncoming passengers. There’s always plenty of food for all, but it is a comfort to be at the front of a line, is it not? 

Priority ship to shore tender passes

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Three of the nine ports we visited on our cruise required being tendered to shore. For those not familiar, this is a procedure where the cruise ship does not dock, but rather anchors offshore, or remains stationery away from the land.

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Passengers wishing to go ashore are shuttled by means of motorized launches called “tenders.” The process is called “tendering.”

The act of tendering is very organized, and within a short time a few thousand people can be transferred to the shore with relative ease.

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While general passengers are issued group numbers on a first come first served basis, and comfortably wait for their group to be called to “tender,” suite passengers are afforded a privilege that allows them to board the next available tender, therefore getting them to shore a bit earlier to enjoy the port.

Complimentary laundry and dry cleaning

Although laundry and dry cleaning services are available to all passengers for a reasonable charge, full-suite guests are provided the service as part of their complementary privileges. Should it be your preference, there are also self-service laundry facilities throughout the ship for all passengers.

Internet Café

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For those suite customers who want to keep in contact with the world while at sea, there is a suite internet program for use either in the Internet Café or from any part of the ship when a personal wireless device is used.

Our recommendation

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During our month long cruise on Princess we noted a consistent level of excellent service for every category of passenger aboard. But, the additional perks afforded suite occupants, made a most pleasant journey that much more elegant and enjoyable. Our recommendation – do it if you can. You only live once, and how suite it is!

Happy travels!

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More stories about our 28-day cruise to the South Pacific on the Golden Princess will be forthcoming. For more information about the Golden Princess check out the PDF file *here* For additional information about booking a cruise on Princess look at their website at www.princess.com or call your favorite travel agent.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

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Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

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