Archive by Author

Launching Our Book

Finally, after four years of writing and rewriting, we are happy to say, our book is ready to launch! 

It has been quite a journey and we know you will enjoy the results. So many faces, stories, and pictures to see, as well a wealth of insider knowledge and practical advice to guide you through the steps to create your own amazingly enjoyable cruise adventure!

Book Cover Digital

Using a travel agent to get the best values


Mastering passport and visa hurdles


Understanding the pros and cons of travel insurance


Finding a free house/pet sitter


Streamlining your packing process


Juggling the intricacies of foreign currency


Enjoying your sea days


Maximizing your port experiences


Embracing cultural differences & interacting with locals


Creatively sharing your experiences with others, and so much more

We created the book in two editions ~ printed and digital, so you get to choose, or get one of each as they truly are different.

The printed book is 384 pages in full color, with wonderful quotes and stories that will enlighten you, make you smile, and help to take the guess-work out of planning an exciting adventure. Though we do emphasize cruising, the ideas and suggestions within the book can apply to most travel itineraries, the difference being that you cruise between locations. 

The digital book was crafted using Apple’s iBooks authoring program, that makes the experience enticing. The information contained in both versions is the same; however, the digital book allows for multi-touch screens that whisk you to websites, movies, and blog entries that highlight the topic you are researching, never losing your place in the book.  All photographs are identified as to their locale, some are also enhanced with additional information in popup widgets. The idea is to immerse you in the research, but allow you to choose the speed and order of learning. And every topic is searchable!

Our website www.maxyourcruise.com has links that allow you to Look Inside both the digital and print editions.

You can purchase the digital version ($14.99 + tax) from the iBook Store by CLICKING HERE, or from the links on our website (listed above).

The print edition ($24.95 + tax and shipping) has arrived for distribution, but the logistic for purchasing online are still in the construction stage. But send Carolyn an email using this LINK TO CAROLYN so she can email or call you regarding your request.

Fathom ~ Social Impact Travel

You have cruised to many destinations and seen the sights, but did you actually have the time to meet the people and begin to understand their situation, their daily struggle?

Carnival Corporation is offering a cruise with a new focus:

To combine your love of travel with your desire to make a difference.

~ SOCIAL IMPACT TRAVEL ~

Carnival is launching a new cruise line, Fathom Travel Ltd., focused on making a difference for the people of the Dominican Republic and Cuba.

Beginning in April of 2016, Fathom will offer seven-night cruises sailing to the Dominican Republic, round trip out of Miami. Passengers are encouraged to participate in Fathom sponsored social-impact projects during the three days they are docked in the country at Amber Cove cruise port.

© Fathom Travel Ltd

© Fathom Travel Ltd

In the Dominican Republic, the shore excursion focus is educational, environmental, and economic. Passengers will help both children and adults develop their English skills, thereby assisting them to improve their confidence and gain access to better paying jobs.

Economic development is also key given the loss of revenue from the dying sugar cane industry. Passengers will have the opportunity to work with local women’s cooperatives, helping the people to develop skills in the growing and processing of the cacao beans for export.

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© Fathom Travel Ltd

Environmentally, the two greatest needs are the provision of clean drinking water by crafting ceramic water filters and replanting 20,000 trees to enrich the soil and environment.

© Fathom Travel Ltd

© Fathom Travel Ltd

© Fathom Travel Ltd

Please watch this short movie (2-1/2 minutes) about the experience in the Dominican Republic.

Click here for movie

Fathom’s first ship, the Adonia, carries 710 passengers. One of the original Renaissance ships currently sailing with the P&O line, Adonia will be moving to Fathom in the Spring, 2016.

© Ivan T (own work) creativecommons.org

© Ivan T (own work) creativecommons.org

~ EXPANDING THE CHOICES FOR SOCIAL IMPACT TRAVEL ~

~ FATHOM IS ALSO SAILING TO CUBA ~

On alternating weeks, the Adonia will sail to Cuba as part of the newly written cultural exchange guidelines that allow educational travel between Cuba and the United States. While the experience in the Dominican Republic emphasizes interaction with the local people by working alongside them on impact activities, the experience in Cuba will be a person-to-person exchange, immersing passengers in “a variety of cultural, artistic, educational, and humanitarian activities,” (Fathom brochure).

© JTF-GTMO (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

© JTF-GTMO (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The journey to Cuba will include cultural exchange activities at three different ports on the island: Havana, Cienfuegos, and Santiago de Cuba. Passengers return to the ship each evening where activities and meals continue the Cuban immersion experience.

© Jorge Royan http://royan.com.ar (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

© Jorge Royan http://royan.com.ar (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Prices for the cruises start at $974 per week (per person, double occupancy) for the Dominican Republic and $1,800 (per person, double occupancy) for Cuba. Government fees and taxes are additional. When compared to land based packages currently being offered to Cuba, the Fathom cruise rates are very reasonable.

© Adam Jones adamjones.freeservers.com (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

© Adam Jones adamjones.freeservers.com (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

The Greatest Gift

You Can Give Someone

Is Your Time,

Because You Are Giving Them

Something You Can

Never Get Back.

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Obidos ~ The Town of the Queens

The Travel-in-Portugal.com website tells us about Obidos’s romantic history that makes it even more endearing: “Perched on a hill rising out of an agricultural plain, Óbidos is one of Portugal’s picturesque gems. From its lofty center, one gazes upon expanses of vineyards speckled with whirling windmills and terracotta-roofed homesteads. Nearer, narrow cobbled streets, lined typically with whitewashed, bougainvillea-draped houses, wind up to the walled interior.

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First remarked upon for its beauty by the 13th century Queen Isabel de Aragon, Óbidos was presented to her as a gift by her romantically inclined husband, King Dinis. Henceforth, princes have offered it down through the ages to their brides.

The castle crowns the town and now houses guests in its luxurious rooms. In past times, however, this was a formidable medieval fortification. It was won back from the Moors in 1148 by the king and his men, apparently disguised as cherry trees, and lovingly restored after extensive damage in the 1755 earthquake.

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 Equally interesting history is attached to the renaissance church, the Church of Santa Maria, where Prince Alfonso V married, in August of 1441, his cousin aged ten and eight respectively.

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The ramparts are traversed through an ornately tiled gateway and few vehicles bother negotiating the ancient streets, making it ideal for mooching around the higgledy piggledy houses and walkways that in spring come alive with a cascading array of brightly colored flowers.

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Local crafts, delicacies and liqueurs abound in the traditional shops that line the main street, including the famed local tipple Ginginha, a sweet brandy liqueur made with local cherries.”

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Taroudant Morocco Souks and Medina

Capturing the essence of life centuries ago in Taroudant requires no imagination as not much has changed there in a very long time under many dynasties. Taroudant developed as an agricultural center far from the crowded cities. In this area they grow cotton, rice fruit, vegetables and sugar cane. The distinctive essence of this quiet town is found in its souks (markets) located in the Old Town medina area – among the most colorful in Morocco 

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 The first place we stopped was a shop where they showed us how they made Argon oil by getting the seeds out of a fruit and hand grinding them to make oil. The oil was then flavored with herbs and scents and sold as cosmetics for the hair and skin, as well as to use in place of olive oil in salads and cooking, or to consume as an elixir that could cure or help you with just about every medical challenge you might have.

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 There is a quirky side to the Argon oil story. The Argania tree itself has rough, thorny bark and crooked branches. According to the articles from the Internet, “the tree produces an annual fruit crop and it is this delicious morsel that attracts legions of local goats that hop up into the branches to pick the fruit and nuts. The animals stand on the impossibly precarious branches and get down to their seasonal feast. Far from just a single ambitious goat climbing a single tree, the animals tend to swarm into the branches in number.”

 Our bus did not go to see this phenomenon, but other buses did, so we wanted you to see what it looks like to have goats in a tree, so here is a glimpse of life that you will see only in this area of Morocco.

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PIX Copyright Viralnova.com

 

Back to our visit in Taroudant . . .

 The streets in the medina were narrow and shared by pedestrians, horses, donkeys, bicycles, pushcarts, and motorcycles.

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On the way to the souks we were fascinated by the pushcart hardware store. Seems he had everything there, but you just have to dig to uncover it.

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 Also many blankets laid on the side of the streets with very odd assortments of “treasures” that were hawked to the passersby. 

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 We reached the village square to find the snake charmer was there, drumming up business for his snake-handling act. His unwilling participants were three or four cobras and a couple of rattlesnakes, none of which were friendly. We “stole” a couple of snapshots and went into the nearby souk.

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The souks are not laid out on a grid pattern and you wander from one building to another and turn down aisles that are not straight at all. The sales people aggressively promote their goods and promise each and every one of us that “he” would give you the best deal if you just bought from him.

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 We left the souks with a few purchases, and worked our way back to the buses, encountering a number of interesting faces along the way.

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 We next stopped at one of the city’s ancient palaces, now transformed into a luxury hotel, where we relaxed for a few minutes and enjoyed a cup of delicious mint tea with honey before our drive back to the port city of Agadir.

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Before reaching the port we made a quick detour up to the Kasbah high above the city that also overlooked our ship in the harbor.

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Historic Windows and Doors of Las Palmas

The last two Canary Islands we visited are Gran Canaria and Lanzarote. Each is similar to the others, but also different. Nearly half of those who live in the Canary Islands reside in Las Palmas on Gran Canaria, making this city the fifth most populous in Spain.

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Las Palmas enjoys a mild climate year round, making this destination pleasant to both live in and visit, attracting millions of tourists each year. One of the sights we enjoyed seeing was the Cathedral of Santa Ana. Gothic, Renaissance, and Neoclassic architectural styles are all present in the current design.

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  The church is located in the historic district that provided us with many opportunities to photograph the different details of the historic buildings.

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La Laguna to Lunar Landscapes

Leaving the port of Santa Cruz on Tenerife Island in the Canaries, we walked fifteen minutes along the tree-lined promenade to catch the tram that whisked us up the mountain to the historic city of La Laguna. The city dates from 1500 and its original layout has remained intact since its construction and it has been a model for many cities in the New World.

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Iglesia de Concepcion tower across from tram station.

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We found the old city to be a picturesque locale to spend a Sunday afternoon exploring.

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Museum of the Arts that features beautiful architectural details

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La Laguna City Hall

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Tree clothes for winter

Steeple bells

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Neighborhood streets

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Our view of the port as we returned to the ship.

Barb opted to visit the countryside.Tenerife is the largest of the seven islands in the Canaries, drawing about five million tourists each year. The island was created volcanically, and is home to the world’s third largest volcano, El Teide, which is 12,270 feet high. This volcano’s most recent eruption was in 1909.

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The foothills of Mt. Teide contain areas covered by pine trees.

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The terrain in other areas appeared as lunarscapes 

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As well as rocks and valleys

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Much of the volcanic rock we saw was surprisingly colorful: black lava, red, and green rocks of various sizes and textures, through which the road was cut.

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An extensive multi-national research facility, located near the top of Mount Teide, is used to study volcanoes and volcanic activity in this area and elsewhere. Through the use of electronic equipment and satellites, researchers have learned to predict volcano eruptions by measuring temperature changes and seismic activity.

 

Strolling Through Mindelo, Cape Verde

Mindelo is a port city on the northern part of the island of Sao Vicente in Cape Verde. The city is home to 93% of the island’s population and is known for its colorful and animated carnival celebrations. 

The British formed a colony here in the nineteenth century and used it as a coal station at the height of the steam ship era, but this declined after 1900 causing unemployment and poverty. Now the population makes its living by fishing and the tourist trade.

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 Mindelo retains the influences of the past, from its Portuguese architecture to the British afternoon tea. The winding cobblestone streets and open-air cafes call to mind Portugal, but there is a distinct African feel to the pace of life here.

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Governor’s Palace

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Portuguese decorative tiles 

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We visited the National Artisan and Design Museum that showcases local crafts and tapestries. Three of the craftsmen were demonstrating their hand weaving projects during the time we visited the workroom whose walls were decorated with finished tapestries as well as samples of hand made batiks for us to admire. 

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 After walking around the downtown area we headed out of town and up the Mount Verde for scenic view of the island. Unfortunately the island received very little rain this year and instead of being green and luxurious, it was mostly brown and tan with evidence of serious erosion from a lack of vegetation when it did rain.        

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The Kids

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Mountain Trek to Assomada

The Cape Verde consists of ten islands 500 km off the west coast of Africa and 1000 km southwest of the Canary Islands. They were claimed in 1456 by Portugal, as a refreshment station for voyages to and from South America. Later, the Portuguese developed vineyards and imported African slaves to work with the vines. 

The two islands we visited were Santiago (46 by 25 miles in area) and Sao Vicente (14 by 10 miles in area). Praia on the island of Santiago has been the capital of Cape Verde since 1770 and was built primarily by slave labor. In the late 1700’s, the islands were hit by a 100-year drought, resulting in a devastating loss of life and mass emigration. Gradually, during the 1900’s, the economy based on agriculture and fishing rebuilt itself.

We hired a taxi to take us into the interior of the island, heading towards Assomada, with a stop on the way in Sao Jorge to see the beautiful Jardim Botanico. The drive was full of twists, turns, and switchbacks as we made our way through the mountains, passing by many small villages. 

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 Our young, but very accomplished taxi driver.

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 As we passed through one of the small villages, two policemen were manning a roadblock, stopping all the taxis driving through the area. Our driver was nervous as he quickly gathered together all the paperwork for the vehicle. The policeman asked that he get out of the car and they moved to the back of the car to search the trunk. We wanted to see what was happening, but thought it might cause a problem to get out of the car with our cameras. But we caught the action through the rearview mirror for our memory book.

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 On our way to the botanical gardens in Sao Jorge, we stopped to take pictures of the school children who had been released from their lessons for the day. 

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Jardim Botanico 

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This picnic area was beautiful enough to be an outdoor chapel.

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Christmas poinsettias

We continued our drive through the mountains to finally reach Assomada, a town that is home to one of the island’s largest, most vibrant markets as well as many examples of Portuguese colonial buildings.

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Town of Assomada

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 Solar panel “tree” in town square

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 Truly cobblestone streets!

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Sugar Cane

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Our super hero!

OneSimCard ~ Perfect Way to Stay in Touch Back Home

Leaving your home for 3 months to travel around Africa and the Arabian peninsula, you need to give some thought as to how you will communicate with family and friends while you are away.

Email and texting quickly come to mind as suitable for communication; however, for some of us of the older generation, we may not text and do not want to spend hundreds of dollars for internet time onboard the ship to email. And sometimes it is just good to talk to family and friends on the phone, provided you do not forget the time difference and accidentally call at 3 in the morning. 

On previous long voyages, I used to spend valuable shore time to hunt down a phone card and then find a “working” phone booth that would facilitate the phone card. There is a simpler way that has worked wonderfully for me on this voyage. 

I purchased an GSM unlocked cell phone through Amazon (RCA M1) and married it with a OneSimCard international calling card. The company is located outside Boston, Massachusetts, and was able to send my personalized OneSimCard via overnight express delivery in time for me to get it installed and operational before I left town 2 days later.

Since I am traveling to 20 different countries or overseas territories, I needed a card that would service all these areas at reasonable prices. OneSimCard, hands down, provided the most coverage at the best prices of any other international calling company I researched. The instruction brochure that you can download to any mobile device is clearly written with real life examples that are easy to follow. The card also provides many features I did not use, but visit their website at www.onesimcard.com for all the details on what this card can do for you. I highly recommend it. 

So far I have been successful using the card in England, Portugal, Gibraltar, Spain, Malta, Greece, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Oman, U.A.E., Seychelles, Mauritius, Reunion Island, South Africa, Namibia, and Angola. Each time the connection has been clear and easy to complete. Check it out when you are planning your next overseas voyage or land tour.

The Namib Desert is Alive

One of the best shore excursions on the entire trip is seeing the “Living Namib Desert” via 4×4 vehicles driving through the sands outside Swakopmund, Namibia.

The coastal dune belt seems barren and lifeless at first glance, but it is in fact very much alive, if you know where to look. There are a fascinating variety of specially adapted plants and creatures that are able to survive in this desert area, utilizing the daily life-giving fog that rolls in from the cold Atlantic Ocean. 

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 We saw the following creatures endemic to the area including sidewinder snakes (Peringuey’s adder), the palmato or Namib dune gecko (Pachydactylus rangei) with its transparent skin, beautiful colors and webbed feet that function as snowshoes. Other creatures we saw were the black scorpion, sand snake, Namaqua chameleons, and beetles. 

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Everyday this beetle stands on his head in order to capture the dew from the fog,

allowing the water to run down to his mouth. 

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Beautiful, non-poisonous sand snake

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Namaqua chameleon, loves to eat beetles, and can see what is behind him.

 

The mysterious and beautiful ever-shifting sand dunes are captivating

but they are seemingly impossible to photograph.

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This snake, a poisonous, sidewinder (Peringuey’s adder)

is a master at camouflage. In less than a minute it can completely disappear from view.

 

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This little animal is a shovel snouted lizard that will hang onto your earlobe if you let him.

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Along the way we learned about the geology structure and formation of the desert. The landscapes were dramatic and colorful as we continued our scenic drive.

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