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  1. Like
    Srp431 reacted to twangster in Ovation Goes South to Hawaii Sept. 20, 2019   
    Our last stop is the Southernmost Bakery in the USA.

    Who can resist the smell of freshly baked goods?

    Our last stop and restroom break before the ~90 minute drive back to Kona.  
  2. Like
    Srp431 reacted to twangster in Ovation Goes South to Hawaii Sept. 20, 2019   
    Our next stop was Punalu'u Beach or Black Sand Beach as it is sometimes called.

    Molten lava reaching the ocean would explode hitting the cool water breaking into small pieces.  Wave action over time further broke the lava down into black sand. 

    The beach is frequented by Hawksbill and Green Sea Turtles which are protected.  Signs warn people to stay back at least 30' with stiff penalties for anyone who approaches or touches a turtle.  A recent visitor left a trail in the sand when they came up to bask in the sun on the black sand..

    The stark contrast of blue sky and water against the black lava and sand made for breathtaking scenery that looks so much better in real life compared to these feeble pictures.

    Lots of other wildlife is on hand as well resting in the branches.

    It doesn't take very much imagination to picture molten flowing lava flows slowly creeping towards and into the ocean.

    This would also be our lunch stop where they brought out sandwiches, chips and soft drinks for us.
    We had one more stop on this tour.  A bakery used to be located here at the beach but it became so famous the small beach parking area and roads were overtaken with traffic to the bakery so they moved it closer to a nearby village.
  3. Like
    Srp431 reacted to twangster in Ovation Goes South to Hawaii Sept. 20, 2019   
    Back into our bus we headed towards the coast. 
    Lava flows generally flow down hill and our driver tells us of the occasional holes that open up in the roads around Hawaii.  Like sink holes sometimes a cavity is created or a lava tube hidden deeper below the surface opens up resulting in a collapse of the road.  We crossed over a couple such spots where they created a temporary bridge over such an opening while they work to rebuild the main road.

    Another bird unique to Hawaii is the Nēnē.  They are the state bird of Hawaii.

    It is believed these are a variation or evolution from the Canadian Goose arriving around 500,000 years ago being blown off course during a migration.  They have evolved by growing small talons on their feet and other adaptations over time to suit Hawaii.  It's believed in the 1800's there were as many as 25,000 but those numbers dwindled to around 30 in 1952.  Conservation, breeding, protection and re-introduction has brought that number up to around 2,500 today.  

  4. Like
    Srp431 reacted to twangster in Ovation Goes South to Hawaii Sept. 20, 2019   
    The tour continues with our first sitings of old lava flows.  Not the Kraken variety.
    Driving along the highway everything looks normal then you come across a barren section of land where it looks like someone has tilled the land but really it's a lava flow from decades or hundreds of years ago.  In some cases plant life is starting to make roots.

    The brown area may look like dirt but it isn't.  It's more lava rock.

    There are three predominant types of lava found on Hawaii.  Most of this is an example of aa lava, a very fast moving form that causes the flow to crack and break into pieces.

    This is the big island.  The whole island was like this once but in areas that haven't received new flows a soil has formed over hundreds or thousands of years.  The isn't soil very deep though and lava rock like you see here is never far from the surface.  That makes it hard for trees to take root or to plant electric poles like this one.   This is an example of pahoehoe lava and it moves slower allowing a skin to form that protects the molten lava within so it doesn't crack in the same manner as aa lava.

    The side of the lava exposed to air oxidized and became the porous lava rock we use in our BBQ grills while the lava flow further from the surface cools at a different rate that often causes it to crack and splinter.  

    Note the brown lava rock versus the black lava rock.  More on that later.

    The Southernmost point in the US in the distance.

    To give you an idea how slowly plant growth comes back there are three lava flows in this area.  The oldest flow is brown in color now because of the high iron content.  It basically rusts over time turning the lava rock into a color that looks like soil.  It's not soil though, just more lava rock.  

    The brown lava rock is believed to be from a flow between 750 and 1,500 years ago.  The darker "newer" lava flow is from 1907.

    Note there are no trees on the darker flow, only the 1,000 year old lava has plant life.

    This one species of tree has adapted to life on lava and it produces an enzyme that can break down the lava rock and allow its root to penetrate the rock.  The tree and the red flower that blooms on them have a storied beginning in Hawaiian folklore.  More on that later.

    This lava flow rock is very sharp.  If you fell down it would hurt and probably cut you.  This is what the native population had to deal with prior to modern times.  No roads, no cars but to navigate Hawaii the native population had to deal with navigating across these types of flows all over the island for hundreds of years.  
  5. Like
    Srp431 reacted to rjac in Ovation Goes South to Hawaii Sept. 20, 2019   
    Thanks SO MUCH for your time with this blog (and all your previous) knowing you are back home. Great photos and great write up. Looking forward to your next! 
  6. Like
    Srp431 reacted to twangster in Ovation Goes South to Hawaii Sept. 20, 2019   
    Cruise Compass from this sailing has been posted:
  7. Like
    Srp431 reacted to SolariumSnoozer in Ovation Goes South to Hawaii Sept. 20, 2019   
    Thanks again for taking the time out of your cruise/vacation to take us along.  I always learn something new and truly enjoy following your blogs.
  8. Like
    Srp431 reacted to Big Tule in Ovation Goes South to Hawaii Sept. 20, 2019   
    Thank you for a delightful ride along I enjoyed every post

  9. Like
    Srp431 reacted to Queenbeecruises in Wish upon a STAR class cruise 11/30/19 - 12/7/19   
    They are my favorite reviews.  
  10. Like
    Srp431 reacted to JLMoran in Wish upon a STAR class cruise 11/30/19 - 12/7/19   
    Because you're highly competitive, and can't let @Matt or @Lovetocruise2002 hold onto the title of earliest blog start? ?
  11. Like
    Srp431 reacted to monctonguy in Wish upon a STAR class cruise 11/30/19 - 12/7/19   
    I will be following.....I hope that some of your antics mirror those like  the primary's on Below Deck!...ha
  12. Like
    Srp431 reacted to Marlena in Best drink and dish   
    I haven’t been yet...but I’m super looking forward to the dessert  THE WORLD at wonderland.
  13. Like
    Srp431 reacted to ChessE4 in Formal nights and a wheelchair?!   
    Yes they do vary some menu items, and elsewhere on this blog folks have published theme schedules for various ships.  I find that I can only find paella in the WJ on Day 1, usually at lunch.
  14. Like
    Srp431 reacted to Fuzzywuzzy in Bags   
    I've seen plenty of them tagged and being given to the porters. Not much of a big deal since they weigh less than 99% of the bags they have to handle.
  15. Like
    Srp431 reacted to Matt in Bags   
    I dont see why you couldn't give it to a porter. Keep in mind it could get knocked around (in case it's a nicer stroller).
  16. Like
    Srp431 reacted to ptod in Bags   
    A stroller can be tagged like luggage and given to a porter.  Might be a good idea to put it in a bag first.
  17. Like
    Srp431 reacted to Lovetocruise2002 in Is this a good RoyalUp bid .... and am I being stupid?   
    I think with Royal Up it's anyone's guess.  The trend though seems to be that more non-suite upgraded are granted vs. suites.  No harm in trying though.  Good luck.
    For the second question, I'm assuming they would handle it like Navigator.  I cannot remember the details, but someone here will but I think it was future cruise credit and a refund of your cruise fare.  It was a generous offer.  That is what I remember from it.
  18. Like
    Srp431 reacted to whitsmom in Credit Card Pre-authorization hold   
    I think if you use a debit card then they may put a hold on your card (I've never done this though).  I always use a credit card and have never had any holds.
  19. Like
    Srp431 reacted to DMLM in Credit Card Pre-authorization hold   
    First, enjoy your first cruise!  I expect you will love it and become addicted like the rest of us.
    I agree with Bakerette.  I have been on around 14 cruises and always attach a credit card to the seapass account and have not been charged a pre authorization.  We are not really big spenders on the account, and with the OBC we have had,  we typically only have a charge in full at the end of the cruise.
    We also have the Royal Caribbean Visa and use that to get double the points for more OBC.  We only use the card for Royal Cruises.  No annual fee so it works for us.

  20. Like
    Srp431 reacted to Bakerette in Credit Card Pre-authorization hold   
    I have put a credit Card attached to my sea pass account one 4 different cruises and not once did I have a pre-authorized hold on my credit card any of the 4 times that I added a credit card to my sea pass card/account
    The daily charge amount is $500 a day per person for 7+ night sailings & $300 a day for 2 - 5 night sailings, if you go over the daily limit the cruise ship will charge your credit card that is linked with your sea pass card once you have reached the daily limit on your sea pass account.
    Once you reached the daily limit the ship will call the guest to inform them that the daily limit has been reached and that they need to pay their bill so that you can continue to charge things to your sea pass account & your sea pass account has been paid after reaching the daily limit you can begin charging things to your sea pass account again the same day that you pay your sea pass account once you have reached the daily limit for each day of your cruise.
  21. Like
    Srp431 reacted to mk-ultra in Allure 9/29 - 7 Night Eastern Caribbean   
    Pulled away from the dock at exactly 5:30PM.  At around 5PM, overcast skies moved in and gave us a brief spritz of rain and a very welcome 10 degree temperature drop.  It feels great on deck.  I’d normally stick around for the sunset, but I’ve got a lamb shank to shank and a casino to teach a lesson.

  22. Like
    Srp431 reacted to mk-ultra in Allure 9/29 - 7 Night Eastern Caribbean   
    Did about 3.5 hours at Labadee today.  87F, no breeze.  Basically just did a walkabout of the entire place, then encamped at the suites Barefoot Beach area.  Had a couple of Labadoozies, read my book until lunch and ate some marginal food (hey -- they're anything if not consistent; same as the last time I was here a decade ago).  Followed that with another Labadoozie and more bookworming.
    Barefoot Beach area was great.  Not crowded at all, and anyone who wanted a lounger in the shade of a palm tree could get one without going all chog about it.
    Water temp was perfect.
    3.5 hours was just right for me.  Now I get a nearly empty ship until late this afternoon. ?
  23. Like
    Srp431 reacted to mk-ultra in Allure 9/29 - 7 Night Eastern Caribbean   
    About an hour away from our scheduled docking time of 10AM in Labadee.  All-aboard is 5:30PM today.
    It’s still too hazy to get a decent pic, but the hills along the coast here are lookers.

    Near as I can tell from topo maps, the tallest peak is “Morne Jean” at around ~2200 feet.

  24. Like
    Srp431 reacted to mk-ultra in Allure 9/29 - 7 Night Eastern Caribbean   
    The Old and New San Juan tour was a bit of a bust.
    This started and ran smoothly.  I especially like the way they handle tours out of the port here.  Instead of lining up by station number, you just turn right at the end of the pier and they immediately start putting a van-load of passengers together.  When they hit capacity (15 in this case), off you go and they just start collecting people for the next van.  I was out there a bit early, along with more than 15 others who booked the same tour.  They launched us ahead of the scheduled time.
    The tour was a little over 2 hours.  Our first stop was a short distance from the port, and we had 15 minutes to poke our heads into the Capitol building.  Good for a rotunda dome photo, a peek at the PR constitution, and a few historical displays.  Granted, the 10-bizillion-tiled dome is very pretty.

    Next stop (um, drive-by) was the castle/fort Castillo de San Cristobal.  We drove up the mock entrance, and then straight back out.  No stop and absolutely no vantage from the van to photograph anything but a close-up of a limestone wall.  I’ll spare you.  As we were admiring the wall, I thought to myself, “Self — that might have been interesting to go inside and look around.”
    Next stop was the Cementerio Santa Maria.  We stopped there for 10 minutes to admire the cemetery and ocean from afar, and to get a distant view of the rump-end of Castillo San Filipe del Moro, that we would also not be visiting.

    Next we were let off at Plaza Colon. Mostly souvenir shops and restaurants.  Some people decided to tour the Marshall’s store.  I had a $16 Margarita and bought a colorful carved stone turtle to keep my towel animals company.
    Having concluded our whirlwind tour of historic Old San Juan, we skedaddled across the bridge to explore New San Juan.  15 minutes later we arrived at a tiny park the size of two basketball courts, within a short walk to the beach behind the Hotel Coronado.  The main attraction here was the Ben & Jerry’s.  We had 25 minutes to admire the grass, the ocean view, and Ben & Jerry’s air conditioning while eating Coconut Seven Layer Bar ice cream.

    Ocean view was pretty.

    And, that was a wrap.  Back to the ship.
    The one thing I really did like was our driver/guide Diego.  During our drive time, he did give us a lot of relevant history of all the interesting stuff we wouldn’t be experiencing.  I think I’m just cranky because Mr. & Mrs. Talksloud-Alot in the seats behind me were compelled to babble on continuously, loudly, and over Diego’s narration the entire time.  I wish I’d brought a couple of extra socks. I’m happy to report their good for nothing son will at least be helping install new window screens while they’re gone  
    Departure was right on time.  Lucky for the 2 pier runners (had ‘em today!) who did the 100 yard dash at 12:58 to just squeak in under the 1PM all-aboard time.  Not so lucky for the other 3 of 5 people they’d been calling on the PA for since 12:50.  Oops.
    Tip: get your spot on the starboard side rail early (like at least 15 minutes before departure) if you want to snap some great pics on the way out to sea.  The railing is really packed for this departure.

  25. Like
    Srp431 reacted to mk-ultra in Allure 9/29 - 7 Night Eastern Caribbean   
    So, a miracle occurred.  Our food tour was supposed to start at 10AM.  By 9:50, everyone was accounted for and we started early instead of standing around baking in the sun waiting for stragglers.  Good job, shipmates!  Off to an excellent start.
    Our driver would be Serge (funny and informative guy), and our tour guide would be Ankie — a self-professed 55 year old hippie who sold her bar in the Netherlands 11 years ago and moved to Dutch St. Maarten.  Even more funny and informative than Serge.  Both were great.
    Our first stop this morning was the Amsterdam Cheese Store.  Cool.  I do cheese.  We turned left out of the port, drove like 100 yards, and pulled into the parking lot of the Amsterdam Cheese & Liquor Store after an arduous 30 second trek.  Hrm.  Eyebrow goes up.  I’m game though.

    Inside, the 15 of us were ushered to a corner of the store with a display table made from a Dutch merchant’s bike, where TJ (with the assistance of a volunteer passenger) would be taking us on a little Dutch Gouda tour.
    We started off with with introductions, a glass of champagne, and passed around some toothpick cheeses as TJ described them to us.  First was a young cow’s milk Gouda (~6mo) followed by young sheep’s milk Gouda, a pesto Gouda, and finished with a ~2 year aged Gouda).  All were tasty.  The pesto Gouda also got an eyebrow raise from me, but it was a nice surprise with a balanced amount of basil to it.  It was dark green, which 6 year old me loved.
    The 2nd half of this 30 minute stop would be the passenger-assisted preparation of a pasta dish using 3 of the cheeses we’d tried.  TJ brought out a couple of casserole dishes with cooked bow tie pasta in them.  That was seasoned with a little Italian seasoning, black pepper, and then each of the cheeses was laid out in a stripe across the top so we could taste the pasta with each individually.

    Into the oven the casseroles went.  While they were getting all melty, TJ gave us a little more background on the cheeses we had tasted.  The casseroles came back 10 minutes later (someone has a combi oven back there), had fresh cherry tomatoes added on top, and we each got about a 1/2 cup serving of each.  Not gonna lie.  It was good.  After that we got a few minutes to look around the shop (oddly enough, great selection of Dutch cheeses, treats, and booze).  Then back to air-conditioned bus bliss.
    Our next stop, Zafiro Beach Bar & Restaurant, was also on the Dutch side of the island, about 20 minutes distant and maybe 200’ off of the south side of the runway at Princess Julianna Airport.  To get to and from it, we’d cross the famous stretch of Maho “Beach” that people adore getting a sandblast facial from jets on.  Having been tempted to visit this spot myself, I can now tell you I am thrilled to have seen it from a bus on the way/from a good meal.  It was packed.  The “beach” portion is a tiny slip of a thing, while the rest of the shoreline is made up of the artificial locking blocks folks use to protect harbors from pounding waves and invading Germans.  The rest is just less-invasion-proofing boulders.

    This would be our main meal on the tour.  Creole chicken with plantains and a rum punch.  The pic doesn’t make it look very pretty, but it was excellent.

    Nice view of the beach from the restaurant.

    And, for those who may regret not getting the direct jet BJ along the Maho Beach fence, the restaurant has an observation deck nearby where you can watch airplanes approach and land without mussing up your hair or being blown out to sea.

    Next stop: The aptly named Carousel for a gelato making demonstration (by the owner), a tasting of said made gelato, then two scoops of whatever you wanted from the regular counter outside of the “lab.”  Then, well, get on the damn carousel at Carousel, you cad.

    Escorted off the property by an iguana.

    10 minute ride back to the port with a little more narrated history.  Tour ran like clockwork.  Out of the coach at exactly 2PM.

    I can see why this tour is 5-starred to death on TripAdvisor.  Fun & tasty with a nice side dish of history.
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