Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Not All Who Wander Are Lost
June, 2019 - Mount Denali, Alaska

Monday, April 1, 2024

Yuma Air Show

We've had a busy winter enjoying many activities offered by our resort and hanging out with friends.  Our friends Art and Dawn from Wisconsin spent much of the season at our resort in their motor home. Spending time with them was tons of fun!

On March 9th we attended the Yuma Air Show at the Marine Base with Art and Dawn and Ed and Edie, also at our park.  This is an annual event I've been wanting to go to. So, when we heard our friends were going, we jumped at the chance to go with them.

We started the day by driving to the base and looking at some collector planes that were brought in by aviation hobbyists. There were also some Corvette cars on display, so we had our picture taken in front of one of them.

This was a WWII bomber plane which flew missions in Europe. 

We also saw a large cargo plane, a fighter jet, a helicopter and an osprey plane.

The brass ensemble of the Marine band were performing throughout the grounds.

Our tickets were in a covered area to provide shade. In March it can be quite hot in Yuma. This day was in the 70s and quite nice. Included in our ticket price was a delicious lunch and beverages.

The show started with some ceremonial events. Up next were the skydiving team from the nearby Army Yuma Proving Grounds. They were amazing and all landed on target, even though it was a bit windy.

Many planes flew over, some of them doing some stunt flying. The jets sure were loud. 

This was called the Heritage Flight and included a current day F22A jet and a vintage P-38J

There was also an in-air refueling demonstration.

On the same day, the Navy base in El Centro (about 60 miles from Yuma) was having their air show with the Blue Angels. Their cargo plane, Fat Albert, did a fly over at the Yuma show. Maybe next year, we'll have to go see the Blue Angels!

The weekend of March 1st through the 4th, I flew to Lincoln to visit our granddaughter and her parents. It was so great to be able to hold her again. She sure had changed a lot since December. She's a very curious little girl who is interested in exploring everything. I sure love this little sweetheart!!

I played in the ladies league scramble tournament at the end of February. Our team had a theme of safety. It was a fun day, and we even won some prize money.

I also played in the ladies league year end tournament. I won the league net score champion with a net score of 62 for 18 holes after my handicap. Pictured with me is Joyce who won gross championship with a score of 91.

On March 25th and 26th, we drove to Phoenix to take in some Milwaukee Brewers Spring training games and see our son, Eric. He was in town with his girlfriend and her family for two days, so we met up at a game and went out to dinner afterwards. It was sure great to see Eric, even if it was only for a few hours.

 Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Bay of Islands, New Zealand - November 12, 2023

Our final port in New Zealand was Bay of Islands. This was a tender port with a beautiful harbor full of many islands.

We had booked a tour through Princess to visit the Glow Worm caves. Our first stop was Manginangina, part of the Puketi forest. It is one of the best remaining examples of subtropical rainforests in northern New Zealand. This part of the forest survived early European logging and farming due to its steep terrain and poor soil. Around the beginning of the century, huge tracts of kauri forest were destroyed. Only 3% of the original forest now remains.

Kauri trees are among the world's mightiest trees, growing to over 165 feet tall, with trunk girths up to 50 feet, and living for over 2,000 years. Here are a few examples of the many we saw.

The silver tree fern is a national symbol for New Zealand. We saw several examples of these ferns. The underside of the fronds are silver.

Our next stop on the tour was the city of Kawakawa to see the famous Hundertwasser toilets. What, toilets??? Hundertwasser, the Austrian-born artist, famous for his charismatic colorful approach to design and architecture, made Kawakawa his home due to his deep desire to be as close to nature as possible. 

In the late 1990s he was asked to redesign the public toilets in Kawakawa. He participated in the design and build, and they remain his only building in the Southern Hemisphere. They opened in 1999, and were his last architectural work before his death in 2000.

The outside entrance to the toilets

Inside, the toilets are sure something to experience, with lots of glass, mosaics and tile all around. They are fully functioning and open for public use. You just have to be careful you don't end up in a tourist's photo!!

There are many examples of his style throughout the entire city with lots of colorful columns on businesses and public areas. There is a cultural center and library with information on the artist and his works on display. What a fun and quirky place to visit!

Our next stop were the Kawiti Glow Worm Caves. These caves are owned by the Kawiti family, and they have been guiding tours here since the 1950s. The glow worms in these caves are unique to New Zealand and thrive in damp,  humid, dark environments like caves. They catch small flying insects for food with their sticky webs called fishing lines. Their tails emit bright green/blue light. No photography was allowed inside the caves. Here is our group entering using a wooden boardwalk.

The next two pictures are from the website. We followed our guide on a narrow boardwalk as he explained all about the caves and the glow worms. Before entering, every sixth person in line was given an electric lantern which they kept lit while we were walking. In a couple of spots, they were instructed to turn off the lanterns, and we were treated to an amazing display of the thousands of luminous glow worms on the ceiling. Another truly remarkable and extraordinary experience!!

On our way back to the ship, we stopped at an overlook next to a golf course. What a great view!

The crew on the pool deck had some fun with the pool towels.

We had two days crossing the Tasman Sea on our way back to Sydney. This body of water is infamous for its rough seas. We did have rain one of the days, and it was pretty rough, but nothing severe. Here's our last view of New Zealand and the last sunset as we sailed back to Australia.

We were gone for 35 days on this adventure. The weather was just fantastic everywhere we went. I had heard from others that often the ships can't dock at some of the ports due to severe weather. We were able to dock at every port, and enjoyed excellent weather everywhere we went. Even places that are notorious for bad weather. How lucky was that!!!

This adventure was the trip of a lifetime with memories we will never forget. Both Australia and New Zealand were amazing places to visit. If I had to choose, I would pick New Zealand as my favorite as each place we went was different and wonderful. Everything we saw and did was spectacular. 

Our experience with Princess Cruises was very much less than spectacular! The ship itself and our time on board were okay. These were our ninth and tenth cruises, so we have enough experience to make some valid observations. 

We had two different cabins due to the fact that Princess cancelled our first cruise after we booked these back to back cruises, and by the time we were able to book another cruise, our first cabin was gone. They made it available after the other trip at a higher price a little later on, and I booked it. In  hindsight, I should have cancelled the whole thing at that time. This was the first of several times they screwed us over.

I had booked several of the most popular excursions well in advance as they can sell out before you even board the ship. A month before the trip, they cancelled two of those excursions without ever notifying us. I found out when I saw the credit on our credit card. To add insult to injury, the credit they gave us was less than we paid as the exchange rate had changed. Everything was paid in Australian dollars. This is theft in my opinion.

I was able to rebook those cancelled excursions after a lot of time online finding an alternative at higher costs. Once we were on the trip, they cancelled another excursion. I spoke with the Customer Relations Manager about the issues we had. He apologized and offered us a free dinner at the steakhouse. That never materialized. 

We booked transfer to the airport through the excursions desk. They took us to the wrong airport. On both of the cruises, we were given a credit because they had overcharged us for port fees. These credits were supposed to be reimbursed to us within 14 days of the last day of the cruise. We got the first check six weeks after the first cruise. I'm still waiting for the second check after three months and numerous emails to Princess. What a racket!! We will never sail with them again!! 

We didn't let these problems and frustrations ruin our trip, though. If you get the chance, I highly recommend you travel to this part of the world. Just go on a different cruise line!!!

We returned to Sydney early in the morning. A Facebook member posted this picture of our ship in port just after we arrived.

At the airport, we saw Australia's version of Burger King.

We flew back to Los Angeles on Qantas Airlines. It was a 13.5 hour flight leaving Brisbane at 10 pm. This airline did not disappoint. We were fed three tasty meals and two more beverage offerings. The seats in economy were quite spacious compared to most other flights we were on. As we slept part of the time, it really wasn't a bad flight at all.

This ends my travel blog of our Kauai, Australia and New Zealand adventure. I'm currently planning the next adventure. Stay tuned.

 Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Auckland, New Zealand - November 11, 2023

Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand with a population of about 1.6 million people. None of the excursions really caught our interest for this stop, so we decided to get off the ship and take a ride on the hop on - hop off bus tour. The ship docks at a port pretty much in the heart of the downtown, so we were able to do the bus tour and wander around on our own.

As we looked out of our balcony door in the morning, we were surprised to be looking onto the patios of apartment/condos right next to the pier. I overheard a woman as we were walking back to the ship telling someone that they had rented a place in those apartments for the week, and were quite surprised to wake up and see a huge ship outside their patio door.

We were also able to see the Auckland Sky Tower and downtown from the ship.

We got a closer look at the Sky Tower on the bus tour. It is the tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere rising to a height of 1,076 feet. The second picture shows people on the platform near the top getting ready jump off the tower. If you click to enlarge the picture, you can see the ropes hanging down.

Auckland has more boats per capita than anywhere else in the world. It is referred to as the City of Sails. The city hosted the America's Cup sailing regatta in 2000 and 2003.

The bus took us to Mount Maungawhau or Mount Eden. (Eden is our granddaughter's name, so I had to take a picture of the sign). It's the highest point in the city. There were hiking trails, but it was quite a warm day so we didn't hike up to see the views. The picture of the mountain is from the web.

Another stop on the tour was Bastion Point Lookout. More beautiful views. This is a significant place in New Zealand history as the site of protests in the late 1970s by Maori against forced land alienation by European settlers. The 506 day protest led to the New Zealand government returning many lands that had been taken from the Maori people.

Auckland has an iconic war museum as well as a zoo and numerous art museums and galleries. We just weren't in the mood for more museums on our visit. 

The silver fern is an iconic symbol of New Zealand seen on flags and merchandise all over the country. It dates back to the late 1800s when it was accepted as a symbol for the country. Here it is on an All Blacks jersey in one of the shops. The All Blacks are a beloved national rugby team of New Zealand. There is even an All Blacks experience you can visit in Auckland.

Our departure from Auckland was at sunset, and we were treated to some magnificent views from the ship. I was able to get the sun setting with the Sky Tower in front of it.

In most of the ports, there are tug boats that come out to escort the ship out of the harbor. This guy was doing tricks for us as he waited. Some donuts for our enjoyment!

We enjoyed our visit to Auckland. Tomorrow will be our last stop in New Zealand.

 Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!