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Sunday, February 5, 2017

Six Destination-Oriented Special-Interest Lectures (Celebrity Millennium)

My most recent cruise, a 12-day voyage on Celebrity Millennium from Hong Kong to Shanghai, China, via Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, and South Korea, marked the 10-year anniversary of my serving aboard ships as a lecturer. Over the past decade I have worked variously as a destination speaker, a special interest speaker, and, most recently as a destination-oriented special-interest speaker, giving talks tying in with the cruise itinerary and intended to help enhance the trip for attendees. 

On this one I gave a series of six thematic presentations, on an "Incident in the Gulf of Tonkin," "A Maritime History of the Philippines," "Exploring the Dragon's Triangle," "Taiwan:Cradle of the Pacific," "The Pueblo Crisis," and "The Korean War at Sea," all of which appear here. Suffice it to say that I am grateful to the cruise staff for shooting these terrific videos of my presentations, which aired on the ship's closed-circuit television network after I gave them in the theater, and to graciously providing copies of them to me. Very much hope you enjoy them! And please subscribe to my YouTube channel to keep track of everything I post there.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

My Cruise History

Now that I am back from my most recent cruise, from Hong Kong to Shanghai, and getting ready for a big and particularly exotic one I will be doing in spring 2017, from Abu Dhabi to Rome, I wanted to update my cruise history! Some of the following entries might be missing ports or even inadvertently had incorrect ones added that we are remembering from other cruises, and not all sea days are reflected, but we are confident that it is pretty accurate overall … (shown here is La Fortaleza, the historic governor's mansion in San Juan, Puerto Rico, decorated for the 2016 holiday season).

August 1998: Royal Caribbean, Majesty of the Seas, seven day, western Caribbean (Fort Lauderdale/Miami; Labadie, Haiti; Kingston or Montego Bay, Jamaica; Georgetown, Grand Cayman; Cozumel, Mexico; private island, Bahamas; Fort Lauderdale/Miami). This was pretty typical of a "starter cruise" in terms of length, line, and itinerary.

January 2002: Royal Caribbean, Radiance of the Seas, seven day, southern Caribbean (San Juan, Puerto Rico; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; St. John’s, Antigua; Phillipsburg, St. Maarten; Bridgetown, Barbados; Castries, St. Lucia; San Juan, Puerto Rico).

December 2002: Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL), Norway, seven day, eastern Caribbean Miami, Florida; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Phillipsburg, St. Maarten; maybe other ports … private island, Bahamas; Miami, Florida). My parents, Mike and Merrilea Varhola, accompanied us on this cruise. Launched as SS France in 1962, Norway was reminiscent of a classic ocean liner and, of all the ships I have been on, was my favorite. Sadly, she was badly damaged by a boiler explosion in 2003 and was eventually dismantled at an Indian scrapyard in 2008.

December 2004-January 2005: NCL, Norwegian Wind, 13 day, Hawaii & Kiribati (Oahu; Hilo or Kona Hawaii/Big Island; two ports in Maui; Kuai; two sea days directly south; Fanning Island, Kiribati; two sea days directly north; Hilo or Kona Hawaii/Big Island; Oahu).

September-October 2006: NCL, Norwegian Jewel, 13 day, Aegean, Adriatic, and eastern Mediterranean (Athens, Greece; Corfu, Greece; Olympia, Greece; Crete, Greece; Santorini, Greece; sea day; Alexandria, Egypt two days; Mykonos, Greece; sea day; Kuzadasi, Turkey; Istanbul, Turkey. Best itinerary ever! We did an excursion in every port except Corfu, including an overnight trip to Cairo while we were in Egypt. We also spent one night in Athens before the cruise and three nights in Istanbul at the end of it.

January 2007: Princess, Regal Princess, 10 day, Panama Canal (Acapulco, Mexico, to San Juan, Puerto Rico). This was the first cruise on which I served as the ship’s lecturer! This image is from one of the man-made lakes that are part of the Panama Canal and which our ship crossed during the cruise.

May 2007: Royal Caribbean, Empress of the Seas, seven day, Bermuda (Norfolk, Virginia, roundtrip). While we had fun and loved Bermuda, this was in many ways our least enjoyable cruise for a number of reasons, one being that we had an inside cabin that was also the smallest we have ever had, the other being the high proportion of trashy locals who had clearly purchased cheap last-minute passage on the ship.

c. October 2007: Azamara, Journey, seven day Bermuda, (roundtrip from Cape Liberty, New Jersey).

c. November 2007: Azamara, Journey, seven day, Bermuda (roundtrip from Cape Liberty, New Jersey). This one I did on my own after the cruise line asked me to stay on board and lecture for an additional week and Diane had to return to work! I spent a lot of the five days in Bermuda exploring the interior of the island, the highlight of which was a nine-mile hike along with historic Rail Trail (part of which, near one of the historic lighthouses toward the east end of the island, appears in this photo).

January 2008: Princess, Coral Princess, 10 day (?), Panama Canal (roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale). My details on this one are a little fuzzy because I took my daughter, Hayley, with me instead of my wife, who serves as my institutional memory. We took three excursions, including a horseback ride in the Costa Rican rainforest, a canoe trip to a native village in Panama, and a bus trip to a number of historic sites in Kingston, Jamaica (an image from the first of those excursions, of Hayley on her Costa Rican forest stallion, appears here).

September 2008: NCL, Norwegian Pearl (?), six day, New England & Canada (roundtrip from New York City/Manhattan). This one was different than the norm in that it took us north instead of south! We did not take any excursions but did independently explore all our ports of call, to include visits to a number of museums and at least one fort.

October-November 2008: Celebrity, Constellation, 11 day, southern Caribbean (Cape Liberty, New Jersey, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida).

November 20-December 4, 2010: Celebrity, Constellation, 14 day, southern Caribbean. This was our longest cruise to date and included three ports of call we had not yet visited, including Bonaire, Grenada, and Curacao (from which this picture was taken). No excursions but we are wishing we had taken one to a beach at some point early in the cruise.

*December 2012: Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas, seven days (roundtrip from New Orleans via Jamaica; Grand Cayman; Cozumel, Mexico). *Diane did this one with our daughters Lindsey and Hayley.

c. April-May, 2013: Celebrity Eclipse, c. 14 days (trans-Atlantic from Fort Lauderdale to Southampton, England, via San Juan, Puerto Rico and Philipsburg, Dutch St. Martin). This cruise sailed right past the Azores but did not make a port of call at them!

September-October, 2013: Royal Caribbean, Radiance of the Seas (trans-Pacific from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Sydney, Australia, via Bora Bora; Tahiti; Moorea; Wellington, New Zealand; and Picton, New Zealand).

*March 31-April 10, 2015: Royal Caribbean, Grandeur of the Seas (roundtrip from Baltimore via Labadie, Haiti; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Philipsburg, St. Martin; San Juan, Puerto Rico). *Diane did this one with our daughters Lindsey and Hayley. 

January 23-30, 2016: Norwegian Jade, seven day, western Caribbean (roundtrip from port of Houston via Belize, Roatan; Cozumel, Mexico). This is the only cruise since 2006 that we simply paid for and for which I did not serve as a special interest or destination speaker! Of all the cruises we have been on, this one had the lowest standards for passenger conduct and did not enforce its own dress codes, allowing people into the formal dining room wearing camouflage hunting gear, swimwear, baseball caps, and the like. We had a good time but would have enjoyed it a lot more if we had not had to share so much of it with a ship half-filled with weird hillbillies.

November 26-December 3, 2016: Celebrity Reflection, seven day, eastern Caribbean (roundtrip from Miami via San Juan, Puerto Rico; Philipsburg, Dutch Saint Martin; and Basseterre, St. Kitts, Federation of Kitts & Nevis). Served as destination speaker and gave presentations on "A History of St. Martin," "Exploring the Bermuda Triangle," and "Ghosthunting Florida." Shown here is Hotel El Convento, where we reprised our tradition of drinking a pitcher of its great sangria.

December 4-December 11, 2016: Celebrity Silhouette, seven day, eastern Caribbean (roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale via San Juan, Puerto Rico; Philipsburg, Dutch Saint Martin; and Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands). Served as destination speaker and gave presentations on "Blockade Running During the U.S. Civil War," "A History of St. Martin," "Exploring the Bermuda Triangle," and "Ghosthunting Florida."

January 14-26, 2017: Celebrity Millennium, 12 day, East Asia (Hong Kong to Shanghai, China, via Chan May, Vietnam; Manila, Philippines; Keelung, Taiwan; and Busan, South Korea). Served as destination-oriented special-interest speaker and gave presentations on "Incident in the Gulf of Tonkin," "A Maritime History of the Philippines," "Exploring the Dragon's Triangle," "Taiwan:Cradle of the Pacific," "The Pueblo Crisis," and "The Korean War at Sea." Shown here is an artistic display of Chinese lanterns at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwan, which we visited during a city tour excursion.