Thursday, January 26, 2017

Voluntourism Vacation to the Dominican Republic

going back on the fathom Adonia

As you might recall, I went to Cuba for a week on the fathom Adonia cruise ship, last August. The ship alternates every other week between Cuba and the Dominican Republic. It has been the only US cruise ship that goes exclusively to Cuba (since May 2016) and all of the shore excursions are pre-planned, well organized, and included in the price.

I just booked a week on the Dominican Republican sailing, leaving at the end of January next week. The Dominican Republic is a "voluntourism" vacation, where guests have an opportunity to make an impact in a country where 40% of the residents live below the poverty level and many are still in need of basics such as clean, piped water and concrete floors. I will have opportunities to volunteer in seven categories of activities while there. I might teach English to family members and to school children. English proficiency is the largest driver of employment success in the Dominican Republic economy. Other activities include planting trees, helping to build water filters, and pouring concrete floors.

I got a really good deal that includes my room, food all day long, entertainment during the evenings, lectures and group activities during the day, and many other activities in addition to the spa, dance classes, movies, and of course, volunteer activities while there. The ship will be docked for three nights at a large tropical resort (Amber Cove) which we can access whenever we like. There are also opportunities for traditional vacation activities such as scuba diving, zip line tours, museum visits, city tours, and Catamaran sailings. I am looking forward to this unique vacation!!

Because the green light was turned on regarding travel to Cuba, fathom will cease operations at the end of May, only one year after its inaugural sailing. The ship will be returned to its parent company at P&O cruise lines.

I cannot wait to board the ship in three days!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Highlights of my 12-day Panama Canal/Central America cruise on the Norwegian Pearl in the fall of 2016

Highlights of my 12-day Panama Canal/Central America cruise on the Norwegian Pearl in the fall of 2016-(see previous post for text only version-sans photos)

·       A ship that I love, The Norwegian Pearl, that is filled with lots of tasteful creative spaces like the Bliss Lounge, the Spinnaker Lounge, a covered Promenade Deck, a nice spacious pool area, and the Great Outdoors for meals. There were lots of open spaces enabling you to experience the sea with the wind in your hair.

·       Service with a smile, always!

·       Fun, uplifting solo-traveler activities planned and organized by Jefferson, devoted to our group. Some of the activities were as follows: nightly social gatherings, dinner with wine, bowling with champagne, 🎤 karaoke, a birthday party for Susie, going to see the show together, dancing together, sitting together for the Halloween party, going to the white party together etc. Many in the group even visited ports of call together.  Some have made friends for life and even found future travel buddies.  Some found romance. Jefferson was a class act! He is personable, helpful, reliable, patient, and always pleasant.

Karla and Jefferson

·    Good food around the clock. Fresh pineapple three times a day, chocolate melting cake on the menu every night in the elegant Summer  Palace dining room, fresh steamed and sautéed vegetables often, pretzel rolls, Vietnamese pho soup at lunch daily, good salads, grilled fish almost every day at lunch, numerous omelet-making stations, and more.  There were several big lunchtime barbecues out on the pool deck.

Breakfast on the Panama Canal

·       Good nightly entertainment. (ie 2 great comediennes, the production shows with excellent dancers and good singers.)

·       I enjoyed coffee on my balcony every morning while I meditated and read my prayers and affirmations.

·       Good weather for the most important ports of call including Santa Marta and Cartagena, Columbia; transiting the Panama Canal; and Costa Rica. 

Welcome to Santa Marta, Columbia

Leaving Cartagena

Costa Rica Jungle Cruise

·       I reached my 95th Nation visited with Belize.

·       Lots of great dancing. I won the best dancer, the first day, at the sail-away party. I was in a twist dance contest with Alfred from LA. I danced for more than an hour, nonstop at the white-hot party, poolside. I ballroom danced quite a bit with Alfred, a Filipino from LA and Villar, a Brazilian from San Francisco. Lots of fun dancing after dinner in the spinnaker lounge.

Happy Birthday Susie!

White Hot Party

·       The day before Halloween, 25 of us met to learn the "thriller dance" to perform in a flash mob just before the Halloween party started. It was so much fun; we were really impressed with ourselves!

·       I played trivia often. Our progressive trivia team discovered we won on the last day! We accumulated 35 points more than the next highest contender. We won real prizes including Tanzanite jewelry (necklace with pendant) from the gift shop.

·       I played Win, Lose or Draw and Scrabble.

·       I attended a few art history lectures and art auctions.

·       A fabulous Halloween. In addition to an incredible costume contest and dancing, they invested a lot of time in creating and constructing a wonderful haunted house in the Bliss Lounge. We laughed all night long. There were eight categories of costumes in the costume contest, including best man, best woman, funniest, best couple, most creative and more. My favorites were the towel head lady, the headless Horseman, and the beekeeper (Carl).

·       Joel and I wore large :-) 😃 smiley-face masks. I truly enjoyed watching other people's reaction to us. I kept walking up to people, getting in their faces, and smiling. Everyone always smiled back! It was a real pleasure experiencing the sensation of making others smile.

·       The entertainment staff was top notch including the cruise director, Daniel Olsson, who was a real pro, and of course, our Jefferson.

·       I met lots of special people including Susie, Imelda, Ronnie, Shanda, Mark, Carl, Villar, Alfred, Sashimi, my trivia mates, Valerie, Rhoda, and many more…… I witnessed Imelda wearing her first Halloween costume, attending her first Halloween party, and visiting her first haunted house.  I even hung out with Michael who was a solo traveler that I met on and Iceland, Norway, Denmark etc. cruise last month. He was on my winning progressive trivia team.

·       Watched numerous sunrises and sunsets and even a few from the comfort of my balcony.

·       Enjoyed the sail-ins up on deck into Santa Marta, Cartagena, Costa Rica, Belize, Honduras, Panama, and Costa Maya.

·       Helpful, comprehensive narration as we transited the Panama Canal. Perfect weather for the experience. They open the bow on deck eight so passengers could view the process of going through the locks, up close and personal.  Joel spent two hours at the very front of the bow.

Breakfast on the Panama Canal

From my balcony

·       Great line dancing on Norwegian cruise line. We even did the wobble and the Cupid shuffle and more.

·       Joel and I had a lovely dinner in Le Bistro, the French restaurant. It was elegant and the service was outstanding. The maître d' came over several times and the chef even visited our table. I had a very rich filet mignon, escargots, and we shared fondue for dessert. This was one of my free perks for being a Platinum member.

·       Norwegian Cruise line has an app that allows you to review your account, view all of the day’s activities, view all of the shore excursions, and text friends on board and more.  Importantly, the texting feature always worked!

·       All of the officers including the captain attended our cruise critic party on the first sea day. They were very attentive and were good listeners. They even scheduled a second, wrap-up session for us. Once again, all of the officers attended and listened to our comments carefully.

·       As a platinum member, I received a free “behind the scenes” tour. It was awesome! Included were a comprehensive visit to the restaurant galleys, the laundry area, and backstage. I learned a lot.  What an impressive operation this floating hotel is!!

Giant sheet dryer and folding machine

·       I had no real complaints to share at the front desk or in writing.

Alfred and Susie

Goodbye Show

This was truly one of my best trips! 

Places Where I Have Traveled *=more than once

  • India
  • China
  • Dubai
  • Egypt*
  • Russia*
  • Israel
  • Indonesia
  • Iceland
  • Cuba Aug 2016
  • Tahiti Feb 2016
  • Cook Islands Feb 2016
  • New Zealand Feb 2016
  • Australia Feb 2016
  • Belize
  • French Polynesia Jan 2016
  • Shetland Islands
  • Faroe Islands
  • Brunei
  • Morocco
  • Brazil*
  • Philippines
  • North Borneo
  • Crete*
  • Ionian Islands*
  • Singapore
  • Hong Kong
  • Azores*
  • Norway
  • Dodecanese Islands (Rhodes)
  • Bosnia
  • Palestein
  • Croatia
  • Romania
  • Argentina
  • Ecuador
  • Tunisia
  • Corsica
  • Bulgaria
  • Columbia
  • Peru
  • Montenegro
  • Columbia
  • Chile*
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Uruguay
  • Jordan
  • Gibraltar
  • Turkey*
  • Bermuda
  • Estonia*
  • Viet Nam
  • Finland*
  • Malta*
  • Thailand
  • Guatemala
  • Crete*
  • Jamaica*
  • Panama*
  • Grand Canyon
  • Scotland
  • Niagara Falls
  • Greece*
  • France* lived there
  • Japan*
  • Bilbao, Spain*
  • Canada*
  • Costa Rica
  • Bahamas*
  • Banff Hot Springs
  • Hawaii*
  • Italy*
  • Catalina Island
  • Luxembourg*
  • St Johns
  • St Marteen/St Martin
  • St Thomas
  • South Padre Island Texas
  • Mexico*
  • Vatican City*
  • Austria*
  • Denmark*
  • Monaco
  • Portugal*
  • Belgium*
  • Holland*
  • Ireland*
  • England*
  • Sweden*
  • Switzerland*
  • Spain*
  • Germany*


  • Pyramids at Giza
  • Taj Mahal
  • Climbed Great Wall of China
  • Western Wall-Jerusalem
  • Transited Panama Canal 3X
  • Rode Camel in Tunisia
  • fathom Adonia--1st US cruise ship to Cuba--Aug 2016
  • Old Town in Havana
  • Burj Kalifa in Dubai
  • Saw Kangeroos, Wallabees, and Koalas in Australia
  • Kayaked in Bay of Islands, New Zealand
  • Vaparreto # 1 in Venice
  • National Museum in Brunei
  • Saw Geysers Erupt in Iceland
  • Drink at Raffles Hotel-Singapore
  • Fish Spa in Greece and Philippines
  • The Peak in Hong Kong
  • Pedicab Tour in Manilla Philippines
  • Road Amalfi Coast, Italy
  • Chewed Gum in Singapore
  • Marched in St Pat's Day Parade in Dublin
  • Sailed Kotor Bay
  • Old Bridge in Mostar, Bosnia
  • Smithsonian Museums-DC
  • Toured Ancient City of Petra, Jordan
  • Transited Suez Canal
  • Rio for Carnivale 2X
  • Cruised along Cinque Terre, Italy
  • Fish Spa in Corfu, Greece (teeny fish scrubbed my feet!)
  • Subway in Russia
  • Flash Mob (dance) on stage on several cruises
  • Visted 21 Countries on 5 long cruises in 2012
  • Ceviche in Peru
  • Cremation Service in Bali
  • Saw Lamas in Lima
  • Vasa Museum-Stockholm
  • Buddhist Monastery in Viet Nam
  • Drove Amalfi Coast
  • Queen Mary 2
  • Berlin Wall
  • Mummies In Cairo Museum
  • Jordan River; Sea of Galilee
  • Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Luxor at Sunrise
  • Transited the Pirate-Infested Gulf of Aden
  • Ski Dubai
  • Fellucca Ride on the Nile at Sunset
  • 16-day Europe/Transatlantic on Queen Victoria
  • Tahrir Square-Cairo
  • Toured Pompeii
  • In Fashion Show Aboard Queen Victoria
  • Rode Elephants in Thailand and India
  • 7-Country Baltic Cruise
  • Hermitage Museum
  • Checkpoint Charlie
  • Transatlantic Crossing on QM2
  • Climbed Tikal in Guatemala
  • Mediterranean Cruise 6 countries
  • Audience with Swami in Rishikesh, India
  • Poetry Class in France
  • Kissed Blarney Stone
  • Pike's Fish Market in Seattle
  • Photo with Snake Charmer in India
  • Dacau near Munich
  • Hitchhiked from France to Scotland
  • Climbed Washington Monument in DC
  • Oktoberfest in Bavaria
  • Toured Panama Canal
  • Wine Country in France, California and many others
  • Guest of Placido Domingo in Chicago
  • The Alamo
  • United Nations
  • San Diego Zoo
  • Helicopter over Grand Canyon
  • Club Med in Cancun
  • Eurailpassed Twice Thru Europe
  • Hollywood
  • Albuquerque Hot-Air Balloon Festival
  • Rodeo in Dallas/Ft Worth
  • NCAA Playoffs in Charlotte and New Orleans
  • Cucchi Tunnels in Viet Nam
  • Grammys in New York
  • Paella in Spain
  • Rain Forest in Costa Rica
  • Xmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on 5th Avenue
  • Niagara Falls
  • Disney Land & Disney World
  • Voodoo Museum New Orleans
  • Cancun Jazz Festival
  • Reggae Sunsplash in Jamaica
  • Las Vegas for Trade Shows
  • Key West for Hemmingway Festival
  • Art Classes in Louvre
  • Black Ski Summit in Vail and Colorado Springs
  • Texas State Fair
  • Mardi Gras in New Orleans
  • Italian Class in France
  • Nude Sunbathing in St Marteen
  • Danish Pastry in Denmark
  • Palace of Knossos Crete
  • Anne Frank House Amsterdam
  • Karaoke in Japan
  • Leaning Tower of Pisa
  • Lobster in Maine