Monday, December 28, 2015

Post-Christmas Chez Nous

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Our 12 Months of Travel: 2015



 We counted ourselves so very fortunate to complete a lot of travel this year. After a status-match to Alaska Airlines, we found ourselves enjoying domestic trips on this friendly "little" airline that flies right out of next-door Bellingham. We've re-qualified for top-tier status in 2016 and look forward to more flights to new destinations in the coming year. 

Two highlights among many were visiting Fiji for the first time with our our Australian friends, Bill and Sue. Getting to know real Fijians and being honored as guests in their home was a wonderful experience.

Touring Europe with Avery, our second-eldest grandchild, was another highlight, and we're looking forward to another trip with Taegan, our third-eldest in March. Our month-by-month itinerary looked like this:

January 2015

France and Florida

San Diego

February 2015

Philadelphia

March 2015

Honolulu and Albuquerque

April 2015

Transatlantic cruise on Riviera

Xi’an China

May 2015

Fiji and New Zealand

July 2015

Europe with Avery

September 2015

Kathy’s 50th HS Reunion – Durango, Colorado

October 2015

Menton, France

November 2015

Germany, Switzerland, China

December 2015

Caribbean Cruise on Regatta

It's been a good year indeed!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Landing at YVR

Our second flight today was smoother than than the first, which was actually quite bumpy most of the way. Our status with Alaska allowed us to sit in exit rows on both flights, and it turned out the middle seats remained vacant, probably since it costs most people extra money to book and this was largely a tourist crowd. On the second flight we booked two aisle seats right across from each other, a nice arrangement that we've enjoyed before.

At Dallas we ran into two cruise mates with whom we've now sailed on two Oceania voyages. Vince and Vern started out from Miami yesterday but a mechanical problem and rolling delays resulted in American paying for their accommodations and food last night and this morning. It turned out we were on the same flight to Vancouver and even ended up at the baggage carousel together in YVR.

Maybe we'll end up on another Oceania cruise with them - it's a very addictive cruise line.

We landed in Vancouver a bit ahead of schedule. NEXUS was quick and easy, and once we'd collected the single box that we checked and made our way through one of the largest crowds awaiting international arrivals that we've ever seen at YVR, we caught a Park'N Fly shuttle, picked up our car, and drove south. The NEXUS line at the Peace Arch crossing didn't keep us waiting more than five minutes and we were back home probably within 90 minutes of our arrival, not bad on one of the busier travel days of the year.

On our way rushing from the plane to Immigration at YVR we snapped a couple of photos. We always feel guilty speeding by these beautiful sights so we'll take some time to enjoy them here. It's a beautiful airport and the art reinforces that we're back in a very special part of the world.






MIA-DFW on AA

We awoke early, no thanks to the Sheraton Miami Airport's wakeup call, which never came.

As a matter of fact, the phone in our room wouldn't let us reach the front desk, and nobody answered when we called on our cell phone.

The bus, surprisingly full, made its first stop at American's large checkin area. One family got off and had to reboard, as the driver hadn't bothered to announce the airline.

We checked in when the priority line opened at some point after 3:45. We had to check a box and learned that, while Alaska's top tier gives you some nice little perks on AA, they don't include a priority tag for checked luggage.

The nearby TSA PreCheck is open 24 hours - Yay! - and we breezed through it.

An odd little screwup occurred during boarding: The First Class cabin had already boarded and we were next in line but they got kicked off the plane. Why?

One flight attendant hadn't yet appeared and the gate agents had apparently first been told they could board passengers, before being told they couldn't.

Pleasingly, in light of the several glitches we encountered,the flight still left on time, amd our 85-minute layover in Dallas-Fort Worth should suffice.

Here's how Miami looked about 6:00 a.m. As we climbed out.




Saturday, December 19, 2015

Miami Lizard Spotting

We went for a little walk behind our hotel, where a waterway separates the property from a golf course.

What looked like a path from our window appears up close to be an effort to prevent erosion.

Suddenly a large lizard jumped out of the bushes and onto the cement blocks just a few feet in front of us. 

It (he or she) was about three feet long, with "spikes" on its back and a striped tail. 

A Mexican spiny-tailed iguana? Maybe, but we're not sure, and after the photo op we left the lizard alone.













Back on Land: Sheraton Miami Airport

We broke down on our last morning aboard Regatta and enjoyed Eggs Benedict. Disembarkation was smooth and easy, and we checked in at the Sheraton bright and early.

The last time we stayed here we had Platinum status and got a lousy room. Now that we're nobodies the charming young clerk found us a nice room at 9:00 a.m. Wow!

We'll relax today and try not to brood too much about tomorrow morning's 5:50 a.m. flight to DFW, and onward to YVR.

 Our view of a golf course and the megalopolis (a Team Trivia answer that we missed) beyond.


Friday, December 18, 2015

Sailing Toward Miami Aboard Regatta

We've enjoyed our 10-day cruise on Regatta, our 16th on Oceania.

While there have been some unusual service glitches, the employees are welcoming and friendly, and the food and dining experience has been wonderful.

Our CanAm team celebrating in Martinis Bar after our final triumph (well, second place)...



The ports have been less than exciting (and we anticipated that), but we've met some terrific fellow cruisers aboard as we played shuffleboard, table tennis, and golf putting.

Our trivia team was made up of congenial - and smart- folks from Indiana, Ontario, and Wales. We've placed among the leaders most days and won outright more than once. Great fun!

Last night we were pleased to join Captain Hansen, three other couples, and the ship's Environment Officer for dinner in the Main Dining Room.

Between the intimate and informal atmosphere on this small ship and the dining, there's little not to like.

For example, lunch today....

Veal Involtini stuffed with spinach and capers...

A taste of Italy...


Enjoying the view from Horizons, forward on the top deck yesterday afternoon...


It'll be back to reality soon enough.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Philipsburg, St. Maarten

This was our favorite port on this cruise. While there is a newish large open area of shops built specifically for cruise ship passengers that we recall from previous visits, we took the $7 ferry over to the downtown area. 

We strolled along a quaint little street, bought a couple of little Christmas presents in one of the many stores lining the street, and then made our way back to Regatta in time to play some table tennis and then enjoy lunch in the main dining room.








Tuesday, December 15, 2015

St. Lucia

The ports can look quite similar and we had no special plans. A quick walk off as we're funneled through a sort of duty-free mall past the touts and guides onto a hot street and we soon reboarded a quiet ship.

We're sharing the port with a couple of big ships, along with Silversea, which is more our size.






Monday, December 14, 2015

St. John's Antigua

We "share" this port with one of the huge European ships, MSC Opera.

We got off, wangled our way past the wall-to-wall touts, and soon reboarded.






Wednesday, December 9, 2015

LAX-MIA in AA Economy

After walking the LAX tunnels from Terminal 6 to 4 (thankfully inside security), we boarded our flight with a minimum of hassle, stopping only to buy sandwiches to take aboard. The 15-minute walk (there's also a bus) was a good chance to stretch our legs in the midst of a long day of sitting.




The flight was about as good as it could be - exit row on a 777-200.

It was noisy but we had a lot of leg room.


Quite a lineup getting off our plane, one that we're not used to, spoiled as we are.


We're now about to check out of the Embassy Suites, an okay place to spend a night, and will get ourselves to the Cruise Port of Miami and Oceania's Regatta.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

YVR-LAX in AS F

We were in the last row of First on a surprisingly empty plane.

The first 40 minutes of the flight were quite bumpy, ranging up to occasional moderate chop, as pilots describe it.

Our friendly crew then hustled out tasty knife-and-fork breakfast sandwiches.

We landed way early at LAX and were punished with a long wait before we finally arrived at our gate about five minutes before schedule.

We used a couple of our passes to enter the Akaska Boardroom lounge, where we are enjoying the famous pancakes and saviring the memory of - sigh - our only flight in First of our four legs to and from Miami.

With a three-hour layover, we have a lot of time to relax before walking through tunnels from Terminal 6 to 4 and our AA flight to Miami (exit row on an international 777).

When you depart at 6:00 a.m. on a rainy December day in Vancouver, it's kinda dark.



Tasty breakfast.



A glimpse of the famous HOLLYWOOD sign on approach.



LAX Boardroom 


Pancakes - Yum!