Wanderlust Home and Pet Care
A big snow storm came into the Denver area before our flight to Fort Lauderdale. Two nights before we were scheduled to depart, our flight was canceled. Gary spent 1 ½ hours on hold to reschedule. We decided to spend the night before the flight at the airport just to be safe and not chance bad roads. Once we checked into the new Westin, we were notified that the 2nd flight was canceled. Our 3rd flight was booked at 10:00 PM for Houston with a 7:10 AM connecting flight to Fort Lauderdale. Our twice delayed flight arrived in Houston at 2:30 AM. We rested in the “pay” massage chairs until 5:30. The chairs weren’t all that comfortable, and it was noisy but better than sitting on the plastic seating at the airport gate.
The early morning flight was canceled so one of us stood in line with dozens, (maybe I should say hundreds), of other folks. We had 4 more canceled flights and one more night stay in the terminal. The hotels within 120 miles were full with stranded people as Houston was under water. It was doubtful that any cab could have circumvented the flooded highways even if there was a room somewhere.
No flights left before noon and only a few left in the afternoon. We missed our cruise. We went to the chapel to get away from the terminal noise and had a better night’s sleep - we even got to lay down on the pew for awhile. Holland America told us to keep flying to Ft Lauderdale. All the passengers would then be flown as a group to the Azores.
We were confirmed for an evening flight the next day. We decided to stand by for the first morning flight to Fort Lauderdale. Gary was #12 and I was #14 on the stand-by list. To our amazement, we got on. This was the 8th flight that was rescheduled. Holland decided they will not fly all of us together or even book a flight since we were independent travelers. So … we had to find our own way to the Azores. Had I known this, we could have flown to a city with direct flights to the Azores.
United lost one of our bags. (Not surprising considering the huge logjam in Houston). It was still in Houston. I used an airport hotel kiosk to book a room for the night - ALRIGHT, we had a hotel room. Comfort Suites had really nice rooms and great Internet. I found a flight and booked an AirB&B in Ponta Degada, Portugal. The luggage showed up - YEAH! I think the bad luck is over - knock on wood.
Denver Blizzard April 16, 2016
Houston Flood, a one in 200 year event. Great timing on our part. The water depth reaches the bottom of the lights.
April 23, 16 Flew to Toronto and then on to the Azores. Arrived without incidence - Hurray! Our tour guide found us at the airport. It started out raining cats and dogs AGAIN. But did eventually clear enough to see the lakes inside the calderas. 40% of the island’s electricity comes from renewable energy - amazing for a small island. Scientist are unsure which tectonic plate the majority of the Azore Islands sits on. Two of the island are on the American plate just like the eastern half of Iceland. San Miguel is a beautiful island.
April 24 We spent the day walking the city - very cute and very clean. Had a lovely fresh fish of the day and a great bottle of white wine from the Alentejo region of Portugal. The meal and the wine were a reasonable price. While walking along the port we came across this sign for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, OMG. The Regal Princess was in port - OMG huge ship. As it was leaving the port, the ship’s horn placed the theme song from Love Boat - very cute!!
April 25 Geocaching Day We found 5 out of 5 so it was a very good day.
April 26 Still haven’t figured out how to make foreign calls on skype - do we drop the first number or add a zero??? Maria, our AirB&B host called a taxi to take us to the ship. Problem is, which ship is it - there are 2 in port? I finally see the name and of course it is the ship on the other side of the port. We get checked-in, got to the room and unpacked and feel the stress drain away - WE MADE IT. We have the beverage package as part of the sign up bonus (up to 15 drinks per day with a $8 max. EACH.) We don’t waste any time and hail the bartender.
April 29 A Coruna Spain. We did locate 2 out of 4 geocaches, saw a very old church built in the dark ages - it had a Roman feel to the architecture. From the on-board lectures, A Coruna played a part in contributing ships to the Spanish Armada which tried to invade Britain and convert the island to Catholicism back in the 1500’s. Even today, religion influences politics.
May 1 Cherbourg France. Geocached again in the “centre ville” which took us down small passages and to a WWII memorial. We had a lovely conversation with a French couple vacationing from the Pyrenees area. Their motor-home was parked in the lot for the port.
May 2 Blankenberg Belgium. The best geocache ever GC5GXFC! It was a cache inside a cashe. We had breakfast (coffee and an apple tart) while updating the web site and email. Then a quick walk of the town to the beach area with casinos, companies offering chair rentals and areas for the children to play - all very elaborate and restaurants galore.
May 3 Rotterdam Holland. No geocaches in town - strange. The ship offered a shuttle to the town center for shopping. We just walked the surrounding area and found an ATM. The city was leveled during the WWII in a 10 minute bombing run so all but a very few buildings are new. Very interesting architecture!
May 6 Warnemunde Germany. A short walk from the ship is this very cute resort town. Two cruise ships were visiting this town so we were thankful that we that we got an early start. The architecture seemed to have a dutch influence. What do you think?
May 8 Tallinn Estonia. What a wonderful little old town. It reminded me of Cesky Krumlov (remember kids?). Cobble stone streets leading into narrow alleys with the marvelous architecture of the Renaissance. I could easily come back for a few days to experience the daily life.
May 9 and 10 St Petersburg Russia. This city was a major part of the reason for taking this cruise. It was more than I expected. The city is on 42 islands and has 65 canals which is why it is called the Venice of the North. It is also the city of Palaces. It was handy to have the Romanoff family tree to keep the history straight (at least for me). Day one; a subway ride, the beautiful cathedral of Peter and Paul fortress, boat ride to the Peterhof (summer palace of Peter I, (Great)) and the Catherine’s Palace (named after Catherine the Great’s grandmother) but decorated by Catherine the Great. Day two: boat ride on the Neva river and a couple of the canals, The Hermitage or Winter Palace of Peter the Great, the cathedral of the Spilt Blood with all the walls and ceilings decorated in mosaic tile (OMG), the Yusonoff Palace and finally the Church of St Isaac - the 4th largest domed cathedral. I would definitely come back to see the buildings we couldn’t see.
May 11 Helsinki Finland. The city is small with only a few older buildings. Did learn that Finland and Russia have close ties which caused some issues during the Ukraine/Crimea sanctions. Ahhh politics - it is the same everywhere, greed and corruption. Loved the Lutheran church built into a rock!
May 12 Stockholm Sweden. I finally get to my great grandmother’s homeland. It is a wonderful city and too much to see in a day so we’ll have to come back especially since the tour was all from the bus - boo hoo!
May 14 It is a gloomy day in Kiel Germany but the only thing on our list of things to do is a Geocashe, “Hotel Scandinavia”. Gary thought it would be complicated but it was actually very easy. Yeah we now have the Germany souvenir.
May 15 Gotenburg Sweden Gary wasn’t in top form and with a gloomy/rainy day we decided to stay warm on the ship. We were given a fond farewell by the local high school band.
May 16 Helsingborg Sweden We tendered in on rough seas - the water was splashing in through the doors. It was like riding a bucking bronco! This picture is of the park in which the geocashe was located. It was a grand view from up on the ridge. The town was very cute with excellent architecture. Glad we came back to the ship when we did. The Captain stopped all tendering due to the rough seas which left passengers and crew in town. 9 buses were hired to bring those people still in town to Copenhagen - final port of call. The ship was unable to get the tenders back on board. A tug boat was hired to tow the tenders to Copenhagen. Wow - how lucky were we!!
May 17 Copenhagen Denmark. We disembarked the ship with luggage in hand to find the tour I had scheduled. It was a great tour of the parliament building and it’s tapestries, the Christianborg castle, and the harbor area. No tour would be complete without seeing the little mermaid made famous by Hans Christan Andersen and much later by Disney. We were dropped off at the train station which we rode to the airport. We had the best dish I have ever had at the airport - marinated herring with a glass of apple schnapps. Our flight was delayed due to air traffic in Paris-ugh. At 10pm we are trying to find information to help us locate the hotel shuttle. Note to self - never do so much in one day!!!
In summation, the cruise itinerary was wonderful. Holland America was a nice line but not our favorite. The food was average more times than not. The beverage package was a real eye opener but only if you can get it for free. You would have to be an alcoholic to get your monies worth.