Category: Cruises

As a rule I tend to avoid tourist hotspots, but sometimes it is fun to be a tourist in your own city. On a recent #OrangeFriday, (when San Francisco Giants players wear orange jerseys and fans do the same on Fridays during the season) I escorted two 10-year-old baseball fans on a Duck Boat Tour to McCovey Cove. The small cove next to the ballpark hosts a multitude of kayakers, paddle boarders and cocktail cruisers, and we were going to join them on a land- and sea-worthy Duck Boat.

We boarded the bus/boat at Fisherman’s Wharf all bundled up for the three-hour tour. I would recommend eating before or bringing a very portable picnic on the ride. The open air Duck Boat, based on the famous World War II amphibious design, was a fun way to travel and the kitschy mood on board was infectious. The driver was cheeky and cheesy but all in all he was quite entertaining.

We drove through North Beach and Chinatown, the Financial District and some of SOMA, till we plunged into the Bay, adding a Coast Guard trained guy to assist the one-man crew. It was a beautifully clear, warm night and as the sun set, the orange light twinkled on the Bay. The captain let the boys drive in the water and peppered the crowd with historical and amusing tidbits about the city. He was a one-man band, often cutting away to an appropriate tune: Otis Redding’s classic, Janis Joplin and other San Francisco inspired songs.

Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Cruises, Day Trips, Family Travel, San Francisco

I hate New Year’s resolutions. I like the idea of starting fresh, having goals, plans and renewed energy, but the cliché focus on resolutions is tired, in my opinion.  Yet, when I read this quote from Jay Leno, it got me thinking…

“Now there are more overweight people in America than average-weight people. So overweight people are now average…which means, you have met your New Year’s resolution.”

As Americans waistlines expand, there are so many ripple effects. From healthcare to clothing, design considerations to travel safety, more personal bulk means changing laws, rules and preconceived notions. I have heard sad tales of folks unable to squeeze into rides at Amusement Parks, being banned from bungee jumping, even forced to purchase two plane tickets because of size. That doesn’t even take into account self limitations because of shame or inability to maneuver. But, what about weight limits for boats, buses and other vehicles? More and more, places and companies are upping the average weight limit per person. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Air Travel, Cruises, Fishing, Food, New York, Overweight travelers, Pacific Northwest, Theme Park, Washington, Washington

We drove through Yosemite a few weekends ago. It was packed with summer travelers and waterfall gawkers. The major falls are glorious, and fuller than they have been in years. New, smaller falls have even appeared much to the delight of park goers.

As we drove through the park, out past Mono Lake, we were stunned by the high water levels and snowy peaks in early July. We laughed, thinking that we could even cross-country ski in some spots above 7000 feet.

Record snowfalls this winter and heavy unseasonable rain in summer have made conditions epic for nature lovers but also hazardous.

Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Budget Travel, California, Canoe/Kayak, Cross Country Skiing, Cruises, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Food, Hike/Backpack, Lake Tahoe, Mountain Biking, Northern California, Travel Safety, Yosemite, wildlife

“This has got to be the craziest sport I’ve ever done,” my friend George said to me as we rested on our mountain bikes gazing down a precipitous slope toward pine forest and spiky mountains in the distance. “Here we are in one of the most beautiful places on earth and when we’re on our bikes we can’t even look at the scenery!”

The mountain bike trails from the top of Sun Valley’s fabled Bald Mountain (9150 feet elevation) wind through meadows, switchback down sheer slopes, weave through pine forests, and really get the adrenaline flowing. We were cruising (or rather, braking) down eight-mile-long Warm Springs Trail because the friendly fellow who sold us tickets for the gondola to take us to the top sized us up and said, “Take Warm Springs Trail. You’ll see when you get up there that you have two choices, Cold Springs and Warm Springs. You folks want Warm Springs. It’ll be a lot better for you.” Then he grinned and said, as if questioning our resolve, “Cold Springs is not for the faint of heart.” Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Budget Travel, Cruises, Idaho, Mountain Biking, Sun Valley, Travel, United States

First timers may get a rude awakening when embarking on a cruise and discovering the high cost of added purchases such as shore excursions. Veteran cruisers don’t need a lot of advice about how to budget their money and time, and it isn’t rocket science to understand that extras cost extra.

But everyone can use the occasional tip, and Cruise Critic has put together a report on the Eight Hidden Costs of Cruising and how to avoid them.

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Cruises, Travel, Travel Tips

It’s the end of the trip — finally Istanbul!

Encouraged by the travel lecturer on board, we got up at 5:50 a.m. to look at the skyline of Istanbul as the ship made her way up the Bosporus to the Golden Horn. It was hazy out, but strengthened by reasonably good coffee and pastry we stared over the railing until the sun came up and the buildings became more visible.

It became quite beautiful — although while dawn on the Bosporus sounded like it would be high on my romantic index, there is something about standing among some two or three hundred red-eyed tourists that doesn’t exactly create an intimate moment. I did see a few couples holding hands — and one couple where a young woman watched the scenery go by in her partner’s arms — so there were romantic possibilities for people who were able to shut out the rest of the world and only see each other. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Cruises, Europe, Istanbul, Romance, Travel, Turkey

The next stop was Kusadasi, one of the most popular seaside resorts in Turkey and gateway to Ephesus, a world treasure, and a place I visited many years ago. I don’t remember seeing Kusadasi then but it is retail central, with an attractive harbor walk full of restaurants, jewelry and carpet shops. I gather, however, locals find it noisy and miss the far more humble fishing village it used to be.

We didn’t stay long. With a quite lovely and articulate guide to help us understand Ephesus we drove for about a half an hour to join the hordes at the ruins. Note to self: remember last time you were here? It was unbearably hot. New note to self: it was unbearably hot this time too. Pick new season next time.

Well, you might reasonably ask, if it was so ridiculously hot, and you’ve been there twice, why would you go again? The answer, oddly enough, is that even though we are talking about a city created by the ancient Romans, the place keeps changing. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Cruises, Ephesus, Europe, Greece, Romance, Travel, Turkey

We sailed to Turkey and I found the port at Bodrum to be a nice surprise. I hadn’t been to this city before and didn’t know what to expect. What I got was a luxury development, a town that increases tenfold in the good weather months (which is just about everything except January and February) and, because it is on the Turkish mainland, has become a destination resort for urban Turks and world travelers.

The port is about a seven euro (or 16 lira) ride from the center of the city. The road into town goes by what looks like a lovely hotel with a smashing view (Diamond of Bodrum), good looking apartments and condos, and settles down into a bustling, clean commercial center that is a short walk from the historic castle in the harbor.

Continue reading »

1 Comment | Filed Under Bodrum, Cruises, Europe, Greece, Romance, Travel, Turkey

Pulling into Rhodes is at first glance disappointing. The island has a big population, it’s the fourth largest Greek island, and the first thing one sees are big collections of condos and other modern buildings. This is kind of startling after Mykonos and Santorini have become your models for Greek islands.

However, as the boat turns to dock in the harbor abutting the medieval part of the city Rhodes Town comes into view, and it satisfies. The medieval fortress walls are impressive and the castle behind it is visible from the water. It’s “younger” than the ruins we have been seeing—and vaults us into visions of knights rather than Greek Gods. It’s actually refreshing to see a whole new kind of city. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Cruises, Europe, Greece, Romance, Travel

There may be no equal to Santorini as a romantic destination. I looked forward to seeing this island most of all because of how breathtaking I thought it was when I sailed into the caldera fifteen years ago.

Sometimes my memory exaggerates places — but in this case, not a bit. Santorini, seen by sea, is totally compelling. By day, it looks at first like snow is dusting the mountain — by night, it is a mass of twinkling lights, and you half expect everyone to break into dance and song a la Mama Mia. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Cruises, Europe, Greece, Romance, Travel