April 20th, 2016 - Day 18 - Docked at Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

We woke up docked at the pier in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.   

We we had breakfast at the Terrace Cafe.   

Our tour is to Majestic Kinabalu Park. We met at 8:00 AM in the Insignia Lounge and exchanged our tickets for Bus #1.  Our guide is David from China.

Things we learned from our guide:

If you go into a coffee shop in town you would find 15 different nationalities.

Some houses are built on stilts so wild life won't get into the house as well as storage for cars and other things.  We saw clothes lines under the house.

No one honks their horns when driving as they think it is rude.  They are patient people.

Women now work in stores but it use to be the men.  The men would never bring the money home as they would go out drinking.  The women said that the men work in the fields and they will mind the store so the money comes home.

The average monthly salary is $900 but he said the cost of living is low.

They are rich in oil and gas and gas is very cheap.

National cars made in Malaysia are Proton & Perodua.

600 spieces of birds

49 spieces of birds in Kinabalu Park

6000 spieces of trees

1200 spieces of orchids

3 seasons

Hot

Hotter

Hottest

The main road to park was built in the 1980's. Our drive took 2 hours but it use to take 3 days on the muddy road.

Found in the jungle a cure for AIDS from the tree bark.

They get a special oil from a tree that sold for $1500 an ounce and it's very expensive.  They sell this oil to Chanel to put in their perfumes.

Pineapple is very sweet because the water runs off.

60 churches in Sula of all religions, Catholic, Islam, Mormans, 7th Day Adventist and more.

Christianity was prevalent and brought in by Spaniards.  In the 1980's the government said if you convert to Islam we will give you some land and help with education.  So they converted but some still observe their natural roots. 

Only 90 permits are given out  per day for people to do the climb to Mt Kinabalu.  When they get to the entrance they must show their permit, a lodging  reservation and have a guide or they will be be able to get in the gate.

Mount Kinabalu is a prominent mountain on the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia. It is located in the East Malaysian state of Sabah and is protected as Kinabalu Park, a World Heritage Site.

After an hour and  45 minutes drive we stopped at Nabalu Market.  There was a panoramic view of Mount Kinabalu where we had time to take pictures. We walked around the market stores where they were selling T-shirts and other souvenirs.  Jim found a T-shirt for himself and one for Thatcher.  Pat found some pens for Thatcher to give to his classmates when Bubba & Papa get home.

It took another 20 minutes to get to Mount Kinabulu. We toured the Sulu Sulu Nature Trail which is home to lots of flora and fauna.  It has 1200 species of Orchids but we maybe saw 3 different kinds.  The first one we saw was the pinpoint orchid which is the smallest orchid in the world and I don't think Pat was able to even get a picture of it as it was so small.  I don't think we were in the correct season to see blooming orchids.  Our guide, David, pointed out different trees and different plants and showed us a curly stem tree.  It was interesting to walk through the jungle.  They have carved out a path of stairs with rocks and wood.  They have king cobras, flying snakes, pit vipers which are some of the deadliest snakes in the world.  Jim looked high and low to find a snake but he never found one.  We did see the empty shell of a cicada on a tree trunk.

The hike led us out to the top of the street and we walked to Liwagu Restaurant where we enjoyed a local buffet.  We were able to sit outside and enjoy the jungle view.  We were there about an hour and sat with a couple, from York, England, who we enjoyed talking with.

After lunch we took a hike through the Mountain Garden to view it's collection of rare plants.  We saw native orchids and unique Pitcher plants.

We went back to the bus for our 2 Hour drive back to the pier.  After about 15 minutes we stopped along the side of the road to take a picture of Mount Kinabalu. One of the people we know, Steve, fell into a cement rain drain while getting off the bus.  It was a bad fall.  Steve said the only thing that broke was a filter on his big camera.  But I bet he will be hurting tomorrow.

We got back on the ship and it was time for High Tea.  We went for a scone with clotted cream with jam.  Pat had green tea and Jim had orange pekoe tea.  We had a lovely view out the front of the ship.

We had dinner in the Grand Dining Room.

Pat had Heirloom Tomato Carpaccio and Sicilian Tomato Basil Press with Cream of Buffalo Mozzarella for her appetizer.  Pat's salad was Boston Lettuce with Crumbled Gorgonzola and Sweet Pecans in Raspberry Vinaigrette.  For her main course Pat had Capellini alla Emilio: Angel Hair Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, Artichokes and Buffalo Mozzarella.

Jim had Chesapeake Bay Crab Cake with Vegetable Slaw and Roasted Tomato Cream Sauce for his appetizer.  Jim's salad was Boston Lettuce with Crumbled Gorgonzola and Sweet Pecans in Raspberry Vinaigrette.  For his main course he had Local Grouper Fish with lemon sauce,  rice pilaf and mashed potatoes.

We came back to the room so that we could call home.  We had to wait until Kent woke up.  We got to talk to Thatcher just as he woke up.  That always makes our day to hear his voice. 

Goodnight Kota Kinabalu!

August 19th, 2016 - Day 17 - Cruising The Sulu Sea

Today we woke up to the ocean and such a beautiful color blue and clear.  We are cruising about 15 knots and the temperature is 82 degrees.

We had breakfast in the Grand Dining Room.  Jim had oatmeal.  Pat tried something new -Eggs Benedict on chibata bread with Italian sausage and pesto hollandaise sauce.  It was good.

At 9:30 AM we went to the Enrichment Lecture with Harry Chittick:  "Message in a Bottle… Murder, Marconi and Saving Lives".  Harry Chittick mixes a murder in London, a crazy Italian and a new invention together to shed new light on the worst nautical disaster ever... The Titanic.  It was interesting.

We had lunch at the Waves Café.  Jim has been wanting a hamburger and french fries so we split it.  Jim had a chocolate milkshake with whipped cream on top.  He loved it.  We had mint chip ice cream for dessert.

We had a lazy afternoon reading.  Jim took a nap.

We had dinner in the Terrace Cafe.  Pat had chicken, pineapple and vegetables that they cooked in a wok.  Jim had beef goulash, mashed potatoes and cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto.  We both had hummus and pita bread.

For dessert Jim had banana ice cream with no sugar and Pat had mint chip with not too many chips. We shared an apple strudel dessert that had too many raisins for Pat and a little sliver of New York cheesecake.

We came back to the room and read and Jim watched some TV news that was the morning news in America. 

Goodnight from the Sulu Sea!

April 18th, 2016 - Day 16 - Anchored off Boracay Island, Philippines

This morning we woke up cruising into Boracay Island, Philippines.  We were anchored off the Island.  There are lots of boats around with parasailing, banana boats and kayaking.

We had breakfast at the Terrace Café.

Our tour today is Island Hopping.  Our group met at 11:30 AM in the Insignia Lounge to go together.

Boracay Island has been hailed by numerous publications as one of the best tropical islands in the world. Millions of tourists from all over the world come and experience it's pristine white beaches, exciting activities, authentic cuisines and wide range of accommodation facilities and exhilarating night life. It is all delivered with a distinct Filipino brand of hospitality.

We took a tender to the pier so that we could board our catamaran for our 5 hour tour.

As got on the boat and we were all given a life vest that we had to put on.  Our guide's name was Loverlee.  She told us we were not old that we were all 19 and we could do anything.  Ha!  One woman said she wanted to be 21 so that she could drink.  Ha!  There were 22 of us on the tour.

We cruised along the water where we could see the coast of Boracay Island and she pointed out different sites to us.  She pointed out the night life section as well as some hotels. She showed us Manny Pacquiao's home, the famous Philippine boxer,  that is running for the Senate in his country.  His home was built on a cliff and looks like a big white clamshell.

Our first stop was to the Coral Gardens where we anchored in the water and was able to get out and snorkel.  Although it was a little difficult to get out on their ladder.  Supposedly this is a popular site but there were maybe 10 little fish and not much coral to look at and most of us thought it was a dud.  We were there 45 minutes.

Then we went to Diniwid Beach and they pulled up on shore so we could enjoy this white sand  beach with time to relax and swim.  We were given an hour and 45 minutes here which we all thought was too much time.  Up on the beach they had bamboo loungers with bamboo umbrellas for shade that were free to lay on but you had to buy drinks.  The bamboo loungers were very hard to lay on.  We ordered the local beer, San Miguel Philippine beer, for $4.00 each.

While sitting on the loungers we had many ladies come up and ask if we wanted to buy souvenirs, have a pedicure or massage.  We finally had to put sunglasses on and lay back like we were asleep to avoid being asked.

A little later there was a guy walking around with a Styrofoam chest that was selling ice cream bars. We bought a magnum ice cream bar and shared it for $5.00.  They were going to return change from the $10 bill in Philippine pesos but we did not have any use for pesos as we were leaving the Philippines so Pat said never mind.  We needed American dollars back and all of a sudden they found a five dollar bill for change.  So we enjoyed the ice cream bar.

Our next stop was anchored off Balinghai Beach for more snorkeling.  They gave us 30 minutes at this location.  Pat went in and Jim stayed on the boat.  This was such a beautiful location and Pat saw lots of schools of fish in different colors, yellows, blues, greens and combination of colors.  She found Nemo and sine stripped fish.  There was beautiful coral with unusual shapes, a big round white ball, purple moving coral and so much more.  It was quite the experience.  Pat remembers the quiet of being underwater and hearing her Darth Vader breathing from the snorkel.  When Pat got back on board she asked if that was all the snorkeling and the girl said yes so Pat turned in her mask and snorkel.

Then we had one last stop for 30 minutes which was at Lobster Rock for more snorkeling.

Since Pat had turned in her gear she stayed in the boat with Jim.  About 10 people went out snorkeling and when they came back they said it was the best spot of all.  So Pat was sorry she missed it but she had loved what she had seen at the stop before.

We were told to stay hydrated because the temperature was 105 degrees and high humidity but in the shade we were ok.  On the water we never felt hot.  There was always a breeze blowing.

We went back to the pier and caught our tender back to the ship.

We set sail at 6:40 PM.

We had dinner in the Grand Dining Room.

Jim had Sturgeon Caviar with Buckwheat Blinis and Traditional Garnish for his appetizer.  He had mixed greens and watercress and radishes with celeriac and mustard seed dressing.  I told Jim I was surprised he was ordering that salad because I didn't think he liked watercress.  Jim said he likes watercress, those white things in Chinese food, and I said those were water chestnuts.  Ha!  For his main course he had Roasted Prime Rib of Black Angus Beef with Bordelaise Sauce, mashed potatoes and vegetables.

Pat had Molten Cheese Soufflé  with Chive Veloute  for her appetizer.  Her salad was Baby Spinach with Toasted Pine Nuts and Warm Bacon Dressing.  For her main course she had local fish Lolu Lolu with garlic rice. 

Jim said that Pat's first 2 courses were better than his.

We shared a dessert - 9 minute Molten Volcano Chocolate Cake with ice cream.  Jim liked the cake and Pat liked the ice cream

Good Night Boracay Island!

April 18th, 2016 - Day 16 - Anchored off Boracay Island, Philippines

This morning we woke up cruising into Boracay Island, Philippines.  We were anchored off the Island.  There are lots of boats around with parasailing, banana boats and kayaking.

We had breakfast at the Terrace Café.

Our tour today is Island Hopping.  Our group met at 11:30 AM in the Insignia Lounge to go together.

Boracay Island has been hailed by numerous publications as one of the best tropical islands in the world. Millions of tourists from all over the world come and experience it's pristine white beaches, exciting activities, authentic cuisines and wide range of accommodation facilities and exhilarating night life. It is all delivered with a distinct Filipino brand of hospitality.

We took a tender to the pier so that we could board our catamaran for our 5 hour tour.

As got on the boat and we were all given a life vest that we had to put on.  Our guide's name was Loverlee.  She told us we were not old that we were all 19 and we could do anything.  Ha!  One woman said she wanted to be 21 so that she could drink.  Ha!  There were 22 of us on the tour.

We cruised along the water where we could see the coast of Boracay Island and she pointed out different sites to us.  She pointed out the night life section as well as some hotels. She showed us Manny Pacquiao's home, the famous Philippine boxer,  that is running for the Senate in his country.  His home was built on a cliff and looks like a big white clamshell.

Our first stop was to the Coral Gardens where we anchored in the water and was able to get out and snorkel.  Although it was a little difficult to get out on their ladder.  Supposedly this is a popular site but there were maybe 10 little fish and not much coral to look at and most of us thought it was a dud.  We were there 45 minutes.

Then we went to Diniwid Beach and they pulled up on shore so we could enjoy this white sand  beach with time to relax and swim.  We were given an hour and 45 minutes here which we all thought was too much time.  Up on the beach they had bamboo loungers with bamboo umbrellas for shade that were free to lay on but you had to buy drinks.  The bamboo loungers were very hard to lay on.  We ordered the local beer, San Miguel Philippine beer, for $4.00 each.

While sitting on the loungers we had many ladies come up and ask if we wanted to buy souvenirs, have a pedicure or massage.  We finally had to put sunglasses on and lay back like we were asleep to avoid being asked.

A little later there was a guy walking around with a Styrofoam chest that was selling ice cream bars. We bought a magnum ice cream bar and shared it for $5.00.  They were going to return change from the $10 bill in Philippine pesos but we did not have any use for pesos as we were leaving the Philippines so Pat said never mind.  We needed American dollars back and all of a sudden they found a five dollar bill for change.  So we enjoyed the ice cream bar.

Our next stop was anchored off Balinghai Beach for more snorkeling.  They gave us 30 minutes at this location.  Pat went in and Jim stayed on the boat.  This was such a beautiful location and Pat saw lots of schools of fish in different colors, yellows, blues, greens and combination of colors.  She found Nemo and sine stripped fish.  There was beautiful coral with unusual shapes, a big round white ball, purple moving coral and so much more.  It was quite the experience.  Pat remembers the quiet of being underwater and hearing her Darth Vader breathing from the snorkel.  When Pat got back on board she asked if that was all the snorkeling and the girl said yes so Pat turned in her mask and snorkel.

Then we had one last stop for 30 minutes which was at Lobster Rock for more snorkeling.

Since Pat had turned in her gear she stayed in the boat with Jim.  About 10 people went out snorkeling and when they came back they said it was the best spot of all.  So Pat was sorry she missed it but she had loved what she had seen at the stop before.

We were told to stay hydrated because the temperature was 105 degrees and high humidity but in the shade we were ok.  On the water we never felt hot.  There was always a breeze blowing.

We went back to the pier and caught our tender back to the ship.

We set sail at 6:40 PM.

We had dinner in the Grand Dining Room.

Jim had Sturgeon Caviar with Buckwheat Blinis and Traditional Garnish for his appetizer.  He had mixed greens and watercress and radishes with celeriac and mustard seed dressing.  I told Jim I was surprised he was ordering that salad because I didn't think he liked watercress.  Jim said he likes watercress, those white things in Chinese food, and I said those were water chestnuts.  Ha!  For his main course he had Roasted Prime Rib of Black Angus Beef with Bordelaise Sauce, mashed potatoes and vegetables.

Pat had Molten Cheese Soufflé  with Chive Veloute  for her appetizer.  Her salad was Baby Spinach with Toasted Pine Nuts and Warm Bacon Dressing.  For her main course she had local fish Lolu Lolu with garlic rice. 

Jim said that Pat's first 2 courses were better than his.

We shared a dessert - 9 minute Molten Volcano Chocolate Cake with ice cream.  Jim liked the cake and Pat liked the ice cream

Good Night Boracay Island!

April 17, 2016 - Day 15 - Docked in Manila, Philippines

Today we arrived in Manila with 2 High School  Bands welcoming us to the pier.  We had set an alarm for 6:15 AM and I think if we hadn't woken up the bands would have woken us up 5 minutes later.

We had breakfast in the Terrace Cafe.

We had to meet in the Insignia Lounge at 7:30 AM for our tour of Old and New Manilla.

Our guide for Bus # 7 is Noven.  She said parents name their kids the month they are born in and she is a November baby so the name is Noven.  She said she was 40 and might marry when she was 50 as then it would be true love as there is no divorce in the Philippines.

We started our tour driving through the old section of Manila to an area  called the Suckling Pig. There they had pigs roasting and hanging up by their feet for your purchase.  Philippine people like to celebrate everything so for Grandpa's 80th birthday the family buys a pig and they cost about $600.  They feel it is worth it to celebrate as this event will never happen again and they like to celebrate everything.

On our way we could see the slum areas which showed dilapidated rooms, beggars and the streets full of trash.

Our next stop was the Chinese Cemetery.  In death Manila’s wealthy Chinese citizens are buried with every modern convenience in the huge Chinese Cemetery.  It's far from your ordinary cemetery and instead feels like a residential suburb with streets lined with mausoleums – some that feature crystal chandeliers, air-conditioning , hot and cold running water, kitchens and flushing toilets (in case the interred are caught short on the way to Paradise).

Jim asked the policeman, our escort, if Pat could sit on the Police motorcycle and he let us so Jim could take a picture.  Then our guide took a picture of both of us with Jim sitting on it.  I don't think this would have happened in the United States.  The police were all armed.   

We drove through the Dimasalang Flower Market.  The market is composed of several small individually-owned stalls and street vendors selling flowers wholesale and retail 50 to 90 percent cheaper than flower shops.

Our next stop was to the Manila American Cemetery and  Memorial. 

On Dec 7th, 1941 simultaneous attacks on Pearl Harbor,  Hawaii and The Philippines led to war. For six months the US Army Forces, made up of US Military, Philippine Military and Philippine Scouts, held off the Japanese until surrendering.  On April 9th, 1942 the remaining US Forces surrendered on Bataan and 76,000 prisoners, 12,000 of which were Americans, began a 65 mile march to a prisoner of war camp.  Of the 30,000 Americans captured in The Philippines nearly 11,000 died in captivity. On July 5th 1945 The Philippines was liberated at a cost of another 14,000 Americans.

The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial is operated by the American Battle Monuments Commission which operates 24 cemeteries in various parts of the world. These cemeteries are the final resting place for thousands of American military that have died in previous wars.

The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial is the largest of the 24 both in area and in number of graves. 16,636 military dead from WWII rest here along with 570 Philippine Nationals who were serving with the US Forces. Additionally 32,520 Americans and 3,762 Philippine Nationals whose remains were never recovered or identified are inscribed in the walls of the memorial. There are 20 sets of brothers buried here and 29 recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

It was a very moving experience to realize how many people lost their lives in war.

We had a Police Escort as busses 7 & 8 were going to sightsee then have lunch.  We got a little behind bus 8 so the Police Escort came for us and made us turn right instead of staying with bus 8.  Finally the police came to the side of the driver and talked and they pulled over in the street and our guide got out and talked to the police.  He thought we were going to lunch and the guide said it was to early and we needed to see some of the new areas of Manilla first.  So we turned around and he took us back to see the things we had missed.

We saw the largest mall which is the Asia Mall, saw the Skating Rink.  Saw a Ferris wheel  near Manila Bay.  Although they did say it was not good to go in Manila Bay as that is where all the sewage goes for 10 million people.  We saw the hotel that had been built quickly in less than 90 days and it collapsed killing the people inside that were working on it.

We had lunch at the Diamond Hotel.  Corniche is the Diamond Hotel's restaurant located at the lobby level of the hotel.

As we walked in people were there to greet us saying welcome...it made us feel like royalty after our police escort ran  lights and showed us the way to the hotel.  There was even a sign welcoming the Insignia guests to the hotel. 

The buffet selection had Asian, Philippine, Western, Japanese, bread/rolls, salad and dessert stations, all prepared by culinary experts.  It was an amazing buffet and the dessert section was the best.  The people serving the food were so friendly and posed so easily for a photo.

On our way out of the hotel we went to the gift shop and Jim found a necklace to buy for Pat as her souvenir from Manila. We had trouble figuring out the conversion rate but we finally found our guide to tell us that it was not thousands of dollars.  We would ask the girl in the shop about the conversion rate and she would get on the phone and talk to someone.  I don't think she could understand English very well as to what we were asking.  They had someone else come to use the credit card machine for the purchase.  We finally finished and got back on the bus.  A score for Pat with a new necklace.

After lunch we went to Rizal Park which is spread out over some 60 acres of open lawns, ornamental gardens, ponds, paved walks and wooded areas, dotted with monuments to a whole pantheon of Filipino heroes. As the place where José Rizal was executed by the Spanish colonial authorities, it's of great historical significance. We saw the Rizal Monument fronted by a 46m flagpole, which contains the hero’s mortal remains and stands as a symbol of Filipino nationhood.

The park is divided into three sections. At the edge of the middle section is the Site of Rizal’s Execution; at the entrance is a black granite wall inscribed with Rizal’s ‘Mi Ultimo Adios’ (My Last Farewell).  Eight sections of life-size bronze statues recreate the dramatic last moments of the hero’s life.

We stopped at the Intramuros Visitors Center, which showed us a film of the beginning of Manila.   

We visited Fort Santiago, which is one of the most important historical sites in Manila and built by the Spanish conquistador, Miguel López de Legazpi, as a defensive fortress designed to protect the newly formed city of Manila. It is a key feature of the famous Walled City of Manila, which is referred to as Intramuros.

José Rizal, considered a national hero in the Philippines, was imprisoned at Fort Santiago before his execution in 1896, as were countless others. It played a role in the city’s penal and defense system all the way up to World War II, and has been occupied by: the Spanish, free Filipinos, the US (the Stars and Stripes were raised there in 1898), and the Japanese Imperial Army.

Today, this beautiful, 16th century structure is home to a shrine dedicated to Rizal, which includes a set of bronze footprints laid onto the street outlining the great man’s final steps as he was led to his death.

After walking around we stopped at the Handicraft Store for a few minutes before we boarded the bus.  I found a couple of beaded necklaces to add to my collection.

Pat was followed by a man trying to sell her pearl necklaces in little packages.  He kept saying one for $10 and then he went down to  2 for $10 then he went 3 for $10.  I kept saying no as they were not something I wanted as they look like necklaces for a child and we think they were made of plastic. But he just kept following me.  We got on the bus and he kept knocking at my window. I finally just had to smile at him and not look anymore.  It was kind of funny.

The funny thing was he showed up at the next stop and started again trying to sell me these necklaces.  I patted him on the back and laughed.  I could not believe how persistent he was.

We arrived at Saint Agustin Church Museum which It is part of the San Agustin church structure and there were really huge long corridors with paintings and artifacts! There's a beautiful rectangular garden surrounded by the structure and so peaceful.

The exhibits are very well presented, documented and organized in different rooms. There's also a video presentation of the history which shows some of the exhibits.

The San Agustin Church was the only building left intact after the destruction of Intramuros in WWII.  Built between 1587 and 1606, it is the oldest church in the Philippines.  The massive facade conceals an ornate interior filled with objects of great historical and cultural merit. There are intricate trompe l’oeil frescoes on the vaulted ceiling.

The present structure is actually the third to stand on the site and has weathered seven major earthquakes, as well as the Battle of Manila.

There was a wedding taking place in the Saint Agustin Church so we walked around and was able to get a peek of the wedding.  Then the wedding party came out and we were able to walk inside the church as they were setting up for another wedding.  It’s an active church and much in demand for weddings and other ceremonies as we saw how busy they were for weddings on this Sunday. 

We drove a short distance back to the ship.

At about 5:15 PM the 2 bands that had started the day playing music for us came out and entertained us again for the next 2 hours before we left Manila.  The director for the red band entertained us with his passion for getting the kids to play.  What great spirit these kids had giving their all to play and entertain us.  There was a bald drummer that was fantastic that Jim especially enjoyed.  As we were leaving  the pier at 7:15 PM they all stood in one  long line playing Auld Lang Syne and waving.

We were tired after our long day because it was so warm, 99 degrees, and humid so we ate at the Terrace Café.

Good night Manila...cruising to Boracay, Philippines!

April 16th, 2016 - Day 14 - En route to Manilla, Philippines

We woke up cruising the South China Sea on our way to Manilla.

We had breakfast at the Terrace Cafe.

Pat did laundry today and it was pretty painless.

We had a mandatory lifeboat drill at 10:15 AM because every 14 days it is a required safety drill on a cruise this length.

We had to do a mandatory temperature check with the public health officers from the Philippines in the Insignia Lounge for us to get our landing card to enter the Philippines.  Pat's card was there but Jim's wasn't so they had to get the authorities to sign one for him.

We had lunch in the Terrace Café.

At 1:30 PM we had wine  tasting in Toscana. It was called Food and Wine Pairing.  We tried 17 different combinations of food such as plain chicken, spicy chicken, brie cheese, yellow cheese, lemon, mango and tomato.  We tried these foods with the five different wines.  We took sips of wine after we had eaten different combination of foods.  It was interesting.

1.  Bex Reisling, Nahe, Germany

2. Nobilo Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand

3. Macon Chaintre Chateau De Chaintre, Burgundy, France

4. Robert Mondavi Carneros Pinot Noir, Napa Valley, California

5. St. Francis Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma, California

Afterwards we spent the afternoon on the ninth level in the Spa outside area and had a Jacuzzi and laid on a Balinese day bed.  We stayed up there way past dark.  We left about 7:15 PM to go back to our room so we could get ready for dinner.

We had reservations at 8:00 PM at Toscana  restaurant.

Jim had carpaccio of beef for his appetizer, a Caesar salad, and for his main course he had Dover sole with mashed potatoes. Palou, our waiter, was from Portugal and we had a nice discussion of the country of Portugal.

Pat had tomato and mozzarella salad, volcano spaghetti, a green salad and Seabass for her main course.

We had a dessert that was recommended by the chef that was chocolate and a cream filling inside.  Jim likes dark chocolate and he said it was the best dark chocolate he ever had.

We had a nice dinner and enjoyed our time in the specialty Italian Restaurant.

Good night from the South China Sea!

April 15th, 2016 - Day 13 - En route to Manila, Philippines

Today we woke up to cruising the Philippine Sea.  Nothing but ocean out our window.

We had breakfast in the Grand Dining Room. Jim had scrambled eggs, bacon, lyonnaise potatoes and sourdough toast.  Pat had a sugar donut that she shared with Jim and to counteract the donut she had a yogurt parfait with berries and granola.  Ha!

It is 72° out and somewhat muggy.  We walked around the ship and decided to relax in our room and read.

For lunch we had a slice of pizza in the Terrace Café.  Jim had a chocolate chunk cookie that he could not find any chocolate chunks in it.  He also had a little pastry that had cream filling inside that he really liked.  Pat had a lemon tart which was delicious. We shared a scoop of pecan ice cream.

Pat sat on the veranda in the afternoon to dry her hair.

For dinner we ate in the Grand Dining Room.

Pat had cream of potato soup.  Her main course was grilled Florida lobster tail with Rougail sauce and rice with asparagus.  It was delicious the sauce was Asian spicy.

Jim had fingerling potato with sturgeon caviar and lemon sour cream for his appetizer.  He had cream of potato soup which was supposed to be vichyssoise but it was hot instead of cold.  For his salad he had butter lettuce with crumbled Danish bleu cheese.  For his main course he had Risotto alla pescatori con fruitti de mar e limone.  He enjoyed his meal.

For dessert we shared the Grand Marnier soufflé with vanilla sauce.

Another fine day of eating!

Goodnight from the sea!

April 14th, 2016 - Day 12 - Docked at Naha (Okinawa), Japan

We woke up cruising The East China Sea.

We enjoyed breakfast at the Grand Dining Room.  It is always relaxing to sit there as Jim drinks his coffee Pat drinks her green tea.

Our tour today  is the Battle of Okinawa.  We drove to the Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters which took approximately 30 minutes.  Our guide is Yoko Tanaka.  It was a little hard to understand her English.

The Headquarters is dug into a hillside outside of Naha city and is one of the islands most somber reminders of the bloody Battle of Okinawa.  In 1944, the Japanese Navy Corps of Engineers dug a 450 meter simi-circular  tunnel complex to serve as an underground headquarters.

Towards the end of the battle, as things began to get hopeless, the commanding officer,  General Minoru Ota, and 175 of his staff committed suicide in the tunnels. In 1970, most of the tunnels were restored and opened up for the public.

Inside the Headquarters there is a museum as well as the tunnels themselves. The museum has a complete translation of the message left by Admiral Ota just before he killed himself.  In this message, General Ota details the sacrifice of the Okinawan people and asks that they be given “special consideration” by the Japanese government.

After we looked through the small museum, we walked down 105 stairs to the Headquarters.  Walking through the corridors of the tunnels, it really strikes you how much intense work was put into digging out these tunnels and caves considering it was all done by hand. You can distinctly see the  marks left by the pick axes.

Not all of the Headquarters has been restored, but you can walk through about 300 meters of the original 450 meters. Among the rooms, there is the Commanding Officer’s room where General Ota left his final message and a staff room where you can clearly see the holes in the walls left by the shrapnel from a hand grenade when someone committed suicide.

Our next stop was to the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Park which is located on a very large site on Mabuni Hill where the Battle of Okinawa came to a bitter end and where the most bloodshed occurred.

There are  a number of separate memorials including the Okinawa Peace Hall, a large tower erected in 1978 which holds a 12m-high statue dedicated to world peace.

Nearby is a memorial to Korean citizens killed during the conflict. The National War Dead Peace Mausoleum built in 1970 holds the ashes of over 180,000 people.

The Cornerstone of Peace (Flame of Peace) is fed by flames from both Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as a flame from Zamami, where US forces first landed on Okinawa in 1945. The flame is in the center of a circular pond and is where visiting heads of state come to pay their respects to the dead.  

The Cornerstone of Peace is a semi-circular avenue of stones engraved with the names of all the dead in the Battle of Okinawa regardless of nationality.  This was very moving seeing everyone's name that had died in the Battle of Okinawa.

The Memorial Path includes 32 memorial monuments as well as the place where Lieutenant General Ushima committed suicide.

Then we went into the red tiled building that is The Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum.  The museum's aims are to promote peace through the study and research of the deadly events that took place in  Okinawa and which saw the deaths of 240,000 people both civilian and military in the latter days of the Pacific War in 1945.


The fist floor has a Children's exhibition room, Peace Memorial Hall and a information library, as a way of looking toward the future.


The second floor has exhibition rooms to study the Battle of Okinawa.

Exhibit Room I starts with the history of Okinawa when it used to be the Ryukyu Kingdom. Then, you learn about the major wars from Meiji period (1868-1912) to Showa Period (1926 -1989), and how U.S. Forces fought their way to the Battle of Okinawa.

Exhibition Room II The battle of the Okinawa as seen by Okinawan residents.  The Typhoon of Steel which  lasted about three months, claimed the lives of more than 200,000 civilians and soldiers and even changing landscape of the island.

Exhibition Room III The Battle as seen by residents.  Residents taking refuge in a cave. A mother pressing her hand over her baby's mouth to prevent it from crying under the threatening eyes of the Japanese soldiers.

Exhibition Room IV Testimonies.  These are the eyewitness accounts as told by survivors. They started to talk about their experiences in order that their testimonies may be passed on to future generations.  These testimonies speak the very truth of history. They were very moving accounts from children and adults of what they saw and experienced.  It was heartbreaking to read these personal testimonies.

Exhibition Room V Keystone of the Pacific.  Okinawa's postwar history began in the refugee camps in 1945. There was a street scene of the town near a military base in Vietnam war era in the late 60s as well as storefronts to see what life was like after the war.

Then we drove about 10 minutes to see the Himeyuri Statue and monuments.

Himeyuri is the nickname for the Okinawa Women's Normal School and the First Women's Prefectural High School. On March 23, 1945 as the US military started their landing operation on Okinawa, the 240 people (222 students and 18 teachers) at the school were mobilized for the battle. The students and teachers were to provide medical assistance and anything else that the wounded soldiers would need while the battle raged. Worsening conditions subjected the students and staff to hideous conditions.

On June 18 as the US forces approached, the students were suddenly dismissed. With nowhere to go many students killed themselves or were killed in the siege. Of the 240 students and faculty, 227 ultimately perished. More than 120,000 Okinawans died.

You can walk around the gardens outside and enjoy the peace and serenity and listen to the birds and try to imagine what a horrifying experience those people had. May it never happen again.

We then drove 45 minutes back to the ship. 

Before our departure from Naha, Japan we had the Immigration authorities conduct a mandatory face-to-face inspection in the Insignia Lounge as we got back on to the ship from our tour. We were required to bring our passports to be presented to the immigration officers in order to be stamped out from Japan.  They are such polite people.

We had dinner in the Grand Dining Room.

Jim had 2 appetizers the first was carpaccio of salt crusted, roasted beet root with truffle vinaigrette and his second was Jacques' favorite sausage Lyonnaise over warm potato salad.  Although it was not like potato salad we think of it had several small oblong potatoes.  For his main course he had five peppercorn filet steak with light Brandy sauce and Anna potatoes that he sent half back because it was bad beef.  This was the first time he didn't like the beef.

Pat had Brittany Veloute' artichoke with sour cream soup which was very good.  For her main course she had tiger crusted shrimp in sauce with garlic rice that was very tasty.

For dessert we shared three chocolate profiteroles filled with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.  The chef recommended this dessert to us tonight as he stopped by.  It was very good.

While we were enjoying our dinner and wine the lights turned off and the generator kicked in.  Jim started to imagine that it was more serious than it was.  After about 10 minutes the cruise director came on and said we had a power outage and that it was not serious and they were working on it.  We were dead in the water waiting for the problem to be fixed.  The lights came back on after about 20 minutes and the engine started.  We asked our waiter, Oka from Indonesia, if he had experienced this before. He said yes when there had been a fire.  Luckily that was not the problem.  It was kind of exciting for Pat as it was a little different night.

Goodnight as we sail away from Okinawa to cruise the Philippine Sea!

April 13th, 2016 - Day 11 - En route to Naha, Japan

Today was a sea day so we started the day having breakfast in the Grand Dining Room.  Jim had blueberry pancakes and Pat had lemon custard filled waffles.

We were able to get on Wi-Fi as we must be traveling 12 miles or more from the coast of Japan to be able to get it. We were told we would have it today and until 6 AM tomorrow morning and then the ship will have to turn off the Internet until we leave Japan tomorrow.

For lunch we had a quick bite at the Terrace Café as we wanted to have something to eat before we began our wine tasting.   We met a nice couple from Marina del Rey, who were originally from Sydney, so they gave us some tips of what to do in Sydney.  We also found out we had been on the same plane from Los Angeles to Shanghi. They were in row 2 on the right side of the plane and we were in row 3 on the left side of the plane.  It's a small world sometimes.  

Our wine tasting in the Toscana Restaurant was called Vinification and Viniculture.

We sampled two reds, two whites, and a Champagne.

1.  Joseph Drouhin in Chablis Premier Cru, from Burgundy, France 2012 sells for $70 on the menu.

2.  Frogs leap Carneros Chardonnay from Napa Valley, California 2012  and sells for $69 on the menu.

3.  Sequoia Grove Rutherford Bench Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, California  2012 sells for $74 on the menu

4.  Bodegas Protos Crisnza from Ribera Del Duero, Spain 2007 sells for $69 on the menu.

5.  Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut from Reims, France no vintage year and sells for $105 on the menu.  This was a great champagne.

At 4 PM they had a Chocoholic Teatime featuring La Fleur String Quartet in the Horizons.  We sat at a table with two ladies our age from Montreal, Canada who were sisters, Louise and France.  We had such a nice talk with them about traveling and sharing stories.

We had dinner in the Grand Dining Room.

Jim had 2 salads tonight.  The first was iceberg lettuce with granny smith apples, celery, raisins, candied walnuts and blue cheese dressing his 2nd salad was red bliss potato salad with creamy horseradish and dill.  His main dish was Canard a'la Orange:  crispy duck breast with orange sauce, potato gratin and braised red cabbage and a side of mashed potatoes.

Pat had for her appetizer a grapefruit salad with Curaçao liqueur.  She had celery root bisque with fried shiitake mushrooms and parmesan pastry sticks.  Pat's main course was Crespelle alla Fiorentina: baby spinach and ricotta crepes baked with tomato sauce and mozzarella.

We split a tropical fruit sorbet for dessert.

We had a nice talk with the Executive Chef, Jorg Becker, who was from Kaiserslautern, Germany.  We talked about K-Town with him.  He now lives in Ho Chi Minh City.

Goodnight as we cruise the East China Sea!

Please pray...

I just found out my dear friend, Cindy, lost her 26 year old son, Colin, on Sunday night, April 10th, 2016 in a single car accident on Olsen Road.   Please pray for Cindy and her husband, Rob, for strength and peace as they grieve for the loss of their only son, Colin. My prayers are with them and I wish I could be there to help and give my support.  

April 12th, 2016 - Day 10 - Docked at Kobe, (Kyoto), Japan

We woke up sailing into Kobe and went under a large bridge.  We just had a fire boat spray water like a big fountain near our ship but I was not quick enough to get a picture.  I think it was their way of saying welcome to Kobe.

Kobe is the fifth largest city in Japan and is the capital city of Hyogo Prefecture on the southern side of the main island of Honshu and is about 19 miles west of Osaka.

We ate breakfast at the Terrace Cafe.

We are on a tour of Nara and Osaka today.  Our guide's names is Michiko or nickname Micki.  Our driver is Mr Hiashi.

The Emperors wife is Michiko she was the first commoner.  She turned 80.

There are 47 Prefectures and 6 regions. It is densely populated because Japan lives on 30% of their country as there are many islands.

New school semester starts in April.  40 days is their summer vacation which starts inJuly.

April 1st new workers begin their jobs.

Financial year begins in April. April-June, July Sept, Oct- Dec & Jan-March.

Schooling is compulsory from age 6 to 15.  At age 10 they begin learning English.  High school is optional but 98% go but have to pay.  52% go on to college.

1/4 population is over 65 years old. Problem is aging and not a lot of new births.  1.26 birth rate in 2014. Now it is 1.41.

The Japan economy is not good right now.  Consumption tax use to be 5%.  Last year was raised  to  8% and next year will be 10%.  They want to put consumption tax into the pension fund which is failing.

We went through the Hanna tunnel which is about 4 miles long.  Han means Osaka and Na means Nara.  We were under a mountain that connects both places. Out of the tunnel we enter Nara.  The birthplace of Japan as a nation.

There are 1200 deer in Nara.  Deer is the city symbol.

Our first stop is Nara Park where we strolled the grounds that is full of deer so also referred to as Deer Park.

We visited the Todaiji Temple,  founded in 752 and is best known for its Daibutsu, which was a colossal statue sitting 49 feet tall.

The Great Buddha Hall holds the Vairocana Buddha ("Buddha that shines throughout the world like the sun"), a magnificent temple was built to reflect this importance.  The statue is made from cast bronze, which was then plated with gold leaf, but has now worn off.

The great Buddha Hall was burned in the fires of 1180 and 1567, and the current building is actually the third generation structure, which was built in the Edo period.

Todaiji Temple serves both as a place of prayer for peace and affluence on earth, as well as a center of Buddhist doctoral research.  Over the centuries, Todaiji has produced many famous scholar priests.

Our next stop was at a restaurant near the park for a local Japanese lunch. There were bento boxes on the table and we got to pick our beverage of choice which we chose to try a Japanese beer, Asahi.  We are with chopsticks and tried the kcal food.  Lots of things we had never had before.  I recognized rice.  Ha!  It was enjoyable and the waiters were super friendly.

We then drove about an hour to Osaka to visit the city's landmark, Osaka Castle, which played a major role in the unification of Japan during the 16th century.  There was a moat all around the castle.  The Tower's ornamental roof tiles and bas-reliefs are carved in the shape of crouching tigers and are all gilded with gold.  We walked up 8 flights of stairs to the top of the keep to the Observation Deck to get a beautiful view of Osaka City.

The Cherry Blossoms trees were in bloom and they were so beautiful.  There are 300 different varieties of cherry blossoms and some of these had the bright pink flowers.  Because Nara is a cooler climate  the blooms were still out.

It took 45 minutes to drive back to the pier.

We had dinner in the Grand Dining Room.

Jim had for his appetizer Warm Petit Pate of Chanterelles in pastry crust with robust port wine and shallot sauce.  He had a Caesar salad and for his main course he had 72 hour slow braised beef short rib Perigourdine with Gnocchi, mashed potatoes and summer vegetables. They seem to have a way with words describing entrees.

Pat had a salad of baby greens with grapes, walnuts and crumbled Danish bleu cheese in a tangy mustard vinaigrette.  For her main course she had Dover sole with lemon sauce and rigatoni with tomato sauce.

We both enjoyed our meals and shared a dessert of meringue with raspberry sorbet and vanilla ice cream. It was one of the best desserts we have had so far.

At 9:10 PM our boat left Kobe, Japan on our way to Naha, Japan.

John Kerry's visit to Hiroshima

This article we read in the LA Times could not have said it better how we felt visiting here.  

An emotional John Kerry said Monday that Hiroshima's horrible history should teach humanity to avoid conflict and strive to eradicate nuclear weapons as he became the first U.S. secretary of State to tread upon the ground of the world's first atomic bombing.

Kerry's visit to the Japanese city included a tour of its peace museum with other foreign ministers of the Group of Seven industrialized nations and a ceremony to lay a wreath at the adjoining park's stone-arched monument, with the exposed steel beams of Hiroshima's iconic A-Bomb Dome in the distance.

The U.S. attack on Hiroshima in the final days of World War II killed 140,000 people and scarred a generation of Japanese, while thrusting the world into the Atomic Age. But Kerry said he hoped his trip would underscore how Washington and Tokyo have forged a deep alliance over the last 71 years and how everyone must ensure that nuclear arms are never used again.

"While we will revisit the past and honor those who perished, this trip is not about the past," he told Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, a Hiroshima native. "It's about the present and the future particularly, and the strength of the relationship that we have built, the friendship that we share, the strength of our alliance and the strong reminder of the imperative we all have to work for peace for peoples everywhere."

Kerry's appearance, just footsteps away from ground zero, completed an evolution for the United States, whose leaders avoided the city for many years because of political sensitivities.

No serving U.S. president has visited the site, and it took 65 years for a U.S. ambassador to attend Hiroshima's annual memorial service. Many Americans believe that the dropping of atomic bombs here on Aug. 6, 1945, and on the Japanese city of Nagasaki three days later were justified and hastened the end of the war.

Kerry didn't speak publicly at the ceremony, though he could be seen with his arm around Kishida and whispering in his ear.

The otherwise somber occasion was lifted by the presence of about 800 Japanese schoolchildren waving flags of the G-7 nations, including that of the United States. They cheered as the ministers departed with origami cranes in their national colors around their necks. Kerry was draped in red, white and blue.

Hours afterward, the top American diplomat still seemed to be absorbing all that he saw.

It reminds everybody of the extraordinary complexity of choices of war and what war does to people, to communities, countries, the world.— John Kerry

"It is a stunning display, it is a gut-wrenching display," he told reporters of the museum tour, recounting exhibits that showed the bomb, the explosion, the "incredible inferno" and mushroom cloud that enveloped Hiroshima. "It tugs at all of your sensibilities as a human being. It reminds everybody of the extraordinary complexity of choices of war and what war does to people, to communities, countries, the world."

Kerry urged all world leaders to visit, saying: "I don't see how anyone could forget the images, the evidence, the re-creations of what happened."

Japanese survivors groups have campaigned for decades to bring leaders from the U.S. and other nuclear powers to see Hiroshima's scars as part of a grass-roots movement to abolish nuclear weapons.

As Kerry expressed interest, neither Japanese government officials nor survivor groups pressed for the U.S. to apologize.

"I don't think it is something absolutely necessary when we think of the future of the world and peace for our next generation," Masahiro Arimai, a 71-year-old Hiroshima restaurant owner, said of an apology.

Yoshifumi Sasaki, a 68-year-old, longtime resident, agreed: "We all want understanding."

Both wished for President Obama to follow in Kerry's footsteps next month.

The president still hasn't made a decision about visiting Hiroshima and its memorial when he attends a Group of Seven meeting in central Japan in late May. During his first year in office, Obama said he would be "honored" to make such a trip.

"Everyone in the world should see and feel the power of this memorial," Kerry wrote in the museum's guest book. "It is a stark, harsh, compelling reminder not only of our obligation to end the threat of nuclear weapons, but to rededicate all our effort to avoid war itself."

"War must be the last resort -- never the first choice," he added.

Wading into U.S. politics, Kerry and his Japanese counterpart rejected Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's recent suggestion that Japan consider developing its own nuclear weapons to defend itself against nuclear-armed North Korea.

Kishida said, "For us to attain nuclear weapons is completely inconceivable."

Kerry called such notions "absurd on their face," contradicting the efforts of every Democratic and Republican president since World War II to prevent wider nuclear proliferation.

Kerry acknowledged that some governments want all nuclear weapons, including those in the U.S. arsenal, destroyed immediately. He described such calls as unrealistic, potentially making the world more dangerous in the short term by ridding nations of their deterrence against bad actors such as North Korea. Instead, he urged an ordered, methodical process toward the final goal of denuclearization.

"We all know it's not going to happen overnight," Kerry said.

But he said, "We have to get there."

April 11th, 2016 - Day 9 - Docked at Hiroshima, Japan

We woke up cruising by small little islands along the way to Hiroshima.

We had breakfast at the Terrace Café.

This morning Jim was not able to download the LA Times as while we are in Japan there is satellite usage restrictions in Japanese waters.  The Japanese government restricts the transmission of C band signals while sailing within 12 nautical miles of the Japanese coast. So there is no Internet/or telephone access from approximately four hours prior to arrival into Japanese ports, during the stay, and four hours after sailing.

John Kerry and other G7 foreign ministers are here in Hiroshina today. They arrived yesterday to begin talks on global hotspot issues. This is the first visit to the atomic bomb city by US Secretary of State and we are here on the second day of the conference.

Pat went to an Enrichment Lecture with Harry Chittick:  Street Photography - Capture the experience not just the place in the Insignia Lounge this morning.  It was interesting although a lot she already knew it was a nice refresher course.  Best advice Pat heard was to use your eye, mind, and heart to make your picture come alive.

Today we have a mandatory face-to-face inspection with Japanese immigration for all guests in the terminal when we arrive.  It is interesting as no one is allowed to go back on the ship until everyone has gone through immigration.   

We are on a tour today of The Highlights of Hiroshima.  Our guide is Yukiko.  There are 1.2 million people in Hiroshima.

Hiroshima means "Wide Island". The oleander is the official flower of the city of Hiroshima because it was the first to bloom again after the explosion of the atomic bomb in 1945.

Hiroshima lives today as an example of the triumph of the human spirit, having been the site where the first nuclear weapon was used in war.  On August 6, 1945 the B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay unleashed the atomic bomb on the citizens of Hiroshima, and what is today the Peace Memorial Park  is Ground Zero.

We drove to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park which was approximately a 30 minute drive. We visited the park with the Atomic Bomb Dome.  The explosion destroyed most of the city and left only a few concrete and steel structures still standing.  The ruins of the Hiroshima Prefecture Industrial Promotion Hall is now a UNESCO world heritage site referred at as the Atomic Bomb Dome.

The Children's Place Monument which is also called the Statue of the A-Bomb Children, honors the thousands of children that were killed.

The Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound contains the ashes of tens of thousands of victims who were too badly burned to be identified.

The Cenotaph is shaped like an ancient tomb and holds the names of the dead.

The Flame of Peace is visited daily by monks offering prayers and burning incense.

We went into the Peace Memorial Museum which shows the history of the Hiroshima atomic blast and the effects are on display in this museum.  There were photos, audio testimony and artifacts that bring the horrific event to life in every graphic detail.

Because of the G7 conference there were hundreds of armed police present. They were in the building next door to the museum.  We had to walk by the police on our way back to the bus as our bus was not able to pick us up where they had planned because of the security.   Because of the age of the people on our cruise there were several that complained about having to walk back to the bus. Pat told Jim that they're just a bunch of grumpy old people always complaining about something.

We then drove approximately 15 minutes to the Shukkein Gardens.  Construction of the garden begin in 1620 but in 1945 it was destroyed by the atomic bomb.  It has been restored to its condition prior to the bombing.  It is modeled after the famous West Lake in Hangzhou, China.  There were Plum trees, azaleas, cherry trees, sculpted gardens, paths, ponds, bridges, waterfalls and bamboo groves.  It was a beautiful garden and we saw a couple getting photographed in Japanese wedding attire.  It was a very serene and beautiful garden.  We enjoyed our time there.

We had dinner in he Grand Dining Room.  Jim had for his appetizer crispy Pasilla of scallops with virgin sauce over sweet fennel.  He had cream of sweet potato soup with chorizo fritters and for his main course he had tornadoes Rossini with sautéed Foie Gras, fried Lorette potatoes and Perigourdine sauce.  Pat had cauliflower pana cota with artichoke salpicon, tomato coulis and poblano chili aioli.  Pat had black beans and quinoa salad with Ligurian olive oil and lime.  Her main course was Mahi-mahi with lemon sauce. For dessert we split a lime sorbet.  We enjoyed our dinner.

We sailed off from Hiroshima on our way to Kobe, Japan.

April 10th, 2016 - Day 8 - Cruising the East China Sea in route to Hiroshima, Japan

We woke up cruising the East China Sea. We had breakfast at the Terrace Café.  Jim enjoys going up early to read the LA Times on his tablet and having strong Americana coffee.

Jim had oatmeal and fruit and a muffin and Pat had fruit and a sticky bun.  Of course, you know,  the fruit counteracts the sticky bun calories.  We both had tomato juice.

For lunch we ate in the Grand Dining Room. Jim had Tuscan-Stlye Bean soup and Oceania's Caesar Salad with Chicken.  Pat had a Tomato and Mozzarella Panini and French fries.  For dessert Jim is had pistachio ice cream and Pat had Nougat ice cream.

During lunch Jim had a Twitter feed going listening to ESPN to the Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley flight.  Pacquiao won the fight in a lopsided decision and he knocked Bradley down twice.

Pat took a jacuzzi in the afternoon to help her sore back and she now has a sore big left toe.  She is falling apart.

We had dinner in The Grand Dining Room.  Pat had the Healthy Living Choice which for the appetizer is Crispy Mediterranean Tart with grilled Vegetables and Balsamic Onion Compote.  Salad is Shaved fennel and celery with endive, almonds, and Williams Pear in Grain Mustard.  For the main course Grilled  Miso Halibut in Banana Leaf with jasmine rice and vegetables. Jim had for his appetizer Pollenta Soufflé for his salad red apple salad with vegetables, feta cheese, oregano, and sherry vinegar dressing.  His main course was fontina stuffed Ravioloni with creamy black Truffle sauce.  We both enjoyed our dinner.

Good night on our way to Hiroshima.  We are rocking and rolling tonight on the ship!

April 9, 2016 - Day 7 - Docked in Incheon (Seoul), South Korea

We woke up while we were docking in Incheon, South Korea this morning.

We had breakfast at the Terrace Café.

The disembarkation in Korea took some time. We had to go to the Horizons, Deck 10 and stand in line to get our passports. Then we walked to the table where we had a face to face with immigration.  While walking to the table there was a computer and a gentleman that would scan us to see if we had a fever.  They are concerned with the Mersa virus and Zika virus as well as others.

We had purchased a van with a driver and a guide for the day so that we could meet, Jimmy, who is stationed at Kunsan Airforce Base.  Jimmy took the KTX Bullet Train to Seoul and we picked him up at the Yongsan Train Station.  It takes him 35 minutes to drive to his train station at Iksan and then an hour and 15 minutes to take the bullet train into Seoul.

On our drive from Incheon to Seoul, our guide, Hong, said driving to Seoul could take an hour or more. Jim and Hong discussed the relationship with North Korea, wars, and politics.

Jimmy arrived into the Yongstsn Station at 9:02 AM on the KTX bullet train.  Traffic was pretty heavy in Seoul.  We picked him up at 9:35 AM and our adventure began.

Our first stop was to the Gyeongbokgung Palace where there was a changing of the guard going on as we arrived.  This palace is revered as one of the greatest in all of South Korea. It was constructed in 1395 by the Joseon Dynasty and later restored in 1867.  This is the largest of the five grand palaces that the dynasty built.  There were lots of pavilions, gardens, ponds, bridges and courts on the ground covering about 100 acres.

We visited the National Folk Museum of Korea. It is next door to the palace and has 100,000 artifacts focusing on Korean life from prehistoric times to the end of the Joseon Dynasty in 1910.  We saw life as it begins, endures and ends in Korea.

We visited the Jogyesa Temple which is one of the most important Buddhist temples in Korea. There were 3 large gold Buddhas inside.  There was a service going on as people were reading and worshiping.  It is located in the center of the city in Insadong.  We saw a rare 500 year old Baeksong lacebark Pine Tree and a 450-year-old Chinese scholar tree.

We came at the best time because the courtyard outside the Buddhist temple was covered with lanterns hanging  all around getting ready for The Lotus Lantern Festival in May which celebrates Buddah's birthday. The white lanterns  signify the dead and the colorful laterns signify the living. For $10-$30 you can get a card and put your name on it then it is hung up on the bottom of the lanterns.  There was a man that was taking the cards from people and attaching them to the lanterns with a portable ladder on his cart.  The lanterns will be lit and everyone comes together and is wished happiness.

We stopped for a traditional Korean lunch at a restaurant called Go Gung which was downstairs off the main street.  Korean food is all organic and healthy.  We had bean sprout soup, 2 kinds of kim chi plain and spicy, anchovies, bibimbap which was a bowl of various food items that our guide mixed together for us, small pancakes, green salad and a seafood pancake.  We shared a Korean beer called Cass.  It was a good meal which we all enjoyed.

We walked in an area called Insadong which is a blend of contemporary and the traditional.  Along the streets are restaurants, cafés, Tea houses, shops and dozens of art galleries and museums.  At the end we met our driver for our ride to Nansen Park.

Mount Namsan Park is a revered symbol of Seoul.  The mountain is located near the center of the city.  On the top is the Seoul Tower also known as the Namsan Tower.  It was not a good day to visit the tower as it was foggy and overcast so we would not have been able to have a very good view. Plus it was the weekend and it was very crowded.  The park has hiking and jogging trails where you can see lots of trees and flowers. At the base of the park there are numerous statues of Korean Patriots and fountains. The cherry blossom trees were blooming and so beautiful.  The cherry blossoms fall off so easily with just a gentle breeze or someone touching the tree with a little shake.

We went to a shopping area called Namdaemum which is Korea's largest traditional outdoor market for clothing, daily goods, kitchenware and other products.  Jim was looking for a black leather belt and was able to find one.  There were vendors selling cakes, showing demonstrations of making 16000 string candy, fishcakes, anything you could imagine.  It was a fun place to see.

The War Memorial of Korea Is located in Yongsan-gu, Seoul, and exhibits and preserve materials related to the Korean War and serves as a national moral educational venue.  It was established to commemorate the noble sacrifice of patriotic martyrs by the War Memorial Service Korea Society on June 10, 1994.  It was a huge place with an outside area that had airplanes, tanks and other weapons used by the North Koreans, South Koreans and the Americans.

The main building was huge and the large area was dedicated  to show that the South Korean people want to never forget the American help and this 1950 Korean War.  Jim was moved when given a book that describes the day by day events throughout the complete war.  The museum was free and so was the thick book.  When we arrived they were having a procession on the large outside grounds which was honoring the dead of the war with costumes, music and pageantry.

The Memorial Hall  has the name of everyone who was killed in the war similar to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC.  The United States was listed by states and we found a James W. Christian that had died in the Korean War.

For dinner we went to the happening area of Itaewon. Jimmy had been wanting to go to a restaurant called Vatos Urban Tacos when he had been in Seoul before but there had always been a long wait.  We got there early thinking there would not be a wait but we still had a 35 minute wait.  We walked the street and looked into the shops while we waited. Pat found a beautiful Swarovski crystal necklace as her souvenir from Seoul.  She walked in the door and had looked around but didn't see anything and on our way out the door in their window we saw the necklace.  She met the designer of the necklace and got her picture taken with her.

We went back to Vatos Urban Tacos and waited for our table.  The restaurant has started a Ko-Mex revolution, which marries typically Korean flavors — like kimchi and pork belly — with Mexican staples such as jalapenos and carnitas.  The restaurant was alive with people and music playing.  We sat at a high table in the back with black pipes to hold bags and purses.  Jimmy ordered the meal for us.  We had urban tacos Galbi short rib tacos and Baja fish tacos.  We got chips and salsa when we sat down and they were three fried tortillas not broken up. We also ordered guacamole and they gave us a basket of chips.  We split A Belgium White draft beer.  Since Jimmy's birthday is May 5 we celebrated by getting Nutella tortilla chips and wishing him a Happy Birthday.  They were a hit, of course, anything with Nutella is good.  We had a great time and it was wonderful to visit and catch up.  We called our guide and he and the driver picked us up.

Then the night had to end… Jimmy had to catch his 7 PM train to Iksan on the KTX bullet train.  We got to the train station about 6:30 PM and dropped him off and then drove back to the ship which took about an hour.  The driver had trouble finding the road that led right up to the door of the ship but after a few wrong turns we made it.

It was a fantastic day and night in Seoul!

Goodby South Korea!

April 8th, 2016 - Day 6 - Cruising The Yellow Sea

We had a low-key day.

We ate breakfast at the Terrace Café.  We came back to the room and read.

Lunch was in the Grand Dining Room. We both had the healthy choice meal which was Chilled Gazpacho Andaluz and Cashew Chicken Salad with Crispy Wonton Skins.  It was a salad with a strong vinegar dressing.  Pat also tried an appetizer of avocado rolls.  We enjoyed our lunch.

For dinner we had a reservation at 8 PM at the speciality dining restaurant the Polo Grill.  We had a nice table by the window with a view of the ocean.  Ha Ha!  Jim had a Beet and Cheese Appetizer,  a salad that he thought was going to be a wedge salad but it wasn't and a Charbroiled Steak and Garlic Mashed Potatoes.  Pat had a Shrimp Cocktail, French Onion Soup and Sea bass with grilled tomatoes and mushrooms. We signed up for a wine tasting on April 13 of five different wines which sounds fun.

We got a lot of reading and relaxing  done today.

Goodnight Yellow Sea!

April 7, 2016 - Day 5 - Docked in Tianjin, China

We woke up in Tianjin which is the port city and it still is a 40 minute drive to Tianjin when you leave the port.  

We had breakfast at the Terrace Café. Yesterday Pat saw a lady having an omelette made so she decided to try it today and it was good.  On the way out Pat saw the lady and thanked her for her suggestion.

Our tour  today is the highlights of Beijing. Our tour guide's English Name is Jo her Chinese name is Zhou Hongju.  They call the driver Master Jin

Interesting facts our guide, Jo, told us:

Along the  vacant freeways there are lots of Ghost Towns where developers built beautiful high rises and they believe people will move into the high rises in the future.  There are no lights or stores or hospitals around just lots of high rises.

We made a pit stop half way at a gas station.  Our guide said it was Chinese style where you squat over a red pail.  No toilet paper but our guide passed out paper for those who needed it.  It was an experience.  We appreciate our bathroom at home.

23 million people in Beijing and there are 6 million cars.  One day each week people  are not allowed to drive their car.  For example, #1 and #6 which is last number in license plate can not drive on Thursday.  They change the number every 3 months.  Everyone can drive on weekends.

Getting close to the city it was stop and go traffic.  

Because it is a communist party there is no religion.  20% are Buddhist religion,  10% are Muslim or Christian and 70% have no religion.

Chinese government likes to drive Audi cars.  Chinese choices of cars:  1st choice German, 2nd choice American, 3rd Japanese.

Women can only have 2 kids now.   If they are a farmer they need help on the farm and they want boys for help.   Sometimes if a women would have a girl they would abandon the baby because it wasn't s boy.  That's why you usually adopt a girl from China and not a boy.

Our first stop was at the Novotel Hotel which took over 3 hours to arrive.  We stopped for a Chinese family style lunch.  There were 11 different items, fish, beef, duck, chicken, soup, rice, vegetables with mushroom, potato salad, green salad, cauliflower, bok chow.  It was a surprisingly good meal for hotel food.

We drove to Tiananmen Square.  The Telemann tower was first built in 1415, and the Square has since it falls and expanded to become a gathering place for hundreds of thousands of Chinese for celebrations and observations observances. The Square today has landmarks all around, such as,  The Great Hall of the People, The National Museum of China, The Monument to the People's Heroes and Chairman Mao's Memorial Hall.   We walked  on the square and had a group picture taken.  It is 122 acres and can hold 1/2 million people.  It was very windy.  We just lucked out because after we were there they were closing the square. Our guide said there must be some presidents in town.  She saw the Switzerland flag and a flag she didn't know.  We thought it might be Luxembourg as it had a lion on it with red and yellow.

The Forbidden City is located in the center of Beijing and was built between 1406 and 1420.   The Forbidden City was was off-limits to foreigners for hundreds of years.  There are 9999 buildings covering almost 8 million square feet. The city was home to emperors from the Ming Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty and is revered as the heart of China.  We entered from the south entrance through the Gate of Heavenly Peace, which leads to the entrance at the Meridian Gate. We exited at the north through the Gate of Divine Might.  The gates, buildings, roofs and thrones were beautiful.  It was a huge place.  We ended up in the garden which was beautiful.

More interesting facts from Jo:

Most people's salary is approximately $900 per month.  No taxes are paid.  If you make more you start paying  a percent of taxes starting at 2%.  Doctors make most money.  Teachers made average salary but get gift cards from parents.  If you want teacher to give special treatment to your child you give a big gift. High school teachers also make money with tutoring.   1000 y&n for 1 hour with 2 hour minimum.

Bribery is big in China.  If you need surgery and want a special Doctor to perform your surgery you would bribe him.

Public servants make low salary but they get power from being an official.

We left at 5:09 PM for our bus ride back to the boat.  It took us over an hour to get out of the city of Beijing and onto the highway.  There traffic is really bad.  It was just like being on the 405 freeway.  We made one pit stop and then 1 stop for the bus driver to get diesel fuel.   He only fills up the tank for the trip he needs as there are thieves that will siphon off the gas when the bus is parked.

We arrived back to the pier at 8:20 PM.

We went and had some pasta at the Terrace Café. It was a long day but so exciting to see what Beijing was all about.

At 10:00 PM we set sail for Incheon, South Korea

Goodby Tianjin, China

April 6, 2016 - Day 4 - Sailing the Yellow Sea

Sailing on the Yellow Sea today on our way to Tianjin.  Woke up around 6:30 AM.  Then Jim went to the Terrace Café to read the LA Times on his tablet.  I joined him a half hour later to discuss the day and have breakfast.

Today being a day at sea we decided to take advantage of some of the lectures.

At 10:00 AM we went to the Destination Tour Talk on Inchon, South Korea.  We enjoyed hearing from Luke the Destination Manager about this city.

At 11:00 AM we went to the Enrichment Lecture with Harry Chittick on China! It's a matter of scale!  We usually see it through the wrong end of the telescope.  It was a very informative talk.  We both enjoyed learning about China and how they plan for centuries not just for today.

We ate lunch at the Terrace Cafe and the focus was Mexican food so we both enjoyed that.  There were chips, salsa and guacamole along with a quesadilla, taco or burrito, rice and beans as well as other things but we went for the Mexican.  I miss my Taco Monday's at Lupe's.

At 2:30 PM Pat went to the Enrichment Lecture with Ken Beattie speaking on Fabrics and Food of China.  Heard about silk worms and snakes.

At 5:45 PM we went to the Captain's Cocktail Celebration to meet Captain Maroje Brajcic who lives in Dubrovnik, Croatia when not sailing.  We had sailed on 2 cruises with his father, Captain Jurica Brajcic, so we told him that when we met him.  After drinks and hors d'oeuvres Captain Marjoe Brajicic introduced his Senior Officers.  We met a couple from Tempe, Arizona.  Jim had a crazy talk with the guy about UFO's.

We had dinner in the Grand Dinjng Room.  Jim had Sturgeon Caviar with Buckwheat Blinis and traditional garnish and for his main course Potato Waffle with steamed asparagus, black truffle cream and wilted spinach.  Pat had Maui red onion soup with ginger foam and for her main course she had miso glazed Sea Bass in Hoba leaf with rice.  We end our meals with pink grapefruit sorbet with Campari.  We both enjoyed our meals.

Goodnight!

April 5th, 2016 - Day 3 -Docked at Cheju, South Korea

We woke up to a ocean view as we are still on our way to Jeju, South Korea.

We ate breakfast at the Terrace Café.  Then sat and planned our day.  We need to be ready at 1:20 PM for our tour.  South Korea is one hour ahead of China so basically all our electronic devices have different times because they did not update where we are yet.

We docked at 12:30 PM but it took a while for the ship to complete parking and get cleared.

Some facts about Jeju:  Jeju Island is the largest volcanic island in South Korea. It is known as "Islands of the Gods".

Our tour is to the Sunrise Peak and Seongeup Folk Village.  We went to the Insignia lounge to exchange our tickets for a bus ticket.  We had to wait for over an hour but finally we were cleared to go.

We drove for about an hour and came to the Sunrise Peak Crater.  Pat walked up to the top of the crater to see the fantastic view of the city as well as the inside of the crater. There were 550 steps up and 550 steps down.  It was quite an accomplishment.

Our guide said that there are no gates in Jeju because gates are to keep people out but there are no thiefs or beggars in Jeju.  Everyone knows everyone so you would not want to do harm to your family and friends.  If you see someone that needs food you would help.  That is a nice way to live.

On the drive we saw cherry blossom trees with the flowers covering the walk way.

The Seongeup Folk Village was about 15 minutes from the crater.  The village is surrounded by a fortress wall with one ornate entrance gate. We walked through the narrow lanes with lava rock walls and traditional homes with thatched roofs made of pampas grass.  Every year they add pampas grass to the roof and it gets heavier and heavier so every 5-10 years they replace it and start again.  We saw the 1000 year old zelkova tree. We saw the way Koreans lived 600 years.  There are still people living in the village.

They showed us the outside toilet where it is built up with rocks and there is a covered pig pen next to it.  There is also a big stick you have to use to keep the pig away from you while you are doing your business.  Our guide said this changed in the 1980's and they startd getting flushing toilets.

Our drive back to the pier took an hour. The walk from the bus to the boat was about a mile as we had to go through a huge arrival/departure terminal.  We were behind a couple from the cruise in the passport line and the husband got through but there was some problem with the lady so we changed lines but she was still there when we got through so don't know what the problem was.  That would be something that would normally happen to us.  Ha!

We had dinner at the Terrace Cafe.  Pat had spaghetti and Jim had a potpourri of Korean favorites such as Korean rice, chicken balls, and shrimp.  We shared chocolate ice cream and coconut macaroon ice cream with a chocolate chunk cookie.

Se had to set our clocks back 1 hour.

We set sail at 8:00pm. Good night Jeju!