Honolulu, Hawaii

February 6, 2019

Heading out of the Nawiliwili harbor last night.

Forgot to mention that the chief export of Kauai is…. wait for it… bottled water! And that the Wailua Falls are known as the shrimp falls. Kids used to go to the falls and catch shrimp for dinner. These days there are fewer of the shrimp going over the falls. Also last night the Terrace Cafe had a delicious Asian dinner in celebration of the New Year, the year of the pig. And yes, they had a whole roasted pig. Seems a bit harsh if you ask me. I didn’t have that, but I had wonderful noodles, etc.

Today we arrived in Honolulu early – 7 AM. We have been here 3 times before and have seen most of the sights so we decided to venture out to try to get a whale watching trip. One of the security people told us where to find them and also that if we show our Medicare cards we could travel on the buses all day for $2! We planned to walk but it was a good tip. An even better tip was to definitely NOT jaywalk because if caught it would be a $130 fine. Each. So we followed the law all day.

Honolulu harbor on arrival

We found a tour and it was going to go out at 10 AM. So we had about 45 minutes. We found a Starbucks and updated our devices with their fast Wi-fi.

Here’s our boat for the whale watching.

After just a short time out, we came upon a whole pod of dolphins. Some were doing tricks near our boat!

Our captain was Alex. He said they haven’t been seeing so many dolphins lately so we were lucky.

But will we see whales? Just a short while later, we saw the spouts! All told we had three different sightings. Alex said that these humpback whales are about 45 feet long. They spend about 6 months of the year in these waters where they have their babies. The rest of the year they are in Alaska. During their time here, they do not eat at all even though they feed their babies. Then in Alaska they feed all the time – on krill which is their preferred food.

We also got some nice shots of the shore, including Waikiki Beach and the hills beyond.

We also saw sea turtles both at sea and near the boats and some fish near the boats.

We asked Alex for a lunch place near the docks and he recommended Wahoo for the fish tacos. Excellent!

We did a lot of walking, did a bit of shopping to get a couple of items we needed and the local chocolate for our cabin staff and butler.

Then back to the ship. Tonight they are showing Bohemian Rhapsody. We haven’t seen it yet so we are looking forward to that.

Tomorrow we are headed to Hilo.

Posted in Excursions, February, Food, World Cruise 3 | 1 Comment

Nawiliwili, Kauai, Hawaii

February 5, 2019

We were so excited when the pilot boarded the ship this morning so we knew we were going in to Kauai.  This is not a tender port as we thought and the day was not too windy or choppy, so we docked easily and were welcomed by Hawaiian music and dancers.

Here is what we saw when we approached land. There are beautiful ocean cliffs, beaches and over 10,000 waterfalls.

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This is a beautiful island, the northernmost island in the Hawaiian Group. It is known as the “Garden Island”. It is the oldest of the large Hawaiian Islands and is the top of an enormous volcano rising from the ocean floor.   It is well known for all of the movies that were filmed here.  These include Jurassic Park, Blue Hawaii, The Descendants, Raiders of the Lost Ark, South Pacific, Donovan’s Reef and Lilo and Stitch.

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In Hawaii, a rain shower is called a “blessing” and we encountered several of them during our day here.  This island can get up to 1000 inches of rain a year.  There are 11 of the 13 weather/climate zones here, the big island has all 13. 96% of the vegetation on the island is introduced, not native.

I arranged a private tour for 7 of us – Rodney and Candace, Marilyn and Charlie and Jim Beach joined us. It was a photography tour that took us to many wonderful sights on the island.  Matt was our van driver and guide and he was terrific.  He was actually born outside of Philadelphia and lived there until his teens.  He has lived in many places in the world since then.  The company I used was hawaiianphotos.net – highly recommend them if you travel here.

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Our first stop was at the Wailua Falls.  These falls drop 80 feet into the rainforest below the Wailua River.  They are best known for the opening credits in the television show Fantasy Island.  We saw many kayakers on the river too.

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All during the day, Matt gave us photography tips and I learned a lot.  Rodney has amazing equipment so I can’t wait to see all of his shots.

Here are some of the other beautiful sights we saw here.  Matt especially focused on how to take good landscape shots.  My new iPhone does pretty well and I used some of his tips.  See what you think!

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We passed by the Coco Palms resort where Elvis Presley stayed during the filming of Blue Hawaii.  Unfortunately it is in ruins now and has been purchased by Hyatt – the renovation project is stalled because of land use protests.

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We visited the beach where Gilligan’s Island was filmed – when their boat first shipwrecks the crew and passengers.

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And here are some more shots of this gorgeous place.

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Many of the plants are really invasive.  One is the sea hibiscus which has wood fibers so strong they were used instead of rope.  Matt showed us that the fibers would cut your hands before they would break.  Now those trees are taking over the landscape.

They have a yellow flower that changes color three times in the day and then falls off.  Another grows in its place.

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We had lunch at a very traditional Hawaiian food truck – the food was delicious!

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The beaches are really spectacular, and I know that the photos cannot capture it all.  We did see several children and some surfers but for the most part the beaches were uninhabited.

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This is a red faced cardinal – beautiful.

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This is an Australian Ironwood tree.

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As I mentioned, there were short rain showers during the day which didn’t slow us down a bit, in fact, we did get a rainbow picture and some really nice cloud photos in the mountains.

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There is a tree here that guides fool tourists with – the fruit looks a bit like a pineapple, but those don’t grow on trees!  We weren’t fooled.

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There are chickens and roosters everywhere!  And most t-shirts you see or other souvenirs have chickens on them.

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And nene, the Hawaiian goose.

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They grow a lot of taro here.  They grow it in water like rice is grown which Matt says serves as an herbicide as no other invasive species bothers it.

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Here’s some photos of us and the group!

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It was a terrific day and we look forward to returning to this island.  Now on to Honolulu tomorrow.

Posted in Excursions, February, World Cruise 3 | 3 Comments

Super Bowl Sunday on the high seas

February 3, 2019

Last night was a performance of Gatsby by the entertainment team – we also saw it on the first leg, but most of this team is leaving us in Sydney, so it is their last performance of this show. Really well done. Here is the cast with fellow passengers Jim Beach and Bob Brown.

Photo credit: Bob Brown posted on Cruise Critic site

We have been on ships during the Super Bowl before, so we knew not to expect the commercials, but others were disappointed since that is the only reason they watch the game. Outside the US, they usually show the same ESPN commercials.

We entered the beautifully decorated Insignia Lounge on the Patriots side. One side was decorated for the Rams, the other for the Patriots. And both the food and drinks were plentiful. They had wings, hamburgers, hot dogs, chili, baked potatoes with fixings, guacamole and chips, pizza, popcorn, potato chips, pretzels, veggies and dip, cheese platters, etc.

Norm in his Eagles regalia. Maybe next year?

On the dessert side, there was a fabulous cake and chocolate Super Bowl trophy in chocolate with LIII along side. There were brownies and all kinds of assorted cupcakes too.

That football in the middle is solid (delicious) chocolate, and the green grass is coconut. Yum.

The waiters had their t-shirts and sunglasses on and were having a great time.

In the matter of the football pool….. friends Isaac, Lalo and Dariella are on this cruise (part of the “usual suspects” gambling buddies from a previous trip) – and Dariella and Lalo got off in Los Angeles and will rejoin in Honolulu thus avoiding the 5 day Pacific crossing. As Isaac was purchasing his squares on the board for the Super Bowl Pool, he told me to choose the 5 for Dariella so she would blame me when she lost.

Well, here is what happened. I did choose her five, and later my two. The prizes were $100 at the end of the first quarter, $300 at the end of the half, $500 at the end of the third quarter and $700 at the end of the game. It was based on the last number of the scores at that time. Here is the board.

With the score 3-3, 13-3, Dariella won the last 3 !!! for a payout of $1500. I don’t think she will be mad at me for choosing her squares! And, of course, I didn’t win anything.

Congratulations, Dariella. See you for hugs and high fives when we reach Honolulu.

Photo courtesy of Dariella’s facebook page!

I am posting this on Monday, 2/4. We are about 200 nautical miles from Kauai and the seas are pretty calm, it is sunny and beautiful. The captain announced that we have a medical emergency on board and the Coast Guard will be landing a helicopter on the ship around 3 PM for an evacuation. I don’t know which passenger, but wishing for good outcomes.

Tomorrow – hopefully we will get into Kauai. I found out we are docked, not tendering in so that should be good. Can’t wait to experience it as we keep hearing how beautiful it is.

Posted in At Sea, February, Food, World Cruise 3 | 1 Comment

So what do you do on board when you have 5 days at sea between Los Angeles and Hawaii??

February 2, 2019

Well, you win a blackjack tournament, you have a hot stone massage, you make leather bracelets (all Pat), you do two wine tastings, (both Norm), you see a few shows, you get an autograph from a “tiny plunger”, you have two Around the World special gatherings, you have a fabulous super bowl party (tomorrow) and join the betting pool, you read, you sit on the balcony and soak up the sun, you make greeting cards, you participate in the mural project, you walk the track for exercise, you hang out with friends.. and you feel so privileged to be able to do all of this.

The brown leather bracelet

Here are a couple of pictures from walks on the deck. We got drizzled on at first but the rainbow was worth it!

We had a gathering for around the world guests in Horizons yesterday – lots of drinks and good conversations. Then the Captain’s cocktail party, followed by dinner with Marilyn and Charlie. Then we saw the comedian and magician Jon Armstrong who was pretty great – look up his trick with “tiny plunger” online. We had to get Tiny Plunger’s autograph. Magic for sure.

Today we had another ATW gathering called Italian Pearls and French Bubbles and the chefs outdid themselves. So many delicious things to sample and all the drinks you might want. I loved the kir royales.

Chef Mario with the wonderful creations

Me and Damien, the General Manager

Ricardo, Executive ATW concierge

Marilyn with Rene, Carol and Kristina

Our intrepid cruise director, Leslie

Tonight we will have dinner in the Polo grill and tomorrow, Super Bowl will be shown at 2:30 here with the betting pool and all the typical Super Bowl foods and drinks followed by dinner with the ATW ambassadors, Tricia and Steve.

Norm takes a snooze

Then one more day until Kauai. The seas have been choppy but they are settling down a bit and we do hope we will be able to get into Kauai.

AND we watch hundreds of dolphins jumping. Unfortunately I cannot load the video on the ship. Will try if I get fast wi-if in Hawaii. What a sight!

Posted in At Sea, February, World Cruise 3 | 4 Comments

Port of Los Angeles

January 30, 2019

Technically, this port is in San Pedro.  I spent some time with Mary, a worker here, who has lived here for all her life – 69 years.  And she says she can tell who is from here because they pronounce the place correctly. San Pee dro vs San Paa dro.  This is because it was settled by the Portuguese not the Spanish.

Since we came here from Mexico, the customs authorities require what is called a zero count – that means everyone must get off the ship and go through customs, even if they are not planning to go anywhere off the ship.  This applies to crew too.  So you can imagine the lines at customs just for the passengers who get to do it first.  And not all of the booths were open either.  Took over an hour.

Marilyn and I had nail appointments at 10 and we actually just made it – took a cab from the port.  After that we bought wine, and returned to the ship for lunch.  Norm went on the shuttle to Long Beach where he took some pictures and did some errands. These are of the lighthouse with the Queen Mary in the background, the post office and the Breakers hotel.

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After lunch, I went back into the terminal for fast wi-fi to back up my devices and download the update for iPhone and iPad.  It was like watching paint dry.  The wi-fi is faster than the ship but still pretty slow. Took a couple of hours.

Here are some of the shots from the ship – of the port and of the massive amount of supplies they were loading.  There was also a diver inspecting the bottom of the ship!

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This is a huge container port, hard to describe the number of ships and containers here.

Well, it was the end of our time with friends Pam and Tom.  We had a great time with them on board, hope you don’t freeze back in PA!  Miss you already.

Greeting Graham and Shuna – the artist who painted our lovely Portofino painting in 2017 – and is the resident artist for the next 3 months – as well many others arriving here in Los Angeles, the last boarding point for the Around the World guests.  There will be a reception for all of us tomorrow night.

And the good news – the package Adam sent arrived, and my Amazon order did too!  Yay for US ports.  Now I have a device  to use so that I can move my pictures from the iPhone to my computer and compose my blogs in a much easier way!

We have 5 days at sea until we get to Hawaii.  Lots of things going on here, including a big Super Bowl party on Sunday. On the ship we will see it at 2:30.


Posted in January, North America, World Cruise 3 | Leave a comment

I think we needed a bigger boat…

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

January 27, 2019

Well, the good news is that the seas and wind were much calmer than in 2017 when we missed many Pacific ports due to bad weather. So we were scheduled to dock in Cabo at noon, and the Captain made it about 45 minutes early. This is a port where the ship needs to anchor and we use the lifeboats to tender into the shoreside dock. We had planned to meet 2017 cruise friends Tori and Bill (Doc), but they had their daughter and family visiting so it didn’t work out. To say nothing about the long trip they would have had to make – with a pretty short time frame. Instead, Tori served as my shoreside travel guide and helped choose a great whale watching trip. We saw some spouting from the ship but nothing close enough. Grey, blue, humpback and sperm whales winter here. During this time of year, the whales bear their calves in the warm waters here. We were very excited to see them.

When we arrived in Cabo – which is at the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, we saw the iconic rock formations that are on almost all the pictures you see of this area. This is also called Land’s End or El Arco. One of our friends had been here only 6 years ago and couldn’t believe how it had changed. It is a big fishing and tourist destination.

We waited until almost all of the ship’s tours departed so it would be less crowded on the tender, and got to shore well before our 2:30 departure time for the whale watching. Here is Norm among the bright surf boards near the dock.

There is a large marina and some very impressive yachts. This one (don’t know who it belongs to) has its own helicopter as you can see on the right of the picture. Some of these are used for leased charters.

Lots of my favorite birds, the pelicans!

The other thing they have here is a lot of pharmacies selling medications that you need prescriptions for in the US. There were at least 8 of them in the immediate marina area. Apparently Viagra is in great demand.

Who is that man behind the ad?

Well, then the bad news. There were 8 of us (others were not from the cruise) for the whale watching. We got into the boat, donned our life jackets and were on our way out of the marina when our guide got the phone call that the port was closed to small boats. She said we needed to go back in and Phillip was going to try to get a bigger boat for us to be able to go out. He tried 3 places with no luck. So, no whale watching tour for us today. The rest of the group rebooked for tomorrow, but of course, we leave here tonight at 11.

We then resorted to plan B. Margaritas at Solomon’s Landing overlooking the marina – recommended by Tori.

They were pretty darn good, but we were disappointed about the tour. Later we heard from others who could not get out and also some passengers who were out when the wind kicked up and they got tossed around pretty good and were very uncomfortable. So I guess these port people know what they are doing. We thought it was because it was Sunday and the boat captains wanted the day off. One boat on Phillip’s list had the boat available but no captain.

We had a nice walk around the marina and another chat with our resident artist, Frank Hyder. He found the spot in the surfboards to set up his Janis Project art.

And of course there are always the street artists. Here’s the pirate that rarely moved a muscle.

Once we got back to the ship, there was a local Mariachi band that came on board to do two shows up on the deck. There were 8 performers and they were a really professional group – terrific. After their second show, the entertainment team on board and the Insignia show band performed and we danced the night away.

We have 2 sea days before arriving in Los Angeles. This will be the embarkation port for the last of the world cruise passengers and also boarding will be some passengers who are doing segments of the world cruise.

Posted in January, Mexico, World Cruise 3 | 1 Comment

Baby turtle video

Posted in Excursions, January, Mexico, World Cruise 3 | 1 Comment

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

January 26, 2019

Our friends Tom and Pam had asked if we would join them on the Jeep tour today and when I called to see if we got tickets (we were on the wait list), two people had JUST cancelled, so we were lucky.

Here’s the sky and part of the town that we saw as we pulled into port this morning.

What is really funny is that the conversation among many of the passengers about what they were planning to do in town today. So many people mentioned that they were going to go to Walmart – which is located just across from the cruise pier!

And that is where we went to meet our Jeeps. You can see some of them in this picture. Our guide was Pepe, he said don’t call him “PeePee” which only took Pam about 15 minutes to do. Is that why our Jeep was last in the caravan?

Tom was a great driver and we headed up into the Sierra Madre mountains. Pepe said we would have both a facial and a massage – the dirt roads we went on into small out of the way villages were both bumpy and very dusty! Here is what the cars looked like along the way.

Puerto Vallarta has a population of about 270,000 and is located in the Mexican State of Jalisco on the Bandaras Bay which is considered to be one of the most beautiful bays in the world.

It is the second most visited tourist destination in Mexico, Cancun has the most tourists. More than 5 million tourists visit in a year visit here and there are many of the American stores and restaurants.

For us, it was an adventure to get out of the city and port area and wind through the back roads. We passed through many small villages and stopped at one. Pepe talked to us about how happy the people are although they are very poor. We found them to be gracious and friendly. This town square is very small and is surrounded by the elementary school and a small church. Here the children were studying for first communion. Mexico is 80% Catholic.

After the town stop, we went to Hacienda Dona Engracia which is the area’s only tequila factory. Here we heard all about how tequila is made and got to taste 6 kinds of tequila, including peach, almond and chocolate coffee tequila. One of the most aged tequilas was delicious and we were told that was the one that you should save for family! This tequila is only sold here.

Pam tries the very hot sauce on a tortilla chip with a tequila chaser

Here we are in our Jeeps. The instructions for the tour and the waiver said that the driver could not drink, but the tour included a tequila factory. Well, it is Mexico and the rules are different here I guess. Pepe made sure to check the driver’s licenses and (jokingly) said if you didn’t have one,, he would make one for you!

Our day finished with a late lunch at the Beach Club. We spent a while having lunch, watching the people on the beach and in the pretty pools and having a beach walk.

Then back to the ship, and yes, we did check out the Walmart where we picked up some wine at a very reasonable price. Can’t do that in Pennsylvania!

Tomorrow at noon we are scheduled to be in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Last world cruise we took in 2017 we missed that port due to bad weather. It is a tender port and the seas seem calm now, so we are hoping to get in.

Posted in Excursions, January, Mexico, World Cruise 3 | 4 Comments

Manzanillo, Mexico

January 25, 2019

During breakfast, we had the lovely sunrise sky on our sail in to Manzanillo.

Manzanillo is known as the Sailfish Capital of the World. There are many tournaments here, the main international one is held every November – this is for professionals and the top prize is 1 million pesos.

There is a large sculpture of a Marlin that greets us in the square just off the harbor.

We always seem to have such great guides and today was no exception for our tour – the Cuyutlan Turtle Experience. I have to say it was one of the BEST TOURS EVER and you will see why!

First a bit about Manzanilla. From a few years ago when only about 5 or 6 ships docked here, now there are about 32 in a season. This is largely because ships are avoiding Acapulco because of crime. This town seems very safe and nice. It is part of the “Mexican Riviera” – Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan. It is an important port town of 170,000 and 10% of the population works in the port where 3 million containers arrive and depart each year.

Tourism is important but also agriculture – coconuts, mangoes, bananas, papayas and limes are the main crops. It takes 6.5 years for a tree to produce coconuts but they continue to produce for 60 – 70 years. We passed many plantations on the way to Cuyutlan.

We drove along the Pacific coastline, and also between the lagoon and the ocean. Very pretty drive.

The town of Cutyutlan is very small – 900 population. But what we came to see is El Tortugario, an ecological center (all funded by donations) that cares for sea turtles, crocodiles and iguanas are cared for. And we gave them a donation.

The turtles return to the same place after 25 years to lay their eggs. Unfortunately due to predators, only 1% of the hatchlings survive. Three of the world’s eight species of sea turtle live along this section of the Pacific Coast – the Pacific Black, Golfina and Laud.

Here is the difference in sizes.

First we saw a short film about the Center. Then, we observed the iguanas and the crocodiles – large ones and one baby.

Is he yawning or just showing off?

This one is about to become a mama!

There are round pools with all of the sea turtles. We took lots of pictures, but here are just a few.

They have a large area where they keep the eggs from the predators, they mark the date they are collected and when the hatchlings are due they cover the eggs with screens. We were lucky that some hatched today. Then the total surprise and the absolutely BEST part. We each got to hold one of the new hatchlings and all at the same time, release them into the ocean. There was a strict protocol of how to hold them, where to stand and how to release them. I named mine “Mr. T” and I believe he will be one of the 1%!

You can see the lines in the sand. We had to stand behind both, then when ready to release the turtle, we all stepped in between and released them on “3”!

I have a video but not sure it will load, so I may add it another day when I have faster wifi. These pictures take a long time – I am still trying to find a way to get them on my computer where I can use the easier method I have used in the past to do the posts. Still working on that – it worked fine with my previous laptop and iPhone but for some reason not with the new ones. So watch for it as a separate post, maybe from Los Angeles if I can find fast wifi.

After the turtles, we went to the salt museum where we learned the methods that have been used over the years to extract sea salt. Very interesting! There are huge piles of salt near the warehouses and a man was packaging it for sale.

Amazing. Pile of salt.

Our last stop was the Cuyutlan Beach where we had a light lunch, time to stroll around and shop and enjoy the beach. The sand is the fine black volcanic sand. There were hardly any people there, but Francisco says on the weekends it is very crowded.

Back at the ship, I took a stroll around town while Norm went back to our suite. Our artist on board was there with one of his pieces. We had a chat – he has a gallery in Philadelphia!

Heading to Puerto Vallarta tomorrow. We were on a waiting list for the Jeep Safari and Beach Adventure – and just got notified that 2 spots opened up!

Posted in Excursions, January, Mexico, World Cruise 3 | 2 Comments

At Sea

January 24, 2019

We had a very nice and relaxing 2 sea days. First of all, a few evenings ago, we had a dinner in Toscana with Marilyn and Charlie and Rodney and Candace. To my surprise, the executive chef, Mario, and the staff came out with a birthday cake (Even though I had a birthday celebration in Toscana on my ACTUAL birthday!) Anyway, it was delightful and there was a Black Forest cake and ice cream for all of us. Rodney took pictures and I will post when I get them.

We were invited to both Oceania Club cocktail parties. At the first one on January 23, we got our Diamond pins. There are also many pictures taken by our friends but this is the only one I have at the moment. Thanks, Joyce!

Here are a couple of pictures from our sea days. Executive chef Mario prepared for the “battle of the chefs” evening program!

Terrace cafe – lovely presentation on Pan Asian Fusion dinner night

General Manager Damien welcoming us to the cocktail party.

Really enjoy those relaxing sea days. Usually they have a blackjack tournament every sea day but there weren’t enough players either of these sea days, so we didn’t have the tournaments. But I did fine in the evening though.

Had a great pedicure too!

On to Manzanilla tomorrow.

Posted in At Sea, January, World Cruise 3 | Leave a comment