Riverside – Glasgow’s Transport Museum

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Located along the River Clyde in the City of Glasgow Scotland, Riverside Museum is a wonderful venue dedicated to the history of transport, a winner of the 2013 European Museum of the Year award.

There’s no entrance fee to see the display of heritage vehicles, which include trams, locomotives, buses, cars, motorcycles, skateboards and even baby strollers (or Prams as they are referred to in Scotland). An abundance of interactive video displays are located throughout and there’s something to please everyone, young and old.

In one particular section of the museum, you will find a historic Glasgow streetscape. Like stepping through a time machine, you can take a stroll down a cobbled stoned road, see old cars and trams, shop windows filled with vintage display goods, and even find an entrance to a mock subway station, where visitors can take a virtual ride on one of the original rolling stock.

However, visitors may most admire the exterior of the building and it’s unique design and style of architecture, truly an amazing work of art, beautifully situated on the banks of the River Clyde.

Visitors to Glasgow must not miss this museum, a fantastic way to spend an afternoon, and with no admission fee required, one can’t argue with the price!

You may find more information at :

https://beta.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/venues/riverside-museum

Breeze-ing to the Western Caribbean

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Stunning sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico

Our good friends Greg and Felix have recently returned from their vacation aboard the beautiful Carnival Breeze, and took some time to speak to us about their trip.

They spent 7 nights aboard the vessel, the week of October 22, as she sailed from Galveston, Texas to the Western Caribbean, calling at Montego Bay Jamaica, Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands and Cozumel, Mexico.

The Toronto couple’s original travel plans had to be modified, due to the path of destruction left behind by Hurricane Maria. When first booked, they were originally scheduled to cruise aboard the Carnival Fascination originating out of San Juan, Puerto Rico. However, a few weeks prior to sailing, the cruise line called to notify them that their trip had to be cancelled as the ship had been chartered for humanitarian purposes.

Working with Carnival, they were able to get assigned to a different ship, the Breeze out of Galveston, Texas. They were issued some compensation for having to change their plans and flights last minute.

Greg and Felix flew into Houston the day prior to the cruise, and after a long day of travelling, decided to take it easy and relax at the hotel. The following morning, they were able to spend some time at the Galveston beach and experienced a beautiful sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico. “The sunrise and a stroll on the beach with a coffee was a nice way to begin our vacation. We wish we had another day to explore Galveston and all that this charming town has to offer”.

They headed for the cruise terminal and boarded the ship in the early afternoon. Felix had been on a few Carnival cruises before, however this was Greg’s first cruise vacation experience. “Upon boarding the ship, I wanted to see it all immediately” said Greg, “I wanted to swim, see our room, sunbathe and eat – simultaneously. I was quite overwhelmed and excited!”

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Beautiful weather at sea on board Carnival Breeze

After departing Galveston, Breeze spent two days at sea, where the couple spent some time unwinding and soaking up the sun on Lido deck. They also enjoyed many of the ship’s amenities such as the ropes course, mini putt, and of course abundance of food.

River rafting on the Martha Brae

When the ship arrived at their first port of call, Montego Bay, Jamaica, they were excited to disembark and explore the area. “We were looking forward to enjoying a nice shore excursion experience” said Greg.

With a variety of activities to choose from, the couple opted to take a trip on a bamboo raft down the Martha Brae river. The excursion was booked through Carnival on board the ship. “It was a very pleasant and relaxing experience”, noted Felix.

The next stop on the cruise was to be Grand Cayman, in the Cayman Islands, however, the weather and seas turned quite nasty, which promoted the Captain to cancel the stop. The foul conditions made it impossible for the ship to anchor and run it’s tender operation. Greg was somewhat disappointed when he first heard the news ,”This was the port I was really looking forward to – I had high hopes and expectations. However, we both understand that it is safety first. At least we have something to look forward to when we visit again”. Carnival Breeze then turned around and continued on her voyage to Cozumel, arriving the next day.

The closest Carnival Breeze got to Grand Cayman – The port was cancelled due to high winds and rough seas.

At Cozumel the couple booked an excursion to visit the famed Mayan Ruins at Tulum. After a two hour combination of a ferry and bus ride, they arrived at the site and were struck by its beauty and wonder. “This shore excursion was quite educational. To think that we were standing in a archaeological site from the 13th century was pretty cool” said Greg. In fact they enjoyed the visit there so much, that they are considering a resort based vacation in Cancun in the future. “We wish we had more time to enjoy the beach and Tulum Ruins, we really want to go back” added Felix.

Mayan Ruins at Tulum
Beautiful beach at Tulum

After Cozumel the Breeze departed for Galveston and after another day at sea, the trip was over. “We had a great time, we are sure we would do a cruise again” said Greg, “but maybe one with more ports and less sea days – only two ports and five sea days was a lot to handle”.

Greg and Felix, thank you for taking the time to speak with us about your recent cruise, and we wish you happy travels in the future!

Cruising to the Panama Canal

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For anyone looking for a unique cruise experience, a journey to the Panama Canal should definitely be at the top of your list. This trip will satisfy history buffs, ship nerds, rail fans and those just looking for a new adventure and ports to explore.

Panama Canal cruise season is typically between October to April each year and cruise lines offer both “Full Transit” and “Partial Transit” itineraries of the historic 77 kilometre waterway. “Full Transit” cruises will traverse the canal the full length, from ocean to ocean and typically run at least 14 days. “Partial Transit” cruises will enter the canal, travel through the first few set of locks, and then return back out, running at least 10 days. There are also options to travel through the original locks, dating back to 1914 or the new locks, which opened recently in 2016.

mapLast year, we sailed with the Coral Princess of Princess Cruises on the 10 day “Partial Transit” from Fort Lauderdale. The itinerary also included stops in Aruba, Cartagena Colombia, Limon Costa Rica and Ocho Rios Jamaica.

The Coral Princess, along with her sister ship Island Princess, were specifically designed to travel through the original locks.

Departing Fort Lauderdale and after two days at sea, our ship arrived at Oranjestad, Aruba. The stop in Aruba was only from 7am until 12:00 noon, not much time to explore the island, however a good chance to walk around close to port and pick up some souvenirs. Aruba is a beautiful island, and we would highly recommend visiting, however on a different itinerary which allows more time in port.

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After Aruba, our next stop was in Cartagena in Colombia. An interesting one for us, as it was the first time we both had stepped foot in the continent of South America, another item off the bucket list! We opted for the “hop on/hop off” bus tour of the city, which allowed for some great views and time to explore the historic “Walled City”. The downside was the traffic in Cartagena was horrendous which gave us less time to enjoy and experience some of the tour stops. After hearing so many negative things about Colombia, I’ll admit we were a bit nervous to wander off on our own, however we felt completely safe the entire time, and even found the locals to be friendly and helpful. The “Walled City” was filled with shops and cafes and many narrow streets with beautiful historic buildings, well worth taking a look at! For those less adventurous, there was a lovely bird sanctuary close to port.

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After a fun day in Cartagena, we boarded Coral Princess and next headed to what everyone on board was waiting for; the Panama Canal.

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It was announced the previous evening, that depending on other traffic waiting to enter the canal, that we would know the time we would enter the locks by morning. Not wanting to miss a minute of the action, we woke at 6am to enjoy a breakfast at the restaurant, and at about 8am we arrived at the Gatun Locks. The whole experience was narrated by a canal historian and expert, via the ship’s public address system. The ship’s photographers were alongside the canal as we passed through the locks, and captured images of the passengers on the balconies.

After exiting the Gatun Locks, the ship anchored in the Gatun Lake. Any passengers who booked an excursion were tendered to shore. We opted to take a trip on the Panama Canal Railroad; the shortest transcontinental train ride in the world!

IMG_7626 We were picked up by motorcoach, brought to the Panama Canal Visitor Centre and treated to an up close and personal view of the Gatun Locks. A cargo ship was transiting through, giving us a unique perspective of how the locks work. Then it was time to head to the City of Colon, where we boarded the Panama Canal Railway at the Atlantic Station. The journey to the Pacific Station in Panama City, provided for some excellent views of the canal and the rainforest. Upon arriving at Panama City, after some souvenir and duty free shopping, we were taken back to Colon via motorcoach, where the Coral Princess was waiting for us at the cruise passenger terminal. Those choosing to stay on board the ship, got to experience Coral Princess returning back out of the locks for the short journey to Colon.

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Our next port was Limon, in Costa Rica, where we opted for an excursion to the rainforest by “Aerial Tram”. It was a long motorcoach ride to the tram, but along the way we were treated to views of banana plantations and the beautiful Costa Rican countryside. The Aerial Tram ride was interesting, however we weren’t able to see much wildlife at all, perhaps just the time of year.

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After a day at sea, the Coral Princess visited Ocho Rios, Jamaica. We spent the day relaxing at the private Bamboo Beach Club which spoiled us with plenty of food, booze, sun and swimming. We couldn’t ask for a better way to end the cruise, as Fort Lauderdale and eventually home in Toronto, Canada was our next stop.

Overall this was a fantastic cruise experience and we would highly recommend it to anyone considering it. Take a look at the video below, to see for yourself!

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Meet Richard : Carnival Guest Services

22835685_10212864338342298_1806761388_nThey are the first cruise line employees we see at the terminal, they make sure all our documents are in order and tell us when and where to go to board the ship. They also give us great tips and advice for when we first board. This week, we speak with one of the Guest Services Agents who works at the check-in counter at Port Canaveral, Florida – Richard.

Richard recently joined the Carnival family as an employee, and speaks with us about his experiences working on the opposite side of the counter.

Q: What made you decide to work for Carnival Cruise Line?

A: “I decided to work for Carnival simply because I enjoy everything there is about cruising, and after taking so many trips on different ships, I feel it is a great way to share my experience, passion and knowledge with others, especially the first time cruisers.”

Q: Can you share with us, some of your duties and responsibilities?

A: ” I check in the guests for each voyage, ensure that they have any questions or concerns addressed. I also ensure that guests that require special assistance, such as those in mobility devices like wheelchairs are assisted up the gangway and on board the ship. I also assist with guests disembarking the ship, ensuring that luggage gets to where it’s supposed to go.”

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Q: What do you love most about your job?

A: “I enjoy seeing everyone so excited and happy to be on vacation and to begin a fun cruise. It’s great to be a part of that experience and to be the first face they see when they begin their cruise.”

Q: We know that you also love to cruise, how many have you been on?

A: “I have been on 16 cruises and hold Platinum status with Carnival. Currently I have two booked for 2018, on the Carnival Liberty and Carnival Magic.”

Q: What do you love about cruising?

A: “I really love being at sea, meeting new people and making new friends. It’s great to explore the ports of call and of course, most especially enjoy the wonderful food on board!”

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Thank you, Richard, for allowing us to learn more about the faces behind the cruise lines. We thank you for your hard work, for always doing your part to ensure us cruisers have the best experience possible!

Brussels – Belgium’s Historic Capital

IMG_4017Beautiful Cobblestone Pedestrian Only Street – Brussels

Brussels is the beautiful and historic capital of  Belgium and the capital of the European Union. Located in the central part of the country, it is home to some unique and diverse architecture – including the “Grand Place”, “The National Basilica of the Sacred Heart” and the “Antonium”, a monument constructed for the 1958 World’s Fair.

IMG_3927Many of the attractions are easily accessible by it’s public transportation system, which uses a combination of metro, trams, buses and waterbus.

For those who prefer to walk, they will find themselves in luck, as the city’s central area features some cobblestone lined, pedestrian only streets. On these streets, there are many traditional Belgian chocolate shops, plenty of stores to find that perfect souvenir or even places to enjoy a famous Belgian Waffle.

One attraction that you may find a large crowd taking selfies with, is the famous “Manneken Pis” or “Peeing Boy” statue, which is said to date back to the 1600s. Over the years it has become the symbol of Brussels and the unique sense of humour of it’s citizens.

IMG_4006The Grand Place

If walking or transit isn’t your style, then perhaps you’d prefer to rent a bicycle. In fact, it has been said that riding a bike around central Brussels is the quickest and most efficient way to get around. The city offers a bike share program with pickup and drop off locations throughout town, and a network of bike lanes to zip around on.

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Of course, after a long day of exploring this wonderful city, you may want to visit one of the city’s many restaurants and try one of Belgium’s national dishes, “Moules-Frites”, which is mussels with french fries – quite delicious! Also, If you are a fan of Stella Artois, the brewery is located in a nearby town called Leuven, and offers tours of the facility, a great half day trip!

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Brussels is definitely a worthwhile stop on any European journey!

 

Toronto’s Vintage Streetcars

The beautiful “PCC” Streetcar on St. Clair Avenue, Toronto Canada.

The last regular “Red Rocket” PCC streetcar ran in regular service in the City of Toronto in 1995, however, Toronto Transit Commission retains two of these vintage streetcars as part of their historic fleet. You can catch them occasionally out on charters, special events and during the summer season on the 509 Harbourfront Route on Sundays.

Belfast, Northern Ireland : City of Murals

The City of Belfast, Northern Ireland has had quite a turbulent past with some deep religious and political divisions throughout it’s history. While today the City is quite peaceful and vibrant, some of it’s political history can be found in many different murals around the city.

If ever visiting, a tour of these murals is highly recommended! Read more about the murals here :

https://theculturetrip.com/europe/united-kingdom/northern-ireland/articles/24-belfast-murals-you-need-to-see/

Cruising the Great Lakes : ms Hamburg

September 29, 2017 :

On a visit to Niagara Falls, were lucky enough to catch the ms Hamburg of Plantours Cruises passing through Lock 3 of the Welland Canal in Ontario, Canada.

The 15,000 ton, 420 passenger Hamburg has completed a tour of the Great Lakes and after a few more stops is expected to arrive in the Port of Toronto this Wednesday.

The Hamburg visits the Great Lakes each fall season, to show it’s mostly German guests, the beauty of the region’s fall leaf colours.

The YouTube channel “Right in Niagara” captured the Hamburg entering Lake Ontario from the Canal.

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