Europe … Here I Come!

It appears I just can’t get enough of cruises. I have been on just about every cruise you can take from the United States and I still want more. I don’t like to go to places I’ve been before so I am now planning a 14 Day cruise to Europe. It will be sometime in April. The cruise starts in Barcelona and goes to Florence, Pisa, Naples, Rome, Croatia, Greece and Sicily before returning to Barcelona. Here is a map of the trip:


On this European cruise, I will be taking the Carnival cruise ship Horizon. It is the newest ship in their fleet and this will be Horizon’s first voyage. (Didn’t the Titanic sink on its first cruise?) Oh well, I will think about that later. Here is a picture:

Here is the itinerary:

At the beginning of the movie Titanic, Rose, played by the lovely Kate Winslet, makes this statement:

I can still smell the fresh paint. The china had never been used. The sheets had never been slept in. Titanic was called the Ship of Dreams, and it was. It really was.”

I don’t know if the Horizon will be called the Ship of Dreams, but the other stuff is correct. This will be the first cruise for Horizon and I will be part of it. As far as I know, there are no icebergs in the Mediterranean Sea, so I doubt my cruise will end at the bottom of the sea.

Austin to Denver to Phoenix

I have been invited by  David and Elizabeth, my nephew and his wife, to visit them at their home in Phoenix for Thanksgiving, so that is what I am going to do.

I’m going to make it a November road trip by going to Denver to visit two of my sisters, Nancy and Rosemary, for a couple of days, then on to Phoenix. There might be a visit to the casinos in Black Hawk, Colorado. (When I say ‘might be’, I really mean ‘will be’)


Nancy fixed a great breakfast


Nancy and Rosemary at the craps table at the Ameristar Casino in Blackhawk (We all won at that table):


It was a great Thanksgiving with Dave & Elizabeth & Patty & John and Justin & Kelsey & Colton & Genevieve & Cameron.

Dave (a life-long Dodger’s fan) lost a bet and had to wear an Astro’s T-Shirt because the Astros beat the Dodgers in the 2017 World Series, the greatest World Series ever:

Needless to say, he wasn’t very happy about that.


On my way back to Austin I stopped in Las Cruces, New Mexico because I found out that Katy’s (my niece) husband’s team was playing a football game there. He is the running back’s coach for the Idaho Vandal’s football team. Here are some pics:

Davis & Ellie & Me:

Learning About the Mayans – Day 5

September 12,2017


We have arrived in Progreso where I hope to learn about the Mayans. I have signed up for an excursion called Mayan Ruins & Beach Break Combo. Here is the description:

Only 12 miles from Progreso, the archaeological site of Dzibilchaltún is one of the most important ceremonial centers of the Mayan world. This tour is ideal for those who want to explore a Mayan ruin and learn about the Mayan culture and history.

Then, enjoy some true Mexican relaxation on Corona Beach where you can sit back in a lounge chair under the small “palapas” in the sun or the shade. Enjoy the domestic open bar and sway to the gentle rhythms of tropical music.  Included is a nice meal of fresh seafood and a Mexican specialty dish at the restaurant. 

I won’t bore you with everything I learned about the Mayans. I know you all have computers and can Google them if you want to learn more. However, here are a few interesting things I did learn:

  1. No one really knows why the Mayan Empire met its end, but there are still some Mayan people left in the Yucatan peninsula where I visited. I actually met one. She is 85 years old and one of the very few people who still speak the Mayan language. Her picture is below.
  2.  When the Spaniards invaded Mexico in the 17th century, their primary goal was to convert the Mayans to Catholicism. When they tore down a Mayan temple, they used the same building materials to build Catholic churches. You will see some of these churches in the pictures below. That sounds pretty cruel, but the Mayans did practice human sacrifice … so …..
  3. Contrary to popular belief, the Mayan calendar did not predict the end of the world in 2012.
  4. Mayan noblewomen filed their teeth into points.
  5.  The Mayas were obsessive astronomers who kept very detailed records of the movements of the stars, sun, moon and planets. Their techniques were so advanced that they could actually predict such things as eclipses, equinoxes and solstices.

OK – Lecture over. Here are some pics of what is left of the Mayan structures:



This picture is a little blurry. I think I was a little nervous standing close to the back edge. It was a long way down:

This is one of the few Mayan houses that still exists. The Mayans built their houses with two doors, one facing east and one facing west. The sun is in the east in the morning and in the west in the afternoon. They would always exit or enter whichever door was facing the sun so their shadow would be behind them. It was considered bad luck to step on your shadow.

This is the woman who lives in the house. She has no electricity and gets her water from a well in the back yard. The house is round in design so that, when both doors are open, the wind swirls around inside. That is Mayan air conditioning and was invented centuries ago. I tried to write down her name, but I couldn’t begin to spell it. It sounded something like “Henriariata.”

Here is one of the churches the Spanish missionaries built from materials from a Mayan temple they destroyed:

We were entertained by these two people. She danced with a tray of glasses filled with water and didn’t spill a drop:

They made me take off my cool hat inside the church:


After the tour of the Mayan ruins, we went to the beach for the promised meal of authentic Mexican food. I am not an expert on food. I pretty much like everything. People actually have to tell me when food is bad. Having said that, I will just say the food was delicious and they let you eat as much as you wanted. Here are some pics of the lunch and the very beautiful beach:

 of chairs

Having a bar on the beach with swings instead of chairs seems to be a Mexican thing. I’ve seen it before:

The beach was loaded with sea shells and we were allowed to collect as many as we could. Some people filled bags with the shells:

I elected to just take a picture (easier to carry):



Learning About the Mayans – Day 4

September 11, 2017


We arrived at Cozumel early this morning. I signed up for an excursion. It has the title of Beach Buggy and Snorkel. Here is the description:

Rev up your engines and get ready for a beautiful adventure as you drive a Dune Buggy convertible along a paved road thru the pristine tropical environment along the Caribbean coastline of Cozumel!  We will snorkel inside Cozumel’s underwater national park in an offshore beach. After this, we will continue on to the eastern side of the island for a wonderful beach break at Explora Beach. Here you will swim, have fun in the sun, and enjoy a Mexican Buffet Lunch.

(Since the excursion is now over, I can certify that brochure description is very accurate. I enjoyed it very much, especially the snorkeling and the buffet. I got to drive the Dune Buggy because they are all stick shifts and not a lot of the people knew how to drive a stick.)

Here are some pictures:

At the beach, you could get a massage. Here’s the problem. The senorita who sold you the massage ticket was a young and attractive girl. However, the woman who actually gave the massage was not so young and not so attractive. I was warned in advance by the tour guide so I didn’t fall into the trap:

Drug store on the beach:

The tour guides, Many and Ramon. My experience with the tour guides on these excursions is that they are very well informed and very funny. At the end, they always ask for tips and they always deserve them:

The buffet – delicious and authentic Mexican food:

They sold cigarettes there and there were plenty of warnings. The smokers didn’t seem to care:

On the way back, we came upon a place where you could “waste away”:




Learning About the Mayans – Day 3

September 10 , 2017


Today we are “At Sea” meaning we won’t be stopping anywhere. I like these days because the Casino is open all day. I also like to spend time at the pool soaking up the sun.

Last night I came back to the cabin and found a familiar friend waiting:

This morning I went to the pool early and found all kinds of creatures sitting on the chairs. Somebody must have stayed up all night folding towels:

Watching the Houston Texans get beat on the (really) big screen:

Since I like to travel alone (I really do), I do a lot of “people watching”, especially in the casino and by the pool. As I was laying out at the pool today, some random thoughts came into my mind. Here are a few of those thoughts.

  1. Is there anything better than being 72 years old, in excellent health, retired, financially secure, floating around the Gulf of Mexico on a cruise ship surrounded by a lot of very attractive women from all over the world? I think not.
  2. Speaking of women, why do certain women (and certain men) think they can pull off wearing a thong bathing suit?
  3. I like to watch children in the pool. They laugh and laugh. They never walk. They always run everywhere. They splash each other and giggle and giggle. They don’t have a care in the world and they have no idea what lies in their future. In a way, they are like me (except I have a pretty good idea why lies in my future, but I won’t think about that now).
  4. By the way, why aren’t these children in school? After all, it is September for crying out loud.
  5. The swimming pools on cruise ships are never any deeper than 4 feet, 6 inches. That is good thinking. I have seen people so drunk when they get into the pool that they can hardly stand up and standing up is the only thing keeping them from drowning.
  6. The Cruise Director has a job I would never want. He must be “Up” at all times. He has to shake hands with everybody he meets and say “Good to see you”. I watched one time when some woman was complaining about something she didn’t like on the cruise. She was extremely loud and rude. He just stood there taking it all, trying to be as polite as possible, apologizing over and over. I think I could have talked several of the people who were watching this into helping me throw the old biddy overboard.

Here is the Cruise Director (Frankie) trying to be excited about the “Hairiest” chest contest (Okay, maybe he really is excited and it’s not just an act. Who am I to judge?):

I decided I was going to learn how to solve the Rubik’s cube on this trip. I have gotten to the point where I can solve the top two layers. The bottom layer is the hardest, but I’m not going to give up until I get it.

Learning About the Mayans – Day 2

September 9,2017

At precisely 4 pm on September 9, the Carnival cruise ship Valor started its engines and set sail for Cozumel and Progreso. Here is the view from the highest point on the ship as we left Galveston and Texas and the United States of America:

OK. Everybody knows I don’t have any kids. I have no problems with the little people. I just think there are already enough people in the world, so, in a way, I am doing a good thing by not increasing the population. Kind of noble, right? Anyway, I am not alone in that opinion. That’s why, on every cruise I have been on, they have a place like this:

In the past, the cabins I have been in were very high on the ship and, looking out the window when at sea you just saw miles and miles of water. It looked like this:

On this cruise, my cabin is on the lowest deck. The window is very close to the water and there is a much different view. Sometimes the water churned up as the ship moves actually covers the entire window making you think you are under water.  It’s pretty cool and looks like this:

A good friend of mine at the Texas Workforce Commission is Lisa B. She took this same cruise a few weeks ago and recommended that I try one of the restaurants on board, called Scarlett’s Steakhouse. Normally, you have to dress formally to go here, but, on the first night of the cruise the dress code is “Cruise Casual” — right up my alley.

She was right. Here is what she recommended and what I ordered: Lobster bisque, crab cake, filet with lobster tail, Bearnaise sauce, wasabi mashed potatoes, rosemary bread. She had the cheesecake for dessert, but I opted for the “chocolate sampler.”

It was excellent and looked like this (chocolate sampler not pictured):


Learning About the Mayans – Day 1

September 8, 2017

In order to get to the cruise ship, I have to drive from my home in Austin thru Houston to the seaport in Galveston. Here’s the problem. A couple of weeks ago Hurricane Harvey showed up and put most of the region between Houston and Galveston under trillions of gallons of water. Many of the roads between those cities were closed.

To be sure that I made it to Galveston in time to board the ship, I decided to leave today (Sep 8) instead of the cruise departure on September 9.

On my way through Houston, I decided to take a detour to the first home I ever owned – a townhouse on Sabo Road. I couldn’t believe what I saw. This is a picture of how that townhouse looks today. Very sad.

I drove for several miles along this street and saw this same sight over and over. I feel so sorry for the people of Houston and the surrounding cities. I still have some friends there and, thank goodness, they are all OK.

At one point I saw a CarMax location. There were dozens of car transports loading cars that were ruined by the flood. I wonder what they are going to do with those cars.

When I got to Galveston with no problem I had some time on my hands, so I went to my favorite seafood restaurant in the whole world – Gaidos. (Sorry, Joe Tess). When I lived in Houston I went there many many times. It is still excellent.

Tomorrow the cruise starts. I can’t wait.

Learning About the Mayans

August 8, 2017

For me, travelling is fun, but it can also be educational. I learned a lot about Alaska on my cruise there. I learned a lot about Cuban history when I went there.

My next trip is going to be a cruise to Cozumel (2nd time going there) and then to the Yucatan Peninsula (Progreso).

This is a 5 day cruise starting on September 9.

In keeping with my desire to combine fun with education, I am especially interested in the stop at Progreso because that is part of what was known as the Mayan Empire. The Mayan people established a very complex civilization beginning about 1,800 B.C. They flourished until about 900 A.D. when most of their great stone cities were abandoned. Since the 19th century scholars have debated what might have caused this dramatic decline.

In Progreso, I will be taking a tour of some of the impressive Mayan plazas, palaces, temples and pyramids that still stand to this very day.

Stay tuned.

Voy A Cuba – Day 7

June 21, 2017

At Sea

We left Cuba last night and will spend all day today and tonight sailing back to Tampa Bay.

When we are at sea I divide my time between the casino, the swimming pool and the restaurants and buffets. They don’t want you to take pictures in the casino. You certainly don’t want to see pictures of an old man in a bathing suit, so here are some pictures of the food:

One of the restaurants had Indian cuisine. I had roasted lamb chops covered with a cherry glaze. People say it was what  Matthew McConaughey made for Kate Hudson in some movie. I never saw the movie, so I don’t know if Kate liked it, but I did. It was very good.

They are very serious about food poisoning on board all cruise ships. In such close quarters, it is easy to pass germs around, so they ask you to wash your hands before and after you eat. My hands are wrinkled because I spent so much time eating and hand washing.

I try to burn calories instead of storing them, so I spent a couple hours every day in the fitness center.

I bought this hat in Havana (for 15 pesos). When I started wearing it, people started speaking to me in Spanish. I guess I looked like an hombre from South Omaha. Maybe that’s not so strange these days (Inside joke for people from South 20th Street).

Of course I had to try a Cuban cigar.

It was … cough … cough … cough … great! (Not really).

Here is my passport with a very rare (for Americans) Cuba visa. There was a time when Americans who traveled to Cuba were taken aside and questioned about why they were going there. Today … not so much.

Thursday morning …. the ship pulls into the port at Tampa Bay … and the cruise is over. I will be back in Austin later today and thinking about my next trip … check you later.