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Monday, November 28, 2011

TOP PORTS: Turks & Caicos

Such moments as these are what make travel so grand and gratifying. And what is more thought provoking than imagining what it is like not to be human while sharing the waters for a brief encounter with these ancient sea creatures?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

How to survive it all?

You will instantly learn how to touch them, always avoiding the tail, and you may be lucky enough to actually get a playful kiss from a friendly, curious ray.  This means seven years of good luck according to the locals, this means I’m all set with good luck till 2018.  Thousands of travelers have visited this site in the past decade without being ripped to shreds by "killer, man-eating rays."

You'll probably survive it as well. If you get in the water, remember stingrays cannot see what they are feeding; they eat by sucking the food into their mouths between two hard dental plates. The ray hunts by sense of smell, so you can lead a ray around for quite a while with just one piece of bait - actually just long enough to get another ray coming in from another angle. Stingrays are not aggressive and will flee from danger whenever possible. When swimming, stingrays are not capable of directing their tail and are therefore rather defenseless.

Snorkeling with the undulating inhabitants of Gibbs Cay

Want to snorkel with prehistoric-looking creatures? And actually feed the giant but graceful fish with morsels of squid?  Consider a visit to a special sandbar on Turks & Caicos famous Gibb’s Cay.
Gibb’s Cay is known to snorkelers throughout the Caribbean. The rays have become accustomed to and perhaps dependent upon the tourists, who bring with them morsels of fish and squid to encourage their encounters. These active, free-swimming rays love cruising along these cristal clear waters, traveling singly and in pairs. They are both graceful and powerful as they swim towards us. But mostly, they seem to love to just glide along in a seemingly endless reverie.

A private yacht club atmosphere with a punch

When compared to the 82  ships I’ve been on, the one thing to strike me most about this 43,188 tones ship was how calm life on board is, very relaxing and quite a change of pace from so many ships. Upon boarding the World, time will literally be nonexistent here. It sails in the most leisurely fashion.  I could go up to my apartment, relax, read a book and not see a soul.  The World offer passengers and prospective buyers a unique experience, far removed from the average holiday on a cruise ship.  Here, passengers can join or leave the ship when they please. They can relax in the sunshine, visit the casino, go to the cinema or play yet more golf.

The World's First Floating Condo  has a private yacht club atmosphere with a punch.  In comparison to other cruise lines, they seem to be quite focused on a slower, yet relaxed lifestyle together with the ultimate luxuries your heart could desire.  A ship of its kind, combining the privacy and indulgence of conventional top luxury resorts around the world, with the perfect experience of travelling by sea.

I think what I liked most was the fact that is low-key, deliberately so, understated quality.  Whereas more traditional cruise liners can be a social whirl of dinners and dances, cabaret and cocktails, life on The World is not ruled by any fixed itinerary or timescale. I sure didn’t miss the obligatory cocktail parties, the long lines to board launches/buses, the organized shuffleboard tournaments, the obligatory rushing from port to port before they left you behind and I was also able to say no to the regimented dining schedule. "Here you can be private or you can participate”. Up to you?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

“East” and Chef Jon Po from Singapore

Without doubt my absolute favorite is “East” I was daily pampered by Chef Jon Po from Singapore. Chef John Po serves great sushi, sashimi and tempura as well as a wide variety of Pan-Asian cuisine. I was one of those that stopped often at the ship's "Fredy’s Deli" their delicatessen or food market onboard offers few of the basics required by any new homeowner in a street café environment. On display were vintage champagne, foie gras, smoked salmon, beluga caviar and selections range from specialty coffee and tea to gourmet sandwiches and pastries, fresh pasta and bread were  must haves.  
Marina offers a more traditional experience with options ranging from seafood, steaks to rotisserie.  I enjoyed Tides because of its mesmerizing ocean views and great Mediterranean fare.  Their Poolside Grill offers casual outdoor-grill favorites plus salads and panini.  Portraits, is open only a few times per month for dinner and due being so limited,  is was not available for guests only residents.  For some reason I loved East and kept gravitating to the same restaurant, can’t say one could regret it.

Thank you Paul Berg ! (Ireland)

Thank you Paul Berg (Ireland) for my brand new, very own BelExplores COMPASS!!! I am in looooooove with it! Best Tak-Day gift ever! LOVE your Dutch Map & furniture designs!!!

Seven eateries, a deli and four bars

My first morning, breakfast was served by Mark Green my darling waiter a lovely chap from the UK.  Mark asked to try his supper concoction juice, while I honestly feared its presentation as it came in a Tequila Caballito glass first thing in the morning. Just in front of my table I looked at this beautiful older woman, she was stunning in her younger years I imagine sipping a mimosa, a diamond ring sparkling resplendently in the sunshine and as a proud resident she smiled at me. The ship's owners, uber-wealthy men and women who live in luxurious condos aboard this ship continuously circumnavigate the globe. 

Breakfast being the most important meal of the day is also an the ideal opt to watch the wealthy at play and relaxing. From the balcony they can eat breakfast with a view of Tortola today.  Virtually every one of the 165 apartments has a veranda. This has the unfortunate side-effect of making the ship look, in a certain light. You did miss watching penguins in Antarctica at lunch Mark just said to me, I wanted to scream NOOOOOOOOOO! But you can always sip drinks as the 43,000-ton vessel sits in the middle of the Caribbean as the sun sets over and at this time of the year I was more than certain to see humpback whales and dolphins on their way to the Samana Bay Peninsula of my island during breading season.

There is a total of four seven restaurants, along with those guests can also enjoy 24-hour room service. If you happen to be staying in an apartment on board the ship, you can also benefit from the call-a-chef option. This option provides you with the ability to request a chef to come to your apartment and prepare a meal on site for you as well as any guests who may be visiting you. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Designed and built by Fosen Mek, Norway

This beautiful  ship was the brainchild of Norwegian billionaire Knut Kloster Jr, his family had been in the cruise ship industry for a long time. It was designed and built by Fosen Mek, Verdsteder AS in Rissa, Norway a municipality in Sør-Trøndelag county, part of the Fosen region.  It was designed by the well-known cruise ship architects Yran & Storbraaten, unlike most luxury ships built by Kvaerner Masa-Yard (Aker Yards Oy) in Suomi-Finland, Fincantieri--Cantieri Navali Italiani out of Trieste or Chantiers de l'Atlantique in France, international ship building groups among the world’s top cruise ship builders, with an emphasis on sophisticated vessels. Somehow it is quite noticeable the Scandinavian ethos has rubbed off on this one. It feels at home rather than a plastic jungle of a ship.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The World's first floating condo

Who needs an island when you can buy a home on a luxury, globe-trotting liner?

Ever wonder like many of us how to best spend your retirement years? Perhaps not, though that may change with this wonderful proposition for you to consider.  How does it sound to wake up every morning in your own glorious apartment -- which just happens to have a daily ocean-view some weeks the Indian Ocean, some months the Med.  Then daily making your way upstairs, past the library, to decide if you feel like  having breakfast or stopping for some rooftop golf ?
 When you are passionate of the work you do, each assignment may well seem to be the assignment of a lifetime, for me this time was aboard the one-of-a-kind ship “The World”-- the world's first residential ship.
 Like the modern day explorer I am, my anxiety at embarkation came perhaps from my dream not living up to the reality. At embarkation the early signs were promising, an elderly American couple on the launch out to the world exude the sort of over-monied opulence I imagined. The World, docked in Frederiksted, St. Croix, USVI where I joined in. "When ship pulled in--it is an impressive sight-- there weren’t the 2,000+ cruisers and even more 85 nationality crew members, I’m used to seeing trying to get off like your typical cruise ship, but between 75 and 125 people who own the ship.  Residents at under 200 and crew members at not much more than that. The crew to passenger ratio is 2:1, giving the vessel very exceptional service that can guarantee to beat the best in the industry these days.
My fear of my first tour of the $264 million vessel was that it would reveal a reality at odds with the superlatives on their WWW page.  Yet once aboard the look is understated elegance, with 55,000 sq. ft of luxurious public spaces, a grand thickly carpeted reception area that leads off to the lecture theatre and minimalist beauty that is often seen in Scandinavian ship design.
Described by many as "the first ocean-going luxury resort", this would become my new found home for the week.  My studio here was the ultimate address on board with a £1 million price tag.  Cruise ships are known for their luxury and amenities, but this one beats many ships when it comes to not only luxury but also privacy. This is a high end resort at sea--not to be compared with your average “fun ship”, and it is quite obvious they are selling a lifestyle and that's what people are buying quite different then cruising the high seas.
The name of the ship is exactly what they do best—they cruise the world.  Because of the work I do I have been quite fortunate to have visited over 82 ships and this ship is one of the best I’ve been on. I can't fault it." I wish like these residents I could set up home @sea upon retirement continuously circumnavigate the globe. "I think it's a fantastic idea" It allows like-minded people from around the world  to mix with a range of people, of all ages and occupations doing what they love most."  There goes another thought on a New Retirement Plan.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Swimming with Homosassa’s Gentle Giants

They may not have the strength and grace of killer whales, or the agility and looks of dolphins, but manatees are stealing the show at Homosassa Springs.
Cruisers who want to enjoy nature at its best pre or post cruise, a nature wonderland hidden behind Orlando’s theme parks, there is another Florida, a nature-lover's Florida. This fascinating little known corner of the U.S. is Mother Nature's theme park featuring pristine rivers, trees dripping with Spanish moss, lush woods and more wildlife than people.
Our latest trip took us to the manatees’ home turf, far away from the modern-day animal refugee camps we have constructed and now call aquariums.  We aimed our compass south to Florida's west central coast line and the Gulf of Mexico, and it is here that we met one of the most formidable aquatic mammals.

From November to March, it is here that groups of manatees congregate. They have chosen to escape the cold winter ocean and bask in the warm waters near power plants and coastal clear water springs that stay about 72F degrees year-round. Snorkelers, divers and swimmers come from all over the world for a chance to swim or interact with the shy, gentle, docile West Indian manatee in its natural environment. Numerous dive sites, inland springs, good underwater visibility, calm water and its wintering manatee population have made Citrus County a popular destination for nature lovers like us.
Abundant plant life makes the area a perfect playground for the manatees, who arrive every year by the hundreds to find warmth, food and shelter, and maybe, just maybe, to visit us, the curious humans. The area is also safe for these endangered mammals whose lives are often cut short by environmental factors and fatal encounters with speeding watercraft.

Essential Information: November through March is when manatees are in residence in this region. Sanctuaries are in effect from November 15 - March 31.  Crystal River is the only place in the world for snorkelers to swim with the West Indian manatee in relatively clear water.  · Getting There: Citrus County and Crystal River is less than 1.5hr  drive from Orlando, Tampa or Daytona. The closest cities would be Crystal River, Inverness and Homosassa, FL.  Citrus County Visitors & Convention Bureau 9225 West Fishbowl Drive Homosassa, Florida 34448 P: 800-587-6667 P: 352-628-9305 F: 352-628-0703 E:  · Staying there:  We stayed at   The Plantation Inn Golf Resort & Spa · Manatee Encounter Tours:  Captain Traci Wood with Native Vacations 2880 N. Seabreeze Pt. Crystal River, Fl 37729. P: 352-302-5052 E: expedition starts at the Twin Rivers Marina.  She knows the subject of manatees intimately.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Help protect dolphins in Egypt's Red Sea, or study Asian elephants in Thailand !

At least fifteen species of dolphin and whale are to be found in the Red Sea, but a lack of data is hampering efforts to protect them. Be among the first to use boat-based visual, acoustic, and other observational methods to help marine mammals in some of the Egyptian Red Sea's most pristine areas.