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Tianjin, China MAR 12 2024

The second day in Tianjin, we decided to take an excursion into the city of Tianjin. We had considered an excursion into Beijing to see the capital, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. But that would mean another three hour bus ride each way including the police checkpoint, so we decided not to go. Even getting from the port into the city of Tianjin was an hour ride each way.  We left the ship very early in the morning on a very cold day with temperatures in the low 30’s.

Another One Of Those Super Tall Buildings

Even a Walmart in China

Our Lady of Victory Church also known as Wanghailou Church, is a Roman Catholic church located in Tianjin, China.

Towering 120-m. Ferris wheel above the Hai River, illuminated with colorful lights at night.

Tianjin, with a population of 14,000,000, is the seventh largest city in China. Our first stop was at the Confucian Temple. It is a temple consecrated to offer sacrifices to the memory of Confucius, a great thinker, educator and statesman in ancient China. Built in 1302, it is the second largest Confucian temple in China. It is the largest traditional architectural complex in the city and one of the oldest. There are actually two temples here, one on the east side and one on the west side. The temples underwent extensive repair in 1985. We spent quite a bit of time here walking through the temples and various buildings.

Next we went to the Guwenhua Jie Street market with many brightly colored stores. It was very loud with music and vendors selling their wares. It was a pedestrian area and we had a false sense of security regarding traffic. Bill was slightly in front of me and looking to the left. Suddenly I saw a speeding motor scooter coming from the right, straight at him as he was about to step into its path. I screamed for him to watch out and he stopped inches from the scooter as it flew by. Whew! That was a really close call. We really didn’t want to end up in a Chinese hospital!

Near the market was a large statue of Mazu, a Chinese sea goddess they believe protect sailors and fishermen.

Next we went to a Chinese restaurant for another “authentic” Chinese lunch. It was very similar to yesterday’s restaurant with a table for eight and a Lazy Susan in the center. The food was similar to the day before but no soup or orange slices for dessert.

Tianjin University is the oldest university in China, 1895

Children Exercising

After what seemed like a long hour bus ride back to the ship, we went through security and turned in the copies of our passports they had stamped. We were officially checked out of China.

This Is The View Of The Port Area

One comment about Chinese public bathrooms. They were horrible everywhere except for the two nice restaurants. The restaurants had western style toilets which were fully stocked with toilet tissue, soap and paper towels. But other public restrooms throughout China are filthy and disgusting. Most were Asian style with a hole in the floor. If we were lucky they had one western toilet with a seat, but the stalls were very small. There was no toilet tissue, soap or paper towels. Most of the women, me included, limited our fluid content so as not to have to use those restrooms any more than necessary. 

Once again we were over two hours late leaving Tianjin due to the stringent Chinese immigration officials. The captain remarked during his noon talk the next day that the Tianjin officials were the hardest to work with, bordering on rudeness. He commented he was very glad our China ports were over. He apologized for what we had to endure during the police checks, etc. He said he notified the Holland America corporate office and perhaps they would consider that when planning future cruises. 

We now had three days at sea before our next port of call, Hong Kong. It was obvious everyone was tired from all the back to back early morning Chinese ports. Everyone welcomed a much needed rest.

On one of those evenings they had the Zuiderdam Ball beginning with a formal dinner. Various officers hosted tables in the dining room. We were invited to be the guest of George who is the director of the food and beverage services. He is in charge of a very large staff from dining room managers to maitre d’s to servers and cooks in the dining room and buffet. There was a table of three couples and George. We all had a big laugh when we found out the three ladies at the table were all named Diane. We jokingly told him they did that to make it easier for him to remember our names. He was a great host. It was a very enjoyable evening with complimentary wine and great conversation.

Unfortunately we have to say goodbye to our beloved Captain Frank and his friendly wife when we reach Hong Kong. He originally was not supposed to be the captain of the World Cruise, but he had to fill in for another captain who had a personal emergency. Captain Frank’s duty ended in Hong Kong. The sea day before we reached Hong Kong there was a farewell salute for the captain and his wife in the Grand Theater. Two standing ovations from passengers and crew brought tears to his eyes. A touching video of highlights from the cruise was shown. At the end of the salute, the crew crowded the stage while the song “We Are Family” played and the passengers clapped and cheered. We sure will miss Captain Frank and Alexandra. They are going back to their home in the Netherlands for a well deserved vacation.

We heard from a crew member that the new captain has a similar style to Captain Frank. If that is true, then we will all be A-okay. 

We also received an invitation for a private tour of the ship’s galley. The galley is under the direction of an Executive Chef who supervises 134 people. We were given a printout of the amount of food prepared, dishes washed, etc that is mind boggling. The complimentary champagne at the end of the tour was a nice touch. 

Next up: Hong Kong and foggy weather that is finally warming up


Transatlantic Cruise APR 23, 2023

On Sunday April 23th, in the early morning, we left home and drove to Miami. The plan was to turn in our rental car at Avis and take their free shuttle van to the Miami port. When we arrived at Avis we saw over 200 people lined up waiting for the shuttle. It appeared they only had two  shuttle vans running with at least a 30-45 minutes wait between pickups. It was beyond chaotic along with hot, humid conditions as we waited in the sun. After assessing the situation we decided to take an Uber. Our driver arrived within five minutes and we were on our way.

Miami Skyline

View North from Miami Port

The check-in at the ship was fairly quick and easy. They just needed to see our passports and vaccination cards. After going through security, we walked with our luggage onto the ship, the Royal Caribbean “Explorer of the Seas”. 

Our cabin was not ready so we had some lunch in the Windjammer Cafe. After the busy morning it felt so good to sit down and get something cool to drink. By the time we finished, they announced our cabin was ready. 

After depositing our luggage in our cabin we had to check into our muster station. We had already watched their safety video at home so it was a quick process. 

We then spent some time unpacking and figuring out where to put everything. We usually book a balcony cabin but this time we chose an inside cabin. We knew as we traveled into the north Atlantic, it would be too cold to enjoy the balcony, so it didn’t make sense to spend the extra money. Turned out to be a wise decision because by day three of the 15 day voyage, it was very windy and chilly. 

We were not familiar with Royal Caribbean ships so we spent some time exploring.

After dinner they had welcome entertainment on the Promenade with clowns and three big balloon drops.

We have found the food is not as good as Holland America or Norwegian. But we are certainly not starving! On the other hand the number of activities and entertainment on Royal Caribbean is a step above the others. Our sea days have been full with lectures on astronomy, criminal justice, Hollywood and upcoming ports, as well as Star Wars, states capitals/nicknames and movie trivia. The lectures have been very informative by really knowledgeable presenters. There is always live music somewhere on the ship throughout the day and evening, especially on the Promenade. 

We did a coffee chat with an officer one morning. I asked if the ship was full. The answer was all cabins were full but the number of passengers was not at full capacity because some cabins were single occupants.

The evening shows have also been very good. We saw Greg London, a three time Las Vegas Entertainer of the Year winner. He is a singer who does impressions of other singers like Elton John, Rod Stewart, Johnny Cash and Mick Jagger. The next evening we saw Jay Rawlings, a comedy magician who was a winner on Britain’s Got Talent. Other shows by the ship’s singers and dancers has been very good.

Bill and I played putt putt golf and Bill also did archery.

We enjoyed watching people “surf” in a simulated surfing pool. The ship also has a rock climbing wall and an ice skating rink. No, we did not go ice skating! But, we saw a fantastic 45 minutes ice skating show by ten talented skaters.

With Artificial Snow

By the third day the weather was windy and chilly. People continued to sunbathe but people avoided the pool, except for the hot tubs. In fact the seas were rough enough to make the water in the pools slosh over the sides. 

I should mention that for the first four nights, each night the time went ahead one hour to prepare us for Europe time. So over four nights, we lost four hours. Fortunately we could sleep in each morning and didn’t have a wakeup call and bus departures at 7:30 like Israel. 

On April 30th, Day 8, we missed our first port, Ponta Delgada in the Azores, because of heavy wind, rain and rough seas. It was not safe to try to dock in those conditions. The captain said the bad weather was not expected and came upon us quickly. During breakfast, wind gusts up to 80 knots (92 mph) hit us broadside, causing the ship to list six and a half degrees for a short time, making a few light items slide off the tables.

With two more sea days before our first port in Spain, that will give us nine continuous sea days. Fortunately the ship activities keep us busy and time passes quickly. I should also mention there are quite a few other nationalities on this voyage and it is not uncommon to hear Spanish, Portuguese and Italian. 

On May 1, we celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary! The waiters surprised us with a slice of cake with a candle.

Our next port is Malaga, Spain on May 3rd. Hopefully we will be able to make that one! In the meantime, all is well! 

Florida Bound! OCT 12, 2020

We knew this time would come some day, though I must admit we didn’t expect it quite this soon. As we started to plan our 2021 travels we found we didn’t feel the excitement and anticipation from past years. Basically we have pretty much seen and done everything on our USA bucket list, some of them more than once (Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, the Pacific Coast Highway).

We had long discussions about what we wanted the future to look like. After much thought and a few tears, we decided to hang up the keys. It was not an easy decision. IMG_20190317_161919IMG_20190317_161950

While we were in Oklahoma City we sold the RV. We originally planned on waiting until we arrived back in Florida, but after speaking with several RV dealers in Oklahoma City, Texas, Louisiana and Florida, we found that Oklahoma City was giving us the best price. Making the decision was the hardest part, actually handing over the keys was somewhat anticlimactic. Perhaps we were just tired from packing and ready for it to be over. We put all our things in a U-Haul trailer and drove to Florida (took four days and  three nights: a long trip). IMG_20200918_152431IMG_20200919_120202IMG_20200919_143551_1IMG_20200919_150017

On September 21st we arrived in Palmetto, Florida where a friend of Bill’s (for 46 years/college) and his wife graciously invited us to stay with them. IMG_20200920_150810

Originally we thought we wanted to settle down on the Gulf coast of Florida, specifically the Sarasota area. After two real estate agents and 10+ aggressive days of searching for a single family home, villa or condo, we had not found anything we felt we liked well enough to buy. We were discouraged to say the least. 

We decided to drive over to the east coast of Florida, spend the night and look at property on that side of the state, specifically the Melbourne area. We felt the pull of the ocean. It felt like home to Bill who had grown up in Jacksonville Beach. After looking at property on our own as well as a morning with a real estate agent, we still had no answers or a home to buy. 

Then an epiphany hit. Why buy? Why rush the decision? Why not rent for a year? Get a feel for different areas and have more time to look for what we want! Within two hours we found two condos to inspect and settled on one of them in Cape Canaveral. We move in on October 19th.

solana lake Cape Caneveral

Our Community


View from Our Balcony

When we left the RV we had no furniture. This condo is beautifully furnished so there is no need to rush to buy furniture. We have a year’s lease and when the year is up it will be very easy to move. In many ways renting without all the responsibility that comes with home ownership really appeals to us right now.

Once the pandemic is under control and a vaccine is available, we plan to travel once again. Just not by RV. We hope to do much more international travel. This is not the end of “Through the Eyes” our travel blog! We will be updating you on our travels as soon as it is safe for us to travel again. Our world travel bucket list is long. 

Our new address is:
8931 Lake Dr.
Apt 403
Cape Canaveral FL 32920-5502

Many thanks for following along with us these 7+ years.

See you down the road. Stay safe. Stay healthy!