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January, 2002: 20 days, Holland America Rotterdam

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September, 2002: 3 days, Seaborn Pride

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August, 2003: 35 days, Holland America Rotterdam

What follows is an account of the first sea leg of our five week journey onboard the MS Rotterdam

August 15th - August 26th, 2003

New York City to Greenland

Greetings from Greenland !
The days are tumbling forward as we sail the seas. Here is an account of our adventure to date so that you can share the journey along with us.

August 14 2003 - The day the lights went out in NYC- and we were there. We spent the morning at the Stock Exchange, guests on the floor. Sniff dogs and barricades, ticker tape and chaos, flashing lights and pagers were alive with the day's trades. Driving in the city was right up my alley. The weaving, spinning, dodging, turning, reminded me of being in a bumper car at the amusement park.....
It worked like magic. I descended from the 15th floor, walked out of the elevator, and the lights went out. I found Steve and Ray where I had left them in the lobby of the Waldorf. Minutes passed. Bottles of Evian were dispersed. And still we remained in the dark. Flashlights came out of boxes, multiplying with the minutes, lights bouncing through the darkness like lightening bugs in frenzied flight. And still we remained in the dark. Minutes became hours. The daylight outside waned and the streets became as dark as the lobby. The staff had identified us immediately and stayed attentive, providing us food, inquiring repeatedly as to Steve's ability to breathe as the air inside became still. There were three working elevators. We made the decision to go to our room late in the evening. The hours ticked away. And still we remained in the dark....

August 15 2003 - With the daylight came our escape. Not quite sure to "what" and to "where." Would the ship be in port or be diverted to a city with power?
No way to call the terminal in a powerless city on a Friday morning void of a rush hour, we set forth in a caravan of two cars, all of our dreams of the "perfect sail" on hold.
And then we saw her, bobbing on a wave, beckoning to us, the ship that had once held me captive was now a harbor in a storm, our own "statue of liberty." For we knew that once we crossed the gangplank of the MS Rotterdam we were "home free." ...And so we sat, Queen and Kings on our thrones, watching the city lights slip away at midnight in a twinkling goodbye, made all the sweeter by the events of the past days. Oh what a feeling...
Who would have ever thought that we would be safer on a cruise ship to Russia than in New York City...

August 16th and 17th - Sea days, glorious sea days with nothing to do but settle in and watch the sea. And eat, and eat again, and again and again. My "sailor boy" returns to form, shrugging off his weariness, the extent of which I can not begin to imagine, and takes up watch on the verandah. He is happy there, content to search for whales and thus mark the passage of the days. ERICA is on board with us (Steve's portable eye communication system). He and his devoted "Deac" spend the evenings configuring the computer to answer to Steve's beck and call. Between us, ERICA and I keep him happy.

August 18th - Newfoundland - overcast, lugubrious, a fog and a drizzle, calming and gentle seas.

August 19th and 20th - Sea days, the ship at full sail. These are the best of times as we have established a cadence to our days. The supplies we brought on board- enough to fill two cars - can be enumerated - 10 boxes containing trache care kits and liquid nutrition, catheter supplies, 40 bottles of sterile water, thebattery charger for the Permobil, push wheelchair for excursions, 3 suitcases for clothes, 1 suitcase of doc-in-the-box medical supplies, trache bag with on-the-spot supplies, laptop computer, laptop wheelchair mount, ERICA computer, ERICA wheelchair mount, Ambu bag, suction bag, red push cart...Get the picture? I did quickly when our friends Paul and Lee provided us with a copy of their travel list...5 pages in length. We matched it, line for line.
Ray (Deac), our man-in-waiting, is attentive to Steve and to me. He is as kind as he is accommodating, always willing to make a change in his own plans to see to it that our days run smoothly. Our days...we have a ship-board routine that is so easy to slide back into, even after months away. "The back of the boat" is our haven. We sail solitary there, never venturing far from our verandah. We pretend that it is our sailboat, this parcel of real estate at the back of the boat. The intercom is off, the verandah door flung open as soon as our feet hit the floor in the morning. I surface to walk the promenade deck late in the day, swim in the salt water pool, and steal an ice cream cone before dinner. Shh! Don't tell. No dining room for us. The verandah table and chairs are our spot. Our meals are served as the setting sun provides the show.

August 21st - August 26th -Greenland - stark majesty - I found myself often standing at the verandah's railing, longing to capture forever in my memory the details of the beauty we experienced and the days spent cruising the seas to arrive at the small villages and fjords punctuating the shores of Greenland. Knud Rasmusen said,"give me winter, give me dogs, and you can have the rest." Huskies were harnessed to dog houses, asleep in the sun. Puppies nursed as their downy fur blew in the wind, the sun cuddling their faces as the adults howled in harmony to mark the territory which they call home.

Ilulissat, Greenland - a beautiful day at a maiden port-of-call. The ship careened like a skyscraper over fishing boats and trawlers leaving for a day's work of fishing for halibut and shrimp in Disko Bay. We feasted in the morning on the sight of icebergs and powder puff jelly donuts warm from the oven. It was an icy cold breeze that swirled as I trained my shaking fingers to click picture after picture, recording the magic of it all. Nature, raw and wild. I hiked to an overlook, over bogs and boulders, slipping and sliding past a graveyard of white crosses set in brown stones. The Ilulissat Icefjord's overlook provided a glimpse at one of the largest fjords in the Northern Hemisphere. The view. I am helpless to describe it. As far and as wide as I could see, ice, glaciers, hills, water, a solitary bird, all painted a picture of awesome beauty. The glaciers reminded me of layered sandcastles, the hard particles of sand replaced by ice crystals, made all the more awesome by a steady reflection in still waters. A young couple dallied on a rock, and, like me, took pictures in a futile attempt to somehow mark the spot as our own. As the couple passed me I heard the girl say, "let us stop and just enjoy this place." It occurred to me that she had a point. And so, I shed my cameras and found a place to perch. It was a place devoid of sound with only beauty to behold. I took a lucky turn on the way back to the ship which led me to a beach. The sound of the crashing surf intrigued me. The sun splintered into fragments off of tinkling ice chips that surged forward on a wave only to be shattered on the shore like broken glass. I waded in the ice and splashed water on my cheeks wanting to taste the salt and feel the cold upon my face before turning it towards the sun to dry. Pinch me.

Sondre Stromfjord, Greenland - Steve, Ray, and I were up early, outside wrapped in matching wool blankets, drinking cups of tea, each of us with thoughts of our own. Bold granite mountains crowned with ice. Tranquility in motion. The ship was lax to leave this place. In the fjord we floated along as if on air, a slow glide to the beat of the wave's motion.

Fjord of Eternity, Greenland - Pinnacles and peaks topped with powdered sugar. There are no trees in the fjords, with the exception of a 10 ft. spruce tree planted by a traveler around 1935 and christened the "Christmas tree." Waterfalls and blue ice. The mountains sleek, water tumbling with no footholds to the sea where the splash is magnificent. As a bird twirled through the sky, the captain slowly turned his ship as if it were on a pedestal at the head of the fjord. We stood and drank in the beauty, just enjoying the place.

August 24th - Gale winds - Force 9, 30-45 foot waves. The day made itself felt. A ship being played with by the sea. Tossed like a rag doll in 69 mph winds. I took video from the promenade deck, balancing myself to the lurches of the ship, fancying myself a surfer as I maintained balance in the rise and fall of the surges. Steve remained just inside the cabin door, watchful. I believe he felt safe, as did I. The movement of the ship was not unkind. It reminded me of a rough airplane ride. We found solace in knowing we were "on the ground", however deep that might be! A little girl passing in the hall wished me "sweet dreams." Ray's first sail- what a way to go. He too was fascinated, standing watch at the Crow's Nest, witnessing waves pitch over the bow of the boat. "Count it all Joy."

August 26th - Cape Farewell- In a "sweet sorrow" parting we said goodbye to Greenland -this land of mountains, waterfalls, glaciers, and icebergs as we cruised the fjord known as Prince Christian Sound at the southern tip of Greenland. Passage is only possible from midsummer through autumn because the sea is blocked with pack ice at other times. We were part of a wonderland with no vegetation. There is only one settlement in this network of channels - a population of 150 people whose homes stand on a small spit of land below a near vertical 2970 ft mountain. It is impossible to walk more than a mile from the settlement before coming to a dead end. In a "pea soup" fog the stewards served up mugs of pea soup on the back decks. We left the fjord and traveled towards Iceland on a clear, blue sea.

What follows is an account of the second sea leg of our five week journey onboard the MS Rotterdam

August 27th - September 17th, 2003

Sailing to Iceland and onto Russia

From Russia - With Love
Oh, where to begin - and how to end - this saga of Celtic days and Baltic nights as we have nestled in and lived outside our lives, continuing to sail along on a breeze with the promises of each new day.

August 27th 2003 - Somewhere around day thirteen the cruising lifestyle started to kick in for me and I began the days quietly with room for spare thoughts. Sea days. No plans, just enjoying the sail.

August 28th - Reykjavik, Iceland . On a whim ...a horseback ride. Anything to be outside. I was the lucky girl who got the "poster" horse. He and I got along just fine, stopping for photo shoots along the trail while managing to stay in line. All went well until the end of the ride when the guide and four experienced riders decided to take off at galloping speed. Looked like fun... I pretended to know what I was doing but "Silver" was not fooled and refused my urgent whispers coaxing him to get a move on and join the group. Three counter-clockwise circles later we were off and running. I felt like Irving's headless horseman as we flew past rock and tundra, small spruce and hemlock trees, making a beeline for a hillside that led to a secluded lake. Next time I'm picking the horse on the Merry-Go-Round. Steve noted the differences between Greenland and Iceland- "vegetation, climate, modernization, population, and industry." Iceland's past is visually evident even in the busy city where shopping centers co-exist with centuries old lava rock. We saw a sparseness to the landscape as we set sail yet I will hold in memory the scent of evergreen in a dew swept forest of miniature Christmas trees.

August 29th and 30th - Sailing the Atlantic Ocean into the North Sea on our way to Copenhagen. Our pace continued to slow as the clock literally raced ahead...six hours separated us from EST. The weather turned kind to us. The North Sea was in slow motion.

August 31st - Copenhagen - Dawn in Denmark. A peek through the curtains. The ship crept into harbor as the sky awoke with color, white windmills spinning their arms as if in welcome. Jutting into the Baltic Sea, the tiny kingdom of Denmark is almost entirely a nation of islands. Steve, Ray, and I walked a short piece to visit with the Little Mermaid. Despite her bronze strength, she seems so delicate.

September 1st - Labor Day. Thinking of home and the quick passage of summer. The Baltic Sea kicked up her heels today, registering 12 ft. waves that seemed like ripples after the Greenland storm.

September 2nd- Stockholm, Sweden - The city that floats on water- Began the day cruising the archipelago - the 24,000 islands that dot the Swedish seaboard. Took a ride in a canal boat to the Old Town "Gamla Stan". The best part of the day was spent having a picnic with our Swedish friend Karin Sendek and her children Anna and Samuel, complete with Swedish pastries and US flag imprinted napkins. Samuel, 3 years old, is just learning English. Friday is his favorite day of the week. After our visit he told his mother that he would like to go out the following Friday "and find Steve's voice." Sail away - through the archipelago- the sun spotlighted the seagull's wings in flight in an effort to broadcast the beauty of this place.

September 3rd - Tallinn, Estonia- The old city spills over the hillside called Toompea into the Lower City. A walled city. The city thanks those who climb the labyrinth of cobblestone paths to Toompea Hill with a full splendor view over rooftops and pigeonholes to the sea far below. Minstrels play to the crescendo of lovers' kisses. Bells chime the forgotten hour.

September 4th - Helsinki, Finland - A Finn adventure that found me, not Huck, whistling along the seacoast towns of Finland where my troubles floated like lemon drops. The city of Porvoo with its red ochre shore houses led to a Savijarvi Farm where Shetland ponies did their dance as they pulled the little children in makeshift carts. Oh, the sweet delight of sipping a cup of tea. Homemade cake with whipped cream frosting dressed with farm grown blueberries that marched around the top. I was treated to a vast expanse of green in a sea of spruces and pines. The forests are the Finns "green gold." Divided among the population, each Finn would receive 10 acres. The Finnish sauna is a national institution. There are two million saunas for five million people. Part of the sauna tradition is to take a jump into the sea when taking a "sauna break." In the winter when even the seas freeze over, the Finns will cut a hole in the ice and take a plunge. Sail away was one of the highlights of the journey. We three were mesmerized by a rainbow that owned the sky. We witnessed a 180 degree arc that splashed into the sea, the bands of color melting away. A tall ship, its white sails unfurled. I found myself humming all through this day, visiting places from a lullaby...And knowing with certainty that dreams really do come true.

September 5th and 6th - St. Petersburg, Russia We arrived on a morning dense with "milk bottle" fog. 2:00 pm we left the safety of the ship to meet our driver Vladamir and guide Svetlana driving in a white "limo" with pink silk curtains. No "tie down" for the push wheelchair which did wheelies in the back of the van with Steve in the saddle. Hanging on every word from Svetlana, Steve was enthralled to be in St. Petersburg. The fog lifted and the sun took off running as we made our way to Peterhof- the official summer residence of Peter the Great. Ten palaces, one hundred and fifty fountains. We spent the afternoon touring the grounds, walking from fountain to fountain as water and gold sparkled and splashed in the late day sun. I experienced the evening folkloric - musical journey through the different regions of Russia. And then there was the Hermitage. Over 300 rooms housed in five buildings stretching across city blocks. Raphael, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, all a touch away. Malachite columns, marble structures, the Golden Room with its restricted access and security guards sheltering crowns of gold from early civilizations.

September 7th - Sea Day- Steve has found his niche. The King of Computers has gone wireless, leaving the cabin each night to sit outside the Wajung Theatre in the ship's atrium area where he can access the Internet.

September 8th- Arhus, Denmark "Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it." - Soren Kierkrgaard - Danish philosopher. A walk through a cozy village with thatch-roofed houses, rose gardens and hills of heather. Sky Mountain in mid-Jutland. Mist swirling like spiraling smoke, torching a forest of evergreens before heading skyward. A Danish pastry savored on a solitary walk. Two Danish pastries.... Ok, three.

September 9th and 10th- Sea days. Celebrating our carefree life. Cruising the Hebrides where gulls make a game of diving for belly flopping fish. Evening marked our first sight of the coast of Ireland. Patches of green quilted the mountains as they reached for the sea.

September 11th - Cobh, Ireland. We left the ship under the escort of ship reps on walkie-talkies, setting up our touring mobile for the day. No pink curtains for this taxi. Mike Ryan's cab was covered with painted Coors beer cans. Pulling, tugging, squeezing...Steve was hoisted into the cab. A ride on the wild side to the village of Kinsale kept us on the edges of the seat. A stop at an Irish pub, fire blazing, window boxes with the last of summer's flowers blowing in a salty breeze. "Mussels- $7.95/bucket. Throw the shells in the sea." Guzzling took on a new meaning as we poured Guinness through Steve's feeding tube. No worries. Yachts bobbing in the harbor. We cruised the hills with a stop for scones. Walled fortress of Charles Fort overlooking the sea - a camera buff's Mecca. Clock striking midnight... Gangplank to be raised at 5:30. Missed the car ferry at 5:15. Radio - shore to ship. Coors cab takes the curves, brakes at 5:40.... pulling, tugging, squeezing.... band playing...people on deck waving... Sail away.

September 12th - Day One of the Transatlantic Crossing - A fusion of days neatly wrapped in time.
Looking back at the past month and the experiences we have shared, I know that despite my best attempts at keeping a journal and sending these notes, some thoughts and events will go unrecorded, forgotten for a time in this collage of days during which we have weaved for ourselves a tapestry of memories. I suspect though that over the days, months, and years following this journey our thoughts will meet up with these memories and we will relive the moments once again. We have lived a charmed life here onboard. And I take heart in knowing that, as the song says, we will "take that something worth remembering along."

We landfall on a Wednesday at 8:00 am. Just in time to race Hurricane Isabel home.

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August, 2004: 7 days, Radisson Seven Seas The Navigator

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August, 2004: 7 days, Radisson Seven Seas The Navigator

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