Category Archives: Cruise Tips

Fun at the Atlantis Resort at Paradise Island, For Kids of All Ages

Serpent Slide

After my blog about the Atlantis hotel posted, I realized that true to my egg head nature (I wanted to be an archeologist when I was a kid), I spent so much time on the history of the place, I failed to elaborate about the immensely fun things the place has to offer.

So we’ll start with the kids- the 11 pools and 20 swimming areas are a built in entertainment, with most barely ever changing out of their bathing suit, turning coconut brown despite the waterproof sunscreen and a little hoarse from squealing with excitement. You’ll have to bribe them to come up for food but the smile on their  (and your) face will make it worthwhile.

The younger kids will enjoy the tube slides and water cannons at the Splashers (named ‘just for them’ and bound to make them feel like tiny VIPs. The Ripples  have mini slides,which are safe and great fun for the young energizer bunnies.

Then there is the Mayan Temple pool for the whole family, with it’s stunning waterfalls, and The Baths, with their large deck. You can soak up the sun and erelax or plunge down the Slides. Or do both.

There are some more intense experiences for the Tweens and teens amongst us:  The Leap of Faith, which is a 60 foot, almost vertical drop and and makes one feel like a Super Hero and the Serpent slide,a twisting ride, with moments of total darkness and descent into the shark lagoon, through a clear tunnel.

Kids 3-12 can partake in a variety of activities designed to bring out the artist in them, discovering talents they didn’t know they had: cooking classes, directing and acting in their own movies and experimenting in visual art, creating virtual postcards they can say later: this was my first attempt at art and it gave me my true passion.

Atlantis show stoppers are the habitats of the marine life and the resort has the largest open air aquarium in the world. There is also the 141 acre water park (both free), and has the most diverse and brilliantly colored sea life. Over 250 species and 50,000 critters live in the 14 lagoons, filled with 8 million gallons of fresh salt water. Spiny lobsters, sea horses so cute you’d want to adopt them.  Indoor at The Dig, six foot long Moray eels, iridescent jelly fish ,spotted eagle rays surrounded by schools of fantastically colored tropical fish live in the Ruins Lagoon. For certified scuba divers the Lagoon will provide a swim alongside Hammerhead, Blacknose and Reeftip sharks. Even if you just walk thru the acrylic tunnel of the Predator Lagoon, you will experience these most dreaded of creatures zigging by you.

By now we’re at the subject of my previous article- swimming with the dolphins, patting stingrays, becoming trainer for a day and really interacting with sea lions and dolphins.

For those interested in gambling, there is a world class casino, and for adults and adolescents plenty of dance and partying.

My preference would be a romantic walk on the beach, your skin caressed by the evening breeze from the ocean, stars and the moon lighting your way on the heavenly soft white sand. Be sure to walk barefoot to let the sand caress your feet. It’s an experience you’ll have embedded in memory for many years to come.

Check out the 2014 Sukkot Kosher Cruise where you could be staying at the Atlantis Resort at Paradise Island for over a week!

Love is the most powerful way to create profoundly tangible transformation in everyone who crosses our path. Yet we must be mindful to endow the self with pure, unconditional love and acceptance, which will result in an infinite fountain of empathy and joy, readily available to give others.


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Swimming with the Dolphins in the Bahamas

Dolphin kiss kosher cruiseSince I was a little kid, I always wanted to swim with dolphins. One of my favorite mammals, and hands down winner of all aquatic mammals, in my opinion. All my other favorites, puppies horses and elephants, are all beloved land dwellers.  But after a visit to Sea World, I became hooked on the intelligent, smiley creatures, with their sonar communications and gentle faces, so responsive to training they certainly understood a large vocabulary.  I felt a desire to interact and play with them and their pals, the sea, frolicking by their side, patting their smooth fur.

My first chance to swim with the ocean’s most remarkable inhabitants, the playful and adorable dolphins, occurred when I visited Dolphin Cay at the Atlantis resort during a Kosher Cruise to the Caribbean .  In this amazing 14 acres resort, filled with 7 million gallons of sparkling, crystalline seawater, I got to visit one of the largest and most advanced animal rescue and rehab facilities in the world.  My immediate impulse was to go deep sea diving and join the dolphins as their agile bodies swam around, all the while feeling safe. I had an encounter with a dolphin who picked me and not only stuck around but actually gave little gentle nudges to my face, and continued with me as I surfaced and removed my mask.

The shallow water swim is ideal for kids and the less adventurous. Almost everyone of any age or strength level can experience the waist deep shallow water interaction with these most delightful creatures. The bottle nosed dolphins, with their upturned lip-corners, have the sweetest expression, it kind of reminds me of my constantly smiling little dog, Matilda.  My new buddy, the dolphin I named Samantha, kept swimming around me and I got to hug her and feel her slippery body with my hands. She was tactile and made sounds, as if she was trying to talk with me.  Samantha followed me around until I left the water and I planted a kiss on her cute face. Some sea lions also became very friendly, playing with me and one another and I was more enthralled than ever.

I saw a group of people engaging in what is called the ultimate trainer day program where they get an in depth, up close and personal look and encounter with dolphins, sea lions, and even sharks.  Some people went snorkeling alongside exotic tropical fish, eels and sharks of such exquisite colors, while looking at the ruins of the city of Atlantis.

I found out that the first residents of dolphin cay were 16 dolphins rescued from marine life Ocearanium, Mississippi, during hurricane Katrina. Also, that if you always wondered how the trainers get these animals to do their amazingly amusing feats, how they feed and care for them, the Dolphin Cay offers an exclusive Trainer for a Day program. With it’s over 50,000 marine animals representing over 250 species, this is the perfect place to snorkel with them and discover secrets of the underwater world.

Love is the most powerful way to create profoundly tangible transformation in everyone who crosses our path. Yet we must be mindful to endow the self with pure, unconditional love and acceptance, which will result in an infinite fountain of empathy and joy, readily available to give others.


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The Atlantis Hotel and Resort – Nassau, Bahamas

Atlantis Kosher CruiseThe Caribbean Islands consist of thousands of islands, all of which border or are enveloped by the Caribbean Sea, yet they are divided as Island countries, some 
as a sprinkling of land belonging to a larger country, some remnants of past Grand Empires, British, French, Dutch and more, some small, often stunning pieces of paradise, surrounded by lapping, turquoise water, lush vegetation and mere extensions of their nearby mainland.

Paradise Island is aptly named. It is a beauty to behold, located just off the shore of Nassau, Bahamas and is connected to the northern edge of the island of New Providence, by two bridges that cross Nassau.

Before World War II the island was known as Hog Island, and was the private estate of the Swedish billionaire, Axel Wenner-Gren. 
It had a small airstrip, with a seaplane base equipped with a ramp for aircraft. In 1989 a 3,00 foot runway was added to the airport, which closed 10 years later without leaving a trace.
  The heir of A&P supermarkets bought Hog Island from Axel Wenner-Gren, promptly changing it’s name to Paradise island, and began installing landmarks designed by Palm Beach architect John Volk. First the Ocean Club Hurricane hole the Golf Course and the Cloisters, a 14th century monastery which was originally bought and dismantled by William Randolph Hearst in the 1920s. He hired the greatest celebrities, such as Gary Player to be his golf pro and Pancho Gonzales, the tennis pro.

When Paradise Island opened to the public in 1962, it was an event so big that Newsweek and the Times covered it with great hoopla. The staff was hired from the best hotels, such as Eden Rock to work at the Ocean Club. The fireworks for the opening party were flown in from the South of France. The island got its own flag and Paradise Beach was featured on the 3 dollar notes in 1966, which was equal to the Bahamian Pound, ($3=£21).

The island began to develop as a major resort, sold to Merv Griffin in the 80s for $400 million, and finally to it’s current owner, Sol Kerzner. It’s estimated value is around 2 billion currently.

The Atlantis Hotel and Resort was built as a resort and water park, opening first in 1998, when South African hotel magnate Kerzner dreamt up the height of luxury in a beach resort. The Royal Towers were built, followed by the refurbished Coral and Beach towers, all part of the magnificent, extravagantly beautiful Royal Towers. The theme of the hotel is the mystical Atlantis, with Mayan influenced attractions, such as the four major slides, Leap of Faith, the Challenger, the Jungle slide and The Serpent Slide.

When the Cove Atlantis, a 600 suite luxury hotel opened in 2007 and another tower opened the same year, the 497 room Reef Atlantis.
  The Royal Towers contain the very famous “Bridge Suite” ranked by Forbes as one of the most expensive hotel rooms in the world, at 25,000 per night. All of Atlantis hotel and resort are considered one of the most exclusive, luxurious and expensive hotels in the world.

The other extensions of the resort, though just as lovely, are far more affordable to mere mortals and families with children plus couples wanting to luxuriate in the magnificent resort, flock here, partaking of the world’s largest open air marine habitat, The Dig, which provides guests with the thrill of tasting the life in the legendary sunken city of Atlantis, with aquariums scattered about the bottom with wreckage and debris of an ancient metropolis, surrounded by hundreds of species of aquatic life form.


Love is the most powerful way to create profoundly tangible transformation in everyone who crosses our path. Yet we must be mindful to endow the self with pure, unconditional love and acceptance, which will result in an infinite fountain of empathy and joy, readily available to give others.


The Eastern Caribbean’s St. Maarten

St. MaartenThis morning I awoke to the sounds of hammering and electric drill emanating from the high-rise building that’s in the process of being erected next door to my bedroom, in mid-town Manhattan.  Despite sleeping with earplugs, the noises are so intense that somehow they creep into my pre-waking dreams, or worse, just wake me up.  Today my brain managed to create an absolute thing of beauty from the agitating noise… In my dream there I was, on the ‘Epic of the Seas’, the largest boat in the world, curled up like a fetus in my luxurious down duvet. At the edge of consciousness I heard the fog-horns as the ship was about to dock at St. Maarten’s Dutch side harbor.  I leaped out of bed, on to the balcony of my stateroom, and saw the island spread out in all its glory right in front of me.  That’s when I awoke, still fetal, rubbing the sleep off my eyes, and realized I was very far from the Virgin Islands. I said a quick prayer, to get back there ASAP.

The dream reminded me that the Kosher cruise to the Eastern Caribbean’s, one of my most recent ones, didn’t even make it to my blogs. I thought it was perhaps a subconscious reminder to write about this Kosher Cruise, which was indeed a source of wonder, awe and pleasure.  We boarded in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and as soon as check in and border patrol were over, the people in our group were directed to the Aria dinning room, where the most beautifully appetizing buffet awaited us, with prearranged tickets to the Broadway show, Chicago.

The first and second day at sea were filled with activities, with stops at Nassau and St. Thomas (shoppers were elated and bought tax free luxury items, like jewelry, perfume and returned to the ship, proud as peacocks, laden with packages and savings). At night we saw a masterpiece of aquatic production, the like of which I’ve never witnessed, by acrobats and divers, a mystically lit and choreographed show, filled with superstar athletes diving off 30 meter high boards into a tiny, oscillating pool, with the water moving to the rhythm of the high ocean waves.

Then came Wednesday in St. Maarten and I got off the boat, deciding to do a solo excursion, my new Nikon SLR readily available in hand, ready to explore the island and it’s inhabitants. I began walking towards the center of town, meeting lots of smiling locals, each of whom had some ‘must see’ tip for me.

As you know y now, I’m a pre-visit research aficionado, so I knew that the Island, as small as it is, had two sides, actually two nations. There was St Maarten, owned by the Dutch, and St. Martin, the French side (uses Euros as opposed to the more Anglicized St. Maarten, where US dollars are the going currency.)  The walk itself was lovely, with glimpses to left of white washed beaches, turquoise waters, palm trees, peppered with people selling cold slices of watermelon and peeled sugar cane. On the right there were green hills, and up high, buildings of great beauty, mostly privately owned.

When I got to town center I sat down for a breather and some cool water, from my backpack.  The central plaza of Phillipsburg was packed with tourists and locals. Little kids timidly came by and asked to play with my hair, after politely asking their parent’s permission. I got a braid by a tiny little hair-maven, whose parents told me she wants to be a hairdresser when she grows up. In fact, hair, wigs, beauty shops are all big business on the island, since the local women seem obsessed with wigs, extensions and weaves and perms. The stores on the main streets are mainly Duty Free electronics, famous brands of jewelry at discount prices and some designer labels, which sell rather cheaply considering Europeans are used to higher prices, and no taxes on top it.

I decided to explore the back roads, and saw wonderful little markets selling incense, hats, fabrics, and island garments, mostly white to repel the heat.  The prices in the back streets were much lower and you could get a real deal if you were willing to bargain. In fact, the same is true in many of the fancy shops of the main street, but somehow the shops selling to locals seemed far more interesting, I got to talk to several people with interesting philosophies and realized once again, that people are Divine Creations, with great similarities, no matter where you go.

There was enough time to take a glass-bottomed boat and look at sea creatures, coral reefs, and shipwrecks without changing into a bathing suit.  We passed by the famous Simpson Bay, which moored over 300 immensely large and stunning yachts owned by the worlds super rich. I learned that St Maarten’s luxurious marina is the preferred destination of these mariners, during the months of November-May.

We were scheduled to leave at 5:00 but I wanted one more adventure; I went to the tourist information booth and was told that a trip to Loterie Farm, a private nature reserve is about to leave in 5 minutes and will be back before 4:30. No hesitation, I booked myself on the tour and within minutes was seated in the air-conditioned minibus heading to the green ‘heart of the island’ with its hikes on rope bridges and raw nature. My shoes were perfect for this: I wore my Sketcher athletic shoes with a long white dress, to be covered from getting a sunburn or blisters.  It was fun with a capital F. Only one person from the bus shied away from the adventure of walking across the suspension rope bridge. All of us though felt wonderfully brave and I had pink cheeks (so proud!) which a Swedish Tourist captured in a photo I’ve attached, as we were about to leave the island.

St. Maarten!



‘Love is the most powerful way to create profoundly tangible transformation in everyone who crosses our path. Yet we must be mindful to endow the self with pure, unconditional love and acceptance, which will result in an infinite fountain of empathy and joy, readily available to give others.’

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Seattle, Washington

Seattle SkylineOn the way to and from the Alaskan Cruises, the largest and most famous city in Washington is the port that serves the ships, bound to sail to the 49th state of the USA.  Having had the pleasure of staying there many a time, it is in my opinion a place worth visiting.  Aside from having close friends who live there, thus having a place to stay if I wish, there is such joy I derive from this North Western city, that even if arriving for a cruise, which usually takes off on Sundays, I like to get there a couple of days early, book a hotel room well ahead of time and hike, take yoga classes, and elevate my spirits in this town, which has never let me down, with it’s clean air, temperatures which are never too cold or too hot, and a general air of healthy living.

The birthplace of Starbucks and headquarters of Costco (whose own brand, Kirkland is named after the town it originated from), is filled with lush greenery, a history that contains famous characters and events and has an endless amount of activity one could fill their day with, feeling healthier and smarter than before they arrived.  Seattleites are known as a brainy lot, having produced many brilliant and eccentric people, some of whom I’ll be sure to mention.

Since the city is where the Klondike Stampede in the mid 1890 began, bringing men and women from across the world here, the Northernmost point of continental USA, on their way to depart for Dawson, heart of the Gold Rush.  New hotels were built to cater to the influx, as the Gold Fever gave local merchants tens of thousands of customers. Stores like Cooper and Levy stocked trousers, bicycles, dog sleds and even sled dogs.  The quantity of provisions was so vast it had to be stored in the street near the stores, because according to Canadian law each prospector had to have year’s supply of everything they might need.  Of course, the city had to cater to the multitudes of people who came thru it, with many returning after the Rush petered out and settled there.

People like Elmer Fisher, the elusive yet brilliant architect established the face of early downtown Seattle, his elegant stone and brick creations still decorating the city’s skyline, from Jackson Street to Belltown.  Then there was Reginald H. Thompson, The King of the Hills, who had an obsession with leveling the city’s hills, giving it a facelift it had never seen before or will probably will not see again.

Nowadays, Seattle has become a place filled with things to see, experience cultural events such as the Seattle Philharmonic or the exceptional Ballet co.  But first things first: The Space Needle is a must see, the equivalent of the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Empire State Building in NYC.   It’s an iconic building, erected in 1962 for the World’s Fair, and is 605 feet high. After the elevator ride, which takes 43 seconds the elevator operator usually gives the quickest verbal tour of Seattle and it’s surroundings. When you reach the observatory, open views of downtown Seattle, Olympic Mountains, the Puget Sounds, Lake Washington and surrounding cities. The view is spectacular, despite not being the tallest building anymore in Seattle’s skyline, because of a city ordinance that preserves the sight lines from the tower.  For the best view of the Space Needle, and in fact the whole of Seattle’s skyline, is actually a few steep blocks away, at Kerry Point, made famous by TV’s ‘Frasier’.

Then, off to Pike Place Market, where fresh fish (mainly wild salmon), the freshest of farm produce, crafts and the original Starbuck, founded in 1971, can be found and enjoyed. The vegetables and fruit are so fresh and crisp they feel just picked and oozing nutrients.  The Waterfront is an awesome experience, especially with it’s newest addition- the Seattle Great Wheel. It is only two years old but has the drawing power to attract visitors in vast numbers. It’s the largest observation wheel on the West Coast at 175 feet in height 42 fully enclosed gondolas, each holding eight people. Since Seattle is blessed (or cursed, depends on your outlook) with a rainy climate, you can be dry and snug as you ride the Wheel and take in the views on the three revolutions of the ride. It’s great fun for both kids and adults.  The Aquarium is also at the waterfront, where the attendants have hands on experience with Marine preservation and education.

The art museum is a post modern building with a wonderful collection to savor and the Klondike Gold Rush Museum is a free museum, telling the city’s history beginning with the tragic fire which burnt it down and the Gold rush which rebuilt it.  The city is a cornucopia of activities, vibrant and alive with special events and festivals.  If you happen to be there on the first Thursday of the month, you could partake of the ‘art walk’ in the historic Pioneer Square, with free admission to galleries and local artisans set up booths in Occidental Square, selling their ceramics, jewelry and art.  Every month has a specific themed festival and to find out which festival is happening when you happen to be there just go to  Enjoy!


‘Love is the most powerful way to create profoundly tangible  transformation in everyone who crosses our path. Yet we must be mindful  to endow the self with pure, unconditional love and acceptance, which will result in an infinite fountain of empathy and joy, readily available to give others.’

The Treasures of St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg

When you choose to sail with Glatt Kosher Cruises to the Balkans you may pick a tour with either one or two days spent in St. Petersburg.
  Either way, a shore excursion is an absolute must, because, regardless of how tight your time a is, anyone who declines the opportunity, deprives themselves of a slice of history. 
The city is unique in being the only one unharmed during the Stalin era, and has been completely restored to its former glory from any damage done during WW II.  
St. Petersburg, despite having gone thru the Bolshevik rule and for a while renamed Leningrad, is a living monument to a bygone era, great culture, and magnificent, unique beauty.

St. Petersburg has a magnificently haunting air. The second largest city in Russia, the Imperial Capital and the seat of all royalty, is a city of such magnificence, that missing out on experiencing it, even if just on guided tour bus, will wet the appetite of any traveler with its graceful grandeur which will remain unforgettable.
  I’m amazed to have been fortunate enough to visit this majestic city several times, and two of those were shore excursions on a tour of the Baltic.

I think my very first time setting eyes on St. Petersburg, deserves a mention too.  I arrived by boat, having just come from Scandinavia with its massively practical and minimalistic interiors, as simple and unadorned modern as can be.  With the exception of Tallinn, which was a marriage of Medieval buildings with a strong presence of the 21st century in places, and the Royal Palaces in Copenhagen, even the buildings in most places were a charming, yet simple background to the magnificent Nature untouched by human hand. The words practical, modern simplicity would describe best, both the art and architecture in Scandinavia.

Then directly from the crystalline coasts of Finland, our boat made a single day stop in St Petersburg.  Since we had very limited time in Russia, I made sure to buy tickets weeks ahead online at the Kirov Ballet site. I planned it all very tightly; off the boat after an early lunch, then a cab to the 11:30 am performance of the Kirov Ballet’s ‘ the Miriinsky Theatre.  The performance was beyond wondrous, I still remember the moves, the perfection and passion of the dancers.  It was an incredible experience to be had!

Nijinsky, Nureyev, Barishnikov and Pavlova are just a few of my heroes who originated from this company. And my choreographer idol, George Balanchine, began his career in the Kirov, before creating a new standard of perfection at the New York City ballet. The level of artistry I witnessed is beyond anything that can be seen in other countries, at least with such consistency.

Still in a daze and the music playing in my head, I hurried directly after the performance to the pre-booked tour bus (with an English speaking, knowledgeable guide) and went about to having a quick taste of the city’s highlights.  We drove around town, looking at fantastic buildings, a treasure trove of architectural gems, palaces and administrative buildings, some painted a pastel green or pink, spanning three centuries and a variety of trends and styles. I thought for a moment of the McMansions one sees in the USA, especially when the guide pointed out private mansions of great beauty. We saw exquisite monuments and the stories about them, wow, so much history!

Then, from a distance I saw the magnificent river bound Winter Palace. It stretched beside the water, glistening and regal, and very, very long.  I was transported to an era of Imperial splendor, built for the Romanoff’s, and before I even set foot in my beloved Winter Palace, I noted that this was one of the worlds most beautiful and most interesting cities.  The moment we entered the Palace at the western entrance, we came upon the famous motorized bird clock, gigantic and magical, at the chandelier room.  Despite the fact that  and every moment was pre-planned, adhering to a short time schedule, I found time to see some pieces of art I’ve been longing to see in real life, walked around with tears of joy, and felt grateful to be alive.

I was transported to an era which exists no longer, but somehow, feels very familiar and almost like home.  The tour was very concise, with the short intervals of free times for wandering around the Winter Palace, or shopping for Russian Babushkas (painted wooden dolls of many sizes, starting with a miniscule one which fits perfectly into a slightly larger one, etc. loads of fun, even just to play with them.  It goes up to a very large doll, containing over 20 smaller ones, if you wish to spend the money at the museums store. I also bought a copy of a Faberge egg, stunningly replicated, and the secret latch on it opens to show the Tsar Nikolai, Alexandra and the children, which was bought from the amazing jeweler as a gift for Alexandra’s birthday by her very loving husband, The same bejeweled egg could be gotten for less at the open market at, but somehow I felt mine was more authentic, with it’s brilliantly elegant wrapping and golden box, and the insert elaborated on the whole story.

I’ve been back twice since and I keep discovering more each time, including a visit to the opera (those Russian voices can do things to your soul), and since I have 2 sisters who are friends I was invited to show my artwork there because the older sister is the program director of one of the 90 museums in the city.

The only thing that stopped me to jump on the opportunity is that I have to pay to transport the works, but since lodging and food are provided, I might just take my pieces off their canvases, roll them up and sail back to St. Petersburg.

– Sarity –

A Spectacle of Nature, The Gerainger Fjord of Norway

Geiranger Fjord

Geiranger Fjord

This blog will deal with one of my peak travel experiences with Kosher Cruises, which for a change has little to do with anthropology, history or culture.

As a result, I put away my feverish digging for the roots of our Jewish heritage and instead, will try to put into words my awe at the exquisite beauty of nature, far surpassing any man made creation. I truly believe that such sublime manifestation of Natural Creation is bound to remind one of the Divine Being. With all the G-d given talents and abilities we may possess as humans, we could not come close to parallel such magnificent and majestic wonder that invoked feelings of spiritual gratitude to the. For a non-believer, I would not hesitate to claim that such awe inspiring natural creations, are bound to make one think there must be MORE.

The moment I first cast my eyes on the Incredible Geirengerfjord, I was having breakfast in the dining room of the Costa Fortuna, cruising the Balkans. It was early in the morning, the dining room almost empty and I remember thinking about my plan for the day. After 8:30 I was going to take a tour of the small village of Gereninger, take a look at the fjords and return to the ship at 1:00 p.m. I filled the afternoon chock full of planned activities like a spa massage, a facial and blowout, then at 4:00? a lecture by one of my favorite Rabbi’s a humanist of great intellect and humor, the famous and charismatic Rabbi Riskin, an innovator in Orthodox Judaism with his highly sensitive approach to universal human concerns, a creator of a women’s yeshiva for advanced Torah Studies, and a school for women advocates. It was something I’ve been looking forward to very much.

In the late afternoon, I was going to meditate and read on the upper deck, watching the sunset, before getting ready for the evening and generally use the time to relax. Some of my friends had booked us seats for the nights musical show, right after dinner. I smiled thinking; ‘sounds like very hard work, but somebody has to do it’?

So back to breakfast… reflecting on the pleasures of the coming day, as I munched on my freshly baked whole grain bread (smothered w butter) I made a mental note of how perfect the omelet was, how perfect everything was! Sipping my excellent cup of coffee, I looked out to the ocean from the picture windows of the dining room and saw something that took my breath away and made me run closer to window.

Close enough to the ship to make out the topography of the land was a vision that made me stop in mid chew. I ran closer to the window and saw the huge (9 mile long) Geirangerfjord, which as I learnt later, was undoubtably the most beautiful fjord in Norway. The bluest blue, sparkly water surrounded towering, steep rocks, massive mountainsides, with waterfalls enveloped in different shades of green, reaching thousands of feet into the sky. From my vantage point I saw another group of dramatic mountains, separated by separated by rivulets of water, narrow and aquamarine blue, the cliffs jutting out in places as enormous towers. I realized we were in Fjord country, but never saw any as magically magnificent.

I was stunned since my expectation was exceeded by far, and then thought this must be the unforgettably spectacular Geirangerfjord, a UNESCO World Heritage site, known as “the world’s most beautiful fjord”. I could easily see why.

I knew it was probably too late to sign up for any of the more tours. I was more than fine with canceling my spa appointments, even if I had to pay the late cancellation charge and the lecture was at 4:00 pm.  Then and there a decision was made: I’ll take whatever is available and just go with it. Downstairs, minutes later, the excursion manager said I was in luck because someone cancelled and I was early enough to take their place. The kayak adventure was it.

Shortly after going to the pier, we were escorted on a short walk to a nearby kayak camp, and given a safety briefing. By the way, previous kayaking experience is not needed and anyone with a life jacket (supplied by the guides) and a sense of adventure can participate.
We were paired two to a kayak and began the 1.5 hr glide along the steep mountain walls, paddling away on the mirror smooth water (the rocky ledges keep the hairpin bends of water virtually wind free, the sunshine highlights the incomparable beauty of the scenery. We passed by the ‘Seven Sisters’ and the ‘Bridal Veil’, that are thundering waterfalls, little farms perched on the rocky ledges and listened to stories about children and animals that had to be tethered so they won’t fall over the steep cliffs.

The kayaking adventure is by far the best way to experience this area, with its hairpin basin curves, and unspeakable beauty. At all times of the year the basin is free from wind between the enormous mountain peaks, and any stress you might have brought with you, dissolves, replaced by peace and a sense of gratitude for Hashemite.

The tour ends at Geiranger, giving you a chance to visit the small town

and you make your way back to the ship. I kept looking back, not having had my foil, looking at the snow peaked mountains, lush vegetation and some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.

In the words of the “Terminator “, I’ll be back.

Cruising Tips from experienced sea lions

Kosher CruiseWhen booking a cruise, I thought it was like shopping at Bloomingdale’s.  You walk in, pick out what you want, the price is set in stone unless there’s a sale. No preparation needed,  other than your card and everything is wrapped in tissue paper and off you go with the brown bag.

You are served and pampered.

In truth I was almost right. We were served and pampered, lavishly. The stateroom was small but lovely, with a balcony facing the water. The food was exquisite and the list of upcoming attractions tantalizing.

At the table where we were seated we met the Weinsteins.  They were a beaming middle aged couple who announced during dinner that they are “cruise addicts”. Apparently they were on their 25th cruise, a landmark for them. Their passion for wanting to share their accumulated wisdom, was infectious. They had their 11 tips for the best experience on a cruise.

We all listened, intently, because they were obviously treated like royalty. They were also getting preferential treatment from the staff and came back with the best bargains after the first shore excursion. OK, so they had some secrets and we better soak up every pearl of wisdom.

My husband and I have gone on another four cruises since.

We are very grateful to Laura and Rob for helping make our experiences unforgettable.

Here goes:

1. Always prebook your spa treatments if you want your hair or nails done when you are at sea. However, if you are flexible with your spa appointments book your treatments on the ship. The spa is always considerably cheaper when the boat is at port (sometimes 50% cheaper).

2. Alcoholic drinks are mostly extra, but anything else, is provided freely and without limit. Drink a lot of water, to hydrate, especially on Summer cruises or trips heading to the Islands and Central America. I always love mixing cranberry juice with water as a tasty hydrating drink.

3.if you’re travelling as a couple, or a close knit group, and want to be able to reach one another w/o being tethered together, it’s a grand idea to use a Walkie Talkie. Cell phone roaming rates on the high seas are impossibly expensive, so try airplane mode, unless you have a short urgent call to make.

4.The cabins all have a phone and you could actually try to find your beloved or buddy from the many points, to check if they returned from an activity and are awaiting you in the room. Surprise them with a yummy treat when you meet them or invite them out for a spa indulgence…

5. Always book early when the ships have a lot of inventory. Prices actually go up as the sailings get more booked. Good ships will always book fast.

6. Make sure that you unpack at the same time as your cabin mate. Space inside staterooms is hardly ever large enough, so agree between you which area is going to house your belongings. It’s a terrible waste of time to miss out on activities, because you can’t find your things.

7.On the day of boarding the boat, you’ll have your luggage checked in and brought to you later in your cabin. If the boat is full, this could take a number of hours, thus it’s good to pack a small bag with a fresh change of clothing, some basic toiletries, your medicines and some water and small snack. This is ‘just in case’, since more often than not, as soon as you board, there is a princely spread awaiting you in the area you’ll be directed to.

8. Listen to the announcements on the speakers, usually by the Captain, inviting you to the next set of possible activities. It’s frustrating to miss out on a long awaited shore cruise or lecture you’ve been anticipating, because you weren’t paying attention.

9. Eat sensibly, taste all the delicacies available, but try not to  overeat, and use the gym and deck to exercise, filling your lungs with the pure, fresh sea air. Feeling sluggish does takes away from the experience.

10.    Try to be open to all the interesting new people you’ll meet, soak up different cultures and overall experiences.

11.     Make sure to ask the advice of your social director, before you pay double for a desired object, because you bought it in the wrong place. If you are given free time and unexpectedly see something you like, compare prices in the surrounding stores (they often have similar merchandise) and try bargaining.

Happy sailing!

Helit Eidelstein

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