Monthly Archives: June 2014

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.’