Saturday, April 30th

 "What starts here can change everything" - my quote of the day 

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Our last day is a full day at sea.   No hurry to get anywhere since our final core season with Ricardo wasn't until 10:15.  Today we spoke a little of our experiences and thoughts.   Other than that we could just relax and enjoy the beautiful day. 

I thought I'd show you a little of the ship.   We had Stateroom A069 which is deck 8. There are cabins only on decks 8, 7, 6 and 4.  

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Deck 5 - Promenade

The Main Dining Room - There are no assigned seatings.  You can wander in whenever you want.   We ended up at the same table every night with the same people (except once)

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 Laurie, Mark and Perrin

Laurie, Mark and Perrin

 Mom and Gerry

Mom and Gerry

The Curzon Lounge - where some meetings were held,  movies at night and some of the music.  

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Anderson Lounge

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Deck 5 also has photo screens where you can purchase photos taken during the impact activities.   You can buy individual prints or you can buy a cd with all the prints from one activity. The price for 1 activity is $60, 2 is $65 and 3 is $70, I think. 

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Deck 9  - Lido

There is one pool. Except for the last day it was pretty empty

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 The Conservatory - buffet restaurant

The Conservatory - buffet restaurant

 The Gym

The Gym

Deck 10

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Some odd and ends

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3 nights they had a Wine and Painting session.   They were very popular and sold out quickly

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 Until next time ....

Until next time ....

Friday, April 29th

"I want to make memories all over the world" - my quote for the day

We woke to another beautiful sunrise this morning. 

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As we headed to breakfast the captain made an announcement that we had to be off the ship by 7:30 since the Carnival Splendor was pulling up beside us.   We are not allowed to use the gangway while they are docking.   Almost everyone was off but we ended up having to wait until 8:20 to leave since some people didn't make it off and had to wait until 8:00 to disembark. Anyway we were finally on our way to our last Impact Activity - Recycled Paper. The bus ride was only about 15 minutes.   Yay!!

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Once we reached the village,  we had a short walk to the facility.   Very colorful.  

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These young boys were happy to pose for us. 

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The women welcomed us with cheers and clapping and then introduced themselves. 13 women work here.  

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Our first station was shredding the paper while separating the white spaces with the spaces with typing.  Tedious work.

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2nd was mixing the paper in the blender and making the sheets.  

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 Altagracia

Altagracia

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The final part was rolling the paper to smooth it out while singing and dancing. 😄 Yolanda was the liveliest there and so appreciative of the project.   

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After a short break we switched to the crafts side. We worked on braiding plantain skins and tying pieces of wood together for a mat to put hot dishes on.  

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Then there was a jewelry station where we strung cocoa beans ...

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Candle making ...

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And making coasters. 

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We had a little time to buy a few items and then it was time to say goodbye. 

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Once back on board,  it was time to depart Amber Cove and start home.   We left port around 1:15 and relaxed on the balcony all afternoon. Another dinner and bed.  

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Thursday, April 28th

"Turn the trip into a journey" - my quote of the day

 Arriving back in port at 7:00am

Arriving back in port at 7:00am

This morning mom decided to do the water filter program so she left at 7:30 with Marianne.  I kept an eye on her from the balcony. 

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I decided to check out the pool at Amber Cove because that's how selfless I am🙄.

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I rented an umbrella for the day - price was $8.  Well worth it for me. 

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I took one of the bike taxis back to the ship around noon. They work for tips.

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Around 1:30 I headed to the bus port for my next impact activity - Community English.  Around 1:55 we left the port and I found out we were going to the same village as yesterday.   

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After about 25 minutes we left the paved road. 

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We arrived to an enthusiastic greeting from about 10 women. 

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There were 4 groups.  My group had 4 travelers and 2 ladies -Maria and Arianna who are sisters.

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We all went to Maria's house which was across the street and we were joined by Clara and Maria's daughter and son.

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Today's lesson was numbers so we reviewed the previous lessons: How are you? and the Alphabet and then worked with number flashcards.  Time flew by. 

 Clara and Rosa

Clara and Rosa

 Arianna knew the word "selfie"

Arianna knew the word "selfie"

   Ariana is 18 years old. She comes twice a week from Puerta Plata in order to learn English.  She was so much fun to be with.

  Ariana is 18 years old. She comes twice a week from Puerta Plata in order to learn English.  She was so much fun to be with.

When it was time to go, there were lots of hugs and some tears.  It's incredible how quickly bonds were made.   Truly beautiful. 

Time to take the long ride home😢

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 Main highway through town

Main highway through town

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More about the Water Filter program later.

Wednesday, April 27th

"A whole world of opportunities" - Felix,  our impact guide, discussing today's activity

 Sunrise

Sunrise

 Amber Cove

Amber Cove

Today was the activity I was most looking forward to -  Student English Conversation and Learning.  We pulled away from the ship around 8:20, about half an hour late.  Our bus ride was about an hour long, on some of the bumpiest roads I've ever been on.

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 Finally we reached the school in which we would be teaching.  

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After a warm-up activity we got in groups to start teaching the students beginning English.

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 5th grade class

5th grade class

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 Mom and Emely

Mom and Emely

 My student,  Jorchi

My student,  Jorchi

What an amazing experience!  I wish we had more time in the school.   Some groups got to teach 2 lessons since their schools were closer.  But I'm sure our school was best. 

Around 11 o'clock we started our long bus ride back to town.

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 Big election coming up

Big election coming up

Did some shopping at the stores at Amber Cove before the long walk back to the ship.

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We had a relaxing afternoon and went down to dinner around 6:30 with our regular table-mates.

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At 9:45 we left the dock to get rid of the waste from the ship.   We will be back in port around 7:00am.

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Tuesday, April 26th

 "Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow. " -Anita Desai

 The Conservatory 

The Conservatory 

 Deck 9 aft

Deck 9 aft

Breakfast in the Conservatory and then off to Spanish class in the library.   It was a fun interactive experience. With a cheat sheet in hand,  we broke into small groups and wrote a conversation.   I've had spanish in school but many people had none.   It made no difference. We laughed a lot and learned a little. 

 The Library

The Library

At 10:15 we were back in the Curzon Lounge for a class called Getting to Know the Dominican Republic.   We learned a little history and some dos and donts.

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 Uh oh

Uh oh

Around 11:30 we were docked at Amber Cove,  Puerto Plata.

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After a quick lunch we got ready for our afternoon impact activity. 

We met in the lounge at 1:15 and were assigned a sticker number for our trip to the chocolate factory.   We departed around 1:30 and finally got a good view of our ship. 

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These bungalows can be rented while we are in port.   They are not cheap. 

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The buses were all lined up and ready to go.   We pulled out at 2 on the dot.

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After about 35 minutes, we arrived at Chocal Chocolate Factory. It is a women-owned co-op in the Altamira section of the country.

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We were divided into 4 groups of 11 people each. Our leader was Stephen from the organization, Iddy. He led us from station to station. We started off with a cup of hot chocolate which was delicious. Our group started with the final step - wrapping and boxing the chocolate bars.

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Our next stop was the 1st step of chocolate-making: sorting the cocoa beans.  Small or flat beans cannot be used since they burst during the process.   

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The 2nd step was pulling out the pieces of the shells of the beans that were not removed in the cleaning process.  

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Our final station was pouring the chocolate into molds.   This was fun and messy.   We got a cup of melted chocolate at the end.    

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After a few minutes in the little (very little) store,  we drove back to the ship.  

We had another lovely dinner with some of our new friends and retired to our room to prepare for an early start in the morning.

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Monday, April 25th

"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. " - My quote of the day

 Sunrise at sea.

Sunrise at sea.

After sleeping in this morning, I woke up in time for the first session - Empowering English Tutoring - with a very enthusiastic, Tatiana.

There were a couple of non-threatening activities to wake everyone up and to start the interaction.   We learned a little of what we would be doing at the school (teaching 9 and 10 year olds English) and in the homes (teaching English to adults).

 Tatiana 

Tatiana 

After a quick breakfast in the conservatory,  I met with the Impact Guide assigned to our group, Ricardo.  Every passenger is assigned to a guide in groups called Cohorts.  The guide teaches us about Fathom - the general to the specific.   

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Ricardo

Fathom words: "Transformation through travel."  "Alongsidedness" "Exploration"  "Eudaimonia-human flourishing"

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In case you are thinking it's all work,  we had a great BBQ lunch,  spent some time relaxing by the pool and then on our balcony.   

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 Lido deck pool

Lido deck pool

My final session today was "The Story of You."  Like many of the sessions it was geared to community and sharing.   They work hard at helping put people in a place where they are comfortable sharing.  There were some partner activities: develop a secret handshake and tell a partner about your name - they were easy.   Then we had to determine a story that changed us in some way and tell it to 3 people we didn't know.   It was actually pretty fun. 

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I then had a nice 25 minute hot stone massage before we got ready for dinner. Dinner is quite a drawn out experience.   We had a full table of 8 tonight: Shannon & Angie from Boise, Rose and Sylvia from NC, and Adelaide and Gerry from Virginia  (family in Media).  Lots of good conversation and stories over a 2 hour period.  For dinner I had a Caesar salad and turkey. 

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No nightlife again so just relaxing on my balcony again.   Love the sound of the ocean. 

 View from my balcony 😉

View from my balcony 😉

Day 2 - Prague

Well I'm awake at 1:30 so I guess now is a good time to write about our day. We both slept well and I had to wake mom up at 8:50.  We had another lovely breakfast and met Dagmar at 10:00.  We took tram number 22 from the hotel to Prague Castle.  It is an immense complex of buildings in different styles. It was originally designed by Maria Therese from the Hapsburg family in Austria.  It is now the president's office building and site of many other government functions.

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Interesting fact - the uniform of the castle guards was designed by the costume designer for the movie "Amadeus".  much of that movie was filmed in this area.

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 One of the many hay nativity scenes

One of the many hay nativity scenes

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 View of Prague from the castle

View of Prague from the castle

It was a beautiful view from the castle grounds overlooking the city of Prague, however notice on the right side the Starbucks. There is some product placement for you.

After getting our fill of the beautiful scenery, we started down the hill. It is quite a hike if you are going to walk up the hill. On our way down we stopped for hot chocolate. We had our choice of 50% hot cocoa or 70%. We took the 50% which was rich and delicious.  Then we stopped at a cute little gingerbread shop. There were molds and many different gingerbread cookies.  At the bottom of the hill we reached the Charles Bridge.

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At this point we had to say goodbye to Dagmar. It was a fun two days and she was an excellent guide. Before she left she bought us two tickets to go on a short boat ride. Upon getting on the small boat we were offered a drink of wine. tea or coffee and a small cake. The boat ride lasted about 45 minutes.

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This time of year the sun doesn't rise until nearly 8 a.m. and is setting around 4 p.m..

After the boat ride we went in the small exhibition of Nativity scenes. 

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And my favorite...

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It looked like a fish nativity scene but I'm really not sure what it was. I think that these are fish shepherds.

Another beautiful view of the river and castle. 

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We walked back over the bridge to have dinner / lunch at a small restaurant that Dagmar recommended. I had the beef goulash and dumplings again. It was delicious.

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After dinner we did some shopping and bought a couple of small gifts. We found a Haagen Dazs ice cream shop right across from the entrance to the mirror chapel.  So we had to try it out.

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There was a very comfortable sitting area on the second floor where we could watch everybody walk below.

At 7 o'clock we went into the Klemendium complex to the Mirror Chapel.  We saw a concert which lasted a little over an hour. There was an organ, violin, flute, baritone and soprano. At the end they did a couple of Christmas songs. It was very nice and the atmosphere was perfect.

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After the concert we took a taxi back to the hotel. Note: taxis are extremely expensive but we were too lazy to find the tram back to the hotel.

I will leave you for the evening with a few more shots of the Charles bridge.

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Day 1 - Prague, Czech Republic

After a good, if muddled, night sleep, we got ourselves together and went down for breakfast.  Great!  

 

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At 10:15 our guide from Tours by Locals came to pick us up. Dagmar and we walked around Prague until about 2:15. Our first stop was Wenceslas Square.

 

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We walked around the new town and learned some history of the Czech Republic. About 11:45 we stopped and had tea at a cute little cafe.

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Then we walked into Old Town, visited the Jewish quarter and ended at the Market Square where the big Christmas market is being held.

 

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We had lunch at a nearby pub before returning to the market to do some Christmas shopping.

 

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We returned to the hotel for a short rest before we were picked up for our evening entertainment. The van picked us up at 7:30 and took us just outside of the city to see a traditional Czech Folk show and have dinner. we had the traditional Czech meal of pork, chicken and ham followed by a apple strudel.

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We were dropped off back at our hotel at 11 o'clock.

Envoy Class is the way to go...

Mom was happily surprised with her upgrade. She was so cute trying to figure everything out.  Our flight took off on time at 4:30pm. We had our dinner around 5:30 (appetizer, salad, rolls, a choice of 4 entrees, and dessert.) 

Then everyone went to sleep.  How?? It was 6:00pm. I was jealous.  Luckily they had individual monitors with lots of movies and tv.

Our flight arrived in Frankfurt, Germany at 5:44am. We breezed right through customs and immigration and were in the shuttle to the train station by 6:30.

We had to take a local train from Frankfurt airport to Frankfort HBF.  This is important since our connecting train left from the city station, not the airport. 

So, at 8:55am our train left for Nuremburg. Now I fell asleep. We arrived in Nuremberg at 10:59.  And had more time to waste in the station.  

The bus to Prague left at 12:42 pm. I slept for an hour until the police boarded to check passports. Don't know if that's a usual occurrence or not.  Mom slept right through it. We arrived in Prague at 4:20 pm and took a taxi to our hotel (400 crowns).

The hotel is delightful. The young girl at reception went over everything to do in Prague.  And she served us hot tea.  What a nice welcome.  Hotel is very nice and comfortable and unique. We are probably in for the night.   

 Envoy dinner

Envoy dinner

 Nuremberg Bus Station

Nuremberg Bus Station

 I don't know...

I don't know...

 Relaxing in our hotel sitting room.

Relaxing in our hotel sitting room.

Here we go...

Well here we are at Philadelphia Airport in the rain.  We are waiting in the Admirals Lounge, formally the USAirways Club.  Our flight is still saying ontime.  Fingers crossed. 

I upgraded our seats to first class but mom will be surprised. She will find out on-board. 

We are due to depart at 4:30pm and should arrive into Frankfurt, Germany at 6:15am.  Then the adventure begins.   

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Mom in the Admirals Lounge

One day to go ...

Well - it's finally here.  This Viking river cruise was my mother's Christmas present last year.  And even though I've had a whole year to prepare, I am not ready.  I'm not packed, I have nothing printed out, and I'm not done my work at my job.

On the other hand - I have Euros and Czech crowns ready to spend and I know where my passport is ... it's a start.