European Vacation My Way 2016: Time to Cruise

Welcome back to my travel blog. Today, we leave Copenhagen behind and take to the high seas aboard the Norwegian Cruise Ship, Star. The ship weighs 91,740 tons, is 965 feet long and 105 feet wide. In addition to its 1,083 member crew, it welcomes aboard 2348 guests for each cruise it takes. The wasn’t our first cruise, but unlike last year’s Celebrity Cruise to Alaska aboard the Millennium where there were dress codes and formal nights, the Star offers freestyle700x475_MainImage_Star dining–eat where you want, when you want, and if you want to dress up, you can do that, too.

We met in the hotel lobby late morning and boarded a bus for our trip to the harbor. Since Tuesday was a work day,   the traffic was horrendous–not cars, but bicycles. We passed a bike traffic jam. I’d never seen anything like it before. Treehugger has some great pictures, much better than the ones I almost got.from the moving bus. It’s amazing. Check it out. http://www.treehugger.com/bikes/bike-rush-hour-copenhagen-how-it-should-be-everywhere.html

The bus ride to the port was a long one, with the bus driving down streets so crowded and narrow, it was a wonder he made it through. The port is located far from where we were staying, and as you approached you could see that the city is under construction everywhere. They’re even reclaiming the sea to make more land. DSCF6004 DSCF6003

Once we boarded the ship, I took pictures of the warehouses at the docks and the expansion. Is it just me or do things look prettier?

I’m not a fan of standing in line waiting, and I have to admit, the waiting to board the ship was long, but it was handled well. The only official picture we purchased was this one taken after registration and before we boarded the ship itself.

NCL cruise 2016

And so the adventure begins. The Star was an awesome ship.  We had a cabin with a balcony. Our steward kept everything in order for us. Here John was trying to put stuff in the cabin safe, but the thing didn’t work. Within half an hour, they’d replaced it.DSCF6007

After lunch at O’Sheehan’s Bar & Grill (Deck 8). This is the ship’s 24 hour restaurant. It was the one place we could usually find without getting lost–which I did several times. The restaurant–more of a open space with tiered seating overlooks the atrium. It’s lots of window seating. The food was delicious. We had several late breakfasts, lunches and dinner there our first night aboard ship–although we missed the roast beef, but that comes later.Here’s a peek at some of the balcony seats and the gorgeous ceiling. IMG_1913

IMG_1911

This second picture is taken from the staircase that leads to the Java Cafe in the atrium.

All ships have a sailing out protocol and on the Star, this was a presentation–a musical extravaganza on the pool deck. While it definitely wasn’t swimsuit weather, the crew made us all feel welcome and at home.IMG_1908

There were even a few hardy souls who soaked their feet in one of the hot tubs, but sorry. WAY too cold for me. IMG_1885

Off we went to explore the ship. We found the two main dining rooms, Versaille and Aqua.IMG_2826

Versailles, all gold and posh, decorated with pictures of King Louis XIV, was where we reported for lifeboat drill. It was also the ship’s main dining room. We had several meals there throughout the cruise. Everything was absolutely excellent and the service unbeatable.

IMG_1894

In the Stardust Theatre we got a glimpse of what we’d be seeing during the week and met the ship’s leaders. Most were from the Philippines, but the captain was Swedish.

After the presentation, we headed to Gatsby’s, one of the ship’s main bars. It became our meeting place. My husband loved being addressed as Mr. John. Here he is  enjoying a beer with Stan, a friend from Cornwall also on the cruise.  20160519_211826IMG_1906

There was a nightly piano player who was always good to listen too. We made friends there too–couples from the United States, England, Australia, and New Zealand. We played games such as Country Shape Trivia and Name that Tune. I even played the one-armed bandit and won $60.00.

DSCF6008Our next day would be a sea day, where we could sleep in,or do whatever we liked. After that we’d make our first Norwegian Port. For now, it was good food, good drinks and lots of happy conversation.

See you next time for a look at a Norwegian Fjord town!

Midweek Tease: Just For the Weekend

Good morning! Wow, it’s been ages since I teased with you. The last few weeks have been incredibly MWTease15busy, but I’m back today with another tease from Just For the Weekend, my contemporary romance set in Vegas. Fall plans include writing a sequel to this story.

Many thanks to Angelica Dawson and the rest of the lovely authors here who provide this weekly blog opportunity. Here’s the blurb:

It’s time to play with the grown-ups.

Kindergarten teacher Cleo James needs a change. Three years at her widowed dad’s beck and call are enough. A weekend in Vegas at a sci-fi convention with her best friend will do for now, and the hot guy who wants to spend time with her only adds to her excitement. After all – it’s just for the weekend. What can possibly go wrong?

Just for the Weekend cover.Multimillionaire Sam Mason is sick of gold diggers. He’s looking for someone who’ll fall for him, not his wallet. When he meets a shy, green-skinned slave girl, she pushes all his buttons – the best part is she has no idea who he is and mistakenly believes he’s a Chippendale. Between the sexual attraction and too much alcohol, he wakes up married to his green-skinned beauty, but the bride has vanished. Finding her will be a lot harder than he thinks.

Here’s the tease. Enjoy!

They entered the salon decorated in an outer space theme giving the impression of a nightclub on a distant planet. The ceiling was covered in fabric behind which white twinkle lights shone, simulating stars. Tables were covered in black cloths and featured exotic flowers in vases lit from underneath, giving them an out-of-this-world look. Cleo recognized bird of paradise, orchids, banana, ginger flowers and a few others. Each flower was accompanied by greenery, some of which had been sprayed every color of the rainbow.

In the far corner, a three-dimensional mural of the eight planets from the sun’s perspective had been set up, and a photographer waited to snap pictures of couples who wanted a permanent souvenir of the occasion—for a price of course.

A band dressed like the one from the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars, played Europe’s The Final Countdown while costumed dancers of all ages gyrated to the music. Cleo looked around, trying to spot a Klingon/Cardassian couple.

“I don’t see Charlie and Mitch. I guess they must have gone into another room.”

Now that her indignation at being treated like a piece of meat had cooled, she wasn’t sure what else to say. She didn’t want to ask what kind of ideas Sam was getting—the kind he’d have to ask permission to act on—she’d rather just imagine those. Mitch was the one with all the glib lines. Cleo might be dressed like a temptress, but seduction was way out of her comfort zone. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been left alone with a virtual stranger. The few dates she’d had were with colleagues who shared a common interest. Why did small talk always look so easy the movies? She struggled for something interesting to say, praying Mitch and Carlie would show up to rescue her soon. She could always make an excuse and leave, but, truth be told, she didn’t want to leave her Cardassian just yet.

“I can’t imagine where they found all these flowers. Look at that one. It looks like something Cruella Deville would love.” Damn. Kindergarten speak.

Sam laughed. “They do have some rather weird ones here tonight. That is a Dalmatian Orchid, and you’re right; it would please Cruella. I’m up on my Disney movies.” He winked.     “That blue one over there is called Love in a Mist, and that orange and yellow one is Beehive Ginger—all very exotic, and all very earthy.”

“How do you know so much about flowers? I’d love to photograph some of them.”

“Just a skill I picked up over the years in my line of work.” He chuckled. “So, are you interested in flowers or photography?”

The band began to play Liz Phair’s Supernova, one of her favorite songs, and she relaxed. “Both, but mainly photography—nothing professional. I just like to take pictures and play around with them on the computer.” This isn’t so bad; maybe I can pull it off.

“I’d love to see some of your work. You going to invite me up to your place later to look at your “etchings?”  He wiggled his eyebrows and pretended to be smoking a cigar, his voice a bad imitation of Groucho Marx. She was a huge fan of mid-twentieth century comedians and burst out laughing. She liked this guy.

“Cool your jets, Groucho, I never reveal my etchings on a first date.”

Sam looked at her and suddenly it felt as if they were the only ones in the room. He bent his head and she thought he was going to kiss her again. Instead he spoke softly, pulling her close to him to ensure she could hear his voice over the music.

“I can arrange for you to take pictures in here tomorrow, when’s there’s light. No one’s supposed to come into the room, but I have connections.” He indicated a white orchid set apart from the others. It was attached to the wall as if it were growing out of the sky. “That white one over there is a Ghost Orchid, very rare and protected. The casino had to get permission from the Governor of Florida to ship one here. It has to be returned to its natural habitat on Monday. Part of the reason it’s on the endangered list is because only one insect, the giant sphinx moth, has a long enough… feeler… to penetrate the long nectar spur and pollinate the flower.”

The huskiness in his voice sent sexual desire rushing through her. How can talking about insects pollinating flowers make me think of hot sex? The music was fitting. She felt like a star about to explode.

Sam smiled as if he’d read her mind, and Cleo took a sudden interest in an orange Jamaica orchid until she realized this flower wasn’t cooling the sexual images at all.

Want more? https://www.amazon.com/Weekend-Crimson-Romance-Susanne-Matthews-ebook/dp/B00J0HEAL4

Now, please drop by and visit the rest of this week’s teasers.

#MidWeekTease July 27, 2016

This is a Blog Hop!


You are next… Click here to enter
This list will close in 18 hrs, 0 min (7/27/2016 11:59 PM North America – Mountain Standard Time)What is a blog hop?

What Is This World Coming To?

Good morning. Before I start, I need to say that I know many people will disagree with my opinions this morning, but St Lawrence and USAI’m ranting because I’m wondering if the world has all gone mad. The level of violence continues to escalate, and it shows no sign of abating. People, including children, are dying at the hands of insane killers, not only in France and Germany, but right here in Calgary, Alberta. Police officers are being ambushed and killed in the United States, and the racial tension there reminds me of the way it was back in the sixties. Two songs come to mind, Elvis’s In the Ghetto, and Lightfoot’s Black Day in July, sung here by The Tragically Hip.

Growing up in a small city in Canada, the whole situation made no sense to me, but as I said, I was and still am naive about these things. In the same way, I don’t understand people whose sole purpose in life is killing and destroying others who don’t live, dress, and believe the way they do, people who can justify murdering a woman because she supposedly impinged the family honour by speaking her opinion. Maybe some learned behaviours and hatred go too deep to be unlearned, but this has to stop before we destroy ourselves.

Maybe it’s this frustration with the world as it is that made this video the one that broke this camel’s back. What is it with people that they would ever think doing something like this was okay? While I’m not a dog lover, I’ve seen the pictures of tortured, starved dogs, as well as those who were used in dog fighting, that have disgusted me, and I believe the punishment for inflicting pain on an innocent animal should be far more severe than it is, but what this stupid woman does is just too much. Even if this video is staged, meant as a joke in someone’s warped mind, it’s wrong, but if it isn’t, then this woman is very, very sick!

If the video won’t open for you, try opening it on my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/susanne.l.matthews/posts/10153889548063981

My response to this was that there should be a special place in Hell for people like these.

I showed this to my grandchildren for two reasons–the first so they’d realize it was a terrible thing to do, which they all did, and the second to remind them that someone is always watching you. I pointed out she knew she was going to do something wrong and they said yes, she was looking around to see if anyone was watching her. Kids learn by example. Even bad things can be used to teach good behaviour. I hope whoever was filming this rescued that animal. I also hope since the video has gone viral as they say, that the woman in question will be identified and gets lambasted the way the dentist who killed that lion did. Cruelty to animals is what grows into cruelty towards people. In my research, I’ve see the comment over and over again. Sociopaths often start their infamous career torturing defenseless animals and move up from there.

So, rant over.

Tuesday Tales: From a Picture

Badge for TT - very small (1)Good day, and welcome to another edition of Tuesday Tales. Once a month, the inspiration for our posts comes from an image, and we use it to write a flash fiction piece ot no more than 300 words. Most of us try to make the picture fit our current stories, but sometimes we need to branch out  For the past few months, we had various images from whicrestaurant signh to choose, but this month, we’re all on the same page–or rather–picture.

This week, I’ve managed to continue with Wedding Bell Blues, my contemporary romance. Here is the inspiration. It was a bit of a stretch, but…

So, here is your Tuesday Tale for this, the last week of July.

“I can’t believe it got dark just like that,” MJ said.

Paul ushered her along the boardwalk to the pathway. It only took three steps before he scooped her up into his arms.

“Put me down,” she said, with less enthusiasm than she should have. The aroma of his aftershave was doing strange things to her slightly inebriated senses.

“No way. The last thing I want is for you to twist your ankle. Relax and enjoy the ride.” He pulled her closer, and she had no choice but to put her arms around him and hang on. He veered off the path they’d used earlier.

“Where are we going?”

“I’m taking you in through the main doors.”

“I went in that way when I arrived, silly,” she said and giggled, enjoying herself far too much to quibble. How did that saying go? Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Once Mark and Melena arrived, that was quite possible.

Overhead, twinkling lights resembled her of hundreds of fireflies flitted through the canopy.

“Whoever designed this place is a genius,” MJ said.

Paul stepped out of the trees. The building was awash in soft light from multicolored floodlights. He set her gently on her feet, opened the main door, and stepped back, letting her walk ahead of him.

She gasped. It was like stepping back four hundred years into the past. The foyer had been transformed into a town square. Wooden signs suspended from black wrought iron bars, identified the various areas, now designed to look like store fronts. The exquisite doors leading to the bar, had looked out of place earlier, but now fit right in.

“It’s beautiful.”

“Not as beautiful as you.”

“This way,” Paul said, leading her toward the closed doors under the restaurant sign.

Please take the time to check out the other  Tuesday Tales

The Star Trek Experience: Welcome to Starfleet Academy

star-trek-splash-logo-6Good morning! Are you a Star Trek Fan? I am. I watched every single episode when they first aired in 1966. My teen imagination couldn’t get enough of the world of the future, and when the series was cancelled, I watched the reruns religiously. My husband got interested in Star Trek at university watching those reruns, and today, he’s as big a fan as they come. We had a Star Trek themed party for him when he turned 60.12204621_1027354927286026_1232929330_n

Currently, the Museum of Aviation in Ottawa, Ontario, has a Star Trek experience on the go. According to the website information, “The Starfleet Academy Experience provides cadet recruits with an opportunity to experience a “career day” at the Academy. In an immersive environment, recruits try out a number of activities to test their potential to train for careers as Medical Officers, Science Officers, Communications specialists, even Commanders. The experience is enriched with the actual science behind the science fiction as the participants learn about emerging technologies such as a functional tricorder, NASA’s warp drive theory, and the latest experiments with phasers and teleporters.”

I was lucky enough to attend “Starfleet Academy Career Day on Saturday. The tickets aren’t expensive and you get to visit the Aviation Museum as well–Two experiences for the price of one.

The first thing we saw as we entered the exhibit was a model of the Enterprise with an image of the Canadian flag superimposed on it. Enterprise

The next thing we saw was a complete timeline for the original Star Trek series and its many characters, starting with World War III and Zefram Cochrane, ending with the defeat of the Borg and Captain Janeway’s return to Earth. Timeline

Once inside the main exhibit, you have the opportunity to try various interactive devices. You can scan a Klingon and determine his treatment in Sick Bay. Perhaps you’d rather learn to speak Klingon if Communications appeal to you. If you like, you can even use technology to make an image of yourself as a alien.

Here are replicas of various medical instruments used on the show. What I particularly enjoyed was learning about the devices we have today that were born out of Gene Roddenberry’s imagination. Hyposprays have been used successfully to deliver mass vaccines.Medical EquipmentAs we moved through the exhibit, we were able to take short quizzes. Our answers determined what we’d be best suited for–they also tested your knowledge of the series, but many were hypothetical–what if–questions. You selected the most likely answer for you. Here John struggles to complete the Kobayashi Maru scenario. He managed to rescue 150 of the 300 people aTaking the testboard before the Klingons destroyed the Enterprise. I only managed to save 20 before I met the same fate.

Throughout the exhibit, there were star maps, uniforms worn by the cast in various series. I was most surprised by how thin the female cast members must’ve been. Galaxy map

The displays included posters, like this map of the Beta Quadrant as well as models of ships and shuttle crafts used in filming. filming models

You could even use the Transporter. They send you a short video of yourself getting your molecules scrambled. transporterI got to use the ship’s phasers to eliminate the enemy–brought down 33 out of 50 potential threats.  Very proud of myself since I don’t usually do that well at that kind of thing.

By far the most impressive aspect of the exhibit is the Bridge.

 

 

When all was said and done, we got our results. John, sitting in the Captain’s chair, would make a fine Science or Tactical officer, but guess what? I was given the choice of Engineering or Command. Damn, that chair feels mighty good!

My Star Trek experience isn’t over yet. At the beginning of September, I’m going to Fan Expo where I hope to meet Captain Kirk himself–he’s older, wiser, heavier, but aren’t we all? http://fanexpocanada.com/sci-fi-attractions/ 

My love of Star Trek gave me the idea for one of my novels.Just For The Weekend starts at a Sci-fi convention.  I plan to write a follow-up when I get back and use my experiences as part of the plot.

Well, that’s it for now. As Mr. Spock would say, “Live long and prosper!”

Tuesday Tales: From the Word WRITE

Badge for TT - very small (1)Hello Again. Welcome back to Tuesday tales. I’m continuing with my contemporary romance, Wedding Bell Blues. Rather than go back in the story, I decided to plow ahead from the last post.

Enjoy!

“You don’t look so bad yourself,” MJ smiled indicating the clothes he’d donned.

“Just about everything I have that isn’t military issue is brand new. I didn’t have much call for this kind of get-up when I was in the service. I let the sales clerk in the men’s store pick out my wardrobe—but I warned him I didn’t want anything sissy.”

She chuckled, her laughter as clear as a crystal bell. “Women do love a man in uniform, but I doubt you’d look sissy, as you put it, no matter what you wore. More champagne?” She indicated the bottle he’d just opened.

“Yeah. It was delivered with the hors d’oeuvres. It seems the manager can’t do enough for us.”

MJ looked over at the plateful of delicacies and reached for s tiny stuffed tomato.

“Well, at this rate, I’ll be the size of a house in ten days. Are you going to pour me a drink or just stand there holding the glass?”

“Sorry.” He poured the wine into the flute and handed it to her. Reaching for his own glass, he raised it in a toast. “Here’s to us.”

“To us,” she said echoing his words and sipping from her glass. “You realize by now, our ‘engagement’ is probably all over town. That selfie  Carla had me send has probably gone viral, too. You’re stuck with me for a while, but God willing, we can get out of this without having to go through a mock wedding, although how we can manage that is beyond me. I hate to think of Mama hurt again.”

Paul frowned. “MJ, I don’t consider it ‘stuck’ with you, and if we do have to get married, so be it. I don’t want to hurt your mother either, but sometimes we have to look at the greater good. For the record, I’m looking forward to having someone in my life to do things with like training for the Ironman.”

She choked on the wine.

“Excuse me? What Ironman?”

“I swore when they told me I’d walk again, that I’d compete in next year’s Ironman. I know you’re asthmatic, but I’m not exactly Speedy Gonzales either.”

She moved over to the railing to stand beside him, her face mirroring her acceptance of the situation. “Considering what you’re willing to do for me, I promise to do my best to cheer you on. It’s an incredible sight, isn’t it,” she indicated the Caribbean sunset. “I rarely get to stand around and watch the sun go down at home. Nine out of ten times, I’m either working on something in my room or Mom has me stirring a pot in the kitchen. By the way, Carla said you make great bean soup.”

“A man’s gotta eat as they say, and I was pretty fed up with mess chow and K-rations. Being able to cook for myself was the greatest gift your mother ever gave me. I look forward to cooking for you.”

Paul sighed. He felt at peace for the first time in months and prayed this new-found sense of well-being would stay with him. As the sun dipped lower on the horizon, he contemplated everything that had happened in the space of eight hours. He’d rescued an old friend, set up a plan to make Mark pay for his sins, and had gotten himself engaged to a woman whom he not only admired, but really liked—one he’d be willing to spend the rest of his life with.

My greatest desire.

Suddenly, he wasn’t sure exactly what that was. He glanced at the ring on her finger, the symbol of the bargain they’d made. However long this lasted, he’d make sure she had the time of her life. This might be about getting even with the Achilles heel, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t have fun, too.

MJ turned away from the sunset, pulling him out of his musings.

“Shall we go to dinner? You’d think with all the stuff I’ve eaten today, I’d be full, but I’m starving. Unfortunately, I’m a stress eater, and this is the most stressed I’ve been in months.”

Paul laughed. “Relax. We’ve thought of everything. This will work. And as far as eating goes, I’m convinced these resorts spike the food so that it runs through your system more quickly. We got a fair amount of exercise in the pool, walking around the grounds, and playing in the surf on the beach.”

“I had a great time. It’ll take me a while to get used to iguanas that size, but at least my heart didn’t pound out of my chest when we meant the last two.”

She put down the glass. “Can we recap the wine and finish it later? I wouldn’t mind a midnight swim before bed. You did say there was nothing large that came in here, right?”

Paul choked. A midnight swim? Visions of her glistening in the moonlight wearing nothing but the string bikini she had on earlier had his hard as a rock.  He swallowed awkwardly, begging his body not to betray him.

“No predators, guaranteed, and a swim before bed will help us both sleep better.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

MJ smiled, picked up her evening bag, and turned toward the door.

“Shall we?”

Before he could answer, her tablet chimed.

“It’s Carla,” she answered. “Let me  see what she wants and write a quick response.” She opened the message, read what Carla had sent and shook her head.

“I was right. News of our engagement is all over Stilton, and Mom is getting all kinds of congratulations.” She frowned. “I sure hope this plan of yours works and isn’t going to come back and bite me in the ass.”

Please take the time to check out the other  Tuesday Tales

European Vacation My Way: Summer 2016: Tivoli Gardens

IMG_1759Good morning. Well, I’m back from two weeks of camping and I figured it was time to jump back into my travel blog. For those of you who are seeing this for the first time, I spent an incredible three week vacation in Denmark, Norway, and Iceland. Today, I want to talk about one of the must-see sights in Copenhagen: Tivoli Gardens.

Tivoli Gardens (or simply Tivoli) opened August 15, 1843 and is the second-oldest operating amusement park in the world. What absolutely amazed me the most was how incredibly clean the park was, not to mention how beautiful the flowers and trees were. If you remember, when we left Canada on May 14, the trees were just beginning to show their leaves, and my plants were still sprouts. I was amazed to see how only 2 days later, things could be so advanced in a country that was actually north of where I live. The map below gives you some idea as to how large the park is. Since major amusement parks in Canada are usually located in the suburbs, it was strange to see something like this right downtown.

20160516_170257

There’s no denying the amazing beauty of Tivoli. Everything is done to give the place a magical feel. 20160516_171438_001  Even the walls are decorated to give you the impression of stepping into another world. 20160516_170354 This is a concert hall on the grounds. No concert tonight, folks.20160516_173503_002

There are colorful rides for all ages, from this underwater special to tangled complicated roller coasters that run throughout the grounds, the tracks narrowly missing the trees in their paths. 20160516_172301_001

You can travel to the Far East.

20160516_190310

Imagine walking through a Chinese marketplace or seeing the spire of a japanese pagoda. 20160516_171944

If pirates are more your style, how about a meal aboard a pirate ship?20160516_172248_006

Or maybe you’d prefer dining at the Taj Mahal?20160516_165346_002

No matter what your pleasure, you’ll find it here. 20160516_172509

But rides and dining experiences aren’t all. The flower gardens themselves are truly unique.

20160516_172554_012 Do you fancy water gardens? 20160516_184838

or manicured lawns and flower beds kept that way with drone lawnmowers shaped like bunnies?

From rides to flowers to live animals, you’ll find everything and more at Tivoli.

20160516_173023_002

Once we finished, we left the park and crossed the street. English pub20160516_195414 A brew or two at the  English pub  was a great way to end our last night in Copenhagen. I’m sure Churchill would’ve agreed. Tomorrow, we board the ship for a seven-day Norwegian Fjord Cruise. Join me again for European Vacation My Way.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,779 other followers