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Author Archives: trailingtrekker

…And Then There Were Two!

Parting is such sweet sorrow…

Unfortunately our time together only lasted 2 months as Dane had to return home after a problem with his eyes developed, caused by overly long hours, lack of sleep, stress and poor diet (crew food is not the same as the guests!).

Our courtship had consisted of stolen moments between shifts, meeting for coffee before shifts, riding the elevator together when we were headed in the same direction, and the very rare hour or 2 on shore. If you added all these minutes together we might have consistently seen each other for about 7-10hrs in 2 months, and that’s being generous. Yet, it felt like we had always been together, I couldn’t imagine life without him and at the same time I couldn’t imagine life with him, they seemed one and the same.

The day he left there were tears and then I focused on cleaning and at least my sorrow resulted in a very clean cabin.

I have something for you…

We both came down with something, he ended up having a severe sinus infection and I assume I had strep throat so we did not chat for a few days after he left. However, once we were both healed he was there waiting for me online EVERY SINGLE EVENING!! He would tell his friends he had to leave drinking to come talk to me, he would decline bar trips so he could be there when I finished my shift. I had never had anyone do this. And in the 2.5mths we were apart there was only 1 night he decided to go to the bar, but he let me know and then was online at 3am just in case I was awake.

Usually we would chat on Skype video but would also exchange facebook chats throughout the day, on one particular chat the conversation went something like this:

Dane: I have something for you

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Kathy: ummmmm, if this is a proposal then YES!

Dane: Great! But it’s not gold, and it’s not a diamond, I hope that’s ok….

Kathy: It’s beautiful and I love it even more!

Dane: So when can you leave the ship….

And that started one of the most complicated process I have ever had to deal with on the ships… signing off!

In a Car???

It turned out our ship would dock in the port of Thessaloniki, Greece, twice during the month of October. This port was only an hour and a half from where Dane lived so we decided I would try and end my contract on one of those dates and if that was not possible do a sign off. A sign off is when you voluntarily end your contract, you must provide your own transport home and often risk never being given another contract. This seemed like a good enough reason…

At first I asked the head of my department if I could simply end my contract a month early (I would have worked 6mths, a usual minimum) and it turned out my replacement was already there (she was replacing the French host and would have taken on the English speaker duties once I left. For some incomprehensible reason they said NO! So I did the next best thing and went to see the Crew Purser to sign off, a bemusing conversation that went like this:

Me: I wish to sign off in the port of Thessaloniki

Crew Purser (CP): Ummmm do you have a flight home?

Me: No, my fiance will come and pick me up from Macedonia

CP: Macedonia…. is that a country or a city?

Me: It’s a country just North of Greece

CP: So does he have a flight ticket?

Me: no he is driving to pick me up

CP: In a car???

Me: ahhhh yes driving in a car….

It was very hard to keep the sarcasm in check… but eventually I was given the correct paperwork, ostracized by my superiors for deigning to leave the ship to be married and in general actually feeling pretty good (I think the truth of the matter hadn’t truly sunk in, it just felt right).

They Won’t Let the Ship Leave, and Might Call Interpol! 

All too soon the day came. The crew purser took me to see the Greek Immigration and then released me to finish sorting and packing. Later I went to pick up my passport and asked if there was anything else I had to do, he assured me everything was good and I was free to leave.

I headed down the gangway, for what would turn out to be the last time, and into my new life.

Dane arrived, wearing a suit, to pick me up… I think I was a little in shock as the truth of what was happening began slipping in… I was meeting a man I had known for 5mths and agreeing to marriage, but what the hell, I was 39 and he seemed nice enough (literally this went through my head).

A few hours later we were enjoying lunch when a collegue came up and said “OMG Kathy, they are looking for you everywhere, they won’t let the ship leave (which was only due to leave in 4hrs), you need to go back now!!!” I couldn’t believe it, I thought it was a joke. I hadn’t had my phone on and when I connected to the internet I saw messages from everyone, including my folks (they had called to see if I was home in the US…. seriously??). I ran back and the port agent look like he had aged 10yrs, he sighed with relief and said immigration was on the verge of calling interpol since I had jumped ship… WTF!

Turns out when the crew purser told me I was free to leave, there was nothing I had to do, no one I had to see, what he actually meant was “before you leave the ship you must report back to the Greek immigration upstairs for a stamp in your passport”, gee I wonder how I missed that one…

Luckily the very annoyed looking agents gave me a stamp after sufficiently making me feel like some kind of a criminal and I was free to leave the port, but would have to report to the chief at the border station for approval… I think I lost about 6 lives that day…

Why Are You Disturbing Me???

Well we got to the Greek/Macedonia border and I nervously was taken to see the big guy in charge. It turns out I never needed any stamp as I was

1 – immediately leaving the country

AND

2 – a US citizen who would very unlikely prefer to jump ship and live as an illegal in Greece….

If anything the big guy was more annoyed at having his afternoon coffee disturbed by his subordinate….

So, that is where my ship life ends and my new life starts, engaged and ultimately married to an amazing man and living part time in Macedonia (birthplace of Mother Theresa and Alexander the Great) and part time in the US. Adventure is out there… let life begin!

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It’s Good To Be Back!

Hey All! Greetings and salutations!

Many of you might have wondered where I had disappeared to these past 3yrs… perhaps I had moved to a beautiful tropical island (been there done that), or explored the temples of stunning Mystical Nepal (nope been there too), or perhaps… just possibly…. I had found the love of my life and discovered once you get married “You are never alone again!”. If you voted for the last one then you would be right. Who knew, especially after the last time I opened my heart, I would find someone so perfectly wonderful who could handle my weird craziness.

Just When You Think You Have It All Figured Out….

The last time I left you, I had become a Padi Dive Instructor, explored Laos and had decided to head back to sea and the cruise ships. This entire adventure had brought to light many insecurities I never truly admitted I had, insecurities from being bullied back in school, from never feeling like I was good enough, from always being in the friend zone with guys… When I passed I remember saying to my fellow students, as I balled my eyes out, “Am I finally cool??”. In utter shock they replied saying, “You? cool? You, the one who has lived in 4 different countries? Who speaks 3 different languages and a smattering of about another 5? Who has travelled solo to over 50 countries? Who has spent 3 yrs working on cruise ships and traveling to a further 20 countries? You were cool way before passing you instructor exam…!!!!!”.

I left Koh Phangan island, with my head held high, a new sense of confidence, a new sense of self-understanding. Then to add to that, I met a bunch of “youngsters”, most of them traveling for the first time, in the hostel in Bangkok, and suddenly found myself Mamma bird to a large group of newbies and realizing something else… I had become that savvy, confident, traveling, friend/daughter/sister/aunt, the one you meet and wish someday, perhaps, your adventures would equal theirs. In other words I discovered who I was in those months spent diving and traveling in South East Asia and I left it feeling a new sense of purpose and drive.

“TRAVEL IS WHO I AM, WHERE I FEEL MOST CONFIDENT, SO NO MORE GUILT, NO MORE SELF DOUBT, TRAVEL, CRUISE SHIPS AND ADVENTURES AWAIT ME!”

And Then I Walked Into His Bar….

I had the entire year planned out, home after Thailand for a few months to help out the folks, then return to the ship for 6-8mths and save, then return to my homeland of South Africa and do a 2 month cross country trip with Baz Bus which included most of my dream trip through Southern Africa.

I boarded MSC Opera in late May, and in my first week I went to grab a glass of water in one of the bars onboard. There I met a waiter named Dane (DA-NEH), from Macedonia… What I didn’t know, as I left the bar, was that he had decided to date me. In fact there was a good chance we were already dating and I just hadn’t got the memo….

Over the next month he utterly confused me by giving me little winks from across the room, the kind of wink that makes you go weak at the knees, but didn’t understand why. He hardly spoke to me as the waiters had insane hours and barely a chance to sleep let alone chat up a lady. My job as Social Hostess was to walk around and talk to guests and make sure there were no issues or questions. I soon realized I was inadvertently circling the bars Dane was working in, which he will forever claim to be me stalking him.

After close to a month of winks and smiles, I finally just asked him “Do you want to grab a coffee?”, his reply “well of course that’s the plan”…. again memo, didn’t get it. He even knew my cabin number, now who was stalking who??

The Way to a Man’s Heart

People always say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. However, if you work on a ship with no time to even wash your socks then the girl you like offers to wash them you turn to your friend and say “I am going to marry that girl!”. And that is exactly what happened.

Our friend Nenad, a waiter from Serbia, was lamenting one day at how he never had time to even wash his socks. Since my schedule often allowed large breaks, giving me time to not only explore and nap but also to do laundry, I offered to start washing socks. I had barely got the words out when Nenad had a bag packed and was handing it to me. Dane on the other hand, said he washed them in the sink and not to worry. It took 3 washes of Nenad’s socks before he finally agreed and once he received them back, washed and folded he was smitten….He actually told his roommate “I am going to marry that girl”. Shortly after that first sock wash we had our first date at a crew party and it was like we had always been together.

 

To be cont….

 

 

 

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Bucket List # 21 – THE ROCK OF GIBRALTAR

I am not sure why exactly but the “Rock of Gibraltar” is a place I have always wanted to go. Maybe it was growing up listening to all the war movies my dad loved, or reading about it in History class. It sounded like an important place, a place that I wanted to see.

I had two chances a couple of years ago when my cruise ship stopped there, unfortunately the one day it was pouring with rain and the next time I was working. I must admit through the rain that first time I wasn’t overly impressed with “The Rock”, not sure what I expected but it looked a little small… so after my ship left it for the last time I figured that was the end of a dream… until a few months ago when, during our crossing from Northern Europe to the Med, we stopped there and I was given permission to go on excursion… Elated is an understatement, something that confused more than one of my coworkers… Who cares I was getting to go to “The Rock” and knock off another bucket list item.

Since the ship arrived at 7am we were all up at the crack of dawn, or rather before the crack. I had asked to join the early morning German groups for a couple of reasons, but that meant B.F. early…. it also meant I got out of doing the morning disembarkation duties, so I was ok with that.

Earlier than Sparrows Fart

Earlier than Sparrows Fart

The residents of Gibraltar were very welcoming…. ALL the residents…

Morning greetings

Morning greetings

We did a bit of a tour of the island, visiting different sites and seeing a view of the Straits of Gibraltar and it’s shipping routes.

early morning at the Straits of Gibraltar

early morning at the Straits of Gibraltar

early morning at the Straits of Gibraltar

early morning at the Straits of Gibraltar

local Mosque
There is an interesting mix of nationalities and cultures that coexist in Gibraltar and they all seem to get along wonderfully, here is the local mosque.

Finally it was time to go up the rock!!! A fairly intense cable car ride took us straight up and lucky for us the weather was just starting to move in so we were welcomed with the most amazing views and an interesting meteorological lesson.

Top of the Rock with MSC Opera in the background

Top of the Rock with MSC Opera in the background

Didn't take long for an interesting cloud bank to make it's appearance

Didn’t take long for an interesting cloud bank to make it’s appearance

Of course the highlight of any Gibraltar adventure has to be the apes (macaques), there has been a troop here for decades ever since an army officer was forced to choose between his pet and his wife… or so the legend goes.

Just sitting around

Just remember these are wild animals and they are very adept at getting what they want, especially food, so never have food visible or open plastic bags, watch your sunglasses your hats and anything else they might find amusing…
beware

But they are still awfully cute, especially when you find the nursery….
mom on duty

cuteness....

cuteness….

peek-a-boo

In the end we should just relax and enjoy the view…

THE VIEW

 

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2017 in Travel

 

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Bucket list #17: St. Petersburg, Russia Part 3

And now the final entry on St. Petersburg. There was so much to see and do that I had to add multiple entries, and I have chosen to focus on the photos as the city was so beautiful, words could not describe it. So please enjoy this section on Catherine’s Palace, the Russian Orthodox Cathedral and more…

Catherine’s Palace

Catherine’s Palace was the summer residence of the Tsars and Tsarinas, and was built in 1717 by Catherine the I, wife of Peter the Great. Their daughter, Empress Elizabeth, enlarged the palace and was infamous for her extravagance. As our guide noted “she was known to walk through the halls shouting More Gold, More Gold. When she died she left the country with around 13 000 dresses and a handful of rubles”. Not sure if this is accurate but it appears to be the general opinion of Russian tour guides. Catherine the Great was the next inhabitant and her additions were a lot less extravagant, focusing more on comfort.

Welcoming Commitee

Welcoming Commitee

Welcoming Committee

Welcoming Committee

Stunning exterior

Stunning exterior

Catherine's Palace

Keeping us entertained while we waited in line

Keeping us entertained while we waited in line

on the ceiling in the entry way

on the ceiling in the entry way

Original Delft tiles serve as exterior of numerous fireplaces used to heat the palace

Original Delft tiles serve as exterior of numerous fireplaces used to heat the palace

The gold rooms, 3 rooms one of the other covered in gold

The gold rooms, 3 rooms one of the other covered in gold

Stunning artwork everywhere

Stunning artwork everywhere

A slightly different style...

A slightly different style…

Catherine's Palace

Peterhof Palace or the Petrodoverts

The Peterhof Palace has been compared to the Palace of Versailles for it’s numerous fountains spread throughout the stunning grounds. All of the fountains are gravity fed, there are no pumps to be found at all. Here are a few of my favorites…

Peterhof Palace

Peterhof Palace

Peterhof Palace

Peterhof Palace

We were exceptionally lucky with our weather, clear blue sky and temperatures just high enough not to need a sweater. It made the gardens of Peterhof downright spectacular. There is so much in St. Petersburg that I could write another 5 posts, everything from the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Isaacs

St. Isaacs Cathedral

With it's stunning domed roof

With it’s stunning domed roof

To it’s impeccably clean underground/subway, the most common comment from the guests was just how clean and how “nice” it smelled compared to the underground in their city….

Stunning art at all stops, this one had chandeliers and crystal pillars

Stunning art at all stops, this one had chandeliers and crystal pillars


St. Petersburg Underground

St. Petersburg surprised me at every turn, glorious green spaces, incredible architecture and an amazing history, very unlike what you expect to see in a communist country… I hope to return with more time to explore!!

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2016 in Cruise, Cruise Ship, RTW, Travel

 

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Bucket List #17: St. Petersburg, Russia Part 2

Finally after way too long I have time to sit and write some more. So please enjoy the long awaited continuation of my journeys at sea, starting with part 2 of St. Petersburg…

The Hermitage

The Hermitage, also known as the Winter Palace, was, as the name implies, the winter home of the Tsars and Tsarinas of Russia. It is now and acclaimed museum and houses over 3 million works of art, with everything from DaVinci to Van Gough, from paintings to stuffed horses….. this is a place that needs a minimum of a full day, preferably 5, to fully explore as it is spread over 6 different buildings.

The Hermitage is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world, founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great and open to the public since 1852.

The Grand Entry

The Grand Entry

Even the light fixtures are works of art

Even the light fixtures are works of art

One of the throne rooms

One of the throne rooms

One of the many Grand Halls

One of the many Grand Halls

The generals who fought Napolean

The generals who fought Napolean

Some of the officers were quite good looking

Some of the officers were quite good looking

Stunning stained glass

Stunning stained glass

Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great

Her "Hanging Gardens"

Her “Hanging Gardens”

The Grand Hallway, an identical copy of the one in the Vatican Museum

The Grand Hallway, an identical copy of the one in the Vatican Museum

Sculpture by Michelangelo

Sculpture by Michelangelo

Made of solid Malachite

Made of solid Malachite

Made of solid Lapis lazulis

Made of solid Lapis lazulis

Horses apparently from one of the wars

Horses apparently from one of the wars

I hope you have enjoyed this brief intro into the Hermitage… stay tuned for Part 3 St. Petersburg

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2016 in Cruise, Cruise Ship, Travel

 

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Apologies for the Delay….

Greetings and Salutations all, this is just a short note to apologize for the long delay over the last 5months or so… Time and internet availability on the ship is not always adequate for writing, however, I am back on dry land and the posts shall begin to flow…

Also some crazy exciting news, 6months ago just after arriving on the ship I met my now Fiance from Macedonia… It’s been a crazy ride this year and I can’t wait to share it with all of you, so stay tuned!

Trekker!

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2016 in Travel

 

Bucket List #17 : St. Petersburg, Russia – part 1

When I was in high school we had the opportunity to go to Europe for 2 weeks including Russia. I am not even sure why anymore, but Russia was somewhere I really wanted to go to. I think it is a memory of this amazing church and the folklore and the dancing, it sounded so fantastic. Unfortunately the Russian section of the trip got cancelled and so I decided not to go.

Finally, quite a few years later…. ok 20yrs later….. I have completed this dream and what do you know I even found the church!

Church of Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg Russua

Church of Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg Russua

Below please find a photo essay of the amazing tour I did and the amazing places I visited…. truly spectacular and nothing at all like the communist Russia we always hear about…

St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg

The Winter Palace aka the Hermitage

The Winter Palace aka the Hermitage


The Old Winter Palace of the Tsars is now the Hermitage containing over 3 millions works of art.

Peter and Paul Fortress

Peter and Paul Fortress

couples like these roam among the tourists trying to get money for a photo, I did a quick happy snappy of one of my guests

couples like these roam among the tourists trying to get money for a photo, I did a quick happy snappy of one of my guests

Inside the Cathedral in the Peter and Paul Fortress

Inside the Cathedral in the Peter and Paul Fortress

Peter the Great and his family

Peter the Great and his family

Remains of the Romanovs the last Royal Family of Russia

Remains of the Romanovs the last Royal Family of Russia

First view of Spilled Blood Church

First view of Spilled Blood Church


This church was dedicated to Alexander the 1st by his son, Alexander the 2nd. It is built over the spot where Alexander the 1st was assassinated, the main spire is 81m high (he died in 1881) and the 2nd highest is 69m high (he was 69 when he died). The entire inside from floor to ceiling is covered in mosaics, created with hand blown tiny glass tiles….

Church of Spilled Blood

Church of Spilled Blood

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mosaics everywhere

mosaics everywhere

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if you didn't know better you would think they were paintings

if you didn’t know better you would think they were paintings

inside the main spire

inside the main spire

all mosaics

all mosaics

canal

canal


St. Petersburg is actually built on a number of islands connected by canals and bridges. From late night to early morning all the bridges are raised for river traffic so you have to be careful to plan you evening out….

After a fabulous day out exploring the city we enjoyed an evening of Russian Folklore and dancing…. Now I remember why it always fascinated me!!!!

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Beautiful costumes

Beautiful costumes

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2016 in Cruise, Cruise Ship, Travel

 

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