JAYNE BAKER LIFF - AN INTERESTING TRAVEL EXPERIENCE (Written 9-17-2013):
To celebrate the Millennium my husband Larry and I decided to take a four-month cruise around the world. The cruise we selected included stops at 35 ports of call in 23 countries. It was touted as an educational cruise limited to 660 passengers and was scheduled to leave Athens, Greece in mid-November 1999. The cruise line was the World Cruise Company out of Toronto, and their ship was a refurbished WWII troop carrier. They advertised the economy of this cruise by claiming that it was “cheaper than staying at home”. So we signed up.
Well, it turned out to be an amazing experience. We began by sailing west across the Mediterranean from Athens, making our first stop in Tunisia to see the site of ancient Carthage. We sailed through the Pillars of Hercules into the Atlantic and after a stop in Morocco, we headed southwest to South America. Most of our subsequent stops were in the southern hemisphere, so the weather was generally warm.
Before arriving at each port we attended lectures about the history and culture of the country, the manmade attractions and the natural environment. Our lecturers were retired university professors, all knowledgable and enthusiastic in their fields. They included two naturalists who lectured on the flora and fauna we would likely encounter. We learned about the albatross, for example, and we marveled at these huge birds soaring over the southern seas. There was also an astronomer onboard who gave PowerPoint presentations on the changing night skies, and then took us on deck to see the real thing. It was a thrill to see the Southern Cross constellation, a navigational beacon for sailors that is not visible north of the equator.
After stops in Brazil and Argentina, we headed to Antarctica where we visited the Polish Research Station on Christmas Day. We saw over 50,000 penguins on the shores of Antarctica, an unforgettable sight. The daytime high was 38 degrees; this was summer.
We celebrated the Millennium in Santiago, Chile. On New Year’s Eve many Chilean families went downtown with their children where they sat on their cars, watched the city’s fireworks and drank champagne. We joined in. It was a fun, safe experience.
We then sailed to Easter Island, where we hiked to many of the huge monolithic Moai (MO-eye) statues scattered across the terrain (photo). That evening a hellacious storm grounded hundreds of us on the island overnight. Larry and I were caught in the second inflatable Zodiac trying to return to the ship when the storm hit. The 8-foot waves prevented us from getting aboard our anchored ship, so we had to return to shore in the dark. After this harrowing experience, we greatly appreciated the Easter Islanders serving a soup supper and finding lodging for all of us stranded there.
In the south Pacific we visited the beautiful islands of Tahiti, Bora Bora, Fiji and New Caledonia. At Pitcairn Island we met descendants of the storied HMS Bounty mutineers. We spent five days in Australia at Cairns, Sydney and Kakadu National Park, each amazing in its own way. The harbor cruise at Sydney was spectacular, and the Sydney Opera House is like no other.
Traveling across the Indian Ocean, we stopped at the Maldive Islands which are less than 15 feet above sea level. My favorite islands were the Seychelles, also in the Indian Ocean. Their pristine beaches, gorgeous waters and Coco de Mer palms were idyllic.
Continuing our journey, we visited an elephant orphanage in Sri Lanka. In Indonesia we overnighted at a tropical resort on Bali and on Java we toured Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple in the world. We spent a day in Singapore, where you can be arrested for spitting out gum. These ports are good examples of our encounters with some very exotic cultures.
In Africa we docked at Nairobi, Kenya to travel inland for a 3-day safari experience with the Masai Mara people. Heading back to Athens, we cruised up the Suez Canal and visited Cairo, Egypt (photo); Jerusalem, Israel; and Petra, Jordan. Petra is famous as an archaeological city where buildings were carved out of the sandstone cliffs, possibly as early as 300 BCE. At Petra we rode camels for the first (and last) time, a dizzying experience (photo).
We arrived back at Athens in late March, having seen sights we never dreamed we’d see in our lifetimes. The experiences we had were invaluable in teaching us so much about the world and reinforcing how fortunate we are to live in the USA.