Best of the Best

The Adventure in Akureyri

The Adventure in Akureyri

During this contract, I was able to do and see some truly incredible things.  Since coming home, I’ve frequently been asked about my favorite places, and I’ve had trouble answering!  There were so many wonderful places, but I liked different ports for different things.  Looking back through my photos, I tried to break down some of the highlights of the past few months.  This is what I came up with…  The Best of the Adventure.

Best Hike

Pulpit Rock

Pulpit Rock

Best Beaches

Paradise

Paradise

Photo doesn't do it justice!

Photo doesn’t do it justice!

Just look at that water

Just look at that water

Best tours

Tuk tuk tour

Tuk tuk tour

Camels at the base

Camels at the base

Magic at the top

Magic at the top

Best Place for Beer

  • Beer Wall in Bruges
    • I made a special category for Bruges, because I had such a great day there!  The beer is fantastic, but the whole city is worth visiting!
Beer Wall

Beer Wall

Favorite Landmarks

Amazing to see

Amazing to see

I could visit every day!

I could visit every day!

Best Museum

  • The Guggenheim Bilbao
    • The architect, Frank Gehry, also designed the Guggenheim Museum that will soon be built in Abu Dhabi.  There was an interesting article in the New York Times about the new museum.
Beautiful Gehry building

Beautiful Gehry building

Favorite City

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas

Favorite Country

Sunset in Reykjavik

Sunset in Reykjavik

Northern Lights.  Photo by: Daffodaleia Williams

Northern Lights. Photo by: Daffodaleia Williams

I knew the quality of the places I was visiting was pretty astounding, but I just recently added up the quantity!  I’ve now been to 39 countries.  I can’t wait to add more to the list in the New Year!

Casey’s Travel Map

Casey has been to: Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Canada, China, Curacao, Denmark, Fiji, France, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands Antilles, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Singapore, Sint Maarten, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, U.S. Virgin Islands, United Kingdom, United States, Vatican, Vietnam.

Get your own travel map from Matador Network.

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Last Days in Europe

Toboggan ride in Madeira

Toboggan ride in Madeira

We just completed a 14-day cruise beginning in Southampton, England and ending in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The ship stopped in two European ports before sailing for 6 straight days en route to the Caribbean. Knowing a week at sea lay ahead, I tried to enjoy the first two days on land as much as possible!

View from the slopes

View from the slopes

The last time I was in Maderia, Portugal, I joined a large group of crewmembers for steak on a stone. It was so delicious, many of us decided to go back. The owner of the restaurant recognized us and greeted us with hugs and kisses on the cheek when we arrived.

Lunch, consisting of sangria, garlic bread, steak, and french fries, was just as good as I remembered! I could’ve sat there for hours, but I had plans with a fellow dancer to ride a toboggan down a mountain. We left the restaurant and went searching for a cab. We were able to haggle with the driver, and get him down to a reasonable price for a ride up the mountain and from the bottom of the toboggan ride to the ship.

Driver #2

Driver #2

Our toboggan was guided down a steep, winding pavement road by two old men. Considering the weight of the basket and the speed at which we were moving, I was a bit nervous. They guided us safely down the road, even though a light rain was making it extra slippery. We slid past a few cars, which was both scary and exhilarating. The views on the way down were fantastic. The ride was short, but completely worth the price!

Slippery streets

Slippery streets

In Tenerife, I joined my roommate and her boyfriend for a beach day. We took a city bus to the beach, and promptly claimed 3 beach chairs. A waiter from a bar on the beach delivered beers and fried chicken to us.

Beach in Tenerife

Beach in Tenerife

Black volcanic rock and green plants surrounded the beach. My friends said it seemed like a beach in “Jurassic Park”! Shortly after we arrived, clouds started rolling in. It started to rain, so we sought cover at the bar. We ended up sitting there for hours, chatting with the staff and local guests. It felt like we were there for days! I got a much-needed does of “normal” to prepare me for the upcoming days at sea!

Bartender at the beach

Bartender at the beach

I had a fantastic time during the European season. Although I’ll miss the beautiful European ports, I’m excited for the adventures that lie in store in the Caribbean!

Ready for sea days!

Ready for sea days!

Living It Up in Lanzarote

Camels in Lanzarote

Camels in Lanzarote

The week before we went to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, the HR team started advertising a crew tour to ride camels at Fire Mountain. Intrigued by both camels and Fire Mountain, I signed up.

So excited

So excited

The tour actually included much more! We started with a 20 minute camel ride in a national park. The whole island of Lanzarote was formed by volcanic activity, and many of the mountains we were riding beneath are still active volcanoes. The views were stunning, with shades of red, black, and green coloring the landscape.

Loved the view

Loved the view

The camel ride was bumpy, but fun. The animals had a lot of character. Some followed directions better than others, but all managed to stay in line and follow the leader. The men guiding them used an interesting series of commands and noises, and though they had sticks, never struck the animals. Some people felt bad for the camels for carrying heavy loads of people, but we learned before tourism came to the island, they used camels for much more demanding labor.

Strange animals!

Strange animals!

After the ride, we went to a restaurant and viewpoint at a higher altitude. We saw demonstrations of how hot the volcano was at different depths. At 20-30 meters, a bush caught fire in seconds. At another station, an employee dug up some red sand for us to feel. Just a few meters beneath our feet, the sand and rocks were hot to the touch, maintaining their heat for minutes. Deeper, if cold water was poured down a hole, it shot up in 2 seconds like a geyser.

Fire from the heat

Fire from the heat

Geysers from pouring water

Geysers from pouring water

The restaurant cooked meat and potatoes on a geothermal grill. They built a hole, covered the top with metal rods, and used the natural heat for food. It was really interesting! Before getting back in the bus, we had 10 minutes to wander around, grab a bite if necessary, and take photos.

Geothermal grill

Geothermal grill

Symbol of the island on the restaurant window

Symbol of the island on the restaurant window

Once back on the bus, we drove around Fire Mountain. There was an audio tour informing us about the craters, old volcano eruptions, and still active volcanoes. We also learned about the animals and organisms that live in the national park.

Incredible mountains

Incredible mountains

Volcanoes aren't always scary

Volcanoes aren’t always scary

Our next stop was along the water. There were cliffs of black volcanic rock against which waves crashed. The blue water was stunning against the black rock. We had just a few minutes to enjoy the ocean air before setting off again.

Waves crashing against volcanic black rock

Waves crashing against volcanic black rock

Our final stop was a vineyard. Someone discovered that digging holes for each grapevine and protecting it from the wind with rocks created a great environment in which the grapes could grow. I’ve been to many vineyards in Napa and Sonoma, but have never seen any like this! I was pleased to find that the resulting wine was actually very good! I only tried one red wine and a moscato, but would’ve loved to sample more.

Enjoying my wine

Enjoying my wine

Interesting vines!

Interesting vines!

The whole day was full of new and interesting experiences. Although we don’t return to Lanzarote, I feel like I was able to take advantage of all the island has to offer.

Mountains and grapevines

Mountains and grapevines

Coasting Through the Canaries

Flowers at SIam Park in Tenerife

Flowers at SIam Park in Tenerife

This voyage, we stopped in the Canary Islands for the first time. Our first stop was in Tenerife. I signed up for a crew tour going to Siam Park, a water park that some of my English friends had raved about.

Entrance of the Park

Entrance of the Park

I’ve been to water parks before, but this one was unlike any other. Near the entrance, there was a tank of sea lions swimming about. The entire park was beautifully landscaped, with lush trees, and large, colorful flowers. The beauty of the park was intensified by the perfect weather. There was not a cloud in the sky!

Sea lion

Sea lion

The Beach by the Wave Pool

The Beach by the Wave Pool

I spent most of the day with two skaters and a trumpet player. We started in the Mai Tai River, also known as the Lazy River, hoping to get a good view of the rides throughout the park. We were in two double tubes, and ended up racing through much of the river. At the end of the loop, we went up a ramp and ended up on a slide. The slide let us out in a tunnel beneath a tank of fish and small sharks. It was so cool!

Lazy River

Lazy River

Outside view of the tank.  See the tube inside?

Outside view of the tank. See the tube inside?

Next, we went to find the biggest slide in the park. It was about 3 stories tall, and also ended going through the shark tank. I’m a bit of a daredevil, but I still had butterflies in my stomach before I slid down.

The slide!

The slide!

We made our way through almost all the rides in the park. Some of my favorites were 4 person tube rides. I laughed and screamed on every ride. We spent some time in the wave pool, with bigger waves than I’ve seen at Hurricane Harbor, and then took a break at a restaurant by the “beach”. The food was nothing special, but they had wine, beer, and cider available.

Waves starting

Waves starting

One of the best rides

One of the best rides

Lounging

Lounging

I wish I could’ve stayed for another hour, so I could have gone on the last ride and taken another turn on The Dragon. I hope to someday return and enjoy more time splashing around, having fun in the sun!

The Dragon

The Dragon

Two days later, we were in Gran Canaria. I joined my dance captain and her boyfriend again for lunch and lounging on the beach. Her boyfriend had been to Gran Canaria before, and suggested eating at the mall next to the port. There was an all you can eat Asian buffet and wok for just 12 euros. It seemed like half the crew was there! Once we had sufficiently stuffed our faces, we walked to the beach.

Beach in Gran Canaria

Beach in Gran Canaria

The walk took less than 10 minutes. We found a spot away from the crowd, and laid down for about an hour and a half. I briefly went in the water, but as it was quite cold, I only got wet up to my knees. Once we’d had our fill on the sun, we went to the boardwalk to get some sangria.

Art in the sand

Art in the sand

We sat outside enjoying our drinks for about half an hour before walking back to the ship for rehearsal. It was a simple, but enjoyable day out. I look forward to returning to the Canaries before we cross over to the Caribbean.

Walking around

Walking around