The Romance of Northern Europe (6): Cruising Fjords in the Baltic Sea

IMG_0016One of my favorite joys in cruising is just that: cruising! IMG_0043Cruising through the fjords along the coast of Norway was especially enchanting. IMG_0020We weren’t in rugged mountain areas like we’ve seen in New Zealand and AlaskaIMG_0025 but lollygagged through gentler fjords IMG_0048filled with islands IMG_0023and dotted with homes. IMG_0035On this particular cruise of Northern Europe, we only had two days “At Sea” IMG_0062where we traveled throughout the day without ever reaching a port. IMG_0024On those days, we were filled with fresh sea breezes from the rising of the sun IMG_0086unto the going down of the same…until the sun set in lilac and golden splendor.IMG_0030Alan and I spent a lot of time walking & soaking up the views during days at sea.IMG_0058Our captain gave great commentary and would tell people just where to look IMG_0074and what they might be seeing that would be of special interest. IMG_0029I probably should have kept a journal with notes IMG_0036so I could give you more details on what we saw. IMG_0045But, alas, my eyes were so full of wonder IMG_0034at IMG_0084all IMG_0089theIMG_0096fascinating townsIMG_0052and remote, romantic islands, IMG_0041that I failed to retain much specific information to share, IMG_0066although I hope you’re able to enjoy my “Impressions of Norway.” IMG_0057I will say that cruising through the Baltic Sea— IMG_0068especially through the fjords of Norway—was an experience I’ll always treasure. IMG_0038It’s an adventure I would happily repeat. But, if I ever get to go again, I’d like to sail up the northern coast of Norway to some of the more wild, remote fjords. IMG_0093“From the rising of the sun to the going down of the same the LORD’s name is to be praised” (Psalm 113:3).

The Romance of Northern Europe (4): Gourmet Cuisine

DSCN8835So, the most frequently asked question I get about cruises is: “How’s the food?” DSCN9071I’m going to discuss cruise food, but all the pictures are from our last trip to Pie, chocolate peanut butterNorthern Europe with the Emerald Princess so you can see what you think!Berlin Apple Strudel The dishes are as good as they look. (This was from an excursion into Berlin.) Appetizer, scallops, etcAlso, you can order milder, more simple food than you see in the pictures, IMG_3294such as this classic Fettuccini Alfredo in a parmesan basket that was amazing! IMG_2792Alan gets tired of gourmet and orders hamburgers or hotdogs sometimes.MenuIf you don’t like what’s on the menu, they always have a list of standbys you can Strip Steakorder, such as sirloin steak or salmon (at least, on the Princess Cruise Line), and there are always vast buffets with oodles of choices. Alan and I have been on so DSCN9074many cruises, and on so many different cruise lines, that we’ve occasionally Russian Broschetasted food we didn’t relish and have definitely developed preferences. We are not connoisseurs of octopus, and although people flocked back to the buffet line Berlin Veggieswhen a fresh octopus emerged from the kitchens of Costa, we would rate their cuisine at the bottom of the list for our personal taste. Their dinner “steaks” were IMG_0013about as thin as breakfast steaks in America, and it might be simply a cultural difference, but the food was not “up to par” by our standards. Our first cruise Cake, Black Forest Tortewas to the Hawaiian Islands for our 20th anniversary, and I remember the luxurious feeling of being able to order anything off the menu without worrying IMG_3282about the price—a totally new experience for me. It reminded me a little of being  in the hospital after having a baby, where I could happily order orange juice,Tallin Tea Break Scones milk, AND tea for breakfast, along with whatever else I wanted on their menu.IMG_3280 As we were always on the raw edge of feeling poverty-stricken in those days, so Alan is pleased! this was a great luxury to me. Of course, hospital food is not to be compared with IMG_2795cruise food, which is in a totally different league, and second only (perhaps) to Baked Alaskaextraordinary local specialties (such as salmon in Alaska or Clyde’s in the U.P.)IMG_3289 Still, Alan and I often order three desserts between the two of us,Lobster copy and nobody bats an eye. And, we’ve both had more than one lobster for dinner, DSCN9070although in recent times we’ve had to use much more discretion about what we Mahi Mahi eat so that we don’t gain too much weight!! (However, with such a busy Cook's Paradeschedule of 12+ hour days sight-seeing this time, we actually didn’t gain any IMG_0012weight, which was happily shocking to both of us! 🙂 ) I think both Alan and I IMG_3283agree that so far our 3-continent transatlantic cruise with Celebrity is our IMG_2796#1 favorite as far as all-around excellence, although Celebrity is generally more IMG_3296 pricey. I am a “great deal” shopper, and to date, the majority of the “great deals” IMG_3288that I’ve tracked and purchased have been with the Princess Line. I usually buy IMG_2798 one of the least expensive cabins (inside), and I wait for remarkable deals, such as our Tahiti 10-day cruise that I snagged for $399 per person (20 years ago).Russia caviar Alan used to worry that cruises were “too expensive,” so I encouraged him to plan a trip and compare costs. He planned a one-week trip to Florida: We flew Seafood Medleydown, rented a car, stayed at a beach front hotel, and ate out. The tab for that trip was more than I’d been paying for our two-week cruises. So, cruising is DSCN8838extremely luxurious, but if you’re a bargain shopper, it can actually be a great way to get to exotic places that you might never otherwise afford. And, I figure Shrimpthe food alone would more than cover the price of the cruise—if you actually bought and paid for at a restaurant what you would eat on a ship  (which I would Lamb shanknever do because it would be too expensive). So, over all, Alan and I were delighted with the food on the Emerald Princess. In fact, I think cruise food is Baked Alaska copygenerally excellent and cruising is a great way to travel, especially if you want to experience a lot of different places and cultures in a short time. DSCN9069I don’t know about you, but I love to cook and I love to eat! I often use my cruise experience to help dream up new recipes to try and expand our home menu. In the Bible, we learn that human beings need spiritual food as well as food for their bodies (Matthew 4:4). God is the “Master Chef” of all chefs and offers to feed us if we’ll come to him! I hope that you—like me— are daily feasting at the Lord’s table, learning new spiritual lessons to try and being nourished by His Word. 🙂

“I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10).DSCN9068

The Romance of Northern Europe (3): Cruising with the Emerald Princess

IMG_1155I’ve met a few very rich people who disparage cruise ships as “cattle haulers,” butIMG_1157for my Scottish dollar, I think cruising is an incredibly good deal  and pretty IMG_0810much like Disney World afloat…but with even more to offer for less. IMG_2289Let me illustrate this by discussing our voyage around the Baltic Sea last May. IMG_2297We entered the terminal in Copenhagen & sailed aboard the Emerald Princess,IMG_2292 a 5-star ship christened in 2007 that’s nearly 1,000 ft. long and hosts 3,080 IMG_2294passengers served by 1,200 staff from around the world—which translates into a Our Waiters whole lot of personal attention per person and an opportunity to meet people IMG_3303from many lands & cultures—even better than a trip around World Showcase! IMG_2299The Emerald Princess has 4 pools and 7 whirlpool spas, sunning decks, a library,IMG_2300shops, a jogging track and exercise gym, organized sports and games, classes,  IMG_2298various types of games, over a dozen restaurants…& mostly all complimentary. MoviesIn the evenings you can watch movies under the stars or take in one of their Entertainment live shows. One evening we heard an amazingly gifted violinist, although we IMG_3278usually opted out of the organized entertainment, preferring quiet time together.IMG_0031You can stroll around the decks enjoying the breath-taking scenery… morning IMG_0248noon, IMG_0005or evening, Fjordsand the views are ever changing and always stunning…even better than Disney! IMG_3277Well, at least most days. One day looked like this! 🙂 But remember,IMG_2794 the ship isn’t just for entertainment, it’s also for spending quality time together.IMG_2303For me, it’s like staying at an all-inclusive world class resort that also provides IMG_2326 transportation from fascinating port to port across the seas while you sleep! IMG_0069Once you’re on the ship, you never have to unpack your bags again, IMG_1171and “they” do all the driving, so all “we” have to do is enjoy the view! IMG_2301Or, if you’re in a mood for something even more relaxing, IMG_0805you can generally find some beautiful live music playing somewhere, IMG_0042although there are also many quiet lounges where you can read or talk quietly. IMG_3218There are art galleries with dazzling paintings by renowned artists, IMG_3273and art auctions where you can bid on famous reproductions as well. IMG_2796And, the food is OUT.OF.THIS.WORLD. (Yes, this was my dessert one night!) IMG_2793There are fabulous buffets (if you like) for each meal where you can choose your Breakfastown food and sit wherever you want…most always with a gorgeous view. IMG_0010You can also dress up and go out to “your table” every night if you wish, whichIMG_3285we always did, because we the loved the gourmet cuisine & romantic ambiance. SnacksFor the hungry-hearted or those who may have missed a meal, there is food Pastriesavailable I think pretty much 24/7…again, free and really appealing! DSCN8836In fact, the food was so remarkable that I might write a separate post about it tomorrow, because that’s one of the most commonly asked questions I get:    How was the food? IMG_7408The food was great! In fact, our entire trip was just incredible! DSCN8834The only thing nobody relishes is the mandatory rehearsal at your muster station so you’ll be prepared in case of emergency. Everybody has to show up with their life jacket and know just where to go and what to do in the event of disaster. IMG_0030

Having experienced the Emerald Princess, I can definitely commend her to you if you’re considering taking a cruise. May I also ask you, have you considered taking a journey that will lead to heaven? Having committed my life to Jesus as the Captain of my soul, I can unequivocally commend him to you as a pilot whose ship will never require an emergency evacuation. It will not sink, because Christ has risen from the dead as the “first fruits,” proving that those who believe in him will also be resurrected “in the last day.” It is also a ship loaded with spiritual abundance that makes the cargo of the Emerald Princess look paltry… spiritual blessings like love, joy, peace, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit to guide us. Jesus provides everything for our journey, so all we need to do is climb aboard. And, the final destination is heaven through a mysterious expanse of universe that we can’t navigate on our own. Are you ready? Are you willing? Are you aboard? If you’ve got any questions, please ask. Or, read the Bible, where answers can be found!

Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you…I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am there you may be also…I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:2,3,6).

The Romance of Northern Europe (2): Flight Across “The Pond”

IMG_2144Why anyone would leave their home in springtime is beyond me. IMG_2146The forsythia is bursting into glorious bloom,IMG_2145and cherry blossoms sing out the promise of future fruitfulness. RobinThe robins return to the lake, Grosbeak, red-breatedand dozens of colorful birds stop by to rest as they wing their way north.Turtle emergingMossy mother turtles emerge from hibernation, IMG_2167and Canada geese relax reflectively after returning from southern regions.Lilacs buddingThe above pictures were taken outside our home just as we was packing to leave for Europe, so you know we must have felt some very compelling reason to go.
sweet-peaI must be like the wild sweet peas that seem to want to climb to the skies…

“We travel to learn, and I have never been to any country where they did not do something better than we do it, think some thoughts better than we think, catch some inspiration from heights above our own.”  -Maria Mitchell Birds on deckor like the birds who peck seeds off our deck.  It’s just deep within me.rose-of-sharonAs Sherlock Homes would say, “A mind that’s been expanded by new horizons will never shrink back to the size it was before.” I think it has to do with growth.IMG_2272There’s just something magnificently expanding about seeing things from a different perspective: The world seems smaller and more intimate—but at the same time larger and more glorious—than I could ever imagine!  DSCN8802And so, last May we embarked on a Northern European adventure…something we’d been dreaming about for five years! I hope by sharing my pictures and memories, you’ll be able to enter with me into this experience of inexplicable joy.DSCN8804We flew across Lake Michigan to O’Hare Airport in Chicago. DSCN8809Most transcontinental flights to Europe are “red eye specials,” DSCN8813 and our trip was no exception!  DSCN8814 We boarded very late DSCN8817 and flew through the night, DSCN8833 arriving at London Heathrow just as the sun was spilling her morning cup of gold all over the horizon. IMG_2269Heathrow and O’Hare are two of the world’s busiest airports, so passing the timeDSCN8831 watching all the air traffic coming and going was truly a rush! IMG_2283Mid-morning we took another mammoth jet to Copenhagen. IMG_2267London is one of my all-time favorite cities, and I always feel a DSCN8826 Peter-Pan flush of excitement with every flight over the River Thames. IMG_2271It’s only a three-hour flight from England to Denmark, but for me, IMG_2274it’s three hours of sheer magic! IMG_2277How anyone can sleep, or close their shade so they can watch a movie IMG_2280seems so sad to me! They’re giving up amazing, unique visions that can never IMG_2278be replaced.  It makes me wonder. What causes such indifference? Don’t they appreciate the glorious? I think that if they’d only open up their eyes and hearts, they’d be filled with wonder.

     “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” (Psalm 119:18)