Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Fantasy Fest Week '08!

3 Staff persons from Bare Necessities just returned from a nine day journey that took them to Key West for Fantasy Fest. As 2008 festival sponsors, Tom, Melanie and I left armed with over 10,000 strands of customized beads, brochure materials, company logo giveaways, and costumes in a 23 foot Airstream for one incredible, albeit hectic, 9 days.

We arrived on Tuesday afternoon, October 21st and no sooner did we get to town when the skies opened up and poured - not just typical Key West rain mind you, but record breaking 7 inches in 5 hours rain that kept us holed up in the RV hoping it would let up by Friday when we were scheduled to set up our sponsor booth.
In between heavy downpours, we spent the next few days getting the lay of the land, lining up our body painter, meeting up with some friends and clients who offered to help us, and attending a few of the events leading up to the street fair on Friday and parade on Saturday.

Our street fair booth drew a constant crowd of curious festival goers. It was great to have past passengers stop by for a visit and help us pitch social nudism. It was super to connect with other nudists and AANR members that were in attendance for the week and everyone joined in to help us pass out beads, "tattoo" people with our temporary tattoos and talk up nude cruising.

Fridays fair was a long one that began at 6 am with our preparations for the day that included simply securing a good parking space downtown before the previous evenings revelers woke up!!! We didn't stop until almost midnight when we broke down our fair tent and tables, packed up our materials into a rented van and headed back to the Airstream. We were beat and still had the following day to go. A fast and good night's sleep was all we needed to re-charge and we were off again for another day at the street fair.Saturday night was the big parade and, as sponsors, we were given VIP seats at a downtown hotel that overlooked Duval Street. Food and drink were plentiful as the parade began its procession down Duval. The floats were really incredible and inventive. The election year had lots of political party animals out and the additional pirate theme made for lots of pirates, wenches and grog. The crowd was happy, loud and friendly - AND COLORFUL.

Body paint was the cover of choice for above and below the waist and the local body artists really outdid themselves with some of the most wonderful body painting I have ever seen. Many people, men and women alike had only the smallest of g-string thongs under their body paint. Some of the painting was SO good that it was hard to even detect the small pieces of cloth that kept people "legally covered" below the waist.

The parade floats were spectacular and gave us some good ideas for our float next year when our ship is in port for Friday and Saturday nights. We're counting on all of you to be there with us and be a part of the parade. The fine people of Key West are really looking forward to having a ship of nudists in port for the festivities... and we are looking forward to going back and doing it all again - with YOU!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hawaii 2008

The last week and a half has truly been one of those experiences where you don’t need digital images or photographs to remember. Those images are permanently captured in my minds eye! For those of you who are lucky enough to have been to Hawaii before, you know what I mean. For those of you who have not, I hope that at least once in your life you are able to do so.

The first few days of my journey were spent at sea. This was my first celebrity cruise experience, and to say I was surprised is an understatement. I am not exaggerating when I say everything exceeded my expectations. From the service, the food, my beautiful stateroom and the public spaces on board, it really set a new standard in my book for cruising excellence. I still have several more days to go, but so far the most interesting and fun thing I have done is snorkeling at Molokai Island, 3 miles off the coast of Maui. This small island is a submerged volcanic crater cone where visibility exceeds 100 feet and is one of the top 10 dive sites in the world. I spent an hour and a half in the water viewing an incredible assortment of corals, urchins and multi colored topical fish. This was an excursion arranged by Celebrity Cruise lines onboard the 92 foot "Prince Kuhio". Their staff was excellent and very helpful. (There were many in my group who have never snorkeled before and did so without problem)

Yesterday we were in Kauai at Nawiliwili where I enjoyed a river cruise up the Waialua River to view a natural fern Grotto. Kauai gets over 400 inches of rain per year, so as you can imagine it is a very lush and tropical island.

Today we just arrived at the big island of Hawaii at the western port of Kailua-Kona. Today I hope to check out some of the most beautiful beaches in the area and then do some shopping at Hilo Hattie’s.

Just a few days left, before I have to go home. Tonight is formal night on board the ship, which only means one thing to me: MORE LOBSTER!
When I return to the office I will be sure to share some of my photographs with you. Until then,



Friday, September 12, 2008

Kusadasi, Turkey

We arrived around 9:00 this morning in Kusadasi. People were eager to get to shore and begin the four and a half hour tour to Ephesus. We packed plenty of water for hydration and sunscreen to shield us from the hot sun. Over half of the ship was signed up for the two our offerings. I chose to visit the Terraced houses due to my passion for architecture.

After our return from Ephesus we experienced a true Turkish rug sales pitch. Treated with apple tea, Turkish coffee, local wine and beer and a light snack of feta cheese with herbs wrapped in lavash. It was all very tasty and the rug tossing and rolling was incredible.

After walking around Kusadasi for about an hour we checked in with a local to find the best spot to try a Turkish kebab. It was recommended by Mert as something that one must try when in Turkey. The kebab spot was quaint and like many café’s throughout overlooked the port. We admired the Star Clipper while our palettes admired the taste of the Turkish kebab.

Sunset sail away and then off to dinner!

Monday, September 8, 2008

September 7, 2008 - Paros, Greece

Our approach into Paros this morning, it was hard to deny two things; one the air seemed cooler than in our previous weeks travel through the area – a welcome change! And with the tourist season drawing to an end with the coming of September, the crowds were undeniably thinner and the presence of ferries and cruise ships had dropped off considerably.

I was pleasantly surprised as I stepped off the ship’s tender into the busy little port town, Parikia. For a Sunday morning, there was a lot going on. Cafes were busy serving up warm cups of coffee, cappuccinos and warm pastries. Shops were open, selling everything from fine table linens and pottery (locally made) to post cards and tee shirts. I found a small antique shop that occupied me for over an hour and I browsed antique ecclesiastical items and olive and Ouzo crockery dating to the early 1800s.

Some passengers took local transportation to the nearby town of Naoussa where high-end designer shops cater to the large yachts anchored and tied along side in the harbor. I chose to linger in Parikia, where church bells echoed through the streets, signaling the end of morning services while families gathered to celebrate Sunday with friends over a noon time meal at the outside cafes that lined the narrow streets overlooking the water.

Parikia certainly rated high on my list of photogenic Greek towns. At the heart of the port town is a typical Cycladic chora, complete with the odd wall of a Venetian kastro, built on the site of the ancient acropolis in the early 1200s from fragments of the ancient temples that stood on the site. Pink and red Bougainvillea tumble over fences, rooftop garden walls and weaves its way up the sides of brick and white washed buildings. Charm does not begin to describe the effect. This is a place I would like to return and stay a few days – immerse myself in the laid back atmosphere. Yep – I could get used to this.

September 6, 2008 - Athens, Greece

We bid a fond farewell to 120 passengers today while we welcomed 120 new ones. 50 people remain on board from the first 10 days – continuing on with us for the Greek Connection portion of the tour.

Many took a few hours this morning to go into old town Athens to explore and have lunch. It always amazes me how quickly the ship can “turn around” and make ready for another tour. Cabins stewards busy themselves readying each cabin for the new passengers while large crates of food, beverage, water and other necessities are loaded and stowed. During this process however, the ship really gets turned upside-down - so we thought it best to get out of the way and let them do their work.

I have been to the Plaka and Monastrika area in Athens a number of times. It was 5 years ago, almost to the day, that Tom and I found out from our daughter, Christie that we were going to be grandparents. Today, I found myself looking for that perfect gift for my now 4 year old granddaughter, Katie! Time flies!

Back on the ship we are all accounted for and ready to set sail at 6 pm – just in time for a sunset sail away. We welcome our newcomers on board and begin to settle in to another great week exploring Greece and Turkey.

September 5, 2008 -Mykonos, Greece

According to mythology and my tour book, this island took its name from the hero, Mykonos, who was the grandson of the God, Apollo. Located off the southwest coast is the small island of Delos, which was the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis.

Mykonos was a religious and commercial center during antiquity and was part of the Byzantine Empire when the Venetians ruled. Famed pirate, Barbarossa, took the island from the Venetians for the Ottoman Empire and during the Turkish occupation, Mykonos was a popular seafaring and trade center. It was only after the Greek Revolution that the island was liberated and united with Greece.

Approaching the island, I was taken by the large windmills along the shoreline and up into the hillsides. Indeed, they looked liked large white birds calling me to take a closer look. And a closer look is exactly what I spent my time in port doing. From one end of town I wound my way through colorful alleyways that were overflowing with colorful local goods from the area. Olive oil and related products, spices and herbs, capers, figs and various nuts and legumes provided an aromatic stroll. White linen, leather goods and sandals and lots of jewelry stores made up the rest. I decided early on in my walk to just get lost and I found it was quite easy to do!

Two hours into my wandering, I came out on the side of a large hill overlooking the bay where the Star Clipper stood at anchor. Here was the site of three large windmills and a small chapel. White washed buildings with brightly painted doorways were tucked in between ancient walls and rock structures. My camera’s eye did not know which way to turn! Indeed, each nook and cranny was full of the character I had come in search of. Children played stickball while a small boy played a tiny bouzouki for donations. A woman hung her laundry while two small girls played what appeared to “ring around the rosie”.

Glancing at my watch I am quickly reminded that it is a long way back down to the port and I must catch a tender back to the ship by 4:30. Sadly, I pull myself away and head down the hillside towards the port. Sail away at 5 pm was spent in the bowsprit nets, providing the perfect way to watch Mykonos disappear on the horizon as we sailed towards Athens and the end of the first leg of our trip. Tomorrow, The Greece Connection tour commences with 120 new passengers joining us in Athens.

Friday, September 5, 2008

September 4, 2008 - Santorini, Greece

Santorini, Greece was so named by the Venetians who once controlled the island, in honor of Saint Irene. It’s white washed homes and blue rooftops set a magical scene, quintessentially what we think of when we think of the Greek Isles. But Santorini is actually very different from the rest of the Cycladic Island chain by virtue of its geological structure. 600-foot sheer cliffs dominate the bay. The only active volcano in the eastern Mediterranean is in Santorini and our slow approach from sea allowed us a close up of the ancient caldera that now forms part of the bay. There are some that believe that Santorini is actually the part of the legendary continent of Atlantis. Known also as Kallisti, meaning the most beautiful, Santorini totally lives up to her name!

Some people chose to ride on donkey back up the steep incline to the old town while others opted for the 4-euro funicular ride to the top. Either way, the view from atop Santorini is worth getting there- any way you can!

I chose to enjoy a leisurely walk through the winding streets and alleyways that make up the Old Town. Uneven stairways and cobblestone made from volcanic material made it a challenge to stay on my feet. Colorful storefronts empty into the walkways with art, jewelry and local handiwork. The smell of garlic is in the air as local restaurants are full with people sampling Greek fare. Greek music and bouzoukis fill the streets. Melanie, Tom and I stopped in to a local café that overlooked the harbor and enjoyed a cool (albeit expensive) drink while we watched the local color of the day.

An elegant Captain’s Dinner, followed by the passenger and crew talent show topped off a great day. I think everyone is enjoying the trip. 50 passengers will remain on board when we come into Athens the day after tomorrow and we will board 110 new passengers for the 7-day Greek Islands Extension tour. I am retiring early tonight as tomorrow in Mykenos promises to be perfect – and long!