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Day 5 – Glamourous “Meadow Brook Hall“

Yes, its another birthday – the years fly by way too quickly…..

As one of my friends wrote, “I am away traveling once again on my birthday” but this time not for the entire day as this “Yellow Brick Road Mystery Tour” finishes up early this evening so I’ll once again be back home for a few days.  

We departed the Ft. Wayne hotel at 8am and as soon as we hit the road a passenger called out for me to quickly get to the back of the coach.  When I rushed out of my seat and scattered down the aisle all of my wonderful passengers started singing “Happy Birthday”….. Considering my new age this sudden excitement may have caused a heart attack but I very much appreciated their kind gesture.

Our farewell Luncheon was at a very posh location, “Meadow Brook Hall” in Pontiac, MI.  We couldn’t have wished for a more beautiful place to spend part of our day.   The Sliced Sirloin of Beef with Rosemary Demi-Glacé, Wild Rice and Seasonable Vegetables was well presented and delicious.  The apple pie dessert was a wholesome American selection but didn’t quite match up to my Mom’s.  The setting was perfect – we dined in the massive dining room.  We had this spectacular  mansion to ourselves.  Thanks to my passenger, John for his gracious speech after our meal concluded.

We then toured through the 88,000 foot home.  A National Historic Landmark, Meadow Brook Hall is the former home of one of the automotive aristocracy’s most remarkable women, Matilda Dodge Wilson.  The 110 room mansion is elaborately detailed with carved wood and stone, ornate ceilings, Tiffany stained glass, a pipe organ and custom made hardware.  The house is equipped with every modern amenity that was available in the late 1920’s.  Its fully electric with a central heating system, two elevators, three kitchens and a full-size home theatre.

In 1957, the Wilsons donated their residence, its collections, the estate’s 1500 acres and $2 Million to what would become Oakland University.  Meadow Brook Hall was opened to the public in 1971, four years after Matilda’s passing.

After a quick stop at Duty Free we crossed back into Canada.

Thanks to Paul for his professional coach driving.

A special thank you to my amazing passengers.  Thanks for “Travelling With Bradley”.  Many of them told me, they don’t think it’ll be possible for me to create a better “Yellow Brick Road Mystery Tour” than this one,  so now I am certainly up to the challenge. 


Day 4 – A Shrimp Farm in Indiana?

There was a medical emergency at the West Baden Springs Hotel this morning.  I was very impressed how well the staff handled the situation.  Thankfully it wasn’t one of my passengers.   Since it was our check out day, I was dealing with luggage handlers and front desk staff so I was well aware of their emergency situation and saw them in action.  Luggage handling was delayed because of this emergency but eventually they pulled a number of staff to start collecting our bags.  Our departure only experienced a minimal delay.

I learned another interesting fact – the towns of West Baden and French Lick, IN have a population of around 2000 and the 2 resort hotels employee 1800 people.  The Cook Family who brought these resorts back to life have truly given back to this community and the locals are very appreciative.

Chuckle of the Day – when we attended last nights 60’s Musical Review, Paul and I were seated with a couple from Indiana.  They were very friendly.  He is a school teacher.  During the shows intermission they told me they had been conversing and wondered if “as Canadians, do we listen to the same music that they do in the States……”

Its another beautiful blue sky, no-jacket-needed day.

Todays morning journey took us down a number of very scenic and narrow rural roads.  Eventually we ended up on secondary roads and finally a 4 lane highway.  We travelled on different road types all day.  The favourite being when we drove down those “Country Roads”.

Its a tradition that “Travel With Bradley” Journeys stop at a Walmart as a break stop at least once.  A Walmart jumped out at us at the perfect time.  My passengers appreciate this stop so they could stock up on some items we can’t find at home.  

Christo’s New City Grill located in Lafayette, IN put aside a private room for our luncheon.  My passengers had a choice of soup or salad followed by 5 entree choices and then 7 excellent dessert choices.  Their portions were massive and the fresh rolls came hot out of the oven.  

We toured around the campus of famous Perdue University and saw the historic downtown of Lafayette with a local guide.

Finally we drove to a family-owned “Shrimp” Farm – one of only 3 in the USA.  We learned about the poor conditions that oversea operators raise shrimp.  Only a small percentage of imported shrimp is inspected when it reaches North America.  It takes over 5 months for shrimp to be fully grown at this farm.  When we tasted these US grown shrimp I couldn’t believe how flavourful and sweet they were.  Their shell is paper thin so there was no need to peel it.  No sauce is required to make these shrimp taste good – they stood on their own.

Late in the afternoon we arrived at a retro themed boutique hotel  in Ft. Wayne, IN – our home for one evening.  Dinner was served in one of their Ballrooms.  A salad course was followed by a choice of Cod or Tuscan Chicken and then German Chocolate Cake completed the meal.  Many of their king bedded rooms are themed.  They put me in the Elvis Room!


Day 3 – Visiting With Giraffes and Elephants in Indiana!

Today was another terrific day in West Baden/French Lick, IN.

Breakfast was served in the beautiful formal dining room at the “West Baden Springs Hotel”.  My passengers could order anything off their wonderful menu.  When we sat down the server brought us a freshly made banana loaf.  The orange juice was freshly squeezed.  There were so many interesting breakfast entrees on the menu it was hard to decide which one to order.  

We scrambled to located our morning attraction – a beautiful ranch.  Paul drove the motor coach through a covered bridge – the entrance of the property.  The views while driving down the dirt road were beautiful.  My passengers had no idea that they would spending time with Giraffes and Elephants at this Ranch.  This was a terrific “one of a kind” experience so perfect for a Mystery Tour.  The animals even posed so we could get personal pictures with them!

Back at the resort we enjoyed High Tea – a private event for “Travel With Bradley” passengers.  Those that tried the “Lemon Lavender” tea selection liked it so much they bought all the lemon lavender tea stock in the gift shop!  The delicious treats that came with the tea were beautifully presented and were enjoyed by all.

Informative. Hotel guides toured us around this historic hotel which was built in 1855.  It was completed in just ONE year and soon became famous for having the Largest Unsupported Atrium in the World!  Many considered it the 8th Wonder of the World.

During this time French Lick was a bigger destination than Las Vegas as it housed 17 “illegal” casinos so when the police shut them it was a major crisis for the town.  

The hotel struggled after a 1901 fire and the 1929 turn in the stock market.  In 1932 it was for sale so the Jesuits used it from 1934-1964 and it became a liberal arts college from 1967-1983 but the cost to maintain the structure was just too much for them to bear.

It laid vacant and in disrepair for many decades.  Local successful billionaires, the Cooks eventually spent 600 million to restore the building, turning it into a luxurious hotel once again.  

We all enjoyed some free time to enjoy our surroundings this afternoon.   Many rode a train car to the French Lick Resort, some enjoyed time in the pool, reading while sitting in rocking chairs on the hotels wide porch was ideal because of the warm sunny weather and others were thrilled with their horse back riding experience.  Two of my passengers even shared a $1200.00 winning at the casino!

This evening was a fun filled evening in basketball player, Larry Birds former “Garage” which has been turning into a performing arts theatre.  After a home-cooked dinner we enjoyed an entertaining 2 hour, 60’s musical review, featuring one of the very talented Thomas brothers.  My family and his both opened shows for the Osmond Family Second Generation.  The music industry is a small one so the two of us share many of the same musical friends.  

After a farewell evening walk under the stunning atrium at the hotel its time to turn in for the evening.  We start our journey North after breakfast tomorrow morning.

I look forward to bringing future groups back to this amazing, luxurious hotel and quaint village which is  located in the “middle of nowhere”!


Day 2 – Stumbled across a Luxurious Hotel in the Middle of NOWHERE!

We met some wonderful people today on the “Travel With Bradley Yellow Brick Road Mystery Tour”.

After a bountiful breakfast at the Drury Plaza in Carmel, IN we ventured down some picturesque rural roads until we arrived at Andersons Orchards, a 200 acre family operation that has been in business for 50 years.  A family member proudly welcomed us and explained that they grow over 30 varieties of apples.  I arranged for my passengers to enjoy a cup of their hot apple cider and everyone enjoyed mingling with the Anderson family and other locals.  Its not everyday that a coach load of Canadians stop in for a visit.  Of course they were all were trying to figure out where we were going during our Mystery Day.

Lunch was in the charming community of Vincennes which is located in Knox County.  This is Indiana’s First City.  Restaurant choices for a group of our size is a challenge when visiting smaller communities but the management of Montana Mikes stepped up to the plate.  Ashley, the manager was determined that this would be a successful event.  Greeters welcomed us at the door and we took over 1/2 of their restaurant.  They brought in SEVEN cooks and a pile of servers to look after us.  Within one hour they served us a 3 course luncheon of tremendous portions.  We had a choice of tossed, Caesar salad or cottage cheese, then Sirloin Steak, Grilled Shrimp, Fried Shrimp or Chicken Breast – finally a variety of desserts.  I selected the grilled shrimp – they were meaty, so tender and delicious.  My coach driver, Paul ordered the Steak with Green Beans (his Mom would be proud) and he commented his steak tasted great.  We are the largest group this restaurant has ever experienced so they won’t quickly forget us.  

As delicious as the lunch was the best memory I will take away is how friendly the locals were to us.  The young servers that looked after us were some of the nicest people you could ever meet.  Some of them were anxious to see inside the motor coach so Paul gave them a tour.  They even came out of the restaurant to wave goodbye to us!  Their friendliness was genuine.  I could tell they were proud of themselves – they did a fantastic job looking after us and they knew they succeeded – this event was a big success.  

Temperatures continued to rise as the day went on.

When we arrived at the impressive Red Skelton Museum and Performing Arts Centre we left our jackets in the Motor coach because we no longer needed them.  The cloudless sky was bright blue.  

The Red Skelton Museum celebrates the life and legacy of America’s greatest comedians.  The museum is very interactive and explores American comedy in the context of Red’s life.  As a private group we were also lucky to be able to tour the Red Skelton performing arts theatre – designed to replicate to a circus tent.  It holds 800. The local University students were on stage rehearsing for the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” which opens in a few days.

When we left the complex we drove by Red Skelton’s boyhood home which is located a stones throw from the museum.

The windy road route to our Mystery Destination was beautiful.  The Amish have settled in this area so we passed many of their stores and restaurants but since its Sunday they were all closed.

When we reached the small town of West Baden I heard chatter on the coach – everyone was trying to figure out what the massive stately circular building was in the distance – could it possibly be our hotel – YES!

The West Baden Hotel is a gem.  We are all honored to be staying here for 2 nights.  Our luxurious massive suites overlook a stunning circular atrium.  My passengers can’t stop telling me that I really outdid myself this time.

We spent time exploring – there is just so much to take in – our beautiful suites, the gardens, the trolly car, the tram car, the horse drawn carriages, the rocker filled front porch, the spa, the gorgeous pool, the shops……

Later we gathered for another scenic 30 minute drive to Patoka Lake home of the Patoka Lake Winery.  The owner welcomed us and told us about their many award winning wines.  We sampled many of them before enjoying a delicious catered home cooked meal by a young local chef, Jerry.  I knew my passengers loved the meal because many of them were asking if he would share his recipes with them.

A fabulous day. 


Exciting Day 1 – Yellow Brick Road Mystery Journey

Last night my “Travel With Bradley Yellow Brick Road Mystery Tour” passengers gathered at the Quality Inn in Woodstock, ON for a delicious welcome, Roast Beef and BBQ Chicken Buffet Dinner before we retired for the evening.

Today after breakfast the Mystery Journey started.  This is a full departure and everyone is excited and are constantly trying to guess where Paul, our expert coach driver is taking us.

We were warmly welcomed at the Ontario Welcome Centre in Sarnia.  The staff opened early for us and served us maple cookies.

Crossing into the United States was a quick process after I explained to the US customs officials what a “Mystery Tour” is all about.  They played along telling many of my passengers that we were driving to Alaska….

Strong winds similar to what you would find in Alaska blew all afternoon but we were ahead of the nasty hail storm that invaded Sarnia, ON after we passed through.

Lunch was at everyones favourite, Cracker Barrel in Perrysburg, OH.  I presented my passengers with a $25.00 gift card which easily covered their lunch along with some shopping in the gift shop.

We arrived at our beautiful accommodations, the Drury Plaza Hotel in Carmel, IN later in the afternoon.  Cocktails were served soon afterwards along with appetizers.

It was just a 10 minute drive to the Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre which has been in operation for almost 50 years!  A scrumptious dinner along with luscious  desserts were served.  Tonight’s theatrical production of, “Man of La Mancha” was top notch.  The actors were all first rate and it was hard not to sing along to the many familiar songs.  

What a wonderful start to this Mystery Getaway!


Day 12 – Exploring Quebec City Pictures


Day 12 – Quebec City, Quebec

Quebec City

We docked in Quebec City early.  The “Rotterdam, another Holland America vessel was already in port.  Holland America dominates the Fall Canada/New England cruise departures with a number of ships allocated to this route.

I didn’t suggest a specific tour for my passengers today as we are docked next to the Old City and its so easy to navigate on your own.

I started strolling at 9am and didn’t arrive back to the ship until 4pm!  I enjoyed a relaxing lunch break at a fantastic bistro – Boulay – I highly recommend it.  The two course lunch special that I selected was $17.00 – very reasonable for this part of town.   Boulay is rated as one of the best in the city.  I found it quite by accident.  It looked appealing when I saw it and after reading its excellent reviews I had to try it.  I was lucky that they could accommodate me as this restaurant was very full with reservations.  

Other than my lunch break I was basically exploring the rest of the time.  Even my iwatch was impressed – it told me that I broke a personal fitness record today!

Quebec City is beautiful.  It is tastefully decorated for the fall season – many large displays.  Most of the charming boutiques are unique and have a French flair to them.  Yes, I did some shopping between snapping pictures.

I came across my Room Steward on my journey back to the ship.  He had collected a pile of fall coloured leaves and had surrounded himself with them.  I was able to take his picture using his phone so he could share this fall scene with his family.  He then asked me to leave him my email address as he wants to keep in touch.  He is a true gentleman plus he kept my stateroom immaculately clean.

Tonight’s Farewell Dinner on board ship was as excellent as always.

I was very impressed with the Zuiderdam and this cruise itinerary.    A cruise is great way to visit especially Eastern Canada’s ports of call which are all unique and wonderful.  A cruise day visit allows you to explore the main highlights.

The staff onboard the Zuiderdam is excellent.  Most are from Indonesia.  They are very caring and work extremely hard.  The Zuiderdam is in great shape and spotless clean.  The entertainment was diverse and well received.  The cuisine was top notch in all venues and that is so important for a cruiseline.  There was always more than enough variety, everything always arrived hot and typically in a timely manner.  The speciality restaurants are reasonably priced and I thought their cocktails are fairly priced too. There are ample ship board activities offered and daily afternoon tea is a nice touch, so is complimentary replenished fruit in staterooms and even shoe polishing service.  Little extras count.  I therefore look forward to bringing future groups on Holland America vessels.

Pictures to follow…


Day 10 – Saguenay, Quebec

We were late getting into the Saguenay, Quebec port because the winds were so strong.  Needed to use a tug to get us to the pier.

Even with the rain the journey earlier this morning through the fjord was a spectacular one.

Saguenay is an aboriginal words that means, “where the water flows out”.  This area has the most francophone residence in North America.  The population is 147,000.

The visitors centre next at the port featured local entertainers and craftsman.  Due to the weather the local market had to be cancelled.

I walked into this quaint Quebec town where I toured the beautiful Catholic Church and checked out some local shops but the weather continued to deteriorate.  When it started to hail and snow I headed back to the ship.  I was soaked!

The lido deck was packed at lunch as so many stayed on board due to the weather.  

We are lucky that we booked the “La Fabuleuse” theatre in advance for this afternoons activity.  This production has been running for 29 years and is a true spectacle with a cast of a “few hundred” actors who are all volunteers!   The 75 minute show depicted the creation and evolution of the Saguenay.  The production featured many special effects including fire, water, canon shots, fireworks and water cascades.  There were farm animals, MANY horses and vintage cars on stage too.  There are over 1000 costumes.  We were all very impressed!  Its as though Broadway has another home in  Saguenay!  If you are ever in the region I HIGHLY recommend you come to see this production.  The production is only in English when the cruise ships are here – the rest of the performances are done in French.

The weather remains unbelievable.  Imagine the worst wind in the middle of winter and it would be similar to what we experienced today.   Temperatures are below 0F.   The internet connection is very poor I imagine due to the storm – tried to upload some picture for this post with no luck.

We will be heading to Quebec City shortly if the Captain can get the cruise ship away from the pier!

 

 


Day 9 – The St. Lawrence River Transit

Good Day from the St Lawrence River

Today we are enjoying a scenic sea day with commanding views the St. Lawrence River.  There is plenty activity on the river – we have passed a number of freighters – our Captain clips by them at a pretty good pace.

It is cool outside but the sun is shining – temperatures are expected to drop to freezing this evening as we travel to Saguenay and then it is to warm up again before we arrive in Quebec City.  

I kept my passengers good and busy today.  We enjoyed a private tour of the Galley operation.  The executive chef was our host.  This was followed by an entertaining, private backstage tour of the theatre.  We were hosted by two of the production team dancers – a nice looked engaged couple (from Australia and Russia) and the Stage Manager Scott who has had a fascinating career as a dancer with Donny and Marie Osmond, Carol Burnett and Liza Minnelli to name just a few – I “really” enjoyed my interesting conversation with him. 

Most of us caught the end of the Shore Excursion hosts chat about Quebec.  He “described” Canadian poutine as everything you can order at “Kentucky Fried Chicken” mixed together – certainly an odd way to describe it?

Lunch was in the elegant Pinnacle Grill.  What an incredible meal.  The menu featured so many enticing choices it was hard to decide – crab cakes, salmon filet, beef tenderloin, cod – and the desserts oh la la – the presentation was superb too.  This is the upscale speciality restaurant on board.  We all enjoyed the excellent service and delicious cuisine.  My passengers were so pleased with this “Travel With Bradley” surprise.

During the afternoon many attended the chat with the ships Captain while others attended the cooking show (Southern Snacks).

Tonight was the second Gala night and my passengers looked terrific all dressed up.  Most ordered surf and turf as they didn’t want to pass up the lobster.

The main stage show that followed was very good.

Was another fun day!


Day 8 – Charlottetown, PEI

Day 8 – Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

It was another spectacular sunset last night.  How lucky we are.  I sat in the Crows Nest on the Zuiderdam to watch it.   The comfortable leather chair with foot stool was so comfy it would have be easy to fall asleep….  I haven’t cruised on this ship for a while so this is my first experience in the “newly revamped” Crows Nest.  It’s located on the 10th Deck forward so there are commanding views.  In the past it was primarily  a lounge – now its a multi-purpose space – lounge, library, card playing, puzzle area and home of Shore Excursions Desk – dominated by a couple large video monitors with high tech information about the ships current location.  

Eastern Canada easily draws you in.  Its probably the combination of a more relaxed way of life (in comparison to Ontario), beautiful scenery and the friendly locals.

Charlottetown has a population of 50,000 and the entire island is around 156,000.  Their link is the Confederation Bridge.  Since its completion box stores such as Walmart have located here because its now possible to transport their goods over the bridge.  They have no natural gas piped to this island so oil or propane is used – many homeowners install heat pumps.  

Early this morning a large group of us boarded a coach and enjoyed a leisurely drive through the rolling, rural countryside.  Its a overcast drizzle day.  We made a stop at “Anne of Green Gables” – toured the homestead and strolled down “lovers lane”.  The book “Anne of Green Gables” has been published in over 30 countries and in 11 languages.  

I purchased “Black Garlic infused Sea Salt” from a young entrepreneur whose production is almost large enough that he can start shipping his product – I wish him well – www.peiseasalt.com

Agriculture is the number 1 industry here – fishing plus the farmers grow over 60 varieties of potatoes (80,000 acres) which are shipped all over the World.  There are 1800 farms on the island, 18% are farmed by females and the average age of local farmers is 55 years old.  The largest animal  is the coyote and their red fox is a nuisance.    

The Amish and Mennonites have been moving onto the island because land is still affordable.  We didn’t spot any buggies but saw some Amish schoolchildren dressed in their colourful dresses.  The locals flock to the Amish farms on Saturdays when they sell their organic produce and freshly made breads.  There were Amish Quilts available for us to buy next to the pier.

We heard the story of PEI Island Preserves – opened by at the time a struggling chef who decided to put amaretto in his strawberry preserves and the rest is history.  His preserves are now shipped all over World.  The impressive manufacturing facility is on a beautiful piece of land with a large pond.  

Sixty one lighthouses can be found on the island including the oldest one in Canada.

Last Tuesday there were a number of cruise ships in Charlottetown so 9600  passengers invaded the area.  Today it was much more manageable – we are here with Holland Americas Veendam (a smaller cruise ship).  It isn’t busy anywhere.

After our tour we enjoyed a light lunch onboard the ship and then some of us explored downtown Charlottetown.  There are a number of beautiful churches to tour – I was especially impressed with the massive United Church which is known for its excellent acoustics.  Although their congregation is getting smaller, they still attract around 400 for Sunday services.  I was very happy to find a Starbucks.  The last time we saw one was in Halifax.  The location here in Charlottetown has a neat vibe to it and was packed.

We were impressed with the Great George Hotel.  In the lobby they display pictures of celebrities that were housed here  – Elton John, Reba McIntyre to name a couple.

Like the other Canadian ports of call we have visited the building next to the pier is filled with local crafters selling their wares.  

Tonight I am treating my passengers to Dinner at Canaletto a speciality restaurant onboard.  We will fill the entire restaurant.  I had to book it soon after we boarded ship in order to secure the space.  Everyone is looking forward to it.

Tomorrow we travel along the St. Lawrence River.  I’ve arranged a number of event for my group including – Tour of the Galley, Backstage Tour and a Luncheon in the fine dining restaurant the Pinnacle Grill.

We continue to have a marvelous time!


Day 7 – Sydney, Cape Breton – Thanksgiving Day

Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia – Canadian Thanksgiving

What a marvelous day!

The sun shone and the sky was blue as we approached the World Largest “Playable Fiddle” which weighs 8 tons.  Yes it can be tuned and is in the Book of World Record.  If a giant arrives possibly it can actually be played.  Its an amazing tourist landmark.  Whoever thought of it deserves a medal.

We docked early this morning.  The Norwegian Dawn is also here but her passengers had to tender in as the dock in Sydney can only handle 1 cruise ship.

The locals warmly welcomed us.

The complex next to the pier was filled with artists selling their wares.  Its an impressive facility.

Up the street in the Catholic Church Hall, I met and bought from a couple young artists.  One guy who looked to be in his teens sold very inexpensive framed prints made with stamps.  

I chatted for a long while with the “Sticks and Stones” Artist.  He travels the World as he speaks a number of languages so its easy for him to find work during his travels.  I purchased from him a very unique iPhone charger that he made from local driftwood.  His framed artwork is made with Sticks and Stones.  If I had more luggage space I would have bought one of his pieces.  He doesn’t have a website but if you are interested in his art, the email is sticksandstonesart@icloud.com

Surprisingly since its Thanksgiving a number of downtown shops were open.  There are some really good quality shops in the downtown core including a shoe store that has been in business for over 50 years and an exceptional art gallery.

During my walk back to the ship along the wide boardwalk I chatted with a few locals who wanted to know where I was from and how I was enjoying the cruise.

A number of my group gathered for an afternoon “Nova Scotia Kitchen Party” which featured my brothers good friend, Aaron C. Lewis on the guitar, piano and vocals (very talented at all – his Dad was the founding member of the Carlton Show Band – Pig and Whistle TV Show), award winning fiddle and piano player Kimberly Fraser, and fiddle and guitar player, Lawrence Martel.  A young stepper entertained us too.

Their 90 minute performance flew by.  My passengers are all hoping that we’ll have them entertain at the Walters Theatre.  Some of them were up square dancing!

A wonderful day in a beautiful part of Canada.

Time to get ready for dinner – the chefs are preparing Turkey as one of the entrees in honor of Canadas Thanksgiving.  


Day 6 – HALIFAX, Nova Scotia on Thanksgiving Sunday

Halifax is a beautiful Canadian City. 

The Zuiderdam docked at the Halifax pier early this morning.  There were no official border procedures to go through.  We filled out Canadian custom forms a few days ago and the cruise line staff submitted them.  There weren’t any customs officials at the pier.

I joined a group of my travelers on a half day excursion to famous, Peggy’s Cove.  Our guide was Monica (Monique).  She was excellent.  I know her employer well so I am going to be sure to let him know what a wonderful guide she is.  John our coach drive was excellent too.

We enjoyed a picturesque rural drive.  The Mountain Ash and Maple Trees are showing some Fall Colour but just like in Ontario the leaves are turning later than usual this year.

Lobster fishing is very important here.  It may be lucrative but it’s major investment – $300,000 for a license and around $800,000 for a fishing boat!  The fisherman current gets $6.00 a pound for his lobster catch.  It takes between 5-7 years for a lobster to weigh a pound.  If a fisherman catches a smaller than a pound lobster it has to be thrown back in.  This area is divided into different lobster fishing zones – in the Halifax Region a  fisherman can only catch lobster from Nov 1 to the end of April.  This protects the lobster population.  

The second largest industry here is rubber tire production – employees 3000.

Tourism helps the province too.

The population in Peggy’s Cove is just 38 but thousands of tourists visit this natural attraction because its so picture perfect.  

Celebrities such as Tom Selleck and Sandra Bullock often rent homes close to Halifax.  Canadian Singer, Anne Murray owned a home here for many years.

The boardwalk along the Halifax Shore extends 5 Kilometers.  Its a major tourist attraction for the city and is very beautiful.

Thanks to my brothers recommendation I savoured the crab cakes at Salty’s Restaurant which is located at the end of the boardwalk – the crab cakes were the best I have ever tasted.

I also found a very good mens clothing store called Colwell’s.   

The Halifax farmers market was well worth visiting along with all the pop-up shops in the terminal building.

Halifax is a perfect destination to celebrate this Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend.  I’m excited that tourists onboard the Zuiderdam from all over the World are getting this opportunity to visit Eastern Canada.

The Zuiderdam culinary staff featured a create-your-own Canadian poutine bar and craft beers from Eastern Canada have been brought on board – including Blueberry Ale.

The indoor pool onboard the Zuiderdam was a popular stop to relax late this afternoon.

I’m so thankful to be Canadian.


Canada/New England Fall Cruise Pictures


Day 5 – Bar Harbor – Lobster and Blueberries

Day 5 – Bar Harbor, Maine – Acadia National Park, Lobster and Blueberries!

I have just been mesmerized by the sunrises we have experienced during this Canada/New England cruise.  The sky has been waking up with its bright colours dancing all over the place.

The Oceania Insignia has been sailing with us throughout this cruise.  It is here with us again in Bar Harbor.  Bar Harbor is such a scenic destination.  I’ve visited this part of Maine with tour groups many times over the years and its always a favourite.

Todays weather – perfect – a sunny, fall day – temps hovering around 60F.

This is a tender port of call.  The Zuiderdam has a number of new state-of-the-art tender – very nice.

This destination has attracted the very wealthy for many years.  It competed with Newport, Rhode Island.  Today many of the mansions have been turned into beautiful, Bed and Breakfast Inns.  I noticed the innkeepers had all displayed “sold out” signs.  It is a holiday weekend in the USA – Columbus Day.

During our tour through Acadia National Park we were surrounded by fall beauty everywhere we looked.  The Park was very busy with tourist.  The producer from the television series, “Law and Order” has built a beautiful mansion cottage close to the park and celebrity, “Martha Stewart” also lives here.  We were told she is very well respected by the locals.

Years ago Maine Lobster was a poor mans food.  It was ground up for fertilizer and also served to inmates in jail.  How things have changed!  Today its a delicacy.  We enjoyed a melt-in-your-mouth, Lobster luncheon in the elegant Bar Harbor Club, a private members facility.  We were served a whole lobster (not just a tail) with melted butter, sweet corn on the cob, red skinned potatoes, mussels and as a sweet finish – wild blueberry tart.  Gentleman staff members walked from table to table in the chandelier filled ballroom, offering to remove the lobster meat from the shell so we didn’t have to struggle with it and were they ever quick.

The Main Street in Bar Harbor is filled with touristy shops, restaurants and ice cream parlours.  It was a beautiful day for strolling and picture taking.

After we arrived back on the Zuiderdam I basked in the sun on my stateroom Balcony and ended up with a sunburn!  My passengers have been making good use of their balconies during this cruise.

At dinner my passengers expressed how happy they were with this port of call.   Everyone had a wonderful time in Bar Harbor.

Tonight’s cooking class was themed – Chocolate – how delicious!

There is a storm 130 nautical miles from us so the Captain warmed that the waters may be choppy around midnight.  

Time goes ahead by 1 hour at 2am.

Tomorrow is Canadian Thanksgiving Sunday and we’ll be spending it in Halifax, NS.

How appropriate that we return to Canada on Thanksgiving!


Day 4 – BOSTON

Day 4 – Impressive – Boston, MA 

Today we visited the home of the movie, “Good Will Hunting” – BOSTON.  As we drove around the city we saw a number of film crews set up.  Boston’s “Cheers” Bar attracts hoards of tourists but it was just the last show of the tv series, “Cheers” that filmed in Boston.

Boston is basically the same size as Disney World and has a population of 750,000.  Education is a big industry here.  There are approx 350,000 students studying in Boston/Cambridge.  The pharmaceutical industry is prominent too – more pharmaceutical jobs in Boston that any other place in the World.

Boston sells more ice cream than any other US City.  It is mandatory that every meal served at Harvard University must include ice cream!

We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day for our city tour – balmy temperatures with sunny blue skies.

Our guide was a colourful one.  We learned a great deal from him.  His children have done well so he is proud and he has been married for 49 years.  He is a true sports fan and this is a sports city.

We headed into Cambridge so we could walk around Harvard.  The hardest thing about Harvard University is getting accepted as a student.  If you get in you pay a big tuition – 75G a year but it is pretty difficult to fail.  Students live close to the campus in  impressive student housing.  A tutor is included with each house  to help ensure students are going to be successful.  Ninety percent of Supreme Court Judges and eight Presidents graduated from Harvard.

There is a large Chinese and Italian district but as the cost of living in this city continually increases its pushing out the older immigrants who can no longer afford the high costs .  These areas in turn are losing their character.  Condos are being built in these areas so there goes the character.

The lady that was looking after the coach shuttles returning to the ship shared that she pays $1000.00 a month for a 200 sq ft apartment!

Unemployment in Boston is less than 1%.  Our guide told us that he doesn’t want Amazon to come to this city (its a major contender) because a bigger population will just raise the cost of living even more.

We drove past Boston’s, Parker House Hotel which has the title as the oldest hotel in the USA – known for its Parker Rolls and Boston Cream Pie.  The original Ritz Carlton hotel was located her.

Clam Chowder and Lobster Rolls are the local delicacies that the tourists want to try.  Neptune Oyster is one of the most famous Lobster Roll restaurants – served cold with mayonnaise or hot with melted butter – $32.00 each!

Boston is proud of its Irish heritage and hosts one to the World’s Largest St. Patrick Day parades.

Reebok running shoes headquarters is here. 

In Boston if a Trader Joe’s Food Store opens in your neighbourhood the value of your home will go up!

We finished our tour at Quincy Market – our guide told us that is the 2nd most visited “man made” attraction in the USA.

What really impressed all of us is how progressive this city is – the waterfront development, the underground transportation system, expansion of the convention centre in order to accommodate 100,000 delegates, they have cleaned up the salt water in the port and Boston is now regarded as the cleanest port in the USA – whales can be seen close to shore – we all commented on how clean the city is.

Boston will be a future, “Travel With Bradley” Motor Coach destination.  Many of my passengers that were with me today said they, “Can’t Wait To Return”.

A fantastic day!


Day At Sea On the Zuiderdam

Day 3 – Day At Sea

Even though its a Day At Sea many of my passengers were up early.

It was a stunning sunrise – those of us that watched it were in awe.  The temperature was balmy.  Its still summer here.

I visited with many of my passengers at my hospitality desk.  I praise Holland America because they still allow me to use a flip chart which my passengers check daily so they can learn about the latest “Bradley’s News”.  Other cruise lines no longer allow the use of flip charts so that makes it much harder for me to communicate with my passengers.

The Captain made a bit of a detour arriving in Newport, RI at 8:30am to pick up a lifeboat (1 hour stop).   Oceania’s Cruise Line Insignia which was docked next to us in New York City yesterday is also here as this is their first port of call.

It was wonderful to enjoy a scenic glimpse of Newport from the water.  This was a bit of a teaser as we didn’t get ashore.  Newport is a great destination to visit especially during the holiday season when the Newport historic mansions are decorated for Christmas.

I think Holland America offers one of the very best Dining Room Breakfast Menu in the cruise industry.  One can choose from many upscale menu items such as Crab or Mushroom Benedicts.

The Zuiderdam is a very clean ship – spotless in fact.  I have an excellent stateroom attendant.  He is already rearranging my things!

I really enjoyed the informative, “Lunch For A Rainy Day Cooking Class” that was sponsored by America’s Test Kitchen.  I learned so much during the 45 minute session.  The instructor is excellent and Holland America uses some audio/visual techniques to elevate these on-board classes.  Well Done!

The next class I joined was all about the Go Pro Video Camera Model #5.  The instructor was from Israel.

My passengers gathered for a group luncheon in the Main Dining Room.  The service was excellent and so was the food.

Afterwards some of us attended another cooking class “Salads As A Main Meal” – Caesar Salad with Chicken (the instructor pan seared the chicken on one side then steamed it to keep it moist) and a very attractive looking Cobb Salad.

It was then time for Afternoon Tea – this event attracted many from my group.  

I found a bit of time to work out in the well-equipped gym before sitting on my stateroom balcony to bask in the summer-like temperatures.  We couldn’t ask for a more beautiful day.  The sea was as smooth as glass.  The Captain told us to keep our eyes open for whales.  I was almost late for tonight’s Formal Gala because I was mesmerized by the pods of dolphins next to the ship and didn’t want to leave their show.

My passengers dressed to the nines for the Formal Gala.  

The Gala menu was impressively designed.  The meal was extra special.

Some of us enjoyed the Dueling Piano Country Show in the Billboard Live Lounge after dinner.  Everyone sang along to “Country Roads”.  

The Captain toasted everyone in the Main Theatre prior to tonights big Production Show.

A couple from New Zealand chatted with me in the theatre.  They flew to Houston and then visited New Orleans, Florida, Nashville, Memphis and then boarded the Zuiderdam after spending 5 days in New York City, will end in Quebec City, then travel Toronto, fly to Vancouver for a few days – will fly home from there.

Tomorrow we dock in Boston, MA.  We are all looking forward to it!


En-Route to New York City

Day 2 -En-Route to New York City

Todays temperature reached 80F!

The breakfast buffet at the Scranton, PA Hilton is always a treat.  The chef who  cooked the made-to-order. omelettes was quite the character.  He certainly made everyone smile first thing in the morning.    He makes his omelette similar to a thin crepe.  There was certainly enough choices on the buffet to please everyone.

I ordered a to-go Starbucks Ice Tea for the road  – there is a Starbucks outlet in the lobby.

We departed on time and made a rest stop en-route to New York City.  There were major traffic delays getting into the city so we lost a bit of time but our knowledgeable young city guide from the Bronx did a great job showing us around – Central Park, Carnegie Hall, Times Square, the Textile District, the Village and SOHO.

We arrived 15 minutes late for our lunch at Katz’s Deli but kindly the manager kept our tables open.  It truly is an experience dining here and the food they serve is top quality – hot piled high deli sandwiches on rye – potato knishes, cole slaw, potato salad, the best steak fries, 2 types of dill pickles and of course melt-in-your-mouth NY Cheescake.  

If you were not part of a group you would need to get in a long line to order and get into another long line to pay.  When we arrived there was a large group of fireman picking up a take-out order.  This establishment is popular not just with tourists but locals too.

New York City is a very expensive city to visit and in-turn our family style lunch at Katz’s was very pricey but well worth it.  I’ve visited this city many times so I’ve dined at many famous New York restaurants but its Katz’s Deli that offers the most memorable culinary experience in my books.   When I think of New York City, Katz’s always comes to mind.  If you visit New York – you need to put it on your bucket list.

Like in many major cities its difficult for a restaurant to survive but Katz’s has been around since 1888.  Nine months ago the Opry in Nashville opened a restaurant in Times Square and it has already closed….  Its a tough grind in NYC.

There is much traffic congestion in this city so it takes a long time to travel a short distance but overall I found the drivers to be courteous and due to the possibility of getting a $300 fine if you honk-your-horn you don’t hear many horns unlike years ago.

You can easily spend many days exploring New York City and its different Burroughs so in our short time we just got a taste what the city is like.

There is no other city quite like it.

At the cruise pier I handed the porters a substantial tip and they took good care of our luggage.  I noticed that security checked my luggage.  I had a zip lock bag of toiletries and instead of them opening the zip they sliced open the bag….

We boarded the Zuiderdam in a matter of a few minutes – the check in process was seamless.  I was very impressed.

I attended a number of meetings with the on-board staff in order to finalize arrangements for my group.  I felt like I was bouncing all over the place but I accomplished a great deal in a short period of time.

There are many Australians sailing with us.  

My group has been assigned a prime area in the dining room for their dinners.  ITs on the upper level in a quiet area close to the vast windows The mainly Indonesian crew do a stellar job throughout the ship but they truly shine in the dining room.

Tonight’s dinner was excellent and I expect the quality will continue throughout our voyage. 

The 8pm evening sail away out of New York was just spectacular.  The city was lit up in all its glory.  Sailing past the Statue of Liberty always brings a tear to my eye.  

The Beatles show that featured Jesse Kazemek, in the main showroom was excellent (husband and wife duo) and I really enjoyed the high energy band in the BB Kings Lounge and the dueling Piano Players.

The beds in our staterooms are so comfy it didn’t take long to fall asleep.  


New York City Here We Come!

The summer certainly flew by….  I just can’t believe it!

Thanks to all of you that visited the Walters Dinner Theatre this season.  My family is so thrilled that it was a completely sold-out run of shows. Due to demand we extended our season – the final performance was tonight.

Now that the theatre season has ended,  my travel season has once again begun and I’m excited.

Last night I welcomed my Canada/New England Cruise passengers and we enjoyed a delicious pre-tour welcome dinner and relaxing overnight.  There are 48 of us.  This morning after a hearty breakfast we boarded a Ayr Motor Coach and started our journey to the Big Apple, New York City, where we will board Holland America’s Zuiderdam.

Getting into the USA was a breeze today – a very quick and friendly process.

We made the most of our 90 minutes at Destiny USA a large entertainment complex in Syracuse NY.  I presented everyone with $25. to cover their lunch.  There were so many wonderful restaurants to choose from but I think my passengers favourite was the infamous, Cheesecake Factory.  Some of them even purchased Cheesecake for a midnight snack – sadly, they didn’t offer to share with me!

It was pouring rain when we left Woodstock, ON Canada this morning.  The sun shone and we enjoyed balmy summer like temperatures when we were at Destiny USA.  On our way to Scranton, PA we encountered a bit more drizzle and when we arrived at the deluxe Hilton Hotel it came down in buckets.   Temperatures continue to climb – its expected to be 80F in New York City tomorrow!

The drive from Syracuse to Scranton was very picturesque – the rolling valleys are covered with trees that are just starting to show their bright fall colours.

We crossed into Pennsylvania State at 3:45pm.

The staff at the Hilton in Scranton, PA was ready for our 430pm arrival.  I have brought groups to this lovely hotel for years.  This is the very best property in Scranton.

At 5:30pm I invited everyone to a 1 hour cocktail reception.  This group was anxious to mix and mingle.  

We were constantly getting “Severe Weather Warning” messages on our phones during the cocktail party but that didn’t damper the fun everyone was having.

Dinner followed at 6:30pm in the Hiltons newly renovated modern ballroom.  The scrumptious buffet featured moist lightly crusted chicken, blackened pork, salmon  – variety of salads,  fresh vegetables, potatoes – homemade layer cakes for dessert.

After dinner some headed to the indoor pool for a refreshing swim while others enjoyed a nightcap in the lobby lounge.

I constantly left my evening functions so I could stay in contact with the front desk staff in regards to the weather.  By the time we were done dinner the most severe warning had passed.  The current danger for many local areas is flash floods.

I couldn’t ask for a better group of travellers.  We are one big family already.  Everyone is getting along so well – mixing and mingling.  Thanks to Kevin Bridge, our coach driver.  This is the first time he has driven for me and he is doing a great job.  He has fit right in.

We are all anxious to board the Zuiderdam cruise ship tomorrow.  After breakfast we’ll depart for New York City where we will be met by a local expert who will tour us around for a couple hours.  I want everyone to experience a bit of the city before we head to the cruise ship.  We could have ate lunch on board the cruise ship but everyone that visits NYC needs to experience Katz’s Deli – a New York City culinary landmark  – so I have included a luncheon there before continuing to the cruise ship.

A great deal of this cruise journey is going to be spent in Canadian waters so I probably won’t purchase an internet plan on the cruise ship because I’ll be able to connect to wifi when we are on shore in Canada.  I’ll continue to write blogs when we visit Boston and Bar Harbor, Maine and my current plan is to post them once we arrive in Halifax.

Be sure to follow along!


The Pioneer Woman Celebrates Her Nan

During my upcoming February 2019 Texas Tour we’ll travel into Oklahoma to visit the Pioneer Woman Mercantile which is owned by Ree and Ladd Drummond.  Chances are you have tried Ree’s recipes or have watched her hit television show on the Food Network.

Ree Drummond is a gem of a farm girl.  She is obsessed with butter, Basset Hounds and Ethel Merman.    Ree raises her family on a ranch outside of Pawhuska, Oklahoma.  

Her television show documents daily life as a ranch wife and mother.  This down home country gal’s blog attracts 22 million monthly views.  Ree’s television show and blog focuses on food, living on the ranch and family.  

A couple days ago Ree emailed a blog post to her loyal followers letting them know that her upcoming television show would be “A Different Kind of Show”…..

Although her Mother-In-Law’s situation with cancer was terminal the family did not expect her end to come so quickly.  They had just started filming a block of television shows at their ranch when she suddenly passed.   After much pondering they decided to continue with the television taping in order to “Celebrate Nan”.

This was a sad show to watch.  The “Celebrating Nan” episode shows us a loving family and friends struggling to get through a tough time.  We can all relate.  Country Folk came together to beautify the cemetery which is located on their ranch and Nan’s favourite food and recipes were prepared.  The show truly “Celebrated Nan” and even though I never met “Nan” I felt that I knew her a bit after watching the show.  

Ree wrote that her family could have filmed their television shows pretending this didn’t happen or they could show what was really going on in their lives.   She decided to take the real route and I admire her for that.

I’m sure you will agree that writing about this is an odd way for me to highlight an upcoming tour but after watching the “Celebrating Nan” television episode I am even more anxious to show you the community where the Pioneer Woman lives with her family.  

Ree’s children often work at the family-run Mercantile.  They are sometimes the ones that bring out the sticky buns (served in a coast iron skillet) or the Southern Mac and Cheese.  

Everyone has a story.  The Pioneer Woman has found a way to share her story with all of us.  

You’ll have a great time if you decide to join me on this Texas Tour February 13-20, 2019. 

See you aboard!


Details – Sunday Aug 26th Travel Shows!

Tomorrow many of you will be travelling to the Walters Theatre for the annual,  “Travel With Bradley” Travel shows. GPS Address – 836074 Hubbard Road, Blandford-Blenheim

The email confirmation that was sent to you last week confirms which showtime you booked –

10am

12:30pm

3pm

5:30pm

Your reserved tickets will be available at the theatre entrance under your last name.

If you didn’t RSVP in advance and would like to attend one of tomorrows travel shows there will be a handful of complimentary tickets available at the door for each show.  Over 700 people have RSVP’d.

Please try to arrive no sooner than 30 minutes before your scheduled show time in order for us to easily accommodate traffic flow and parking.

If you are wondering where you can grab a casual bite to eat either before or after the shows here are my recommendations –

6 minutes from the theatre

Innerkip Highlands Golf Club – the closest good option to the theatre – 805940 Oxford Road 29, Innerkip, ON – 519-469-3924 – offers a casual dining experience (burgers, fish n chips, sandwiches, salads)  in their restaurant – dining room offers a beautiful view overlooking the golf course

12 minutes from the theatre

Jims Lunch – 28 Oxford 2, Princeton, ON 519-458-4444 – small country diner that has been serving good home-made food for decades – when I was a young boy my Grandmother would give me handfuls of coins so I could treat myself to one of their freshly scooped butterscotch sundaes!

16 minutes from the theatre

Quehl’s Restaurant – 33 Woodstock Street S., Tavistock ON 519-655-2835 – Quehl’s is our official caterer at the “Walters Theatre” – they will be serving their delicious brunch and dinner buffets at their restaurant in Tavistock tomorrow  – there is Main Street road construction in Tavistock so just follow their restaurant signs which will guide you to their restaurants back entrance

17 minutes from the theatre

Adam Brenner’s “The Garden Stand” – 90 Wilmot St, New Hamburg – 519-390-0808 – This is a “To Go” Gourmet Food Shop – where you can purchase fresh and frozen gourmet meals, wonderful dips, dressings, salads – I always leave with an armful of goodies – Sundays hours are 10am – 4pm

27 minutes from the theatre

Camp 31 – 22 Paris Rd, Paris, ON – 519-442-3560 – they serve the best BBQ around

—-

I look forward to seeing you tomorrow at one of the shows!

I can’t wait for you to see my NEW, “Travel With Bradley” brochure – it looks GREAT!

If you are unable to attend the show tomorrow the NEW travel itineraries will be upload to the “Travel With Bradley” website sometime later in the week – some journeys will only accommodate a small number of passengers so I expect they will sell-out quickly. www.travelwithbradley.com

Drive safe.

 

 


Your Grandkids Will LOVE It!

I promised my nephew Schyler that I would take him out for dinner tonight.

I drove him to, “Louie’s Pizza and Pasta” which is located in Ingersoll, ON.

When we arrived their very large parking lot was PACKED and the restaurant entrance was full of patrons hoping to nab a table.  We waited 40 minutes to be seated and during that time there was a steady stream of customers arriving to pick-up take out orders.  This sort of “out-of-the-way” restaurant has a big following.

You may recall the Canadian television show, “You Gotta Eat Here” – this restaurant was featured on that Food Network show.  Host, “John Calucci” ate their signature giant panzerotti.   Schyler and I noticed that a good majority of those eating in the restaurant tonight ordered them too.

Schyler enjoyed the “Grilled Dagwood” – salami, ham and turkey with cheddar and garlic chive cheese – grilled on marble rye bread – topped with chipotle mayo.  I was happy to see a “Baked” and not fried Chicken Parmesan choice on the menu.  They hand pound the chicken breast and bread it – topped with marinara sauce and mozzarella – served on a bed of spaghetti with even more parmesan – yes, a pile of carbs!

Portions are massive.  I noticed at least 80 percent of the patrons request take-out containers.  I needed one too – only ate 1/2 of what was on my plate and I was stuffed.  Schyler had no problem finishing the large sandwich and fresh cut fries!

I asked Schyler if he would order the same thing again.  He said “yes” but added that he would try something different first because there are a number of items on the menu that appeal to him.

Service was attentive and friendly.

My entree tasted ok and that was fine because I picked this restaurant knowing it would appeal to my nephew and I was right.  I’m sure if you take your Grandchildren to “Louis’s Pizza and Pasta” they will be just as pleased as Schyler.

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Sailing Back to Rome

This weekend they are calling for record breaking temperatures in much of Europe – into the mid 40’sC.  Many homes don’t have AC so locals will head to the water and there is a fear of increased drownings.  We set up heat shelters in Canada but although I am not positive I don’t believe they are set up in Europe – at least nothing is mentioned on the news.

I prefer the European newscast because you learn what is going on throughout the world – at home US news makes the headlines and International News is very secondary.   On the ship they air BBC and SkyNews.  This morning there was not a mention of American politics – a refreshing change.

 

Today we visited the sleepy town of Katakolon.  This is the Gateway to Olympia, the location of the original Olympic Games.  It was a very hot temp day so most of my passengers enjoyed roaming around the town where there are 2 main streets of shops and a variety of tavernas on the sea shore.  The population here is only around 600 people.  My Canadian Greek friend tells me this area produces excellent olive oil.

A few of my passengers said this was their favourite port because its so laid back and they would like to come back and for a week stay.

Tomorrow is a day at sea and we will arrive back in Rome on Sunday.  We’ll gather for a farewell group luncheon in the dining room and its the final Chefs Table Dinner for my passengers that haven’t experienced it yet.

I’m very impressed with the “Jewel of the Seas”.  I picked this cruise mainly because of the itinerary.  Although I expected the ship to be very good it has exceeded my expectations.

I chatted with a couple that have been on 90 cruises and this is their favourite ship.  I can best describe it as a small ship with a big attitude – it can stand on its own.  The balcony staterooms are a little smaller than most of the newer ships but there is more than enough room.  The staff has been excellent.  It’s one of the friendliest crews I have ever experienced.  I saw that Royal Caribbean awarded them with a “Best Staff Fleet Wide” award which is quite an honor as Royal Caribbean has a large number of ships in their fleet.  The staff is a happy one so they must be treated well.

The menus in the main dining room are extensive – with so many excellent choices its hard to decide what to order. 

Today on the lunch buffet there were a number of seafood choices including jumbo fried shrimp,scallops and a variety of shell fish – you don’t often see buffet items like these on cruise ships.

Its easy to navigate around this vessel and everyone liked that.  Its much smaller than the new norm but it still has much to offer – certainly enough for any travelers needs.  There are so many activities offered throughout the day and  there is a cinema (don’t find them on newer ships).  There is plenty of entertainment choices in the evenings –  many music styles  – even heard country music last night.   While soaking in the pool you can enjoy a movie on the big outdoor screen.  

Three speciality restaurants are plenty for this size of ship – and there is the Chefs Table for very special events.  

WIFI connection is expensive but it works better than any other ship I have been on.  This new system is now found on all the Royal Caribbean ships.  I purchased the upgraded faster plan so I could upload pictures to my blog.  It worked 85% of the time which is a huge improvement to past cruises.  I expect other cruise lines will now be upgrading their systems.  On this cruise the younger generation are all on their mobile devices and they are going to pay the cost  no matter how much it is to be connected.

Toiletries in the staterooms are very basic.  Expect a bar of soap and a dispenser of liquid soap in the shower – no hair conditioner etc – next time I sail on Royal Caribbean I’ll pack my own product.  

There is a fee if you order room service.  Due to cost you won’t find lobster on the menu in the main dining room. 

I found the shops on board to be pretty dismal but typically I don’t find the shops on cruise ships to be very good.

This sailing has attracted many multi-generation family groups.  The dining room can easily accommodate families with large tables.  Europeans like to travel with extended family members – I think that is terrific.  I was concerned when I saw how many children are on this cruise but there is ample security and lifeguards at the pools to keep a watch on them.

I don’t think we’ll forget the 2 senior aged sisters that we all thought were twins.  They are American living in 2 different States.  They dress identical when they are together.  Every time I see them they are wearing new outlets – everything matches right down to the accessories (hats, purses, jewelry)

My passengers have been wonderful and we’ve enjoyed time together.  I’d like to thank them for Traveling With Bradley.  Having to split my passengers  into 3 intimate groups for the Chefs Table gave me the opportunity to spend quality time with everyone.  The Chef Table was certainly a great surprise that everyone has really enjoyed – its a culinary experience that would be hard to replicate at home.  

With so many families on board they have stuck together so I haven’t met as many travelers as I usually do on cruises but I enjoyed some conversations with a friendly couple from Sydney, Australia.  There are very few singles on board this sailing.  The itinerary has attracted passengers from all over the World.  Its a nice change being on a cruise that isn’t filled with North American passengers.

We are currently sailing back to Rome.  A driver and coach will transfer us to the Rome airport and we’ll fly Air Canada back to Toronto.  Many of my passengers will overnight at the Airport Hilton on our arrival but I’ll head home. 

Monday I’ll be back at the Walters Theatre to welcome our patrons.  I’m looking forward to the Kenny Rogers Tribute Show.  It’ll be another busy sold out week.

Don’t forget August 26th is my annual travel show.  Hoping to see you there!


Athens – Chefs Dinner – Mykonos – WOW!

I just arrived on the Island of Mykonos, Greece.  I took the first tender from the ship.  Its just 8am so none of the stores are open yet.  It’s windy as usual on this island But that makes it comfortable for roaming around on a summer day.

This is my favourite Greece cruise port because its so authentic.  This morning around the harbour the local gentleman are sitting enjoying their strong coffee while overlooking the sea.  They will be getting together before the tourists appear.  I’m sure they have solved some of the World problems today.

The locals are so friendly here.  I have already chatted with a couple of them.  The tender boat assistant told me where his favourite Greek restaurant is located.  They all have their favourites – probably owned by friends.

Yesterday my group spent the afternoon touring Athens.  We we in awe with all the tourist sites.  There are 5 million people living in Athens. 

Mykonos is the exact opposite – few residence and a very peaceful atmosphere.

Some of you emailed me wondering  if we saw any of the damage caused by the recent fires near Athens.  We were a distance from that area so no.  The air quality is back to normal too.  They claim those fires that killed many were deliberately set – very sad.

I’m good friends with an older Greek man who lives in Toronto.  His World revolves around Greece.  In his book everything is the best in Greece.  I always get a kick out of him.  He is not unusual.  Greeks love their country.

I warned my passengers that they would get lost walking around Mykonos.  I’ve already got confused a few times and I’ve visited here many times.  The town is a maze of narrow passageways and  all look the same – white washed buildings are everywhere with blue and red accents.  First thing in the morning the ladies are busy washing everything  – streets, buildings, floors, clothes – this island sparkles because of them.  Miniature delivery trucks can get down the streets with just a couple inches to spare.  Tourists need to get out of the way as there is not room for both.

I did eventually arrive at the famous windmills.  Some of them are under repair but they are truly the symbol of Mykonos.  I have already walked into 8 churches – there are so many of them in the town core.  They are all tiny and unique.  Some would only hold a couple people.

As I was walking around I must have looked like I knew what I was doing because other travelers started following me hoping I would lead them around the right corner.

The fun thing about Mykonos is by walking through this maze you get to see how the locals live. 

This is a very special destination in my books.  I love it more every time I visit.

I came across the same bench that Mom and I sat on the last time the two of us were here.  If she was here it would have been a perfect day!

Typically when on a cruise I don’t dine in the ports of call but I had a craving for Greek food today.  A trustworthy shop owner (wife is from Barrie ON) told me to eat at Niko’s Taverna so I took his advise.  It doesn’t offer a sea view but its a very traditional Greek taverna which has been in business for over 50 years.  You can walk into the kitchen and see todays specials.

I started with a traditional Greek Salad (cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, olives, green peppers with a thick slice of feta cheese and oregano on top).  The typical Greek Salad has no lettuce.  My waiter recommended one of the daily specials – direct from the oven – chicken stuffed with mykonos cheese accompanied by roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes.  The chicken was so tender and moist.  The vegetables – pepper, eggplant, carrots, potatoes etc were so hot I had to let them cool down a bit before eating them.  Very delicious.  I highly recommend you try this restaurant when you visit Mykonos.  Price wise its more reasonable than one on the water – with a large bottle of water my bill was around $36.00 Canadian.

Shopping – its a mixed bag on Mykonos – certainly some very expensive things – a store owner tried to sell me a 1600 Euro pair of running shoes….  I did find some well priced items too.

Soon it will be time for my 2nd group of passengers to enjoy the “Jewel of The Seas Chef Dinner”.  What an amazing experience we had last night – a welcome glass of champagne – 6 courses – 6 glasses of wine – a dessert martini – 3 hour culinary event.  I’m treated them all – with service fee tip etc it works out to around 100. USD – in comparison to what you would pay at home its certainly a fair price for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

You should be here!


Santorini, Greece = Romance

Santorini, Greece = Romance

For most of us we started our day on the “Jewel of the Seas” with “Tuesday Brunch” in the Tides Dining Room.  The chefs put out quite the spread.  When we walked in the dining room the wait staff surprised us with a glass of champagne.  There was a number of shrimp choices so I was very happy – garlic, chilled, even shrimp with scrambled eggs.  With so many entree choices  it was impossible to sample a portion of what they prepared –  there were also many desserts and a chocolate fountain…. Everything was delicious – we were all so impressed!

At 12:30pm my passengers gathered in the Baltic Conference Room where 2 wonderful reps from the cruise staff met us.  They made things so easy for us.  We were escorted through the crews quarters (always interesting to see) and directly on a tender boat to the shore of the island of Santorini.  This was a huge bonus for my passengers.  There was a long line of passengers waiting to pick up tender tickets first thing in the morning but we didn’t need to be concerned about that.  The biggest complaint I heard from “other” passengers was they had a LONG wait to get off the ship – not us – we were the first ones off – for sure this was a major “Travel With Bradley” perk.

There were a number of cruise ships in port today – Costa, MSC, Celebrity Constellation plus our ship so we were lucky that we only had a 15 minute wait before getting on the cable car (6 Euro each way – terrific money maker)  that took us to a famous Santorini village situated on the side of the cliff.   There are 2 other options to reach the top – 597 stairs or a donkey – the ships staff discouraged both but I still saw many people doing both.   Once we arrived in the beautiful, unique white washed building town my passengers scattered.  Some found a taverna and admired the scenery while others including me “shopped”!  The majority of the store owners told me that although cruise traffic is on the increase, overall the cruise passengers aren’t spending so they aren’t having a great year but a few of the shop owners were happy to see me and some of my passengers!

Since the town is built on a cliff, if you are staying in one of the many hotels you’ll need to be careful which one you choose or you could be transiting up and down a number of steep steps.  For those of us visiting for the day the shopping and restaurant district has next to no stairs – its simple to navigate.  A cruise is the perfect and most economical way to visit Santorini.  

The view from the island of Santorini looking over the sea is indescribable – just spectacular – very romantic!  I’ve visited Santorini a number of times and the view continues to amaze me every time.

Tonight, I decided to try one of the Speciality Restaurants on board called Izumi.  It specializes in Japanese Food.  I was the first customer of the evening so I was showered with great service.  The food they prepare is delicious.   I enjoyed grilling seafood on a 575F hot plate.  This restaurant menu is al la carte.  Its a nice alternative to other restaurants on board but I feel the cost is just too expensive for me to recommend to my passengers.

Hope you enjoy my Santorini pictures!