AmaWaterways Christens New Ship!

AmaWaterways christened their newest fleet member, The AmaMora, on July 18, 2019 in Lahnstein, Germany. This video shows the festivities of the day. For information on how to cruise on the AmaMora, visit AmberRoadsTravel.com or email me at Carolyn@AmberRoadsTravel.com. You can also call me at 334-406-5685.

The Rock – Alcatraz

Alcatraz as seen from ferry.

The day was clear and slightly breezy, which is rare in San Francisco. The day before, we played “What is the Weather Now?” when it went from sunny, to foggy, to rainy and back to sunny in the space of 10 minutes. But this day, it was clear and the bay wasn’t too wavy. We were finally going to get to go to Alcatraz.

Twice, several years before this trip, my husband and I wanted to visit “The Rock.” We heard it was a great trip. Not long after we were married, we went to go get tickets and found out it was closed for three weeks. They were filming “The Rock” on Alcatraz. Great movie and I love Sean Connery, but I was disappointed. The next trip, about a decade later, the weather was not cooperating and the water in the bay was too rough. Strike two for Alcatraz. This time, and two children later, it was actually happening!

Get your tickets early, like weeks early (you can order them up to 90 days before your visit), because they sell out fast, especially in high tourist times. Then find Alcatraz Cruises on Pier 33 on the waterfront. It’s not too far from Fisherman’s Wharf. This is the only way to get to The Rock. The National Park Service website (www.nps.gov/alca/planyourvisit/directions.htm) warns that parking is very limited, so public transportation is best.

There are day and night excursions. We took the day one this trip, but I would love to go back and take the night tour. They are very different and you can check out the details on the above website. Don’t forget to smile as you board the ferry. They take your picture as you get on so you have a lovely souvenir to purchase when you get back. The ferry cruise to the island was nice as they gave a brief history of the island as you go. Once you dock on the island, you have a steep uphill climb to get to where the tour begins. Some of the buildings are open and you can read various plaques of information. Most of these buildings are from the time before the prison. If you can’t make the walk, the park service does provide transportation to the entrance.

Once you are on the island, vantage points offer beautiful, if hazy views of San Francisco, Sausalito, the Bay Bridge and, of course, the Golden Gate. If the day is clear enough, you may be able to see the Coit Tower. This is just the land view. On the water, you may be able to see sailboats of all sizes and colors enjoying the day. If you are really lucky, you may go to Alcatraz when there is a sailboat race going on. The regatta is magnificent!

Most people don’t know, until they tour the island that Alcatraz was first a military fort, established in 1850, shortly after gold was discovered in California and the year California became a state. According to the National Parks website, it was part of the “Triangle of Defense” to protect the San Francisco Bay. It was even the site of a short-lived plot to blockade the bay during the Civil War. The Union troops stationed at Alcatraz defeated the Confederate plot without a shot fired.

Alcatraz remained a military fort until 1934, when it became of federal prison with an infamous guest list. This is what most of the tourist come to learn about. You can tour Alcatraz on your own, but I recommend spending the extra money on the audio tour. The narrator spins an excellent tale and there are first hand accounts by some of the later prisoners incarcerated there. Most of the prisoners were not well known, but Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly and the Birdman of Alcatraz (Robert Stroud) stand out. My oldest son was 10 when we went, and he was fascinated. The audio tour is great for the entire family, no matter the age.

During the audio tour, you will learn that while they are not exactly sure which cell belonged to Al Capone, you will see the cell from the famous escape in 1962. You can see the head models that John and Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris made to fool the guards at bed check. Chris, my oldest, was especially interested in this tale. In fact, he was so interested that I almost could keep up with him! He was literally running from one audio station to the next!

The escapees were never heard from again, sparking much speculation about whether or not they made it to safety. The FBI officially closed the case in 1979, but there is no statute of limitations on escape from a federal prison. Some speculate that they survived and are living in Brazil. Hmmm… I wonder.

The prison closed in 1963 and in 1969 was occupied by Native American activists until 1971. In 1986, Alcatraz became a National Historic Landmark under the management of the National Park Service. There are many areas of the island that are still open to explore and you have until the last ferry to do so. However, if you don’t make it to that last one, you just may have the experience of being incarcerated on “The Rock,” at least for a little while.

The Vikiings Lived Here?

I don’t know about you, but when I think of Norway, I think Vikings. The adventurous Norse men that sailed to far off lands, loved to fight and drink, and longed to die in battle and go to Valhalla. Evidence suggests is was actually the Vikings that discovered North America centuries before Columbus was even born. But when you look at Olden, Norway, it is hard to believe the bloodthirsty warriors could have ever lived here.

History

Olden is a small little village of only about 500 people located at the mouth of the Oldeelva River. It is filled with quaint cottages, beautiful mountains, gorgeous views, and glaciers. There was only one church in the small village called the Old Olden Church until 1934, when the (new) Red church was built. It is these qualities that contribute to its popularity with the cruise lines.

Activities

The main activity in Olden is hiking. Olden is the home of the Briksdal glacier. Hiking up Briksdal, you may catch a glimpse of another glacier, Tjøtafossen and its waterfall that measures 739 meters in height. There are many, many other waterfalls and crystal clear lakes; all worth seeing, if you have the time.

The most famous waterfall is the Volefossen, and you can cross in front of on a troll bridge. Not for the faint of heart, but the from the bridge you can see amazing views of the surrounding glacier and countryside. Just don’t be afraid to get wet. Most people crossing the bridge either get a little wet or soaking wet, so you have a 50/50 chance.

What to Expect

But glaciers aren’t the only reason to visit Olden. Lush, green valleys contrast with the stark gray rocks surrounding the glaciers. Don’t look for nightlife and restaurants, but the people are friendly and they bottle Olden mineral water, which comes from the melted water of the glaciers. It’s not something everyone gets to try.

Not far from Olden, you can find old Viking burial mounds. Since quite a few cruise lines dock there, getting a shore excursion to the mounds should not be a problem.

Weather

Dress warmly when you visit Olden. The warmest it ever gets is about 68 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. Don’t forget your camera. Who knows, maybe Odin, Loki or Thor will show up!

Highlights

 The Old Olden Church – the first church in Olden, built in 1759.
 The New Red Church – the second church in Olden, built in 1934.
 The Jostedal glacier – the largest glacier in Europe.
 The Briksdal glacier – the arm of the Jostedal that extends into Olden.
 The Volefossen – a 300-meter waterfall on the Briksdal glacier.
 OldenMineral Water – flows directly in to the bottling plant from the glacier.

The Next Evolution in the Galápagos Islands

The turquoise waters of the Galapagos
The Galápagos Islands have become the world’s model for sustainable travel, and Celebrity Cruises® is making it easier than ever with the launch of Celebrity Flora.®

The isolated volcanic islands off the coast of Ecuador are breathtaking in their beauty.

It’s the incredibly biodiverse wildlife and flora that draws travelers to the Galápagos Islands — from giant tortoises lumbering across rugged rocks to sweet-faced penguins expertly diving into crystal-clear Pacific waters. The islands are much more than a living zoo; collectively, they’re a national park and World Heritage site where sustainable initiatives are an essential part of your journey.

Celebrity Flora

While only authorized tour operators are permitted in the Galápagos Islands, it’s important to do your own research when deciding how to get there. Celebrity Cruises has a long history sailing in this region with an eye toward responsible measures. Now, you can be a part of a groundbreaking movement aboard Celebrity Flora, launching in spring 2019 as the first ship of its kind that was purpose-built to cruise the Galápagos Islands in style.

State-of-the-art technology sets Celebrity Flora apart as one of the most environmentally safe ships to cruise these fragile waters. That includes a dynamic positioning system so the ship can stay in position without anchors, solar panels to supplement electricity supply, and an advanced propulsion system and hull configuration to lighten her carbon footprint. Using reverse osmosis, 100 percent of fresh water comes from the sea, and even air-conditioning condensation can be reused in the laundry facilities.

While complimentary amenities are always included, conservation measures will naturally be incorporated on Celebrity Flora. Step into your suite and you’ll spot a filtration system designed to refill your reusable water bottle — a gift as part of your voyage — while toiletries are provided in refillable containers. (What you won’t find on your ships are single-use straws and plastic bags.)

On these islands, every traveler must be accompanied by authorized naturalist guides. With Celebrity Cruises, not only do you have access to certified naturalists on your excursions, but they’ll impart their knowledge on board through presentations in the Discovery Lounge.

Cruise the Inner Loop to marvel over the astonishingly red beaches of Rábida Island inhabited by sea lions and Darwin’s finches, and visit Bartolomé Island to snorkel among colorful fish and the iconic Galápagos penguins. On a voyage through the Outer Loop, your days may be spent alongside guides who point out one of the very first post offices in this remote region, followed by an excursion into dark lava fields dotted with flamingo-filled lagoons.

The Leave No Trace philosophy is a matter of life and death on these islands. That means packing out all of your trash, not introducing any food, animals or plants into the archipelago, and even choosing biodegradable sunscreen to avoid harming the ecosystem. Your guides will keep you informed on all the need-to-know details throughout your voyage.

From your first sip of rich Ecuadorian coffee in the morning, dining is an essential part of the Celebrity Cruises experience. Feast on sustainable fare curated by a Michelin-starred chef, and end each day with decadent chocolate presented on your pillow — delighting in the knowledge that even the cacao was sourced from small, local producers.

All-inclusive voyages create an entirely effortless introduction to responsible travel when you sail with Celebrity Cruises. We’ll book your overnight stays with land tours in Quito before and after your voyage, along with a seven-night voyage through the Galápagos Islands that includes excursions and gratuities. Transform your point of view about the world, and gain a better understanding of your role in preserving all that nature has to offer.