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Experience
27

A Divided City Reunited

Berlin, Germany
Posted by Francisco Lopez
April 19, 2011
No matter what your background, race or culture, you’ll feel a thousand different emotions go through you in Berlin.
A Divided City Reunited Francisco at Berlin's Checkpoint Charlie.

I’m truly blessed.  As the youngest of six children, growing up in a modest neighborhood in Montevideo, Uruguay, during the 1960s, I dreamed of one day being able to explore the world.  That dream definitely came true.

Most people would’ve predicted that my life would be lived in the Uruguayan capital of my birth.  Our parents, who were everything to us, had passed away too soon.  My father died in 1961 and my mother only a year later, leaving three girls and three boys alone to take care of themselves.  I was a month shy of my fourth birthday when my mother died, but my oldest sister was 25.  She and my two other sisters, the oldest in the family, raised the three boys.  It would seem like I had a very sad childhood, but my oldest sister was like a mother to me, and it was exciting growing up with all those siblings.

As a child, I used to daydream about being an airline pilot or an astronaut.  The sixties were the time of space exploration.  It was also a time of Cold War tensions around the world.  Even though I lived in South America, I paid attention to European news.  And Berlin was always in the news.  This city had played a central role in two world wars and now, in the communist era, it was still in the headlines because of the wall that had bisected the city since 1961. Read More

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26

Self Discovery Along the Mighty River

The Amazon River, Brazil
April 12, 2011
As I looked around me I was struck by how different the geography was. The river is so wide in places – sometimes more than 20 miles – that I couldn’t see the banks. … All the while, I was aware that I was sailing toward a beautiful culture that is ancient in origin and entirely dependent on this nature all around me.
Self Discovery Along the Mighty River Beverley (left) and her sister, Jean (right) standing in front of a giant Amazon rain forest tree.

Leaving the late-winter doldrums of my Boston suburb behind, I traveled to the Amazon River basin two years ago in search of something different, a new life experience. I’ve traveled extensively in my life and obviously taken many cruises. I’ve been all over the Caribbean, sailed around the Horn of South America and traveled throughout Europe. But these journeys centered on visiting cities. I wanted to immerse myself in nature’s grand designs.

The idea of traveling to the Amazon had been on my mind for years. I had seen more than my share of Amazon documentaries and I knew one day I had to go.

When the opportunity finally came to sail the Amazon, my sister and brother-in-law, both avid naturalists, decided to join me. We met in Miami, where we took a chartered flight to Manaus, the Amazon basin city, and spent a day there touring around. Manaus was the perfect place to transition from the busy life I longed to escape to the almost spiritual experiences to come.

Manaus was established by the European rubber barons more than a century ago. They had ventured to the Amazon to capture as much of the prevalent natural latex as they could to capitalize on the emerging automobile industry.

Missing their European cities, the rubber barons tried to make Manaus look more like home. They built an opulent opera house there along with other totally-out-of-place structures. It was surreal to see these ornate buildings just minutes away from the open river and dense jungle. Read More

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25

The Gift of the City of Lights

Paris, France
Posted by Giuseppe Romano
April 5, 2011
Sabina has talked about going to Paris since the day I met her. … Over the years, Paris kept coming up. ‘Maybe next year,’ was our refrain. We never had the opportunity to go. Paris would be my gift to her.
The Gift of the City of Lights Commodore Romano and his wife, Sabina, standing in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

The irony of my life is that I really don’t do that much leisure traveling. As Commodore for Princess Cruises, I can see how some people would think I must be joking, because of course, I travel all the time.

I’m at sea for months at a time with Princess where my duties keep my mind attuned to the safe and pleasurable passage of our passengers as we sail around the world. When my time off coincides with school vacations, my wife, Sabina, our two children and I also travel. We go to see our relatives — my family in Sorrento, Italy, and Sabina’s in Cleveland, San Francisco and Germany.

One of my favorite things to do is go camping with my boys. Give me a tent in the forest, a fishing pole and river and I’m very happy. As much as we love our vacations to see family, it was becoming clear that Sabina and I were overdue for a 100-percent carefree, zero responsibility trip together. With all of this in mind and our 20th wedding anniversary approaching, I knew I had to do something special for her. I had to create the perfect gift to symbolize my love for her and celebrate our life together.

It had been a long time coming. Sabina has talked about going to Paris since the day I met her, on a Sitmar cruise (now part of Princess Cruises) where I was, naturally, working. She was on board with her aunt, a Sitmar employee and acquaintance of mine, who had given her a cruise as a graduation gift. Read More

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24

Mystery and Intrigue in the Venice of the North

St. Petersburg, Russia
Posted by Mona Ehrenreich
March 29, 2011
It can sometimes be an exercise in ingenuity to keep a group of video-game-playing teens focused on the culture of Europe. That is, until we arrived in St. Petersburg.
Mystery and Intrigue in the Venice of the North Mona and her daughter Andie outside Peterhoff Palace.

Traveling with a family group can always be a challenge on vacation, and I usually travel not only with my own family but with several other family groups.  It offers a great opportunity for my kids to have friends along as companions, but it also means finding activities to please not one young traveler, but several.  I have always loved the study of history, so one of my travel goals is to share with my children places that have been important to the world’s social and political development – sometimes to their dismay.  I’m convinced they’ll thank me someday.

A few years ago I joined with three other families to sail on a Scandinavia & Russia voyage.  Among our entourage were two 12-year-old girls, including my daughter, Andie, and four (yes, four!) 14-year-old boys, including my son, Matt, and nephew, Brandon.  As you may have guessed, the boys were our toughest crowd, as it can sometimes be an exercise in ingenuity to keep a group of video-game-playing teens focused on the culture of Europe.  That is, until we arrived in St. Petersburg.

Here in this flash point of the Russian Revolution we found the answer: death and destruction. Read More

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23

Istanbul Ignites a Spirit of Adventure

Istanbul, Turkey
Posted by William Kent
March 22, 2011
...Istanbul was a distant and mysterious place representing glamour, intrigue and the lure of the faraway exotic.
Istanbul Ignites a Spirit of Adventure Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey

My fascination with Istanbul started as a young boy when I saw the 1960s heist movie “Topkapi.” In it, a quirky group of thieves hatch an intricate plot to break into Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace to steal the priceless emerald-and-diamond-encrusted dagger that had belonged to Sultan Mahmud 1, who ruled in the 1700s.

In the movie, as in real life, Topkapi Palace is a museum. One of the most thrilling parts of the film was when one of the thieves eluded a floor-directed security system by dangling from the ceiling to nab the dagger. You can bet that after seeing “Topkapi,” my friends and I, substituting the flat Lincolnshire landscape for exotic Istanbul, re-enacted the good parts of the movie.

References to Istanbul started to snowball in my young life. Shortly after seeing “Topkapi,” I saw the James Bond movie “From Russia with Love,” in which 007 darts around Istanbul to help an alleged Russian defector. Then, I studied the Crusades in school, and learned how Istanbul itself — then Constantinople — was the desired bounty of the bloody Fourth Crusade. Read More

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Thirty-seven years ago, I came upon Tulum, Mexico, the ruins of an ancient Mayan city that was all but untouched by tourists at that time.
A Mayan Discovery with an Unlikely Guide Ancient Mayan Ruins at Tulum, Mexico

I have traveled all over the world, but I stumbled upon my most memorable travel experience during a business trip. Let me qualify that. It was a quick side trip during a business trip. Almost an afterthought. Still, that afternoon has stuck with me ever since and I revisit the location whenever my schedule allows.

Thirty-seven years ago, I came upon Tulum, Mexico, the ruins of an ancient Mayan city that was all but untouched by tourists at that time. I was scouting the Caribbean for Princess Cruises, as the company planned to expand from its Los Angeles base to Fort Lauderdale. When I arrived, I met with Princess’s Mexico general agent at the time, German Osuna, to look at possibilities for excursion trips in Cozumel and along the stunning Yucatan peninsula.

At the time, the Mexican government was just beginning to lay the foundation for what is now the wildly popular resort town of Cancun. Cancun is like Miami Beach or Orlando—it was built to attract tourists. Then, it was just in its infancy, with little more than architectural models and high hopes hinting at its future. Read More

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