I am on my third cruise. I boarded the Viking Sun in Buenos Aires, Argentina after flying overnight from Albuquerque. I was allowed 2 checked bags, one carry-on and one personal item by the airline. Most old people pack too much; and, I am no exception; however, I kept to one checked bag and one personal item and even that was too much.
No matter how you work it, you are going to have to lift bags, roll bags, and deal with bags beginning with getting them out your front door and into the car. Then, there is check in, retrieving bags at the destination, and customs. Finally you have to negotiate the bags, and watch them, in getting to the ship.
Once aboard the ship, you discover that the staterooms are smaller than the rooms at assisted living, especially if you are sharing one with a spouse. The closets are small, the drawers are small and there is little, if any, extra storage space. Fortunately, at least on Viking, there is room under the bed for 4 suitcases, one carry-on and a few personal items.
Then, unless you are in a high-end stateroom, there is barely enough room to turn around, much less to sort your clothing on a daily basis and keep the clean stuff separate from the dirty.
The question is why! Where are you going? What is the purpose of the trip? What do you really need?
The Viking Sun is great! Jeans and shorts are only prohibited in Speciality dining rooms and The Restaurant at dinner. There are free washers and dryers on each deck. The bottom line is that you can deal, even if you are old.
My trip was from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Santiago, Chile around cape horn. It lasted 18 days.
I am old. I take a shower every day. I might even wear the same clothes two days in a row.
Like most old men, I have a “uniform.” I wear comfortable jeans, and have never been denied access, even to 4 star restaurants – with a turtle neck and a jacket, you can go anywhere. Old men have become more stylish, wearing jeans, since it is impossible to find checkered pants with zippers that don’t work. The last ones I saw were on my father, years ago.
So for a 3-week trip on a cruise ship, what do you really need:
Jeans, heavy travel shirt, light weight rain jacket, walking shoes, underwear all worn.
Enough clothing for 7 days – I don’t really want to do laundry every day.
7 socks, underpants, black t-shirts.
Tai Chi slippers – good for fitness center and walking around on ship.
7 assorted shirts that don’t need ironing
Swim suit – for sauna, etc.
Work out shorts
Light weight pants that you can sleep in or wear in an emergency.
REI light weight travel pants that will get you past the “no jeans” restriction in the fancy dining rooms.
1 turtle neck
A vest that with pockets to wear on trip and finesse on formal occassions – easy to run through security and safer than having everything in pants pocket. See blog where I left my driver’s license in security check in and couldn’t rent a car.
Everything the same color, so you only have to use one washer and dryer.
One big problem old people have is keeping track of things. With 3 bags of clothing on a trip, you have no idea where everyhting is which leads to frustration and confusion.
You didn’t get old and able to take this trip by being stupid.
On February 6, 2019 while on a Viking Sun cruise, we visited the ship’s galley. The galley tour, like the bridge tour, is not advertised due to space limitations, so if you want to take the tour on any ship ask. You should also ask about any other tours that are not advertised.
The Viking Sun carries 930 passengers and a crew of about 450. This works out to 4140 meals prepared and served each day, plus 24 hour free room service and other food outlets open from early morning to late at night. Preparation of this food requires 106 chefs and a large number of support staff.
The several kitchens are spotless and computer controlled as far as food that has been ordered, cooked and delivered to one of the dining areas. The ship’s nurse checks the cooking staff’s hands each day for long or dirty finger nails.
Everything is made from scratch except for gluten bread. Viking Chefs make the gelato, all pastries and everything else from scratch. The pastry chefs start baking at 10:00 PM so that bread, bagels, muffins and other items are available in time for breakfast.
In addition at the World Cafe, line chefs cook eggs, pancakes and waffles to order in front of you.
In addition, they must have a massive wine room as house wine is free at lunch and dinner. In South America it was from countries that we were stopping at.
Escalators and dumb waiters speed the food from deck one to the restaurants on higher desks. Food goes up in a dumb waiter separate from the one that carries waste and dirty dishes down.
On February 1, 2019, while on a Viking Cruise, we took a train ride on a prison train that was built by Argentine prisoners in the early 20th Century.
A prison for hard-core and political prisoners was established in Ushuaia, Argentina in 1896 and the prisoners built their own prison.
They needed a train to haul wood from the nearby forests, so they laid the tracks and built a railway to haul wood and prisoners. Today, the train only hauls tourists and has expanded to about a half-dozen small trains running on narrow-gage tracks.
The trains are duplicates of the original prison trains and there is a shop at the station to repair and build them.
Each car has about 6 compartments with six seats facing each other in each compartment. It is a tight fit and you are warned about sticking your hands, or other body parts, out the windows.
The engines are steam engines, modified to run on diesel fuel instead of firewood to reduce the danger of a fire. There are water towers to add water to the steam boilers.
You can find out about the train and buy tickets at: Ferrocarril Austral Fueguino
The train station is about 20 minutes outside Ushuaia so you will need to be on a tour or take a taxi.
Following the train ride through beautiful country, with fields of horses, you take a bus to Terro del Fuego National Park, with its lake and hiking trails.
The trip is fascinating and the prison was closed in 1947 due to corruption and horrible prison conditions.
There is no truth to the rumor that cruise lines weigh passengers when they board and when they leave, and that the one who gains the most weight gets a free trip. But, it seems that way. There is food everywhere and all the time. I keep looking for the resident gerontologist.
That said, cruise ships also have great fitness facilities and an assortment of food that allows you to eat only what is good for you.
The fitness facilities on the Viking Sun are great and decidedly Scandinavian. The rule here is: “Showing up is half the battle.” If you can move down a deck or two, you will be one of a handful of people who use the facilities. It is like the health club you belong to. (for free with Silver Sneakers). There are a few dozen out of hundreds of members who actually show up regularly.
On our Viking Sun Ocean Cruise the fitness facilities stood out even if only used by a few of us. We are the new 1 %, only it is health not money that moves us into this category of old people.
Viking Sun has:
- A quarter-mile walking track with a half-dozen walkers. Great except for windy days.
- Fitness classes including yoga, Pilates, etc.
- Trainers for a fee.
- The best machines that I have ever used; and, I used them daily along with about a dozen others. (Out of 930 passengers, none of whom were children, there were few in the fitness rooms.)
- The usual spa treatments, massages, hair stylists, manicures, etc.
- A swimming pool
- A salt water whirl pool; a regular whirl pool; and a sauna.
- In addition and unusual on a cruise ship, a cold water bucket and the snow grotto. I tried the snow grotto – man-made snow in a glassed-in room kept at freezing temperature. I did not try the water bucket. These two reflect the Scandinavian love of hot and cold.
The snow grotto.
The cold water bucket.
With a free launderette on every deck, you can pack a lot less!
We were in our late 70’s when we took our first cruise. Our second was on a Viking River Boat from Bucharest to Budapest. It was such a great experience that we then signed up for a Viking Ocean Cruise on the Viking Sun. We are now in the fifth day of that cruise. First thoughts are important, so… here are mine.
Our cruise, South America and Cape Horn, is from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Santiago, Chile.
- The ship is small – only 930 passengers.
- There are no children aboard.
- There are few additional costs – beer and wine with meals are free; one free tour in each port; and 24 hour free room service. The wi-fi is free. Old people are cheap. Viking, by including almost everything in the fare, makes “traveling while old” (TWO) much easier and more pleasant.
- Viking has some sort of deal with the countries we stopped in. Viking kept our passports and we could go ashore using our Viking ID cards. No one ever checked us on land; we were carefully checked when boarding the ship.
- There are expert lecturers on board, including a ship’s historian who presented talks about every port. In addition there are movies, musicals, classes, etc.
- The staff is a diverse international group and the most friendly and helpful people I have ever met.
- There is a free launderette on every deck, which means next time I can travel with one change of clothing; a great fitness center with the best exercise machines I have experienced; all the usual spa treatments; hot tubs, saunas; and, a 1/4 mile walking path on deck 2. (This was sometimes cold and windy.) These were great because only a few people took advantage of them.
- Most of the passengers had been on several Viking cruises and half were on the Round The World Cruise which could last for up to 160 days, or so. The rest of us just filled in the empty spaces between the Round the World ports of call.
- The only “dress code” is no jeans/shorts at dinner in the main and speciality dining rooms. Not only was a coat and tie not required, but no one was wearing either in the speciality dining rooms. No extra charge for specialty dining.
- At 78, I think I was a bit over the average age, but not by much.
Those are my initial thoughts; but, I have two weeks to go.
In December of 2018 we went on a Road Scholar Trip that included white water rafting. Think about it. What do I do with my hearing aids? What if l the boat turns over? Will I get wet? Can i trust the guide? How big are the boats? Can I get out of it without loosing face at 78?
Needless to say, I did it. For 5 dollars before I left Albuquerque, I bought a “water proof” small fannie pack, then didn’t use it because I deemed it best to leave my hearing aid in the van. I couldn’t hear the guide, but I sat in the back so I could watch the other three old people paddling up front. No problems, but I did get wet.
The water wasn’t bad, level 2. It was lower than usual as water had not been released from the dam up-stream and we slipped over rocks. There were a few drops, and of course, I got soaked.
There was a photographer in a kayak who constantly passed us, stood on the bank, took our photos, and then sold the photos to us at the end of the trip. Well worth the $20.
Toward the end we stopped for pineapple and water melon.
All in all, it was worth it, even though it was out of my comfort zone.
Marvin Rockwell and his wife at their home in the Monteverde Quaker Community described in Wikipedia.
In December, 2018, while on a Road Scholar trlp to Costa Rica, we visited the home of Marvin Rockwell, age 96, for a typical Costa Rican dinner and a Power Point talk on how he came to lead a group of Quakers to Costa Rica in the late 1950’s. The talk included pictures of his adventures.Click for a podcast of pictures that Marvin showed us.
The family style dinner consisted of tamales, vegetables, tortillas, tomatoes,carrots, beets, borccoli, cullaflower, chocolate cake and the ever present Pinto Gallo.(Black beans and rice served with every meal in every setting in Costa Rica.) There was no booze since this was a Quaker home.
We ate at a long table on the open porch of Martin’s home in the highlands of Costa Rica, where Rockwell has lived since the early 50’s.
Marvin’s story, illustrated by his powerpoint presentation, consisted of photos of his move to Costa Rica in the 50’s and his adventures since.
Marvin is a Quaker, originally from Fairhope, Alabama. In WW II, he served as a surgical teck in the US Army. In 1948, the US passed a draft law and Marvin, as a Quaker, refused to register. Even though he had already served in WW II, he was convicted of failing to register and sent to prison for a year and a day.
When he was released, he and his friends, searched for a new place to live and settled on Costa Rica which had just outlawed the military. They purchased a tract of land in the central part, away from the mosquitos of the coast, and 41 of them proceeded to move there. The move, in an old jeep and pick-up truck took 3 months, as Costa rica had little in the way of roads, and due to border technacalaities .
They arrived, bought the land, compensated the Costa rican squatters, and established a Quaker Colony which exists to this day. Five of the original 41, including Martin, are still alive.
They rebuilt the houses of the squatters and established s cheese factory with Martin in charge. They used metal Quaker Oats cans as cheese forms. The factory, still operating, now produces 8000 pounds of cheese a day.
Marvin, a bachelor, adopted a child abandoned by the child’s single mother. He then married a Costa Rican woman, and they had 4 more children.
Martin took pilot lessons, bought a piper airplane and started to build runway in Monteverdi. They cleared the land except for stumps. Then, while flying over the proposed runway almost crashed because of wind currents. They abandoned the airport idea, even though the approved runway was listed on aviation maps until recently when it was changed to abandoned.
Marvin wanted his children to be bilingual, so he moved to the US and became a chocolate salesman in Ohio ?? for 8 years so that his children, and his wife, became fluent in both English and Spanish. He then moved back to his home in Costa Rica, and except for trips to Africa in his 80’s, to see the animals, has lived in Costa Rica ever since.
He established a small hotel, which he has now closed.
He offers powerpoint talks and dinners to various groups. He left our dinner at 7:30 as he had to give another talk that night.
In 1971 a bunch of homeless people (hippies) took possession of an abandoned military base in the center of Copenhagen, Denmark and Freetown Christiania was born.
A few years ago I visited Christiania in Copenhagen, Denmark. It has become one of the major tourist attractions in Copenhagen and home to about 600 people; and took me back to the 1960’s. Since 1971, Christiania has evolved and has become a co-op instead of a squatters’ habitat.
When I was there, there were signs warning about marijuana which was freely sold, although illegal; there were simple restaurants; there were all sorts of craft stands; and houses in various forms of construction. The organization was informal but in 2012 they voted on who could live there and had developed some form of ownership and property rights.
The hippies resisted all efforts by the government to remove them. They have entered into contracts for utilities and trash; and , have obtained not only the right to own the property, but have government loans to finance the property.
The set-up is largely like a co-op with the existing residents voting on new residents and making the rules, such as they are.
It is located a 30 minute ride or a 45 minute walk from the Central Train Station. You might still get illegal marijuana with little apparent risk from the authorities, but there may now be internal restrictions. Times are changing and hippies are growing older. Maybe they should look to medical marijuana?
It is worth a visit; especially if you grew up in the 60’s and it is going strong today. I don’t know how many of the original squatters are still there, but they would probably be in their 60’s.
It may even give you a few ideas as you grow older; and, feel the need of a delayed alternative lifestyle.
For more pictures and reasons to visit Christiania, see : Buzzfeed
Google: Christiania for up-to-date information and “alternative tours.”
I can’t help but update this blog to show you the New York Times review of the restaurant NOMA near Christiania.
A second update showing problems in Christiania is reported by The New York Times, even though it has become a major tourist attraction.
Iceland has had some basic equal rights for women, by law, since June 13, 1720. The Sea Women’s exhibit at the Maritime Museum in Reykjavik celebrates the role of fisherwomen, who received equal pay as fisherwomen from 1720 to today.
The exhibit at the Vikin Maritime Museum located on the waterfront in Reykjavik, a short walk from the center of town.
The Vikin Maritime Museum has permanent and changing exhibits dealing with Iceland’s fishing history. The For Cod’s Sake exhibit traces Iceland’s fight with Great Britain over territorial waters; resulting in a win for Iceland and the extension of the territorial limit to 200 miles. The net result was that numerous British and Scottish long distance fishing companies went out of business.
This exhibit will lead you to other sites reflecting women’s rights in Iceland, a pioneer in the recognition of women’s equality.
The museum is open daily from 10 to 5 and is free if you are over 67; like many museums in Iceland.
In Albuquerque, NM I visited the 2926 Restoration Project. The New Mexico Steam locomotive and Railroad Historical Society is restoring a steam engine that hit the tracks on May 17, 1944. It travelled 1,090,539 miles. It is being completely restored by volunteers and will be put back into service for excursions soon, we hope.
You can visit the restoration project on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 1833 8th NW, Albuquerque, New Mexico. One of the members will give you a tour and explain what the restoration.
It is close to Old Town and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.
Try Cafe Azul for the best huevos rancheros with Hatch green chile – get the papitas, not the hash browns. BUT: the hot Hatch green chile may take you way out of your comfort zone. Remember you can always have it on the side.
In September there is always the model railroad exhibit at the state Fair. If you like New Mexico trains, ride the Amtrak, the Railrunner, and the Cumbres and Toltec narrow gage. At Christmas, take the Cumbres and Toltec through the snow.
You can see a video showing the history and restoration of 2926 on You Tube.