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History of the San Quintin

History of the San Quintin from Cunard Lines S/S Andes to being scuttled at Subic Bay

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Studio Stateroom Norwegian epic

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Philippines

February 22, 2015 by Charles W. Davis

2014-06-24 09.46.19

Diving Malapascua Island Cebu Philippines

I recently had the opportunity to take a working vacation to Malapascua Island. The island is located in the strait between the Island provinces of Cebu and Leyte in the Philippines. It is about a four and a half hours by bus or a two and a half hours by car trip from the Cebu International Airport. At the northern tip of Cebu you will find the town of Maya which provides ferry service to Malapascua which is about a 30 minutes boat ride away. The island is small, only about 1.6 km long and .6 km wide.

Most of the resorts are along a white sand beach at the southern tip of the island called Bounty Beach. Boats from Maya drop passengers at the west end of the beach. West and north of the beach is the area that is generally called the village. It is the largest of the nine little settlement around the island and the only one with paved roads. Most people walk to their destination but if you want a ride you can catch a motor scooter and back ride. The infrastructure is basic, some will even say primitive. Fresh water is limited as is electricity. There are no high rises or international hotel chains. It is a typical island fishing settlement. In the early 1990s, the island had a small tourism industry. It was mainly backpackers who stayed for the wonderful white sand beach, crystal clear waters and the genuinely friendly people. There were a handful of beach huts for rent. Back then Lonely Planet called it an undiscovered paradise. Dik de Boer a Dutchman and his Filipino wife read a Lonely Planet article and visited the island in 1996. They loved it and when they returned the following year they brought scuba gear and a portable compressor with them. Following tips from local fisherman they were soon diving with Thresher sharks, Hammerheads and Manta Rays. (more…)

Dive Subic Bay

February 22, 2015 by Charles W. Davis

Subicdive_html_m4c7b5539Subic Bay is the place to dive if wreck diving is your favorite type of diving. Subic Bay and Coron are the two leading destinations for wrecks. Subic has a greater number and they are closer together, Coron has better visibility, better reefs and caves. Subic Bay is a tourist destination, while Coron attracts mostly divers and a few other adventure tourist.

Toilets — When You Got To Go, You Got To Go!

December 6, 2017 by Charles W. Davis

Toilets

Imagine you are enjoying a walk around Paris and find yourself needing a restroom. You do not really see anywhere nearby and a quick check on your map program shows the nearest fast food place is 2 kilometers or a mile away. The few places serving food and drinks near you look crowded and while there has to be one you do not spot a restroom.

You keep walking and soon it becomes a little more important to find something. Across the street you spot a directional sign with “WC” on it. A water closet okay we are saved. You cross the street and you see a small line of people in front of a pod on the sidewalk. Is that a restroom? YES

I do not have to imagine it as that was me one day while sightseeing in Paris. Finding toilets in Paris and many other locations in Europe is not always simple. When you do find them, they might be something you never seen before.

toilet paris france europs

A Free Toilet in Paris

Sidewalk Convince.

This restroom is available 24 hours a day and is free. It allows one user at a time. When I finally got inside of the pod shown above, I was surprised about the size. I am going to guess the inside was about 5 feet wide and 8 feet deep. By the door was a sink with a mirror and a hot air hand dryer. Along the back was a toilet and there was a changing shelve for a baby. Plenty of room for a stroller or a wheelchair.

entry panel Paris toilette

Entry Panel

 

When the person in front of you opens the door and comes out, you can not rush right in. As you can see from the instructions above there is a procedure to follow. When the door opens, the light on the panel turns red for out of service. About 10 seconds later, the door closes, the wash cycle light comes on and it goes into a wash cycle. This takes about an hour. Okay it takes about five minutes, it just feels like an hour as you are waiting in line.

During the wash cycle the toilette bowl is cleaned and sanitized, the sink is washed and dried and the floor is washed and dried. I have no idea exactly what is going on, but it reminds me of the sounds of an automatic car wash, including a vacuum that gets the water off your car to dry it. When the wash cycle is finish the vacant light come on. You can then push the button to open the door. Pushing the button while in the wash cycle does nothing.

When you step inside it is all stainless steel and everything was dry. It even had a nice clean and fresh smell to it. A recorded voice, in different languages, tells you to hit the close door button and informs you to press the button again to leave. The voice also says that additional information is available by pressing the information button. Take your time and relax but not too long. If you are not done in 19 minutes, a voice will warn you that the door will open in one minute.

Paid sidewalk Restroom in Cannes France photo by charles davis

Paid Sidewalk Restroom in Cannes France

In other places, similar rest rooms are available but they may cost you. The rest room shown here in Cannes was a pay for use. It also cleaned between guest.

Train & Bus Stations.

Train and bus stations have a great deal of foot traffic and many people will need to use the facilities. Seldom will you find one free but they are there and very handy when you need one. Some will have an attendant collecting the fee, while others will use a turnstile like a subway. Expect it to cost about 50 cents, some may be a Euro or even higher.

Most train stations and bus stations will have large public bathrooms. However, you may come across smaller private ones similar to the ones on the street in concept.

Stop in a Fast Food Restaurant

I am sure we have all done it. You need a restroom so you stop in at a nearby fast food restaurant. You see the rest room sign and the smaller sign that says restrooms are for customer use only. You keep going, do what you need to and leave. That might not work in some places in Europe. See, you need to key in a code to open the door, and the code is on your receipt.

Trotters Harness Racing Paris Style

November 25, 2017 by Charles W. Davis

Standardbred Racing with a Twist.

The evening I spend watching the trotters race at the Vincennes Hippodrome in Paris was great. I mention some of the highlights of the track in the post VINCENNES HIPPODROME OF PARIS. The racing experience was different as well. Yes they were racing standardbreds, but there were many differences in how they raced. Here are some of my observations.

trotting trotters

Standardbred Racing Paris

Trotters

In the United States there are more pacers than trotters. In Canada there seems to be more trotters but there is still a good number of pacers. In Europe, they have trotters. When I was living in Germany, I only saw trotters racing. In fact the name of the sport translates to trotting horses. The French counter part of the United States Trotting Association is LeTrot. The night I went to the races there were eight races. All of them trotters. Another difference was that two of the eight races were under saddle. While there are some races under saddle in the United States they are primarily demonstration races. The coloring is more varied in the European trotters.

Breaking Rules.

In the US, when a horse goes off stride (changing gaits) the rules require the driver to pull the horse to the outside and bring them back on gait. The horse must also not gain a distance advantage. If these actions happen, then the horse can rejoin the race. A prime example here is the November 25th race that my 1% horse Nower Power was in. Approaching the finish line in a clear second place, he broke stride. The driver tried to bring him back on stride and took him outside. He cross the finish line still off gait. However, as he did not gain a distance advantage, he was declared to finish second.

In Europe, if a horse changes gaits, they are disqualified. There seem to be more horses going off stride but part of that is likely how they race. More later.

Drivers and Jockeys

In the US, we use drivers behind the horses and riders if mounted. In Europe, they are jockeys. Also in the US, drivers register their own colors to wear while racing. In Europe, the jockeys wear the colors of the owners.

Distances

Here is a surprising one for me. When we race in the US almost all of the races are at 1 mile, that is 1,600 meters. Some fair racing might be longer, but races where you bet are all 1 mile. Thoroughbreds race at different distances but not Standardbreds. My evening at the races in Paris saw the shortest race at 2,100 meters or about 1.3 miles. The longest race of the evening was 2,850 meters or about 1.75 miles.

The Course.

a look at the track

An Aerial View of Vincennes Hippodrome. Image by Vincennes Hippodrome. paris standardbred horse racing

An Aerial View of Vincennes Hippodrome. Image by Vincennes Hippodrome.

In the US we have bank oval tracks. Generally you will find a race track has a track that is ½ mile, 5/8 mile or a mile long. Having each race at one mile the horse always start at the same position on a track. Vincennes Hippodrome is different. Not only do you have different starting points, you can have different tracks. If you look at the aerial photograph and the diagram you can see how the track is laid out. The day I attended they only used the smaller track PP. These videos will help understand the course.

By historicair - Created by historicair., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=579417

The different track arrangements.

Take a look from ground level.

Here is the 2100 meter Grand course

 

The Start

In the US and Canada, we have a starting car that the horses start behind. Europe sometimes uses a starting car. Of the 8 races I watched, 1 used a starting car. The rest are too hard to explain, you have to see to believe. Here is a start under saddle, later is a full race video with a sulky.

The Entries

Horseman often complain getting stuck in the 8th or 9th post position. The night I was visiting a couple of races at 10 horses, two had 12 horses, but 15 and 16 horses were the most common.

22 November 2017.J-68 NIGHT LAUNCHES GRAND PRIX D’AMÉRIQUE EPIQE SERIES FINAL COUNTDOWN

The Prix d’Amérique is the final of a series of races at the Vincennes Hippodrome.

Created in 1920 as a tribute to the United States’ commitment to World War 1, the Grand Prix d’Amérique is the planet’s biggest trotting race. The star harness event brings together the World’s best performers over the classic distance of 2,700 meters. (about 1.7 miles)

This series and the final race is the most prestigious in Europe. It is also considered the world championship. The Prix d’Amérique is raced in January each year with over 40,000 in attendance. It is broadcast live to 35 nations. The betting handle for the race is over 40 million euro and over 9 million betting slips are printed. The purse is a cool Million Euro (1.2 Million USD).

I was at the race in 1996, and watched David Wade from Rosecroft race SJ Photo.

Putting it All Together

Take a look at this video of the Prix d’Amérique 2017 to see how races are done Paris style.

Vincennes Hippodrome Paris Racetrack

November 1, 2017 by Charles W. Davis

VINCENNES HIPPODROME OF PARIS

The Vincennes Hippodrome located near the Vincennes Palace in Paris is one of the most famous racetracks in the world. It is here you will find the World Trotting Championships as well as Harness Racing World Triple Crown. The track dates back to 1863 and is one of the largest in the world. It has a seating capacity of over 60,000 in the clubhouse and grandstands. It also has an infield area for parking and other spectators. The restaurants will seat 1,800 people.

Of the three days I was in Paris at the end of October, I was lucky because one evening of those days they had racing at Vincennes Hippodrome. On the way to the race track, one of my transfers was closed. An attendant directed me to another subway line going to where I was headed. My maps gave me another stop to get off and a transfer by bus to within a 10 minute walk. It was interesting because the walk took me by way of a hiking trail. Still it did bring me to the “race track”. Actually it brought me to the back side of the track and the parking lot there was closed. The entrance was a mile away. For the record, if my internet had been working, I would of found that there was a shuttle from the bust stop to the racetrack, I was just early.

An Aerial View of Vincennes Hippodrome. Image by Vincennes Hippodrome. paris standardbred horse racing

An Aerial View of Vincennes Hippodrome. Image by Vincennes Hippodrome.

My walk around the outside of the track took me pass the paddocks. The paddocks are on the front side of the track away from the barns, next to the clubhouse. For those not familiar with horse racing, the paddock at a racetrack is the staging area for the races. Horse must be inside the paddock a prescribed time before the start of the race. It is here that the horses are prepared for the races. They looked outstanding, much better than any I have ever seen elsewhere.

Hippodrome de Vincennes standardbred racing

Hippodrome de Vincennes Paddock Area

First Impressions

owners entrance standardbred racing sir charles stables

Owners Entrance

I arrived about 15 minutes before the gates open. The gates seem to be from the original track built in the 1800s.

The first thing I did notice is that the owners have their own entrance, in fact, it seems

they have their own club house. Looking in from the outside it was very upscale. However, even the portion for the general public was outstanding.

As I mentioned, I was there early. I would have been the first one inside, however, the girl at the ticket counter had no change. The entrance fee is 3 , the smallest I had was a 10. so I had to wait until she sold some tickets. When I stepped inside I was impressed by the size. I had been there once before years ago, but that was a day of a major race and there were over 50,000 people there that day so did not really get to look around much. Now, there were only a hand full of people at this time.

As you entered the building, you were in a hall with four levels of grandstands in front of you.

Hippodrome de Vincennes entrance sir charles stables

Hippodrome de Vincennes entrance

Food and Drinks

While some of the food outlets were closed, there were at least 5 that were open. From simple sandwiches to 5 course dinners.

Hippodrome de Vincennes

Hippodrome de Vincennes On the ground floor, restaurants on the upper levels.

 

La Prestige fine dining Restaurant Photograph by charles Davis

La Prestige Fine Dining Restaurant Photograph by Charles Davis

After watching a few races outside ( more on the races in another article) I went looking for a place to eat. Was not up to the fine dining. On the ground level were a couple of places with sandwiches and hot dogs, but I went up to a pub.

standardbred racing france paris

After Work Hippodrome Pub Photograph by Charles Davis

I decided to grab a soft drink and get a hot dog as I watched a few races from inside the Pub

Hippodrome Pub photograph by Charles Davis

View from the Hippodrome Pub By Charles Davis

View from the Hippodrome Pub By Charles Davis

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Track Side

I will write an seperate article about the track and the racing, but here is a preview of the track area itself.

Grandstands from track side. Photograph by Charles Davis

Grandstands from track side. Photograph by Charles Davis

winner circle

Winner Circle and Paddock Entrance. Photography by Charles Davis

 

Winners Circle Photograph by Charles Davis

Winners Circle Photograph by Charles Davis

A Wasted Day– At Sea on the Norwegian Epic

October 25, 2017 by Charles W. Davis

A Wasted Day — At Sea on the Norwegian Epic

studio cabin

Studio Cabin on the Norwegian Epic

I guess I just wasted a vacation day here aboard the Norwegian Epic. Today (Tuesday) was a day at sea. The early morning hours the sea was a little rough and you could feel a little movement that kept me from falling right to sleep. I woke super early, it was just before 9am. I put on the changing mood lights and read for a while. Got up and showered around 9:40, then walked up two decks to the fitness center on deck 14. There I had a body composition analysis done. It analyzes your weight and using electrical impedance tells you how much fat you have and where. Also, your water retention. I already knew I was overweight, now I know where.

It was after 11 and I had not eaten, so it was off to get something. I really did not feel like eating breakfast so I skipped the buffet at the Garden Terrace and headed down to deck 6 for O’Sheehan’s. O’Sheehan’s is set up as an Irish pub and starts serving lunch at 11. It is also one of Norwegian Epic’s included restaurants. The Norwegian Epic has a number of different dining options, some are included in your fare, while some are extra.  I just ate lightly, having a grilled chicken sandwich. After my snack, I walked up to deck 15 and enjoyed the fresh air as I walked around the deck.

Blackjack King

So around 1:20 pm, I head on down to the casino to enter the daily blackjack tournament. I wore the “I Got Lucky” t-shirt I won last year at another NCL blackjack tournament. On the Epic they run their contest differently. They run separate tournaments that start and finish the same day. On the Getaway, the top 7 money winners in the elimination rounds went to the final held the last day of the cruise.

epic casino blackjack winner

Epic Casino

On the Epic, the winner of each elimination moves to the final. In the first elimination round, I did okay but was not the top player. I did much better in the second elimination.

Going into the final hand I was second in money, but I was first to bet. I bet large but held back some chips. This forced the others to bet large as well. I drew low cards and had to keep hitting. I got a 21 in five cards, so even if the dealer got a 21, I still win. Everyone else either busted or was beaten by the dealers 20. I won the elimination round. Since there were only two elimination rounds, there were only two of us in the final. I only bet a little in the first hand and got my only blackjack.

It seems that me and the other player were close in our winning in the first three hands. However, in the fourth of the seven hands the other guy bet all he had and lost. I just had to play out the remaining hands. I won the contest, got another t-shirt and a small cash prize.

More Food

Since the Garden Cafe was still serving lunch, I went up and got some fresh pasta. They have a pasta station where they cook it to order. Fresh pasta only takes three minutes to cook. As the pasta cooks, they prepare your sauce.

lunch Norwegian epic

Fresh Pasta and a Stuff Pepper

After my pasta, I went back to the studio stateroom and read for a while. Around 4 pm, it was back to the fitness center for 45 minutes on a reclining stationary bike. Then next door for the Thermal Spa.

Chill in the Heat

When I was on the Norwegian Getaway last year, I tried the thermal spa and liked it. So I made sure I purchased a pass when I booked my cruise. The pass is good for the whole cruise. This is an adult only spa with saunas, steam rooms, hot tubs and lounge areas. This one is set up a little different as the steam rooms are not coed like they were on the Getaway. It does not have the salt spa either that the Getaway did. However, there are two large saunas with unbelievable ocean views. Also, they have a balcony that overlooks the stern.

I spent about an hour in and out of the sauna followed by some time in the lounge. I selected one of the tiled lounge chairs. They are heated and really helps you to relax. From my chair, I could see out the glass wall that separates the balcony from the lounge. We were traveling east, so the view was to the west and the sunset. It was the most magnificent sunset I have experienced in years. The colors were all so vivid and alive. I though about going to get my camera, but did not want to take the time to change. After the sunset, I changed and went back to the stateroom to change for dinner.

Dining

I went to the Manhattan Club Restaurant. It is modeled after a New York Supper Club with live music. However, it is one of the complementary restaurants onboard. I started with a chicken Cesar salad I had planned on getting a steak, however, I “settled” on the rack of lamb instead. Desert was a chocolate lava cake with a strawberry compost.

epic dining

Norwegian Epic dining late night on deck

I had some time to waste, so I went up on the top deck and relaxed under the stars. Around 9:30 was the show “Priscilla: Queen of the Desert”. It is a Broadway musical play about three drag queens in Australia. It was very good lasting about an hour and a half.

epic show

Priscilla: Queen of the Desert Show

Priscilla: Queen of the Desert Review

The Show, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, is a musical with a book by Australian film director-writer Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott, using well-known pop songs as its score. Adapted from Elliott’s 1994 film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the musical tells the story of two drag queens and a transgender woman, who contract to perform a drag show at a resort in Alice Springs, a resort town in the remote Australian desert. As they head west from Sydney aboard their lavender bus, Priscilla, the three friends come to the forefront of a comedy of errors, encountering a number of strange characters, as well as incidents of homophobia, while widening comfort zones and finding new horizons.

Norwegian Cruise lines adapted a shorter version that premiered on the Norwegian epic in October 2015. This version last about an hour and a half and I found it very good. I am including a short video clip as part of this review so you can get a feel for the performance and the presentation. I will admit, I was not very excited about the story line when I first heard what it was but decided to go anyway since I had made the reservations and it was a sold out show. There is no extra charge for this show but seating is limited and the show is done only twice during the weeks sailing.

The story line was interesting and I felt that it was a true representation of the times that the three main characters where experiencing. The musical abilities of the singers were outstanding and the acting portion was equally good. Some of the backdrops and props were a little corny, but have to give them some lead way since it is a stage production.

That is one Day

That was basically my day at sea. I bypassed most of the planned activities on-board and just planned my own day. I will present some other post in the next few days talking about the ports that i did visit.

Erie Canal

July 16, 2017 by Charles W. Davis

This week marked the 200 anniversary of the Erie Canal. Growing up the “barge” canal was just a few miles away. The “barge” canal was built a hundred years later that rerouted certain sections of the Erie canal and improved the original. The Eire Canal was the first “superhighway” of the United States. It had a huge impact not only on the western New York but was instrumental in westward expansion.

Found on Wikipedia we learn this about the Erie Canal: “First proposed in the 1780s, then re-proposed in 1807, a survey was authorized, funded, and executed in 1808. Proponents of the project gradually wore down opponents; its construction began in 1817. The canal has 35 numbered locks, plus the Federal Black Rock Lock,[ and an elevation differential of about 565 feet (172 m). It opened on October 26, 1825.

In a time when bulk goods were limited to pack animals (an eighth-ton [250 pounds (113 kg)] maximum, and there were no railways, water was the most cost-effective way to ship bulk goods.

The canal, denigrated by its political opponents as “Clinton’s Folly” or “Clinton’s Big Ditch”,was the first transportation system between the eastern seaboard (New York City) and the western interior (Great Lakes) of the United States that did not require portage.

Early Passenger Transportation

It was faster than carts pulled by draft animals, and cut transport costs by about 95%. The canal fostered a population surge in western New York and opened regions farther west to settlement. It was enlarged between 1834 and 1862. The canal’s peak year was 1855, when 33,000 commercial shipments took place. In 1918, the western part of the canal was enlarged to become part of the New York State Barge Canal, which ran parallel to the eastern half of the Erie Canal, and extended to the Hudson River.

In 2000, the United States Congress designated the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor[9] to recognize the national significance of the canal system as the most successful and influential human-built waterway and one of the most important works of civil engineering and construction in North America.”

The New York State Canal System (formerly known as the New York State Barge Canal) is a successor to the Erie Canal and other canals within New York. Currently, the 525-mile (845 km) system is composed of the Erie Canal, the Oswego Canal, the Cayuga–Seneca Canal, and the Champlain Canal.In 2014 the system was listed as a national historic district on the National Register of Historic Places in its entirety, and in 2016 it was designated a National Historic Landmark.

The Erie Canal connects the Hudson River to Lake Erie; the Cayuga–Seneca Canal connects Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake to the Erie Canal; the Oswego Canal connects the Erie Canal to Lake Ontario; and the Champlain Canal connects the Hudson River to Lake Champlain. The Erie Canal is a canal in New York that is part of the east–west, cross-state route of the New York State Canal System (formerly known as the New York State Barge Canal). Originally, it ran about 363 miles (584 km) from Albany, on the Hudson River, to Buffalo, at Lake Erie. It was built to create a navigable water route from New York City and the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes.

erie canal

Pittsford on the Canal

Today. The Erie Canal still had a major impact. While barges are rare, locals and tourist alike take to the canal for recreation and sight seeing. The canal pathways that were once used by mules, are now used by hikers, runners and bicyclist. Romantic walks on the river have replaced the luxury barge travel . Where passengers would exit from the barges for refreshments waiting for their turns through the locks, now people enjoy the quaint restaurants and pubs that are along the banks.

Erie Canal lock 32

Lock 32 in Pittsford , is a “modern” lock started a hundred years ago as the Erie Canal route changed by passing Rochester.

erie canal today

In May 2017, a local brewery was renovating, they purchased 6 new tanks which were transported on 2 barges. The media and public followed them as they follow the Canal from New York to their new home. Here they are entering lock 32

The barge being raised within the lock

Standardbred Horse Racing

May 20, 2017 by Charles W. Davis

Those who know me, know that years ago I owned a large standardbred training facility and had a number of horses. Okay often over a dozen. However, negative impacts after 9 11 caused the racing industry to nearly collapse and I was one of many who could no longer stay in the industry. The cost to keep a race horse in training can be about $5,000 a horse and if they are not earning purses that all comes out of the owners pocket.

 

harness racing

Sally De Vie being led out to her training.

 

standardbred sirchas

Dewey Ann

When I originally wrote this article bak in May 2017, I owned 1% of 2 horses. I have recently expanded to where i not have 1% in five horses. To keep my followers ( Ihope there are some out there) informed on the new Charles Davis Stables I have created a new website. Please visit it. just follow the link to the Charles Davis Stables 1% horses

Scuba Diving from a Cruise Ship

January 27, 2017 by Charles W. Davis

Diving from a Cruise Ship

cruise ship scuba diving

Cruise ship Scuba diving

A Cruise vacation might not be seen as an option for a diving vacation, however, it can be. Millions of people each year spend their vacations on a cruise ship. Once considered a vacation for the rich or elderly, the cruise ships now see passengers in every age group and in many economic groups. Some ships are small with only a hundred passengers or even less. Many of the new cruise ships have well over 5,000 guest on-board. Warm weather destinations are some of the most favorite cruise destinations, however, you will see sailing to Alaska, the Baltic Sea and even to the Antarctic.

While a cruise ship might not be the first thing comes to mind when planning a dive vacation, you might not want to dismiss it straight out. If you are looking to dive three or four dives a day every day of your vacation, then a cruise will not fit your plans. However, if you are looking for a dive vacation that balances diving with other activities or need to take into consideration the needs of traveling companions that are not divers, a cruise may be a good choice.

scuba diving holidays at sea

Sports Bar on Norwegian Getaway

If you have never taken a cruise, here are a few basics. A cruise ship can be compared to a full board resort. The cruise fare will include your stateroom and many of the on board activities. Your meals are included as are some beverages during meals. You generally will have a few options of where you want to eat. There will be one or more fine dining restaurants and one or more causal restaurants or buffets. Some cruise ships offer specialty dining at a small surcharge. Some the larger cruise ships will have over a dozen different places you can eat a mixture of included and at an additional cost. Each evening you will find in your stateroom a newsletter showing all the activities the following day including the opening and closing times of different venues. In the evening, expect to find a number of shows and other nightlife offerings. On the days you are in a port, the newsletter will list information about the port including the times you can leave the ship and when you must be back on board.

A typical cruise is a week long and will have four or five ports of call, the remaining days will be at sea. Depending on the cruise you select, you may find that diving is possible at each port of call. Most of the Caribbean best diving destinations are also visited by cruise ships, as are Mexico’s Pacific coast, parts of the Mediterranean, Australia and ports in Asia. A recent cruise gave me the opportunity to dive in Honduras, Belize, Costa Maya Mexico and Cancun. I left from Florida so arriving a few days early gave me the possibility of some dives before the cruise. That trip brings my total to 12 dive destinations and 40 dives while taking a cruise.

Shore Excursions and Port Calls

When we talk of a “Port Call” or “Ports of Call”, we are simply talking about a stop the ship makes on their itinerary where you can get off the ship. You will also see the terms “Pier” and “Tender” applied to the port calls. When a cruise ship is at a port that is “Pier”, guest can walk on and off the ship. The term “Tender” means that the cruise ship anchors in deep water and a smaller boat called a tender transports

cruise ship scuba diving destinations

Norwegian Sky in Nassau

passengers to the shore. The tendering process adds to the time it takes to get off the ship. The term “Shore Excursion” is used by the cruise industry to mean a tour activity off the ship. The cruise lines arranges with local tour operators tours that can be offered to the guest on board the ship. These are sold on board and before the cruise on the cruise line’s website. A debate you often hear from experienced cruises is whether to book a cruise lines offered shore excursion or do it yourself. Both those for and against using the cruise line suggested tours have merit. On the positive side, the tours are aligned with the ships arrival and departure times. While a cruise line will clearly state the tours are by independent tour operators, if the tour is late returning to the ship the cruise line will know and insure that the passengers are not left behind. On the negative side, cruise ship sold shore excursions are often a cattle boat activity. Hundreds of passengers get off the ship, file onto buses that travel to the tour’s destination. At the tour stop, passengers file off the bus, follow a tour guide with a little flag, then back on the bus to the next destination. Also, cruise ship lines are in business to make a profit, so there is a mark up added in to cover the cruise line’s cost and a profit margin.

These concerns can also be raised concerning scuba diving as a shore excursion. I have dived using the ships shore excursion as well as arranging my own. Years ago, scuba divers and snorkelers were often grouped together and fifty or more people may arrive at a dive site at the same time. Today, the trend is to keep them separate and the cruise lines deals directly with dive operators not tour operators who sub contract. The cruise lines generally do not announce who operates their tours, however, with the power of the internet the identity does not stay secret. In most cases, the cruise lines are working with a leading dive operator in each port.

Shore Excursions or Self Booked?

Whether you should book a shore excursion from the cruise line or do it yourself is not an easy answer. The first point should be, are you comfortable with who the dive operator is. While the cruise lines do not list the operators, if you look at reviews of the shore excursions you will often see the name of the tour operator. From there you can look at reviews for that company. You can also see, how much a cruise line marks up a trip. A two tank boat dive with no equipment in Nassau by the cruise line is $179, while booking direct with the company it is $150 ($139 plus 7.9% tax). In this case, the company does provide a pick up at the cruise terminal for direct bookings, however, that is not always the case.

plan ahead and save on cruise diving

plan ahead and save

If you are considering making a reservation direct with a dive operator, there are a number of items to carefully consider. First and foremost is the times. Your cruise itinerary will show you the date and time you will be in port and the departure time. Look closely at those times, some cruise lines show the local time while others show “ship” time. Some cruise lines will move the clock forward or back during the cruise to reflect the local time where they are. Others keep the time based on the ships departure port. Ship time could be one or even two hours different then the local time. You also need to take into consideration getting off the boat. Take as an example a dive boat that leaves at 8:30 am. If your cruise is schedule to arrive at 8:00am you might be thinking of making a reservation. That might not be enough time. When the ship announces you can depart the ship, there may be hundreds already in line waiting. As you get off the ship, your ship board ID is scanned. While that will only take a handful of seconds, it adds up if hundreds are in front of you. Additionally, the passengers departing on a ship’s shore excursion will have priority over those going off on their own. If the port is one that uses a tendering you need to also consider the time it takes to get ashore. However, if your ship has a late departure, you might be able to do an afternoon dive. In those cases, you are not rushed to meet up with short deadline.

A second item, will be the meet up with the dive operator. Consider how will you get to the dive operator if doing it on your own and the cost. Some operators will provide pick up at the pier while others will not. Also, make sure about the pick up point. I recently made a direct reservation with a dive operator with a pick up point at the cruise terminal. Unfortunately for me, the cruise terminal where the pick up point was at was not the same cruise terminal I arrived at. I had to take a taxi to get there.

While boat diving is the most frequent option, look to see if shore diving is possible. I have had some great shore dives. This gives you the freedom to dive on your own schedule, and often at very good rates.

While at the DEMA show in November, I asked a number of dive operators, that were located in ports that have cruise ships, their views. The response was mixed. Those that have contracts with the cruise lines prefer you book with the cruise line. There reasoning is that the time schedule is already tried and proven. They also stated that the transportation requirement is easier to organize. Those who do not have a contract gave me a more mixed response. A few have developed their business hoping to get divers from the cruise ships on their dive boats. They provide flexibility in their dive schedules to allow for the later departures that might be needed. These shops often offer smaller boats for a personal experience and arrange to meet at the pier. Some other dive shops stated they prefer not to get cruise ship divers. They are concern with late arrivals and the uncertainty of the divers qualifications.

Royal Caribbean Offers Diving Lessons.

In years past, many of the cruise lines offered on board diving programs. Princess Cruises had their New Wave program which they ended around 2008, NCL had their Dive In program which they phased out. They still use the title but it only shore excursions. Disney and Carnival have also closed their programs. They all still offer shore excursions so you can still dive from the ships of those cruise lines.

scuba dive in the Bahamas

RCCL Grandeur Of the Seas in Nassau

Recently, Royal Caribbean Cruise line has once again fully embraced scuba diving. The cruise lines now offers PADI Open Water Certification on 10 of their ships. These ships visit a total of 14 different dive destinations. Open Water Diver students sign up for the course prior to the cruise. While at home they complete the knowledge segment using the PADI Touch app or PADI eLearning® online. On board the instructors verify the satisfactory completion of the knowledge segment and start the confined water elements of the training. They do this in one of the swimming pools aboard. The students complete the four open water dives at two different destinations. Besides the Open Water Diver training, Royal Caribbean also does a “Try Dive” program. This is a training session using a swimming pool on the ship. The dive instructors on the Royal Caribbean ships also conduct “Discover Scuba Diving” programs. Those divers who have not had a dive in a while can do the “PADI Reactivate Program” as well. These 10 ships also have a PADI 5 Star Dive Center on board.

Where Do You Want to Dive?

The diver who has a non diving partner or family members may find it easier to suggest a cruise vacation over a dive resort. For the diver a cruise offers the ability to experience more than one destination. Cruises can also be a better value, since so much is included. You owe it to yourself to look into it before your next trip.

Church Book Cover

December 21, 2016 by Charles W. Davis
Churches of Pampanga Philiippines

Book cover

The Spanish had the Philippines as a colony for over 500 years. Originally ruled from Spanish Mexico, it has a blend of cultures not seen elsewhere in Asia. Today, the Philippines is a predominate Catholic country. Over 80% of the people are Catholic with another more than 10% other christian faiths. This can be seen in the week long Holy Week celebrations, the observance of All Hallows Day and the 3 month long lead up to Christmas.
This small selection of churches located in the Province of Pampanga are some of the oldest in the country, but they are just a few of those left behind when the Spanish left in 1898.

I received a number of comments about the photographs I had taken of these churches, that I decided to publish them in a book.

It is not a very large book but it is very nice. It can be found on Amazon and ordered from any book store. Best way is to order from the createspace site for Churches of Pampanga

Churches of Pampanga Philippines

December 4, 2016 by Charles W. Davis
St James the Apostle Church: Betis, Guagua Pampanga This church is considered one of the finest remaining example of a Colonial Spanish Church. The details in the ceiling paintings and the quality of the carvings behind the alter attracted the devoted and art lovers alike.

St James the Apostle Church: Betis, Guagua Pampanga
This church is considered one of the finest remaining example of a Colonial Spanish Church. The details in the ceiling paintings and the quality of the carvings behind the alter attracted the devoted and art lovers alike.

Churches of Pampanga Philippines

From the late 1500’s to 1898, the Philippines were a colony of Spain. The Spanish’s mandate from the Pope was to find new lands and convert the heathens to Christianity. At the time, the Lubao River and what is now called the Betis River were navigable and it became a natural place for the Spanish to develop. The Spanish settle at a small native village and in 1576 established the Pueblo of Bacolor. The local “land lord” was Don Guillermo Manabat.

The Bell Tower of San Guillermo Parish Church The first church was built on this site in 1576 with the establishment of Pueblo of Bacolor. Present church was built in 1764.

The Bell Tower of San Guillermo Parish Church
The first church was built on this site in 1576 with the establishment of Pueblo of Bacolor. Present church was built in 1764.

San Guillermo Parish Church

Spanish towns were built with a common concept. There was a plaza, often with a fountain in the center, on one side of the plaza was the church. The clergy selected Saint William the Hermit as the town’s patron saint. Saint William’s Spanish name was San Guillermo Emitano and the church became know as San Guillermo Parish Church. Today Bacolor is a small town shadowed by its larger neighbors San Fernando and Lubao. It has a very important past however.

  • In 1745, Bacolor was the acting capital of Pampanga which at that time cover an area now divided into 6 provinces ( States )
  • In 1755 it became the official capital of the province.
  • In 1762 when the British attacked Manila, the Spanish government moved the National government to Bacolor.
  • In 1764, while still the national capital, the original church was replaced by a stone one that still exists. By Royal Degree Bacolor became Villa Bacolor, one of only three “Villa” in the country.
San Guillermo Parish Church This stone church was built in 1764, replacing the original church which was heavily damages by some earlier earthquakes and had its dome collapsed a few years earlier.

San Guillermo Parish Church
This stone church was built in 1764, replacing the original church which was heavily damages by some earlier earthquakes and had its dome collapsed a few years earlier.

San Guillermo Parish Church Close up

San Guillermo Parish Church Close up

The church that remains today has most of the features of the church built in 1764, however there has been significant changes due to the force of nature. In June of 1991, Mount Pinatubo volcano erupted with one of the strongest eruption in recorded history. The eruption change the course of history for many Filipinos and the effects of the eruption was felt worldwide as the ash cloud in the atmosphere eventual covered the entire earth and raised the worldwide temperature. Highly productive farmland was turned into waste land in the area around Bacolor. After the initial disaster, more follow in the form of lahar. Lahar is a combination of the ash that reached the ground, small debris and water, it looks like the concrete coming out a commercial cement truck. Thick,slow moving and unstoppable. Like concrete when it dries out it is super dense. Every heavy rain brought more material off the mountains. In September of 1995, the situation became so bad that half of the 12 meter high ( about 40 feet) church was under the lahar and the town of 50,000 had to be evacuated.

Interior of San Guillermo Parish Church

Interior of San Guillermo Parish Church

In the photograph above, the green banners are above the top of the 12 meter high walls, as you can see today they are much less than 12 meters. In the photograph of the front of the church the entrance doors were at one time about 20 feet tall. If you look closely at the bell tower photograph, through the tree you will see an arch, it is just above ground level. That was the second level of the tower. The first level and the entrance are all now buried.

Alter and Retablos This area is well known for the quality of the alters and the Retablos. A Retablos is the structure behind the alter.

Alter and Retablos
This area is well known for the quality of the alters and the Retablos. A Retablos is the structure behind the alter.

As you walk around the outside of the church you will see small half circle windows, these are the top two or three feet of what once were large stain glass windows. Rounding the back of the church you come to a large open field, with a few triangular shapes sticking out and a small dome.

: Campo Santo De Bacolor The cemetery of Bacolor was in use from 1776 till 1991 when it was covered with six meters of lahar.

Campo Santo De Bacolor
The cemetery of Bacolor was in use from 1776 till 1991 when it was covered with six meters of lahar.

This is the church’s cemetery used for about 250 years, there are thousands buried here. However the graves are all covered with about 12 feet of lahar. The roofs of the structures you see in the cemetery are two stories tall. There are plaques along the walls showing the names of those that are buried here according to the church records.

Immaculate Conception Parish, Guagua Pampanga Immaculate Conception Parish dates back to 1590, the last major modification was in 1892. destination a Historical monument in 1982

Immaculate Conception Parish, Guagua Pampanga
Immaculate Conception Parish dates back to 1590, the last major modification was in 1892. Designated a Historical monument in 1982

Immaculate Conception Parish, Guagua Pampanga

Within ten miles of San Guillermo Parish Church are another twenty or so churches built before the Spanish left in 1898. Each has its history, and some really stand out. Immaculate Conception Parish, in Guagua Pampanga is about four miles away. While much of the outside of the building is hidden from view, inside some of the original portions of the building can still be seen, while most of it is from it renovation in 1892.

 Church of Lubao Founded in 1572 and moved to current location in 1602. current building dates to 1630. building is made of brick, the mortar to hold the bricks in place was made from sand mixed with egg whites.

Church of Lubao
Founded in 1572 and moved to current location in 1602. current building dates to 1630. building is made of brick, the mortar to hold the bricks in place was made from sand mixed with egg whites.

Church of Lubao

Here is something for you to think about as you eat your eggs for breakfast. The Church of Lubao was built in 1630. the tower is part of the original structure. It is made from bricks. Like any masonry work, mortar is used between layers to stick them together. In this case the mortar was made of sand fixed with egg whites.

Church of Lubao Designated a Historical site in 1952, it was also the church where President Macapagal the fifth President of the Philippines(1961-1965) was Baptized in 1910

Church of Lubao
Designated a Historical site in 1952, it was also the church where President Macapagal the fifth President of the Philippines(1961-1965) was Baptized in 1910

In addition to the religious history of this church, the church was used as a revolutionary headquarters in the uprising against the Spanish in 1898 and in 1899 was used by the Americans as a hospital.

Lubao alter The alter and Retablo of the Lubao Church

Lubao alter
The alter and Retablo of the Lubao Church

Lubao Bell Tower Bell tower of Lubao Church was used as an observation point by the Revolutionaries in the late 1890's

Lubao Bell Tower
Bell tower of Lubao Church was used as an observation point by the Revolutionaries in the late 1890’s

Christ Statue, St James Church While Betis artist were known to work mostly in wood, in the later centuries they also became renown for their work in stone and even more recently have adapted Lahar to be used for statues.

Christ Statue, St James Church
While Betis artist were known to work mostly in wood, in the later centuries they also became renown for their work in stone and even more recently have adapted Lahar to be used for statues.

St James Church

St James the Apostle Church often called the Betis church is in the Betis section of Guagua Pampanga has been called the Sistine Chapel of Asia. The ceiling of the church has a number of finely painted panels with various scenes. It is a Baroque inspired design that was built initially in 1660 with wood and other lightweight material, however that structure was upgrade as it caught fire a number of times, in 1770’s the church was rebuilt with concrete materials.

St. James Ceiling The painting in the ceiling at St. James date back as far as the late 1700's. They have been restored a number of times with major work done in 1930 and 1970.

St. James Ceiling
The painting in the ceiling at St. James date back as far as the late 1700’s. They have been restored a number of times with major work done in 1930 and 1970.

St. James Dome Another example of the art work in Saint James church

St. James Dome
Another example of the art work in Saint James church

Betis Pampanga is a little town with an international reputation, a reputation for fine furniture. The local artisans produce some of the best hand carve furniture in the world. There are many myths and stories about when this started, most people discount the stories saying it is a recent development but archive documents suggest differently. Betis is the name of a wide river in Spain. When early Spanish settles arrived in the area they saw a similar looking river and named it Betis and the town took the name. In the Spanish archives there are many references to Betis carvings, however they had been attributed to the area in Spain. However documents found in the archives in Manila from the Spanish colonial period seem to indicate that the Betis was the one in the Philippines. The most accepted fairy tale is that in the late 1600’s the local workers learned wood carving from Chinese Slave labors who were task to build the interiors of the newly constructed churches. The Filipinos quickly learned and adapted the traits, they also became very skill at being able to reproduce items of arts from drawings and painting of the items. Being highly skilled wood carvers and devote ( whether voluntary of not) Catholics they spent considerable time creating beautiful alters and Retablos.

 St James Alter The Alter and Retablos of St. James

St James Alter
The Alter and Retablos of St. James

The Betis church has eight chapels within a few minutes walk from the church. Each of these also have very elaborate Retablos. They are consider the finest collection of Spanish Retablos from their era.

Ceiling painting at St James It is hard to estimate the sizes of the ceiling paintings but pacing off the distance on the floor looking up, I would estimate this ceiling painting is about 10 feet by 15 feet.

Ceiling painting at St James
It is hard to estimate the sizes of the ceiling paintings but pacing off the distance on the floor looking up, I would estimate this ceiling painting is about 10 feet by 15 feet.

Wood Carving A wood carving in the style that Betis became famous for. Date is unknown but expected to be a few hundred years old.

Wood Carving
A wood carving in the style that Betis became famous for. Date is unknown but expected to be a few hundred years old.

Smaller wood carvings like this one that is on the wall at St. James’s were a status symbol in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. The Spanish controlled the wealth and very few Filipinos were allowed to have the finery that the Spanish enjoyed. The locals used the carvings as their show of devotion and if it was expensive and everyone knew it, well that was secondary.

The Spanish left their influence on the Philippines in many ways, but most of those ways center around the church. Churches such as these with long rich histories are a product of that time.

Note: This article was written about 3 years ago for another website. However, I had retained all rights. That website is no loner active, so I uploaded the articles here. It was one of 6 photo essays that I did for the other site.

The Cobbler’s Children Have No Shoes The Writer No Blogs

November 22, 2016 by Charles W. Davis

As a writer, This point came home to me as I visited different exhibitors at the DEMA show last week. DEMA is the Dive Equipment Manufacturers Association. Each year they have an annual convention and a trade show. It attracts thousands upon thousands of individuals and companies from around the world. It is not a consumer show, but one that is meant to bring together professionals in the industry.

I was there with a media pass and as I talked to different people in the industry I realized that my Scuba Diving Nomad website had not really been updated recently. Clearly a case similar to where the cobbler was so busy making shoes for customers he had no time for his own children’s shoes. I am a writer but my own site is lacking.

What  is happening as a Scuba Writer

I currently have an article published twice a week on the leading scuba diving website. Deeperblue.com. My author page on the site will show the items that I have written for them, post number 70 this year is pending publication. My recent article about shore diving in Bonaire was very well received.

lionfish dip

Lionfish Dip. a product featured at the DEMA show

In the last month, I have also ghost written a number of articles for the Dive zone website. I also did a few guest post on their behalf on other scuba diving and travel websites. As an example, I wrote an article about diving on the Great Barrier Reef that was on the travel tips website.

I have a couple of new outlets for my writing in the works, which I plan on sharing as soon as they are posted.

At the DEMA show, I was able to talk to a number of people that I would not of been able to with out that event. I am hopeful that some of these new introductions will lead to articles for my readers enjoyment and education.

Scuba Diving Nomad

Scuba Diving Nomad

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