Monday, May 5, 2014


As we sailed into Capetown, I was SO PUMPED to be returning to this amazing city.  I had been to Capetown on my first ship contract in 2009 and had a great time, but it wasn't enough time, so I was thrilled to be back.  This city is so beautiful and dramatic as you sail in to the valley that is looked over by Table Mountain.  South Africa is home to many unique plants and is very green and fertile, with its sweeping wine country and scenery that just about takes your breath away.  I thought it would be fun to rent a car, so we had prepared and Keri and I headed to the airport to pick up our van that held 7 of us cast members.  Keri had to drive because South Africa drives on the left side of the road, and once we picked up the rest of the cast… we were off on our adventure!
Beginning our drive!

We had decided to drive down to Cape Point, the Southern-most point of the continent of Africa.  First we navigated our van through downtown Capetown to head South and out of town.  Finally, we reached the coast and the views began.  It's just really dramatic scenery with mountains on one side and huge beaches stretching out on the other side of the car.  There are a number of drives that are supposed to be incredibly unique experiences in and of themselves.  Like driving down the Pacific Coast Highway, or along the Amalfi Coast in Italy, driving this road along Chapman's Peak is another drive that is known for being truly spectacular.  We were quickly greeted with the beginnings of those views with the Twelve Apostles, a rock formation of 12 cliffs that rise right in front of the highway and drop into the ocean below.  Poor Keri was a real trooper as all of us were craning our necks to take in the views and she was just trying to make sure we all survived some of the hairpin turns and cliffs we were going around.

Entering into Chapman's Peak drive was amazing.  We were all just speechless with the scenery around us and then we began driving through roads that were literally carved into the sides of the cliffs.  It was something I've never scene before.  Almost like a 3-sided tunnel, we drove with the mountain dropping into the ocean on one side and then the mountain itself above us, below us, and on the left side of the car as we drove South. It was incredible!!!  Eventually the mountains opened up to a huge beach.  We had decided we would just forget trying to get to the beautiful wine country of South Africa because we knew it would take a while to drive to Cape Point, but luckily, we passed Cape Point Vineyards!  

Crazy road carved into the mountains on Chapman's Peak Drive
Cape Point Vineyards
While not in the exact area of wine country, Cape Point Vineyards turned out to be a favorite detour of the day.  We drove through the beautiful gates and were greeted with a beautiful hill of grapes growing on perfect rows.  We made our way to the beautiful restaurant and pond area and found a seat outside.  Our view included those gorgeous vineyards and huge beach just beyond that.  This was truly idyllic and a perfect spot for lunch.  We did a wine tasting of a few different wines and then got two huge cheese and meat platers with nuts and homemade chili jam!  Oh my gosh, it was actually heaven!  We ate and laughed and drank in the crisp, cool air of South Africa.  It was like we were getting fresh air for the first time.  We had a ball, but eventually figured we better continue on our journey.

Happy cast wine tasting
We drove for about 30-40 minutes longer before we got to our next stop: Boulders Beach.  There was a quaint town around it, but Boulders Beach is famous for having a pretty substantial penguin colony that lives here every year.  We pulled in and began our walk to the beach, stopping to look at shops and have some homemade ice cream from a store doing business out of a small window in a tiny stone building. It was so charming.  The penguins didn't disappoint, either.  

These particular penguins are call "Jackass Penguins" and they had so much personality.  We walked along a boardwalk area and observed the birds nesting and walking around the sand dunes.  At the end of the boardwalk was a viewing area that opened up onto the white sand beach and large round rock formations.  There were hundreds of little penguins wandering around and playing on the beach.  They were adorable.  I just couldn't help but laugh at their funny little walk.  They would swim so gracefully through the water and then ride a wave in, but as their bellies glided along the sand they would wobble around trying to stand up and sometimes just get swept right back into the ocean.  They would also do this trying to fling themselves up to sun on the rocks and it was all just so cute.  

Back in the car, we had our final destination in mind and we continued down the coast to Cape Point!  Finally as we entered the park we realized we were close.  The landscape completely changed to being more barren and lacking any trees, really.  We did start seeing signs warning us of monkeys, which was somewhat surprising.  Eventually we were rewarded by seeing about 8 pretty large baboons right in fronts of us.  There were 3 cars in a line that had stopped because the monkeys were on the road.  They were pretty intimidating and much larger than we had thought and all of a sudden one actually climbed and jumped onto the roof of the car in front of us and then jumped off.  They eventually crossed the road and we were on our way.  I couldn't help getting excited as we crept closer and closer to the Sotuhern tip of Africa, so I had to play some special music for the occasion; "Circle of Life" from Lion King blared full blast as we had this amazing Africa moment.  

We made it!
We finally reached Cape Point, but our journey wasn't complete.  In order to reach the very tip and see where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans converge, we had to hike a pretty substantial way up, up, up to a big old lighthouse and viewing area.  It was a really cool moment, having reached this remote spot that we had spent the day journeying to.  The views were other-worldly and the moment was worth the trek, for sure!  Our drive back went smoothly, with a few passengers snoozing most of the way.
At the very tip of the continent of Africa!  What a journey!

For dinner that night I had a plan.  The first time I was in Capetown, my dear friend, Laura Cochran had traveled there to meet me and join me on the ship for a couple weeks.  We hadn't seen each other in so long, but had an amazing meal at a pizza place and caught up on each other's lives for hours.  I wanted that pizza again because I had remembered it being so great!  I found the place, called Col Cacchio, on my blog from that first trip.  The pizza was, again, AMAZING and I was able to call home and catch up with some friends and family.  It all worked out great.  
Farewell, Capetown.

That night we went out to a casual bar and the next morning we were able to make a final, quick trip to the waterfront area and get some coffee and essential shopping done for the last leg of the Grand World Voyage.  As we sailed away from Capetown I went up to one of the top decks to take in the glorious views of this city as we departed.  Places like this make it easy to live rejoicing.  


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Welcome to South Africa!

We had two ports in South Africa, the first being Durban.  Durban is on the East coast and is a big metropolitan town on the ocean.  It's beautiful because it has this wide, golden beach that streches for miles and is backed by such a huge city.  It reminded me of Honolulu or Rio de Janeiro in that way.  For our one day here, we decided to head to U-Shaka Marine World, a water park/resort setup right in town.  The shuttle from the ship dropped us off and there was great shopping and some restaurants.  We headed straight for the water park and turned into little kids, trying to find the big slides, quickest lines, etc.  It was a really good time and we all had lots of fun on the slides, racing each other, and going down the biggest slide in Africa (which, come to find out, isn't all that big.  Ha ha!).  

We had a lot of fun playing in the park, but got hungry, so we headed out to find a restaurant.  Immediately we spotted a unique place to try; there was a long pier stretching out into the ocean and at the end was one building that held a restaurant.  We walked along the pier, enjoying the view of large sand sculptures, and found a table on the second floor of this restaurant.  What luck!  Our view was spectacular, the company was great, and we enjoyed an afternoon of South African food and views of ocean stretching for miles along the Durban coast.  

I couldn't quite let that view go so soon, so as the cast headed back I took some time to listen to music and walk the beach where there were tons of people surfing, flying kites, and enjoying the beautiful day.  Not he way back to the ship I was able to shop and buy some handicrafts from artisans making baskets and masks and all different kinds of African mementos.  Back on board the ship, though, we had an exciting few days.  As we sailed to Capetown we had the President and CEO of Holland America and the Carnival Corporation.  We got to perform for them and hear them speak, which was a great experience.  Both of these men were so incredibly generous, warm, and honest.  It really made me proud to work for the company.  

The highlight of this time on board, though, was having Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the ship.  Tutu is a Nobel Peace Prize winner and has been a figure for human rights around the world for decades.  He spoke twice and held a church service.  All of his time was spent with the biggest grin on my face.  It was great to see a Christian leader like him bringing the most awesome message of peace and love and hope and joy to everyone on board.  I think his generous spirit and big laugh made everyone sit back and appreciate things.  He was so candid and open throughout his visit and I think it really made a big impact on everyone present.  

We also got to enjoy the great music of the Soweto Gospel Choir, a Grammy Award-winning ensemble of 20 singers.  They brought a lively sound to the theatre and really made me miss my time worshiping at Brooklyn Tabernacle.  I just love gospel music and have been listening and working out to it, basically non-stop for months.  ha ha!  Soweto and Tutu really made this experience of sailing around South Africa one that I will NEVER forget.  A real highlight of my contract.

All the best, 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

In-between Islands

Traveling on a world cruise there are certain things you come to expect; there are going to be a lot of sea days, you are going to change time zones a lot, etc.  One thing that comes with the territory is moving from one continent to another, which can require some time and lots of travel in open oceans.  As we sailed from Sri Lanka to the continent of Africa, we had lots of sea days, but also 3 ports of call at small islands along the way.  It certainly helps to break up the long stretches at sea, but I also like going to these islands because they are so hard to get to.  There aren't a lot of people that travel to these ports and it makes for a unique and beautiful experience every time.  The first island was the large main island of the Seychelles.  

We got off the ship on the first day of our overnight in the Seychelles and walked around he main part of the port for a while.  Eventually we decided it would be nice to get to a beach and maybe find a spot to watch the sunset or grab some dinner.  We got a cab and headed up, up, up through the mountains and onto the other side of the island where our cab dropped us off.  He informed us that the Russian mafia owned this beach resort, but it was the nicest one on the island.  Ha ha!  We head in and as soon as we walked into the main courtyard/restaurant area of the hotel I knew it looked familiar.  We sat down and I asked the waitress if she was working there in 2009.  I said I thought I had been there before, but there were different tables.  As I described my night there we realized I was right.  In 2009 I had traveled to the Seychelles and been at this very resort with another cast from a ship.  It had been pitch black, since I had been there at night before, but sure enough- I was there.  I couldn't help but laugh at what a small world it is.  We had a nice time watching a gorgeous sunset and then wandered along the water for a while.
Not a bad view.

As we walked we sort of accidentally ran into this awesome bbq happening.  There were tons of stalls set up with locals cooking meats and veggie kebabs.  There were local coconut cookies (yum) and fresh-squeezed juices.  I was in heaven wandering around and finding my own dinner picnic situation.  Any local food on these islands is always so good because it is usually cooked so simply.  
Fun bbq by the beach.

The next island we reached was lovely Mauritius.  The day was blazing hot as we took the shuttle into town.  There was a nice shopping area, but we were there on a Sunday, so not much was open.  A group of us ended up negotiating a pretty good price to find a nice beach about 25 minutes away.  We took the cab to an area with lots of public beach space, clear water, and some nice resorts lining the water.  The day was perfect for the beach and I had fun walking along the water and exploring the fancy resorts, pretending I was wealthy enough to be there.  The highlight of the day in Mauritius was lunch, though.  We found a clearing where a bunch of small stands were placed.  Each one had different items, but I knew I had to go with one where I got a sandwich with fresh smoked herring on local bread and a freshly-squeezed orange, passion fruit, pineapple juice.  It was light and delicious.  I know I'm always talking about food, but it's one of my favorite ways to remember where I've traveled.  Most memories stay with me via food and food experiences.  

The last of our island days off the coast of Afria was in Reunion, a French colony right next door to Mauritius.  This island is absolutely beautiful and vast.  The shuttle actually was a gorgeous ride to an area called St. Gilles.  We were dropped off in a spot with a grocery, some cafes, bars, and a really nice beach.  I had a blast at the beach even though the current was crazy!  I found some nice spots for snorkeling and spent most of the morning exploring that way.  Tonyia and I wandered around and found a restaurant with crepes for lunch.  The workers spoke no English and the menu was all in French, which always makes for an interesting dining experience.  I knew enough to find a ham and cheese crepe and to order a caramel and almond crepe.  Perfect lunch accompanied by some delicious coffee in this quaint port of call.  The day finished up with a long walk to explore the coastline and a quick grocery trip before we sailed on our way to one of my favorite places in the world, South Africa!

Live rejoicing, 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Sri Lanka

As we approached our next port of Colombo, Sri Lanka, I got very excited because the more I researched, the more I realized how different Sri Lanka would be from anywhere I've been, how colorful the culture is, the mix of people groups and religions.  I was ready for it all!  We headed out from the ship pretty early in the morning and it was already blazing hot as we walked into town.  Right at the port gate we began to be berated with requests for our business.  The perpetrators were tuk-tuk drivers.  Tuk-tuks come n a variety of shapes and sizes, depending on where in the world you are traveling, but here in Sri Lanka they are 3-wheeled vehicles that barely seat a driver and 2 passengers and are open on the sides.  The tuk-tuk drivers were relentless, but we had a plan to walk toward the Pettah Market district.  

We eventually made it there and quickly realized that we were definitely a site to see as a group of young white people in this area of town.  It was interesting to be in a fairly local area and this city isn't exactly swarming with tourists as it is, so the whole thing was already a very authentic, colorful, loud experience.  I couldn't wait to get out and see more of this city, though.  After a few minutes of re-grouping and contemplating our options, Tonyia, Sergii, Anastasia, and I decided to hire a couple of tuk-tuks and go out and about in Colombo.  We wrangled a couple of drivers and struck up a deal for a few hours of their time and we climbed into our bright green and red rides.  We instructed our drivers that we wanted to see some of the temples and the lake area and just the sites of the city and just like that: we were off!  
Our rides for the day!

Those little tuk-tuks weave in and out of traffic and give a great ride!  The city is right in front of you and you get to smell it, see it, and feel the breeze as you do.  What fun.  Our first stop was at Lake Beria, a large lake in the middle of the city.  There's a beautiful wooden Buddhist temple that sits out on top of the water.  It was really pretty to see, but outside was the real attraction.  We saw a man sitting with a small basket beside him and as we approached, he took the lid off the basket and began to play a flute or horn of sorts as a cobra rose up out of the basket!  I hate snakes, so the whole thing was terrifying, but awesome, still.  The cobra was raising, almost floating out of its home, slashing forward every once in a while.  Just as I had had enough, the man reached over to a black bag next to him and started pulling out a python that was probably 9 feet long.  I couldn't believe it.  We were right on a sidewalk with these animals!  The man insisted we hold the snake, wrap it around us.  I wasn't thrilled, but Tonyia had way too much fun posing.  Eventually we pulled ourselves away and headed to the next stop.  
Can you tell how each of us feels about this situation???

Up next was a huge Buddhist temple/complex.  I don't really know how to describe it, but it was part temple, part museum.  It held hundreds and hundreds of Buddha statues, artifacts from the religion, very intricate wood carvings and paintings.  There were many levels to this place, open gardens, balconies over-looking temples and areas for burning incense.  It was a really cool place to explore.  We eventually happened upon an elephant chained up in a back parking lot area.  It was amazing to see, but also sad.  Why that elephant was there I have no idea.  

Tons of Buddha's.
Next we took the tuk-tuks to Galle Face, a waterfront lawn or park kind of public space.  It was a hot and windy day and there were lots of kites being flown on this lawn, which was fun to see.  I love getting out in public spaces like this where locals go to relax.  We said goodbye to Sergii and Anastasia here, but Tonyia and I decided to keep exploring.  Lunch took us to the Grand Cinnamon Hotel.  There, we found a restaurant called Sugar that had delicious local foods for us to try, but the highlight was dessert.  I'm not kidding when I tell you that even today, almost a month later, we are still talking about this dessert.  It was 3 slices of pineapple battered in a funnel cake type batter, deep fried and served with vanilla ice cream and a honey caramel sauce on top.  It was one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten.

Tonyia and I jumped into another tuk-tuk and we were on our way again, this time to a Hindu temple.  That's one of the things that make this culture so unique.  There's a major clash of religions here (Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Christian) with Indian influences, Thai and Chinese influences, African influences.  What's great, thought, is that it seems the people are all really living in harmony.  The Hindu temple was overwhelming.  It is shaped almost like some ancient pyramid or something, but it is absolutely covered in detailed sculptures and depictions of all the gods of this religion.  Hinduism has hundreds of gods that are all very unique and exotic looking, so these temples are really amazing to see in person.  They are colorful and intimidating.  

Hindu Temple up close.
Our tuk-tuk driver actually took us to see two of them before taking us to our last house of worship, the Jami-ul-Alfar Mosque.  Built with separate red and white stone, this building looks like it is made of peppermint and belongs in Candyland.  ha ha!  It's bright red and white facade sticks out in the middle of a VERY busy market area.  People were pouring in for midday prayers when we stopped for a couple pictures.  It was the end of our very beautiful, exciting day.  Back on the ship we ended with a quick dip in the pool before sailing away from this exotic country of Sri Lanka.  I had such fun exploring here via tuk-tuk.  


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Phuket, Thailand

Lucky for me, one of our singers, Sarah, has a friend who lives in Thailand.  Sarah had met this family on one of her previous ship contracts and became good friends with them, so when we went to Phuket for a day, we had our own, personal tour guides!  Having locals show you around is just the best.  They have history, context, transportation, they know the best deals, the best meals… it's always a win!  Our day started off by meeting Jimmy and his grandmother at the pier.  It was a bright, sunny day, and they picked us up and whisked us away from the busy area of Patong Beach.  

Already the vibe of Thailand was exciting; there were so many people, tons of shops, restaurants, Thai massage spas, etc.  We drove for a while and got to know each other, but the sites along the way were fantastic.  It was great to see local plants and signs for wild bird shows and elephants along the road.  I have recently become aware of the troubles with the horrific treatment of these captive elephants, so we definitely did not go for a ride or anything, but it was still amazing to see these huge creatures all over the place.  

Our first destination was a big Buddha statue on top of one of the hills of the island of Phuket.  Unlike the big Buddha in Hong Kong, this one was a bright, stark white.  Against the clear blue sky it was pretty awesome to see.  At the bottom of the statue was a monk who blessed Sarah and gave her some sir tot lucky bracelet and we headed up to the Buddha itself.  As we got to the top, the scent of incense was almost as overwhelming as the amazing sound.  There were tons of gold bells tied to the trees around the Buddha.  They had names and message written on them.  All different sizes, the bells made the most amazing, beautiful sound.  It was peaceful and clear and bright.  I don't know why it struck me, but I just loved the sound, so I had to get one of those bells to take with me.

Next up was Chalong Wat.  "Wat" is the word used for a Buddhist Temple and from first glance I knew the gorgeous Thai architectural influences really made this place special.  I had never seen anything like the bright red and gold facade of these buildings.  They were covered with delicate, ornate carvings and their cooped roofs seemed to pull themselves all the way up to a point, as if they were reaching for the heavens.  Each building was a work of art.  I could have walked around and discovered more and more details all day.  Inside were many beautiful Buddha statues, but the real treat was the outside of these buildings!  

As we were leaving we stopped because Jimmy spotted a couple guys selling something on the side of the road and made us stop.  They had what looked like palm leaves rolled into spheres.  Inside there was rice that had been cooked to be very sticky and sweet.  They stuff the rice down and let it dry a bit so as you peal away the outer shell you are able to munch on the sticky, sweet rice.  Treats like these are why you need a local guide!  We headed to their home for a bit to say hello to Jimmy's grandfather and have a glass of champagne.  What a wonderful home.  It was so bright and airy, sitting right on the edge of the water with tall palm trees and a gorgeous blue pool looking out to small islands in the ocean.  It was quite an amazing retreat and I could see why they would love living there.  

We continued our day driving around he island and stopping at some amazing overlooks.  It was great to see the many clean, crescent-shaped beaches along the coast and the clear blue water.  Our stomachs were calling, so we were thrilled when we pulled up to a resort called Boathouse for lunch.  I love Thai food, so I had been anxiously awaiting a good meal all day.  We had some Thai tea and a bunch of appetizers that were so fresh and delicious.  My main course was a Pad Thai that was filled with the most amazing, fresh seafood.  It had giant shrimp and calamari.  It was incredible!  The day couldn't have ended better than that.  

Our drive along Patong Beach road just continued to fill us with amazing visions of the many locals and people vacationing in Thailand.  The people here were so nice to us, but most of all, our guides made the day really great.

Miss everyone and hope you are well, 

Friday, March 21, 2014


Our next port of call, and the last of our major Asia cities, was Singapore.  I have heard a lot about Singapore and have found it very interesting for a long time.  It is a self contained province connected to the country of Malaysia, but it has become a huge metropolis, known for how clean, modern, and expensive it is.  I was excited to see what the city had to offer and get a look at this almost futuristic city in person.  When we arrived, most of the cast headed out through the terminal, which was a really big mall connected to the underground train system.  Super convenient for us!  

Now Singapore is known for being very clean.  It is even illegal to chew gum here and right away that organized, clean, orderly way of life was evident.  Just buying tickets for the train, there were organized lines, touch-screen maps, and clear signs to get us onto the train.  Once underground on the train we looked around and I looked at the floor and was amazed.  I would have eaten my lunch off the floor of that train, it was so clean.  Ha ha!  The day began with the first stop being the famous Raffles Hotel!  Not only is the Raffles a gorgeous building in a crisp, white, colonial style, but it's also the home of the Long Bar, where the Singapore Sling was invented.  We walked around the grounds for a bit and headed to the Long Bar.  We knew it would be expensive, but we just had to be tourists and have a Singapore Sling.  The Long Bar is a really cool place, actually, with woven palm fans and dark wood transporting you to a whole different time.  There are bowls of peanuts to much on, and tradition has visitors throwing the shells on the floor.  Then it was time for the drinks!  I got the original Singapore Sling, which was really good and refreshing for this incredibly hot day.  Some of the other cast had variations on the original, all equally delicious.  
Singapore Slings in the famous Long Bar at Raffles Hotel

Next we headed out walking through the city and we came upon another large mall.  We made a quick stop for coffee, wifi, and brief shopping, before continuing our walk where we saw buildings designed and based on human fingers and a large fountain area called the Fountain of Wealth.  All of this was mostly commercial space, but it was cool to see and we had fun playing in the fountain for a bit.  As we headed toward the waterfront we found another fun fountain and I had to get in.  Fountain-hopping is an old hobby of mine, brought into my life by Laura Cochran, and I was happy to get my feet wet here in Singapore, too!  

Singapore- Marina bay Sands all the way to the left
We eventually made it down to the bay, where there were some great views of the city and its ultra-modern architecture and skyscrapers.  It almost feels like a city on a different planet, or at least built in a different generation.  We walked through the helix bridge over to the incredible Marina Bay Sands hotel and shopping area, a building that is indescribable, really.  We stopped for lunch in the food court area there, which is in yet another mall (this whole place is like one GIANT shopping mall) and is right next to the indoor ice skating rink.  

Right by the Marina Bay complex is an area called Gardens by the Bay.  I had seen some pictures of it and thought it looked really cool, so I had to check it out.  It's basically the most out-of-this-world botanical garden you could imagine.  There are two buildings, which look straight out of the Jetson's.  They are greenhouses and hold rain and cloud forests and their sloped design collects rainwater to recycle and water the plants in the adjacent sprawling gardens.  The plants are beautiful, but the big attraction and most unique feature of the gardens are the structures they call "Supertrees."  They are these huge structures, up to 160 feet tall, shaped like trees that irrigate upward, allowing them to grow plants vertically.  They also collect solar energy and are just amazing to see.  I was only sorry that we weren't able to see them lit up at night.  Look them up to see some pretty awesome images.  I couldn't get over their strange look and how they changed the landscape of this otherwise fairly normal park.  
Supertrees at the Gardens by the Bay

We headed back to the ship to get ready for the night.  It was our dancer, Sasha's birthday, so we were excited to celebrate with her.  Since the city is so sleek and modern, we all got appropriately spiffed up for a night out on the town.  We started at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel.  The very top of the hotel is a big park area with a Skybar we wanted to check out.  We actually happened to be there the night of a big lightshow over the bay, which was fun.  The bar was great and seeing Singapore all lit up from the top of that amazing building was a pretty spectacular experience.  It felt glamorous and fantastic to be there, really.  

Celebrating Sasha's birthday!
After that we headed to another area of the city, again via the great subway system.  Clarke Quay is a really nice spot along the water.  There are tons of restaurants, people everywhere having a great time, and the energy was just right for a birthday celebration.  We had fun wandering around and exploring this fun spot as Sasha, the baby of the cast, turned a year older.  What a fun place to celebrate!  Our second day in Singapore was mostly taken up with some easy shopping and lots of internet time to catch up on pictures and calling family and friends.  I was so thankful for a good spot to do that!  Timing of this contract is coming into more and more perspective.  I have less than 2 months until I'm back at home and I'm SO EXCITED!!!  It's been tough to be away for so long, but I know it will make life back home that much sweeter.  

Live rejoicing, 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Hong Kong Part 2

Our night in Hong Kong began with all 9 of us going out together!  First we got a spot along the waterfront to take in the nightly light show that happens over the harbor.  There were tons of people out watching as the dozens of skyscrapers lit up in sync with music playing.  Then we were off to the Temple Street night market, led by Sergii and Anastasia.  It was pretty much the same as the lady's market, but it did have a different energy since it was nighttime.  I and a lot of fun finding souvenirs and bargaining and just feeding on the energy of the night.  It reminded me of a street fair in NYC.  One thing that's also great about Hong Kong is that there is free WiFi all over the place.  In fact during the night market I was able to call my dad and talk for a while.  

Our dinner that night turned out to be pretty interesting as well.  I had heard and Sergii also encouraged that we should take advantage of the street food near the night market.  At the cross streets there are open restaurants with casual seating out on the street and kitchens offering traditional Chinese fare.  I am a pretty adventurous eater, but even I was finding the whole situation pretty crazy.  The people trying to get us seated were all pretty messy looking and once we were seated they sort of threw sticky menus at us and handed us some cloudy glasses to pour water into.  We also saw a VERY dirty fingernail scrape off some dirt on a bowl sitting on the table.  Immediately we had lost 2 girls.  They refused to eat, but were kind enough to let our eating adventure continue.  

Eventually we all got food ordered and just sort of laughed at the situation, but also loved how bizarre it all was.  When the food came my jaw dropped; I had ordered "spicy chicken" and sitting before me was a plate of red hot peppers and some small pieces of chicken mixed in with them.  I mean- it was a plate piled so high with peppers that I had to dig to find chicken and I couldn't breather without coughing.  I took one bite and pushed it aside because there was just no way I could eat anymore.  The noodles and things were fine, though, and the night ended with a laugh as I argued to not pay the full price of the meal since it was practically inedible.  I couldn't argue much when the cashier said, "You order spicy chicken.  You say chicken is spicy."  Yeah- no problem there, I suppose.  The night went on as we found a couple fun bars and a lot more crew from the ship, out and about enjoying Hong Kong!

Cable car to Big Buddha
The next day me and the singer girls had a mission: Lantau Island and Big Buddha.  We had heard about this site, so we took the train out to Lantau and made it to a cable car.  The cable car ride over these mountains was really cool.  It's about a 25 minute ride, but our cable car was surrounded by quite a bit of fog.  It made for a pretty eerie and interesting ride, but we were bummed to miss some of the scenery.  Once we reached the end of the cable car we were in a sort of make-believe fishing village.  This village was built specifically for the site, but it was still pretty charming and had some nice little restaurants and cafes.  

Big Buddha!
We walked up toward the Buddha and through the mist and fog we got our first glimpses.  This is the largest seated, bronze Buddha statue in the world.  I don't really know how impressive a title that is, but it was a cool thing to see.  We walked up a bunch of steps to reach the Buddha, walked around and enjoyed being a bit further away from the hubbub of the city.  The fog came and went throughout our morning at Big Buddha, but we did get some good views.  The morning finished up with a walk around another temple up there and quick lunch at one of the restaurants.  
Happy the fog cleared

We were anxious to get back, though, and upon our return I had one more errand to make, and just enough time to get it done: I had to pick up my suit!  My fitting the night before had gone pretty well, with me trying on a basic shell of a suit- one sleeve, halfway completed pants, etc.  When I arrived, though, I got to try on my completed suit.  I honestly don't know how they do it!  They had gotten every detail done, from pocket linings to changing the line of a pant leg, to even stitching my name on the inside of the jacket.  It was pretty cool and I have already enjoyed wearing it on board the ship!  Hong Kong was such a success.  I was overwhelmed with how much there was to do and see, but I feel like I got a really full experience and this was one of my favorite ports yet!  

On to the next,