Cruising the Mediterranean


By Sunny Lockwood and Al Lockwood

Guest Post

For those of us who love to travel, there’s rarely a question of why?

We know why: we want to see new places, learn about new cultures, try new foods, and simply have fun in a city or countryside where we’ve never been before.

The questions we ask are: Where do we want to go next? How can we get there? When can we leave?

My husband and I have had the travel bug since we were young. Now, well into retirement, our wanderlust is strong as ever. And the rewards are equally great.

Studies show that travel is good for the body, the brain and the spirit. And even though our older bodies lack the endurance they once had, we find that travel enlarges our concept of “home” and enriches our experience of wonder.

Imagine being awakened by the deep, resonant melody of church bells, bells that have rung each morning for centuries. That was our experience in Florence.

Or being enveloped in the fragrance of incense from a fortuneteller’s shop. We experienced that each afternoon in Barcelona. Our Airbnb apartment was right above her shop.

Imagine the flavor of dark chocolate gelato setting your taste buds dancing. That was our daily experience in Venice. That and the scene of shiny black gondolas sliding calmly through narrow canals.


Our stunning world is immense. But our individual lives are brief. So if there’s something you dream of doing, our advice is do it now. While you can.

Sweetheart Al and I choose ocean cruising as our preferred method of long-range travel. There are many reasons for this, including our modest travel budget and our declining mobility. We can no longer hike like there’s no tomorrow, jump into sleeping bags, or pedal bicycles for miles.

But on a cruise we can see the world at our own pace and in our own way while sleeping in the same comfortable bed each night.


And we’ve chosen to share our adventures through travel memoirs.

Our newest book, Cruising the Mediterranean, brings readers along on our 12-day cruise to Venice, Athens, Istanbul, Ephesus and three Greek islands.

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Even before we left California, we started our trip by adjusting our internal clock so that we’d be on European time when we arrived in Amsterdam. We added four days in Amsterdam just because Al wanted me to see that historic city, before boarding our cruise ship.

In Amsterdam, we used Airbnb. A first for us, and we loved the experience. We stayed in the heart of historic Amsterdam. Actually, our room was in the Red Light District, so our “window shopping” introduced us to the latest in sex toys, edible underwear and items we couldn’t even identify.

We cruised on Holland America. We’ve cruised on other lines, but this 12-day trip fit our pocketbook and visited places we really wanted to see.

At every stop, we experienced something wonderful, from standing on the Acropolis as the morning sun gilded its marble monuments, to watching a rug weaving demonstration in Istanbul.


We discovered delectable Turkish Delight during a dinner cruise along the Bosphorous Strait. And enjoyed the largest piece of Baklava we’d ever seen in a family-owned restaurant on the island of Santorini.

We’ve done our best to capture in words (and a few photographs) the wonder of our trip. Our goal in writing travel memoirs? To share our fun and fabulous experience. And to encourage others to make their own travel dreams come true.


*Sunny Lockwood is a retired newspaper reporter, columnist and editor. Her freelance stories and articles have been published in MS magazine, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and other national and regional publications. Al Lockwood is a retired Silicon Valley engineer. He’s a fine art photographer whose work has been published in magazines and newspapers.

*All the images courtesy of Sunny Lockwood and Al Lockwood


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Weekly Photo: On the way

By Nora Vasconcelos

There are so many ways a journey starts that I couldn’t choose only one pic. So, here are some idea for a new traveling adventure!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “On the Way.”


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Five Authors Lured by the Seas

By Nora Vasconcelos

Spanish_Galleon - Public Domain

From wooden galleons to luxurious cruise ships, several authors have found their inspiration on the magestic vessels that have crossed the seas througout the old and the modern times, writing fantastic stories in which both, the ships and the oceans have taken the main characters to unimaginable places, changing their lifes forever. Here, five of them:

The Phantom Ship:
Written in 1839 by Frederick Marryat, the story places young Philip Vanderdecken facing a dark destiny marked by his dead father whose ghost can only be freed by Philip. Based on the legend of the Flying Dutchman, Marryat develops a fascinating story in which he describes with great detail the life of the Dutch sailors centuries ago. While traveling aboard differt ships, Philip learns all the skills required to command a vessel as well as how to deal with the commercial aspects of the sea travels. However, he remains hunted by the idea that only him can save his father’s spirit, who is believed to be seing crossing the oceans and causing disgraced to any ship that happens to run into his ghostly apparition.

The Count of Monte Cristo
In 1844, Alexandre Dumas published The Count of Monte Cristo. Although the story is better known for the wrongful imprisonment and fantastic escape of its main character, what actually marks the crucial moment of the story is when the young and enthusiastic Edmond Dantes arrives to Marseille, France, commanding The Pharaon, a commercial ships that has taken the crew through the Mediterranean sea and which has lost its capitain, due to a terrible sickness. It’s Dantes brilliant ascent as a sea man which also causes him his terrible misfortune.

Futility – The Wreck of the Titan
As amazing as it might sound, 14 years before the sinking of the Titanic, Morgan Robertson published a novel that described a luxurius trasatlantic cruise ship, called Titan. Although the story has its origins in 1898, the coincidences couldn’t be bigger as the Titan crashes against an iceberg on an April day, while crossing the North Atlantic sea. While reading the book it’s hard not to feel inside the ship which displays all sort of luxurious elements. At the same time, it’s hard not to experience the passangers anguish when they realize the tragedy that is developing while the ship is going under.

In 1975, James Clavell published his novel Shogun. Taking advantage of his experiences while traveling through Asia as part of the Navy, the author managed to developed a captivating story that describes the adventures of the fictional captain John Blackthorne, a British sailor that commands a Dutch ship. The plot of the novel accompanies Blackthorne from the moment he fights his enemies in the ocean, to the moments his vessel, the Erasmus becomes a shipwreck in Japan. While learning the language and trying to understand the culture of that country, Blackthorne has only one thing in mind, to go back to the seas. The Erasmus, and the Blackship (it’s main adversary) become then an essential part of the story. Both ships will mark the destiny of the pilot.

She wore only white
Published originaly in German under the title Weit übers Mee, in 2012 it appeared the English version of this novel by Dorthe Binkert, which was inspired by a piece of news read in a newspaper that talked about a mysterious woman who boarded and traveled on a cruise ship wearing only white clothes. From here, the author developed a fictional story for this woman to become then, a stowaway that spent some days aboard the S.S. Kroonland at the begining of the last century. The novel also shows how her presence affected the lives of the people who got to know her while crossing the ocean.

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The dream of Crusing the Panama Canal… and writing about it!

By Nora Vasconcelos

panama canal photo

As it often happens we save things to do them “someday”, but for Sunny and Al Lockwood a car accident made them decide that “someday was today” and then they agreed that it was time for them to go on that long dreamed cruise that would take them from San Francisco, California to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, traveling for 17 days aboard The Zuiderdam, a cruise ship which also would sail from the Pacific ocean to the Atlantic through the Panama Canal.

But the dream didn’t end there, from their experiences, Al and Sunny wrote a book: Cruising Panama’s Canal, savoring 5,000 nautical miles and 500,000 decadent calories, published by Front Porch Publishing.

panama cover book

“We came up with the idea before we left on the cruise. We were reading books and articles about the history of the Canal in preparation for our cruise, and the history was so dramatic, so fascinating that we thought describing our trip through the canal would be interesting to others,” tells me Sunny, while talking about their book.

“Since I’ve made my living as a writer (for newspapers and magazines), I go through life with a notebook and pen in my hand. And Al almost always has a camera. So the idea of writing about our trip seemed pretty ‘normal’ to us.”

So, after 17 days cruising, and one year working about 5 days a week on their book, “writing and re-writing, cutting and throwing out stories, adding stories, trying to shape and polish”, Sunny and Al completed a book that invites the readers to be part of this literary trip, like good all friends who get together to share their traveling stories, from the moment they booked the trip, to the time they boarded the ship, the amazement that came from finding such an ample art collection aboard, as well as the cooking classes, the fun and relaxing times and the unexpected and surprising experiences.

Page by page, they take the readers along with them through the different areas of the ship, share their advice on how to keep fit and healthy, and their thoughts on how to transform the desserts time into magical and savory moments whenever Al has the chance to indulge his sweet tooth and write about it.

“I know a fair bit about desserts because I just love eating them. I also love cooking—baking especially, but I’m purely self-taught. And every time I find something really unusual—the Sacher Torte, for example, I’ll research its history (that one’s fascinating),” says Al when I ask him about his deep knowledge on the subject.

Al and Sunny also share their experiences on how to make the most of the shore excursions that, in their case, took them (and the readers along) to visit places like Zihuatanejo and Huatulco in Mexico; Costa Rica and its beautiful natural wonders and its unique Doka Estate and Coffee Plantation (a real paradise for coffee lovers); Cartagena, Colombia, and Half Moon Cay, Bahama.

And when the long awaited time comes to cross the Panama Canal, they share in great detail, step by step, all what it takes for a ship as big as The Zuiderdam (operated by Holland American Line), to fit into the different sections of the Canal.

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Funny, entertaining and informative, Cruising Panama’s Canal invites everyone to go along on this journey “of thousands of miles and tens of thousands of calories”. Because this book is much more than a travel guide, this is a book that “has been a labor of love and sharing”, as the authors state on the acknowledgments section.

* All the images and photos courtesy of Al and Sunny Lockwood

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Love for the Sea

By Nora Vasconcelos

The Captain Book

If you happen to cross paths with Captain Johnny Faevelan, probably you’ll see him listening carefully to somebody, either a crew member or a guest enjoying a vacation of a lifetime on the largest cruise ship in the world, the Allure of the Seas.

Attentive to details, he smiles often, and this is how, the Norwich author, Arvid Møller, portraits him in his book The Captain Johnny Faevelen. The fisherman who became captain of one of the World’s largest cruise ships.

Møller has written several biographical, and when he came up with the idea of talking about the life of a captain of a cruise ship, he reached for the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. Then, the name of Captain Johnny was suggested.

So that, the journey begins in 2002, when, Møller is on board of the Adventure of the Seas, at that time the largest in the world. While traveling in the Caribbean, from St. Martin to St. Thomas, the story goes back up to the time when Captain Johnny was a little boy living in Norway, where he learned from his father the secrets of trawling for shrimp. His love for the Sea has been constant ever since.

As he grew up, it was only natural for him to explore sailing opportunities faraway from home, this gave him not only the chance to see the world, but to make new friends and confirmed, one more time, that he wanted to spend his life traveling the world on a ship.

Several years later, Captain Johnny finished his formal studies and started working for a cruise line, from there, he climbed several positions up to the point when he was made captain of his own ship at the age of 38. However, during all that time, he always valued the lessons and experiences that he gained during his years as a fisherman.

Now, twelve years after the book was published, Captain Johnny remains the same, generous with his time, kind to the people and firm when it’s needed, as the safety of the people onboard is his highest priority.

Caribbean 1 by NVS

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