Notes from Puzzle Palace

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Non-puzzling-202 days away from home.

As a special request from a friend, I will now start adding posts here and there about our travels around the world. Hopefully one or two of them will have puzzles inside. 

As you may know, George and I have embarked on a 6 month cruise around the world.  I've been posting photos of our travels on Facebook, but will endeavor to do the same here.  Not all of these posts will be about puzzles, but there will be any in here that I find. Of course, I wouldn't be me without having puzzle posts in the works. Have no fear my dear puzzle friends, I've plenty to tell you about.

We are onboard the Oceania Insignia. It is a vessel that holds 684 passengers and 400 crew. The ship is not like your normal ship as far as passengers are concerned.  The majority of course are older than I am but they all seem to be in very good health.  In the past, the passengers on the cruises were often feeble.  Here the focus is on education and adventure.  The cruise ship bills itself as having the best food at sea. I would beg to differ, but then I'm a fussy eater.  Having said that though, I was able to get a blue steak! 

Our cabin is 220 square feet give or take with a veranda.  While this may seem small, it really isn't. It is set up rather nicely with a sofa and table and desk area to relax in.  The shower is tight and I can't imagine how larger people would use them.  We brought along 9 suitcases; two of which we have already thrown away.  One lost a wheel on the way to the ship and the other we knew was in bad shape when we sent it. The steward told us to go to the front desk for compensation, but it simply isn't worth it.  We can always pick up a new suitcase. 

I also brought along two folding storage footstools that I purchased at Aldi's of all places. With one placed on either side of the table, it makes for a nice little area.  Currently they hold the remainder of our wine and we will restock as we go along.  I am sure we will go wine shopping in Hawaii and again in Hong Kong.  The cruise line has generously allowed us to bring along 60 bottles of alcohol for the journey.  

I also brought along a number of folding storage cubes to put socks and swim gear etc. in.  There are 2 cupboards under the area where the ice bucket is and these fit in rather nicely.  All of these were purchased at the dollar store of all places. 

Of course we also have the hanging shoe bag and the obligatory magnetic hooks.  Be warned though, only the 100 pound hooks really work on the walls.  They are magnetic, but the wallpaper on top really discourages use of magnets.

The final 'necessary' item I brought along is a magnetic whiteboard monthly planner.  This is filled with our excursions and special dinners, etc.  It helps me remember things I am doing.  We have whiteboards in both Puzzle Palace and the Museum for reminders and I didn't want to not have one here for the next 6 months.  It is mounted to the door so I see it first thing in the morning when I use the loo.  

The suitcases we kept are all stored open under the bed and hold the extra toothpaste and floss necessary for the trip as well as all the swag and other items we have picked up along the way.  Our scuba gear is all in a suitcase in the closet.  If we acquire too many puzzles and other stuff along the way, we will mail a few boxes of stuff home from Hong Kong. There is a post office very near to where the ship will be docked.  (Along with a massive shopping mall.) 

There are no children on board but there is one dog. I really don't understand how that got on here.  Thankfully the owner is not allowed to take it into the indoor dinning venues.  Imagine my shock when I saw it at the outdoor café.  I love animals, but am of the mind that they do not belong where people are eating.  

All staff and passengers must be vaccinated (and many are boosted) to come on the ship.  Masks must be worn while in public areas unless eating or drinking and most people adhere to this mandate.  We have many stops along the way that require a nasal swab to make sure we haven't contracted covid.  Having said that, there are a few cases of COVID on board now as I type this, and 4 people were disembarked in Key West with COVID.  I guess they tested negative when we got on and then tested positive after embarkation.  There are also a few fools who remove their masks as soon as they go ashore or who are constantly drinking a bottle of water to avoid the mandate.  These few have spoiled the fun for the rest of us.  I don't wish anyone to get sick, but it seems to me that if you don't take the time to protect yourself, you get what you get.  

Sadly since we left Florida we have had 2 stops cancelled.  We were to go to Acapulco  and Guatamala but because of COVID on the ship, the ports were closed to us. I read that Mexico closed to all ships so it wasn't just us.  After I wrote this, I read the news that they have opened up again, but I believe it is too late now to go there.

Life at sea is wonderful once you get used to the motion of the boat. I spent the first 4 days being nauseous.  Because of past cruises I came prepared.  I brought my extra strength motion sickness tablets along, popped 2 pills a day and made it through without tossing any cookies.  Although....I did go to a breakfast for the Around The World travelers had a mimosa and then went to yoga.  Big mistake.  Yoga and mimosas do not mix.  The ship has been very good.  I asked for Ginger tea and saltines and they brought me a box of both.

What is a girl to do?  We took no puzzles with us. As is our usual, we brought our Eurorails game, and a bunch of escape room games, a few decks of cards and 3 puzzle books to while away the time on our round the world cruise. We enjoy playing Hand, Knee, and Foot.  If anyone is on this cruise with us and would like to play, please contact us in room 7109.  You also can't miss my beautiful lover; he has the longest beard on ship right now.  We've got the decks and a score sheet on the iPads. 

And George being George has once again brought along a 3d printer.  Last time we took a long cruise in 2018 we brought along a DaVinci Nano.  It didn't really work for us.  But it did work for Oskar.  When we finished our cruise, the next trip we took to visit with him, we brought it along and gave it to him as a gift.  He used it for a bit, but then got his own much nicer printer and there has been no stoping him since.  

This time we bought a tiny little thing to bring along on our trip.  We brought along 2 rolls of filament and hope to be able to produce a number of puzzles along the way.  Before we left he built a spool feeder so once we put the filament in, we will stick with one color until the reel is finished.  This is actually designed for children, but you know George and his 3D printers.  This one is a cute little thing. It's probably no bigger than 12"x12"x8".  

The best part of this?  I finally got my Christmas gift from last year.  He taught me how to use it!  I've been going crazy printing off those little business card puzzles.  I can't do crystal puzzles on the ship so I am doing those instead.  Once I started printing these things, we ordered 12 more spools of filament and sent them on to George's son in San Franscisco.  We will pick them up when we arrive there.  That should last us the rest of the cruise, but if it doesn't, we will buy more in Asia.

Of course George has already pre-printed a large number of bucolic cubes to give away on the ship as we go.  This is a great way to meet people and to break the ice.  So far, people have enjoyed attempting to solve them. Perhaps after another month or so at sea someone will have solved it.  

One of the first things he printed was a 3d necklace for me. George made them earlier for Marti and Maryann and I wanted one.  He also gave one to the girl that cleans out room. 

For the curious, here is the itinerary as it was on the day we left Florida.  There have been quite a few changes but we don't mind.  It's all part of the adventure.  Originally we were to spend a month in Australia and New Zealand.  It is the main reason we booked the cruise.  After much deliberation thought, we decided to go ahead and book it anyway.  We also realize that there will be many more changes as we go along.  So far we have lost two ports and we expect to lose more as we go.  No bother, we love the lazy sea days.  

Tuesday, December 21

Miami, FL

Wednesday, December 22

Key West, Fl

Thursday, December 23

At sea

Friday, December 24

At Sea

Saturday, December 25

Cartagena, Colombia

Sunday, December 26

Panama Canal (Full Transit) (Cruising)

Monday, December 27

At Sea

Tuesday, December 28

Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Wednesday, December 29

At Sea

Thursday, December 30

Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala

Friday, December 31

At Sea

Saturday, January 1

Acapulco, Mexico

Sunday, January 2

At Sea

Monday, January 3

At Sea

Tuesday, January 4

San Diego, CA

Wednesday, January 5

Los Angeles (San Pedro), CA

Thursday, January 6

Los Angeles (San Pedro), CA

Friday, January 7

At Sea

Saturday, January 8

San Francisco, CA

Sunday, January 9

San Francisco, CA

Monday, January 10

At Sea

Tuesday, January 11

At Sea

Wednesday, January 12

At Sea

Thursday, January 13

At Sea

Friday, January 14

At Sea

Saturday, January 15

Honolulu, Oahu, HI

Sunday, January 16

Honolulu, Oahu, HI

Monday, January 17

Kahului, Maui, HI

Tuesday, January 18

Nawiliwili, Kauai, HI

Wednesday, January 19

Lahaina, Maui, HI

Thursday, January 20

Kona, Hawaii, HI

Friday, January 21

At Sea

Saturday, January 22

At Sea

Sunday, January 23

At Sea

Monday, January 24

At Sea

Tuesday, January 25

Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands

Wednesday, January 26

At Sea

Thursday, January 27

Rangiroa, Society Islands

Friday, January 28

Papeete, Tahiti

Saturday, January 29

Papeete, Tahiti

Sunday, January 30

Papeete, Tahiti

Sunday, January 30

Moorea, Society Islands

Monday, January 31

Raiatea, Society Islands

Tuesday, February 1

Bora Bora, Society Islands

Wednesday, February 2

Bora Bora, Society Islands

Thursday, February 3

At Sea

Friday, February 4

At Sea

Saturday, February 5

Pago Pago, American Samoa

Sunday, February 6

Cross International Dateline (Cruising)

Monday, February 7

Apia, Samoa

Tuesday, February 8

At Sea

Wednesday, February 9

Suva, Fiji

Thursday, February 10

Lautoka, Fiji

Friday, February 11

At Sea

Saturday, February 12

Mystery Island, Vanuatu

Sunday, February 13

Ile des Pins, New Caledonia

Monday, February 14

Noumea, New Caledonia

Tuesday, February 15

Noumea, New Caledonia

Wednesday, February 16

At Sea

Thursday, February 17

At Sea

Friday, February 18

Alotau (Milne Bay), Papua New Guinea

Saturday, February 19

Alotau (Milne Bay), Papua New Guinea

Sunday, February 20

At Sea

Monday, February 21

At Sea

Tuesday, February 22

At Sea

Wednesday, February 23

At Sea

Thursday, February 24

Komodo, Indonesia

Friday, February 25

Celukan Bawang, Indonesia

Saturday, February 26

Celukan Bawang, Indonesia

Sunday, February 27

Benoa, Bali

Monday, February 28

At Sea

Tuesday, March 1

Semarang, Indonesia

Wednesday, March 2

At Sea

Thursday, March 3

At Sea

Friday, March 4

Muara (Bandar Seri Begawan), Brunei

Saturday, March 5

Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Sunday, March 6

Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines

Monday, March 7

Coron, Philippines

Tuesday, March 8

Manila, Philippines

Wednesday, March 9

Manila, Philippines

Thursday, March 10

Salomague, Philippines

Friday, March 11

Kao-hsiung, Taiwan

Saturday, March 12

Kao-hsiung, Taiwan

Sunday, March 13

Taipei (Keelung), Taiwan

Monday, March 14

Ishigaki Island, Japan

Tuesday, March 15

At Sea

Wednesday, March 16

Kochi, Japan

Thursday, March 17

Nagoya, Japan

Friday, March 18

Tokyo (Harumi), Japan

Saturday, March 19

Tokyo (Harumi), Japan

Sunday, March 20

Shimizu, Japan

Monday, March 21

Kyoto, Japan

Tuesday, March 22

Kyoto, Japan

Wednesday, March 23

Hiroshima, Japan

Thursday, March 24

Busan, South Korea

Friday, March 25

Nagasaki, Japan

Saturday, March 26

Kagoshima, Japan

Sunday, March 27

Amami Oshima, Japan

Monday, March 28

Okinawa (Naha), Japan

Tuesday, March 29

At Sea

Wednesday, March 30

Shanghai, China

Thursday, March 31

Shanghai, China

Friday, April 1

At Sea

Saturday, April 2

Xiamen, China

Sunday, April 3

Hong Kong

Monday, April 4

Hong Kong

Tuesday, April 5

At Sea

Wednesday, April 6

Hanoi (Halong Bay), Vietnam

Thursday, April 7

Hanoi (Halong Bay), Vietnam

Friday, April 8

Hue, Vietnam

Saturday, April 9

Hue, Vietnam

Sunday, April 10

Nha Trang, Vietnam

Monday, April 11

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam

Tuesday, April 12

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam

Wednesday, April 13

At Sea

Thursday, April 14

Kampot, Cambodia

Friday, April 15

Bangkok (Laem Chabang), Thailand

Saturday, April 16

Bangkok (Laem Chabang), Thailand

Sunday, April 17

Ko Samui, Thailand

Monday, April 18

At Sea

Tuesday, April 19


Wednesday, April 20

Strait of Malacca (Cruising)

Thursday, April 21

Phuket, Thailand

Friday, April 22

At Sea

Saturday, April 23

Yangon (Thilawa), Myanmar

Sunday, April 24

Yangon (Thilawa), Myanmar

Monday, April 25

Yangon (Thilawa), Myanmar

Tuesday, April 26

At Sea

Wednesday, April 27

At Sea

Thursday, April 28

At Sea

Friday, April 29

Cochin, India

Saturday, April 30

Mangalore, India

Sunday, May 1

At Sea

Monday, May 2

Male, Maldives

Tuesday, May 3

At Sea

Wednesday, May 4

At Sea

Thursday, May 5

Mahe, Seychelles

Friday, May 6

Mahe, Seychelles

Saturday, May 7

Mahe, Seychelles

Saturday, May 7

La Digue, Seychelles

Sunday, May 8

At Sea

Monday, May 9

At Sea

Tuesday, May 10

Zanzibar, Tanzania

Wednesday, May 11

At Sea

Thursday, May 12

Nosy Be, Madagascar

Friday, May 13

Mayotte, Comoro Islands

Saturday, May 14

At Sea

Sunday, May 15

At Sea

Monday, May 16

Maputo, Mozambique

Tuesday, May 17

At Sea

Wednesday, May 18

Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Thursday, May 19

Mossel Bay, South Africa

Friday, May 20

Cape Town, South Africa

Saturday, May 21

Cape Town, South Africa

Sunday, May 22

At Sea

Monday, May 23

Luderitz, Namibia

Tuesday, May 24

Walvis Bay, Namibia

Wednesday, May 25

At Sea

Thursday, May 26

At Sea

Friday, May 27

At Sea

Saturday, May 28

Sao Tome, Sao Tome and Principe

Sunday, May 29

At Sea

Monday, May 30

Lome, Togo

Tuesday, May 31

Takoradi, Ghana

Wednesday, June 1

Abidjan, Ivory Coast

Thursday, June 2

At Sea

Friday, June 3

At Sea

Saturday, June 4

Banjul, Gambia

Sunday, June 5

Dakar, Senegal

Monday, June 6

At Sea

Tuesday, June 7

Mindelo, Cape Verde

Wednesday, June 8

At Sea

Thursday, June 9

At Sea

Friday, June 10

Santa Cruz, Tenerife, Canary Islands

Saturday, June 11

Arrecife, Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Sunday, June 12

Agadir, Morocco

Monday, June 13

At Sea

Tuesday, June 14

Lisbon, Portugal

Wednesday, June 15

Oporto (Leixoes), Portugal

Thursday, June 16

La Coruna, Spain

Friday, June 17

At Sea

Saturday, June 18

Honfleur, France

Sunday, June 19

London (Tilbury), England

Monday, June 20

London (Tilbury), England

Tuesday, June 21

Amsterdam, Holland

Wednesday, June 22

Amsterdam, Holland

Thursday, June 23

At Sea

Friday, June 24

Waterford (Dunmore East), Ireland

Saturday, June 25

Dublin, Ireland

Sunday, June 26

Belfast, Northern Ireland

Monday, June 27

At Sea

Tuesday, June 28

At Sea

Wednesday, June 29

At Sea

Thursday, June 30

At Sea

Friday, July 1

St. John's, NL, Canada

Saturday, July 2

At Sea

Sunday, July 3

At Sea

Monday, July 4

New York (Manhattan), NY

Tuesday, July 5

New York (Manhattan), NY

Having been to Key West many times we did nothing more than rent bicycles and ride to a liquor store to get some champaign. Yours truly forgot to take ours out of the wine cooler before we left. Oh well, it will be properly chilled when we return from our adventure. 

We got off in Cartagena, Columbia and took a taxi to the old town.  Our fun when we go ashore is to have a mission every time.  It is always the same.  To find puzzles and cordials from the country we are in.  We accomplished both.  Today our cordial was an aniseed type liquor.  It is definitely a sipping drink.  This time we only bought a small bottle and I'm glad of it.  

The puzzle we found is a three dimensional gecko jigsaw.  Not what we usually get, but nice all the same.  

The city has 11 miles of wall surrounding it.  Still in tact and people are even able to walk on it. Our guide didn't know how many cannons are on there.  I guess my Spanish sounded too Nicaraguan to him.  He didn't understand me at all when I asked questions using the language.  He joked about not understanding Nicaraguans when they speak.  I guess it's a funny thing with them.  People everywhere seem to dislike immigrants.  There was also the oldest standing Spanish Fort.  An impressive sight.

Next up came the crossing of the Panama Canal. It is a real marvel to see.  This is my second time going through and George's fifth.  Even though I've done it before, I enjoyed it as much today as I did the first time.  We spent the day in the room or on the balcony watching the process.  

Again we passed under the Bridge of the Americas.  Another impressive structure. 

In Puntarenas Costa Rica we had a real adventure.  George suckered me into going zip lining with him. I am terrified of heights and I had cancelled the excursion once only to have him rebook it.  Nice lover I have here.    I managed to relax on the 1 1/2 hour bus ride to the mountain only to have my heartbeat climb to 130 as soon as we got off the bus.  There was a 1/2 hour cable car ride up the mountain and having been on one many times in Hong Kong I was just fine.  

When we were ready to strap in, the man helping me gave me a few extra minutes to gather my courage and I took off!  It was terrifying.  All I could think was why did I step off that platform.   I made it through the next 3 zip lines with much the same feeling. At one point my heart rate got up to 157 bpm.  But by this time the anxiety was lowering and I was beginning to feel a bit better about the whole thing.  By the time we hit line 6 which was the longest, I had the confidence to hold my phone and take a video of the area around me.  It was the most stunning view! I shall post that later as we have no access to youtube on the ship.  When we finished all 10 lines, I didn't want to stop.  I asked the guide if I could go again, I'd even pay!  No dice.  It was lunch time and that was that.

We had a nice local meal. I chose the beef with mushroom gravy and George had the chicken.  Of course both came with rice and black beans.  We also had a local beer.  After lunch we saw the butterfly habitat and a guide took us around and we tasted a number of the plants.  While I enjoy lemon grass and oregano, I didn't like them fresh, but the peppermint was lovely and refreshing. 

On the way back to the ship we did the usual stop at a tourist trap.  This was fine.  I purchased two puzzles.  A monkey jigsaw and a bird ring box.  Of course these are not our usual choices, but they are locally made. 

We also bought a columbian coffee liquor.  We haven't opened it yet, I had too much wine at dinner. I just had to have the bottle with the monkey peeking out around the side.  Kitsch but it's a monkey how could I not?

 Speaking of wine.  I love Oceania's policy of allowing us to bring wine on board. We brought along 2 cases of Emeritus and don't mind paying the $25 corkage.  I bought 3 bottles of a 2014 Chateau Fombrauge Grand Cru from the menu.  We drank them but I didn't think they weren't as good as what we brought with us.  The only complaint I have is they don't pump the wine and the bottles we bought from the ship oxidized overnight.  Since then, whatever we have left over we bring to the room and pump.  It stays better this way. 

Back on ship during dinner the announcement came telling us of COVID cases and that the next port would be cancelled.  People are taking bets on whether Oceania will cancel the rest of the cruise but I for one hope they do not.  I want to continue this adventure where ever it takes us.  

Today is a sea day, as is tomorrow.  What do we do to entertain ourselves? George is beside me in bed working a Logidoku puzzle (Sudoku on steroids) while I write this post.  We will have lunch in 1/2 an hour or so then return to the cabin for a nap and some more puzzle printing.  I brought along a few books of puzzles to work on and will do a crossword or two this afternoon while the puzzle cards are printing.  

Of course with every ship there is swag. Oceania is no exception.  On Christmas Eve we received 2 Around The World jackets and baseball caps.  

We also got our gold pins and a silver tray.  The tray is great.  I am now using it to store all the ginger chews I brought with me and the nightly pillow chocolates that I haven't eaten.  George likes his and eats them religiously.  I prefer to wait as I've usually had something small for dessert and don't want anything else.  

When we got on board the ship we were given two reusable water bottles and I have been using them diligently.  A few nights later we received a special Oceania gold member tote bag and two more ball caps.  

And for those who asked, yes, they still use the blue Bulgari amenities. 

This evening we will have dinner at the Polo Grill. George is in the mood for steak and I want lobster.  The seas are calm and all is right in our world.  

I'll post about our further adventures here when we have something to tell.  As of now, we are just hoping and praying and crossing fingers and toes that we make it to New York on the Fourth of July.  I really want to see the fireworks.


  1. Thank you my beautiful friend keep it up I'm loving the photos on fb and this spiel was brilliant and I really loved the itinerary x

  2. This is great! Keep blogging...makes me wish I hadn't canceled yesterday. We were doing the Tokyo to Hong Kong leg and it would have been fun to meet you!

  3. I love your writing and your photos. Paula and I are on board only until L.A. That’s where we’ll pick up our car and drive home to Las Vegas the day we get there. But, we will definitely follow you and George as you travel the world to make it back to see the 4th of July fireworks in New York. We hope you have smooth sailing and safe travels. Carl Scheinwald (if you like, you can find me on Facebook)