A little yacht that feels like a fare floating around Bora Bora

Sailing on the Haumana in like being in a floating fare

Patti Pietschmann

Over water fares in Bora Bora by Richard Pietschmann

Over water bungalows aka: fares, are the preferred accommodations for most people visiting French Polynesia–but they do come with a price. However, it just doesn’t get any better than being able to slip into the water off your porch or view the azure-colored lagoons from your coffee table. Except possibly taking an all-inclusive cruise on a tiny luxury yacht from beautiful Bora Bora. The fares start at $1,800 a person for three nights accommodations, all meals, a selection of free wines, a half-day excursion to Taha’a, the Vanilla Island; and activities like kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling, a barbeque on a motu and other aquatic and cultural experiences. It may sound steep, but this is quite a bargain when you factor in all the extras.

Otemanu in Bora Bora by Richard Pietschmann

Before we go any farther, let me say that French Polynesia is very expensive and doing it a la carte can break most people’s bank accounts. But this cruise includes all extras so you don’t have to worry that a drink will cost a fortune (it does at some bars) or dinners will be a set back to your kid’s college fun or your mortgage payment.

The little boat follows the routes of the ancient Polynesians and is manned by a 100% Tahitian crew who impart their love of their islands — as well as its music and crafts. Having been to the area many times I can tell you that the food served on the islands is exceptional. After all, it is French Polynesia and the French are fussy about their food. So I believe it when they tell me the chefs do a fabulous job of fixing meals on the Haumana. Obviously I have yet to sample the fare.

The yacht is cozy and comfy more barefoot than spikes and a great way to pay a leisurely visit to the one of the most stunning destinations in the world.

Of course you woudn’t want to fly all the way to French Polynesia just for three nights. There are many hotels from which to choose but be sure to take the American Plan which comes with three meals or the Modified American Plan that comes with two, because as I said, it can be very expensive. Met many unsuspecting couples who wished they have booked their room with meals. One couple was practically living on French bread (which is really crusty and good but not that nutritional) when they realized how expensive lunch and dinner were.

To book your cruise or get meet information click on https://haumana-tahiti.com/en/itineraries/ and to find other packages with hotels and yacht go to https://www.tahititravel.com.au/haumana-poerava-cruise-10-night-package/, You will find one great sounding deal for $7,699 for 10-days all inclusive. After you sample French Polynesia for the first time, you’ll want to go back. Once is never enough in this tropical paradise, trust me.

Tahiti by Richard Pietschmann 

Are you ready to find paradise?


Holland America chef creates  many faces of food

‘Food Faces’ is  perfect gift for cruise lovers and former HAL passengers

Patti Pietschmann

 Foodies and cruise fans have to love this.  Holland America Line’s Master Chef Rudi Sodamin just released a coffee table art cookbook called “Food Faces” that  illustrates more than 150 vibrant images of edible creations that display a cast of unforgettable characters expressing a whimsical spectrum of human emotion.

Sodamin, who  began to design and photograph his stylized Food Faces several years ago as a labor of creative love, has since captured hundreds of distinctive characters through his lens. His artistic inspiration comes from culinary ingredients and human expression, and he created each plate personality from food items including vegetables, fruit, meats, fish, grains and sweets.

Fish toast

Sodamin captured the images in his photography studio, working with his perfectionistic approach to bring each piece of art to life, fine-tuning the emotional coloring of each Food Face as he adjusted lighting, depth and focus.

Hair, hair

Thomas Keller, chef, restaurateur and cookbook author, wrote the forward to the book saying, “Rudi has a keen eye, playful sensibility and a willingness to let inspiration take him where it will. Rudi puts happiness front and center.” “Rudi is an icon in the cruise industry for his culinary talent and creativity in the kitchen and is regarded as the hospitality industry’s most innovative chef, but today we congratulate him for his innovation as an artist with his beautiful new book,” said Orlando Ashford, Holland America Line’s president. “Rudi is esteemed throughout the world for his passion for his craft and his ability to translate that creative energy into serving thousands of guests each day on our ships. ’Food Faces’ allows people to be inspired by Rudi’s work every day in their homes.”

Holland America passengers that dine in Rudi’s Sel de Mer pop-up restaurant can enjoy his dynamic Food Faces on exclusive limited-edition plates made by Bernardaud, the leading French manufacturer of Limoges porcelain. Each plate charger features a different image from the “Food Faces” book, creating a table setting unlike any found anywhere in the world.

“Food Faces” was published by Welcome Books, an imprint of Rizzoli, and is available for purchase in bookstores nationwide.  Sodamin will be exhibiting his Food Faces art in Miami, Florida, and in Europe in 2018.

For more information on HAL call 1-877-SAIL-HAL (1-877-724-5425) or visit hollandamerica.com.

Catching the sites of kitschy Ketchikan from Regent Seven Seas Mariner

arrival Ketichan It was what locals call a bluebird day, a beautiful, sunny day in Ketchikan—one of the rainiest cities in the world with an average yearly downpour of about 14 feet. According to a local, it was the best day in more than two weeks, the sun shining gloriously and the temperature hovering around 70 as passengers disembarked spiffy Regent Seven Seas Mariner. Like Richard and I most of the 700  passengers were taking one of the line’s complimentary shore excursions offered on this all-inclusive seven-day Alaska cruise from Seward, Alaska to Vancouver, BC. The voyage lived up to or exceeded expectations.

 Before we even left home we booked our complimentary shore excursions (and made dinner reservations, on Regent Seven Seas web site). We were happy we selected the Rain Forest Expedition tour  in Ketchikan– which proved n easy hike alongside a roaring stream feeding into Ward Lake, about eight miles from the port. It was led by a knowledgeable guide named Carly, who was more naturalist than hiker and explained the glacier-created terrain, the spongy peat bog and identified the spruce, cedar, hemlock and alder trees. She pointed out the broad-leafed skunk cabbage plants that had been nibbled at and uprooted by hungry black bears after their long winter hibernation. In late June the pink salmon endemic to the creek hadn’t yet began their spawning runs, an event the bears no doubt eagerly awaited. But the tour group loved the sight and sound of the pristine water rushing past through dense screens of old growth trees. DSCN1313There was the usual warning that if a bear was spotted one must remain avoid screaming and particularly running, something that signals prey to the poor-sighted blacks, smaller and less aggressive than their brown bear (grizzly) cousins passenger had seen in Sitka, but still dangerous wild animals. No furry animal was sighted, however.

Following the two-hour walk  we strolled around Ketchikan, which is Alaska’s fourth largest city, despite its small population of about 14,000, and stopped for lunch at a local spot called Annabelle’s.  Annabelle's frontThis is a city of water, where even the airport must be reached by ferry and with no land connection to the outside—the only highway ends 10 miles in either direction beyond the center of town. What it is best known for, besides salmon and rain, is the size of its floatplane fleet, the largest in the world. Every day around 1,000 takeoffs and landings occur in the same tight sea lanes used by ships much larger than Mariner and were as easily seen as the curious juvenile bald eagle that flew within feet of the anchored ship.

Annabelle’s  was a bit of a disappointment. The  salmon  was over-cooked, the olive oil had a strange taste but the bread and salad was good. We popped for wine and a beer (which is proffered free on Mariner, but hey one isn’t in a Ketchikan restaurant every day). The typical Alaska eatery was filled with what looked like locals but also passengers from Marina, Holland America’s Voledam and the Coral Princess which were also docked there. After lunch it was back on a launch that took passengers back to the anchored Mariner for a night and one more day at sea before arrival in Vancouver.

Once back in our deluxe veranda suite 805 we sat on the veranda and watch while the captain sailed out of Ketchikan to the final stop  in Vancouver B.C. I love this ship so much that I can’t wait to do another  cruise on her, perhaps in Caribbean or Med next time. But Regent Seven Seas is well-known for getting things right and everything about this seven day journey was ideal.  Remember RSSC fare are truly ALL INCLUSIVE with everything covered from tips to shore excursions, drinks, alternative dining venues Prime7 (that serves kick ass steaks) and Signatures which offers continental cuisine in a romantic setting (most ships charge extra for meals outside the dining room, except this one and Seabourn.brunch buffet ketichan arrivalAbove is a buffet served on the Mariner during arrival in Ketchikan.


Royal Caribbean ship catches fire company offers apologies and more on Twitter

Cruise Ship Fire_AnguRead all about the latest cruise ship disaster

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines is offering updates about today’s (May 27, 2013) fire aboard the Grandeur of Seas on its Twitter site. The company sent alerts to members of the press via it’s proprietary Twitter account  @RoyalCaribPR.

The compan, which seems to handling the situation with surprising elan in the wake of other cruise ship mishaps where it wasn’t, has  assured passengers that full refunds of the cruise fare paid will be issued along with a future cruise certificate for 100% of the cruise fare paid for the May 24, 2013 voyage.

The company tweeted that, “Royal Caribbean International is deeply sorry for this unexpected development in our guests’ vacation, we understand that this may have been a very stressful time for them.” “And we also know that it has significantly impacted their vacation experience and appreciate their patience and cooperation in dealing with this unfortunate situation.”

There is a dedicated telephone hotline family members of guests at 1-888-824-0012 or internationally at +1-408-916-9000.


The cruise line requests that only families of guests use the telephone numbers in order to help ease call volume and ensure that they can receive information as quickly as possible.

When the fire broke out the Grandeur of the Seas was on a seven-night sailing that departed Baltimore, Maryland, on May 24, and had included port calls to Port Canaveral, Florida; CocoCay and Nassau, The Bahamas.

Patti's Prattles

Has the cruise industry learned anything yet? We think so since Royal Caribbean appears to be handling today’s fire aboard its Grandeur of the Seas with more elan than say Carnival has in the past. The Miami-based cruise line is offering apologies-plus on its Twitter account and sending messages exclusively to use writers.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines is offering updates about today’s (May 27, 2013) fire aboard the Grandeur of Seas on its Twitter site. The company sent alerts to members of the press via it’s proprietary Twitter account  @RoyalCaribPR.  Cruise Ship Fire_Angu

The latest tweet stated that, “Unfortunately, the damage caused by the fire on Grandeur of the Seas will require us to cancel the rest of the voyage. We are currently working on making the necessary arrangements to return all guests to Baltimore, Maryland.”

The company assured passengers that full refunds of the cruise fare paid will be issued…

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Carnival using cruise control big time

Carnival Cruise Lines is doing everything possible to clean up its tarnished imaged after several very unsettling mishaps, the first of which was the ill-fated Costa Concordia diseaster.  Recently, the mega-cruise operator announced major safety enhancements to assuage fears of perspective passengers and repeaters. Now its going to be featured in a 30-minute episode of the popular Travel Channel series, Trip Flip, Athat airs May 5, 2013 at 8 p.m. ET. During the show, a couple from Austin, Texas, is surprised with a six-day cruise on the line’s newest ship, Carnival Breeze, and whisked away to the balmy Caribbean. Hosted by professional fun-seeker, comedian, and travel expert Bert Kreischer, Trip Flip does a “switcheroo” on travelers who may already be on vacation, as well as people still in their hometown, by tossing out the guidebook and giving them an exceptional holiday experience they never saw coming.

During the Carnival Breeze episode, Texas natives Shannon and Nathan are initially taken on a vacation to Miami’s South Beach. After a few days, they’re surprised with a voyage on the spectacular Carnival Breeze. Viewers will have the opportunity to “cruise vicariously” through Shannon and Nathan as they check out the ship’s many innovations. On board, the couple traverses the ropes course at SportSquare, taking in awe-inspiring views of the sea 150 feet below.

They also take a plunge down the 312-foot-long Twister water slide and enjoy luxurious pampering at the Cloud 9 Spa. Kreischer even pulls some strings and gets Nathan, an amateur comedian, headline billing at The Punchliner Comedy Club presented by George Lopez. The episode also includes breathtaking scenes as Shannon and Nathan snorkel the colorful coral reefs of Grand Turk in the Turks & Caicos Islands. “We are extremely excited to be featured in this upcoming episode of Trip Flip which does a great job of capturing some of the many magical and exciting experiences that our 4.5 million guests enjoy each year,” said Jim Berra, Carnival’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer.

For additional information and reservations on any of Carnival’s “Fun Ship” vacations, contact any travel agent, call 1-800-CARNIVAL or visit carnival.com. “Trip Flip” is produced by High Noon Entertainment for Travel Channel. For High Noon Entertainment, the executive producer is Patrick Jager. For Travel Channel, the executive producer is Dale Roy Robinson.


Carnival Cruise Lines Breeze-A-Thon sweepstates starts today


Carnival Cruise Lines “Carnival Breeze-A-Thon,”  today launchea  Facebook  sweepstakes contestA, for a chance to win a boat load of prizes from a Caribbean cruise to a Samsung television, and other awards inspired by the Carnival Breeze’s vast amenities.

The contest is in conjunction with the Breeze’s arrival in Miami where she began a series of year around, six and eight day cruises and will be hosted on Carnival’s Facebook fan page (www.facebook.com/carnival) from today, Dec. 3 through Dec. 6, 2012. Then, on Dec. 8, the day of Carnival Breeze’s official naming ceremony, prizes will be awarded each hour between 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., interspersed with a series of videos showcasing many of the ship’s fun and fantastic features. The final video of the day will feature highlights from the naming ceremony.


To enter just hit “like” Carnival on Facebook, visit the “Carnival Breeze-A-Thon” tab and enter to be eligible to win a wide range of fun and memorable prizes.

Lucky winners will score  goodies such as:

  • A Caribbean cruise for two aboard Carnival Breeze (Grand Prize)
  • Samsung 40-inch 3D high-definition television (Thrill Theater)
  • iPod Touch and Bluetooth Rechargeable Mini-Speakers pre-loaded with the Personal Party Mix created by DJ IRIE, Carnival’s official DJ (Liquid Nightclub/DJ IRIE)
  • Kindle Fire HD 7 and Fusion classic red and white wine glass collection (Library Bar)
  • Chef Pro 10-inch tortilla maker and set of six Novica Margarita glasses (BlueIguana Cantina)
  • Guy Fieri Food – Cookin’ It, Livin’ It, Lovin’ It, a cookbook authored by the Food Network personality and four jars of his signature barbecue sauces (Guy’s Burger Joint)
  • Engraved chopsticks for two and sake set (Bonsai Sushi)
  • Banzai Triple Wave Racer Water Slide (Carnival WaterWorks)
  • Two Carnival Comfort Robes and $250 gift card toward a massage on board (Serenity/Cloud 9 Spa)
  • DVD of “It’s Not Me, It’s You” featuring a live performance of comedian George Lopez (Punchliner Comedy Club presented by George Lopez)
  • Hasbro board game party pack, including Trivial Pursuit Master Edition, Clue, The Game of Life, Monopoly, and Scattergories (Hasbro, The Game Show)
  • Set of six ThirstyFrog Red beer glasses (RedFrog Pub/RedFrog Rum Bar)


For additional information and reservations on Carnival’s “Fun Ship” cruises, contact any travel agent, call 1-800-CARNIVAL or visit carnival.com.


The Crystal Symphony gets a ‘living wall’

Los Angeles, California-based, luxury ship operator  Crystal Cruises has come up with a way to bring land to sea, or least vegetation with the installment of  the world’s first self-contained, free-standing living wall at sea, created and crafted by UK-based ANS Group Europe on board the Crystal Symphony.

ANS Group Europe spent two days installing the living wall on the 922 passenger luxury liner while the ship sailed from Portland to Dover to complete its 11-night British Isle Brilliance voyage.

Designed for an al fresco area in the ship’s Deck 11 Trident Grill, the distinctive living wall uses a varied and diverse selection of indoor plants to display a world map. The living wall is 37.7 feet long and 7.9 feet high and will receive regular maintenance by Crystal Symphony’s onboard team of florists.

“In keeping with our ongoing focus on design, we wanted to create a focal point that was both highly contemporary and visually stunning,” says Alexandra Don, Crystal’s vice president, hotel design and services. “The end result is a living wall that brings the Trident Grill to life and serves as an eye-catching backdrop to the incomparable service and choices that always characterize a Crystal holiday.”

Joel Nash, marketing manager for ANS Group Europe added, “This bespoke project is an exciting and exhilarating scheme. Installing living walls on a cruise ship is taking us to a completely new level and opens up all sorts of possibilities. When you think this wall will be travelling as far north as Lapland and down to Cape Horn, it takes your breath away.”

A living wall is a vertical garden that is pre-planted in panels and then attached to the wall or facade of a building. Plants stay intact in their vertical positions because their root structures are anchored in two to four inches of soil kept within the panel.

The installation of the wall reflects another example of Crystal’s commitment to the environment and  its educational efforts both onboard and on shore. A living wall acts as a bio filter, enhancing air quality by breaking down harmful airborne contaminants and transforming them into clean oxygen. By absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, it reduces greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

For more information on Crystal Cruises and reservations, contact a travel agent, call 888-799-4625, or visit www.crystalcruises.com.