From Russia to Canada, with love.

It’s not lost on me that I am ridiculously lucky to be traveling to so many places at such a young age, and all for work. Every morning I have to practically pinch myself to double check that this is real. I know I appreciated it the first time around, but each subsequent cruise ship contract I’ve taken, the vaildity of my fortune has deepened. I’m happy to say I really take none of this for granted, and do my best to make the most of each day – even if it’s today: a stormy, rainy, extremely windy afternoon in Newfoundland. I had originally planned a nice hike for today, but the weather absolutely wouldn’t allow for it. I ventured into town, hoping to catch a glimpse of the island’s namesake gigantic black dog – but I settled for mediocre pizza and a walk that hilariously ruined my $10 Forever 21 umbrella. (I believe my castmate, Chaz, took some perfectly timed photographs of my attempt to walk with said umbrella in the gusting winds.)

Perhaps this storm in Canada, our first day in North America, is coming off the end of our designated level three hurricane in the North Atlantic as we left Greenland a few days ago. Damn. 30-35 foot waves, gusts of wind over 100 knots… it was insane. We were obviously glad to step on land today, but after my windy and wet adventure to find pizza, I am back in my favorite spot on the ship, the top deck forward lounge. So today has transformed into a blog and laundry day. Who knows, things might get crazy and I could possibly paint my nails. I’m living dangerously.

Max, myself and Sonja in Warnemunde
Max, myself and Sonja in Warnemunde

Since my last update here, we went another turn around the Baltic, hitting up Stockholm for embarkation day, back to Tallinn, St. Petersburg, and Helsinki, down to Germany’s Warnemünde, through the Kiel Canal, to Amsterdam (I saw the Van Gogh museum!), Antwerp and Zeebrugge in Belgium, and finishing in Southampton. I was so lucky to catch up with Sonja and Max, who drove to Warnemünde for a visit with me!

Ashley and the Belgians
Ashley and the Belgians

Next voyage took us to Fowey in Cornwall, then to Cork, Ireland (home of the famous Blarney Castle), Dublin, Belfast, up and over to Rekjavik, Iceland, to Qaqortoq, Greenland and now in Newfoundland, Canada. It has been fun visiting many of these ports for the second time – though it was my first time to Belgium this year. Wow! I love Belgium so much!

Mussels and Frites!
Mussels and Frites!

I ticked off everything on my indulgences list: chocolate, beer, mussels, frites and waffles. It was absolutely worth all the calories, in case you were wondering. Here’s a picture of my incredible lunch in the gorgeous city of Bruges, Beligum.

After that lunch, I visited a really cool brewery in the old city and went on a tour.

Old bottles and brewing equipment
Old bottles and brewing equipment

What a beautiful place!

I obviously didn’t have much free time in Southampton as it was embarkation day, but I was pleasantly surprised with the quaint town of Fowey in Cornwall, England. I ventured out for a walk about town, and found myself wandering down a grassy path picking blackberries along the way! An absolute gem of a destination, and it was the perfect spot for me to wander solo, practicing songs aloud for my upcoming solo cabaret. A fabulous day!

Beautiful Fowey
Beautiful Fowey
Gorgeous Blarney
Gorgeous Blarney

My next adventure was of the Irish variety with my castmate, Marcus. Marcus has Irish roots, and with my red hair, people think I do, so we felt very compelled to complete the pilgrimage to Blarney Castle and kiss the famous Blarney Stone! It was an excellent experience, with sumptiously verdant wildlife all around… I am 99% sure I even saw a leprechaun that day. And yes, I kissed the stone! Feeling very much like I have the gift of gab now, as the legend prescribes (though I’m not sure I needed any help with that one).

Of course, the big port that everyone was excited for was our late night in Dublin, Ireland. And Dublin did not let down. I started my day with a ‘Fabulous Food Trail’ tour, and was lucky enough to taste cheese, breads, smoked salmon, whiskey, chocolate, pastrami and wine… though not necessarily in that order. It so interested to meet all the local purveyors of these fine Irish foods, right in town!

A Guinness in Dublin!
A Guinness in Dublin!

Truly, this trip to Dublin far exceeded my experience last year. It’s a fantastic town with a lot to see and do. And no trip to Dublin is complete without a trip to the Temple Bar Pub, right? We enjoyed one or three Guinness while listening to some great bar music. Chaz punked my video in the middle of Mumford and Sons (check my Facebook for that gem).

The next adventure was the Titanic musuem in Belfast, which was honestly one of the best museums I’ve ever visited. The interesting thing about this tour is we hit up almost all the points of significance for the Titanitic, so it’s a great time to reflect on the past and spend some time exploring the history of the Titanic. And obviously, this happened:

Marcus and Ashley as Jack and Rose
Marcus and Ashley as Jack and Rose

I was really nervous for the next stretch of sailing, as this was the point  last year where we experienced 30 foot waves and worse pitching than any auto-tune technician has had to deal with. (See what I did there?)

Blue Lagoon!
Blue Lagoon!

But yeah, we made it to Iceland with relatively little rocking and rolling. A visit to the Blue Lagoon was essential, and I felt positively “fetal,” in the words of our HR Manager, after a series of mud and algae masks. Heaven! Only downside was that the local beer, “Gull,” tasted like Budweiser to me. I think I’ve seen the best beer days on this trip behind me, though there’s still Maine… And later than night I debuted my new cabaret show, “Maybe This Time.” It went wonderfully and I can’t wait to piece together some of the footage!

Prince Christian Sund
Prince Christian Sund

Next up we continued West to Greenland, and entered the glorious Prince Christinan Sund. Absolutely gorgeous and I finally saw my very first whale! Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the whale, but someone told us it must have been a small fin whale. Whatever, I saw it! I’m so thrilled I finally had that experience, after seeing countless spurts of water in the distance, I finally saw something up close! The sound was much eerier than our passage last year, this time marked by creepy fog and looming sleet. But it was fantastic and beautiful!

Did I mention that the sailing was calm? Yeah, that stopped the day we left from our next port in Greenland. I think that statistically, this storm was worse than ours last year. As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, the hurricane conditions didn’t exactly make our transit comfortable, but damn! – it was fun! I couldn’t get enough of staring out the window and watching 30 waves rising far above me and then soak the window (on deck 5). It was so cool! But I won’t lie – I was relieved when the storm subsided and we made it to land today.

Now, I am ready to make it into the Saint Lawrence Riverway and experience some smooth sailing already! We shall see what happens later this afternoon as we leave Newfoundland, because these torrential winds and rains seem to be following us around! Hopefully we’ll be clear by the time we arrive in Quebec City in a few days, because I’m thrilled to have a free day and take in one of my favorite cities!

North America, it’s great to be back, but wow, Europe:  I love you so dearly. Until next time.

Ashley takes Dublin
Ashley takes Dublin
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One thought on “From Russia to Canada, with love.

  1. Mom September 22, 2014 / 4:50 pm

    Awesomeness

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