Seniors are getting the travel bug

On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter – June 11, 2021
by columnist Tom Blake
(The article today has been edited for length and clarity)
cheryl and guy new orleans
Guy and Cheryl – Mission Viejo, California
Seniors are on the move and traveling again
Senior travel is back. Despite the pandemic, Champ Cheryl and her husband Guy (That’s Guy and Cheryl in the photo above) managed to travel.

Cheryl explained: “Last July, Guy and I wanted to venture out of California when our international trip was canceled. So, we rented a Silverado dual cab and went on a 7,000-mile road trip for five weeks culminating in New Orleans.

“We visited nine states and had fun seeing how other states were dealing with the pandemic. We enjoyed visiting family and friends along the way.
“It gave us a lift as we returned home to Covid restrictions in California.

Almost everything in New Orleans was closed. We did get a beignet (deep-fried pastry with powdered sugar) at Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter of course!”

Now, Cheryl and Guy are going to travel internationally. She continued, “After being canceled for two years, we have received confirmation of our flights and hotels for Vienna, Prague, Budapest, and more. We are traveling alone and conduct a great deal of research on each destination.

“Six years ago, I made a quickly scribbled note about your website, which you said describes a trip to Budapest that you and Greta took.

“Could you let us know how to access that information on the website? No rush because we do not depart until August for a month. Before we go, I like to have as much information about a city or site. Travel books are basic help but I like information from reliable people I know.”

Tom’s response: “ is the right website. On the home page, look at the archive listings in the right-hand column. Click on the May 2015 archive. That will take you directly to Budapest and the subsequent river cruise (on Viking) we took from there to Vienna, continuing to Amsterdam.

“Our visit to Prague was eight years earlier when we took the Orient Express train from Venice to Prague and on to Paris. Click on the April 2007 archive to read about Prague. Note: you will first see an article about Valencia, Spain, but scroll down pass that to read about the train trip and the visit to Prague.
Travel After website

“You are going to love your trip.”

Thyrza emailed “Since I am free to travel until my next doctor six-month check-up, I plan to take a seven-day cruise to Greece with Holland America Line. Short enough but long enough to just relax and get pampered. My sweet doctor said I can’t be sitting around waiting for the next six-month check-up. I think for us seniors this is true: tomorrow is today.

Larry, a former neighbor I’ve known for 30 years, lives with his fiancee in the Phillippine Islands. When the pandemic hit, he was in the United States on business for a few months.

Since then, he has been unable to fly back to The Phillippines. He’s had seven different flights booked and then canceled by the airlines or the Philippines government.

He emailed this week: “Now I’m shooting for a flight to Manila on July 10th.”
So, it appears that Larry will be able to give his fiancee a long-overdue hug next month. I am hoping for him.

You will remember Champ Carmen, who lives in Barra de Navidad Mexico. He’s the one we wrote about a month ago who was corresponding with Annalisa, 69, who lives in Milan, Italy.

He’s planning to travel soon; I’m not sure if it will be to Milan, Italy, or Michigan, or somewhere else in the USA. He’ll let us know.

My partner Greta and I love to travel. We’ve had our Covid-19 vaccinations, our passports are up-to-date, and we’re raring to go. But, just to be cautious, we’re going to wait a few more months to cruise or possibly go see our friend Carmen who might still be in Italy.

Cruise ships are starting to appear in U.S. ports, which is an encouraging sign, for those of us who enjoy cruising. 
Senior travel–so much fun when there are no restrictions.

Senior Travel: 82-day cruise summary

On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter – December 21, 2018

by Tom P Blake

Senior Travel: 82-day cruise summary

Today’s eNewsletter is short. I want to wish you all Happy Holidays: Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.

This morning at 7 a.m., the Holland America Line ship ms Amsterdam docks in San Pedro, the port of Los Angeles. After 82 days cruising through Asia and the Pacific, it’s time to disembark and go home.

My partner Greta and I feel blessed to have been able to take this trip and are grateful to be home safely.

Thanks for your comments regarding the trip. If you’d like to read and see more photos than what have been posted here in the newsletters, I’ve written about every port we’ve been to on

Our last two ports were Honolulu, Hawaii, and Lahaina Maui. Below is a short recap of our visit there.

Going forward, the newsletter will once again address dating and relationship issues for people 50-90. Please email me your comments, questions and observations.

Part 2 – Honolulu and Lahaina December 14 – 15 2018

Hawaii was the final stop of the cruise. On day one there, the ship docked at a pier near the Aloha Tower in the port of Honolulu. About 100 yards from the ship, there was a bus stop for local buses.

 Aloha Tower in distance at Honolulu port

For $2, a passenger can purchase an all-day pass, which is what Greta and I did.

Our first destination was the Ala Moana Shopping Center, which must be the largest shopping mall in the world. Shopping at a mall was not how we wanted to spend our day in Honolulu, but I felt I could find a replacement wrist band for my Fitbit, which had become detached a month prior from the Fitbit itself.

We tried the Target Store first, and then Macy’s. Both stores sell Fitbits, but replacement bands are too small of a purchase for them to carry in-store; they told us to order them online. That was it for shopping in Honolulu.

We boarded another bus and headed for Waikiki Beach. Our destination was to have lunch on the beach at Duke’s Honolulu restaurant located in the Outrigger Hotel. At 11:30 a.m., the restaurant was packed.

 Duke’s Honolulu sign when entering the restaurant from the beach

After lunch there, we strolled around Waikiki, enjoying the perfect weather. We saw the statue of Duke Kahanamoku, considered to be the father of surfing. Duke passed away in 1968.

Waikiki – statue of Duke Kahanamoku, father of surfing

Waikiki from Duke’s Honolulu restaurant

Hawaii on a beautiful day

A while later, we boarded another bus and enjoyed sightseeing in the downtown area. We saw a lot of Honolulu, while riding around with the locals. It was a perfect way for us to spend our day in Honolulu. We saw some sites we had not seen before on previous visits to Hawaii. By day’s end, the Fitbit—not on my wrist but in my pocket—registered 15,000 steps.

Day 2 in Hawaii – Lahaina, Maui

When visiting Lahaina, cruise ships must anchor a mile or so out in the ocean. Tender boats take passengers from the ship and back to the ship. Seas were pretty choppy that day, and our tender boat was delayed out in the water for at least a half hour, tossing and turning. Finally, we disembarked in the center of the quaint and beautiful city of Lahaina.

The first stop ashore: the Maui Tourist Office, which is just across the street from the Pioneer Inn and adjacent to the largest Banyan tree in the world. The tree was planted in 1873. The Tourist office welcomes visitors with a fresh bowl on yummy Hawaiian pineapple.

Pineapple at the Tourist Information Office

Largest Banyan tree in the world on the town square in Laihaina Maui

Greta and I opted to take a local bus, #28, from the Lahaina Cinema Complex, which serves as the bus station, to Napili Shores, where we had stayed years before with Ted and Mary Kay Bowersox who live in San Juan Capistrano. The cost: $4 per person for the entire day.

Our destination? Of course! Another restaurant with which we were familiar. The Gazebo restaurant, located on a bluff overlooking the ocean. It’s a classic in Napili Bay. Fortunately, for us, we arrived there at 1:40 p.m., 20 minutes before they stopped serving (it’s more of a breakfast hangout but does serve some lunch items). Our food server told us she had seen the ship pass by at 7 a.m. in the morning a mile or so off shore.

Gazebo Restaurant in Napili Shores in Maui

A while later, we enjoyed the hour-long bus ride back along the coast, and returned to the pier in Lahaina. The seas were bumpy and the ride back to the ship was a rocking and rolling one.

When Greta was stepping off the tender unto the ship’s platform, the tender crashed hard against the platform and then moved away from the platform. The gap was too wide to step across. I heard other passengers watching her gasp and shout. However, the ship’s crew members had a good hold on her, thank heavens, and she crossed over to the platform safely. For me, seeing that happen to her, was the scariest moment of our 82-day trip, and gratefully, she was OK.

Our short visit to Hawaii was blessed with beautiful sunshine. Local buses are the way to travel around the islands of Oahu and Maui.

And now, after five sea days of crossing the Pacific from Hawaii, we are back in Southern California. Hurrah!

Here is Greta with some of the luggage waiting for our Lyft driver to take us home to Dana Point from the San Pedro, the port of Los Angeles:

Greta at San Pedro after getting off the ship
Greta is happy to be home after 82 days of cruising

Senior Travel: Mission Accomplished in Pago, Pago American Samoa

On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter – December 14, 2018

by Columnist Tom Blake

Senior Travel: Mission Accomplished in Pago Pago American Samoa

Pago Pago (pronounced “Pango, Pango,”), the capital of American Samoa, was the last port of call, except for Hawaii, on this 82-day Asia and Pacific cruise that my partner Greta and I have been on.

Although not a state, American Samoa is a United States territory, that closely identifies with the USA. The currency is American; the primary language is English, and there is a McDonald’s near the pier where our Holland America ship, the ms Amsterdam, docked.

The country is made up of five islands and has a population of 180,000 people.

American Samoa was an important military base for the USA in World War II. It was attacked once when a Japanese submarine slipped into its harbor. The country has the highest rate of enlistment in the United States military services of any state or territory.

There are 30 Samoans in the National Football League. The two best known were Jr. Seau and Troy Polamalu.

As we sailed in, you couldn’t help but notice how green the vegetation is. The islands get lots of rain. It’s a beautiful place.

Located on the earthquake-prone Pacific Ring of Fire, American Samoa suffered a terrible tsunami after a major earthquake in 2009.

In visiting Pago Pago, Greta and I had a goal. One of our Champs, Mark Flannery–who lives in Orange County, but whom we’ve never met–mentioned in an email that in 1975, his father was buried in the Satala Naval Cemetery in Pago Pago. Mark has never been to American Samoa.

I said to Greta, “Let’s try to find the cemetery where Mark’s father is buried.”

When I mentioned that to Mark, and asked for more information, he wrote, “My father, George Flannery retired from the Air Force around 1970 and shortly thereafter took a job with the government of American Samoa. He died of lung cancer. My mother stayed on the island for about five more years before returning to the mainland.”

Mark added, “I certainly wasn’t asking you to look for my father’s grave, but while you are there, I have a small request. Will you see if there is any sign of my mother Ellen in the same place? She died in Texas about 25 years ago, and her ashes were sent to a friend in Pago Pago, who promised to put her near my father. You are the first people I know who have traveled to Pago Pago since then and therefore able to check this for me and my siblings.”

I said, “I know you didn’t ask, but Greta and I would like to do this for you. And it will give us a goal to achieve on our day ashore in Pago Pago.”

Mark was aware that our visit to the Satala Cemetery might not happen. Our port visit to Apia, Samoa, the day before, had been cancelled for safety reasons by the ship’s captain because of a dangerous swell pushing the ship against the pier.

Mark did research that helped us. He contacted an American Samoa government official about the cemetery and the location of George Flannery’s grave and Ellen Flannery’s grave. The official sent pictures, which helped me see what the cemetery looked like from the road and where the graves were located.

Pago Pago Harbor is more protected from wave surges than Apia Harbor and it was smooth sailing into the pier where the ship docked. I was excited that Greta and I would at least be able to go ashore and search for the cemetery.

At breakfast in the dining room, I saw an American Samoan official who had just come aboard. I asked if he knew where the Satala Cemetery was located. He seemed pleased that we had an interest in it. He walked me over to the window and said, “You see that red transmission antenna across the Harbor?”


“The cemetery is adjacent to it on the left.”

I recognized it from the pictures Mark had sent. My feeling was: oh my gosh, this is going to happen.

“How would you suggest we get there?” I asked the official.

“Walk out the gate and to the curb where the local buses pull in. Get on one in that direction, tell the driver to stop at the cemetery. You pay $1 each when you get off the bus.”

And that’s what we did. The bus driver had a bunch of white gardenias on the bus’s dashboard. He handed one to Greta. We were at the cemetery in five minutes. We paid the driver two bucks.

Inside our bus on the way to the Satala Cementery in Pago Pago. Notice the flowers on the dash

  A typical Pago Pago local bus. No air conditioning, hard wooden benches, but delightful

We found the markers immediately. Greta placed the flower on George’s marker. I went into the adjacent jungle and picked a tropical red flower for Ellen’s marker.

 Satala Cemetery in Pago Pago American Samoa

George Flannery’s grave with white flower on marker

Ellen Flannery’s grave with red flower, located next to her husband’s grave

Greta and I spent an hour there taking pictures. Our mission was complete. Except, of course, to email the photos to Mark when we got back to the ship.

We enjoyed the bus ride so much, we got on the next bus to see more of the island. And the bus happened to be the same one as before, with the same nice driver. What a delightful and informative way to see the island. Locals who were on the bus asked us where we were from. They were so friendly and proud of their country, being a territory of the USA.

Later, we took a different bus in the opposite direction from the ship, to see the other side of the island. Our total bus fare for the day, $10.

Mark expressed his appreciation for the effort Greta and I had made and for the eight photos I emailed to him.

The next day, I emailed two more photos—to Mark–I thought. But, in my haste, I wrote, “George, here are a couple more photos.”

Mark replied lightheartedly, “George isn’t able to receive the photos you sent. But I got all of them, and, have forwarded them to my relatives. Thanks again.”

I was horrified at the mistaken salutation. But, Mark made me feel better. He said, “I had a good laugh about this.”

At lunch the next day, our table mates asked how we had enjoyed our day in Pago Pago. When we told them about our mission to visit the cemetery, they said, “When we rode past the cemetery in our bus, we noticed tourists taking pictures of a gravestone and wondered what that was about. My gosh, it was you two, and now we know why you were there.”

Greta and I will never forget our day in Pago Pago, American Samoa. It had special meaning for us.

Note from Tom: Our trip ends Friday, December 21, when we dock in Los Angeles. So, this may be the last newsletter about the cruise (maybe a few trip tidbits and summary will be included next week).

Some Champs have asked for more details. I added the trip’s blog posts to The home page will open on the most recent post and you can click on the archives in the right-hand column for December, November, October and September posts, which are all about this trip.

But one travel tip learned in Pago Pago I will mention here. A great way to see a city is to board a local bus and ride it to the end of the line and then ride it back. You see countryside that organized excursions don’t always see, and you meet and get to talk to the locals. Plus, the cost is minimal; the experience priceless.

Back in California, Greta and I met with Mark Flannery and his significant other, Donna, for dinner and to talk about Pago Pago American Samoa.