Vancouver to Sydney Cruise

We decided to join Jen’s parents on a 29 day cruise on Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas, from Vancouver to Sydney, Australia.  

Here are the stops that we did along the way:
First Leg (8 nights)
- Vancouver, Canada
- Seattle, USA
- 5 sea days
- Maui, USA (2 days)
- Honolulu, USA

Second Leg (20 nights)
- Honolulu, USA
- 5 sea days  - crossed the equator
- Moorea, French Polynesia (2 days)
- Papeete, French Polynesia
- 5 sea days - crossed the international dateline
- Napier, New Zealand
- Wellington, New Zealand
- Picton, New Zealand
- 2 sea days
- Sydney, Australia

Equatorial Crossing
If you have never sailed over the Equator before, you are known as a Pollywog.  Between Hawaii and French Polynesia, we crossed the equator and the cruise director performed an Equatorial baptism ceremony.    They poured some of Neptune's cold water from the Northern Hemisphere, and then hot water from the Southern Hemisphere, onto each Pollywog's head.  I guess we are now considered Shellbacks and even have some nice certificates to prove it 😂

"Equatorial baptism is an initiation ritual sometimes performed as a ship crosses the Equator, involving water baptism of passengers or crew who have never crossed the Equator before. The ceremony is sometimes explained as being an initiation into the court of King Neptune. Sailors who have already crossed the Equator are nicknamed Shellbacks. Those who have not crossed are nicknamed Pollywogs."

Dateline Crossing
Between French Polynesia and New Zealand, we crossed the international dateline.  For us, Saturday Oct. 22, 2022 was completely lost - it is an entire day in our lives that just never existed.  We went to bed on Friday Oct. 21st, and when we woke up the next morning, it was Sunday Oct 23rd 😃!


We enjoy sailing with Royal Caribbean because they have so many activities available to keep us occupied, particularly on the big Quantum or Oasis class boats.  Here are some of our highlights:

Pickleball, Old-school Rollerskating, Volleyball, Dodgeball, Ping pong, Dance Fitness
Trivia (progressive, music, dingbats, tribond, etc.), and Educational Seminars on French Polynesia and crime scene forensics
The North Star
Lounging on the deck
Let’s not forget the flowrider where Dom passed a lot of his time. Some days he would only do 3 runs every hour but he got lucky on colder days and even got the Flowrider to himself for 45 minutes once…it was a cold day. 
Some of the other activities on the boat included Soccer, Basketball, iFly, rock climbing, bumper cars, dance and sushi-making classes, origami/scapbooking/towel/napkin animal folding lessons, and movies/games on the pool deck, but we didn't participate in any of these this time.

Piano guy in the elevator.. and he was good. 
Evening shows and Silent Disco

Crown & Anchor Status
Besides spending time with Jen's parents, another reason we decided to do such a long trip was because Royal Caribbean was offering double-status-points to try to entice tourists back onto the boats post-covid.  By the time we completed both legs of the cruise, we both managed to attain Diamond status, meaning we will now be able to get our own free drinks!  Dom was SO excited about his new status (even though he doesn't drink.. go figure 🤷😂)

Food and Drinks
Since Jen's parents were already Diamond members before this cruise, we got to sample some of their free drinks every day.  We had fun trying different kinds of mocktails and cocktails.  Some of our favourites were: strawberry daiquiri, mudslide, piña colada, dark and stormy, sangria, lava flow, sexy ocean, and the painkiller.. just to name a few. 

As usual we really enjoyed the dining room food and ate way too much at the beginning.  It took us about 20 days before we learned to pace ourselves 😂

Thanks to Jen's mom, we were able to upgrade to balcony rooms for the first leg of the cruise.  For the second leg, we got to experience an inside room with a Virtual Balcony (80 inch TV of a live "balcony" view of the ship) for the first time.  Of course it's not the same as having a real balcony, but we must say we were pleasantly surprised at how effective it was at tricking us into feeling that we had a window view since you could at least see what it was like outside!

Unfortunately, Jen and her parents for COVID at the end of the trip, however, Royal Caribbean was nice enough to provide each of us with our own separate rooms, free room service, free internet, and medication for covid symptoms.  Dom had to get tested every morning, but as long as he tested negative he was allowed to continue enjoying the outside world while everyone was isolating. Overall, we felt they treated us and the situation very well.. we're sure it's not an easy thing for them to manage / deal with either.

Yves' Visit to Calgary

While having dinner in Montreal with Dom's dad, Yves, we discovered that his summer vacation was a starting a week early.  In the spur of the moment, we invited him to visit Calgary and he accepted.  We bought tickets, and 10 days later we were all enjoying Alberta steak together in Calgary.

Since Yves needed a break, we took it easy for the most part, but managed to fit in a bit of disc golf, have a nice father-son ping pong competition, make sushi, and go on a nice bike ride from Canmore to Banff with Jen's dad. 

On the second week, we went to Fairmont, BC with Jen's family to chill out. 

We had a great time and hope he'll come back for another visit next year! :)

St Jean Baptiste

Over the summer, we spent a month in Quebec visiting family and friends.  

Some friends from Calgary were also visiting Montreal while we were there, so we met up with them to check out the Saint-Jean Baptiste day celebrations in Montreal.

Jen then joined Rosemary and Jessica on their road trip to check out Quebec City and surrounding area.

Montmorency Falls

Along the way, they tried the “Best” poutine (according to Dom's mom) at LaMaire and attempted eat a huge ice cream sandwich from Île d'Orléans.
The road trip ended at Charlotte's country retreat in St Placide where our friends spent the night before returning to Calgary.

Shortly after the road trip, we finally got word that our London work visa applications had been approved, so we drove to Ottawa to complete the application process.  Since Jen hadn't been to Ottawa before, we spent the afternoon doing a bit of sight-seeing :)  

City Chasers

For the last couple of years, Guy and Cynthia participated in a local "Amazing Race" event called the Calgary City Chase.  They really enjoyed it in past years, so we decided to join, along with Harjit (who filled in for Guy) and a bunch of others.

The city chase had us solving puzzles and racing through the city to complete various events.  You can choose to either complete 10 events as fast as possible, or complete as many events as possible before 16:00 (which is what we chose since we were more interested in doing the actual events!! :)). 

We surprisingly only completed 12 of the 23 possible events since we decided to all stick together and make it more of a social event.  We burned up a bunch of time waiting over an hour in line for the Zorbing event.. not an optimal decision if you're trying to "race".. but we didn't care - we were all just super excited to finally try Zorbing!!  (

It was definitely the best event we did that day.  We zorbed in pairs up the hill, navigated around the pylon, and the rolled all the way back downhill as fast we could.  We won against the other team in our race and laughed so hard the entire time while bouncing and falling overtop of each other.  So much fun!
The day was a great success - wonderful company, lots of laughs, and we even lucked out with perfect sunny weather!

Canadamerican Thanksgiving

After being away from Calgary for so long, we thought it'd be nice to use late-Canadian / early-American Thanksgiving as an excuse to have a potluck-style dinner with our Calgary family.  It was great to visit with everyone and, of course, the best part of Thanksgiving - eating all of the delicious leftovers for an entire week ;)

Automne à Montréal

On our way home from Zurich, we stopped by Montreal to spend some time visiting friends and family.

While we were there, Jen's parent happened to be flying through Montreal on the way to their cruise.  Dom's mom, Charlotte, hosted them for a couple of days so they finally got to meet Dom's family, get a little taste of rural life, and practice some French.  They've always wanted to see Eastern Canada during the colourful autumn season, so we were crossing our fingers that the timing would work out. Unfortunately, they just missed the most vibrant colours... but they still enjoyed the amazing views from Charlotte's place and driving around to sightsee the surrounding areas.  

Jen's dad was especially thrilled to drive Charlotte's tractor around to mow the lawn - apparently it's something he's always wanted to try! hehe

Cherry Pickers

On our road trip back to Calgary, we stopped by Vernon BC to visit our kitesurfing friends Ron & Jude, whom we met and hung out with last Christmas for almost a month and a half in Vietnam!

Ron & Jude took us out to Peter’s Orchard near Vernon, where Dom & I picked 23 pounds of delicious tree-ripened cherries to bring back home!

We also stopped by Kamloops for a couple of days to work and visit our friends Sheena and Oliver :)

Congratulations Rob & Sonia!

Prior to heading to Vancouver for Dom's cousin's wedding, Charlotte flew to Calgary to for a quick visit.  We didn't spend much time site seeing since she's been to Calgary before, but Charlotte did get to meet some extended family on Jen's dad's side and spent lots of time visiting Jen's parents.  Charlotte was also lucky enough to experience Calgary's wonderful hail storms :)

Next on the agenda was a road trip out to Squamish for an impromptu family reunion prior to the wedding.  Thanks again Mark and Tamara for your wonderful hospitality!!
When we arrived in Vancouver, there were major forest fires in the area.  There was very little wind, which meant the smoke was thick and lingering.. it also meant no Squamish Kitesurfing for Dom :( !  

Luckily, a light breeze cleared out the smoke on the day of Robert and Sonia's Wedding.  The ceremony was lovely and a little bit of blue sky even snuck out for a while in the afternoon.   
The Banquet was at the Stanley Park Pavillion.  Since Sonia's family is Italian and Robert's family is (half) French, the banquet menu featured incredibly delicious items from both cultures, including poutine (of course!).  The particularly memorable dishes for us were the ravioli (probably the best we've ever had!) and a pistachio canelli dessert!
Also very special and memorable were the wonderful tributes made to Robert's late mother (Dom's aunt) in both the ceremony and the banquet that left us all feeling teary-eyed and especially appreciative of the special day that we spent today, surrounded by family.

Mt Kidd

After returning to Calgary, Jen's parents invited us to go camping for a couple of days.  We introduced Dom to "luxury" camping at Mt. Kidd where there's electrical plug ins, flush toilets, running water, hot showers, a pool/hot tub, satellite TV...
... and internet!  What better place to get a bit of work done than under the warm sun with fresh mountain air and no distractions!

Jen's dad also took us for a really great 44km bike ride along the Legacy trail that runs from Canmore to Banff.  It's a fully-paved bike trail with amazing views of the mountains.. we highly recommend it!!

Growing Herbs in Winter

To keep ourselves busy while back home in Canada, we decided to take a stab at having a garden.  We discovered that our roommates were also wannabe green-thumbs, so it became a fun activity/experiment to do together.
- Guy grew some carrots
- Chris grew a variety of indoor and outdoor herbs
- Jen grew spaghetti squash, potatoes, and some herbs
- Dom grew raspberries, tomatoes, onions, and zucchini

Sadly, Calgary's summer season wasn't so great with several hail storms and an early-September snow storm! :(

Just before leaving for the winter again, we decided to help Chris with his winter grow-op experiment.  Jen had seen a documentary about LED agriculture in Taiwan, so Chris did some research on LED grow lights only to find that they were a bit too expensive to get.  Since Jen’s parents were visiting China, we sent them an email to keep an eye out for the type of LEDs that Chris had found online.  Lucky for us, they found some at a fraction of the cost, so they brought back some strips of red and blue LEDs.  Dom and Chris built a contraption to test the lights out over winter..  can't wait to see if they'll actually work!