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Archive for March, 2009

In addition to everything else, the Great Lakes are also home to some of the most interesting little critters on the planet.

You may have heard of extremophiles. They’re the microscopic organisms living in places that, by rights, should be off-limits to any living thing: volcanic vents, super-cold environments, whacked-out reaches in the upper atmosphere where O2 is at a premium, but you can get crazy-deadly cosmic rays by the wholesale.

Turns out, the Great Lakes has ’em by the bucketload. 60 feet down, in these FRESHWATER LAKES, researchers have discovered sinkholes – over 300 feet across – filled with BRINY WATER. This, you might think, is slightly odd. Turns out, groundwater is rising through the bedrock into the lake, dissolving minerals in the bedrock. The bedrock is actually an ancient seabed more than 400 million years old. And in these briny holes, microscopic bacterial colonies are thriving.

These bacterial colonies – brilliant purple cyanobacteria – are close relatives to other colonies found living among the “black smokers” in the deep ocean, as well as bacterial colonies found in submerged Antarctic glacial lakes.

Read more here.

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You are sailing away from Naples. You hear a voice cry out:

“Cyclops, if any mortal man ever asks you who it was that inflicted upon your eye this shameful blinding, tell him that you were blinded by Odysseus, sacker of cities!”

That voice is your own.

Or – by the gentle shores of Ithaka, a sweet voice sings out. A beautiful woman is whispering heartfelt words to her husband:

“The gods granted us misery, in jealousy over the thought that we two, always together, should enjoy our youth, and then come to the threshold of old age.”

And that is the voice of your wife.

•••

Travel Dynamics International is proud to present a very special departure of The Journey of Odysseus, from JULY 31 – SEPT. 11, 2009. Collaborating with Readers of Homer, a 503(c) non-profit organization, we will not only be sailing from TROY to ITHACA, retracing the ten years’ voyage of wily Odysseus from the carnage at Illium home to Penelope. Guests will be invited to orate their favorite passages from The Odyssey in an organized reading that will span the length of the cruise. messina

In a world of intellectual candy, this is the chocolate truffle. Just imagine standing upon the deck of the Corinthian II, the gold standard of expedition cruising, and beckoning to either side of the Strait of Messina (a picture is on the right) while  declaiming:

In that cave Scylla lives (because she did), whose howling is terror. She has twelve feet, and all of them wave in the air. She has six necks upon her, grown to great length, and upon each neck there is a horrible head…

From Istanbul and Troy to Delos, Pylos, Malta, Sicily, Naples, Ithaca and Athens, (more…)

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corinthian-ii

Corinthian II is a thoroughly comfortable ship with a relaxed house-party atmosphere—no formalities—configured for a discerning crowd who expect the best.”

From Ships&Cruises.com:

Travel Dynamics’ flagship Corinthian II offers an intimate luxury onboard with a high level of educational opportunities that include full days of exploring ashore, in whatever waters the ship is cruising—which is mostly in the Mediterranean. The Corinthian II was originally built in 1992 for the now-defunct Renaissance Cruises, sailing under several names. In 2005, following an extensive refurbishment, she entered service for Travel Dynamics.

This spring, I traveled on a ten-day, seven-country voyage from Cadiz, Spain to Piraeus, Greece with calls in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Sicily, and Crete along the way. While the ship offers a high standard of expedition cruising she actually represents more of a crossover travel experience for her guests— from expedition cruising to educational travel.

Easy on and Easy off . . .
One of the charms of Corinthian II’s small scale and her limited passenger list is the ease of slipping onboard and settling down in your cabin. The ship’s accommodations are spread over five levels —connected with an elevator—and are more spacious than the “good” grade on a superliner. (more…)

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Here’s a brief sampling (5 mins) of the type of experience Travel Dynamics International creates. In 2006, we sailed to the Mediterranean with actor Yannis Simonides, who adapted an award-winning dramatic monologue from The Apology of Socrates by Plato. We decided to stage this performance at the steps of the famed 2rd-century AD Library of Celsus in the center of ancient Ephesus. Enjoy!

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mackinawislandWe’ve just had two days of early Spring here in New York, and that gets me thinking about summer. It’s been a tricky winter, right? But it’s all for the good – I think we’re all taking stock, figuring out the best way to live our lives, rather than the most. Spend time with family, make friends, and try to have interesting experiences.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling pretty positive. I’m looking at this country with different eyes: I’m proud of us, of what we’ve done, and what we have yet to do. I’ve traveled around a lot, and spent a long time in Europe – I’ve seen a lot of the world, not even considering that I’ve neglected, that we’ve neglected, America itself. “I’ve come to look for America,” Simon & Garfunkel sang, but if you’re like me you’d like a little more comfort than the backpack-and-Greyhound way of doing things.

This summer, we’re going to start running a wonderful small ship, the Clelia II, through the Great Lakes. Now, normally I like my trips a bit more exotic. But when I saw the rocky coasts of Lake Superior, the wave-washed lighthouses and the wooded forests along the coasts, I kept thinking: wouldn’t this be nice? One time, I spent July 4th on a sailboat anchored in Lake Michigan. The scent of the fresh water made me feel alert and alive. My fiancée reminisces about childhood summers spent at a beach-house on the Upper Peninsula. It was really idyllic, and so traditionally American, in the best sense, that I wanted to discover more.

Once upon a time, we used to spend our summers this way, cruising the Great Lakes. Fifty years later, we get to do it again. I hope you enjoy this song, below, by way of introduction. I think it sets the scene nicely.

So welcome aboard. Make yourself at home. You’ll have friends here, and we’ll take it easy, while discovering a place we’ve never known before – our own back yard.

PS – TDI Radio’s got some great new tracks from the Great Lakes. Listen in.

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Bill Geist? Who’s he? Well, that’s okay if he’s not a household name. He’s not one of those flashy sorts. He doesn’t go in for a whole lot of self-promotion. He’s just an easy-going American journalist who really loves America in all its small-town quirkiness. For years, his segments on CBS’s “Sunday Morning” have brought home the friendly, the odd, the back-road and the out-of-the-way places all over the country.

That’s why we’re so pleased he could join us for our inaugural Great Lakes cruise this summer, from June 27-July 4 aboard the Clelia II. Here’s Bill with his granddaughter, walking through New York, telling her all about the differences between now and “Sunday Morning”‘s debut 30 years ago:

He’s going to be great fun, don’t you think?

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I never used to be one for tearjerkers. But maybe I’ve gotten sentimental in my dotage. You probably remember “Somewhere in Time,” the romance with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. As a writer, yep, I succumb to the set-up; much of my life is about literary time-travel, writing myself back into places of grandeur, elegance and romance.

That’s why I grow sentimental, thinking about “Somewhere in Time,” set among the tall colonnades of the Grand Hotel on Mackinaw Island. I think about a slower age, where horse-drawn carriages would clip-clop down cobblestone lanes, delivering the mail, the fresh milk, and the fudge up to Victorian doorsteps; where car exhaust is banned; and where we might be at ease, and in love, on an island in the Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes: A Voyage through North America’s Magnificent Inland Seas, coming to you this summer aboard the 100-guest, all-suite Clelia II – reviving the romance of American history.

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