• Ik Kil Cenote

    On our Yucatan Peninsula excursion during ShipRocked 2019, we also went to the Ik Kil Cenote, a natural sinkhole with a pool of groundwater, which was open to the public for swimming. Surrounded by purifying limestone and hypnotizing vines all over, the Cenote (one of many) encompassed the enchanting essence of the Yucatan Peninsula and Mayan culture.

    Most cave cenotes have fresh water that has been meticulously filtered by the earth, making them so clear and pure that you can see straight through. Open-air cenotes also have clear water, and often are home to vitamin- and mineral-rich algae that nourish and protect your skin.

    Ancient Mayans believed that the cenotes were mystical. Ik Kil was considered sacred by the Mayans who used the site as a location for human sacrifice to their rain god, Chaac.

    We had delicious food including grilled chicken and pork with rice and beans paired with homemade tortilla chips at the restaurant on site. It was a long trek back to the port and we watched the film Coco and there wasn’t a dry eye in the van.

  • Chichen Itza

    The Shiprocked music cruise celebrated its tenth anniversary this year and one of the most memorable stops of the journey was the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.  This stop was one of the days that I was looking forward to on the cruise because I have been to Mexico many times but never visited the ancient city of Chichen Itza.

    As we stepped off the Carnival Valor and walked through the beautiful Port Progreso, there were so many excursions to take part in. The one we chose was a lengthy drive to the ancient city. The weather was perfect with a slight breeze and puffy white clouds on a bright blue-sky background, which made for amazing photo opportunities.

    The city is one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World” and it’s easy to see why. The archeological sites of ancient Mayan Ruins are a mystical place rich with history and culture. The El Castillo temple is an architectural wonder in itself and a marvel to look at. The site exceeded my expectations and it breathtaking as you walk up to the main pyramid.

    We were able to explore the site for several hours and see where Ancient Mayans conducted games and ancient rituals. It is fascinating to see the Ancient Ball Court and Temple of Jaguars. Many of the sites in Chichen Itza are known for their unusual sounds. If you clap once from one end of the Ball Court, it produces nine echoes in the middle of the court.

    As an engineer, I am always in awe of these ancient structures and their construction. Chichen Itza is an engineering marvel with many ties to astronomy. During the spring and fall equinoxes, the pyramid serves as a visual symbol of the day and night. On every equinox, the sun of the late afternoon creates the illusion of a snake creeping slowly down the northern staircase. Symbolically, the feathered serpent joins the heavens, earth, and the underworld, day and night.

    The hospitality of the Mayan people was a joy to experience. The history and power of their culture was a sight to see and learn about.

  • Tulum

    I wanted to visit Tulum again for many years. My first visit was on my honeymoon many years ago and I didn’t take any photographs. I had memories of the most amazing beach under ancient Mayan ruins. So when I found out that the Carnival Valor was making a stop there during our ShipRocked cruise I made sure to make a plan to get back to the magical site.

    It was a little difficult this time because the cruise was not offering formal tours to the ruins because of time constraints so I had to plan the trip on my own. I was a little nervous but the day went flawlessly with some pre-planning.

    I started immediately upon arrival at the port by taking a taxi to the ferryboat that takes you from the Port of Cozumel to Playa del Carmen. Prior to arrival, I had set up a private tour driver who spoke English to get me to Tulum, which is about 45 minutes from Playa del Carmen. I highly recommend the tour company Cozumel Tours by Johann and Sandra.

    It was super easy to book online or call them directly and you pay a flat rate for up to 8 people in a brand new Mercedes sprinter van. We made it to the ruins and back in plenty of time to catch the ferry back to Cozumel and make the ship departure time. We even had enough time for one final margarita at a port bar.

    At Tulum, I was a little disappointed to see that the ruins themselves are blocked off so no one can climb on them. This makes sense due to the massive increase in tourism into the area and the degradation that can occur off the site. It also made it possible to take clear photos of the temples and statues on the site.

    The beach was as magnificent as I remember with crystal clear blue water. It is consistently voted one of the best beaches in the world.

  • Preview: ShipRocked 2019

    ShipRocked Cruise 2019 hits the high seas, on Saturday [January 26, 2019] on the Carnival Valor for its 10th anniversary.  This year’s theme is straight out of the wild west as the cruise head out from the Port of Galveston, TX and visits the beautiful Mexican Riviera with stops in Cozumel and the Yucatan.

    Headliners on the boat include some of radio rock’s heavy hitters and returning ShipRockers Papa Roach, Sevendust, Nothing More, Nonpoint, and Wilson. It’s also the first time for Welsh rockers Bullet For My Valentine, rock, reggae act Skindred, hardcore band Suicidal Tendencies and many more.

    The Travel Addict will be onboard to enjoy non-stop rock for five days and also visit some of the world’s most beautiful sites in Mexico. Alan Koenig is the festival founder and we were able to catch up with him to preview this year’s cruise and talk about the ten-year history of the hard rock festival at sea.

    Koenig talks about his background in the music industry, what inspired the cruise, some of his favorite moments on ShipRocked over the years and much more. Check out The Travel Addict’s exclusive interview with ShipRocked music cruise founder Alan Koenig below:

    What inspired you to create ShipRocked?

    I was an artist manager for over 13 years. One of the artists I worked with was Vince Neil of Motley Crue. For over a decade I ran his charity golf tournament in California and for six years a charity poker tourney in Las Vegas. In 2006 we decided we’d do a cruise (appropriately titled Vince Neil’s Motley Cruise), which sailed in 2007 and 2008.

    Also, in 2003 I’d won a trip to England for a private Peter Gabriel concert at his recording studio. I’m a massive fan. There were 100 people from all over the world, a meet and greet before the show, etc. But honestly, the best part of the trip was just sitting and visiting with the other fans after the concert, talking about our lives, our love of Peter’s music and music in general. Working in the music industry you can sometimes become a bit jaded, but that trip really renewed my passion and joy for music and made me feel like a part of that (non-industry) community again.

    Flash forward to Vince’s cruises and I saw that same dynamic happening amongst his community of fans.  So, having realized over time that I loved producing events, and desiring to find a way to bring communities of music fans together, I took a leap of faith and started my company ASK4 Entertainment in late 2008 and launched the ShipRocked cruise.

    There are more and more music cruises each year, what sets ShipRocked apart from the others?

    I think it’s all because of the incredible ShipRocked [SR] community – really more a family – of guests we have joining us on board every year.  Rock bands and their fans have always felt a bit like “outsiders” (for a lack of a better term) in the larger popular/contemporary music world, and I think that really helps to bring them closer together. These are “core audience” fans and they invest a lot of their time and money supporting the music they love – buying and not just streaming the music, attending shows, buying the merch – which makes them one of, if not the most intensely loyal fan base of any music genre.

    What is the process to select the lineup each year?

    Booking bands is a process to be sure, especially as the live music industry changes from year to year. That said we are blessed to have an amazing talent buyer (Roger LeBlanc of Madison Entertainment) working hand in hand with us, and I truly believe we’ve assembled some of the most amazing lineups ever, by land or sea!

    SR’s lineup has never been beholden to generation or sub-genre, as I believe is evidenced in the variety of artists we’ve had on board over the last nine years. We always endeavor to thread together a mix of great live hard rock, harder alternative, metal, and punk music, and offer fans a little bit of everything.

    We always start with our guest surveys following each cruise. We work hard to bring on the bands that SR guests want to see the most, in addition to others who we think they’ll love. Headliners typically come first, though we’ve had a few years where mid-level acts and undercards locked in earlier.

    Most first time SR bands are excited about joining us, but some are understandably apprehensive given the very different and unique nature of the event. So we spend a fair amount of time doing our best to educate them (and their managers/agents) on how our little vacation works. As a former artist manager (and with other former managers on my team) we are very careful to make sure that all of our artists have a comfort level about doing the cruise, and know that we’ll take great care of them. They’re our guests too!

    Do you have a favorite ShipRocked performance moment over the 10 years?

    My most memorable is probably Broken Teeth in 2009. It was the first show of ShipRocked and the culmination of all the work I’d done to launch the cruise. Also, they kicked ass.

    Other personal standouts include Queensryche doing Mindcrime in full on 2011, Hellyeah’s first appearance in ’11, the whole top line in ’12 (how the hell did we pull that off), Richard Patrick of Filter’s seemingly endless body surf on ’12, all of Living Colour shows during 14 and 15, Wilson’s atrium show and Sevendust’s acoustic set on ’14,  Zakk Wylde doing the National Anthem to launch ’15… There are too many!

    ShipRocked turns 10 this year, how do you see it evolving in the future?

    Oh, we have some plans! Can’t reveal much, but we’re excited to keep growing, see where the music takes us, and enjoy the ride!

    What is your favorite port of call? 

    The next one! Honestly, I love anywhere that has some sun, sand and clear blue water. But I won’t turn down the chance to go to Grand Cayman ever, it’s one of my favorite places we’ve been.

    Are there any dream travel destinations on or off the ship? 

    As much as I wish we could go further south in the eastern Caribbean to places like Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, etc. it’s just not possible on a 4-5 day cruise. But there are still plenty of ports we haven’t been, and we’re doing what we can to get there soon! Off the ship I would really love to spend some time in Australia – always wanted to go, but haven’t yet.

    With each year artists collaborate on the cruise including all-star jam sessions with The Stowaways, any dream collaborations that would like to see one day onboard?

    We started the Stowaways as a way to further encourage and nurture that collaborative spirit between the artists, and I think it’s worked out very well. There is just something truly special that happens when a band brings someone to join them on stage. I could sit here and tell you who I wish would collaborate with who, but some of those that have occurred throughout the years were ones I couldn’t have dreamed up. I love the surprise!

    Which band would you like to vacation with the most off the ship?

    There are too many to make a single choice. I’ve truly enjoyed getting to know so many of the musicians in the bands we’ve had over the year, and would kick back on a beach or travel the world with any of them!

    Are there any surprises in store on this year’s addition of ShipRocked?

    Well, if I told you it wouldn’t be a surprise!

  • Scuba Santa

    Scuba Santa at Newport Aquarium in Kentucky is a holiday tradition in the Cincinnati area. The all-new Water Wonderland with Scuba Santa is a truly wondrous experience where families connect and interact with the magic of an undersea holiday celebration.

    Newport Aquarium in Kentucky, the number one aquarium in the country according to USA Today’s 10Best.com, showcases thousands of animals from around the world in a million gallons of water. In December, the aquarium turns into a winter wonderland where families are treated to seeing Scuba Santa. Scuba Santa swims hourly inside the shark tank with his elves for kids of all ages to view and enjoy the unique experience.

    While at the aquarium patrons can also check out the Albino Alligators, “Snowflake” and “Snowball” who returned to Newport in 2014 and have permanent residency. They are about six feet long and weigh between 65-85 pounds. There are less than 100 albino alligators known in the world today and this is due to poor blending in with their natural environment and their sensitivity to UV rays.

    Newport Aquarium is a leader in wildlife conservation with many community outreach programs. Mobile Shark Cart is a mobile cart that is used as an education/touch pool that is taken to schools, events, etc. and is used to bring awareness to shark protection and ocean conservation. WAVE Program is a program that promotes the importance of ocean conservation, leadership, and STEM to young children through young adults. Individuals can go behind the scenes with a staff member and gets to see how the aquarium works and learn about the conservation programs and species at the aquarium.

    Scuba Santa will be at the aquarium through December 31st so there is still plenty of time to visit this holiday season.

  • Interview: Chef Tom Colicchio

    Season 16 of Top Chef premiered on December 6 on BRAVO and this season contestants made their way down south to Kentucky to compete for the coveted title of Top Chef. The season kicked off at Churchill Downs, the iconic home of the Kentucky Derby. It is no secret among my friends that I love Top Chef and live within an hour of many of the filming locations for this show in the bluegrass state so I am extra excited to see how this season unfolds. Earlier this Fall I was able to catch up with Tom Colicchio on a trip to Kentucky and talk Top Chef, his love of bourbon, and travel.

    Tom Colicchio is known for being the head judge for the cooking show Top Chef while being a multi-award winning top chef himself. He’s also an Emmy award-winning producer, cookbook writer and involved in hunger relief foundations City Harvest and Food Bank for New York. He went from the East Coast to down South for this year’s food, drink and music festival Bourbon and Beyond which took place on September 22-23 in Louisville, Kentucky.

    Check out The Travel Addict’s exclusive interview with chef Tom Colicchio:

    You have won five James Spirit Awards, judge Bravo’s Top Chef, opened numerous restaurants, written cookbooks, is there anything left on your culinary bucket list?

    I think I have been in the game for a long time now and the challenge right now is to stay relevant. There is so much young talent and it is great to see up and coming chefs, while still figuring out how to stay relevant and continue to make great food and open new restaurants. That is it. I never set out to win awards or do TV when I started cooking. All of it is fine, and validation, I hope that I can give something back and that is all great, but like most chefs, I want to continue to work and cook.

    I heard (and we all now know) Top Chef was filmed in Kentucky for Season 16.

    We were, we shot here. I can’t give up too much. It is a lot of Kentucky, we shot in Louisville, shot in Lexington. We had a great time here, the competition, it is a special season. The chefs are all very surprising. When we first start shooting, we usually have a good idea of where it would end up, but not this season, couldn’t do it. It was a really great season.

    You often talk about stories about your family and how food brings your family together. What is your fondest food memory?

    In the summer, my grandfather used to take me fishing when I was a kid. We used to go crabbing, clamming, and occasionally we would catch fish. We would come home. I had two jobs, one, make sure I kept him awake on the way home. It was about an hour and a half drive from the Jersey Shore. I also had to clean all the fish. At a young age, my grandfather taught me to clean fish and crabs. It was a great meal. We used to take the crabs and marinara sauce and make a crab gravy, serve it with linguini. If we caught clams, some of them were steamed. Some were stuffed or steamed with pasta.

    Whatever fish we caught we’d have as well. That was one of my first food memories. Most of the year, we had to be at the dinner table every night, but in the summer that lagged a bit because we would be out swimming. But this was the one meal, everyone came home. Uncles were there. We usually cooked at my grandmother’s house. It was one of those meals that never ended because I used to pick through every crab. This year I caught some crabs and had a great time with family. I sat around the table and picked some crab this season. That was my first food memory.

    More and more music festivals are starting to host celebrity chefs and have curated food options. If you could do a cooking and music duet, who would you choose?

    There’s a lot of good choices here. One of my favorite guitar players is David Bromberg and he is a big guy so he seems like he is into food as well. That could be funny and really interesting. I respect him as a guitar player.

    Is there anybody you are interested in seeing music-wise at Bourbon & Beyond today?

    Keb Mo, I like his Blues. That could be a lot of fun. I don’t know if I can see him though because I am doing a demo at the same time. I want to see Robert Plant but I am not staying tomorrow. My first concert ever was in 1977 was Led Zeppelin in the Garden. I saw the reunion in London and that was great. I really wanted to see him but unfortunately, I have to get home tomorrow morning.

    Are there any foods you refuse to eat?

    I am not a fan of okra. Great Mountain yams for the same reason, that slimy texture.

    What’s your favorite travel destination based on location or food?

    I will tell you where I have never been that I would like to go, my dream vacation, Thailand. I have never been to Southeast Asia. I have been to Japan, been to Hong Kong, but I have never been to Southeast Asia. I haven’t been traveling as much in the last ten years, for pleasure anyway.

    What’s your favorite bourbon?

    I am a fan of a bunch. I got a bottle of Kentucky Owl when I was here, so I cracked that a couple nights ago. That’s really good. Weller, I like a lot. I drink a lot of bourbon, especially in the winter.

    Do you have a favorite bourbon food pairing?

    I’m not a big fan of pairing any booze and eating. I do, but when I think of bourbon I think of desserts as a good pairing. I think the obvious choices are things like smoked fish and smoked meats. Earthy dishes like mushrooms or beets also work really well because they stand up really well with the bourbon. Anything with brown sugar works really well. I have a sweet tooth but I don’t cook a lot of sweets.

  • No Sunsets

    As our trip came to a close on Ortelius, I was kind of sad to leave the boat that had been home for the past 9 days. It was a magical adventure and as crazy as it sounds, I would highly a trip to the Arctic in the middle of the summer. Oceanwide Expeditions provides a unique travel experience for trips of a lifetime to see one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

    Travelers can witness wildlife only found in these regions and see first hand the impact of climate change as you sail to the polar ice cap. Take some time off and go to the land where the sun never sets on your next holiday!

    Total distance sailed: 1,445 Nautical Miles
    Most northerly position 82°28‘N, 017°30‘E

  • Walrus Beach

    Our last morning of arctic excursions started with the anticipated welcoming 7:30 am a wakeup call from Expedition leader Ali. We had now fully circumnavigated the Svalbard archipelago and we arrived at Poolepynten. Good news came over the ships address system that the walrus that we had been looking forward to seeing were home at their expected location on the beach.

    This point of land is a favored site for these marine mammals as it is easily accessible and the location provides a plentiful supply of nearby food, soft sand and relative shelter. We split into two groups for the landing. This allowed for premium viewing in smaller numbers, as well as not to overwhelm the walrus with our presence.

    Once ashore we walked with our guides to the animals, at a certain distance beyond the minimum 30 meters we were instructed to form a line and slowly walked in unison towards the herd, stopping periodically to observe and appreciate these giants of the Arctic without disturbing them. At one point a few of these giant animals took a swim and came up on the beach right next to us so we had to quickly move back to keep the 30 meters distance.

    As our visit on land was coming to a close, a Humpback whale appeared and passed by, very close to shore. Day 9 and it’s the first whale we had sighted.

  • Goose Bay

    Back onboard after our morning trip to Paierlbreen glacier, Captain Mikka set a new course to Gåshamna (Goose Bay), a scenic bay surrounded by high mountains, with the highest peak in Hornsund – Horsundtind at 1429 meters.

    The afternoon brought some of the best weather of the trip so the expedition staff was able to offer us a landing with several hiking possibilities. I chose to hike for the first time with no camera and only iPhone in hand for the first time throughout the trip.

    Those who took the long hike profited in a  breathtaking view from the top. With almost clear skies on the summit, we could see the whole of Hornsund up to Brepollen.

    We also had time to explore the historical Pomor sites as well as the English land-based whaling station in the bay. Remnant whale bones and blubber deposited in the ground still lend nutrients to the soil, thus creating small satellite biospheres of flora to the stark glacial outwash landscape. There were amazing rock formations along the jagged coastline and stunning views on the sea wall.

  • Paierlbreen Glacier

    Overnight on the Ortelius, as we headed into Day 8, we sailed around the southern tip of the archipelago and up to Hornsund, one of the most spectacular areas of Spitsbergen. Named by Jonas Poole, an English whaler in the 1600s after his crew returned to the ship bearing a deer’s horn, it is a place of deep, high sided fjords, active glacier fronts, and rocky ridgelines.

    When we woke there was low-lying fog and mist in the air, but the weather forecast suggested that it was meant to improve so we wrapped up warmly and the zodiacs were lowered ready for our morning cruise. Our destination was Paierlbreen, a huge valley glacier at the end of the Burgerbukta fjord. We spent two hours cruising in and around the glacier and it was by far one of the most spectacular glaciers I have ever seen. The zodiac boats full of red coats of cruise mates made the most spectacular photo opportunities of the day.

    On the way back to the boat we found two more polar bears at the entrance to the fjord but they were positioned in a way that made photographing them difficult.