Painting by Hessam Abrishami

My love, Tore, gave me the most wonderful birthday present this year, – a cruise in the Caribbean. We were to visit 7 islands! It had been on my wish list for a long time, and now that I had reached the age of 75, he meant it was the right present to give. And I could not agree more!

We flew to Fort Lauderdale in Florida, where we stayed 2 nights before we entered the ship. Above is a painting by the artist Hessam Abrishami, one of many paintings that was exhibited in the foyer of the hotel in Fort Lauderdale.  The artist is Iranian, but lives in California. I really like his colours and his style, which was like an introduction to the soft pastels of this area.

I am going to give you a short summary of this wonderful trip in this blog, I hope you don’t mind.

Atlantic Hotel, our hotel in Fort Lauderdale
Morning yoga on the beach
Seagulls watching
Toril relaxing on the beach

While in Fort Lauderdale I had the chance to meet with the artist Peter Olsen and his wife Samantha, who 21 years ago invited me to exhibit my paintings here in Fort Lauderdale, which I did. This was an incredible experience for me then, (still is), and this lovely couple let me stay with them and introduced me to lots of artists and wonderful people in Florida. I made several articles about this trip in my magazine Kunst for Alle. Now it was so nice to see them again and go a bit down memory lane. Peter still has the magazine where his painting was featured on the cover. They took us on a sightseeing and we got to see the new and famous gitar hotel built by Hard Rock Cafe, and we also visited the enormous casino and the Hard rock Cafe for lunch.

Peter and Sam Olsen in front of his painting Revelation and holding Kunst for Alle with his painting on the cover.
The Hard Rock Hotel in Fort Lauderdale. Shaped like a gitar! More stunning buildings are coming.
Celebrity Equinox, the ship we stayed in.

At sea and first island stop

We had a very nice cabin at the end of the ship, so we got some exercise going back and forth to our cabin. The ship was just beautiful and not the largest among cruise ships. It was large enough for us, but somehow, the people disappeared around in the ship’s many, many places to be. Beautiful restaurants, numerous bars, sun decks etc. There was also a wonderful theatre where extraordinary shows took place every night! Imagine going to a wonderful performance every night before dinner! The artists were fantastic. Top singers, dancers and acrobats. A few comedians were also a part of the group.

The pool area with 2 pools, 4 Jacuzzis. Lots of people sunbathing every day.
People trying out one of the pool bars the first day
The scene is set for a fantastic show
Something is happening, the hat reveals something
Lots of dancers and singers are out of the hat

After two full days at sea, we arrive at the first little island; St. Thomas, where we are welcomed by a street painting and Caribbean music and rhythms. On the pier there are lots of shops selling diamonds and other jewellery at very reasonable prices. Taxfree, it says. Here we are met with the pastel colours, buildings are painted pink, light green, turqoise, yellow. It makes me feel happy. We went ashore, walked around the charming city, and grabbed a taxi for a trip to the nearest beach.

Welcome to St. Thomas
Emerald beach, where the water was crystal clear and very warm. Sand white and clean.
Along the shore by the pier, many iguanas were watching us.
A watercolour of Emerald Beach from my sketchbook

Every day we arrived at a new island, and they all had the pastel colours in common, as well as the music, calypso from oil barrels and reggae music too.

Here I am in Christiansted on the island of St. Croix.
At St. Croix we were met by a steel band which got the feet to dance.
A dramatic sunset
Wonderful sky and clouds after sunset
Impressive clouds after sunset

Barbados and St. Lucia were very nice islands. Here we went to see some sights; Harrison’s Cave on Barbados and a living volcano on St. Lucia. On Barbados we were met with large paintings on the warehouse doors, showing daily life on the island. Harrison’s Cave was a magnificent cave discovered more than hundred years ago, with large caves underneath the earth with lots of stalagmites and stalactites. These caves were huge and the stalagmites and stalactites were just fantastic. Here are some pictures from the excursion.

Tore and I with helmets going down in the cave.
One of the underground lakes in the cave
Like people in a theatre
Beautiful formations
Another wall panting showing everyday life on the island
Painting on a warehouse door at Barbados

Driving around these islands you see the pastel colours everywhere. Nature, flowers, houses, furnitures. And as I said before, it makes me happy.

This photo clearly shows the inspiration for the pastel colours. It is like a painting in it self.
A small cafe with pastel benches
Small houses at St. Lucia with happy colours

At St. Lucia we went to see a living volcano, The Soufrier. We got a nice trip around the island and saw their two peaks, called pitons, of which they were very proud. And the sulfur volcano with ponds that were bubbling and boiling with steam and hot water coming up. Our guide Benjamin was a proud man, celebrating his 62nd birthday as we drove around.  He showed us a beautiful garden called Maranata garden, as the owner of the garden was very religious. Lots of different fruits grew here, and Benjamin showed us all of them. All the guides told us how happy they were for our visit, because tourism gave them jobs and kept the islands alive.

Maranata gardens
The colour of the fence is hardly coincidental
Our guide Benjamin with all the fruits in the garden of Maranata
The famous Pitons of St. Lucia
Me by the boiling pits of the volcano

Our wonderful cruise is coming to an end. Our last supper is coming up, and we have to say goodbye to this beautiful ship and new friends.

A glass of wine before dinner on our balcony
Tore on the balcony, meditating on the last night.
Our happy table with new Norwegian friends, our sommelier Angela, our headwaiter Oding and the assistant Rohan in the fabulous Silhouette Restaurant. In the background the enormous wine tower.

All good things must come to an end, so with this cruise too. After going ashore, we had a short trip into the Everglades and got to see some really big alligators, but the guide said she knew them so they did not jump at us, even though we were very close. I guess they just had been fed.

So we got on the plane back to Oslo, and arrived safely the next day.

Bort bra, men hjemme best!

(I think I will be using the lovely pastel colours in my pantings for a while now!)